Tag Archives: clash

Is it OK to throw bottles at artists?

In today’s edition of The Sun, Jane Moore argues that Morrissey was wrong to walk out of his concert in Liverpool last weekend. He had started the gig and was on to the second song when a bottle, thrown by an audience member, hit him in the face.

Morrissey walked off and never came back to complete the concert.

Moore claims that ‘in her day’ the Sex Pistols actively encouraged missiles, and when she once saw The Damned you could see saliva dripping from the face of Dave Vanian – and it was not his own saliva. Clearly Moore is a punk aficionado and believes that the artist should accept whatever the audience (literally) throws at them. She claims Morrissey protests too much.

But is it really acceptable anymore for an audience to behave like this?

Back in the days that Jane Moore talks about, Joe Strummer ended up with hepatitis after a fan gobbed in his face. Is that really the kind of concert atmosphere we should look on with rose-tinted glasses?

I remember once seeing Buzzcocks and witnessing a beer can narrowly missing the face of singer Pete Shelley. He stopped playing for a moment and asked everyone in the crowd who was thinking about throwing something at the band to ‘do it now so we get it over with’… hundreds, maybe thousands, of missiles suddenly rained upon the stage. Then the gig carried on… and there were no more beer cans lobbed at the band.

Because, in practical and rather obvious terms, it’s dangerous. The artist is usually facing lights and can’t see missiles as they approach. The crowd has an unfair advantage in targeting a singer on stage half-blinded by a number of spotlights. Most venues these days prevent glass from being brought inside or purchased, but a plastic beer bottle that’s mostly full weighs about half a kilo. Try getting someone to throw a half kilo weight at your face and see if it’s a laughing matter.

Add to that the fact that a concert stage is jammed full of electrical equipment and wires. It’s no fun for the roadies and engineers to try breaking up the show when all their equipment is covered in beer, water, and whatever else… and it may even be positively shocking. For a band lower down the food chain than Morrissey, that may be the only amplifier they can afford and to have someone chucking a pint of lager on it could be a financial disaster that messes up their next gig.

I understand Jane Moore’s sentiment, but I don’t think she has really thought it through. Or maybe she is commenting as someone who used to attend concerts and has not been to a gig in decades, so it would never affect her anyway.

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Lock them up and throw away the key or intervene?

Last night, at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, there was the first central London screening of a new documentary, Breaking Rocks, directed by Alan Miles.

The documentary explains how the Jail Guitar Doors project, created by Billy Bragg in 2007, started and what they have achieved with the programme since it launched.

Jail Guitar Doors is an independent initiative which aims to provide instruments to those who are using music as a means of achieving the rehabilitation of prison inmates. JGD takes its name from the b-side of the 1978 Clash single Clash City Rockers.

Giving musical instruments to prisoners serving time is a controversial initiative. It’s not something the right-wing media will be too happy about, but the statistics on reoffending speak for themselves. Of course, the stats vary for different types of offence and prison regime, but in general if a criminal has been imprisoned, they are more than 50% likely to come back once released. This figure is significantly reduced if the prisoner has been involved in a music education programme.

The idea of giving them a guitar and showing them how to use it is not aimed at creating an army of ex-con James Blunts… what an awful thought. It’s because the guys who start learning guitar while in jail show a demonstrable increase in self-esteem and self-awareness. Just by learning something new they suddenly get the power to resist a lot of the peer pressure culture associated with drugs, and it makes them realise they can play a role in a normal society.

The challenge to the guys who are given the guitars is to show that they can come out and stay out. The guitar unlocks the realisation that they can learn and they can do something useful.

One of the main criticisms of prison education programmes like this is that prison is supposed to be about retribution and punishment. Locking these guys up and letting them rot. The issue with that attitude is that they will come out at some point. Guys doing a 3-year stretch for drugs will be back out on the streets soon, and with no idea what to do, of course they will turn back to the same life they had before coming inside.

The simple act of teaching someone to play the guitar can (and has) shown people that there is another life out there that doesn’t involve drugs, nicking from people, violence, and ultimately returning to jail.

The film is very well shot. It’s an exciting and interesting documentary, explaining the issues as well as the history of JGD. After the film screening in London, the film director Alan Miles and Billy Bragg himself did a Q&A session in person. And after the talk, there was some music. Not only Billy doing a few songs, but two ex-cons who learned to play guitar and write songs because of Jail Guitar Doors.

Take a look at some of their stuff here:

Billy Bragg does Redemption Song

Billy Bragg does April Fool’s Day – song written in a workshop with prisoners

Leon Walker, JGD graduate

Jonny Neesom, JGD graduate

For more information about the Jail Guitar Doors initiative, take a look at the website here…