01 King David (8:39)
02 Frenchy (8:01)
8″ clear vinyl on Stinky Horse Fuck, UK, mid-1990s.
All drawings by Diz Willis.
Diz Willis (1938-1999) was a british poet, painter and performer. During the 1970s, he was a member of performance groups Welfare State, Australian Dancers, Matchbox Purveyors, Portable Theatre, John Bull Puncture Repair Kit, Burton Richards, Birdyak and later Smell & Quim. Stinky Horse Fuck was a label run by Smell & Quim member Milovan Srdenovic aka Davy Walklett, releasing noisy records with usually offending covers. This record is Diz Willis recollecting memories from his days in Soho (he lived in Soho at the end of the 1950s-early ’60s), mythologizing the area while including personal memories. He’s backed by a ‘Steve’ on saxophone and by Srdenovic’s background ambient noise from library/ethnic records – in a mysterious and surreal vein. This is spoken world with background music re-enacting the area’s pub life. Willis’ voice is sometimes overdubbed for a dialogue with himself or a background pub song. The narration is mostly in a charming half Monthy Python, half Paul Bowles tone. The character on the cover refers to Ironfoot Jack, one of the liveliest denizens meeting in Soho’s French Pub on Old Compton Street, the place where the artistic community gathered during the mid-1950s.
‘It was also, for better or worse, the haunt of the notorious Ironfoot Jack, the self styled ‘ King of the Bohemians.’ The portly Jack flaunted long hair, a Homberg hat and a long black cape hung over his short leg which was elevated by an iron boot. He would approach the unwary and try to sell them copies of his poems on pieces of grubby paper. Jack’s abysmal personal hygiene – he was the man who put the BO in ‘Bohemia’ – meant he always had plenty of leg room in the French’. [from article]
The A side is a portrait of King David, one of the caracters foundly remembered by Willis. The track called ‘Frenchy’ starts with a brief but horrible rendition of the French national anthem on a cheap keyboard preluding to an evocation of The French Pub. The recitation includes a list of alcohols in french at end of side 1 and beginning of side 2. While I enjoy the drunkard’s anecdotes about this artistic community, I’d have appreciated mentioning famous visitors in these pubs, namely Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Anyway, I really love this record, despite being oblivious of situations described. The great nostalgia pervading these stories is universal. Another of Diz Willis’ sound poetry recordings, ‘Travels of Burton Richards’, is available here.