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Bob Collins & Ian Snowball: The Kids Are All Square

Rock’n’roll stories from the Thames gateway.

Stranded on a North Kent peninsula, the Medway in the mid-70s was a cultural wasteland left to rot much like its industrial Thamesside twin, Canvey Island. Then something happened. Not punk. Not mod. Not rockabilly. A creativity fusing the spirit of the three, suffused with rock’n’roll nostalgia, a charity-shop budget and a resilience born of a dockyard pub-fight environment.

This book celebrates a decade of garage-rattling enthusiasts that would ultimately go on to inspire Madchester’s psychedelic baggies (Inspiral Carpets, Charlatans) and Seattle’s screechier grunge gangs (Mudhoney in particular). On the down side, unfortunately TKAAS reads a little bit like an uncorrected first draft. If you’re a fan of proper English, the mis-spellings, errant punctuation and lack of effort to make real sentences from unedited transcripts will irritate.

But peep closer and there are some good stories from Billy Childish (Pop Rivets/Milkshakes), Allan Crockford (The Prisoners) and Ian Smith (The Dentists), illustrated with clippings, flyers and smashing pics of pimply youths in old men’s tweeds and paisley. The source material extends beyond the ‘85 coverline too, with a ‘what happened next’ that details the next wave. This isn’t so interesting or substantial, but Mssrs Collins and Snowball were probably attempting to give the reader more bang for the £10 price tag.

As a primitive movement incubated under challenging circumstances, what comes through is the thrill of youthful adventure and exactly what could be done with a Revox A77 and two condenser mics. Art for art’s sake, then, and all the better for it – although the same doesn’t apply to the overall presentation of this book.

Jo Kendall
Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.