Monday, October 30, 2006

That obscure object of desire

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Puppeteers of the world unite, Don't make love, make war.
Puppeteer: a song by Blurt
Mr Pugh we salute your obscenity and verve. Mr Pugh wanted to return theatre to its roots. Mr Pugh wanted to lay a turd at your kid's birthday party. More years ago than I'd care to remember, I'd see as support at various gigs here and there, an act going by the name of Mr Pugh - a Punch and Judy show with a difference. This one entailed more expletives than your average Lenny Bruce performance, the spilling of bodily fluids and some maximum violence. It wasn't for the kids. If you can imagine a Punch and Judy show mounted by Alfred Jarry, you'd be close - Papa Ubu goes panto. The crowds would usually let their displeasure show after ten minutes or so - but by then, the mad puppeteer had done his job. Time passed and in the salad days of 1980 I got interested in a wayward band called Blurt - an interest spurred by the name of their first single - 'My Mother Was An Enemy Of The People'. Buying it to find a free jazz/punk type collision bursting out of an innocent looking 7" was a joy. Shortly, reading their press, it hit me that the leader, one Ted Milton - the singer and saxophonist, was the very maniac behind Mr Pugh. This man Milton has been around the tracks. Poet, lyricist, player of wild sax and a performer of singular genius. He's been touring and recording with Blurt and solo for some quarter of a century now and shows no sign of letting up, in addition to collaborating with like-minded musicians and giving poetry recitals (as far back as the early sixties) and getting involved with multi-media events. You'll find his work in the famous 1969 anthology 'Children of Albion'. He dragged Mr Pugh's Blue Show, to give it its full nomenclature, around for fifteen years or so as an affront to the civilized sensibilities of the liberal theatre-goers of Europe before calling it a day, tired of the prissiness and smugness of the audiences. Mr Pugh had looked them in the eyes and found them wanting. He seems to have approached it as a fight to the death. One audience, having sniggered through the violence, sexual content and dirty words, apparently balked at the sight of a Union Jack being regurgitated. One can only assume they were unaware of the event's carnival, Antic roots. Chalk one up to the poet Milton. Blurt has had a floating membership over the years, but all incarnations have in common a very disciplined post-punk sonic attack over which Milton lets loose with an atonal, abandoned (his description) squall of noise from his sax and a lyrical approach more Dada than pop. As Zappa once said of John Cooper Clarke, the man has exquisite diction. Having studied book-binding, he also creates marvelous little hand-made volumes of Beat Dada madness. Blurt are still patrolling the margins - the audiences have never been huge and he remains a prophet without honour at home but there are still people out there interested in tracking down the mavericks. Every now and again Mr Pugh peeps out from the linaments of the Milton physog. And he came from Stroud, you know.

Ted Milton, as Mr Pugh, played some very respectable fringe venues, too, I should point out. The Bush Theatre, for instance, and the Roundhouse (I've got some wonderful publicity material for his Bush appearance, performing a show entitled 'Operation Wordsworth'). Mr Pugh's Velvet Glove (to give it the alternative soubriquet) got around. Mr Milton also took the Pugh experience onto television, appearing on an episode of the first series of the seminal 'So It Goes' in 1976. I've never seen it, has anyone out there got any footage?

The Poet Milton

This was a piece I posted back in April, before I kamikazeed the site - since then, it's been widely disseminated ... well, it's on Ted Milton's website, and (both excellent sites, have a look) so I decided to put it back up.

Blurt: Rhythm Factory, Whitechapel, 13.4.06
Sticking to the classic Blurt template, Ted Milton on sax and vocals, backed with guitar and drums, live the band lack nothing in the way of noise and attack. I've seen bands twice the size unable to whip up such a storm. The secret to Blurt, something many performers should take on board, is the discipline and precision of the execution - Blurt songs tend to cut out the flab, creating hard but concise structures and giving Mr Milton the necessary space to go mad. Think of a fusion between Ornette Coleman and Kurt Schwitters and you would be close. Freebop Merz, anyone? Sporting a natty white zoot suit and two-tone shoes, Mr Milton cuts quite a figure on stage - there's a pleasingly theatrical but threatening edge to his persona... stalking the stage, taking the occasional nip from a half bottle of whisky, he gives the impression of a man you wouldn't want to cross. There is a suggestion of barely suppressed violence bubbling away inside the Milton skull - he's ready to blow up at any time. The band ran through a good mix of Blurt material, none of which sounds like anything else on the market - in a musical landscape dominated by the anodyne and the anaemic, this band are to be cherished. Milton coped with monitor problems with good humour and multi-lingual sarcasm, and demonstrated his very particular vocal and saxophone techniques. What more do you want? The gig was, in part, a promotion for the release of the new CD, 'The Best Of Blurt, vol.2 - The Body That They Built To Fit The Car' - not only does it contain 16 tracks of prime Blurt, you'll also find a couple of wonderful videos - everybody should run out and buy a copy. In fact buy two copies and give one to a friend.

Friday, October 27, 2006