Attila The Stockbroker – Arguments Yard (Cherry Red Books)
Performance poet and left-leaning commentator Attila the Stockbroker turns his pen on himself, with his new autobiography, Arguments Yard. Louder Than War’s Dave Jennings reviews.
Eleven years ago, fans of Wrexham Football Club discovered that the intentions of their current owners may not have been entirely consistent with the club’s future prosperity and a ‘red card’ protest was planned for the last game of the season. It was our good fortune that we were playing Brighton and Hove Albion, whose supporters had been through similar strife and enthusiastically joined in the protests during the game. Subsequently, Brighton fan Attila The Stockbroker became involved in the fan’s campaign to save the club and performed benefit gigs to help raise the funds to buy the club, which the fans eventually did. The reason I tell this tale is because it gives a true measure of the man in question, John Baine – Attila The Stockbroker. This is a man with clearly defined principles and one who will go to great lengths to support what he feels is right. Like many Wrexham fans, I won’t forget what he did for us and I’m sure there are countless people around the country who are equally grateful for the support he has given them. Oh, and he is a superb writer too.
Having finally brought his enviable talents with words to bear on his own story, what lies in wait for the reader is a rollercoaster ride through the birth and heydays of punk, into the political wars of conscience in the ‘80s and ‘90s and up to date with a man who still works hard to share his beliefs. Reading the early part of Arguments Yard it’s tempting to ponder what may have become of Attila had punk never happened and offered him the outlet to express his talents. Although we can say the same for many of the luminaries who emerged from that period, a cursory glance at some of the poems included in the book does lead you to think that this is a talent that would have found an outlet regardless.
However, it is clear that Attila and punk have a bond that is unbreakable and an early Clash gig had an influence on him that has lasted for life. The DIY aspect of the early punk scene has also served him well, having made a living from his writing and performances since 1981. Starting off not as a poet, but as a bassist in two Brighton punk bands and a Brussels based outfit, he eventually graduated, as he always felt he would, to a solo act accompanying himself on mandolin. That is until it was smashed over his head in one of the most gripping passages in the book. In 1982, when the politics/music cocktail was at its most volatile, a group of right wing thugs set out to disrupt an Attila gig due to his well-known left wing beliefs. This is a sadly common theme in music memoirs from that period but, for all the downs of extremists smashing up venues, at least people then stood up and said what they believed. And Attila certainly did that.
Longevity and independence are two of the key themes of the book and both mean that Attila has certainly had an interesting career. His thoughts on Oi and Gary Bushell are particularly interesting and maybe not what you would expect as is his belief in taking his views to his opponents. Interestingly, he feels unable to commit to any organised political movement, or that was the case when the book was written. Not for him, sitting round in cosy confines chewing the fat with like-minded people; Attila would rather be out there on the front line, even if that is where the fists (or mandolins) are flying. Or where the sharks are swimming as he mistakenly took a dip in shark-infested waters during an Australian tour.
There are a host of great stories about people met and adventures had as Attila crosses Europe and the world for his art. Great to know that North Wales hero Mike Peters is, as well as being an all-round nice guy, along with Paul Heaton the best footballer he knows in the music and poetry world. The book is all the better for the inclusion of a number of his poems, with Never Too Late being particularly touching and helping to put much of the story in context. Ultimately however, this is a superb document of a life well lived up til now and a clear appetite for more. Read this and learn more about a gifted writer and hugely likeable character, but also enjoy the social and musical history of a period that we may never witness again.