In 1985, I was Head of Maths at Chancellor’s School in Hertfordshire. Martin liked to wind me up by spreading the false rumour that this was an independent school and Arthur believed him for several years. It wasn’t an independent school, it was an 11-18 comprehensive in a wealthy village called Brookmans Park between Hatfield and Potters Bar. It was an easy school to teach in although it had a fair share of children who didn’t find it easy to embrace a learning culture. The Maths curriculum followed the School Mathematics Project (S.M.P.) which was way ahead of it’s time. Every aspect of Maths that was taught was put into a real life context. There was no abstract maths taught until children studied A level. One day in 1985, I saw in the S.M.P. newsletter that they were going to form a working party to develop a curriculum in readiness for the introduction of the new G.C.S.E. exam in 1988. If anyone was interested, please get in touch. I did that and for the next four years I attended several meetings to develop the course. It was brilliant: there was a mental maths test, there were six pieces of coursework and, most interestingly of all, there was an oral exam where children had to talk about a piece of maths. There was a final exam but this only counted for 50% of the final marks. Students who achieved a grade A in this exam were excellent all round mathematicians.
The working party had about 12 people on it. Most were from independent schools and had no experience of teaching the 93% of children who attended state schools. At one meeting, I remember that I took along an example piece of coursework from one of my students from a bottom set. The disdain with which it was dismissed was very annoying. I believe the phrase that was used that “the teacher was derelict of duty”. As that teacher was me, I responded forcefully. I seem to remember that the kid had had a choice of coursework tasks – he had written down the title of one of these tasks and then scribbled a few random equations vaguely connected with the other task. In retrospect, I think I probably was derelict of duty but I didn’t like Mr Posh Ponsomby-Smythe telling me that.
One of the meetings was on a Wednesday afternoon in Leicester. I had never been there before. I drove and parked early in the city centre. I used to get Sounds, Melody Maker and NME and the previous week and one of these had given the record by Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power an excellent review. With a few hours to spare before my meeting, I naturally went in search of the record shops in Leicester and, much to my pleasure, managed to find a copy. I can’t remember if I took it to the meeting or left it in the car but I do remember going for a curry with the only two decent members of this working party afterwards.
I don’t own any other album that is remotely like this. They have been described as a “British militant punk/dub band. Not reggae or ska as much as raw folk punk with a heavy dub element.” They only released two records in their brief career: “Here Come The Blues” consists of six songs and “Matchless Triple A” consists of three songs.
Here’s a post from 2009 that I found from Gary, one of the members of the band: “We split up, I was fed up of living on the dole and felt (probably wrongly) that we were hitting a wall so I left. Trev and Steve felt the same way and also threw in the towel. Chris however who was the brains of the whole outfit i.e.: lyrics and the majority of the music, did try to carry on but found it hard without us so had to quit. He does still talk to us but I would not have blamed him if he didn’t. I came up with quite a few of the ideas to make the dub work live, for example the endless wiring headaches of echo pedals and stuff… so I did play a good part towards it all. I still write some dub stuff. Chris has a studio and has been making dub tunes for a long while. I will be helping him set up a somewhat smaller PC studio soon and will try and get him to release his songs online. Thanks for thinking of us”
Spin magazine from June 1986 had this to say about the band:
The record itself has a great label which will appeal to a small but significant minority of people:
My favourite track is the title track “Here Come The Blues”. The lyrics are angry but true although I can’t make them all out. I think that “Joe Turner” as identified in the Spin review above, refers to the play by August Wilson called “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”. Wikipedia: “While Turner does not make an actual appearance in the play, he is often referred to with the expectation that the audience is aware of who he is. Joe Turner, the brother of the governor of Tennessee, would kidnap black men and force them into labor on his chain gang for seven years.” Harvey Proctor is also mentioned and he was a Conservative Member of Parliament and member of the Monday Club. Also mentioned is Martin Webster who formed the British National Party. There’s a great bit where the singer explains “Economics Lesson 1” – “The robber barons and the slumlords smile as the low wage council is kissed goodbye. You keep wages down and profits up.” Later he sings “Harvey Proctor and the Monday Club. These are Nazis beneath their prejudice but if you don’t feed them they can’t eat.”
It was true in 1985 and it’s true now. They don’t make ’em like this any more.