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Known as the Bard of Hackney, Frank Bangay has been performing poetry and song for over 40 years on the London poetry scene. He writes about his two passions: music and gardening for various publications including The Big Untidy.

Some Lesser Known Kevin Coyne Classics

4 March 2016

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Musician and singer Kevin Coyne (27 January 1944 - 2 December 2004) was never as well known as he should have been. Alongside albums like Marjory Razorblade, Matching Head and Feet, and Millionaires and Teddybears there are a number of lesser known classics waiting to be heard. There is not enough space here to mention all of them. But I will bring a few to your attention. Elvira: Songs from the Archives 1979-83  Elvira is a collection of songs recorded in October 1979 and released in the...

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A tribute to Junior Byles, a roots reggae pioneer

11 February 2016

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Earlier this century I bought a copy of MOJO magazine. It had a free reggae compilation with it. One of the tracks on the CD was ‘A Place Called Africa’ by Junior Byles. The song is a heartfelt cry on the Rastafarian theme of repatriation. Listening to it reminded me how good Junior Byles is. This made me check out some of the man’s other work. We will return to his music shortly. First, I will tell you a bit about Junior Byles. His full name is Kerrie Byles Jr. He was born in...

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Taking the Michelangelo: A memoir of recovery and healing by Karim Harvey

10 February 2015

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Karim Harvey is a member of Hackney based mental health charity Core Arts. He is also a fine poet. This is his first book, put together with help from Core. Here he takes us on his life journey. Born to black parents who he never knew, he was adopted by a white family.  He grew up in Essex in a predominately white environment where “no Blacks, no dogs, no Irish” was an often seen sign on notice boards. He was given the diagnosis of gender dysphonic, whatever that means. Karim...

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The Blues Poetry of Bukka White

28 September 2014

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Blues songs reflect their artists’ backgrounds and personal experiences. One of the many fine blues songwriters and musicians is Bukka White.  Bukka White was born Booker T. Washington White in Mississippi, in 1909. ‘Bukka’ was a misspelling on one of his early recordings. His father worked on the railways, and was also an accomplished musician who taught Bukka how to play the guitar. Bukka’s mother was the daughter of a preacher. Bukka worked as a field-hand by...

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'SPLITTING IN TWO: Mad Pride and Punk Rock Oblivion' by Robert Dellar

21 August 2014

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In this book Robert Dellar traces his life journey from his childhood in a working class area of Watford, through Sussex University and the London squatting community, to what he calls the ‘murky waters of mental health’. Of special importance is the pioneering work Robert did in Hackney Hospital, setting up a patients’ council and advocacy department. At the time of the hospital’s closure in the mid-90s, Robert organised some lively gigs, which he describes here in...

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The Astronauts: Urban Planning rails against gentrification

15 August 2014

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The Astronauts’ latest album traces the history of the band from 1979 to 2013. Urban Planning is a beautiful yet gritty retrospective that showcases the skilled songwriting of Mark Wilkins. The Astronauts are based in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Thanks to the dedication of singer-songwriter Mark Wilkins, (better known as Mark Astronaut), the band are still active, and will no doubt continue to be so. I first saw The Astronauts play at a Mad Pride gig in the mid-1990s....

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Frank remembers Son House and reviews his classic live Blues album: Delta Blues and Spirituals

1 December 2013

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I first heard Son House on the John Peel radio show around 1969 or 1970. He had so much power in his voice. The first Son House CD that I bought was called Delta Blues and Spirituals. It was recorded live at the 100 Club in London in 1970. Son House was born Eddie James House Jr., on March 21 1902, in Riverton, Mississippi. At the age of 15 he began his career as a Baptist preacher. He became attracted to blues music, despite the church’s stand against it. Son House spent his life...

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Frank posts a tribute to Jackie Leven

12 November 2013

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My introduction to Jackie Leven came in 1978, when I was living in a mental health hostel. I read in the NME (New Musical Express) that Jackie’s band Doll by Doll  were doing benefit gigs for R. D. Laing’s Philadelphia Association. I knew that Laing offered an alternative way of thinking about mental health. This inspired to me go and see Doll by Doll live, and to buy their records. Jackie Leven was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, to an Irish Cockney father and a mother from a Romany...

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Deep Down with Dennis Brown by Penny Reel

31 October 2013

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Deep Down with Dennis Brown was published in 2000, but is still available on the internet. In Penny Reel’s writings in the NME (New Musical Express) during the 1970s, he would often sing the praises of reggae artists who were little-known outside the world of reggae. Penny Reel also wrote for other magazines of the time like Black Echoes and Let It Rock. Before this he wrote for the underground magazine International Times. Deep Down with Dennis Brown is subtitled Cool Runnings and...

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Kevin Coyne's Case History album includes several songs about the mental health system

18 October 2013

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Kevin Coyne’s first solo album, Case History, was recorded in 1972, shortly after Nobody Dies In Dreamland. Last year, it was re-released by Turpentine Records.   Shortly after its release its label, John Peel’s Dandelion, folded and Case History became very hard to find. I only heard the record in the early 1980s, when it was issued as a box set with the two Siren albums. The label that issued the records in the early 1980s was called Butt records whose logo was an ashtray...

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On Kevin Coyne's fine album Nobody Dies in Dreamland

1 October 2013

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Available on Turpentine Records these recordings were made in 1972 after Siren, the band Kevin was in, had split up. Also shortly before his first solo record Case History was made. The story behind these recordings is as follows. Someone gave Kevin a one track reel to reel In his rented flat in Clapham, where he then lived, armed with his guitar and harmonica, he recorded these songs. A number of the songs on Dreamland would appear on Case History. However the opening track “Black...

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Frank Bangay writes a tribute to Blind Willie Johnson: The Soul Of A Man

22 July 2013

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My first introduction to the music of Blind Willie Johnson came in 2002. The guitar teacher at CORE Arts in Hackney, had  encouraged me to have a go at learning to play the slide guitar. As a result I got a slide guitar  compilation out of the library. There was some great stuff on the record. About half way through following straight after a track by the mighty Son House, was You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond, by Blind Willie Johnson. His gruff voice, accompanied by a...

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Frank shares a poem 'Moments in the Day'

20 July 2013

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Moments in the Day The papers print a creepy image A boy with a rucksack on his back At the train station. Of to take his life And bring others down with him All for the promise of paradise What kind of paradise? I was talking to my Muslim neighbour He told me he disagreed with the bombing Nowhere in the Koran does it say you must kill. I read the newspapers  The front page exposes its scandal I hear politicians talking I hear politicians waffle.  I can’t help wondering Are...

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