"The Kids are all right..." (Great headlines of Our Time contd. Part 95)
In the dressing after the Heavy Metal Kids gig in London, a rather supercilious critic pronounced the band's performance as being "very Kitsch". That wasn't wise. Singer Gary Holton lashed back in prime Cockney: "Look mate, not only don't I know what that bleedin' words means, but I don't even know how to bleedin' well spell it!"
Believe me, Holton wasn't aiming for effect. Judging from the course on stage repartee with which he harangues his public, it's quite feasible that Holton doesn't know how to spell anything with more than four letters. Actually the Heavy Metal Kids have come in for extremely heavy numbering from outraged gentlemen of the press. They've been called punks, plagarists and much worse. It's almost become a blood sport.
Since their highly controversial appearance on Panorama's documentary on teenage violence, their name has been dragged around more than ever. It seems to have become synonymous with t-r-o-u-b-l-e in the same way as the Stones. The Who, The Move and even sweet 'ole Alice Cooper were branded - in their infancy - four alledged irresponsible actions and corrupting influence.
Few people in the music business altogether approve of the stance that the Kids have adopted, and quite frankly, the Kids haven't themselves helped matters. They don't go out of their way to be obnoxious. But they do't try to avoid it. So what is it, exactly, that's so offensive? Maybe it's because their brand of Rock'n'Roll is about as basic as you can get, but then, that's never stopped anyone from making the big-time. (Check under: Black Sabbath and Grand Funk.)
Fundamentally, what irritates most observers is that the Kids' act features strong elements of senseless violence and the spectace of Gary Holton strutting around the stage in wellington boots like a scrawny half-strangled crow, abusing the audience in no uncertain manner, really pushing his luck as a pint-sized street corner hardcase.
Needles to say, this self-same attitude which has alienated the Establishment has helped them attract a very large, almost fanatical following. It's now reached the point where their fans refer to them as simply as 'The Kids' and the police - who have had cause to haul their ass on numerous occasions - refer to them simply as a number on their files.
At this particular juncture the Heavy Metal Kids' music has almost become secondary to their stark visual image and their abusive stance. It has to be defined, let's call it failed 11-plus Rock'n'Roll and leave it at that.
Is it contrived? Holton insists they've been rough 'n' ready 'n' rude since they formed three years ago. If you look closer, you'll realise that what at first appears to be harmless on-stage jostlings more often than not erupts into nuttings, punch-outs and cloggings.
"You take our bass player, Ronnie Thomas," offers Holton. Having seen the brute, I'd rather not, but thanks all the same. "He's nuthin' but a frustrated skinhead and being with the Kids is about the only way he can get up and do his little number.
"Very illuminating, but what about his prediliction for doing verbal nasties on the paying customers? "The punters love it," chortles Holton. "Audiences have always gotten off on being abused by someone on a stage, but in our case, they retaliate which helps them get involved and identify with what we're doing. Let me try and explain it a little further." Go ahead Gary, the floor's all yours. "Look, there's all these little kids running around London and the provinces not knowing what the hell to do with themselves except to beat the shit outta eachother, and then we come along from the same environment as them, laying down music that's far from being complicated. We give them the aggression and also the means to release it, instead of them taking it out on eachother."
"So what happens is that these kids come to our gigs wearing wellies, top hats and tail coats and get rid of all their frustrations. Now the press don't like that because it's so crude and so basic that most of 'em can't understand what's happenin'. They see the place packed out and realise that they haven't helped to perpetrate the following that we've built up on our own, and so they put us down. It might sound like I'm just bitchin' but it's a bloody fact. They might write that we're the world's worst group, but despite that we still draw the crowds. Nobody forsec the public to come and see us, but they still write that we ain't sophisticated and ain't good musicians because we don't meet the requirements of what they personally like. If they want sophistication they should go and see another band."
"Sure," Holton concedes, "We are crass as a band and our act is very down to earth. 'Gutter level sex' is how one reviewer described it, just because I sometimes rub the old winkel on stage, but the birds know what it's all about and they wouldn't have it any other way." How quaint. "When we've tried to tone the act down, people have complained."
It's Holton's opinion that much of the bad-mouthing inflicted upon the Kids is a result of being mis-labelled.
"A lotta people got all caught up in that Heavy Metal syndrome and that we were gonna be all peace signs, love-dove and shades of Black Sabbaff, instead they get birds, booze, boogie 'n bovver," which, this week motivated them to drop the 'Heavy Metal' tag from their name and from here on in will be billed simply as 'The Kids'.
It's OK being stroppy on stage when you're built like a row of terraced house, but when you're as diminutive as Gary Holton you're really asking for trouble. There have been instances where he has become face-to-face with being duffed up. In fact if Stevie Marriott hadn't dashed on stage to cool out the audience during a date on a Humble Pie tour I might be writing an obituary. However, there have also been instances where Holton's arrogance has paid off. A rock festival in Dortmund comes to mind. Apparantly bill topper Rory Gallagher failed to make the gig for some reason which didn't please the thousands of Teutons in the stadium and they proceeded to 'bottle' every act that tried to perform. Taking his life in his own hands, Holton suddenly strolled on stage to be greeted with a bombardment of bottles and cans. Picking up a large empty beer bottle he let it be known that if one more missle hit the stage it would be lobbed back immediately and that, in his position, he couldn't very well miss. If that didn't work, the entire PA system was next. Surprisingly, the audience backed down and a blood bath was narrowly averted.
On the surface, brave stuff. But don't try calling the Kids working class heroes 'cos they ain't having any of it. Despite being regarded as local celebrities in West Ham, Whitechapel and most districts south of the river Thames. Holton explains why they're so popular in these areas as well as locales like Manchester, Nottingham and Leeds.
"When you're you're brought up in these tough neighbourhoods, if you don't get yer 'O' and 'A' levels it's either the building site, the dole queue, porridge or rock'n'roll." He likens it to the black man's position in sport. It's either stay in the ghetto or run faster and punch harder than anyone else."
At the moment, the Kids are bustin' their asses nightly to make good and each night the crowds get larger and the reviews more scathing.
"Look," concludes Holton, "You ain't no bleedin' working class hero until you've made it. I'm working class and I'm gonna make it. Call me arrogant, I don't bloody well care. You've got to be arrogant to make it in this life."