27 Mar 2006
The Rise and Fall of The Nosebleeds 
John Crumpton on "The Rise and Fall of The Nosebleeds", the superb documentary he made with Bob Jones about Manchester band Ed Banger and The Nosebleeds:

"In the mid 70's a group of Manchester based film makers got together and pressurised North West Arts to fund a film and video workshop. Paul Habbeshon, then film Officer took it upon himself to buy already antiquated Sony reel-to-reel machines, whereas sinilar workshops in Liverpool and London already had colour. However, courtesy of paternalistic largesse, ego-stroking of arts bureaucrats and political chicanery we had the chance to use the B&W half-inch reel-to-reel portapak recording systems that had been making their way into the non-broadcast sector and were permeating down to our 'community' programme-making level.

Originally developed in Japan by Sony and National panasonic in the late 60's, their reputation had been made in the early 70’s in Canadian the groundbreaking Challenge for Change initiative funded and developed by the Canadian Film Board. In the hands of inexperienced video makers from ethnic and disenfranchised communities programmes were made by the same people who watched them, and which featured a range of political and social issues of which where ignored by mainstream media.

In Marxist terminology the 'means of production' (if not distribution) was under the control of ordinary people. There was a lot of political embarrassment and fallout as a result of the CFC programmes and the shutters were brought down fairly quickly. In fact it was more the potential impact of the medium and not its actuality to stir things up that caused the problem. Like an unspecified weapon with great power the word spread abroad to this country. Local councillors reacted in the press with changes they were going to make to housing conditions on the basis of videos made by tenant's groups that they hadn't even seen. It's novelty value was its great strength.

However, because they were the prototypes of the first fully portable video recording systems they came with some severe limitations. The camera had to be always connected via a duty cable to the heavy and separate VT recorder. The tape had to be hand threaded - no cassettes and the tape heads would become periodically clogged and needed to be cleaned with an alcohol soaked cotton bud. The pictures were monochrome with poor resolution unless shooting in strong sunlight - speaking of which, the unforgivable sin was to point the lens directly towards the sun as this would produce a permanently burnt sunspot onto the camera tube.

But shit, who cared? It was capable of recording up to 20 minutes of synchronised picture and sound for just a few quid and it could be erased and reused. So when punk came along it seemed the perfect medium, raw and decidedly lo-fi as it was, to record what was happening 'on the streets'.

The streets of Wythenshawe's council estate produced 2 of Manchester's highest energy punk bands. Slaughter & the Dogs and Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds. We'd been fortunate in recording both groups in a seminal concert; I use the words advisedly, at the Forum Wythenshawe in September 1976. The Dogs were headlining and well down the bill were the local heavy rock combo - Wild Ram. We spoke to them after the gig and they were all very friendly. I'd lived in Woodhouse Park for 12 years so we struck up a good rapport.

A few weeks later they changed their name to The Nosebleeds as the punk rock bandwagon gained momentum and it appeared that fame and fortune awaited anyone who had enough balls to grab it. So for the next nine months or so we videotaped gigs at Rafters, Manchester, Rock Against Racism dates in Bury and elsewhere and recorded interviews with band members. The drummer Toby was the most communicative and gave us a history of the group’s formation on camera.

The portapak camera was there on the day the band went to Granada TV studios to record their celebrated debut, (there weren't to be any others), appearance on the early evening Regional magazine programme, Granada Reports. Lead singer Ed Banger manhandled presenter and champion of Punk / New Wave Tony Wilson during the past performance of their one and only single '(I) Ain't bin to no music school'.

Whether such opportunities exist for a present day bunch of working class lads from Wythenshawe to have their 15 minutes seems highly questionable in the era of ITV without its regional connections and the increasing sanitization of rock music through the dull blandness of Pop Idol and Fame Academy.

Unfortunately the band weren't able to capitalise on their brief moment in the spotlight and their failure to make money created further tensions. Without success they carried on regardless but the splits within the group were ever widening.

Ed Banger and Vini Faal the manager were the most blunt in voicing their opinions as to what had been happening with the group’s finances. Spinal Tap was still to come. With the exception of Vini Reilly who lived in upmarket Didsbury, the rest were Wythenshawe born and bred and more used to settling matters in a John Prescott way. In fact when Ed turned up for his interview he was sporting a black eye, the result of a frank exchange of views with his manager and was more than willing to spill the beans. We cross-cut between the delusional Vini and disillusioned Ed shouting the odds about each other's shortcomings and finally we see Vinnie Faal, content to hold onto Toby and Pete and heralding a new venture with a new guy 'I've got my eye on' and the new Nosebleeds would rise again from the ashes. They did. I heard recently that Stephen Morrissey joined the band briefly as Ed's replacement only to be fired later, after Vini Reilly had left - the latter to be the most successful of the ex-Nosebleeds with his Durutti Column and solo albums - a guitarist touched by genius in my view.

The linear editing of the material by myself and Bob Jones, who'd been on camera took ages. Bob had been fascinated by the potential of "peoples' TV" since blagging a grant to film Rochdale Festival in 1972, using equipment borrowed from the London Film Co-op, Sheffield Community Video and Studio 66 Video in Hendon. We had 2 tape machines, the right hand record deck for assembling the shots in edited order and the left hand source deck which was shuttled backward and forward to locate the next shot for insertion. To further slow things down there wasn't even an edit controller so we devised a Heath Robinson system of stop watches, 10 second rewinds and countdowns and pressing of the edit button at precisely the right moment for the edit to take place. God, it was a laborious business and rarely went according to plan. Still we plodded on over many evenings, the material itself kept our spirits up as it possessed a humour, irony and honesty not often seen in a pre-Spinal Tap documentary. After we finished it we screened it a few times as part of the workshop's presentations and it always went down well with audiences. In the early 80's more sophisticated video formats were becoming available so we transferred the tape to lo-band U-matic cassette in 1982 and it's been hauled around in the house moves we’ve had over the years. In between freelance contracts as a sound editor I've tried to keep my hand in as a film-maker and have become a great enthusiast of mini-DV, having made a few 'pilot' project on the format. So I managed to get the U-matic transferred onto DV and a friend, who's an editor, Faisal Qureshi loaded it into his Final Cut Pro system. I was eager to keep the essential 'character' of the original work. In fact there was little we could do about the flaring of stagelights but we were able to add super-ed captions to the interviews and song titles to beneath the performances. In addition, in the space of one evening, we tightened up many edits that had always 'jumped' as they contained a subliminal 'rogue' frame on the cut and smoothed out the sound edits. The original video had been assembled without the benefit of even a basic audio mixer."

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The film screens Saturday 8 April from 12:30pm till 4pm at Touchstones Exhibition Centre, Rochdale. Entrance is absolutely free. More on Rockin' Rochdale.

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Peter Saville colour wheel
Biting Tongues

In the grey days of late 1970s post-punk Manchester, youth culture was a serious affair: every musical performance was measured mostly by the conviction of its delivery. The term 'New Wave' opened up free vistas where acquired skills could once again be exercised after punk's monochrome blur. It could be applied to anything from a James 'Blood' Ulmer record to the latest Throbbing Gristle release, Magazine to Swell Maps. Move outside that terrain into Sun Ra, Parliament, Frank Sinatra and Martin Denny, and your options were suddenly without limit...

Then came Tony Wilson's Factory Club (at the Russell Club in Hulme) offering an open invitation to experiment that was taken up when Ken Hollings, Howard Walmsley, Eddie Sherwood and a few others decided to make some noise to accompany their 16mm silent epic Biting Tongues. A further performance followed a few weeks later, when Colin Seddon and Graham Massey disbanded their Post Natals project and joined up. The film itself, a flashing series of negative images, became a memory; the name remained.

- extract from the LTM Biting Tongues biography

Factory Records

The Durutti Column