Ain’t That Far From Boothill

13 Aug

Boothill

Probably one of my all-time favourite summer records, Ain’t That Far From Boothill  was the only album from the wonderful London-based Boothill Foot-tappers. It originally appeared on the Mercury label in 1985 and finally made it onto CD (on Cherry Red) four years ago.

The music can be described as either ‘cow-punk’ or ‘folkabilly’ or skiffle or whatever. At any rate, it was a joyful, rowdy antidote to the New Romantics who dominated the charts at the time and based on pubs and clubs plus a mushrooming  finge of benefit gigs and events resulting from the unusual politics of London at the time.

I started working in central London in September 1985 – but a long-distance relationship meant that I’d been coming to the capital at least a couple of times a month for a  few years before. The mood in London in those days was just incredibly vibrant.   A very left-wing group had taken over the Greater London Council (the GLC)  a few years earlier  by mounting a coup to oust its moderate Labour leadership the day after the public had elected them.  It then proceeded to  introduce a raft of high-spending policies.  The most  shrewdly populist move was cheap fares on public transport (good for getting to gigs of course) and spending on youth, culture and the arts expanded rapidly. Other policies were rather more controversial not least the widespread perceptions that (1) every esoteric single issue group able to write a grant application could get buckets of money and (2) that the Council was more interested in revolutionaries in Nicaragua than roundabouts in Neasden.  Certainly there was favouritism in who got funded and the financial controls were questionably lax at best and there was a degree of oppositionalism for its own sake

All of this was interesting – even exciting –  but proved unsustainable.  Mrs Thatcher’s government in Westminster saw the spending as irresponsible and profligate (as well as downright subversive) and set about reformng London’s government. This included abolishing the Council. (Which, dear tourists, is why the imposing building across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament, may be called ‘County Hall’, but is no longer the seat of London’s government and is, insted, a random collection of hotels, restaurants and an aquarium)!   Anyway, the Boothills will forever be associated in my mind as part of the soundtrack of a time when it was clear that London was going to become less interesting but when the outgoing regime was going down defiant.

‘Ain’t that far from Boothill’ features a bunch of tuneful songs. Many of these are by banjo-player Chris Thompson (who re-appeared subsequently in the Barely Works) but there’s also a cover of Bob Marley‘s Love and Affection. The sound is heavy on the banjo and accordion and features three female vocalists. The highlights have to be ‘Get your feet out of my shoes’ and ‘Too much time’ both of which appear twice – in interestingly different versions (this CD is the original 12 album tracks plus 12 more singles and b-sides and what are probably original demos or alternate takes). What comes over, all these years later, though is how much fun the band seem to have been having in making great live music which, perhaps surprisingly, seems as fresh now as it was then.

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5 Responses to “Ain’t That Far From Boothill”

  1. esther millson September 10, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    One of the most lovely – and life-affirming – albums I know, for all sorts of reasons.

  2. alastairt September 11, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    Thanks for commenting. Good to know others still remember them!

    • esther millson January 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      Might they have played at the end of 2013 in somewhere called small and Northern called Bonsall? A 15 -year-old is sure they did.

      • alastairt January 23, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

        Mr Google should know. My understanding is that they are dormant/disbanded. If not, I’ll be at the gig!

      • alastairt January 27, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

        You may have a different account?

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