Life as a ‘Hastings Town’ writer never ceases to amaze me. I have met a lot of very interesting people because of my involvement with our magazine and have enjoyed playing a part in their lives and being privy to their dreams from that moment on… One such person is Hastings adopted Punk Princess, Sue Butchers. Originally hailing from Sheffield, Sue is one of the punk rock movement’s original members and as such is a fascinating (and occasionally shocking!) person to talk music with. She is the ex wife of Splodgnessabounds, (‘Two Packets of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please’), Max Splodge played Margaret Thatcher in a banned video for a single by The Angelic Upstarts and was a founder member of some of the earliest all female Punk Bands like ‘Siren’ and ‘Debar’. An accomplished Singer/Songwriter and Performer, Sue is never one to ‘grit her teeth’ and say nothing when she feels strongly about something, be it good or bad. The ‘shaky cam’ video for her last single, ‘Hastings Roxx’, featured our old mate, Ron ‘Popeye’ Everett and shows Sue enjoying all Hastings has to offer while singing the towns praises. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=48455 5704968182&id=373896316034122 … For her latest outing, however, Sue is not in such a happy mood! Like George Harrison before her (and many others no doubt!) Sue had her feathers ruffled by the Taxman recently and so, bristling with a sense of injustice, a new song, ‘Rebel Army’ flew off the bottom of Sue’s pen onto the paper! Now, the idea of ‘killing the Taxman’ may briefly have crossed a good many of our minds in a similar moment of pique but I doubt any of us could have come up with the ‘sabre rattling, tongue-in-cheek, Punk classic’ that Sue has written to ‘promote’ the idea! “Let’s kill the Taxman and we’ll be free.” Sings Sue with gusto over a typically bouncy, hopelessly catchy and addictive punk rock meets pop musical backing…
Now, the next stage in getting the song ‘out there’ for the masses to secretly smirk at was for Sue to find someone daft enough to get involved in making a video for a highly controversial song certain to be banned. It is testament to my reputation no doubt that Sue turned to me!
H a v i n g ‘worked’ with Sue before as a member of the vocal trio -‘Breeze’ and having filmed, directed and edited two of her other videos (‘I’m On F a c e b o o k Again and ‘Be Br i ght , Be Br av e, Be Beauti ful ‘ – bot h on Youtube) I guess it is no surprise but I love Hastings and would hate to leave it for a cold, dark c el l i n mi ser abl e Wandsworth!
Still, a cracking song is a cracking song and while I do not agree with the anti-royalist views expressed in the lyrics (I love you your Majesty!) I do believe in free speech and so agreed to help Sue put together a video for the song. Life with Sue Butchers is never dull, I can tell you! Before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ Sue had gathered together a little army of her own people who wanted to be in the video and so on the 24th of September a time was arranged for everyone to meet up near the Victoria Statue in Warrior Square. Hilariously, on the day, a good few of Sue’s would be rebels could not make it because of work or other commitments. This tickled me considerably bearing in mind that the original Punk movement was so anti-establishment. That some of Sue’s pals may well have sported Mohawk haircuts or worn zips through their noses when they were younger and are now responsible citizens and in-work and yet I, who used to be a ‘namby pamby’ Soul Boy who dressed neatly, was always ‘nice’ and made little or no complaint about society, has ended up ‘rattling around the unemployment register’ while writing occasionally vitriolic articles for this magazine is surely the most ‘delicious’ irony, is it not?
Anyway, I guess what it does prove is that there is a Punk in all of us given sufficient stimulation, circumstances and provocation and that alone is a good reason to support Sue.
The weather was not marvellous that afternoon as some dirty great dark clouds persisted in hanging overhead for most of the time ruining the light. After a considerable amount of hanging around we did manage to shoot a few useable scenes for the video but were unable to complete the job. In one hilarious scene Sue is walking along the promenade with a fanned wad of money (monopoly version!) in her hands. About to buy some Fish N’ Chips from the new ‘Little Chip Shop’ there, the ‘Taxman’ (played by Sue’s friend Trisha Richardson) pops out from behind the ‘My Heart Belongs To Hastings’ Padlock Sculpture, taps her on the shoulder, raises a briefcase with the word ‘Taxes’ on it at Sue and then snatches most of the money out her hand! Sue then c o m – p l a i n s , s t e p s back and throws the rest of her money at the Taxman before walki ng of f and giving a vsign into the camer a as s h e s t o m p s Sue Butchers – Punk Princess past me. Its all very 1976 and as ‘suitably obnoxious’ as required in any self respecting Punk video!
To lighten the mood and make clear that we are not literally promoting the idea of killing anyone, we then filmed a series of silly shots. I shot Sue holding onto the railings while doing a ‘rebellious’ looking dance and then I filmed her and the ‘gang’ (two girls both with walking aids!) sitting on the steps waving their sticks above their heads while Sue holds a deflated inflatable machine gun over hers and sneers. Its all a combo of Johnny Rotten and the ‘Carry On’ films with, we hope, a valid point to be made regarding the high levels of taxation and the unfairness of that these days.
Sue then came up with another good idea. Kings Rd is a name forever associated with the history of Punk Rock because it was at no 430 Kings Rd, London that Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood opened the ‘Sex’ Boutique where the four members of The Sex Pistols first met. At no 22 Kings Rd in St Leonards there is a similarly fashionable establishment run by a friend of Sue’s, Susan Diamond (a fashion designer originally from Springfield, MA, U.S.A.) and so the idea was to film a video of Sue and her band (or at least people pretending to be her band!) performing the song ‘live’ in the shop.
I really liked this idea, especially when I arrived at the Boutique and saw what a wonderful array of exclusive, unusual and very ‘Rock N’ Roll’ items Susan Diamond sells. The place is awash with colour, has a fabulous atmosphere and sells everything anyone into Punk Rock (or Steampunk) might want to get their hands on. Art, Sculpture, Jewellery, Clothes, Music, Curios – Exhibitions it all goes on at Susan Diamond’s and her flyer describes the Boutique as ‘A showcase for local and international talent’ – all far removed from the very traditional Kings Rd shops I recall from my childhood.
With her American accent, style of make-up and ‘Phil Oakey’ haircut, Susan Diamond reminds me of Debbie Harry of Blondie and an ‘Aladdin Sane’ period David Bowie while her partner, Mark Charles (Susan and Mark first met in London where they started the Charles of London label) with his grey, checked cap and orange tinted shades evokes memories of a young Malcolm McClaren. Thus, while the vibe Susan and Mark have created is very current and fresh, misty memories of Roxy Music, The New York Dolls, Lou Reed and Bowie hang heavy in the air. Fascinated, enthused and excited by my surroundings and the wonderful characters I found myself in the company of, I got a great feeling about shooting a video for Sue’s Punk Rock anthem straight away and was soon filming this and photographing that in the hope it would all come in handy when I got to the editing stage.
While I was doing all this, Mark Charles had taken charge of organising Sue and her band (played by Ashley ‘Nemo’ Richardson and Simon Stevens) and had got them all lined up in position and ready. That he had taken over the direction of the shoot was of no consequence to me because it allowed me to concentrate more on getting the best footage. Over the next hour or so I shot three takes of Sue and her band doing their stuff, Mark making sure they did things a little differently each time to give me plenty of editing options. Mixing the sublime with the ridiculous, we all had a great laugh and I even roped in another of Susan D i a m o n d ‘ s friends, Gary, who was very c o n v e n i e n t l y dressed in a smart suit and tie, to play the role of ‘The Taxman’.
Gary was great and did a wonderful job walking towards the camera, with his ‘Taxes’ briefcase held aloft while sticking two fingers up at us taxpayers! The Taxman was to get his comeuppance for this, however, as, at the conclusion of the third performance of the song, the whole cast rushed Gary and pretended to attack him, Sue’s guitarists supposedly clubbing him to the ground with the butt of their guitars!
After a well needed break – Sue was exhausted after all that jumping about – I took a few posed ‘stills’ of Sue and the band inside and outside the Boutique and then we called it a day…
I haven’t had as much fun for ages and in the end was so chuffed with the footage we got that I put together TWO videos for Sue to promote the song with from it!
To have had such fun and laughed so much making a video for a song with such controversial lyrics almost seems like a sin to me but free speech is something which seems more and more under threat these days and standing up to society and pushing the boundaries is what Punk Rock was always about so I’m not sorry…
You can see my videos for Sue Butchers ‘Rebel Army’ here http://youtu.be/CyUiRXWC_Mo http://youtu.be/-EgQ4Iv
“Rye’s Own” November 2014
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