May 08

JJ BARRIE – “No Charge”

FT + Popular/381 comments • 12,715 views

#389, 2nd June 1976

I was aware of this song long before I heard it – as a young boy it was quoted at me by my Dad should I ever object to tidying my room. Since my room was rarely tidy, I became very familiar with the central notion of “No Charge”. Like my Dad, I can find immense amusement and pleasure in this style of song – talking country with a sentimental edge – but this is far from a great example.

You might think, at first, that the style stands or falls on the strength of its concepts: not so. “No Charge” has a fine concept – mawkishness and moralising are assets here! – but where JJ Barrie falls down is on development and details. Once our young entrepreneur has presented his list, and been slapped down by Mom, the track has nowhere to go, and explores that nowhere thoroughly for two minutes. Contrast it with something like “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine, where tears are ruthlessly jerked right up to the final words. Barrie, on the other hand, adds no new details and just repeats himself. This is partly because “No Charge” is a cover version, and you can hear what I assume is the original melody being hollered in the background: it sounds rather as if it’s trying to escape.



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  1. 61
    mike on 2 May 2008 #

    seizure of the central uplands of media was really really really important …to the grand-gesturing McLaren faction maybe (and to chancers like Billy Idol, obviously!), but the DIY, small-is-beautiful, back-to-basics, anti-star faction was just as strong, and there from the outset. It wasn’t “mass media is shit so let’s get on it”, it was “mass media is shit so let’s ignore it / create our own parallel media network” (fanzines, independent labels etc)

  2. 62
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 2 May 2008 #

    haha that’s bcz ramones = prog (less contrarian way of putting ths same point: us punk was, yes, very much less interested in the single)

    this really is jumping ahead but my ideology was lensed through the buzzcocks, and the new hormones line on the single (including innovating the single-sleeve as a space for expressive intervention) (to put it in a knobbish way)

  3. 63
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 2 May 2008 #

    i disagree mike: the rise to prominence of the indie faction was a response to the failure of the first wave to maintain artistic control as it entered major-label territory, but — though it was often (much too often) presented as a marvellous solution it was more a retreat and a conceding of defeat than any kind of triumph: the start of the end of punk (or post-punk to spin it more positively)

  4. 64
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 2 May 2008 #

    version of “why punk had to happen” that i have no problem with at all: it provides lots more material to animatedly and interestingly gather to discuss than poor old j.j.barrie :(

  5. 65
    mike on 2 May 2008 #

    the rise to prominence of the indie faction was a response to the failure of the first wave to maintain artistic control as it entered major-label territory

    Whereas I would argue that the indie faction was there from the start: both in terms of fanzine culture (the home xerox-ed likes of Sniffin Glue/Ripped & Torn/48 Thrills/London’s Outrage (Jon Savage)/London’s Burning (Jonh Igham) etc) and record labels (Stiff & Chiswick showing the way, New Hormones as the first “true” indie in early January 1977, i.e. at a time when only the Pistols (oh OK and The Vibrators if we must!) had signed a deal with a major). It didn’t require a symbolic fiasco such as CBS releasing “Remote Control” as a single against the Clash’s wishes to set the wheels in motion; the wheels were already in motion.

    But then, my starting point was the Clash and Subway Sect interviews in Sniffin’ Glue #4 (October 1976): all quite earnest in terms of having no truck with established networks.

    (Even if the Clash did sign to CBS a few months later… but even then they refused to appear on TOTP… which was their way of contriving to stay outside the game, if I’m being cynical.)

  6. 66
    Waldo on 2 May 2008 #

    At this rate, you numbskulls with all your bitching about punk will elevate Barrie to the pantheon of the centurians, which would be totally undeserved. I suggest radio silence until we get to something more relevant; and this certainly does not mean the next number one.

  7. 67
    mike on 2 May 2008 #

    Bollocks to that, you Boring Old Fart! The Kids Will Not Be Silenced! There’s something happening out there and you don’t know what it is, do you Mister Waldo? (Whoops, wrong paradigm shift…)

  8. 68
    DJ Punctum on 2 May 2008 #

    Waldo – a job on peak time Radio 2 is yours for the asking. Possibly on Pick Of The Pops, for all your Rita Coolidge and Rod Stewart needs.

  9. 69
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 2 May 2008 #

    so not gnna happen waldo —:D

    re fanzines: i’d be more convinced by this strand of yr argument if their authors and xeroxers hadn’t almost to a man decamped into the rock papers! someone like savage for example is i think conflicted (he is fascinated by new media and underground media but actually moves INTO television fairly swiftly ayfre gigs at sounds and then MM)

    stiff/chiswick: disdained as “pub rock” and “new wave” by punk ultra-ists because of the cosy smallness of their ambitions; new hormones wanted to get records into the charts and knew they could

    the clash: anything they did massively coloured by strummer’s sectarian hostility to the pistols camp — at the time their decision not to be on ToTP considered (by some) (bcz yes as you say this was factional from the get-go) to be a mistake if not a crime

    subway sect: ok i can’t argue with this, except maybe to say that vic godard’s self-immolating nihilism was NOT typical (any more than their look at the time) — i love subway sect

  10. 70
    vinylscot on 2 May 2008 #

    I didn’t like this record very much.

    I’m enjoying this thread even less. I had been dreading the onset of punk, because of the all the predictable, retro-fitted, pseudo-intellectual crap which certain posters will no doubt fill this board with, over the next few weeks.

    I will no doubt have many further opportunities to voice my opinions on such matters then; I look forward to it:)

  11. 71
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 2 May 2008 #

    and erithian is right, the start of all this was indeed happening NOW and needs to start being talked about now — spoiler bunny’s nightmare is only just beginning

  12. 72
    rosie on 2 May 2008 #

    Mark @ 40 puts his finger on it: it has become an orthodoxy, and one from which one strays at one’s peril in the company of the pop punditocracy! But don’t underestimate my toughness; I’ve been through fires of which you know little! And (to bring up a 1976 pop culture catchphrase) I didn’t get where I am today by following the herd.

    I was about to turn 22 and get married in the summer of 1976, so I was past the immediate age of youthful rebellion, and I was frankly not all that much interested in the singles chart. If it was full of bland platitudes then that was only to be expected; I and my contemporaries hadn’t bought singles for several years now, and found our kicks in the less glitzy and more challenging material to be found on albums. Singles were the preserve of commerce and as bland as baked beans.

    One of the hazards of living in Reading as I did until a couple of years ago is that it is Market Research heaven, and not many days went by without being accosted by a person with a clipboard in Broad Street. It was fun in a perverse sort of way to be guided into the George Hotel to sit in front of a computer and go through a series of questions about gin, or chocolate, or soap, or whatever was the subject of the day. (The subject was always brand recognition, however.) The questions were damned fool ones about what consuming the particular brand said about you. Did it make people think you were cool and sophisticated, perhaps? Or edgy and andventurous? Old and frumpy? Ha! If I consume a particular branded product it’s because I like the taste, or perhaps because it’s all that’s on offer in a time of need, but never because I givce a shit about what anybody thinks of me for it. It’s the same with music; I like what I like and I like it because I like it and that’s all there is to it. I’m not having some high-flown arbiter of taste tell me what I ought and ought not to like.

    Anyway, I reckon the hip young gunslingers are only jealous because they weren’t there to hear the Beatles/Beach Boys/Stones/Kinks/Who/Doors/Velvets/Captain Beefheart first time around! ;)

  13. 73
    Erithian on 2 May 2008 #

    vinylscot – yes, I did open a Pandora’s Box back at #15, didn’t I? But then, the Big Punk Discussion had to happen sometime in ’76, and it’s maybe appropriate to have it in the context of a number one that coincided with a Year Zero moment (I suppose we could have had it in December instead). There’ll be an obvious thread in which to discuss it in ’77, and by autumn ’78 the purists will be able to have a right good moan. Maybe we can focus the discussion on those three threads (which will mean old JJ gets 200+ posts). Thereafter the influence of punk can be traced in all manner of odd acts reaching number one.

  14. 74
    Erithian on 2 May 2008 #

    And Waldo (#66) – Bo Rhap apart, JJ will be in good company with the other centurions we’ve had – Peters and Lee, Simon Park, Davies and Estelle…

  15. 75
    Tom on 2 May 2008 #

    I concede defeat: now is as good a time as any to begin this conversation. Anyway the next entry won’t be up until Monday at the earliest (and possibly Tuesday depending on the weather) so this one can run and run.

  16. 76
    mike on 2 May 2008 #

    Fear not, BOFs! For my part, I don’t intend to sidetrack every subsequent thread with punk-related musings – but June 1976 is, as others have said, an ideal place to have this kind of conversation. As well as the seminal Pistols Manchester show, The Damned and The Clash played their first gigs in June 76, thus initiating UK punk rock as a “movement” rather than a Pistols-centred coterie, and kicking off a sequence of events that would eventually have a profound and lasting impact on British pop music in general. And on a personal level, punk rock fundamentally changed the whole way that I viewed the world; I simply cannot overstate its importance in that regard, as it made me question all of my base assumptions.

    Without a) the advent of punk rock and b) turning out to be a big fat flaming homo, I shudder to think what sort of stereotypical ex-public school prat I might have turned out to be, and so I have a lot to be grateful for. So please indulge me a while longer.

  17. 77
    Erithian on 2 May 2008 #

    I love how some people’s tone is getting a bit snarly as we embark on punk. Any minute now someone’s going to call someone a fucking rotter.

  18. 78
    Waldo on 2 May 2008 #

    Mike/Marcello/Mark (The Holy Trinity) – You boys couldn’t be more wrong. I most certainly am aware of “what is happening out there”, as I suspect I am one of the very few on the blog to have witnessed the Grundy incident live. Waldo the fake punk will indeed be revealed anon but certainly not yet. My point was that we should simply move off “No Charge”, a risible piece of shit, and certainly not to abandon the punk debate. But you “kids” are like blind dogs on heat.

    I’d be delighted to host “Pick of the Pops” but would speak my mind like my great hero JW and would thus last about five minutes. Indeed I would much prefer “Pick of Waldo”, in which case Rita Coolidge and Rod Stewart needs would have to be satisfied elsewhere. Plenty of Kathy Kirby and Val Doonican, though.

  19. 79
    mike on 2 May 2008 #

    However, if you really want to get back to JJ Barrie: we have been awfully remiss with our periodic Clem Cattini Watch. Good old Clem drums on “No Charge”, just as he did on (in reverse order) “Save Your Kisses For Me”, “Barbados”, “Give A Little Love” and “Whispering Grass”. He can pick ’em!

  20. 80
    Waldo on 2 May 2008 #

    Erithian # 74 – Yes, I take your point.

  21. 81
    Billy Smart on 2 May 2008 #

    I’m sort of with Rosie on punk rock – I generally find it the least interesting part of the Mojo/Uncut canon (the first Clash LP must be the most feeble ‘classic album’ that I’ve ever heard), though when things get postpunk then that’s about my favourite period.

    This may be to my having to endure a lot of tedious people in their thirties reminiscing about the good old Joe Strummer at The Roxy in ’77, you don’t like that Happy Mondays acid house rubbish do you, son? when I was a teenager… Now I’m the age that these old punks were then I do try not to repeat their mistake with the young who cross my path.

    ‘No Change’ clearly made a lasting impression on one of my old primary school teachers, who was still reading out the improving lyrics to us in assemblies as late as about 1982!

  22. 82
    Tom on 2 May 2008 #

    One of the things I’m expecting/hoping to happen in the aftermath of punk is a bunch of new commenters (not that the commenters I’ve got aren’t terrific of course) – not only are new commenters “coming onstream” memory-wise but I think quite a lot of people have the late 70s as a listening-back cutoff: they may or may not have agreed with the year-zero rhetoric but it has an impact on what gets written about, talked about, played. Also, of course, punk is far from the only big shift as the 70s wind down.

    (Not that they’ve really started winding down yet: let’s not get too eager, there’s a lot more to come…!)

  23. 83
    Tom on 2 May 2008 #

    Also, something I might well put in the FAQ are a list of those threads where broader topics get chewed over – it is a fair bet that future readers looking for “the advent of punk” will not immediately think “JJ Barrie”. The Guilty Pleasures discussions might come into this too, and I’m sure there are more.

  24. 84
    DJ Punctum on 2 May 2008 #

    As with the Clash, so with the Mondays; to get them fully you had to be there and in it at the time, before either had the chance to curdle into canon fodder. I rarely/never revisit the first Clash album (because of course it should never have been released or even recorded, in the same sense that the first Buzzcocks album, i.e. the one with Devoto done for New Hormones and turned up in multiple forms on CD a safely suitable number of years later, was never “made”) but you HAD to grasp the soldered end of the dustbin lid that “White Riot” and later “Hallelujah” would throw through the complacent, gliberal glass of the charts of their times. I saw the Clash at the Glasgow Apollo in May ’77 – I stood at the cowardly back and immediately ducked out once the chairs started flying and the real shit began – but knew in my BONES that this was where to go, just like when the Jam first came on TOTP to do “In The City” – yes MOD, but frankly fuck that because I WAS a Mod, and yes Weller says vote Tory to wind Strummer up, BUT the ENERGY and JOUISSANCE that were identifiably OURS (as in generation) knocked the cloth-nosed prematurely arthritic classy likes of Supertramp into the grave and after the Clash or the Mondays you couldn’t seriously expect to take the Mr Bigs and the Wonder Stuffs that were on offer from the big river as “new.”

    In truth it was life versus death. LOVE versus “like.” Abigail against Beverley. Ken for all his faults against Boris who is nothing but a fault. Burroughs versus Amis. Proud screams against suppressed coughs.

    And in the truest possible spirit of punk I would suggest that those smug gliberals propagating their shabby comfort blankets of the New Right with canting, content-free platitudes against “pseudo-intellectual crap” (how typical, isn’t it, of the commonsensical gliberal to deploy the “pseudo” prefix, scared of the reality of having to face the real thing?) are fully free to fuck right off to the abundance of Yaroo Spacehoppers Alessi What Were We Thinking Is Not Rat Is Hamster Double Deckers Cat’s Done A Whoopsie ZZZZZEXY ZZZZZZZZEVENTEEEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ message boards on the internet where they can talk to people who’ll agree with everything they say.

  25. 85
    rosie on 2 May 2008 #

    Did you mean me, Marcello?

  26. 86
    Tom on 2 May 2008 #

    I’d rather they didn’t fuck off anywhere :) One of the themes of Popular right from the beginning is that things don’t vanish or get swept away – the 50s way of doing things lingers well beyond Merseybeat and rock; the old 70s guard doesn’t suddenly disappear at the first sniff of Rat Scabies’ leathers; SAW fight street-to-street with retro jeans ads; the summer of Britpop is filled with filthy raps and singing soldiers; manufactured Cowellite pop manifestly fails to wipe out rock, and so on. Pop is plastic: it doesn’t decompose, it hangs around. So the Alessi Spacehopper Stewpot world is the world punk was born into and the story of punk is partly its attempt to negotiate that world – you can’t tell one without the other.

    (Here’s an idea: maybe big counter-things happen in Britain when light entertainment is particularly strong rather than weak or moribund?)

  27. 87
    LondonLee on 2 May 2008 #

    But, but, but…Supertramp’s biggest selling album came out in 1978!

    I was 14 in 1976 (I saw The Pistols/Grundy thing live too, but I think I was more interested in eating my fish fingers at the time) and hated that noisy punk stuff but it did look like a bit of a lark. It wasn’t until 2 years later that I “got” it and then unfortunately I read “The Boy Looked At Johnny” at a very impressionable age and it’s Year Zero attitude affected the way I look at 76-77 even now. It was probably responsible for me selling my ELO albums.

  28. 88
    rosie on 2 May 2008 #

    Anyway, I’m not long back from eating my Friday fish and chips on the beach for the first time this year. And as it happens guys and gals, what’s come up in the random playlist even as I write is a particularly splendid piece of quintessential seventies that didn’t make number one so can’t properly be taken into account. Candi Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free speaks to me as clearly to day as anything from the period. It was one of the tracks I selected as my ‘Walney Island Discs’ session on Abbey FM the other week. And I love it – so there!

  29. 89
    Chris Brown on 2 May 2008 #

    I too was aware of this record before I’d heard it. And still am, because I haven’t. Comments on this thread – and particularly the fact that so few of them have anything at all to do with poor old JJ – aren’t encouraging me to search for it either.
    It has crossed my mind that reading Popular can’t be a terribly pleasant experience for Canadians.

  30. 90
    Waldo on 2 May 2008 #

    # 84 – I rather thought that going to a cheesy message board to “talk to people who’ll agree with everything they say” is actually the main function of it, which is exactly why I have resisted my own blog. Spitting out dummies on Popular, however, is, in my view, pretty graceless, as we are all free thinkers here and there is no right or wrong answer to anything. Just opinion.

    Now for cider.

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