Radioactive Sparrow – Blood, Piss & Burps: The Truth About Angwitch (1989)

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Since very early on a favourite routine for Radioactive Sparrow has been the improvised choir, every member of the group contributing. ‘Rikety,’ which gets Blood, Piss & Burps moving, is a particularly fine example. During the academic year 1988-89, Bargefoot was in the first year of a music degree at Goldsmiths. He was never to make it to the second year, of which more later on. One of the things he hated most was membership of the university choir which was compulsory for anyone who didn’t play in the orchestra, consigning students to weekly 2½ hour rehearsals led by Roger Wibberlely whose schoolmasterly manner was excruciating in its patronizingly lumpen don’t-be-a-spoil-sport cajoling. Bargefoot would sit in the basses, at the back, next to Bruco Lava (future Sparrow member who also got kicked out of Goldsmiths), and to relieve the suffering would frequently improvise incongruous counterparts to what was being yawningly wailed around them by Good Honest Men. The glossolalic theme and its sustained note auto-response that Bargefoot introduces at 3’25” is derived exactly from such instances of self-saving subversiveness.

Blood, Piss & Burps was compiled a few weeks after Angwitch was packaged up, after it became clear to the group on revisiting the tapes that they had initially underestimated most of the stuff they’d felt on the day didn’t come up to scratch. The songs selected for this, the second pressing of the fruit bagged in January, were pretty much self-selecting in so far as the album’s continuity and narrative seemed to effortlessly fall into place. The are moments of unusually open song-ness (‘Northlands,’ ‘Sun Woman Body Line,’ and ‘Eggly & Hamly’) alongside tousled cribbings of avant-partyism (‘Views Of Spain’ and ‘3 O Clock On Xmas Day’).

This album features an unusually high level of lyrical content appropriated from the diverse texts left to soak up the beer, sweat and fag ash on the Hut floor, mostly old letters and sodden rags of News of the World colour supplements. Perhaps one of the stand-out tracks, ‘Hey, Boy, What’s Your Problem (With Knowledge)?’ has Stews tripping up the logic of epistemology, aiming his invective at A.J. Ayer, while rapping out passages from his The Problem With Knowledge.

The gruelling 16-hour session that produced most the material for the three Angwitch tapes came to an end with ‘My Head Is Empty.’ It’s nearly 5 in the morning and Bargefoot dredges up one last riff nuanced with a fading optimism; Gage is given the microphone and invited to sing, but when he tries, he discovers the cupboard is bare, there are no more berries left to squeeze juice from. Some years later, of course, they would come to recognize such situations as indispensible in pursuit of the Kak dream, having ‘no ideas’ and just as scant ambition being prime directives.


  1. Rikity
  2. Northlands
  3. Views Of Spain
  4. I’ll Never Forget You
  5. Sun Woman Body Line
  6. Owen, Watch Where You’re Goin’
  7. Hey, Boy, What’s Your Problem (With Knowledge)?
  8. Eggly & Hamly
  9. In The Hay
  10. Baby In The Bucket
  11. 3 o’ Clock On Xmas Day
  12. Burper & Farter
  13. My Head Is Empty


Tony Gage
Bill Bargefoot
Emma 100-Fingers
Heaving Stews

Recorded in the Hut during the first week of January 1989





Written by Gustav Thomas

May 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

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