Archive for the ‘Poison Girls’ Category

Vi Subversa - some people aren't supposed to die

Penny Rimbaud of Crass has published (23 February 2016) a reflective appreciation of the life, work and character of Vi Subversa on the Team Rock web site. In it he suggests:

Vi was a poet armed with the cobblestones of love. She had a voice that sounded like sun-warmed gravel and a guitar that I was never quite sure whether she could play or not; maybe she wasn’t either. Vi was the leader of Poison Girls, a radical feminist outfit who for the most part were men, except, of course, for Vi, who had all the play-power of a dozen of ’em. Vi was the kind of person who one didn’t take lightly; she knew where she was and who she was and wasn’t about to be told otherwise.

Penny Rimbaud. 2016. ‘“There are those who aren’t supposed to die…”: Vi Subversa remembered‘. Team Rock, 23 February. http://www.teamrock.com/features/2016-02-23/there-are-those-who-aren-t-supposed-to-die-vi-subversa-remembered

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Vi Subversa’s son Pete Fender posted the following news on Facebook this morning (20 February 2016):

Vi Subversa – 20th June 1935 – 19th February 2016

It is with deep sorrow that I have to announce the mourning of my wonderful mum Frances Sokolov, known to many as Vi Subversa, who has passed away peacefully following a short illness.

We know that her death will come as a shock. Vi had recently celebrated her 80th birthday and only a few short weeks ago gave what was to be her final performance.

Vi led an extraordinary life in a variety of fields, but was no doubt best known as the lead singer, lyricist and rhythm guitarist in Poison Girls.

She was a key figure to a lot of people and we know that there will be a great many who would wish to pay tribute to her music and words, as well as to her remarkable achievements in life. We know too that she would want this to happen.

We are holding a private funeral for her close friends and family, and naturally there will be a public event to celebrate her life and work later in the year. We, her family, ask that our need for privacy be respected during this very difficult time.

We are confident that Vi would not wish her friends and fans to overindulge in sadness. We all feel that her life was complete and should be celebrated. She made it to the milestone, and her time had come. Flesh and blood is what we are.


PF x

Vi Subversa - Poison Girls - In the City session


Update, 26 March 2016: Online tributes to Vi Subversa include:

Update, 22 March 2016: Print tributes to Vi Subversa include:

  • Dick Porter. 2016. ‘Rock In Peace: Vi Subversa, 20/06/1935-19/02/2016’, Vive Le Rock, No 34, pp.28-29.
  • Mark Richards. 2016. ‘The Cravats, Vi Subversa’s Naughty Thoughts, Brighton Green Door Store [live review]’, Vive Le Rock, No 34, p.104.

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Vi Subversa’s Naughty Thoughts and The Cravats together played a sold-out gig at The Green Door, Brighton yesterday (5 December 2015). It was a brilliant night, with outstanding performances from both sets of artists. The first audience videos from the evening are today reaching YouTube.

Vi Subversa’s Naughty Thoughts – Persons Unknown

All The Madmen Records, Robin Ryde

Vi Subversa’s Naughty Thoughts – Old Tart’s Song


Pete Fender has created a Facebook gallery of photos from Vi Subversa’s set.

Launched at the gig, All The Madmen Records’ thirty five year anniversary edition of Poison Girls’ classic Persons Unknown is now available to purchase as a 12-inch heavyweight vinyl in deluxe sleeve with notes and lyrics insert plus A2/42x59cm poster. The first supplies of the new release of Persons Unknown all sold out on the night.

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All the Madmen Records is now taking pre-orders on the 35th anniversary re-release of Poison Girls’ celebrated Persons Unknown track, backed with the equally lauded Statement (in its Wargasm incarnation).

All the Madmen are also recreating the forty eight Persons Unknown one-inch badge set, originally released at in parallel with the single in 1980, which will be available to buy in six grouped part-sets and a complete collection (plus black crow and yin-yang badges).

Poison Girls – Persons Unknown / Statement (Orchestral)

Release date: Late November / early December 2015 (subject to manufacture)
12” Heavyweight Vinyl in full colour sleeve with insert and folded A2 poster

Poison Girls’ legendary, brooding call to action for the radical and dispossessed gets a 35-year anniversary, deluxe vinyl edition on The Mob’s All The Madmen Records, backed with the sublime orchestral version of Statement. Continuing Poison Girls’ ongoing vinyl re-release series. In full collaboration with Poison Girls, coordinated by Pete Fender with artwork design and layout by Bernhardt Rebours.

Now on 12″ vinyl in their full durations of over 7 minutes and 5 minutes respectively, both tracks are given space to breathe and be heard in their best vinyl form. The 180g heavyweight vinyl presents as a more deluxe, durable medium and a two-sided insert details the background, lyrics and ongoing relevance of the songs.

An enclosed A2 sized (42.0 x 59.4cm), folded poster graphically reproduces the set of forty eight 1-inch button/pin badges that Poison Girls produced and distributed in 1980 to promote and reinforce the Persons Unknown declaration. Using words from the song, each badge identifies a social (mis)fit – joined lyrically as one in the full set. The badges have been carefully recreated and are made available in hand-pressed sets, via All The Madmen Records.

Poison Girls – Persons Unknown

Inspired by the 1979 UK High Court trial (and subsequent acquittal) of members of the Anarchist Black Cross group for “conspiring with persons unknown at places unknown to cause explosions and overthrow society”. There were no explosions. Some of that group set about forming an Anarchist Centre and in a joint release with Crass’ Bloody Revolutions, Persons Unknown financed the opening in 1980 of Londons Wapping Wharf Autonomy Centre.

Just as the Anarchist Black Cross were synonymous with the campaign for political freedom throughout the 20th Century, the split 7″ release became a cornerstone of the anarchist punk counterculture. The rhetoric of Persons Unknown remains a commentary valid as ever today with continued use of Joint Enterprise doctrine in “guilty by association” trials of those remotely associated with insurrection. See the recently attempted prosecution of social segregation “poor doors” and anti-gentrification “cereal killers” protestors in London.

Poison Girls – Statement

First released in its original form as a flexi-disc with the Chappaquiddick Bridge album and here reworked for Pax Records’ 1982 anti-war compilation Wargasm; featuring the National Youth Orchestra and Jason Osborn adding their classical staccato to underpin Vi Subversa’s impassioned curse to the system and its warlords.

Poison Girls - Persons Unknown - November 2015

All The Madmen Records - Poison Girls - Persons Unknown badges

All The Madmen Records - Poison Girls Persons Unknown - back cover

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All The Mad Men Records have announced today their plan to release a 35-year anniversary “deluxe 12″ vinyl edition” of Poison Girls’ single Persons Unknown

In November – from All The Madmen Records
Poison Girls – Persons Unknown
35-year anniversary deluxe 12″ vinyl edition
Details and pre-order to follow

“Flesh and blood is who we are
Our cover is blown…”

Poison Girls - Persons Unknown - November 2015

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Dare to Dream: Anarchism in England in History and in Action. a documentary directed by Goldsmith’s College, University of London film student Marianne Jenkins in 1990, has just been made available online.

The 40-minute documentary moves between exploring contemporary British anarchist culture and politics and events from across global twentieth century history (including the First World War, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Vietnam War) and libertarian responses to them.

The film includes contributions from well-known names in the post-war anarchist movement, incuding John Rety, Nicholas Walter, Phillip Samson, Vernon Richards, Clifford Harper and Albert Meltzer – and Labour MP Kim Howells (whose ‘radical’ past is revisited in historic newsreel).

Glimpses of the British anarchist movement in the 1980s are seen in the coverage of Bradford’s 1-in-12 Club, Birmingham’s Common Ground initiative, London Hargingey’s Solidarity Movement, London Greenpeace; and through the Stop the City events, anti-poll tax protests, animal rights movement and the feminist movement.

Although anarcho-punk is not a particular on-screen focus for Jenkins, the soundtrack includes the music of Crass, Chumbawamba, Concrete Sox, Political Asylum and The Subhumans (alongside Glen Miller and Bob Dylan).

As well as brief live footage of Chumbawamba, anarchist punk is most clearly represented in front of camera through equally fleeting live footage of Poison Girls and a short (but illuminating) interview with Vi Subversa and Richard Famous (circa 30:00 in).

There’s an interesting commentary on the documentary on the Red, Black, Green blog by redblackgreen – who uploaded the film to the Veoh platform. They note:

Dare to Dream was made on a shoestring budget and it shows. Production values, especially by 21st century standards are low, but the amateurish look gives it real charm and a very DIY anarcho-punk feel redolent of its era.

Dare to Dream - Vi Subversa

Dare to Dream - Poison Girls - live 1984

Dare to Dream - Richard Famous and Vi Subversa

Dare to Dream - Stop the City

Dare to Dream - Stop the City - crowd running

Please note that the video contains distressing images of human and animal suffering, and has been given an ‘suitable for 18-year-olds and above’ rating on Veoh.

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A two-page, colour feature on Poison Girls appears in the current issue of Zero Tolerance magazine. Written by Avi Pitchon, the article is based on new interviews with Vi Subversa and Pete Fender.

Describing her pre-punk associations with British anarchist culture, Subversa recalls:

it just so happened that a friend of mine was the daughter of someone from the old anarchist newspaper Freedom, so I started selling the paper and helping out at Freedom Press in the East End, which was not far from where I lived. At the time, nobody wanted to hear of it, but we kept on with it regardless until punk happened, and there was a sudden upsurge in interest.

Poison Girls interview - Zero Tolerance magazine - 2015

Avi Pitchon. 2015. ‘Not Just Boys’ Fun’. Zero Tolerance. No 66, pp.52-53.

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