In 1984 a journalist writing for The Watford Observer dubbed ‘wannabe enigmatic pop star’ Paul ‘Eccentric’ because he refused to give his surname during an interview. It stuck. For the past thirty years he has been writing, directing and performing under this ridiculous moniker, but at least it got him noticed.
He is a published songwriter, poet, playwright and novelist.
His debut novel: ‘Down Among The Ordinaries’ was published by United Press in 2004. He then spent the next few years writing and directing for stage and radio, which culminated in his first Edinburgh Fringe run with his play ‘The Sorry People’.
In 2009; along with Ian Newman and Donna Daniels-Moss, Paul co-founded Rhythmical Ravings and Rants (RRRANTS), a poetry, song writing, comedy and storytelling collective. Their first in-house publication was Paul’s poetry collection; ‘The Kult Of The Kazoo’ at the end of 2009.
In 2010 he published a self help guide to performing, based on his performance workshops and coaching classes entitled, ‘Quaking In Me Stackheels’. He followed this in 2013 with ‘Rrrantanory Little Stories’, a collection of bedtime stories for adults; both for DesertHearts Publishing.
He has written numerous plays and stories as well as documentaries and articles for radio and has had his poetry featured in various newspapers, magazines and anthology books.
He is probably best known as the mouthy half of dyslexic poetry duo ‘The Antipoet’: the beatrantin’ rhythm’n views act that currently takes up most of his life.
He has been fronting The Odd Eccentric since 1984; albeit with a break during the mid 1990s, and The Senti-Mentals; on and off since 1996, along with several other bands: Polkabilly Circus, Sly Quip & The Quickwits, SLOB and The Rocketeers. (He also currently plays the washboard for The Caution Horses, DodoBones and The Wrinklepickers)
He lives with his wife, Donna, in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire.
When not writing or performing he is Artistic Director and one third of the triumvirate behind The RRRANTS Collective, helping to promote and disseminate independent poets, songwriters and storytellers. He is available for compering duties, events hosting and after dinner speaking if you’re very, very brave.
His passions include The BARDAID Initiative, (of which he is the founder); Doctor Who, vegetable growing; punk rock; animals; the countryside and Donna.
He has no truck with bigots; nazis; supermarkets; the gentry; and animal killers.
He is a committed anarchist, atheist and vegetarian and a keeper of cats, ducks, goats and chickens and continues to sponsor various donkeys, dogs, Llamas and most recently a herd of reindeer.
Commissioned by and published in The Tuesday Club e-magazine November 2016
PUNK AND THE ART OF POST MODERNIST POETRY
Two weeks ago (as I write this), The Antipoet; of whom I am the mouthy half, concluded a fifty date promo tour for our latest album: ‘BARDS OF BUGGER ALL’ with a gig in a manor house with llamas in the front garden, on the outskirts of Yeovil, Somerset. Just before we hit the boards that night; as the turn booked to accompany the main course at a feast, the promoter for said event sidled up to me and asked: ‘Alright if I introduce yous as “punk poets”, tonight, boys?’
It was the first time that we’d been billed as such all year. We’d done comedy clubs; serious poetry nights; cabaret stages and even a kids’ stage at Camp Bestival in Dorset. We’d played two weddings; a care home for the terminally bewildered; a hostel for the homeless and even a proper punk festival without anyone feeling the need to pre-empt us with a genre specific disclaimer. Now don’t get me wrong, here; I don’t have a problem with that tag, per sey and I told him so; It’s been said before and, as intro’s go, it’s as good a label as any for whatever it is that we do do, but personally, I’ve never really thought of us in such succinct and particular terms. I did, however, for the remainder of that weekend.
So what is a Punk Poet, exactly?
Attila The Stockbroker is my idea of one. He’s got all the proper credentials that I would associate with such an angry moniker: he’s ranty; he’s shouty; he’s political; he was even there at the start of it all, but who knows: he may even take umbrage at my describing him in that way.
It’s all a matter of opinion, isn’t it?
It’s been said that we look more ‘Goth’ than punk and we do tend to use a sod of a lot more words per piece than your average three chord punk anthem employs and; on the wrong side of fifty, some may even consider us too old to be ‘punk’. Okay, we do tend to rant’n rail a bit and we do like to fuck with received poetic convention, but does that make us ‘punk’ or just middle class; middle aged whingers?
Back in the day; ‘back when I were a lad’, things were so much simpler. Things either ‘were’ a thing or they ‘weren’t’. We took what we were given and we made the best of it. We listened to the ‘Breakfast Show’ on Radio 1, every morning before school, with the likes of Noel Edmonds; Dave Lee Travis and Mike Read feeding us the ‘hits’ of the moment: those records that the BBC (by ‘special’ arrangement with the larger, more influential record companies of the day) deemed suitable for primetime broadcast, whilst we chowed down on our Shreddies and warm milk. Well, we didn’t know any better, did we! Remember:
these were the days before the advent of the internet; before YouTube; before multi channel TV; before commercial radio had been allowed to prosper and before Channel 4 arrived with ‘The Tube’. How would we have known that there was something else out there, bubbling just below the surface: something that didn’t fit comfortably with the prevalent middle class pop stylings of those privileged enough to have had private music tutelage; something a tad rougher around the gills than we’d previously been used to: rawer and less forgiving, undeserving of our attention; something crude, rude and as arrogant as that which it chose to usurp?
But as this prepubescent was about to discover: there’s often more to this world than they’d have you believe…
I was nine when it all kicked off: too young to understand, apparently; too young to ‘get it’ and certainly too young to join in. Not too young, though, to notice that something was afoot and not so naïve that I wasn’t able to recognise that something as something that I’d already both seen and identified with elsewhere.
I wasn’t very popular at school. It didn’t help that I wasn’t very good at anything. Nothing came easily to me. I know now that this was due to my dyslexia, but at the time I’d simply accepted the explanation offered me: that I was simply ‘thick’ and lazy. Dyslexia meant that I saw things differently to those around me. I questioned everything everybody told me because I couldn’t understand why there was only a right or a wrong way of doing everything. What if there was a different way, I’d wondered; a way that works just as well, but that nobody’s thought of yet? There wasn’t, I was reliably informed by the powers that be. I claimed not to like any of the things that I was expected to like: football, fighting and the music that we were being force fed, but I was just being awkward, apparently. However, things were about to change for me; I was about to discover something that would make sense of the way I felt: a mood; an ethos; a fundament that would inform everything that I was from that moment forward. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Punk rock!
My best friend at the time was The Doctor (Doctor Who, to the uninitiated amongst you). Of course, he didn’t know that. How could he have done? He was a fictional character.
Tom Baker had been The Doctor when sentience had first struck me and total absorption in the mythos of the programme was what got me through the horrors of day-to-day school life. Here was a bloke who didn’t give a shit about how things were supposed to be done: an anarchist by the term’s very definition! Fashion had no effect on him whatsoever, neither did class appreciation nor the petty rules that kept the little man down and the bully calling the shots. All he cared about was fairness and equality and he’d stand beside anyone who wanted to fight for those principle tenets. I wanted to be like him. Actually, I wanted to be him, but I could accept the former. I looked at the world and I couldn’t see a place in it for me, so I lost myself to the wandering Timelord’s adventures on telly and in print. Reality had very little hold on me back then.
That was until the first of December 1976. I can’t remember why I’d been watching a boring, current affairs programme; it hadn’t been my thing at all. It’d probably been my dad’s idea: his way of trying to get me to engage with the world; to bring me down from the clouds and get me interested in real life issues, but for the purposes of this narrative, I’m not going to blame the old man: I’m going to put it down to serendipity.
Anyway, there I was sat in front of the box with my jam sandwich and my orange squash when Bill Grundy: former footballer, now turned tv interviewer, had invited ‘The Sex Pistols’ onto his ‘Today’ programme.
I’d heard that name bandied around at school: ‘Sex Pistols’. It sounded rude. It sounded like something that I wasn’t supposed to know about. I liked them already! They were a ‘pop group’; though not like anything we’d ever heard before. Their records had been banned from the radio, so I’d been yet to hear what all the fuss had been about.
It’s an infamous story, so I won’t patronise you by recalling the details of the event that ruined Grundy’s career, and introduced the wider world to punk rock, but suffice it to say; the way I recall it, anyway: Grundy encouraged guitarist Steve Jones and singer Johnny Rotten to use the ‘F’ word on national television. He goaded them. He’d bullied them, to my eyes and they’d delivered, and that’s how punk rock came into my (and many other people’s) lives.
‘THE FILTH & THE FURY!’ ran The Guardian the next morning; every other daily taking a similar, establishment defending stance. My dad was as outraged as the rest of the country and in that instant, punk rock became something evil and depraved: a byword for all that was wrong with the world.
There are those who, forty years on, will still argue that ‘The Grundy Incident’ killed the fledgling underground movement by bringing it out in the open like that, but for most of us, that interview was our baptism into a world of infinite possibility! There WAS a third way after all!
I mentioned before that the BBC had ‘banned’ some of The Sex Pistols’ records. This presumptuous practice was something unique to its time. The banning of anything makes that thing even more desirable for those for whom that something has been denied. It creates controversy and fuels interest like nothing else. The banning of a record only served to publicise such a product far beyond its rights and its means. Besides, ‘banned’ in these instances is a total misnomer. They refused to play them on the BBC, but you could still buy them in the shops! It was brilliant marketing! People rushed out to buy them in their droves without even knowing whether what they so craved was actually any good or not.
Suddenly punk was everywhere. If you’d been reading the papers at that time you could have been excused for thinking that the world had been coming to a bloody and premature end, but from where I was standing it was the exact opposite! The BBC ban may well have boosted record sales by a mile and brought this new anti-style to the attention of the masses, but our own household ban of punk rock records; whilst having a much smaller impact on the world at large, would leave an unbelievable mark on the life of one individual; namely me. I very much doubt that I would ever have put pen to paper if I hadn’t; over the years that followed, bought records by the likes of Ian Dury & The Blockheads (banned by my parents for use of the word ‘bastard’); The Boomtown Rats (also banned by my parents for supposedly glorifying murder); The Sex Pistols (again, banned by my parents, this time for most of the lyrics in ‘Friggin’ In The Rigging); The Damned; The Ruts; Sham 69; The Gymslips; The Leighton Buzzards; Tenpole Tudor; Siouxie & The Banshees (hated by my father); The Toy Dolls; Serious Drinking ; and never ever forgetting: Adam & The Antz!
Punk Rock had shown me that there was another way to be; that it was alright to be different: in fact, being different was to be celebrated! It’d shown me that I’d been right to recognise The Doctor as the ultimate anti establishment, antihero and that yes: I could be like him! It’d shown me that a dyslexic,
untitled, secondary modern educated dreamer with a total lack of academic qualifications could achieve everything he set out to achieve without compromise.
It’d shown me that a punk attitude was something to crow about.
Like I say, I mulled that question over the weekend and came to the conclusion that yes, we are a punk poetry act.
I had a word with Atilla The Stockbroker after writing this piece and I asked him for his views on the subject of Punk Poetry. This is what he said to me…
‘For me it’s simple: I summed it up years ago, back in the ’80s when I was first starting out. Punk is an attitude: it’s not about the noise you make or what you look like, it’s about doing things on your own terms; making your own way and not being told what to do by the mainstream, but of course being part of your own scene as well; working as a catalyst within it and doing
everything you can do to help other performers within it (as long as they’re good on stage and have good values). I am happy to be described as a ‘punk
poet’ because I came out of the punk scene and although my material is very
different now, the old DIY ethos is at the centre of everything I do. Punk poetry is existentialism in words after a few pints. And of course; on the very few occasions when I do behave like an arsehole, (you were actually the recipients of the last one I can remember) I have an excuse, ’cause I’m quite volatile and so is punk.
-Atilla The Stockbroker, October 2016, speaking to Paul Eccentric