Sir John Betjeman- Banana Blush (1974)

Beautiful, fantastic stuff. You have these blissed-out memories of Betjeman's youth over wah-wah guitar*. It's odd and brilliant - and far more exciting than a lot of the modernist writers who shunned him at the time. There's this comic gravity that I've certainly found inspiring regarding my own work.
Nick Cave

You have these lovely images of somewhere like Hampshire, but you also have this darker undercurrent - and this fantastic music. That was what we were trying to do with Madness: show English life, but say it's not always jolly and, hopefully, have a few good tunes.

Sir John Betjeman (1906 –1984) became Poet Laureate in 1972. Between 1973 and 1981 He recorded four albums on Charisma Records .
On the albums Sir John read a selection of his poems set to music by
Jim Parker (born 1934), a composer from Hartlepool who went on to win awards for his TV work (Midsomer Murders) and also wrote the 'novelty' hit Captain Beaky.

The instigator of the project was Producer Hugh Murphy, who later worked with Gerry Rafferty and Bonnie Tyler .

They were terribly clever, Sir John said of the studio team when interviewed for The Observer. Hugh Murphy, the producer, has long gold hair and one earring, but he's a wonderful fella. You know, I don't like any of my poems, but I think the music did the trick.

*Sadly Nick is referring to one of the later LPs . The sound became more experimental. As a bonus I've also included the Licorice Fields At Pontefract from Late Flowering Love (1974)- a great chugging guitar track.


Friede den Hütten! Krieg den Palästen! Peace to the cottages, war on the palaces! Мир хижинам, война дворцам!

The German writer Karl Georg Büchner (1813-1837) is best remebered as the author of Woyzeck, (made into a film by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski in the title role). It is the belief of some scholars of German literature that had he lived longer his reputation would have matched that of Goethe and Schiller.
During his brief career Büchner also gave us an inspirational phrase that lives on to this day- Peace to the cottages, war on the palaces!
In 1834, fresh from his study of the French Revolution of 1789 Büchner, along with political agitator Pastor Friedrich Ludwig Weidig, published Der hessische Landbote (The Hessian Courier) , a proto- socialist pamphlet that urged revolution, calling for the people to overthrow the ruling classes in order to secure the freedom which was their right. Der hessische Landbote has since come to be considered one of the most brilliant political works in the German language.

As you can see, it opens with the phrase: Friede den Hütten! Krieg den Palästen! (Peace to the cottages, war on the palaces!). Incensed by the inflammatory content The Hessian Government charged Weidig and Büchner with treason. Following arrest and torture Weidig died in custody. Büchner fled to Zurich, remaining in exile for the rest of his life (he died of typhus at the age of 23). There is a German transcription of Der hessische Landbote here.

The slogan has reappeared down the years.
Here are just a few examples:
In April 1886 the American anarchist magazine The Alarm proclaimed: War to the palaces, peace to the cottage, and death to luxurious idleness! Within weeks Albert and Lucy Parsons were leading a parade of 80,000 strikers through Chicago- the beginning of The May Strikes which saw over half a million Americans striking in support of the 8 hour working day.
In the lead up to The Great October Revolution of 1917 Мир хижинам, война дворцам! was also a favourite slogan of Lenin. In his February 1916 piece in Sotsial-Demokrat entitled
Peace Without Annexations and the Independence of Poland as Slogans of the Day in Russia: it is recycled as: peace to the cottages, war on the palaces; peace to the proletariat and the toiling masses, war on the bourgeoisie!
The slogan also put in an appearance in Huliaipole during the heyday of Makhno, appearing on one of the black banners that flew over his headquarters, and Мир хижинам, война дворцам! is also the title of a 1970 Russian made movie regarding the Civil War Era in Ukraine.

Peace to the cottages, war on the palaces is also a masthead motto of the remarkable Anderson Valley Advertiser , a Californian community newspaper which features libertarian opinions alongside local news reports.


Paul Weller- Desert Island Discs (2007)

Love him or hate him? Erm...
Am I alone in my feelings about Paul Weller, namely ambivalence? Opinion usually seems to be divided over the man and his work - is he insufferably smug and pretentious, a genuine genius? In fact Weller is picking up this year's NME Godlike Genius Award For Services To Music*...
The Jam were okay- in our school there was an unbridgeable Jam/ punk divide amongst the boys (although I'm sure that we all bought the incomparable Eton Rifles) so I didn't really appreciate the qualities of The Jam until later. That said I viewed Weller as a decent songwriter (his work was and remains highly derivative)rather than as some sort of poet of the dole age. I never really got The Style Council. And the whole 'Modfather' thing of the Britpop era wasn't really Paul's fault. He just happened to influence a generation of formulaic, soulless rock bands (Oasis spring readily to mind). On the other hand I have vague memories of hearing him play an acoustic version of Eton Rifles on some radio show in the mid nineties and it was immense, and Wildwood was , to me , one of the albums of the 1990s.

Tin Soldier-The Small Faces
September in the Rain-Dinah Washington
Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul-Charles Mingus
Don’t Be a Drop Out -James Brown
Arabesque No 1- Branford Marsalis with the English Chamber Orchestra
Galileo (Someone Like You) -Declan O’Rourke
River Man -Nick Drake
That’s Enough -Roscoe

Tin Soldier- was Paul's overall record choice. He chose Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes as his book, and his luxury was a settee to sit on.

Here's the programme:

*Hence the timing of this post. This year's NME awards take place at the Brixton Academy on February 24th.
Take a look at this list of previous winners of the Godlike Genius and decide for yourselves how worthy it is...
1999 Massive Attack
2000 Shaun Ryder
2001 U2
2002 Pennie Smith
2003 The Clash
2004 Ozzy Osbourne
2005 New Order & Joy Division
2006 Ian Brown
2007 Primal Scream
2008 Manic Street Preachers
2009 The Cure
2010 Paul Weller



My background is Punk all the way through from the roots man! Skin, Ska n' Reggae, the original stuff...
Here's a bit of a departure.
After the best part of a year plugging stuff from the 70's and 80's, Burning Aquarium is inviting readers to check out some new talent.
Danni is a singer/ songwriter with a quirkily expressive voice and a frenetically rhythmic guitar style . She is, as yet, unsigned, but she'll be putting out these songs on CD soon- in the meantime treat your ears to these demo recordings.
There's no download here- just a link to Danni's Myspace page:
She means it, man...


Suggs- Desert Island Discs (2002)

Quintessential Englishmen?
Well, we're a class riven society and I suppose they fall into two categories:
Apparent toffs like Basil Rathbone, Terry- Thomas, Stephen Fry and Boris Johnson are undeniably quintessentially English. But then again so are Michael Caine, Stanley Holloway, Johnny Vegas and John Terry.
Suggs bridges the gap here...
Madness were undoubtedly one of the major successes of the eighties. Maybe they did appeal to kids who idolised Tucker off Grange Hill but they turned out a succession of catchy and humorous hits. The ‘Ska revival’ also missed out on a sartorial coup, with faux market stall pork pie hats and sta pressed trousers that were more like pantomime costumes replacing the authentic fashions of the late sixties. It was all a bit fake.
However, as their enduring popularity testifies, Madness had a place in the hearts of millions of working class Britons.
When frontman Suggs appeared on Desert Island Discs in 2002 there was also something quintessentially English about a number of his selections: The Kinks, Sir John Betjeman, Ian Dury and The Clash.

Despite the Englishness of her name Julie London was, of course, American- Suggs chose Cry Me A River (younger readers may know it from V for Vendetta) and you can't argue with that as a selection of a timeless classic.
Ian Dury represents a proletarian flavour of risque entertainmnet that dates back to the music hall era. It's easy to imagine Dury as a carachter from Dickens or the ragamuffin cabman providing Sherlock Holmes with some tipoff.
On London's Burning from their self titled debut The Clash give us a hefty chunk of urban dissaffectation from the western suburbs of London.
In terms of fogeyishness the genuine article here is Sir John Betjeman, the betweeded poet laureate who , in the words of Auden was so at home with the provincial gaslit towns, the seaside lodgings, the bicycle, the harmonium. (We'll be having more from Sir John in the near future).
Prince Buster pops up with the obligatory 'ska' number- Al Capone.
I've nothing against Peggy Lee and actually have a few of her albums (Black Coffee is highly recommended) but I don't really go for the number that Suggs selected (Is That All There Is?).
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
has been described as a concept album lamenting the passing of old-fashioned English traditions.
There is also something very British about Van Morrison's Cleaning Windows- the disaffected grammar school boy trapped in mundane labour whilst immersing himself in American beatnik culture of jazz, blues and Kerouac.

Sugg's overral choice was the Peggy Lee record. A book of Italian Verbs was his literary choice and a nucleus of bees was his luxury item.

Here are the records, but not the full programme:

Sadly gone from Rapidshare and I haven't got a clue what I did with the original file- never mind, worse things happen at sea.


Felicity- Orange Juice, The Wedding Present, James Kirk...

• noun (pl. felicities) 1 complete happiness. 2 the ability to express oneself appropriately. 3 a felicitous feature of a work of literature or art.
— ORIGIN Latin felicitas, from felix ‘happy’.
Oxford English Dictionary

Back in the eighties when I was trying to make the transition from conventional poetry to songwriting (ha!) this song was very important to me, and I still love it.

Three versions here:
Orange Juice- from the LP You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever (1982)
The Wedding Present- from the LP Tommy (recorded for Peel Session in 1986)
James Kirk from the LP You Can Make It If You Boogie (2003)
James Kirk wrote the song. He left Orange Juice in 1982 and became a chiropodist.


The Mark of Cain...

Nobody in my family had tattoos. Well, my great grandfather did, apparently- had them done in The Great War, but he was dead years before I came along. From an early age I was inexplicably fascinated by tattoos. I even dreamed about them- I once dreamed that my left shoulder was encased in ivy- which it now is.
I somehow understood that the significance of the designs went beyond the pictorial image- sure, the pictures meant something, but the very fact that you had committed to being tattooed meant something as well.
A fair percentage of my body is now tattooed, and I’m something of a student of the sociological/ anthropological significance of tattooing.
Russian criminal tattoos entranced me even before I became a regular visitor to that country.

In The Mark of Cain filmaker Alix Lambert takes us into the gloomy world of the Russian penal system. There are about 800,000 prisoners in the country and the conditions are notoriously harsh. Overcrowding is a particular problem. For example, in the mid nineties Kresty Prison in St Petersburg held 12,500 inmates. It was designed to hold 1150.

We hear from wearers of the old school tattoos which showed where they stood in relation to the complex subculture governed by the Thieves Code , witnesses of the way that the changing political climate has been reflected in prison society, and an inmate tattooist who works with a machine adapted from a Sputnik wind up shaver.


The Smiths- This Charming Man (1983)

One of those moments when a vivid, electric awareness of the power of music is born or renewed- Danny Kelly (NME)
...it imparted the first glimpse into the unknown dominion of Smithdom. The prelude now over, This Charming Man felt like The Smiths'concrete beginning.- Simon Goddard (The Smiths- Songs That Saved Your Life).

1 This Charming Man [Manchester*- produced by John Porter]
2 This Charming Man [London- produced by John Porter]
3 This Charming Man [New York Vocal, produced by Francois Kevorkian]
4 This Charming Man [New York Instrumental, produced by Francois Kevorkian ]
5 This Charming Man [Peel Session 21.09.83, produced by Roger Pusey- as featured on the LP Hatful of Hollow]
6 This Charming Man [1992 single remix]
7 This Charming Man [Original 7" version*, produced by John Porter]
8 This Charming Man [ Vinyl rip of original 7" version*, produced by John Porter]
9 Jeane [Vinyl rip of original 7" B-side, produced by Troy Tate]
10 Wonderful Woman [12" single B-side, produced by John Porter]

* On the CD multi single I have Sire Records rather naughtily overlook the fact that the original 7" mix was Porter's Manchester version . Therefore there are only 6 different versions of the track here.

Completists will be aware that Accept Yourself also featured on the B-side of the UK 12". It was an earlier version than the one used on Hatful of Hollow, which was from a David Jensen radio session- both versions were produced by John Porter. Here is the version that appeared on the B-side of the 12" single:



Colin Ward 1924 - 2010

Nestor Makhno- My Visit To The Kremlin

When the Bolsheviks invaded Ukraine in January 1918 they were assisted by the anarchist forces of Nestor Makhno (1888 – 1934). However, In March 1918, the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which as well as ending hostilities with the central powers also ordered the surrender of large amounts of territory (including Ukraine).
In April 1918 a conference of Ukrainian anarchists delegated Makhno to travel to Russia to contact other anarchist groups and determine the Bolsheviks' attitude towards anarchist activity in Ukraine .
Following a harrowing 2 month journey Makhno arrived in Moscow at the beginning of June, and met with leading anarchists and representatives of other political factions. Makhno was impatient with the attitude he encountered in Moscow . He felt that much revolutionary work remained to be done in Ukraine, where the old order still held sway. He wrote of the 'paper revolution' of the Russian intellectuals as opposed to the vigorous anarchist movement he expected to evolve in Ukraine.

In Moscow Makhno was able to meet with two leading Bolsheviks:
Yakov Sverdlov (1885 — 1919), chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets (technically the head of the Soviet state) and General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party.
V.I. Lenin (1870 – 1924), Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and Leader of the Bolshevik Party.
You can read Makhno's account of these meetings here.

Makhno did not meet Trotsky during his stay in Moscow, as Trotsky was too busy working on the organisation of the Red Army.

The Bolsheviks ensured Makhno's safe return to Ukraine, hoping that he would work as an agent for them, but they were opposed to any form Ukrainian autonomy, and Makhno's activities were deemed counterrevolutionary.


The Wolfhounds- Unseen Ripples From A Pebble... (1987)

There's been a couple of posts on The Wolfhounds over on Cactus Mouth Informer recently. I never really knew what to make of this band from Essex (for a start I thought that The Wolfhounds was a particularly dreadful name)- the opening track on this LP sounds like Altered Images but later they developed a sound more akin to Sonic Youth.
Here's a vinyl rip of their 1987 LP...


Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark- Peel Session, February 21st 1983

Genetic Engineering
Of All The Things We've Made
Abc Auto-Industry
Bunker Soldiers (03/09/1979)

Line up:
Andy McCluskey - bass, vocals, drum machine
Paul Humphries - keyboards, vocals
Martin Cooper - synthesiser
Malcolm Holmes - drums
There was also a tape deck named Winston.

The album issue of OMD's Peel Sessions is a bit misleading on this one. Electricity was never played in a Peel session, but it is included on the LP as a bonus track. I can't find a recording of Bunker Soldiers from this, the fourth session (I used to have it on tape) so I've put in the 1979 Peel session version.
Andy McCluskey was a visionary, an immensely talented man. And then he gave us Atomic Kitten...


The Teardrop Explodes- Peel Session, October 2nd 1979

Brave Boys Keep Their Promises
Ha Ha I'm Drowning
Went Crazy

Line up:
Michael Finkler - guitar
Julian Cope- bass, vocals
Ged Quinn - keyboards
Gary 'Rocky' Dwyer- Drums


Hafdís Huld- Dirty Paper Cup (2006)

Whilst we are on the subject of Iceland...
Hafdis Huld has a painstakingly fragile, quirky voice - like Bjork crossed with Cerys Matthews on a diet of candyfloss. Her solo album delivers some minimal but deliciously skewed pop as Huld belies her gooey vocals and strummed acoustics with dark concerns and some satisfyingly nasty lyrics- The Guardian.
Dirty Paper Cup, Hafdís Huld's debut album, was released in 2006. It features a cover of a Lou Reed song played on the ukelele.


Black Flag #2...

The Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (known as The Black Army or Makhnovchina) was led by the legendary Anarchist Nestor Makhno (1888-1934). Active during the turbulent years 1918-1921, the army consisted largely of peasants and workers and numbered between 15,000 and 110,000.
Discipline was democratically imposed, commanders were elected and recallable and rules were approved by soldier committees.
Initially armed with equipment abandoned by the retreating German and Austro Hungarian armies, the Black Army won victories against German, Austrian and Ukrainian Nationalist forces and predominantly Czech units of the White Army.
In the areas that they liberated the Makhnovists abolished capitalism and the state, helping to organize village assemblies and councils. Land and factories were expropriated and put under peasant and worker control by means of self-governing committees.
Captured officers were summarily executed but the proletarian rank and file soldiers were at liberty to either return home or join the Makhnovchina.
An independent Ukraine, regardless of political colour, was not on the agenda of the Bolsheviks, who determined to crush both the Makhnovists and the Ukrainian nationalist movement.
In August 1921 the Red Army of the Southern Front, under the command of Mikhail Frunze, finally defeated Makhno, who spent the rest of his life in exile.
The message on these banners is (approximately)- death to landowners and enemies of the workers- Liberty or Death.