Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Billy Childish & Sexton Ming
Plump Prizes and Little Gems

Released 1987 on HANGMAN
Reviewed by Rock Wagram, 24/07/2004ce

Hello, Children! Major Dog here! An LP review to impress and above all, educate your Head about an LP (that’s Long Player children, not as you might think in this modern age, a long ciggy , but a vinyl record, Hmm!) that that velveteen doyen of our poetical and entertainment world, Ivor Cutler, said: “ I’m really sorry, but I am not willing to make any comments on your album ‘Plump Prizes and Little Gems’. The qualities which I enjoyed in your last album are, for me, virtually absent!”. An odd comment as to the the un-Glaswegian ear said LPs sound remarkably on the same wave length, sound length, how long is a length of sound? Stockhausen said “Play a Sound. Play it for so long. Until you feel you should stop.” I’d be digressing but Mssrs Childish and Ming have been playing that sound for so long they’ve probably amassed near 130 rekkids between them of varying ‘but they sound exactly the same’ quality (actually Mr Ming certainly takes the edge from this sometimes duo in experimentation) since the late 70’s when the Medway and Gravesend poets/musicians/painters/non-musicians first clashed biros and guitars, and still haven’t felt they should stop. And more power to ‘em. Sometimes the simple power of minimalism can be achieved from a different kind of repetition the one note clapping. In fact I expect they’d insist on proudly stating they use at least 3! On each LP! So with so many unique prizes and deranged gems to choose from I’ve plumped for the one I first heard and to my mind sums up their Siamese-twinned sound the best. Corks!
Front cover in proud black, white and brown with instantly recognisable Hangman label woodcut graphics we see the upright yet down-at-heel-roll-up-smoking-guardsman figure of Childish bearing his arms ‘n’ tats, a beat up acoustic and mic’ direct from “this is the voice of the BBC”, while Sexton nonchalantly rests and smokes over the drumkit which bears the legends; “Major Dog” & “The Gissyoms” as the skeleton of a grinning skulled snake in a slouch hat, similar to that worn by our protagonists, creeps across the skin, and also the weather beaten, perhaps just beaten, garden shed behind this duo. (Kudos to Childish here by the way. He was having some measure of success with the Beatles-garage-punk of the MILKSHAKES at the time, but still insisted on releasing own label LPs of stuff almost determined to show ‘I can’t play (he can, well) but by fuck I’m bearing my open wounds and guts in truth.)It gives you, unlike many LP sleeves, what may lurk within. Dot dot dot
Starting off with some US salesman blurb ~ “a bill for winners” we quickly trot into a ditty that will lodge into the back brain and come out of your gob when the last dregs of mauve midnight wine go down “High on a hill I stand erect, my flanks are sweaty ~ I am MUSCLE HORSE!” sets the LPs tone with that olde time sorta harmonium wheeze and cough sound of a tramp rooting round in his pants pocket for a last crushed roll-up. Each track is named a ‘Plump Prize’ or a ‘Little Gem’...years of listening have yet to inform of the difference, but I hazard the opinion that the Little Gems are mostly the infamous poetry based stuff of the Medway Delta (as on track 3 ‘Mi Mi and Me’ whereas a PLUMP prize is more musical, a tune in fact as on the darkly blatant but twisted bluesish ‘I ain’t gonna see Kansas no more”. Sexton Ming is taking the lead here mostly and no more better than on the immortal classic “Major Dog:Be kind to cats” and I will quote ~ “Things to say and above all to impress your cat like: No.1 ~ You are vast, you are vast.
No.2 ~ You are a Cat.
No.3 ~ Superior meat, you eat superior meat.
No.4 ~ You will be destroyed.
No.5 ~ I will Kill you!.
No.6 ~ Dettol, all known dogs dead. Hmmm.”
What is this stuff like? Ivor Cutler on drugs? Mebbe, but the Medway bunch always seem a boozy lot rather than a druggy bunch, tho totally bananas they may be...I think it’s a rare occasion of hearing modern outsider music, not done to put on a pose, or look eccentric, tho eccentric it certainly may be. Not to pretend. Not to do it for the money. Just to do it and be damned to the money...It’s an honest clutch of tunes on a honest LP that’s done just cos it can be...Some songs are a tad disturbing (‘The Woods are Dangerous’) some real toe tappers (‘O’Riley’ and ‘Fry-Up’ , a bluesy reworking by Childish mostly1) and overall they’re just odd, unique and importantly bloody hilarious...But yet, it’s not a comedy LP for comedy’s sake. It’s art. Is it? They’re both artists, both of the school which brings on the perpetual losers sneer “Icouldadonethat!” But of course, you didn’t did you?. It’s the sound of verity, the sound of careers being shot in the foot and to coin a paraphrase “The OUT sound from way IN” and all done with a squeezebox thing a unskinned drum and a knackered guitar. Unsung, unplugged, hell, NEVER plugged...no doubt some plank would be saying “oh, so you write music and perform it eh, a singer/songwriter...” but that hated term becomes a real insult when facing eclecticism like this. Classic and unclassifiable, and im running out of superlatives, hear this if you can find it. The Wild Breed is Here.

1 Of course Mr Childish tho his star has risen and rightly so, by dint of just doing what he believes in for 20 yrs or so is mostly known for being championed by the Peters and Lee of so called garage rock (and recycled Zep riffs) ,the White Stripes.

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