Thursday 4 February 2010

Royal Northern

"Royal Northern. North seven ..." While that may not be the most well-known of chorus chants from the height of the punk explosion, Demon Preacher's debut single Royal Northern was nevertheless the embodiment of the era's spirit of get up and go. The group's debut performance was in a church hall on the Holloway Road, and the show was attended by sundry Sex Pistols. So it seems only appropriate the group's debut release, on its own Illegal Pressings label, in 1978 would feature a song about the Royal Northern Hospital, similarly on the Holloway Road, and stories circulating at the time about porters assisting with operations. The hospital is long gone, and so many of London's hospitals have flats on the site, but Demon Preacher is better known now thanks to sites like Punk77 which have featured the group and Chuck Warner's invaluable Messthetics series which features Royal Northern on its volume #107 which covers the DIY activity in London between '78 and '81. The whole series is incredibly important for providing an insight into what was going on musically at that time and proving there was no one defining sound - just a mess, that was occasionally glorious. This third round-up is a real gem. I thought I knew the era and area pretty well, but there are all sorts of dots joined-up here, and facts which are a delight to learn about. There is a lot of focus on Dave Henderson and the Dining Out story. I had no idea, for example, he was in the Disco Zombies with Andy Ross. I had no idea about Martha Tilson's activities pre-A Certain Ratio, either. It puts a totally different slant on the ACR story, and justifies long-held beliefs that her contributions to the ACR legend are incredibly important. Film from that time is still mesmerising. Demon Preacher itself is of particular interest to some punk archivists because it was led by Nik Wade who would go on to form Alien Sex Fiend. I don't think any of his later songs were postcode related. And if you're not sure about the north London postcodes ...

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