In the early 1980s, possibly ’81, I saw a film on day time TV, what I thought was called “Cleaning Up the Streets”. It was a Canadian film, about a girl who moves from the countryside into the city and gets corrupted by men, drink, drugs, prostitution and finally heroin and takes her own life; while all the time she is being followed by a policeman who is trying to save her.
This film must have affected me in a big way, as after I saw it I went to my room and I wrote a song, and I titled it “Cleaning Up the Streets”. It was one of those times when you are “full”. Full of emotions, feelings, anger, frustration, hate, pity, sadness… and I sat and I wrote the story of the film in verse. The lyrics basically tell the sequence of events in the film, but I did it in one sitting and it just poured out of me and the final product I was happy with, I did not need to edit it.
A short while later, I made up a piece of music, I was also proud of, and it fitted just right to the lyric of “Cleaning Up the Streets”. It used chords and musical styles that I normally would not use: a picking introduction, followed by thrash strumming; and a broken chord middle 8, that used sus4, major, minor, minor 7ths, 6ths etc. I also added an instrumental that was half decent (for me). In short I was pleased with the music, it had elements of punk, rock and roll, The Who… yet it was played with punk in mind and style; and it fitted with a lyric I liked that said something to me. I used to play it live with my solo project “Business Controlled” and I performed it on acoustic guitar and electric guitar, at The Wheel and other venues.
A few years later in 1985 I joined the Carlisle punk band “Nightmares in a Damaged Brain”, which later became “Havana Affair” the singer of those bands was Pod, and he had a lyric from a friend of ours (Stephan Dunn), called “Fools Gold”. That lyric must have needed some music, as I fitted the music for “Cleaning Up the Streets” to “Fools Gold” and we played it at several of our gigs.
If you consider that the punk groups of the mid 80s were using heavily distorted thrash chords, the music of “Cleaning up the Streets”, was more of a deviation from that. Duncan (drums) did a nice touch for the song, using ride cymbals and toms throughout… and each member contributed something to it to make it our own. Represented here are various live recordings; recorded at various gigs. Although the recordings are really bad, you can get an idea of the song and how it changed and evolved thought the band’s life span.
After the Havana Affair broke up in 1985, “Fools Gold” and the music was forgotten about until I bought myself a “Marantz 4 track cassette recorder” in the 1990s, and I revitalized the original song and melody of “Cleaning Up the Streets”. I played it with a clean guitar sound (101ers influenced I guess) and using a basic drum pattern from a Yamaha keyboard. Playing on the track was Dung (Page: Every Smiles A Lie) he was playing an improvised lead guitar over my rhythm guitar. It is the only recording I have of the song that was closer to the original.
I am thinking to do the track again, as I begin to re-record all my music under the solo project of Business Controlled. The digital age has allowed many possibilities to create music from one’s own bedroom, and although (sadly) Duncan is no longer with us, I can still do all the other instrumental parts myself. I imagine the sound will be different as it is over 30 years since I wrote it, but it is still in my head.
With the internet, I began to try and find the original film I had watched; and for years I searched for it via various film sites. I could not find it anywhere, until last year by chance I was searching for a film to watch when I came across a film that had a similar title. It was called “Drying Up the Streets”. I have checked the story line and it looks the same as the one I saw in the 1981, it is Canadian made also. The title of the film is different to my song, so I guess I must have been feeling emotional when I first watched it that I confused the title of the film by the time I had reached my room!
Here is a link to the film and what it is about: “Drying Up the Streets”
over the years there has been a lot of retrospective literature about punk and punk music from London, Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast etc, sometimes songs have been analyzed and put into social context, books and articles written, the authors mind has been revisited and explanations sort, for to the “why, where, when it was penned?” But what about the local punk bands who have just been forgotten about? If you wrote a song in a punk band that meant something to you then it is just as important, than any punk rock star from the 70s. Just because a publishing house says it is important, it does not mean yours is not.
I think when I watch this film again, it will be quite strange, I hope it will bring back memories of how I was feeling then, but I imagine it will not…it is never the same. But what we wrote back then, as musicians, still linger on, and I do not think there is anything wrong with that, it is just as valid and important than all the great music that has come out of the punk groups, national or local.
Here is a you-tube extract of the film “Drying Up the Streets”: