"Champagne for my real friends. Real pain for my sham friends" (used as early as 1860 in the book The Perfect Gentleman. Famously used by painter Francis Bacon)

mercoledì 10 maggio 2017

TASTING VINTAGE URGENCY The Gags, Milano (Italy), punk and beyond, posthumous albums yet to be published)


(The Gags, Milano (Italy), punk and beyond,

posthumous albums yet to be published)


What follows are the liner notes in their final English version of almost 20 months ago for the anthological album by The Gags, it has not been published yet.

As it unfortunate when some “own creations” lay forgotten, and given the fact that life does not wait ([1]), I took the decision to publish them, with very little variations in square brackets.

When the album will be published it may be that my notes will be used in full, partially or not at all. It will not be the first time something like this happens.




The Gags are (were) a Milanese band, hence an international one.

All the artists born in Italy “because of punk” were “from X” or “from Y”, bar those coming from my city (Milano) who – also due to their lack of geographical parochialism – found themselves living in an urban dimension (without the city there would have not been anything, even Rosso Veleno said that) in which we used to buy the current NME issue at Stazione Centale (the main railway station) or at Victoria Station (some even at Paris Gare de Lyon).


Such distinctive feature made the Milaneses even too much immune from others’ bad habits, hence the former ones always wanted to do everything on their own, and, often, only for them and some friends, as it happened with Mittageisen 7” single.

After all, if there was no future, what had to be “witnessed” ( a word dear to national hippies) with some “sound documents”? Nothing.


The story of “punk and then” in Milano is, by now, well documented, even with my opinions ([2]), thus these notes are just from a different angle, especially due to the fact, strange but true, this anthology of The Gags shall be in the ears and hands of hypothetical younger brothers and nephews (we are like characters of imagination: our families are unconventional) of those of 1977, I wrote seven not eight ([3]).

No “this song is about” in these notes, I am not a musician, it bothers neither me, nor The Gags that I express myself about the tiny details of the album contents.


After years of invisibility and of more no future, a few chapters added to their lives, an elite numerous enough for not knowing each other when meeting in a shop of “records and other” ([4]), in the Autumn of 1995 literally appeared a CD nobody was expecting. The result of the work of the two unexhausted and tireless gagsian souls Glezos ( Anx Army) and Paolo M. ( P. T. Damper) here it is, better voilà, on the shop-shelves, SEXY, IPNOTICO Very Original Punk, the first release by the label “El Passerotto” (cat. n. VSOP 101).

The first eleven of the seventeen songs which constitute the album, discarding chronology, are indeed The Gags’ ones: as always you have to decide: with them or against them. Like it or hate it.

The smell of Anx Army, Lamb (who subsequently left hence AA took the guitar role too), Bite (and Stuart towards the end), Ugg Nist (who steps in for Gear …) repertoire is that of army surplus clothing, black rubber paving underground stations (red and green lines), as well as that of gigs lived (and I mean it) mainly, because of their and our state of mind, in the lands of Albion and, with great effort to get them, MC7 filled with audience mono recordings and further recordings (still mainly one channel only) from John Peel sessions which are listened immerse in Lombardy smog.


I don’t know if the so rich booklet to be opened into a poster (there is also a promo version of it which is slightly different; being a tactful person I am not telling you about the press file) of that CD had been able to make those who were not there in those in-between two decades days live that dirty but inebriating (not intoxicating) air under the grey (no sun, no shade) of Italy’s economic capital few skyscrapers.

Certainly it was a liked adventure because – promotional releases aside – more is published including material from “The Toggles” (in Italy most think about “gag” only as a “skit”, don’t ask me why), then in 2004 a monographic release for The Gags: Criss-Cross (1979-1981) (VSOP 108) which in its promo version includes also eight more tracks.

Meanwhile, the “Milanese KIAs” of seventy-seven ([5]) are already in intolerable number. Furthermore, some of those who loved the prized cuvée gave him/herself to a musical teetotalism which is hurtful for its practitioners.

Thus no exact overlapping among those who have in their discothèque, keeping it at correct temperature, the “vintages” ([6]) 101 and 108. “Years” which never disappoint.


We now reach, after the new album Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Fetish? In 2008, a true twenty years after. We reach [there was a title – given the uncertainties, I omit it].

This time there is not only a lack of objective coincidences, but more; this new anthology is a completely new album with 15 [or else] of the 18 [or else] songs included completely unreleased in any form and the remaining are alternate versions. Furthermore, any release by “the sparrow” label has always gifted its owners with packagings which are per se beautiful and this time you have to see for yourself.

And again, there will be no total correspondence among those who will listen to this new collection, plus there will be the usual latecomers which will remain with empty hands. 


According to a certain reading of the term, a fetishist is a lover of the detail, a collector, a perfectionist …. Well, here we are.


The caveau of The Toggles will grant us further surprises: I am almost certain.

For instance, almost all are requesting the official, complete, release, of their sole concert: the legendary show held on the 11th of February 1980 in Milano, at the Teatro dei Chiostri for an, invitations only, “sexpeople rendez-vous”.


May I add: why not also (but not only) a book collecting artworks, used and unused, and pictures?


What about the title of these notes? Well, I was thinking about it the night I have been kindly commissioned to write them: The Gags continue to keep a healthy urgency, even when one of their songs is tasted for the first time after so many years.

In other words: the urgency can age and still remain intact when you need it to be such.


Not forgetting to “be happy mosquitos!”, until the next gagsquad elpee.








All rights reserved//Tutti i diritti riservati. No part of this work and/or the same in its entirety can be reproduced and/or filed (including by means of electronic systems) for private uses and/or reproduced and/or filed (including by means of electronic systems) for the public without previously obtaining in each and any case, the explicit consent from the author.

[1] I wrote a post in 2014 referring to a couple of deaths: you may count how many other artists died since then. The post is: http://steg-speakerscorner.blogspot.com/2014/03/scricchiolano-le-colonne-e-forse-e-ora.html .
[2] I am not selfish, but in my blog - http://steg-speakerscorner.blogspot.com/ - I wrote and told about it with the discipline of a chronicler from my very first post (which has a translation in English, by the way) and gave, in many of my writings, adequate bibliography and discography for starting a search. Just look for by using the label-words “punk” and “Milano”, especially in the footnotes (which abound). Some parts of the posts in Italian have been published on paper too.
[3] In Italy many think punk was born one year after the UK explosion.
[4] Curiously enough, in Milano after “Tape Art” went AWOL a shop by the name “Supporti Fonografici” (that is “phonographic devices”) opened.
[5] I use these English words also in Italian to have readers always remembering if they were or not “there” in that year.
[6] Indeed, the origin of the word is “vin d’age”.