The Jazz Butcher. ICA London Dec 1984
The ICA on The Mall, Buck House at the end of the road, right at the heart of The Empire. It didn’t seem possible to have malarkey like live music in such close proximity to Brenda. A week of gigs at the ICA. The Jesus & Mary Chain played and famously had a riot the night before this gig. The Pogues played the night after. We went see the Jazz Butcher. The “Scandal In Bohemia” album was a great blast of sunny humourous pop, akin to Jonathan Richman and the Woodentops but sarkier. It had a great cover by Savage Pencil, one of the UK’s top music cartoonists along with Ray Lowry. Songs like “Southern Mark Smith” and “Real Men From Leeds” were caustic but catchy. Lines like,”he wore trousers made entirely out of the skins of dead Jim Morrisons” were daft but in a Robyn Hitchcock, wry sort of way. Even the name was a piss-take.
The ICA was then old skool Arts establishment. Now it’s all theme nights in the bar, DJs, proper restaurant. A night out, like going to a posh pub. Then, small dark venue. It reminded me of the theatre at my old College.
Not that many people there. The Jazz Butcher came on and it was very muted. The sound mix and the songs were not light or jolly. There were gags but a lot darker than the album. It reminded me of the Barracudas, whose first album was frothy pop and then they got serious. Well, if was good enough for the Beatles…
Microdisney were great to watch. The guitarist had a Fender painted the same as James Burton’s, Elvis’ guitarist, all purple and fuschia swirlyness. The singer was called Cathal, who wore a cord jacket with a book in the pocket and looked like A Poet. A stamping, neck-vein throbbing, Irishman Poet. He was hilarious but also quite intimidating. The guitar playing was country tinged while Cathal ranted. Uncle Greg grew up in Derry and got his persona instantly. Microdisney mutated into Fatima Mansions later, named after a grotty estate in Dublin, and had songs like “Ciao Ceausescu” after the death of the Romanian dictator and “Only Losers Take the Bus” after Thatcher’s famous line. Angry, shouty Catholic fun. Righteous spleen. Both bands were typical NME fodder really. Few good tunes, good live shows but out of step with the mainstream. John Peel territory: small but perfectly formed.
The older I get the more bands seem like books. Everyone’s got one in them. To make a Number 1 record is every schoolkid’s dream. To be adored. So, if you have a chance of recording and playing live with a band then you’ve done it. You’ve written a book! Like a book, it can’t be unwritten. Time captured in music and word. To be able to do it really well is special. These guys were an entertaining read.