21 Years of Fighting The Power
Maybe next time (next time?!) I should get it printed up to give out to people as they leave, like at proper conferences and stuff. Or maybe not.
I'd like to start by thanking the people who've made today possible. Thanks as ever to all at The Portland Arms (who've put up with my sometimes unorthodox musical mix for years now, and who've always been patient with me trying to support and promote new talent), thanks to Martin for doing the sound (last night the O2, tonight Foxy Ramone his career is clearly on an upwards trajectory), all the bands (including my own) for playing, and above all, everyone here for coming.
And when I look out at the packed crowd tonight (I hear that they may have to shut the doors to stop anyone else coming in), some people travelling from as far away as Guernsey and the 1980s, I see lots of you who've been along for most of, if not all of, the ride. People who have given us all so much in terms of inspiration, music, writing, creativity, energy, ideas, commitment and friendship. But just as importantly, I also see many much newer fellow travellers (such as my guitar students), who make me feel confident that the future is in good hands.
Yes, 21 years is a long time to run a loss making, cider swilling, Tory trashing, Swans supporting, Manics loving, chip chomping fanzine and record label, and 50 years is even longer to be alive, and in that time I know that I haven't achieved some of what is seen as 'normal' or desirable for most people of my age. However, when I gaze out at you lot tonight, I see that I have achieved other things, maybe less conventional but still, in my opinion, valuable.
As I look around, I am reminded of taking The Hammers to play live to 7 million people on Blue Peter. I remember taking 9 coaches (NINE COACHES!) to see the Manics at the Anti Nazi League Carnival in 1994, and still needing to push lots of others onto trains. I remember hearing R*E*P*E*A*T releases on national radio, particularly the Freeboy and Miss Black America singles, and thus impressing and convincing the sceptical students I'd been working with that R*E*P*E*A*T was indeed a real record label. I remember being part of organising two massive 1000 people plus demos to take on and humiliate the English Defence League as they tried to march in Cambridge. I am ferociously proud of the 40 issues of the fanzine, the 41 shop releases and 25 downloads we've put out, not to mention the posters, fliers, postcards, T shirts and billions of badges we've produced (help yourself to mementoes from the stall!). And I remember winding almost everyone up on the Cambridge music scene with a furious teen band called The Virgin Suicides (whose back catalogue still sells regularly by download).
I remember the thrill of getting the first tracks I'd recorded (with a year 10 band called Keys) onto national radio and, only this week, hearing that my recordings of Matty and the Bullsharks (aged 15-16) has helped them get a gig with Reverend Horton Heat at the O2 in Islington. I remember the pride of releasing records by bands I'd long worshipped from afar, Johnny Panic, Attila the Stockbroker and S*M*A*S*H. I remember helping kids, demoralised and peeved off by our target driven education system and with very poor opinions of themselves, form bands and go on to play The Junction and Strawberry fair, and the incredibly glamorous eyelinered and glitterclad boys and girls who formed Cambridge's teen-scene, based around the fuzzed-up glam punk loveliness of The Saffs.
I recall R*E*P*E*A*T writers who've graduated to write for The Fly, Drowned in Sound, their own fanzines and NME, or to work for Radio 1. And all those I've taught who've gone onto make music their passion, their lives and maybe even their livelihood. For instance, I remember two little boys (who can stand for so many other kids), both aged 7, who ran up to me in 1992 yelling we're in your class next year!, and both of whom are here tonight, having spent the majority of their lives since then in bands, working with R*E*P*E*A*T, playing gigs, recording tunes and releasing records with us over these many years. That, Nicky Morgan, is what I mean by lifelong learning!
More recently I remember putting on a film for the first time (No Manifesto, about the Manics), being filmed myself for documentaries about The Holy Bible and anti Fascism, getting 3 million hits a year on the website and publishing a DIY book. And, on a smaller scale, I remember only weeks ago, going with just 4 or so others to hold Stand Up to UKIP stalls in March and Wisbech, taking the anti racist arguments to the heart of the beast, and in most cases, winning. And I still feel the pride I felt just a few hours ago seeing bands The Batts and The Psychopathic Llamas , who I've taught from scratch, really rock this venue, with so much confidence and poise and attitude, it puts me to shame.
All these things (and many more) are areas of real achievement which I can see recalled in and by you lot in front of me, all of which make me indescribably proud, happy and fulfilled...
And I am not intending it to finish here. We have a new single from Horse Party due out in the summer, followed by a compilation of bands from the vibrant Bury scene a scene I love being part of, if only tangentially, due to my work with Seymour Glass (nee Quigley). Our relationship has been a creative and mutually inspiring one, enduring over many years to the benefit of both of us. I first encountered Seymour as a pissed up and pissed off unhappy teenager in the incredible Miss Black America, whose records continue to be the only R*E*P*E*A*T productions ever to sell out before release dates, and to have covered their costs. It makes me really pleased and reassured to see him now, able to combine being the driving hub of the Bury scene, running fantastic club nights and compiling incredible compilations as well as managing Horse Party, while also being able to find some equanimity, stability and happiness through balancing his ferocious creative drive with his family life, thanks to the wonderful Kate and little Jack.
In the near future, we also have an album slowly gestating from another long term ally, Gavin Chappell-Bates, whose accompanying videos were made by 6th form students at Long Road. We have a mini Love Music Hate Racism stage at Strawberry Fair in a fortnight, and some rather tasty looking gigs planned for the autumn, as well as another film showing in July. Not to mention the People's Assembly demo against Austerity on June 20th...
Because what I think I've always wanted to do with R*E*P*E*A*T is to show that people don't have to be mesmerised by glitz and glamour of the pre packaged pap and politics the media try to sell us. We don't have to be passive consumers but can be active creators; to quote the Manics, we're not only a passive electorate, we can also be active makers of history. Whether that be by forming a band, joining a Trade Union, writing a review or a song, going on a demo, challenging racism or homophobia in the playground or at work, turning off the TV Idol Pop star bores and taking a stand, making a difference... we don't have to take this crap, we don't have to sit back and relax. If we want to save the NHS and education system, we certainly can't afford to do nothing for another 5 years!
And all of that is what I mean by fighting the power... and that's why I mean to continue to do so.
So on that note there are just two things left to do before our final song and we can leave you to enjoy the proper bands.
One of the proudest moments of the past 21 years I didn't mention just now, was marching with my teacher colleagues from work as we struck to Stand Up for Education on several occasion in recent years, despite the pressures we all felt to shut up and conform. And these same colleagues, instead of buying me yet more lovely cuddly badgers and bottles of Stella this birthday, have kindly clubbed together to fund a wonderful new R*E*P*E*A*T banner. It incorporates some of the designs we've used over the years, as well as highlighting some of the causes we've supported. So, with a big thank you to Christine for designing it and to David (who is thoughtlessly in Tenerife tonight and so can't be here) for printing it, I give you (drum roll please) the new R*E*P*E*A*T banner. Hurrah!
And finally, again in keeping with what I've been saying, I'd like to invite any of my guitar students who are still here, up on stage for our final song. As I said, the Young Performers gig this afternoon was fantastic, and if I ever get jaded or tired or demoralised, I can always rely on my students to help re-inspire me. While my guitar lessons have been described as 'a triumph of enthusiasm over ability', this lot are lucky enough to have oodles of both. When there's kids as talented, creative and switched on as these, you feel that the future's bright.
So, here's to 21 more years of Fighting the Power.
This songs is for Steve and Barbara, this is Where's Me Jumper....
Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T, June 2015
More pix from this gig here