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SOME important and influential contributors to the rich history of radical punk rock get a bit more of the recognition they definitely deserve with the debut screening of the documentary Kick Out: The Newtown Neurotics Story on Saturday April 25 in Leytonstone, east London.
I’ll lay my cards on the table. When it comes to the Neurotics — as they’ve inevitably been called over the decades — I’m biased. They charged out of the Essex new town of Harlow about the same time as Thatcher crawled out of the Finchley slime into Number 10 and were a constant thorn in her side through the great battles of the 1980s.
They were there for The Right to Work Campaign, the miners’ strike and the Wapping dispute, along with countless other worthy causes, and I was often right beside them. They were a truly dedicated bunch and singer Steve Drewett is my best mate.
One of my earliest and most humorous memories of our combined efforts to bring radical rock to the masses is of the day in the early 1980s when we were asked to perform on the back of a lorry at a demonstration in Woolwich, south London. It was at a Fares Fair campaign event against the High Court-imposed fare rises on London Transport, if memory serves me well.
We were supposed to be leading the march through the streets, guitars and voices loud and proud, but the organisers had real problems starting the generator which would provide the power for the amps and PA system.
By the time it had spluttered into life the demo had moved off and the Neurotics and I ended up desperately trying to find it while unwittingly stuck in the traffic jam it was causing, playing to crowds of confused shoppers.
This experience inspired one of their finest songs, Does Anyone Know Where the March Is? And it was just one of Steve’s many sharp, tuneful and witty three-minute soundtracks to the epic political battles of the 1980s.
But their best known anthem confronted the bastards head-on. Kick Out the Tories is a song which, sadly, has never gone out of date in the way it should have done and it’s the one which gives the documentary its name.
It features interviews with and reminiscences from three very well known Neurotics fans — legendary punk radio DJ Steve Lamacq, comedian Phill Jupitus and punky singer-songwriter Billy Bragg — along with a host of others.
One of its highlights is the story of a fascinating couple of weeks in 1986 when Billy Bragg, the Neurotics and myself became the first punk rockers to be invited to perform in East Germany.
It was the start of many trips to the former GDR for us and we saw at first hand the brave and ultimately unsuccessful attempts of a new generation of young left-wing activists there to resist unification and create a truly democratic socialist state.
I will never forget those days. It was an inspirational time for us all and you’ll meet some of the great characters we met in the documentary.
It is the brainchild of young Harlow film maker Luke Baker and its debut screening will be held at the Leytonstone Ballroom (upstairs at the Red Lion) on Saturday April 25.
It will be hosted by Steve Lamacq with live performances from The Newtown Neurotics, Swill Odgers from The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Nigel Clark from Dodgy and yours truly.
Tickets from newtownneurotics.com. If you’re coming, get yours soon, they’re selling fast.
I’m having a rare rest from gigs because I’m working on my 40th anniversary poetry anthology. If you’d like to put me on at a gig or a festival later in the year to celebrate this momentous occasion please email email@example.com
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