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Known as the Bard of Hackney, Frank Bangay has been performing poetry and song for over 40 years on the London poetry scene. He writes about his two passions: music and gardening for various publications including The Big Untidy.

Frank Bangay writes a tribute to Blind Willie Johnson: The Soul Of A Man

22 July 2013

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black and white photo of the face of musician Blind Willie Johnson from the cover of Dark Was the Night CD

My first introduction to the music of Blind Willie Johnson came in 2002. The guitar teacher at CORE Arts in Hackney, had  encouraged me to have a go at learning to play the slide guitar. As a result I got a slide guitar  compilation out of the library. There was some great stuff on the record. About half way through following straight after a track by the mighty Son House, was You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond, by Blind Willie Johnson. His gruff voice, accompanied by a...

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Kevin Coyne's Case History album includes several songs about the mental health system

18 October 2013

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Kevin Coyne's Case History album cover shows a detailed black and white line drawing

Kevin Coyne’s first solo album, Case History, was recorded in 1972, shortly after Nobody Dies In Dreamland. Last year, it was re-released by Turpentine Records.   Shortly after its release its label, John Peel’s Dandelion, folded and Case History became very hard to find. I only heard the record in the early 1980s, when it was issued as a box set with the two Siren albums. The label that issued the records in the early 1980s was called Butt records whose logo was an ashtray...

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The Astronauts: Urban Planning rails against gentrification

15 August 2014

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The Astronauts’ latest album traces the history of the band from 1979 to 2013. Urban Planning is a beautiful yet gritty retrospective that showcases the skilled songwriting of Mark Wilkins. The Astronauts are based in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Thanks to the dedication of singer-songwriter Mark Wilkins, (better known as Mark Astronaut), the band are still active, and will no doubt continue to be so. I first saw The Astronauts play at a Mad Pride gig in the mid-1990s....

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A tribute to Junior Byles, a roots reggae pioneer

11 February 2016

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Earlier this century I bought a copy of MOJO magazine. It had a free reggae compilation with it. One of the tracks on the CD was ‘A Place Called Africa’ by Junior Byles. The song is a heartfelt cry on the Rastafarian theme of repatriation. Listening to it reminded me how good Junior Byles is. This made me check out some of the man’s other work. We will return to his music shortly. First, I will tell you a bit about Junior Byles. His full name is Kerrie Byles Jr. He was born in...

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