Bob Collins & Ian Snowball: The Kids Are All Square

Rock’n’roll stories from the Thames gateway.

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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.