20 Days Remaining

Tuesday 13th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Arguments Yard by Attila the Stockbroker (, £14.99)

LIKE his political hero Tony Benn, John Charles Baine — better known for 35 years as Attila the Stockbroker — kept diaries. 

Without them the wealth of detail and comprehensive account of his times as a performance poet, writer, punk musician and political activist in this autobiography would not be so illuminating, either as a social history or personal journey. 

Having drunk vast quantities of everything from rubbish to real ale while on tour it would be amazing if he could remember anything.

But skilled wordsmith that he is, these recollections canter along in a style reminiscent of him talking to you about his life’s work. 

Bolshy banter and anecdotes abound as well as 38 poems and song lyrics which both contextualise his output and enhance each moment.

Inspired by his father and Hilaire Belloc to write poetry he was given his all important break by “Peelie” — John Peel — in 1982 and has gone on to amass over 3,600 gigs either solo or with his band Barnstormer. 

Having played to audiences in 24 countries, and with over 40 records and seven books of poetry to his name, this is his very own motor-mouthed memoir of total self-belief and undiminished determination to earn a living doing exactly what he loves and remain in “complete control,” to echo the words of Joe Strummer, another of his heroes. 

Lists of places, artists and causes he has worked with abound but it is the amplified finer detail that matters.

Being thrown out of a gig by the musician John Cale he had just supported, having Steve Lamacq as his roadie, his fanzine celebrating his love of poetry and all things Albanian, being invited to play North Korea, touring East Germany, living in Brussels and Glastonbury, fist-fighting with fascists and supporting so many struggles — especially the miners, printers and the anti-war movement — all are told in his unique style. 

Yet among all the mayhem and his own inimitable bravado this is also a story of friendships and family, love and loss.

There’s a sensitivity that was always there but hidden away — anyone who loved dirty scummy punk clubs as much as he did could never let it show, but in these pages it does. 

There is no index, which is deliberate. You have to read it all the way through if you want to check if you are in it and there’s actually a strong chance you are if you were at one of the many happenings in this wonderful autobiography. 

Review by Bob Oram