MARILYN: Afternoon Vivien.

Good to speak to you in Jamaica via Zoom.

So, why here?

 

VIVIEN: Jamaica has fabulous qualities, my old friends are here, I love the sea…….

 

MARILYN: What was it like growing up as the daughter of 1st generation German Jewish refugee’s in post WW2 London.

 

VIVIEN: Very intense, my family were outsiders, pushy and loud, clever but weird looking to the English, we were never WASPs like the English norm, like the parents and children of my manor in North West London.

We lived in flats in very much a German Jewish bubble but, I would still hear anti-semitic comments, people stared at us a lot, when the Windrush generation came, it sort of took the heat off us would you believe, but just for a bit!

As I grew up my Grannie from Frankfort and Uncle {the only two remaining relatives on my father’s side] had interesting evening talks about German Facism, Anti-semite persecution. I believe I have in common with all refugee’s, a famous phenomenon, an inherited trauma or genetic paranoia called G2 that you get from that era, I ticked a lot of the boxes, although your mind is filled with dread, on the other hand it means your always prepared for the worst!

I went to a Jewish primary School called The Minorah, it may still exist today, on the Hendon way. Later as a teenager I would go to a really old school German Cafe The Cosmo, in Swiss Cottage for the wonderful assortment of cakes, I’ve never seen cakes like them since and they were baked on the premises!

Later, I became a pupil at the Henrietta Barnet School in Hampstead Garden Suburb, the author Zadie Smith went there too amongst many other celebrated individuals.

 

MARILYN: What led you to your English and American degree choices?

 

VIVIEN: I wanted to be a journalist at a very early age, I chose English and History as those subjects appealed to me as a grounding for Journalism which I had become very interested in. I chose Warwick University because I perceived it as progressive and modern, it looked so groovy, and besides none of the other Uni’s I applied to would accept me!

My first tutor was a Miss Germaine Greer, who couldn’t have been more groovy, a feminist with opinions so avant garde and exciting, but, actually she never accepted me or my own feminist ideas, disapproving of me when the other professors really quite liked me. I had begun to appriciate Rock and Reggae music and started writing about political activists of which I considered myself one. I had after all an affinity with these guys!

I loved writing from a very early age so it worked out well for me.

The actor Sir Ian McKellen famously said, only be an actor if you want to give your life meaning, and only, if you cannot do anything else’ that is the only sensible reason to do it as not many actors get through, it felt as if it would be impossible to become a lady Journalist but, I deep down felt I could do this, even though there’s a lot of truth in what he said.

 

MARILYN: She first successfully published an article in 1974, which she regards as quite a feat, a young black music professor who she put on the front cover of New Musical Express a very unusual and risky thing to do in those days, just recently he has won a major literary prize, The Golden Pen Harold Pinter Award, the Poet Writer and Dub – Reggae musician Linton Kwesi Johnson, an incredible musical talent, “how proud he must be she says, he should feel just as I did when trying to infiltrate the media long ago when it was very hostile to the likes of him and me a woman.

Can you tell me more of your experiences as a PR Officer with Transatlantic and Island Records?

 

VIVIEN: People lapped my writing up, I had a marketing Kop meaning ’head’ in German/Yiddish, useful to sell myself, I worked first as PR at Transatlantic Label but for less than two years and met some amazing artists didn’t always meet them to write about them actually, for instance, I didn’t meet a female music artist, then in jail in Brazil for a coke bust hah ha, but wrote about her album profusely. I met, dealt with or wrote many articles for like minded Reggae music people and political activists, then got into the editing side together with guys like Jeff Travers and Daniel Mutto, as a female, this was an unique position at that time. A woman who came into the office one day was the widow of Victor Jara, a great political activist from Chile, he was tortured and murdered, it was a very intense moment for us all.

I was poached by Island records, as a student I used to listen to their Reggae sounds, and I started by editing sound there, I also moved to Ladbrooke Grove,  I lived on the route of the Notting Hill Carnival scene, so much exciting stuff was happening, their circulation spiralled up, I covered many areas and relevant artists. For a Jewish Female Journalist this was a fantastic opportunity in the 70s 80s!

There was a big backlash against Black artists though, the National Front supporters for one, so I was told I had to concentrate on white artists only. This episode is in my novel. The Revenge Of The She Punks…..so, I resigned! And went Freelance, and then and as I said before, was living in Ladbrooke Grove.

A fabulous priceless place where I met like minded artists, and I met and became well supported by followers of the Punk movement, the influence of early Reggae music was there, and more important and tangeable, also, the movement ‘Rock against Racism’ bound all of us together.

One of my most popular songs ‘Private Armies’ is all about this, and I quote the line….. Blood Everywhere, about a friend being beaten up by Skinheads in a political fracas, today it’s well known how much Reggae influenced early skinhead styles in those early days.

Jews in Punk, the challenges and Successes of working as a young Jewess on these major Publications.

 

VIVIEN:  I was asked to put a panel together by Jewish Book Week, I gathered together prominent Jews working in Punk, Jeff Travers founder of Ruff Trade, was formed on a Kibbutz in Israel, Daniel Miller father of Electronic Music, Toby Mott an artist I worked with who used to work with Jean Michel Sabastien, he had an incredible archive of music and Charles Sharr Murray music journalist for the New Musical Express and involved in writing on the satirical magazine Oz, we all worked together, all of these big names! And over the years, never really discussed the fact that we were Jewish, ever? But I remember, Charles told me his mother once scrubbed pavements in Vienna.

I was hugely aware of anti- Semitism, Fascism and very aware I was a Jew gal and that Jew’s assimilated heat, but at that time this new surge of heat was focused on the Asians, the Blacks and was off us, for once. I believe that the Fascism of the Black Shirts in the1930s may well be coming back today! But… in those days, unlike today, we would never have had to have armed guards outside Synagogues but, there was however a basic inbred British hostility to outsiders of any kind.

Unfortunately, given what Colonialism and what the Empire meant, ie: Slavery….. as a post holocaust Jew survivor I felt very much part of the premise of this new tapestry of Multiculturism.

 

MARILYN: You have A Close friendship bonding with Chrissie Hynde…

 

VIVIEN: Whilst working on New Musical Express, Chrissie and I met one day in the Island offices got talking and bonded, we are still life long pals even now.

We also mention each other in our respective books, she would visit more than once on Friday night Shabbat family dinners although not a Jewess.

I had rented rooms in those days, and she would crash them all the time as she couldn’t afford her own being an impoverished leader of a rock band.

She is a hysterically funny and witty woman with a cutting sardonic humour, I love her so much, as I hope she does me.

 

MARILYN: Big World Café Channel 4, tell me more…

 

VIVIEN: British TV in the 1970s was not representative of World Music, playing the same stuff for years so this was also an Expansionist moment. So here was my new specific role, pushing Reggae to the British public, my business partner invented this show, but I still kept my hand in Journalism.

In Paris for a year, I also started my own band ‘Shantage’ meaning Blackmail, this was a duo with my friend Ete Youin. But then life intervened again, this guy wanted me to go into live TV production, a company called Spellbound Pictures, we had amazing offices and offers, we were very successful, my old song ‘Launderette’, was chosen for a series that, and another  “Private Armies” was in the top 12 in the 70s UK music charts.

I was having so much fun with the likes of Adrian Sherwood and  Sex Pistol John Lydon, I named them my posee, I can today, if our paths cross, still look across a room at them and there’s a live wire connection although, they both hang with new people now.

 

MARILYN: What was your 1year sabbatical in Paris all about?

 

VIVIEN: I wrote articles on different French Punk Bands, had my own Duo, before that my band was The Flying Lizards as I said before. I sung Reggae as backup to them, and played too, it was fun, and my first ever Album is going to be re mastered and out again soon.

Also I was with the band ‘Killing Joke’ whose producer was part of the ORB, the progenitor or originator of Trance Music.

I’m performing now, still part of the She Punk generation, performing for the

first time since the 1970s…..

I was the journalist who wrote for the late Bob Marley. I was given the job of working strictly with him, not as his publicist as is sometimes said, I got close as a journalist with Azwad and BB King too, Bob stayed in touch after he went back to Jamaica and we wrote a musical together, it was on for 3 weeks in fringe theatres in the USA, and we actually got paid in those days. I have been very lucky to meet and work for these wonderful Artists. There are two Audio Books I wrote out there about The Making of Bob Marley.

Today we are seeing a real re-evaluation of him, a Marley quote, ‘Don’t judge me too harshly, who is the real Revolutionary‘.

 

Vivien Part 2:

 

MARILYN: Your Role as Punk Professor at BBC America…

 

VIVIEN: I was already called the ‘Punk Professor’, this was my job description and I initiated this, its been on going since 2005. I was asked to do a column for the BBC called that, and I’m still teaching and about to go online with a Bob Marley course, now.

It was important, and so arty and Boho, loved by the Lower Eastside fraternity in New York. I was working with Jason King, he was my mentor at that time. We agreed everything in music was very boring at that time. Oh the possibilities, Punk people need Punk so lets teach them, it’s important.

 

MARILYN: Your voice is very unique, and so are your records, but never romantic, always making a point about for instance, the state of the world, racism, corruption, a huge statement through Punk…

 

VIVIEN: I was King Creole and The Coconuts first biographer, and taught Bob Marley, and many African musicians, also in the past I taught Island records about Reggae, Dance Music and that you could trace it back to Jamaican Dub, I did Dub Nation.

I was teaching round the corner from David Bowie’s house in New York, I would bump into him now and again, he already looked quite unwell, but he was still walking the planet, I got hold of his office, and left some essays by my students, Bowie showed interest and responded by asking for some of them for his archives, he died shortly there after.

He was a gentleman. His right-hand man came to my course to collect them. David was a man who kept evolving, set high standards and met his own bar.  Bob Marley was of the same ilk, interestingly both masters of their own art by the end of their lives.

 

MARILYN: In your opinion are there any similarities between the Afro communities and Jewish people?

 

VIVIEN: Yes, definitely, and personally I was drawn to this idea by my music, Jews have so much in common with Rasta’s, dreadlocks, side locks, unlike the Christians, we have similar dietry practices as the Rasta’s, I was raised kosher, I wont eat pork, or bacon in public! Also Muslem’s don’t either interestingly enough. Afro –Carribean’s do.

The National front hit on us both, these new comers left the heat off of us Jews of course, but it was the struggle between good and evil coming around again, Jewish issues especially had this particular connection between Rasta’s,  with Asians, we have in common, a love of education and family, also we go together sharing the same dietry laws.

 

MARILYN: How did you become interested in Dub and Reggae music?

 

VIVIEN: Well, I worked at Island Records, there was an amazing, incredible social music scene as I explained before, also living near the carnival route, how could I not? I fitted right in. The 70s was a great time to be a music journalist, working with great bands such as Aswad and Steel Pulse and don’t forget The Slits.

 

MARILYN: What do you think about the BLM movement, and the latest protests across the world?

 

VIVIEN: When Marley said don’t judge me too harshly, well I’m saying I’m writing several books on this too. We are seeing a real re evaluation, Marley quote again, ‘who is the real Revolutionary‘

There is being seen a real change in toppling the  social structure, a long over due battle, a biblical epic, and it has to grow, its historically necessary, Marxist politics maybe infiltrating somewhat there, but there are worse politics than that, when you look at the state of the world. Karl Marx was overly ambitious, Im no expert, but what came out of the collapse of society, was things like sharing of values and of people’s work.

There are People who are loath to give up power and the components of it. Its financial the trickle down poverty theory, about poverty coming from the rich’s earnings, their hidden money in places like Switzerland, having no conscience is how most corrupt and powerful people can sleep at night.

 

MARILYN: What are the differences of the 1970s and 80s with the anti racism and music of that time?

 

VIVIEN: There is the same Separatism of the 70s and 80s vibe here today, the street protest stuff, from bottom up is what is now leading this movement, I’m very clear about this, here let me introduce Public Enemy, track D for you to play, is an end in itself, people feel a need to do these books now but I don’t stop there, we must work together and actually use each others difference’s, look at the limited resources now on the planet, the awful disruption of finances,  capitalism is unfair in every way.

Its so bad to preach American style racism, its now being exploited everywhere don’t you think, it tends to erupt and bubble not very far beneath the soil to say the least. It’s a very big sickness they have over there, Other countries like us have rubbed along for many a decade, trying to make allowances, and not exploit the toxic elements.

In my book Revenge of the She Punks I talk about that a lot, Black girl White girl. Here in Jamaica were all family, there is no Racism here!

 

MARILYN: What’s the future for you, Vivien The Punk Professor…..

 

VIVIEN: I’m ahead of the game, my early work defined my life, so now its time for me to write books, books and more books, my ‘Revenge of the She Punks’ has won book awards in many countries, so why not more!

 

MARILYN: And more is….

 

VIVIEN: Is…..I have a book about to come out!

Its entitled ‘Non Stop Throb’ how’s that for a good punk title, and, I am in the process of making a12” LP with the famous Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, Bass player, record producer and founding member of Killing Joke, he is also a member of the ‘Fireman’ along with Paul MaCartney, the working title is ‘Next is Now’

I’m also working on an art book coming out next year with Hat and Beard Press in LA, on Afro Beat Art with Lemi Ghariokwu, a legend for his designs on record sleeves for Nigerian Afro beat giant Fela Kuti.

And at present I am teaching an NYU course on Bob Marley.

 

MARILYN: Wow your busier than ever, thank you very much Vivien for enlightening me on your stunning career and taking the time with me, it’s ‘been a Blast’.

 

VIVIEN: No thank ‘you’ very much, as a result of these questions we’ve gone deeper!

Its been such fun talking to you Marilyn.

 

 

Interview and written by Marilyn Virginia

photos Ray Stevenson, David Corio and Pierre Bascle

 

 

Photographer: Ray Stevenson;  Photo: Susan Ballion aka Siouxsie Sioux (singer, songwriter, musician, record producer and lead singer of Siouxsie and The Banshees ), Vivienne Goldman, Steve Severin ( musician, producer, co-founder Siouxsie and The Banshees )

 

Photographer: David Corio; Photo: Vivien Goldman

 

 

Photographer Pierre Bascle; Interviewer Marilyn Virginia

 

ss Kim Grahame
Fashion Editor

10 Comments to: INTERVIEW WITH ‘PIONEERING GIRL ROCK SCRIBE’ VIVIEN GOLDMAN

  1. Avatar
    October 27th, 2020

    Thank you for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be
    waiting for your next write ups thank you once again.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    October 28th, 2020

    Fascinating stuff! Woud love to hear more about the Marley musical – mybe in her book….

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Fiona

    October 28th, 2020

    What a wonderful interview! Can’t wait for the book!

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    Susan Eskdale

    October 28th, 2020

    Really enjoyed finding out about Vivien, always has and is doing so many amazing things. Lots of avenues to explore further after reading this informative & diverse article.

    Reply
  5. Avatar

    Laurie

    October 29th, 2020

    Wonderful article! The interviewer asked all the right questions to open up the goldmine that is Vivien Goldman’s life! I’ll have to get the book now.

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Sally

    October 29th, 2020

    Wow excellent article. Just leaves me wanting more. Always loved the links between things, the influence and evolving where the magic happens

    Reply
  7. Avatar

    Stix

    October 29th, 2020

    Great article, great read

    Reply
  8. Avatar

    Andrew Massey

    October 31st, 2020

    I enjoyed this interview. It’s revealing and informative to walk through a particular slice of the music industry (via an interviewer) and see it through someone else’s eyes. Plenty of personal interest to lubricate the narrative too. [I’m assuming that ‘Travers’ of Ruff Trade is Geoff Travis of Rough Trade. He was a year above me at school.]

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Marilyn

      October 31st, 2020

      Andrew excuse mine and Viv’s spelling!😄

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    Anthony

    November 3rd, 2020

    Very entertaining and informative. A great interview. No more than I expected from my friend, M.

    Reply

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