Thats a phrase that rings true now as much as it did when first I came across it – as much as I had imagined I’d had a proper education, it wasn’t until I unwittingly signed up to the school of hard knocks did anything like my education in realism begin.
Oh dear, Neil… feeling sorry for yourself today… Project X not going too well..? No, far from it, actually. Its trundling along fine thank-you so much for asking.
Ok, then… if you’re sure?
I am… Ok… So lets get back to that base thought… thats a phrase that landed up emblazoning one of the more sought-after small-sized lapel badges during those halcyon days when Stiff Records’ empire struck back… before it struck out in a welter of self-implosion; when the sunny-bright ideas pretty much dried up and, ultimately, the records became not terribly good.
That badge was almost as good as the t-shirt they invented that spawned another button and which hit home in more ways than probably Robbo’s fertile mind ever imagined it might: emblazoned in large white letters on a pure black, made in China, t-shirt were the words… If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth A Fuck. I wore it with a great deal of pride and did I care that it got me physically ejected from a bar in Bournemouth one mad mid-Summer’s evening – not a jot, it just emphasized – to me – why I should and would wear it. A recent convert to the driving-range of life where anything could (and generally) did happen... where the real ethic behind everything was... make it up as you go along.
And that, in my view, is about as good a work ethic as it gets.
Was there a route map - hell, no!
We were in uncharted waters and had a hand on the oars... the tiller was manipulated by those older and a bit wiser than us down in the bowels of the vessel.
Working for them (Stiff) since we (that is Island – my paymasters) had a distribution deal with them, meant that I had boxes of these badges (and dozens of others with similar slogans) as well as further boxes filled with more of the self-same black t-shirts with the annoyingly apposite pub-bouncer-unfriendly logo. It appealed to Stiff's anarchic modus operandi for promoting their ‘product’.
I hated the word ‘product since, to my way of thinking, that meant baked beans and, I for one, wasn’t about to equate a new 10” disc cut on brown vinyl by Wreckless Eric as… something I’d find on the well-stacked shelves at Woolworths. Eric had, so far as I was concerned, cornered the market in nasal-intoned nihilism – angst riddled with vitriol as only a post-acne’d late teen who didn’t know which way was up could convey.
Did I want to go the Whole Wide World with Eric… sure I did… and I got what he was saying – totally. And, still, to this day its just a great record; a sore-throat raw, absolutely stonking, dry-stone-wall of a tune, a dirge-like canticle to love almost out of reach. And, there it is, standing the test of time, out there right now on YouTube, still as good as it was the day it was presented to us at one of the Island Records Sales Conferences. Maybe not up there in that many people’s all time Top Twentys but nonetheless it remains now as much as it did then as a relative breath of fresh air in an otherwise sterile musical atmosphere.