Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Schoolhouse Punk

Well I didn't get round to writing this up the day after my last post like I said I would but better late than never. Christmas is always a hectic time of year so excuse the delay. During the weeks leading up to it I attended a couple of Carol Services my children were involved with and whilst sitting in church listening to the usual bog standard set of hymns it got me thinking about these two records - 'Gynt On The Rocks' by Boundstone School and'Fist!!' by Hedingham School.

When I was at school I hated Music lessons and even more so Drama lessons. The curriculum was always very conservative with subject matter never straying too far off the standard teaching of Shakespeare or religious based themes for Drama. And Music, well, I can't even remember much about Music lessons they were that boring. The kids at the aforementioned schools must have had a right good laugh getting involved in the productions they put together though, particularly this one...

A 'new Rock Musical based on Ibsen's Peer Gynt' - 'Gynt On The Rocks' was produced, I'm guessing, in the late '70s (there's no date anywhere on the record or sleeve) and performed by a cast from a school about 20 miles down the round from me in Lancing, West Sussex. I'll let the liner notes give you an idea of the story before we get down to talking about the music...

"The production which we present for you on this record is a new show based on Isben's epic story 'Peer Gynt'. It has been re-written and updated with original music written by an ex-pupil of the school, Paul Rogers.
The show involves a company of well over one hundred pupils from the school in all areas of production, actors, technicians, make-up artists, set builders and costume makers.
Peer Gynt is a rebel teenager who, after finding himself in a great deal of trouble, journeys to London where he finds himself in the midst of the Punk Rock scene and then travels to Hollywood where he becomes involved in the making of a film. He eventually meets his downfall, although of course, we endeavour to bring you a happy ending".

So that's the basic plot and the music reflects the story well with most of it being anarchic Punk Rock depicting tales of drugs, violence and sex. And when I say Punk, I do mean, straight ahead raw Punk. Some of it of course has been polished up with that theatrical sing-song style typical of any stage show type production but there is a couple of great musical highlights. The track I've ripped below is a three part medley, of sorts, which represents the content of the record well. You've got a short section of dialogue from the show (nice 'wooden' acting included), a typical crappy, high energy full cast sing-a-long, and the amazing 'Gin On The Rocks, Campari...' which is what the break fiends will want to fast forward to (on the 1 min 12 sec mark). Check the lyrics...

"Gin on the Rocks, Campari, Vodka, Martini too,
Southern Comfort for your friends, and Valium for a few.
Make a Hash of the clientel, pass around the Weed,
Needle all your favourite friends, Sugar the Pill and then bleed,
and then bleed, and then bleed, and then bleed.

Gin on the Rocks, Campari, Vodka, Martini too,
Southern Comfort for your friends, and Valium for a few.
Make a Hash of the clientel, pass around the Weed,
Needle all your favourite friends, Sugar the Pill and then bleed,
and then bleed, and then bleed, and then bleed."

I picked this album up a couple of years ago from my local car booty, instantly being attracted to the artwork on the front cover, and haven't seen another copy since. I imagine it was pressed up in numbers of no more than 500, probably even less in fact as it was a self financed 'private press' with no proper label backing. I 'ummed and arred' about sharing this for ages but its the sort of record that is only of special interest if you actually own it. A real gem that adds up to 'treasure' once its nature and obscurity are placed into the equation.

Before writing this up I googled 'Gynt On The Rocks' with the only result being an eBay 'no longer available' listing from some time ago. Funnily enough the seller was a local dealer I know who I used to score a lot of great records from before he got wise to internet trading.

So that's Boundstone School's 'Gynt On The Rocks'. The only thing left to do is list the band members who I think deserve a mention...

Trevor Grant - Guitar
Simon Morse - Guitar
Graham Rolph - Guitar
Terry Smith - Bass
Tina Lewis - Recorders, Violin
Paul Rogers - Keyboards, Synthesiser
David Roper - Keyboards, Piano
Mike Vince - Drums

Music composed by Paul Rogers
Musical Direction by Kenneth L. Wilby

Boundstone School 'He's Arrogant and Selfish / Gin On The Rocks, Campari'

The other record of this type which holds a special place in my collection is 'Fist!!' by Hedingham School which I believe is in Essex (google says so anyway).

As soon as I laid eyes on the sleeve it was already in the bag. A proper low budget release with poor quality, A4 black and white printed sheets, hand pasted on to the cover. Although the title 'Fist!!' (with it's double exclamation marks) began to conjure up images of some Blaxploitation type action I honestly wasn't expecting any Wah-Wah Drama Funk from a U.K. school production recorded at 'The Mercury'. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the musical content of this album and is the exact reason I take fifty pence punts on records like this...

The only information to go by on the sleeve is that the music is credited to N.P.E. Hildreth with lyrics by D.J. Lee. Unlike the 'Gynt On The Rocks' album there is a date listed, being 1980, and was recorded at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. Other than that and a track listing on the back the only other clue to the show's subject matter is an illustration of what looks like an rather bleak Industrial town on the front. And after listening to the record, this image does actually represent the content of this production well. From what I can work out (the vocals are recorded pretty badly) 'Fist!!' is the story of a man called Jonathan Fist who invented something called the 'universal twisting machine'. He's the boss of a Factory where workers are slave driven but desperate to keep food on their family's tables. It's all very sombre and like I said, you struggle to keep track of the full plot due to the poorly recorded vocals. To be honest though, I'm not overly intrigued by the story anyway - it's the backing tracks I'm more interested in...

The overall 'style' is pretty hard to categorise but in trying to describe it I'd say it has a sort of, dark Prog-Rock type sound and in places, dreamy Psych-Folk influences. Now that probably makes it sound far more exciting than it actually is, because after all, this is a stage production by school children, not professional musicians and the amateur results are definitely apparent. Having said that, this, to me, adds to the appeal of the record. I've uploaded the track 'Visiting Song' so you can listen and draw your own conclusions.

Judging by the sleeve alone I would say there were even fewer copies of this pressed up than the 'Gynt' album, possibly only one or two hundred were made to supply friends and relatives of those in the production. If you like what you hear and decide to try and track down a copy for yourself, all I can say is - good luck! I couldn't see a trace of information on the interweb about it and turning one up in the wild really would be like finding a needle in a exceptionally large haystack.

Hedingham School 'Visiting Song'


Unknown said...

Hi, i was in Hunt on the rocks and can tell you a lot about it if you like. My picture and name are on the cover (I'm Alan Bertrand). I didn't think I'd ever see or hear anything about it ever, I'm amazed to hear you've got a copy. Let me know if you want a bit of background, Regards, alan

alan bertrand said...

I mean Gynt on the rocks of course , bl##dy autocorrect!