A Medway Christmas Alphabet: E is for ‘Every Bit of Me’

‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.

Thee Headcoats - Every Bit of Me

And today’s offering is particularly unfestive. ‘Every Bit of Me’ by Thee Headcoats is as unforgivingly cheerless and intensely harrowing as it is possible for a song to be. But given the subject is a very personal account of child abuse, that should be of no surprise.

Thee Headcoats had the most prolific career out of any of Billy Childish’s bands. And it proved to be particularly varied with everything from the comedy of Sherlock Holmes-themed singles to the most gruelling of personal confessionals.

It’s into the latter of these categories that ‘Every Bit of Me’ fits. For all the knockabout humour of ‘Headcoat Lane’ and ‘My Dear Watson’, it was during his time in Thee Headcoats that Childish started to use his music to address his own painful past.

Recordings from 1992 found Billy Childish explain how he was “too afraid to start to admit this needy heart” (‘Too Afraid’ from In Tweed We Trust) and that “because I was weak, I destroyed my world/because I was weak I went berserk” (from the same album).

Some of this could be explained because “my daddy was a drunk because he hurt so bad…I drown my heart just like he did” (‘I’m Hurting’, again from In Tweed We Trust).

But the culmination of these confessions  can only be the single, ‘Every Bit of Me’:

He was 40 years old inside my jeans.
I was nine years old and feeling unclean.
He told me it was a secret to keep to myself.
I wanted to hate him but I hated myself.

It is a gut-wrenching experience even to hear the words recalling such abuse – the sound of a still-beating heart being torn from a child’s chest. And as the song unfolds, it’s clear there are repercussions many years down the line: “I want to blame the world but I blame myself/I want to hate you all but I hate myself.”

But even through this experience, there’s an awareness and understanding  of – possibly even an empathy with – the perpetrator of these sick crimes:

He was hiding under my mother’s bed.
I blackened his eye till it was pissing red.
He whispered ‘I love you’ but he didn’t love himself.
I wanted to hate him but I hated myself.

The relentlessly graphic lyrics alone are enough to inspire revulsion and sickness at what a boy in the first decade of his life had to go through. But the pain – the sheer heartbreaking trauma – is only intensified by the music that accompanies it.

The grainy, angular, thrashing guitar is enough to make your ears bleed. Bruce Brand’s drums thunder and pound through the tune as if there is no tomorrow. And the shouty, louty chorus of “with every bit of me”, hollered out by the three band members, makes a compelling case for why this has to be one of the finest punk songs ever spewed out into the world.

Johnny Rotten may once have sung about there being “no future” on ‘God Save the Queen’, but that was just comic book stuff compared with what we have here. The pure anger convulsing through ‘Every Bit of Me’ is surely what punk was invented for.

It’s unlikely this song will ever get played too regularly – even in the most die-hard of Billy Childish fan’s homes. It’s just too dark to bear repeated playings.

Nevertheless (and, quite possibly, because of this), it has to be one of the best songs he has ever written.

Find out more about Billy Childish, Thee Headcoats and many other Medway bands and artists in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

You can buy ‘Every Bit of Me’ from Amazon or iTunes.

Further reading: This is New Art School!

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