I came across this zine via the Facebook group Oxfordshire Music Scene and decided to give it a read. It’s the gig memories of a chap called Russell Barker and has wonderful pictures drawn by his daughter Robyn. It also has images of concert tickets. It’s a truly charming read and reminded me of the time I saw Carter at The Old Gaol in Abingdon. Barker mainly attended gigs in Kidderminster and Birmingham so if you’re from these areas it may have an added interest. Although Barker’s taste differs from mine (he’s more indie, I’m all about the metal) the commonality of gig going and gig loving makes this entertaining and it provides a catalyst for the gig memories of any music lover.
Some books that you have to study at school fall out of your brain the moment you’re finished with them. The Handmaid’s Tale is not one of those books. With a new adaptation starting this week (see the Radio Times for more information) I decided to share the extracts from The Very Metal Diary Of Cleo Howard 1997 and The Mega Metal Diary Of Cleo Howard 1998 which mention the book. It sparks a lot of thoughts for Cleo.
Friday 27th November 1997
We started reading A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in English today. It’s set in future America. There is a character in it called Janine. When Miss Wallace read this bit Janine Sackett blushed. A bit later there was a character called Lydia and Lydia Moore blushed. There is never a character called Cleo in anything we read at school.
Friday 4th December 1997
I woke up feeling sick, not because I’m ill but because I have a doctor’s appointment to get the pill. I keep thinking about how pleased Barry will be when I tell him.
We read more of The Handmaid’s Tale today in English. It’s starting to remind me of Brave New World because the people are in groups. In Brave New World there are Alphas, Betas, Epsilons and Gammas. In The Handmaid’s Tale there are Marthas, Handmaids, Commanders and Unwomen.
My doctor’s appointment wasn’t too bad. In fact it was surprisingly easy. I didn’t see anyone I knew in the waiting room (except Jenni who waited with me, flicking through copies of Country Living and The Lady). I went in on my own to see Dr Turnbull. He looks ancient, about fifty. I got a sudden surge of bravery from somewhere. As soon as Dr Turnbull shut the door I said “I’d like the pill please”. He took my blood pressure then gave me a prescription to take to the pharmacy. He has given me three months of tablets and told me to come back in three months for more. He said you only get three months to start with to check they suit you. I’m going to swallow them, not wear them! He gave me a leaflet about what to do if I miss a pill and explained some stuff but I can’t remember any of it, I was too busy thinking about Barry’s face when I tell him he doesn’t have to wear a condom and about the three months of condom free shagging ahead!
I had to wait a little while in the pharmacy and I didn’t know that I had to sign the back of the prescription. The pill is free and you have to tick a box that says “I have been prescribed free of charge contraceptives”. The assistant was a lady and quite young. She pointed at the box I had to tick and she smiled at me, like it was our secret.
I read the leaflet properly when I got home. I have just got my period so I can start taking the pill now! I will be protected from now on. I think whoever invented the pill is a genius. I wonder if he or she did it because they don’t like condoms or children or both?
Friday 11th December 1997
We did chapters four and five of The Handmaid’s Tale today. It had a bit where Offred is told there is freedom to and freedom from. This reminded me of a bit in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit; “Walls protect and walls limit”. The only walls I want are the ice creams and I’d rather have freedom to than freedom from any day. There was also a bit where the character Janine is pregnant. Janine Sackett looked really embarrassed. It would be quite good to be gay because you wouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant.
Friday 8th January 1998
“Just one more day and then you can go out on the sauce tomorrow night”. Terry said when I called for Ian this morning. Then he offered us the last of the Christmas liquorice allsorts to eat on the way to school. All the good ones had gone. Nanny Howard says too much liquorice can give you a sad tummy.
We read chapter seven of The Handmaid’s Tale today. Offred has to live in a house away from her family and friends (like at uni but worse because she isn’t allowed out on her own and it’s a future world but not a pleasant one, like Helloween sang about, it’s a horrible one like in Nineteen-Eighty-Four (the book, not the year, I was only one year old in the year so I don’t know what it was like). At night Offred imagines being in better places and being with her Mum. She remembers a time when her Mum and her Mum’s friends burnt pornographic magazines as a protest. Everyone looked at Mark Dobbs when Janine read this out. Offred’s Mum sounds like she’d be embarrassing but it’s still sad if you don’t ever see your Mum, like Ian.
Saturday 9th January 1998
I wonder if there will ever be a world without pornography, like in The Handmaid’s Tale? According to Ian there is loads of porn on the internet but it’s not worth bothering with because it takes too long to download. Ian showed me once where Gav keeps his mucky magazines (at the back of a record box, under his bed). Gav doesn’t know that Ian knows where they are.
Ian has seen Sally’s chest and has felt, but not seen, her bush. At the pub tonight Sally said she thinks that men who have girlfriends don’t need to look at porn. T-Reg said that you don’t always want to look at the same ones, just like you don’t always want the same flavour Pot Noodle.
Friday 15th January 1998
We read chapter nine of The Handmaid’s Tale and a bit of it reminded me of D.H. Lawrence when he said young people take sex like a cocktail. Margaret Atwood wrote “men and women tried each other on, casually, like suits, rejecting whatever did not fit”. There is nothing casual about what I feel for Barry, which I suppose makes it formal. My love for him is like a ball gown, with a diamond necklace and a tiara to match.
Monday 18th January 1998
Mr Moffat told me I should be wearing gloves today. I have got gloves, I just forgot them. He seems to think because I’m sixteen and he’s ancient he can boss me around and treat me like I’m stupid. I do know that it’ll be cold in January. I hate being treated like a half finished human.
Shot said she forgot to rewind the video before she dropped it in to Blockbuster. She said “Oh well, it’s all anarchy, innit?”
I’ve just noticed that the rulers of the Republic of Gilead (the place where The handmaid’s Tale is set) has a conflict theory approach to society. There is competition for scarce resources. I haven’t noticed any other Sociology all around me in the actual world yet. Society is a bit like oxygen, it has to be there but you can’t really see it unless you look in a special way.
Friday 29th January 1998
Everest is a mountain and also a double glazing company. Yesterday I used it to mean vagina, Dear Diary, just to be clear. I think when you are a really great writer you don’t have to explain your metaphors. Flagpole works okay for penis though. Miss Wallace said we have to think about English on a deeper level now we’re in sixth form. We have to read and absorb. We have to notice the words that weren’t chosen as well as the words that were.
Janine had to read chapter sixteen of The Handmaid’s Tale aloud today. The whole room was silent as she said the F word. For a book we have to read at school it’s quite sweary but it isn’t sweary for no reason, it describes situations that people would definitely swear in. Offred has to have sex with the commander in the same room as his wife so that she might get pregnant. It is a grim scene. Holly Rowlands said it was state sanctioned rape, even if Offred said it wasn’t, because her other life choices were so bad. No-one else said anything. Holly never goes red when she answers questions in class.
I love going round Barry’s and getting into his warm bed. I wish I could spend a whole week just snuggled up watching telly and making love. Reading The Handmaid’s Tale has made me aware of the difference between fucking and making love. On Gimme Gimme Gimme tonight Linda got Liam Gallgher’s phone number from her sister Sugar Walls who is famous. I know so many people who fancy Liam but give me Pete Steele, or Rob Zombie, or Rob Flynn, or Max Cavalera any day. We also watched Bang, Bang, It’s Reeves and Mortimer. Paul McKenna was on it. I wonder if he could hypnotize Mum to stop her going on at me to bring my mugs and plates downstairs?
Friday 5th February 1998
I got my period this morning. Annoying. In The Handmaid’s Tale we found out that Offred’s boyfriend Luke might be dead, or might be alive and in the resistance. When I think of the resistance I think of Michelle from ‘Allo ‘Allo! Offred used butter as moisturiser because handmaids aren’t allowed real moisturiser. The other women want to make them ugly. I always use Simple moisturiser on my face and Body Shop moisturiser on the rest of me. On my way home I went to the library to renew my books. The woman on the counter said I will soon be able to do it on the computer instead of coming into the library.
Me and Barry watched Parkinson because Harry Enfield (who I like) and Michael Caine (who he likes) were on it. I said that Parky should have Lemmy on. Barry told me that there was a Pot Noodle advert about six years ago with “Ace Of Spades” as the music but it got banned because it made people feel ill. I don’t remember it but I was only eleven at the time and I didn’t start listening to metal until I was twelve. It saddens me to think I wasted twelve years listening to rubbish music.
Friday 12th February 1998
The Handmaid’s Tale was revolting today. Everyone watched Janine/Ofwarren give birth. Getting pregnant is the thing I am most scared of in life. It’s awkward that the pretend character Janine in the book The Handmaid’s Tale is whiny and annoying, like real Janine Sackett who goes to my school is. She is much nicer now she doesn’t hang round with Carina Norman but some people still won’t give her a chance.
Dazza said Venomous Lizzard are writing a song called “Lesbian Exorcism”. This was my idea, based on the book Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Maybe I should write song lyrics. No-one ever writes songs about periods so maybe I should suggest this to Dazza or perhaps keep this idea for my own band when I form one.
Mum was reading the telly guide while I was having breakfast. She said Jim Davidson and Thora Hird are on Parkinson tonight. She said she hopes Jim keeps it clean. The Vanessa Show and Trisha have had fake guests on recently. Even if Parkinson’s guests are boring and old, at least they are real. Normal people look a bit shabby on telly.
I couldn’t wait to see Barry today. His Mum had gone round her friends before going to bingo so we had the house to ourselves all evening. We did it twice, Barry said it was once as usual, and once to make up for when he saw me yesterday but we couldn’t do it.
On Gimme Gimme Gimme tonight Tom got married to a lesbian so that she could stay in England with her girlfriend. Linda was a bridesmaid and she got a job in a porn film called Poor White Trash Get It On. I wonder if I’ll ever get married? Even if Barry asked me now we’d have to wait until I’m eighteen because you need your parent’s consent to get married before eighteen. Mum would be bound to say no.
Friday 19th February 1998
In The Handmaid’s Tale Offred played Scrabble in secret with her commander and he let her look at a forbidden Vogue magazine. She asked him for hand cream and he got her some. All of this is not allowed in her society. She feels like his mistress now, not just a faceless woman he has to try to get pregnant to repopulate the planet. I can’t help thinking that babies could be created more easily, like in Brave New World.
I read a Vogue magazine once. It’s not as good as Terrorizer or Metal Hammer or Kerrang! even. I would hate to live in the Republic of Gilead (where The handmaid’s Tale is set), they have uniforms and no pub to go to on a Saturday. Choosing your clothes helps you choose your life.
Monday 22nd February 1998
It’s half term week. Hooray! My five favourite foods are cheese, chocolate, ice cream, malt loaf and chips. I would eat any of these things for breakfast even though Mum thinks breakfast can only be toast or cereal. Jenni sometimes has pain au chocolat.
I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale even though we only had to do a few more chapters for homework. I don’t like waiting to see what happens. The ending is mad, set in the year 2195, and we never know if Offred escaped or was taken to prison. I’ve decided for myself that she escaped and she found her boyfriend and their daughter and the resistance overthrew the Government of Gilead and people were free again and scientists helped make people fertile.
Monday 8th March 1998
I caught STR sniffing Shot’s hoodie that she’d left in the common room today. He is definitely in love with her and she is definitely in love with Glen.
There was a new programme on tonight called The Grimleys. It’s set in Dudley in nineteen-seventy-eight and is mostly about Gordon Grimley, a schoolboy who is good at English and bad at P.E. He reminds me a bit of me when I was younger, before sixth form. He fancies Miss Titley, his English teacher. Tonight they were reading Romeo and Juliet and everyone giggled when Gordon said “breast”. We would have giggled too, before sixth form. Breast is nothing now, we’ve all heard much worse in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Tyla has always stood out as a one of a kind artist. Dog Tales shows he really lives the role too. I saw the Dogs D’amour at the Minchery Tavern, Oxford in the early 90s and I saw Tyla at the White Horse in High Wycombe in the later half of the 90s. Both of these gigs I remember with huge fondness. I got to the High Wycombe one late because we’d accidentally gone to a pub of the same name but in West Wycombe. We strolled in, resplendent in our make up, bandannas, PVC (and that was just the blokes) and we were met with flat capped locals and a very horse-brassy bar. “Is Tyla playing here tonight?” we asked. We got a reply very much in the negative and directions to High Wycombe. We used the pubs’ loo, thanked the surly barman and ran away, lest the beige clothing and beige minds infected us. Onstage in High Wycombe Tyla told jokes between songs including one with the punchline “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”. For reasons mostly of memory and partly of decency I’ll let you invent your own set up to this punchline.
Onstage he’s a great storyteller and on paper he’s no different. I loved reading Tyla’s tales in his own words and the illustrations before the tales were perfect. He sounds like he’d be hard work to go on tour with. He’s always getting drunk and into scrapes and scraps. His Mum said he should have tucked his shirt in when he was on Top Of The Pops and one of the pranks he played on a friend sounded cruel, one where he made a heterosexual man think he’d had sex with another man. Most of the time however he’s totally gentlemanly and charming. His spelling and grammar occasionally needs work but I don’t think that’s ever been or is ever likely to be his priority and I’d rather it wasn’t, he’s got music to make, wine to drink, pictures to paint, and songs to write. It’s a book that is written how he speaks. I’m jealous of anyone who has got to hear these tales first hand in a bar.
I’ll leave you with this quote:
“I would often wander from place to place in search of adventure, not realising I was the adventure walking around waiting to happen”.
I recently visited Austin, Texas and while there went to a very cool Book People book store. They had the latest Dave Hill book so I treated myself to a signed copy to read on my flight home. This was the perfect choice, it has short funny chapters, little scenes from Dave’s (sometimes shambolic) life. There are two things I love about this book:
Dave Hill is in no hurry to grow up.
Dave Hill keeps mentioning Danzig.
In Eviscerated Panda – A Metal Tale I mention Danzig 12 times and in The Very Metal Diary Of Cleo Howard I mention Danzig 18 times. I feel that Dave and I both know that a book is always improved by a spattering of Danzigs and neither of us could be convinced otherwise.
Writing mainly for Smash Hits and NME, Sylvia has a career which sounds enviable apart from the financial insecurity and the rather scary situations you find yourself in if you’ve annoyed Cypress Hill and Eminem. Although some of the bands and musicians she talks about are not to my taste, a great many of them are (she’s actually a massive Goth, despite the Smash Hits job). Sylvia’s obsessive love of music chimes with my own so I loved this book. She has met some amazing personalities (and is one herself I think). Just to whet your appetite, this book contains meetings with; Spike Milligan, David Attenborough, Noel Gallagher, Kylie, Bros, Shaun Ryder, Posh and Becks, Johnny Cash and many, many more (as those records made by K-Tel and sold in Woollies always used to say). Written with an emotional honesty that makes for a sad read at times this book is just wonderful. It’s full of musical nostalgia and at the end provides an interesting industry insiders view on the state of popular music today. Reading her book convinced me I wanted to be a music journalist in printed media and then at the end of the book she shows how that job has all but vanished as a viable career option.
I personally can’t know what it’s like to be a black woman going to metal shows in North America, because I’m not one and I don’t live there. However, I can get a good idea of the experiences of this group of women from Laina Dawes who writes with an academic air about her own experiences and those of other women who filled in her questionnaires or spoke to her. Dawes makes the point that in order to have a reasoned argument you need to do so calmly and in the right tone. Because of this there is nothing preachy or argumentative in this book, but there is a lot to think about and challenges to certain viewpoints. There is some interesting and non-sensationalist discussion of Phil Anselmo. If you like metal and Sociology/Women’s Studies then this book is for you. I had lots of moments of a feeling of metal community when she was writing about bands I love. It’s the sort of book that will stay with me long after I’ve closed its cover. It’s already made me think about my own (fictional heavy metal) writing and about the characters I include and omit.
I adored this book. I wanted to climb inside it to the places it showed and access a world of music made with the intense energy of people who are putting their whole selves into it. It’s a book of friendship and studs, fresh faces and leather and I’m so glad Brenda Perlin kept her teenage photographs and was persuaded to share them. There are some great photos of The Damned, amongst many others. You can buy it from Amazon.co.uk:
Lita Ford has lived a long life in music and met many great musicians as well as being one. She’s got some stories to tell including getting crabs from Dee Dee Ramone and seeing Nikki Sixx wearing shoes two sizes too small for him because they were great shoes. A positive theme in the book is her parents’ unfailing love and support. I couldn’t help but wonder why Lita didn’t walk away from some situations she found herself in. Be ready to lose respect for Tony Iommi when you read Lita’s account of his violence towards her. When writing about meeting Tony Iommi she says “I could smell the leather coming from his closet”, this is a very heavy metal sentence and there are plenty more in the book.
This is a truly fascinating tale with none of the gory or explicit details left out, written by a smart woman who is doing what she wants and reconciling two sides of her personality. The word “slut” has power and needs to be taken back and Shirazi has made a good start. If you find yourself being shocked by Shirazi’s behaviour while reading, ask yourself would you still be shocked if she was a male musician?
If music and sex are important to you and you have an open mind you’ll enjoy this book. It’s not for those who are easily offended or don’t like reading descriptions of sex acts. It’s very bleak in parts and reminded me of a quote from The Rocky Horror Picture Show; “It’s not easy having a good time”. There are some great photos (some of which are topless). It’s rock ‘n’ roll and also rock ‘n’ rude throughout. I loved the realism of this book. There are a lot of famous musicians mentioned, hard rock rather than metal. I had totally forgotten about Towers Of London until this book reminded me of them.
Interestingly, this book cover isn’t the original cover that Shirazi wanted. I would love to see what she wanted.
This book of Polaroid photos from 1980 is splendid. It’s a bit short on words but if I’m honest I didn’t buy it for the words. That said, Paul Gambaccini, Peter Cook and Paula Yates write amusing introductions.
So, on to the snapshots; Ted Nugent wins the oddest underwear award, Lemmy’s smalls are red and jolly, Phil Lynott has chosen purple pants to protect his plums, Rod Stewart gives us a flash of pubes, whether we like it or not, we get two great shots of Rick Parfitt, and four of Jools Holland who looks secure in his snazzily patterned briefs. There was no manscaping in the late seventies, I reflected, while looking at a hairy Elton. Reg Presley’s brown and orange nylon knickers reminded me of my Nan’s wallpaper. I left the book open on Pete Way and I got the impression that UFO might have stood for Underpant Frontal Object, it sort of followed me round the room in an eerie fashion. There’s no Robert Plant in this book because his spokesman said he was a bit chubby at the moment. Perhaps I’ll write a sequel and see if I can get him to take part.