- Hits: 3193
First published in Sounds February 27th 1982
Written by Garry Bushell
'The winter of discontent is nearing/Thatcher's got trouble with her hearing/The voices of millions are going unheard/I'd 'try to laugh if it wasn't so absurd/This generation won't keep quiet/WORK, WORK, WORK...OR RIOT! ('Work Or Riot')
"We call our band 'Reality Punk' because it's facing up to reality. Too many bands are just dreaming: We wanna bring music down to earth and talk about what's going on in this country." 22 year old roofer and vocalist Mick Fitz sits hunched over a light & DD in a boozer just round the corner from Matrix Studios where his band, South London's finest the Business, are working on their debut album, 'Loud, Proud And Punk'.
His well-known Olive-Oi!-with-annorexia frame is housed inside a regulation hooligan green combat jacket. Add DM boots, crop and left-ear earrings and that makes him just about yer identikit all-purpose Media Bogeyman.
"Fick fascist fugs" scream the sick Tory mugs. Micky Fitzsimmons is none of these. like all the very best people involved in today's street-punk Mick is proving that being working class doesn't mean acting dumb
and meekly accepting your allotted place at the bottom of the heap (and none of the other things prole punk is painted as by craphead critics who never give it a listen either).
Bands like the Business and Blitz are coupling raw exciting punk to lyrics that are sharp, sussed, caring and thinking. They're the new vanguard of the ever-maturing Oi! movement and they're also two of the hardest-hitting punk bands
in the land.
Street punk, Oi-punk ... labels, schmabels, what it all boils down to is contemporary punk music at it's hottest.
"Punk and Oi!-punk, which is just a way of saying punk without posers, is getting bigger than ever now," Fitzy enthuses, "though everyone involved has gotta go out of their way to gig more, But there are bad sides to it too.
"A lot of places are clamping down on bands who are trying to bring punks and skins together, but some of the punks and skins don't help much either.
"Punk-bashing skins really are mindless morons. Usually they're just silly kids who don't really know anything about the bands or the music. And 'there ARE elitist punks who try and keep Oi!-punk and punk separate. GBH's comments on Oi! were totally unfounded, a hell of a lot of young bands are working really hard to achieve something positive and you get people like them slagging the music off when they probably.haven't even heard any of it.
"They were out of order as well slagging off fans with 'GBH' written on their leathers. I love it when I see punks with 'The Business' sprayed on their leathers - it's great.
"I personally feel a lot of the people who look 'punk' are less punk than some people who don't wear the uniform. Punk ain't a way of dressing it's a way of thinking and a way of life,"
"I agreed with what Paul Weller said in SFX," diminutive drummer Kev Boyce pipes up.
"Once punk was about free expression - now it seems to be just another uniform. The real spirit of punk is a state of mind, doing what you wanna do, not what people tell you to do."
One person well qualified to judge is Business bassist lofty Mark Brennan, a regular Roxy gig-goer way back in the 'golden years' of 77, whose dedication to the music has seen him promoting punk gigs in Deptford and building up a staggeri'ng collection of spikey tapes and records ever since.
"I reckon punk is healthier now," he opines. "It's more aggressive, more hardcore, and you don't tend to get so many 'weekend-punk' posers either. But there are a lot of idiots who seem to think if 'you ain't got spikey hair and 'Exploited' sprayed on the back of yer leather jacket you ain't a punk and that's a load of bollocks.
"I think the Business have got a much healthier attitude. I mean when we took that coach to Manchester we had punks, skins and just ordinary geezers, herberts. Other bands seem to get just punks or just skins, but we always get a mixture and that's reflected in the music."
Ah, the moosic. It's about time we came to that, especially as the new Business are so god-damn musically convincing, Unlike the old Business who are so
much more obviously at home as FM rock band Smack, the new line-up are totally committed to punk music and thinking.
Now slimmed down to a four-piece after their initial five-handed relaunch (ex-conflict man Graham Ball left to devote himself totally to boxing), this incarnation of the Business comes with, plenty more pogo to the pound. It's tighter, harder, faster and all-together much more musically impressive than ever.
19 year old Daily Mirror ad clerk Kev is one of the strongest new drummers on the punk scene (Decca Wade look out) looks have been previously noted, achieves a beefy studio guitar sound of Steve Jonesian proportions. In fact, you're left
wondering how their / previous band, SE London local heroes The Blackouts, didn't achieve more. Maybe the song quality let them down ... but that's not a problem the new band's gonna suffer from. You get to experience their formidable pogo-pogrom purveying prowess on their 'Smash The Discos' EP, released by Secret Records e'en as you read this. It's a punchy outing of impressive ferocity taking in first class all-out thrash ('Disco Girls') as well as the raucous populist singsonging ('Smash The Discos', 'Deo') that hallmarked their classic debut 'Harry May' '(though good as that was, Fitzy freely admits it lost a lot of bollocks in the pressing). But the violent imagery of the new EP title track is bound to attract accusations of flirting with violence.
"Yeah but you can take 'smash' in different ways", Kev says quickly. "What we mean is fight against the music, the way disco stlll dominates the radio and the clubs."
Sure, except lines like 'smash them up brick by brick' does imply more physical opposition.
"But that's ony to make people sit up and take notice," Mick interjects. "It's rhetorical. We don't want people to start invading discos and hitting people and that's not likely to happen anyway."We want to open peoples eyes about disco and what a big unthinking con it is and how it totally rules the airwaves."
Kev: "There's no room for punk on the radio because punk's about reality, Disco is just about a dream world where everything is fine and you can forget about Thatcher."
Mick: "We've even done a punk version of'Deo' on the EP as a sort of piss-take. It's catchy enough to get airplay but I doubt if it will,
"There's a lot of funny things in the air. All these gigs getting called off at the moment, .. it makes you wonder if there isn't someone behind it, We've been told as well that BMRB collectors tell chart return shops not to bother including returns for bands like us and Infa-Riot."
Paranoia or justified suspicion? Either way most of the new Business numbers are equally thought-provoking. Rubbing shoulders with 'Work Or Riot' on the album are the nuke-nuking 'Last Train To Clapham Junction', 'H-Bomb', 'We Don't Wanna Die', and the anti-fox hunting anthem 'Sabotage The Hunt'
One of their previous numbers 'National Insurance Blacklist' which appears on the album in a beefed-up form has already won them much critical acclaim, even in the pages of Soclialist Worker.
Mick shakes his head. "Anything you say people will try and turn to their own political ends. We aren't a political band at all. We say bollocks to all politics, left, right, centre cos in practice it's always the working class who pay for the politicians' power games. We're got our own ideals and may be they might fall into various political categories but that's just by chance.
"For example we wrote ' National Insurance Blacklist' mainly about trade union people we know who stand up for their rights, the so-called trouble-makers who end up on an employers biacklist for speaking their mind.
"So now they can't get work cost they won't eat shit. That as you say is politics with a small 'p' - the politics of living.
"It's the sort of thing the disco people and the New Romantics, all the mindless mugs, just try and shove under the carpet."
The Business in contrast aim to put their action where their rhetoric is by backing up their protest songs with benefit gigs. They're currently trying to set one up in North London in aid of a hospital threatened with closure.
"It's sick when you see places like that closing down. There's even a bakery round our way that's been there since I was a kid, and that just closed with 500 redundancies. It brings it home to you.
"What I can't understand is how there are so many unemployed building workers when there's so many people needing houses it don't make sense... "
The band recently challenged Crass to do a join Hunt Saboteurs benefit gig. Crass declined.
"I think they thought they had to," Fitz says. "They've been slagging of Oi! for so long they'd have had to have really eaten shit to play with a band like us.
"But in a way I admire Crass. I think they've done a lot of good and helped a lot of bands. We recently started doing 'Do They Owe Us A Living' in the set, and that's gonna beon the album too.
"But I do think Crass's ideals of Anarchy and Peace are naive. They're dreamers, it'll never happen. The Exploited are more realistic about it cos they realise that if you have anarchy you'll also have chaos.
"I don't agree with either. It's just a slogan kids can spray on the wall, like 'NF'... neither lot think it through."
I've heard the Business described as a cross between Crass and Sham.
Mick goes quiet. "I can see why," he says finally. "I suppose it's because we've got a football following but we're trying to join them with punks and write lyrics that mean something. A football band with a bit of suss."
You seem to be picking up a helluva lot of West Ham fans at the moment. Does it worry you that you might become known as a 'West Ham band'?
"No it'd be great if we were adopted as a West Ham band. It'd also be great if we got adopted as a Chelsea band or any other team cos we want to join 'em all together.
"We get all supporters at our gigs but w'e've never had football trouble. I think we've learned from the Rejects's mistakes.
"The future of punk depends on bands and audiences stamping out crowd trouble before it starts."
Are you optimistic about punk then? Mick: "Yeah' reckon so, there's loads of good things Demob, Five-O, loads of good little bands round the country. some classic songs, great anywhere if anyone's
"I like the Professionals a lot for their sound but not their laziness. I wish they'd get out and play instead of just living on the fact that they were the Pistols. "I can't understand why Chelsea have never got anywhere because they're an excellent band, they've got some classic songs, great riffs. But I do think it's bad that they play places like the Marquee where skins are banned.
"Last time I saw them before the ban there were about fifty skins there mixing with the punks with no trouble.
"I reckon all punk and skin bands should stand together and say we won't play anywhere if anyone's banned. We'll never play the Lyceum either.
"It's not the venue I'm against, its the price, £3.50 a ticket is farcical. We don't want to play anywhere over £2.00." At least you're getting gigs now. You seem to have finally got over the stigma of being bottom of the bill at Southall.
"Yeah, at last. It hit us very badly at first because no one wanted to know the truth. Nobody planned Southall as a riot, no one wanted it to happen. It didn't do anyone any good at all.
"The media coverage sickened me. It was so one-sided, I think mostly because skinheads were involved and for papers like the Scum, sorry Sun, skins are just violent idiots which isn't true at all.
"The media are a very strong, very irresponsible power in this country, but I think if we all united, all the bands and fans, we could get them to listen."
Why did you play Oi! Against Racism, not RAR?
"Because RAR as far as we're concerned are too political. It's like an SWP front. We wanted to show that we cared and that we weren't nazis without being associated with the extreme left.
"Everyone knows our followings not National Front. Perhaps out of all of the bands we've got the most respected following cos there's punks, skins, bootboys, herberts, some black blokes all together.
"And our crowd don't cause trouble away cos they're a bit older and a bit more sensible and they know that we'll never try and disassociate ourselves from them.
"The Business are going to go up and we're going to take our crowd with us... "
I'm immediately reminded of the Business song 'Nobody Listens' (also on the album which can be yours in April, fact fans). It's the story of a dole kid who forms a "Chaos" band with a strong line in anti-establishment, pro-the-people protest punk.
As they get more and more popular the establishment starts to see them as a threat - and the singer disappears.
Couldn't happen here? It's already happened in Poland, Chile and Czechoslovakia. , think Micky Fitz oughta watch his back.