Tag Archives: Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire

A Medway Christmas Alphabet: The Full Story


You can blame a chap called Philip Kane for this. Back on 1 December, he posted on Facebook the social media version of the old chain letter thing that went as follows:

“So the idea is to fill facebook with music, breaking the monotony of nasty, divisive headlines and images on our news feeds.

If you ‘like’ this post, you will be assigned a letter for a musician, band, artist, song, track or dj to post to your time line with this text”.

I liked it. He came back to me with the letter R. I came up with Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A.’s ‘Santa Domingo’ – as you do – and before you know it I’d committed myself to the idea of stealing the whole concept and coming up with some music of Medway origin (or, if you will, MOMO) for each letter of the alphabet.

26 blogs later and I can finally move on with my life.

It has actually been fun – not least because there’s been the opportunity to focus on individual songs in a way you might not otherwise. Being an alphabetical list, there’s been less need to focus on continuity and history.

One day we’ve had a song by Balance Lost (a current band), the next we’ve had a song that’s had two outings: once in the early 1990s and then just a couple of years ago. Then, the day after that, we’ve had a song from 2010 which expresses its boredom with Medway bands from the 1980s.

It’s meant there’s been a wide variety of styles and sounds which all goes to show what an amazing melting pot of ideas this small collection of towns in the north of Kent is.

If you missed any of the blogs, not to worry: here they all are listed for your convenience – in alphabetical order, obviously.

A – The Singing Loins – ‘Alien’

B – Funke and the Two Tone Baby – ‘Bella’s Kiss’

C – Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society – ‘Call Me Dave’

D – Brigadier Ambrose – ‘Decembered’

E – Thee Headcoats – ‘Every Bit of Me’

F – Wheels – ‘Forget It’

G – The Dentists – ‘Gas’

H – Bob Collins and the Full Nelson – ‘Holy Man’

I -Theatre Royal – ‘I Believe in Father Christmas (Don’t Get Me Socks)’

J – Wolf’s Head and Vixen Morris – ‘Jump at the Sun’

K – Frau Pouch – ‘Krakthulu’

L – The Claim – ‘Losers Corner’

M – Broken Banjo – ‘Might As Well Be Hell’

N – Hand of Stabs – ‘The Night Had No Terror For Us’

O – The Daggermen – ‘One More Letter’

P – The Prisoners – ‘Pop Star Party’

Q – Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire – ‘A Quick One – Pete Townsend’s Christmas’

R – The Ambience – ‘Rome’

S – Balance Lost – ‘Shield Against the World’

T – The Kravin’ “A”s/Suzi Chunk – ‘Tripwire’

U – The Love Family – ‘Up in the Air’

V – The Flowing – ‘The Voyage’

W – Lupen Crook – ‘World’s End’

X – CTMF – ‘X-Craft on Tirpitz’

Y – Bear vs. Manero – ‘YRANYRBYM’

Z – KILL RPNZL – ‘Zombie Midwife Afterbirth Squad’

Find out more about many of these bands and artists – and many, many more, in my book: Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.

A Medway Christmas Alphabet: Q is for ‘A Quick One (Pete Townshend’s Christmas)’

‘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.

And, amazingly, we have another actual Christmas song today. Although this is Medway, so it’s hardly going to be Shaking Stevens, Wham or Mariah Carey…

Billy Childish and the MBEs - Christmas 1979

A Christmas album from Billy Childish was never going to be a schmaltzy, tinsel garbed romp through snow-filled streets past log fires and carol singing children.

A large chunk of Christmas 1979, a festive offering from Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire in 2007, is a reworking of highlights from Childish’s non-festive back-catalogue, be they original songs or songs he has covered – with a Christmassy twist added for good measure. And, as you’d expect, it’s no bed of Christmas roses

And so we have ‘Christmas Lights’, a Yuletide-ified version of The Buff Medway’s ‘Strood Lights’, ‘Comanche (Link Wray’s Christmas)’, which is self-explanatory, and album opener ‘Santa Claus’ which takes as its inspiration The Sonics’ ‘Davey Crockett’, a regular staple during the era of Thee Headcoats and Thee Headcoatees. It all makes for a Christmassy tinged greatest hits from Billy Childish and friends.

Amidst all this comes ‘A Quick One (Pete Townshend’s Christmas)’, taking the ‘You Are Forgiven’ section from The Who’s ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ medley.

The Buffs had first recorded a cover of the song, under the ‘Ivor’ moniker, on their album Steady the Buffs. The song, in part a documentation of Townshend’s abuse as a child, no doubt had a resonance for Childish whose own experiences are recorded in his song ‘Every Bit of Me’ and elsewhere.

And apart from a generally upbeat rendition of the song, celebrating how “presents will be given” (in place of “you are forgiven” on the original”) and the excitement of how “I can’t believe that it’s Christmas again”, there are still worrying lines about how “[I] later with him had a nap”; him, in this case, being Santa Claus.

Despite this – and it’s probably a big despite – ‘A Quick One – Pete Townshend’s Christmas’ is bouncy, even joyous sounding tune where the band sound like they’re having a great time of it. We even get an “Enjoy Christmas” at the end of it.

The same level of merriment is definitely not present in the closing song from the album, the title track.

If you ever worried that there wasn’t a Christmas song that met your punk/mod/garage band needs, your search may well be over.

Read more about Christmas 1979 in my album review and buy the album on Amazon or iTunes.

Find out more about Billy Childish, The Musicians of the British Empire and plenty of other music acts from Medway in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.