Friday, September 11, 2009

Frankie Flame: Dick Barton

Who the hell is Frankie Flame?

It’s hard to explain, even if you are an Oi! fan. The genre of Oi! was once summarized by my departed friend, the Curator, as “the glorification of mindless violence” which is not wholly untrue. However, more accurately, Oi! is an attempt to keep punk brutally simple in it’s themes, melodies and music. As has been argued before, Oi! is like folk music, or more specifically it’s as conservative and unyielding as folk would have been if Pete Seeger had murdered Bob Dylan at Newport in 1965. Many Oi! bands (from Cocksparrer to Oxymoron and beyond) have utilized these blunt tools to rousing effect. Of course, there’s been loads of rubbish too. But then since when has the safe harbour of genre not allowed lesser bands to squeak by?

Frankie Flame's been playing in bands since the fag end of the glam era (including this band with Bowie's long-serving drummer). He's been an actor, writer, producer, session man and one of those guys who so embodies the rules he doesn't have to follow them; he's a Guy Ritchie character come to life. After all, Frankie’s a keyboard player (who often plays solo) in a genre that’s rarely had much use for anything but guitar-bass-drums n’ shoutin’. Frankie, in fact, often dredges up songs that his listeners’ grandparents may recall including; Rodgers and Hammerstein, Wynonie Harris and Chas n’ Dave. He’s kinda of a hold-out from the short-lived big tent era of Oi!, where old Rolling Stones fans (Cocksparrer), ranting poets (Gary Johnson) pop-punks (the Toy Dolls) and funny-punk bands (Splodge) could all join so-and-so’s Barmy Army.

Here’s an early eighties single of Frankie’s with his then back-up group, the Flames. The A-side is rollickin' fun and deeply British, keeping in step with what used to be called punk pathetique (a sub-genre of Oi! that revered Benny Hill as much as Sham 69). The B-side is a deadly take on Wynonie Harris’ 1952 classic, “Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes At Me.” It’s a masterfully written song (by Hank Penny), in which each verse carefully builds to the bloody conclusion. While Frankie’s may not go down as the definitive version, it’s a raw and vital one because Frankie brings the song up a generation, with some punk venom, ska beats and and one solitary, but savvy update where he exchanges the dated term "peepers" with plain old "eyes" for that devastating final verse.

MRML Readers: Now that you know who the hell Frankie Flame is leave us a comment on what you think of him.}

Download Frankie and the Flames 7"

Frankie on Facebook


  1. I like it a lot more than my neighbours do...

    And I don't give a flying fuck whether they like it or not.



  2. Oh well you can't always end up beside someone who has great taste in music.

    Oi! Oi! That's Ther Lot

  3. Many Thanks! Sure i've got something by this fella on one of my old oi! albums, didn't he do something with Garry Bushell too?

  4. Great post Jeffen! His recordings with Superyob are great too (especially the Machine Guns and Alcohol album and the 2 tracks off of the More Working Class Anthems LP).

  5. gargoyle
    Didn't every oi band do something with Gary Bushell? For a journalist he was pretty deeply embedded in that whole scene.
    Glad you enjoyed!

    In A Rut
    Thanks for the good words and yeah Superyob sounded great - he sure ain't softening in his old age.

  6. Thanks for posting this. It must be insanely rare. I love the way he mixes in the music hall influence--that was probably really fashionable at the time. I too have heard Superyob and think they're great. Sadly, the only company I've seen distributing their stuff in the U.S. is Die Hard, who are racist shitheads. I hope that doesn't reflect on the band's own allegiances.

  7. Adny
    Music hall does seem to have a place in British rock n' roll - though I'm not sure it was in vogue in the early eighties but I could be wrong

    Y'know the worst thing about enjoying Oi! is that creeping fear of fascism. If some racist wrote a good song I can't take that away from them but I sure don't want to support them in anyway. I combed through his MySpace in search of bonehead tendencies but didn't turn up much. Still sad to hear about Superyob's distribution though...

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  8. Ah yes, I meant to type "UNfashionable"--although when you think of it, punk's sense of humor was probably friendlier to Music Hall than a lot of other phases of UK pop. In any case, yeah, unfortunately I think Oi!'s flirtations with right wing idiocy is sort of a fetish for a lot of otherwise apolitical listeners. (Oooh, it's so dangerous!) It's tough to tell where the lines are drawn, unless you're talking about explicitly anti-racist bands (the Oppressed and I guess Demob) and outright scumbags (Brutal Attack, Skrewdriver, Skullhead). I read somewhere that the Business once drew their own squiggly line in the sand by calling their tour "The Rock-Against=Racism-and-Communism-but-Still-Against-the-System Tour." Ha.

  9. Adny
    There's definitely some music hall punk, that "You've Never Hear Anything Like it" single by the Freshmen comes to mind plus of course 'punk pathetique' is kinda.
    that way too.
    That Business tour title is funny but it strikes me as bit of a false equivalency - Rock Against Racism, for all it's flaws, was a positive movement whereas Rock Against Communism was just a front for violent racism.
    It's a weird ole' world...

  10. Ha, yes definitely. That Freshman single is totally music hall. (Incidentally, I had to sell my copy because I hated the sleeve so much--some kind of MC Escher thing going on with the perspective on the teeth in that gaping mouth.) Also, I think stiff actually put out a single by an old music hall singer named Max Wall.

    As for the RAR/RAC dichotomy, I agree that it's a false equivalency, probably deliberately created by the fascists in order to brand rational humans as communists. For what it's worth, according to Garry Bushell, the Business tour was actually called "Oi Against Racism and Political Extremism But Still Against The System." It included the Partisans, whom you should really do something on if you ever get around to the theme of bands who were slavishly obsessed with the Clash!

  11. That slev is wretched. While I can't remember much about the B-side, I have an obsession about that A-side,it's inexplicable.

    Yeah Max Wall was an old music hall guy (who covered an Ian Dury song!)

    That tour title sounds more fitting, I always counted the Business on the side of good, roughly speaking.

    I only know the Partisans from that old No Future comp ("17 Years of Hell" and "Police Story")
    From that little expereince, I always assumed they were archetypal UK 82 (Sham-meets-Motorhead kinda thing). Where they Clash obsessed?(if so I shall have to consider a post!)

  12. i met frankie 20 odd years ago at the goose and firkin what a legend, i now live abroad but will be in the uk soon is he still going and does anybody know where

  13. Thanks for the Frankie story.

    Check his MySpace page (linked in the post) to find out about Superyob (his Oi! band) and his solo piano tours. Frankie is still going!

  14. i swear, can't have a convo about oi without racism creeping in the convo, frankie flame said it best about oi!...."if you haven't gotten it yet, quit trying". oi ain't dead and it ain't racist.nuff said

  15. Anon
    I can pretty much agree with that but there ARE racist bands associated with the genre, so I like to make sure I'm not supporting the boneheads.

  16. Is this the same guy who use to play piano at the Goose and Firkin in 1987-1988

  17. Yes I am that very same Franky Flame who rattled the ivories at the legendary Goose and Firkin yonks ago... I'm still playing solo knees up shows and of course singing in Superyob! Contact me on facebook if you feel like

    Cheers all, Franky aka The Wizard Of Oi! lol


Thanks for clicking the COMMENTS link.
Now that you're here,I should mentions that
without reader feedback blogs slowly wither and die