Not everything in life is simple. Red Smed, however, is. And to prove it this blog has been set up to take you deep into his deranged socialist utopia where Lenin was quite a nice bloke, , Bridgwater has been renamed Parretgrad , every home has to display a portrait of Jake Thackray and Leeds United are at the top of the premier league.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Put On Your Dancing Shoes and Overthrow Capitalism

There can be no argument that the most important single contribution to revolutionary cinema in the 20th century was not 'Battleship Potemkin', 'Strike' , 'Oktober' or any of the Eisenstein classics, but 'Summer Holiday' featuring Cliff Richard. In this internationalist epic, (then not) 'Sir Cliff' and his freewheeling comrades cross Europes post war boundaries, only recently liberated from the Fascist jackboot,  in search of workers solidarity, class comradeship and girls -some dressed as young boys admitedly. And their mode of transport is the good old  red London double decker bus. What's not to like.

After 'Zulu', '20 Interesting Things About Fish' and 'Sharon's Overnight Visit to Goole', it;s undoubtedly the film I've watched more than any other, seeking, on each viewing, to gain a deeper insight into what exactly they're trying to say. Is it 'tear off the shackles of your oppression', 'you have nothing to lose but your chains', 'if the kids are united, they will never be divided' or is it 'if you go off on a European holiday with the lads you;ll definitely pull a bird like Una Stubbs'? I think I know what it is.

Telling it like it (probably) is

So for me the best song in the film is 'Dancing Shoes'. In a scene, which could otherwise be seen as terrifying, Cliff and a gang of 4 teenagers surround a Yugoslav peasant girl in a haystack, force her to dance and throw her around between them. With the volume turned off the images could be repulsive. The sheer horror on the girls face as she totally fails to understand what this gang of 'hands on' strangers even want of her. But whatever it is they're not letting her get away. in the end it transpires that what they want is 'bread'...but due to a hilarious misunderstanding they translate the next word in their 'Serbo-Croat Dictionary' which happens to be 'bride'. Suddenly everything's alright and the girl cheers up, rushes them back to her village where a bunch of Slavic tribesmen from a different century to the rather progressive 1960's of Yugoslav Communism, are waiting to throw a big party for their soon to be new relatives...until of course the young Balkanating Brits suddenly realise the horror of  their situation and try to escape. At which point the Slavic types attempt to stab them with pitchforks, batter them with chairs and shoot them.

What better allegory for the eventual dissolution and catastrophe that eventually was to befall Yugoslavia.

Tearing down the walls that surround us

But, for me, the failure of the writers was in the lyrical department. A wonderful swinging rock tune was spoilt by the totally meaningless juvenile lyrics inserting nursery rhymes rather than think fo actual lyrics. 'Do you remember little bo peep' 'let me tell you bout jack and jill, theyre the ones that went up the hill' etc.
So obfuscation no more....I politicised's what they would have wanted..or...deserved.
'Humpty Dumpty' no more, 'Bo Peep' no more, instead those working class martyrs Salvadore Allende, Joe Hill and Terry French.

Now, this version is from 2002 and done by the Red Smed band at the Monkton Heathfield Popodrome studios - although there's an even older version from 1986 done in a brickworks in Dunwear, Bridgwater, partially acoustically and totally fuelled by 2 bottles of Irish whiskey.....but I seem to have lost that one....

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Blue Remembered Armpits

"Now then, who lives in a film like this....?"
On December 19th 1975 I went to my first RAG DAY. It was cold and rainy and I was a first year student at Bridgwater College. Dressing myself up as Morrissey , years before even Morrissey had the idea to dress up as himself, and nicking a bottle of whiskymac from my parents drinks cupboard then hiding it in my raincoat pocket to take secret swigs out of during the course of the day. But rag days in 1975 were very different to what they are today. In them days students dressed up like twats and got shitfaced. Today....well, moving swiftly on.

Bridgwater looked very different in them days and yet, very similar. As did all my friends. Many of who appear in a film of the event made by lead vocalist of my band the Dangerous Brothers, Rod Jones, and which has lain dormant (well, in his cupboard) for more than 40 years. But now through the miracle of him agreeing to it, we can have a glimpse back to those blue remembered bastards we used to call students. We can see a Bridgwater with a Marks and Spencers and a Tescos in Fore street, the Admiral Blake statue in it's old place on the Cornhill side of the road and we can identify the total bastards who actually managed to get off with some  girls in the debauchery pit known as the Blake street Annex, as they emerge looking very pleased with themselves while some of us had to resort to getting, well very pissed, by , say,10 am.

"Why, if it isn't horror writer Kim Newman..."
Look out for  Sheep Worrying legends Kim Newman - first seen selling bottled water and hot cakes on the Cornhill to see which would sell like, er, hot cakes, and Eugene Byrne, wearing a forage cap bought from the Army Navy shop in St Mary Street, and roaming around with a michrophone interviewing people. Plus rare appearances from early Dangerous Brothers stalwarts Fat Bald Dave (when he was Thin Long Haired Dave) and Cold Buffet Bill when he was, well, a bit on the barmy side.

The song I've put to it is 'Clever Students', which seemed appropriate. I wrote this after spending just a month at University, but it could equally apply to us all at College. The song was recorded in 1978 in the White Hart, Eastover and the musicians featured include film maker Rod Jones on lead vocal, backed by Kev 'Nervo' Freeman on drums and chorus vocal plus Simon 'Supermeat' Gibbs on guitar and chorus vocal. I'm playing the rather simple Floydesque bass line on my old Hofner violin bass, which was held together by araldite and which I twattishly sold to Shrunken Duncan for £20, while the clever bit of keyboard/synth work featured is played by Neal Heckford in his mid period Bowie role of  Cosmo DG Glissandoz.

"And here's Eugene Byrne and our schoolmate Liz Lee-
incidentally the first person to nominate me for Council in 1990.."
I was convinced that the Police were on to me that day and my best memory of the day is when they jumped out of a car in Blake street and Cold Buffet Bill said 'run' so I did. Bill, a mountaineer, leapt over the Blake street wall into Blake Gardens, which was twice as high on the opposite side. Agile fucker that he was, I managed to get my Morrissey coat caught on the brickwork at the top and found myself dangling over a rose bed until it ripped and I dropped into it....before escaping Steve McQueen-like into the Bridge café. Now who remembers the Bridge café....?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Remembering The Funbunnies

I'm sat in Tescos at St Ives. Somewhere below me a dozen Czech students have been sent for a walk around Cape Cornwall in gale force winds and a near horizontal rainstorm and are doubtless at this very moment being swept out to sea, buffeted  from rock to rock and dashed to pieces on the cruel headlands of what would otherwise be quite nice surfing country. What better setting to contemplate top Bridgwater all girl(and 3 men) band The Funbunnies.

The Funbunnies formed in around 1998 and basically consisted of 3 singers - Elaine, Julia and Lorraine or Elaine, Julia and Heidi, and a backing line up of Red Smed (guitar) Big Barry 'Fowler' (bass) and Kevin 'Nervo' Freeman (drums). Gigs were frequent and always popular. Material was usually well known crowd pleasers. 'Brown Eyed Girl' featuring Julia, 'Shoop Shoop song' featuring Lorraine or 'Talking bout a Revolution' featuring Elaine or 'Happy Hour' featuring Heidi. But now and then they did a few originals...

The Funbunnies (Elaine, Julia, Lorraine)
I Hope You Die'
was written by Kim Newman and Brian Smedley for the 1987 rock epic 'Rock rock rock rock rock rock rock' and was devised as a torch song for the character of Kathy Kardiff, an alcoholic weather beaten old hag, and sung in the original production originally by Sam Terry, an alcoholic  weather b..etc. (She wasn't really)

Red Smed (who wrote the music and plays guitar on this track) wasn't available for comment this morning as he was busy soaping down the Cornish cliffs around Zennor before driving his minibus as fast as he could away from the bobbing and waving Czech students, now some yards off the headland. 

Lead vocals on 'I Hope You Die'
were by Heidi Powell
However, in a previous statement on the subject he said "I Hope You Die is one of the best songs I've ever written clearly, apart from most of the others. And several that I didn't write. For me however, making a film of the song has always been a problem as I don't really want anyone to die. Apart from Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and the whole Norwich City Team. So I could never find the right imagery for the video. Then suddenly after a particularly memorable week driving French students around I managed to grab a well earned rest at Chesil Beach and during a brief 'out of body' experience, involving a fish cake, I thought hey, this could be about me..."

The actual lyricist of the song , Kim Newman, is not a particularly bitter and twisted individual and his many books and film reviews can be found here.

The Funbunnies lasted maybe 2 years. At one point the mums (that they all were) let their daughters take their place and a 'Mini-Funbunnies with  Cathy, Beth and Alice took the stage at the art centre and did a version of Edy Reeders 'Perfect'.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Where's Mac?

The late (well he's not arrived yet) Mac McCausland
The question I get asked most often that I can't answer is 'have you really been out with ALL of the Spice girls and how is that even possible?'. No it's not in fact. The question is 'Where's Mac?'. The people who write me fan mail (by which I include geneal enquiries and parking tickets) always first remember the great and talented frontman of the Spanners Mac 'Lawrence' McCausland who was everywhere and then suddenly nowhere for about 10 years. And nobody knows where he is. Probably including himself.

In this clip- 'Stalin was a really nice bloke', sang by Mac, I've unearthed some rare footage of him moving. I mean, some rare moving footage of him. Nostalgia , isn't what it used to be.

It comes from a gig at the Bridgwater Arts Centre which was recorded and released as the Spanners album 'I like a glass of beer now and then'. Which was true of Mac. But who was-and maybe still is -Mac McCausland. It's a question thats confounded men, women and paleontologists alike for the last 15 years.


The Skacats playing on Luhacovice, Czechoslovakia
From the quaint Kentish town of Minster, very close to the second world war Manston air field and the seaside postcard town of Ramsgate, Mac move to Combwich. A village situated on the widest part of the river Parret and within exploding distance of Hinkley Point nuclear power station. His main employment was as a barman - usually in the Labour club but also in the Art Centre. And in 1991 he was elected the Labour councillor for Eastover, which lasted 4 years. Throughout this time he was the lead singer with any band I was in and lead actor in numerous stage shows of the Sheep Worrying Theatre company including his starring role as pantomime villain 'Bad sir Bastard' in the 1990 show 'Jack and the Poll Tax' with his false black moustache sitting uneasily over his famous red beard. (see photo).

Mac also wrote several songs with me, including 'New Age Boogie Man', which we recently aired at the 'Come back (and don't come back) gig' at the Art Centre in April 2016, 'We'll be in love forever' sang by co-Spanner Alexia Vernon and Anne 'Stevie' Fraser -now working as a redcoat at Butlins Caerphilly, and several from the musical 'Czechomania' which celebrated his love for the Czech Republic-a place he helped us link up with.


Mac with some other 'Sheep Worriers'. Red Smed at the piano
In fact Mac was never happier, or more popular, than singing interminable Irish songs to visiting Czech students in those pioneering days of the first British-Czech twinning. Whether it was sat around a campfire in Moravia drinking slivovice or sat around Crowcombe Youth hostel drinking slivovice or sat arund the Labour club drinking slivovice, Mac was always part of the furniture. Which might explain the incident with the chisel and the sanding tool.

Mac was on the first pioneering bus trip with us to what was then Czechoslovakia in 1992. The band we took over was the 'Skacats' - a bunch of musicians we'd basically thrown together in the mistaken hope that the Czechs would like Cliff Richard and the Shadows and fondly remember the film Summer Holiday. Sadly they had shot people for less during the early 60s.

The Skacats is a story for another time. Which I'll tell. But can somebody..ANYBODY..tell me..Where's Mac??????

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The People's Commissar of Rock'n'Roll

"It was 30 years ago today"
'They say 'a hard rain's a gonna fall'. So presumably some kind of 'hat' is advisable. But of course if you look at the idiom deeper - as I always do - then there's presumably something big and impending on the rock n roll horizon. Without a doubt it's the first Red Smed gig in 5 years.

"People have said to me 'why don't you do another gig?" explained the People's Commissar of Rock'n'Roll himself "Although admitedly more people have said 'Don't...are you listening...DON'T do another gig'. I think I'm getting the real message of what they;re trying to say. So I'm going to do another gig."

First gig in 5 years

The gig in question is the Bridgwater Twinning Party at the Art Centre on Saturday 23rd April supporting the Italian rockabilly band After Dark and Maltese karaoke king Dom Spenser. Tickets are £10 although it is emphasised that "This is to help pay to get the Italian band over here, absolutely none of this will go to Red Smed" explained one very sincere organiser as he repeatedly tugged this reporters sleeve with an increasing look of desperation in his eye. He just had the one. Which of course was a story in itself. Possibly involving cuttlefish.

Red Smed first got together a 'Hot Trot Smash the System Boogie Band' in 1986 and the line up changed with every gig and every purge. Some people came back more than once. Some people 'went missing'. Original tea chest bass player Dave 'a bit of a communist' Hanna, was 'shot trying to escape' after a Benefit gig for striking miners in Taunton, replacement bass player Matthew 'Matthew' Bartlett was found to be in wilfull possession of a Fez with the clear intention of wearing it on stage and shortly afterwards 'disappeared'.

Songs what they have done

Red Smed's first album 'Songs for Swinging Communists' was released on cassette in 1987 and featured the song 'The Day we met the Fascists in Bridgwater', voted the 'worst song of 1987' by Red Smed's own 'Sheep Worrying' Magazine.

Two CD albums were later released  to widespread acclaim, within some sections of the band, 'Parretgrad UK' (2000) and 'Do the Washing Up' (2002).

Smed explained his reasons for coming out of retirement "In 2011 I played Pat Morley's 70th birthday party. I thought that was the pinnacle of my career. Now, 5 years later, she's 93. Some things just can't be explained. So I thought if I don't do another gig soon I'LL be 93."


So of course there's one question on everyones lips. However, we won't be getting a satisfactory answer to that one. So the second question is 'what twats have agreed to be in the band this time then?'
Red Smed- described by many as
a 'Fat Twat'
Smed explained. "Well, on the positive side we've got Cat and Jo on vocals. So that means there'll be 2 singers on stage. I'll be on lead vocals. Then we're fortunate to have Nick Tuckwell, ex Bikeshed bassist in the line up and of course not so fortunate to have Fat Bald Dave on Flying-V Mandolin. The good news is that neither of them have played for 5 years either. We've always had a problem with drummers since Nervo died a few years back and has failed to turn up to gigs ever since. Although he does always send apologies. This time we've really dug back in the past and we have the legendary Dean Skilton with us on drums. Fortunately he's a regular gigging drummer-sadly, in the Exmouth area, but he was in a very early band I formed in 1972 where he played pottery drums and we sang songs about brain surgery  in a made up East European language. I'd like to reassure people that at no time did we even leave the rehearsal room."


So clearly, nothing can go wrong and everyone's now desperately looking forward to the 23rd of April. Not least because a new series of Paddy McGuinnesses 'Take Me Out' starts the same night.

However, to get a taste of what the band is all about here's some ancient videos from the primordial heritage that is Red Smed and the Hot Trot Smash the System Boogie band.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sin and Sodomy at the Bridgwater Arts Centre

Kim Newman as sex pervert  'Prince' surrounded by
'actresses  from the 
Sheep Worrying Theatre Group

In 1980 the Bridgwater Arts Centre was labelled a 'jive joint for wierdies' by Tory councillor Margaret Rees who moved in next door and then complained that there was an Art Centre next door to her. So appropriately it was the venue for the launch of Sheep Worrying Theatre Company in September 1980-with the play 'Another England' -written by Kim Newman and about a Fascist takeover of Britain. 

The show was a success and the Theatre company's next production was agreed to be the play previously banned by College Principle JC Miles when the Youth theatre had planned to do it 'The Scandalous History of the Reverend Henry James Prince and his Abode of Love'.

The story of Prince - basically a religious nutjob who lived in Spaxton and set up an 'abode of love' where he saved sexy young women by shagging them whilst proclaiming himself to be the Messiah - is told on the Westover web here.

Smedley & Byrne as Victorian tabloid
journalists in the Prince play
The Sheep Worrying show was written by local  playwright Charles Mander with music by Brian Smedley and starred Kim Newman as Prince and premiered on the anniversary of the night of the Son of God's surprise death.

Several of the songs went on to become features of  Smedley and Newman's band Club Whoopee along with other songs from the future Sheep Worrying musicals that loomed over the horizon.

'Sin and Sodomy' was what the villagers of Spaxton drinking their ears off in the Lamb inn next door to the Abode of Love ,undoubtedly  assumed was going on next door to them and probably exactly what Mrs Rees assumed was going on next door to her.

Smedley overacting like a twat
'Sin and Sodomy' was recorded on 22 February 1982 at Milborne Port studios along with a pile of other tracks thrown together one take style including 'He could save me anyday' sang by future screen actress Liz Hickling and also from the Prince Play. The whole session was released on an album 'Sheep Worrying at the Club Whoopee'.

The musicians included Kim Newman on lead vocals, Smedley on bass, Andrew Napthine on guitar, Neal Heckford on piano, Robin Tucker on drums plus Lynne Cramer, Liz Hickling and Sarah Marks on backing vocals. Peter Grieve was also doing some vocals  - but not on 'Sin and Sodomy'. If anyone wants to play along it's in the key of C Minor . Well, most of us.....

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Yet again PARTISAN SONG tops Red Smed Christmas Playlist

It remains absolutely no surprise that for the 6th year running, in fact that's every year since it was released, the PARTISAN SONG has topped the Red Smed  'You Tube' playlist, now reaching an unassailable 323,867 plays, which is more than Gary Barlow put together.

Red Smed explains. "I keep saying , it's because people think they've found the Red Army choir version. "

This certainly explains the next song on the list too. 'Katyusha' is also big with communists scouring the net for songs with a big anti fascist history so it must be an extra special pleasure when they accidentally stumble across Red Smed playing it in the style of Hank Marvin.

Red Smed continued "It probably isn't 'that' welcome a surprise. Theyre probably angry as fuck."

However, with 5,739 plays it's a long way behind the dizzy heights of the Partisan Song. But, oddly not so far behind 'Leon Trotsky', currently on 4,118. Finally a self penned song ! So to what does Red Smed attribute this?

"Well, people probably trying to find a website about Leon Trotsky is my guess" He hazards a guess.

But how could this be the case with the next song on the list, the celebrated  1980 Dangerous Brothers hit "Secret Seven" . Actually, by this stage it was pointless asking as it was all becoming pretty obvious...... the full list...which...if you want to influence the running can click on and listen to.....

Partisan songRed SmedTrad323,867
KatyushaRed SmedTrad5,739
Leon TrotskyRed SmedSmedley4,118
Secret SevenDangerous BrothersSmedley1,762
Route 666Club WhoopeeTrad1,177
BridgwaterRed SmedSmedley1,015
Me and My CloneRed SmedSmedley/Newman929
Fat Bald DaveRed SmedSmedley683
Drop Dead DarlingRed SmedSmedley/Kane586
I'm Too Fat to RockRed SmedSmedley/Newman570
Ello Ello ElloDangerous BrothersSmedley/Newton534
County CouncillorDangerous BrothersSmedley505
Bohemia SektThe VisitorsBartlett423
Buddy can you spare a DimeClub WhoopeeTrad375
False NoseDangerous BrothersSmedley356
Party at BriansRed SmedSmedley/Beasley/Fraser/Bruce353
The InternationaleRed Smedtrad300
Swedish Language yeh yeh yehRed SmedSmedley292
Rock n Roll LizardClub WhoopeeSmedley/Newman276
Do the Washing upRed SmedSmedley280
When Teddy’s GoneThe SpannersSmedley/Vernon268
The Magnificent SeveralRed SmedTrad262
Don’t be so bloody MiserableRed SmedSmedley253
Rock n Roll is Pretty ExcitingRed SmedSmedley/Beasley/Fraser/Bruce230
GreedThe SedgemoronsSmedley212
We’re all going ShoppingRed SmedSmedley/Kane173
MultifreightRed SmedSmedley159
I Need a GirlfriendThe SedgemoronsSmedley/Beasley 155
Stogumber Cajun GumboRed SmedSmedley119
Bonny Van DriverRed SmedSmedley107