Third World War
You mustn't miss the Third World War, said a friend. Isn't that exactly what we all want to avoid? I said. No, no, he said, it's a band. But there again, it's an event as well, he said. So went round to hear the tapes and talk to the boys in the band.
Since the music only exists on tape (the band isn't yet signed with a record company), I'm going to have to compare it with other, recorded bands. The attitude contained in the music is similar to that of the Social Deviants Mick Farren's old group. Mick has always, since I've known him, held that the only point of rock music is to accelerate the social and political revolution he thinks is vital to Britain. He appeared as a White Panther (near enough the British White Panther) at the isle of Wight, and formed an alliance with the Young Liberals (!), the London Angels, and with the French Situationists, notably Jean-Jacques Lebel. These groups made gestures of aggravation, in speeches, duplicated sheets, and acts of provocation. The kids, they said, were being lulled into parting with their money, in exchange for meaningless dreams. But the Social Deviants, the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind, who played outside the enclosure at the Isle of Wight, did not produce music as forceful and clear in this context as the music of the Third World War.
Terry Stamp (no relation) who writes the words for Third World War, was a truck driver until six months ago, and once played bass for Anita Harris. Jim Avery, the other fixed member of the band, has been five years in the music business, most recently with Thunderclap Newman. Previously he worked in a factory and on a construction site; and spoke animatedly about how it felt to be a manual worker. You felt beaten down and defeated, he said. One of the Third World War numbers is called 'Preaching Violence'; another 'Working Class Man'. They're the sort of numbers that should be played over factory PA's, he said. The music would be a rhetoric relevant to men and women who are too accustomed to being ignored.
The music has power, all right. John Fenton, the impresario / manager / producer of the band, hired three violins, two violas, cello, trumpet, two trombones, tenor sax, bongos, and harmonica to support the guitars and drums; and still the sound comes over raw and stuttering with anger. Avery said that most of the musicians come from Shepherd's Bush, Acton, Ealing; The same West London territory as the Who. He was trying to recapture the fury that fired Pete Townsend to write numbers like 'Substitute' and 'My Generation'.
Since then, the underground has encouraged self-obsessed lethargy. Even bands as well known as Jethro Tull and Procul Harem, who played together at the Albert Hall this week, seem concerned with inconsequential games. The Albert Hall audience were very enthusiastic, and I think that may well prove Jim Avery's point. Too many people are hanging around with their heads to the ground, wasting themselves. We'll be hearing more of the Third World war. We'll hear, and then see.
Geoffrey Cannon, Guardian 16th October 1970
Of all people like Iggy Pop and Roky Erickson who were revived by punk, one great gaping hole remains: whatever happened to Third World War? They were a ‘70s band from England who had much more of a raw garage-y tone than most bands of their day – as powerful as the Pink Fairies. What set them apart was their political angle: as left-wing, Communist working-class brawlers. They put out two albums on major labels, and how did they get away with this – their first album had lyrics like “Waiting on the rooftops, looking for a sign / Pull your hand-grenade pin, I’ll pull mine / Power to the people, when we rise / Power to the poor, when we rise… There’s people out of work here / There could be a riot here / Very soon, you know, there could be a riot everywhere.” On their second album, the song “Hammersmith Guerrilla” goes: “I’ve got just the thing for you, a real cop beater / A sawn-off twelve-gauge, five-shot repeater / Get your arse along down to Hammersmith town / Join the urban guerrillas, take up arms against the crown.” Another song was titled “I’d Rather Cut Cane for Castro”! They were dead-set about armed struggle against the British monarchy: “Let’s free the working class / We’re tired of licking the government’s ass,” etc. I wonder if they’re in jail now. The graphic style on the sleeves has early Stiff Little Fingers written all over it – but five years before punk!
Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys in “Incredibly Strange Music Volume II” book (ed. V. Vale / A. Juno, ReSearch Publ., San Francisco, 1994)
This political underground band played at the "Oz Police Ball" benefit for the Oz obscenity trial with Arthur Brown, Viv Stanshall, Pink Fairies, Egg, Roy Harper and Gnidrolog, but this group was different. They were singing about the rebels, the poor and uneducated people: the working class, the semi-skilled labourers, the yobos and the Hell's Angels. They were able to write excellent, sensitive melodies but in general their music and lyrics were ugly and real - like life itself. No punk band seven years later would have dared sing lyrics like:
"Let's free the working class
We're tired of licking the government's arse
We're tired of kissing the Monarch's arse
Letting its bad air out".
(from M.I.5's Alive)
"Get your arse down to Hammersmith town
Join the urban guerrillas
Take up arms against the crown
Don't talk about the wrong and right
Get out and fight."
(from Hammersmith Guerrilla).
Although their first album is essentially raw punk, on tracks like Ascension Day, M.I.5's Alive, Working Class Man, Shepherds Bush Cowboy and Preaching Violence, it does contain two purely acoustic tracks: Teddy Teeth Goes Sailing and Get Out Of Bed You Dirty Red. Stardom Road Part 2 predates the eighties psychobilly bands! Hearing Terry Stamp's harsh voice singing:
"Power to the people
Power to the poor
Power to the workers
Power to us all
And don't you know I feel proud
Just to shake your hand
Don't you know I feel proud
Just to make a stand when the old man dies
On Ascension Day when we rise"
(from Ascension Day)
is certainly an exciting experience.
Their second album is better musically, though the ingredients are similar. There's some good heavy rock'n'roll with fine guitar leads (Yobo, Urban Rock, Rat Crawl). The bluesy Coshing Old Lady Blues deals with Hell's Angels lifestyle, though not in the romantic Roy Harper way. The mellow Factory Canteen News with its fine guitar leads is a masterpiece and I'd Rather Cut Cane For Castro and Hammersmith Guerrilla are very good heavy rock (not rock'n'roll) numbers.
These two albums hold an exceptional place in early seventies rock.
© Borderline Books 1995 - 2002. Web version administered by Ivor Trueman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The contemporary illusion of glazed hippy inertia in the face of imminent social breakdown and rampant urban motorway-construction doesn’t hold water when the hard-nut lyrics of Third World War, another associate of the Semtex-and-spliffs crashpad of early-1970s Notting Hill, are considered. A “political underground” act, they were able to write excellent, sensitive melodies, but in general their music and lyrics were ugly and real – like life itself. On “MI5’s Alive” they bemoaned “kissing the monarch’s arse…letting the bad air out”. These august commentators shared bills at free festivals with proto-crustie pioneers Here and Now and East of Eden, but most notably featured at the Police Ball benefit for Oz magazine with Arthur Brown, Viv Stanshall, the Pink Fairies, Egg, Roy Harper and Gnidrolog.
The Music’s All That Matters: A History Of Progressive Rock” by Paul Stump (Quartet Books, 1997)
Third World War I - Fly, 1970
'Let's free the working class,
We're tired of licking the government's arse,
Let's free the working class,
We're tired of kicking the Monarchy's arse.'
Have I lifted that verse from the Clash’s new album? No. Have I been privy to a secret airing of the Sex Pistols' “No Chance” / “God Save the Queen”, on a copy stolen from A&M's famous locked cupboard? No. Is it a part of the manifesto of some unrecorded new wave group - Generation X, say or the Slits? No, again.
In fact they were written and recorded in 1970, severn years before, by a group called Third World War. Their album, on Fly Records, has languished near the bottom of my collection since the week of its release, exhumed only occasionally during the first three or four years and never since.
Listening, this week to the Clash’s album, noting its attitude and sentiments, I was driven back to Third World War, and having played the old album a couple of times afresh I'm convinced that it is one of the most prophetic yet neglected items in all of British rock.
Third World War were basically two guys, singer/guitarist Terry Stamp and bassist Jim Avery, who were evidently out of step with their times. They scowl from the back of the album cover framed behind a chicken-wire fence (probably under Westway), with short hair, one in a well-worn Burton’s suit, the other in a cheap leather jacket. No attempt whatsoever at any kind of contemporary chic, just plain Cockney sneer.
The sleeve is almost monochrome, the front a bleached-out photo of a baby’s face, screaming. Any sense of adornment, of prettification, is palpably scorned.
Neither is there any prettification of their music, but we'll get to that later. First, the songs: titles like “Preaching Violence”, “Get Out of Bed You Dirty Red”,”Shepherd's Bush Cowboy”' “MI5's Alive”, “Working Class Man”... they would fit on the Clash’s sleeve without any incongruity.
Let's hold it there, though, for a moment, and ponder on 1970, the year of Third World War’s birth. What was the mood, the zeitgeist of that largely unmemorable year.
As I remember, it was the interregnum between Flower Power and Glitter, we were writing and reading about Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Chicago, Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Taste, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Colosseum, and the Nice.
Pop festivals still seem to epitomise some kind of general feeling, a need for togetherness, even if Jean-Jacques Lebel and his Situationalists, from Paris did invade the Isle of Wight.
In retrospect the prevailing emotion was: boredom. With buckskin fringes.
Low key, low profile, waiting, trying to amuse ourselves with James Taylor’s psychoses and Carole King's wholesomeness.
In the midst of this apathy, Third World War appeared, shot their load and disappeared again with the benefit if a review by Roy Hollingworth, who saw them play at the Lyceum and wrote that they were, in so many words, the worst band he’d ever seen. And Roy saw some pretty awful bands.
I got hold of the album because I liked the attitude of the sleeve graphics. I guess I also thought they had something to do with the Who (probably I imagined some connection between Terry Stamp and Chris Stamp; I still don't know if there was one), and felt that an up-dated Who would be a good idea.
It seemed a potentially pleasing alternative to the prevailing introversion (“Fire and Rain”, “Helplessly Hoping”, and so forth), yet it was evidently out of its time: Bolan, Bowie, and Ferry subsequently proved that the correct (i.e. successful) contemporary reaction was to revolt against the style (by proposing glamour and mystery as alternatives to blue-denim homeliness) rather than against the content.
Third World War's songs on this album live up, pretty much, to the billing I've been giving them. The record begins with “Ascension Day” - and that's “ascension” as in “rise up, revolt.” It's a power-to-the-people song, unspecific in everything but the stated methods: “Waiting on the rooftops/Looking for a sign/Pull your hand grenade pin/I'll pull mine/...Waiting in the shadows/When the bullets whine/Blast your automatic/I'll be blasting mine.”
In the sleeve credits, Stamp is described as playing something called “chopper guitar” and that's how it sounds. On “Ascension Day” his guitar is a chainsaw, hacking up the chords and spitting them out with out with robotic intransigence. This is the most powerful track, a magnificent piece of rock music, perfectly balancing its inner intensity with an outward nonchalance.
The other musicians, Avery on bass and Mick Lieber on lead guitar and Fred Smith on drums, have just enough competence to mirror their desires, and in this way close resemble today's new wave combo's. Avery, in particular, would fit perfectly into the Clash, if he were prepared to play at their tempo.
Stamp’s voice, again, sounded horrifically amateurish at the time, but would nowadays be accepted without question. He drawls, leers, snarls, and grunts in the very loosest approximation of “singing” but his intentions are beyond question. Just like Joe Strummer, Dave Vanian, and J. Rotten.
Naturally, the musical approach is more varied than we find with the current groups. Third World war had no example to follow, save that of the Who (who were, after all, quite eclectic in their choice and arrangement of material). There was certainly no “party line” as there is today, telling them that every song must be played as fast as possible, and just a little faster than their techniques allow.
Nor could they have taken any inspiration from that pillar of the new wave, the Velvet Underground. Stamp sounds as though, had he ever heard “Sister Ray,” he would have dismissed the Velvets as a bunch of posing poofs.
Without these rules and regulations, Third World War made plenty of mistakes in the course of their album. They used strings on one track, and horns (arranged, somewhat incongruously, by Bobby Keyes and Jim Price) elsewhere. Perhaps this was an attempt by their producer, Jon Fenton, to mute the harshness by varying the textures.
Sometimes the adventurousness works, as on “Teddy Teeth Goes Sailing,” a hymn to the failings of our then Prime Minister, which, through sheer starkness, achieves some of its intended chilly alienation.
Even when the music doesn’t quite make it, the words usually do. “Working Class Man” is a much realler version of Lennon's “Working Class Hero,” told in the first person by a lorry driver “...the foreman’s big mouth/Said stop, you've been shirking/Get out of that truck/And the company clothes/I nut him in the face/And I broke his long nose/Got sacked for fighting, cards and money on the spot/You’d think five years’ service is something/But it's not.”
“Shepherd's Bush Cowboy” is a tale of the protagonist's encounters with con-men, whores, football fans and ...well: “I turned to a skinhead drinking pint race/He said 'Man, that queen's got a nice face'/Up came my fist, other queen got kissed/That adds one more to my list/The boozer closed its shutter/The barman said ‘Don’t leave him there/Roll him in the gutter’.”
Now there’s a difference today’s new wave would be too self-conscious to admit to that particular reality.
It reads exactly like the stuff Johnny Rotten was giving to interviewers at the end of last year, when it was taken to be a “revolutionary” sentiment.
“Third World War” is very far from being a great album. In 1970 it had its merits, overlooked at the time, but in 1977 it appears even more extraordinary, by virtue of the prophecies it held. Maybe, just maybe, among this week’s releases is an album which sounds preposterous today, and will make perfect sense in 1984.
Richard Williams - Melody Maker 1977
Much like their American counterparts MC5, Third World War were a heavily politicized band from England who made their mark playing heavy rock songs with an overtly left-wing political agenda. They were well known amongst the London Underground scene, playing free concerts with the likes of Arthur Brown, the Pink Fairies, and the wonderfully eccentric Viv Stanshall (before he formed the infamous Bonzo Dog Band).
Their songs focus on the poor, disenfranchised, the uneducated; on rebels, Hells Angels, and semi-skilled laborers fighting for their freedom. The music could at moments be sensitive, but was more often than not a raw, "punk" sound.
This LP, their 2nd (and last), dates from 1972, and musically is a more complete album than their self-titled debut. There are some excellent bluesy numbers, mainly "Coshing Old Lady," (their tribute to Hells Angels), mellow ones such as "Factory Canteen Mews," which offers excellent guitar work by Terry Stamp. Mainly, the LP is heavy rock numbers, such as "Yoko," "Urban Rock," "Rat Crawl," and their classic numbers- "I'd Rather Cut Cane for Castro," and the brilliant "Hammersmith Guerrilla," with very political lyrics such as:
"Get yer arse down to Hammersmith town; Join the urban guerrillas Take up arms against the crown; Don't talk about wrong and right, Get out and fight!"
Pretty heady stuff.
Their 2 LPS are wonderful listening, and fans of the "Kick Out the Jams" era MC5 will find Third World War (the name says it all) as kindred spirits- and even more political!
An exceptional CD well worth getting!
Classic Underground Rock, April 25, 2001
Appears on Amazon - go to the source (external link)
Reviewer: Sean from Chesterfield, Virginia United States