A Beginner’s Guide To… Billy Childish
Cult legend Billy Childish gets a full look over from Dave Zarpak in our running feature where we spotlight forgotten gems
Who He Is
Billy Childish is an Ex-Chatham Dock worker turned poet/musician/artist/author who over the last thirty odd years has spat out streams of essential works encompassing all of these forms.
As a musician Billy has been in a number of bands. In all of his art forms he has been deliciously prolific but his discogoraphy alone would give The Fall a run for their workaholic money. Except Billy seems to have sidestepped any dodgy later periods.
Starting out in the late Seventies with the raw and energetic ‘The Pop Rivets’ his sound gradually developed a 60’s garage tinge with bands like Thee Milksakes and Thee Headcoats. In the Noughties, Billy kept up the pace with the magnificent ‘Wild Billy Childish & The Friends of the Buff Medway Fanciers Association’ - or ‘The Buff Medways’ - who performed cutting, energetic, sweaty shows wearing Victorian army outfits. I can’t stress how awesome this band were live, unfortunately The Buffs hung up their bayonets in '06.
Billy seems to have stopped playing live recently but you can still enjoy him in the flesh through the various poetry readings.
Why You Should Love Him
He has managed to keep and develop his punk edge, ethics and style without dying [Always a bonus – Ed] or doing adverts for butter.
Beck personally invited him to work with him, to which Billy agreed only on the proviso that it was recorded in his kitchen at his own flat in Chatham. Sure enough that album was never made. Graham Coxon is a fan as was Kurt Cobain.
He also allegedly doesn’t have anything in his flat that was made after 1960! (Apart from food, I’m guessing). He was offered to go on Big Brother under the headline of 'Tracy Emin’s ex-squeeze' but turned them down.
Our Favourite Album
‘Steady The Buffs’, even before you hear it, stands out. Purely for its grainy sleeve artwork. The album opens with ‘Troubled Mind’ - angular, scuzzy, fuzzy riffs backed with the impeccable swing of Wolf Howard on drums and the ferocious Johnny Barker on bass.
‘Strood Light’ Is my favourite track, Sounding like an early Kinks or Who track but with Billy’s own unique punk branding, this song fully encompasses his ability to straddle both garage rock and more melodic 60’s pop sensibilities.
The album also features a cover of ‘Misty Water’. Billy manages to swallow the song and spit it out sounding more gritty and raw.
Why should you listen to this album? because when society inevitably crumbles you will need one possession that isn’t fags or scraps of tin with which to barter with and anyone worth their salt will know this baby’s gonna be worth a few hours in the anti radiation chamber!
Our Five Favourite Tracks
The Buff Medways – Unable To See The Good
The Buff Medways – Troubled Mind
Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways - Strood Light
Thee Headcoats – I Wasn't made For This World
The Milkshakes – Black Sails (In The Moonlight)