The Buff Medways Chickened Out
William Charlie Hamper aka Billy Childish is reputed to have recorded 100 LPs during his 24-year career. As if thats not enough to be getting on with, hes also painted 2,000 odd paintings, written 2 novels & penned 30 plus volumes of poetry.
Born in 1959 in Chatham, Kent, Childish left secondary education aged 16, an undiagnosed dyslexic. After being denied entry to his local art-school, Childish began work as an apprentice stonemason at Chatham Naval Dockyard. During his 6 months on the job (the only conventional employment he has experienced in his 42 years) he produced 600 drawings in the "tea huts of hell". This portfolio eventually earned him a place at St Martins School of Art studying painting. Unfortunately, due to his outspoken views & rude writing, he was expelled & signed on shortly afterwards. Childish has continued to paint, write and make music independently ever since.
Billy Childish formed his first band, The Pop Rivets, in response to the Punk Rock explosion of 1977. Already a big fan of 50s r'n'r and English r'n'b, a combination of alcohol & boredom inspired him & his cohorts, Bruce (gtr), Big Russ (bass) & Little Russ (drums), to embrace the new breed. Childish, unable to play an instrument at the time, took the vocal duties. They soon established a modus operandi; small gigs for little or no money building a following on word of mouth alone. They then borrowed £300 from a friends Social Security back pay & set about recording the "Greatest Hits" LP, released in 1979. The band played gigs in Switzerland & Germany in the same year & recorded a 2nd LP, "Empty Sounds From Anarchy Ranch" & two further EPs before splitting up in 1980. A CD covering this era, "Fun In The U.K.", is currently available on Get Hip Recordings www.gethip.com
Childish has continued to make music ever since under a variety of different monikers (Thee Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, Thee Headcoates) never veering far from the path mapped out with The Pop Rivets, only simpler. A great believer in artistic & cultural devolution, he is the veritable epitome of the homemade ethic. He makes music because he enjoys it simple as that. Ask him if he considers himself prolific & hell counter that all other artists release far too few LPs (or possibiley to many). After all, any Childish band has always been able to knock up an LP in a couple of days. Thee Milkshakes once (in)famously released 4 LPs in one day because they were told they released too many records and were committing commercial suicide.
Childish bands have long been championed by a succession of more established artists; Kurt Cobain liked Thee Mighty Caesars, & more recently Jack White appeared on TOTPs with Billys name scrawled on his forearm after the BBC refused to let them have Billy paint on stage with them during their performance. This kind of artistic adoration finally bore more than platitudes with a deal with Transcopic Records (Graham Coxons label) for the latest Childish incarnation, The Friends Of The Buff Medway Fanciers Association aka; The Buff Medways (a breed of chicken bred in Gillingham for the tables of exclusive London hotels prior to WW2). Childish knows which types of chickens they need to re-introduce the Buff Medway, but a hungry fox has temporarily brought the process to a halt.
The Buff Medways second LP, "Steady The Buffs", was recently released to a very responsive mainstream press eager to belatedly recognise the Childish pedigree. The 12 trak LP kicks off with a re-vamped take on Thee Headcoates classic 45, "Troubled Times" (here re-titled "Troubled Mind"). Gtrs resolutely to the fore, their sound is the very envy of every budding Garage Punk from Detroit to Auckland this LP literally kicks & shouts out the influences that are the sum of its parts. Vibrant originals ("A Strange Kind Of Happyness", "Sally Sensation" & "Vanessa Does Favours") sit comfortably next to takes on The Whos "Ivor", The Kinks "Misty Water" & a (trad) arr-ed "Well Well". "Times Up" shares more than just its title with Devoto era Buzzcocks, whilst "You Piss Me Off" continues the Childish tradition of provocative song-titles (see also; "The Day I Beat My Father Up", "Ive Been Fucking Your Daughters & Pissing On Your Lawn", "Paedophile" & "The Messerschmitt Pilots Severed Hand"). The autobiographical "Archive From 1959" is the LPs standout cut - genius.
Whether the current interest in Childish is sustained beyond the next IPC sponsored scene wave is anybodys guess. One thing is for certain, however; if you stick to what you do best & continue sowing quality seeds your harvest is going to flower one day.
Childish has the integrity & patience to wait for his recognition, regardless of the fickle nature of fly-by-night fashion. Neophytes & long term admires are welcomed in equal measure in the grand scheme of things, Billy Childish isnt going anywhere. Like a reliable family run garage or a trusty old armchair, hell remain until the roof caves in or the stuffing falls to the floor only then will future generations fully appreciate his true worth. Maverick.
Guy Debored trakMARX.com June 2002