The band that was, perhaps, the greatest influence on the Age of Misrule, all those years ago. The album, And Did Those Feet, mixed a contemporary world with ancient horrors, and captured, in its rhythmic, crazed-folk drive, the sound of rural England – cider-drunk locals stumbling through graveyards on the way home.
Lyrically, there was nothing like them. Any band who can start a song, ‘Unctuous, prattling pecksniffs quake and quail and quiver, as the Badger Boys come down the street like pike down an empty river’ have got to be worth a listen…
Hellhound on my Trail – Robert Johnson
Aloha from Hell – The Cramps
Armageddon Days (Are Here Again) – The The
Queer – Garbage
When the Sun Goes Down – Arctic Monkeys
Godless – The Dandy Warhols
I’ve Got my TV and my Pills – Julian Cope
Heaven Up Here – Echo and the Bunnymen
Shoplifters of the World Unite – The Smiths
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell – The Flaming Lips
Beasley Street – John Cooper Clarke
Burning Sky – The Jam
Sinnerman – Nina Simone
Too Tough To Die – Martina Topley-Bird
Demon Days – Gorillaz
Big Night Out – Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Do Anything You Want To – Thin Lizzy
Burn it Down – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Boys from the County Hell – The Pogues
(I’ll Love You) Till the End of the World – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones
The End – The Doors
I’m a big fan of Kemper Norton‘s rural atmospherics. To me, it’s all moon over standing stones, lonely moors and wintry rivers with some bucolic summer headiness thrown into the mix.
The Kernow collective has just got in touch with me to say they’ve got some new music available to download here, for free. It’s an ep, called Lowender, which means happiness in Cornish, and is described as “an overstimulated and unstable celebration of Cornish festivals”.
You don’t want to seem like a nutter when you’re on public radio. So when the host asks me – as they always do – where do you get your ideas from, I steer clear of the truthful answer: “psychic connections through the aether” or “hypnagogic messages dictated by our mysterious overlords“. I usually mutter something about stumbling across an interesting fact. Always go for the boring option. It keeps you out of the coats with no arms.
But we can speak honestly here. We all know about the mysterious connections in life. The stuff that goes on behind all those scientific processes. The weird, inexplicable occurrences lurking in the corners of day-to-day existence. The gods and imps and fairies and demons that we like to call other things because, you know, that whole coats with no arms thing…
When I say “the universe speaks to me”, I mean it speaks to all writers, all musicians, all artists. We each tend to put a different face on it, but it’s the same voice. So where do my gods and fairies and demons lurk?
In pubs with stone and timber and glowering locals and beer with strange names. In deep rural life which city folk think is backward, but is wild and dangerous and so removed it might as well be another planet. In bands that you might stumble across in the back rooms of pubs and never hear from again. In stone circles, crumbling ruins, lonely pools, old houses. Across those city liminal zones – industrial estates under sodium at 3am, empty, broken-windowed factories and wasteground with rainbow-streaked puddles. In black-faced, mirror-glassed morris men and biker gangs. In snatches of music heard after midnight. In moots and meets and markets held under moonlight. These are the places where stories are born. These are the locations where my writing gods live.
And for a specific example, here’s one of the inspirations for Age of Misrule…
The Dancing Did remain one of my favourite bands, a quarter of a century after they split up. Characterised as “neo rustic pagan bop” or “a cross between The Clash and Steeleye Span”, you can find out more about them here.
Their album, And Did Those Feet, is little-known but essential, particularly if you like fantasy or any of those things I listed above. The lyrics are clever, witty and poetic and deal with ancient things encroaching on the modern world – listen to ‘The Wolves of Worcestershire‘ or ‘Charnel Boy‘. A remixed version with a booklet and additional tracks is available from Cherry Red.
The Dancing Did’s thematic equivalent today may well be Cornish collective Kemper Norton though the music is very, very different. I came across them through the regular ravings of Warren Ellis, another fan. More inspiration. I bet they never imagined they’d be dragging a story about Elizabethan spies and Faerie into the light…