Little Annie (the artist formerly known as Annie Anxiety) has been a part of the extended Southern family from the very beginning. Having encountered Crass in NYC at the fag-end of the Seventies, she was entranced enough by Steve Ignorant’s tales of life in the communal Crass home of Dial House that she upped sticks to move across the pond and become part of their clan – gigging with them and writing lyrics for some of their songs including the seminal feminist punk anthem “Shaved Women”. (Read part of the storyhere.)
A decade or so later she was living in the garden of On-U Sound mastermind Adrian Sherwood’s East Ham home and making records with the On-U posse. In 1992 she released the album Short And Sweet on the On-U Sound label. It included this song, “Bless Those” aka “Little Annie’s Prayer”, in which Annie bestows benedictions upon all of society’s outcasts – the ad men and jazz men, boxers and bankers, the glamourous, dangerous formless and spineless…
If the tune sounds familiar, it may be because it was notably recorded by Living Colour (whose ranks included On-U compadre Doug Wimbish, a co-writer of the song).
We still prefer Annie’s version, and the hint of mischief in her voice when she croons “…and those that could go either way”.
With World Aids Day around the corner, Little Annie aptly releases a video for one of the most powerful, sentimental and alluring album tracks on Genderful, Billy Martin Requiem.
December 1 marks the 22nd annual World AIDS Day, and while there is still no “cure” for or viable vaccine against HIV, the positive strides made battling the virus over the last few years are undeniable. New drugs are making what was a death sentence now a manageable – if serious and chronic – condition. Generic versions of these medications, along with ambitious public health policies are helping make real inroads against the disease in the developing world. There is space for much optimism this year. But what’s lost sometimes with the good news is a space to contemplate what has been lost to us – irrevocably. The talent unrealized, the creativity and vitality extinguished, the knowledge and experience that won’t be passed on to new generations – this was and continues to be the fall out from the AIDS epidemic.
Which brings us to Little Annie and her song/video “Billy Martin Requiem”. This astonishing track – from Genderful, her collaboration with Paul Wallfisch (Southern Records) – is perhaps the most New York centered selection on this most NYCentric collection. It is a song that Annie says she has been trying to write for years. For how does one address the catastrophe of AIDS without falling prey to either to platitudes and cheap sentiment or to the black void of grief? If you’re Annie you do so with humor, compassion and most knowing sadness. She did, after all, see it all back in the day. She cut her teeth on the downtown music/art scene – back in the bad, old days of the late 1970’s when the Big Apple was a bankrupt, crime-ridden, graffiti-tagged Hell. (Unless of course you were an artist, a free spirit, a thinker and/or a gay man – in which case that Hell was Heaven.) And she was in the trenches of what she calls “the war”, and watched as – to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg – the best minds of a generation disappeared.
Over a sexy, loping groove Annie sets herself adrift on her own stream of consciousness – her mind flowing back to the day. Back to her youth in Yonkers – just north of The Bronx, back to Yankee Stadium – which her train would pass as she headed south and then back to Billy Martin, the Yankees’ ill-starred manager who would die in a drunk driving accident. “No they don’t make ‘em like Billy anymore”, sings Annie. From there she neatly segues to the male disco diva Sylvester, whose “high pitched call to glamour” was the soundtrack to her youth, to gay men God lead her to and so many of whom would be lost to AIDS. “And though it hurts like hell to say it, he was only one of millions. They don’t make them like Sylvester anymore” says Annie before launching in a role call of great artists lost to HIV. The song is elegant and simple and gently devastating
Danny McKernan’s video for “Billy Martin Requiem” is likewise elegant, simple and powerful – hearkening back to the days when promo clips where about the happy collision of a great song, a charismatic performer and film maker with a vision, as opposed to the bloated/vacant visual intravaganzas our eyes/ears are more often than not subjected to these days.
Both the song and the video gently ask the audience to never forget what is missing from this world due to HIV, and to remember the brilliance that has passed from our midst.
Annie in “New York I Knew You Well #1: The Bowery”
Ladies and Gentlemen, Annie is back!
A bon vivant born and raised in the Big Apple, Little Annie has commenced an impromptu, digital walking tour of the city that saved her life/damaged her irrevocably and ultimately inspired her music. What follows is a foretaste of Little Annie’s ongoing video guerrilla diary chronicling a history of NYC and she. You can find instalments #1, #2 and #3 of the seriesNew York I Knew You Well on theSouthern Records YouTube channel where the rest of the series will be hosted.
Annie’s comments on how things have changed/stayed the same/been radically transformed past any point of recognisability in her hometown is the perfect visual companion to her recent album, in collaboration with Mr. Paul Wallfisch,, Genderful (Southern Records).
Annie has just kicked off her European tour – where she is commencing a series of collaborative shows with the wondrousBaby Dee, with whom she has recently been writing and recording, to be followed by a guest support slot onMarc Almond’sforthcoming UK tour.
Here are the dates:
26 – The Crane Theatre, Cork IRELAND
29 – Small Beast @ Theater Cafe AM, Stadttheater, Dortmund GERMANY (with Paul Wallfisch)
30 – Malostranska Beseda, Prague CZECH REPUBLIC
31 – Rhiz, Vienna AUSTRIA)
1 – Unwound, Padova ITALY
2 – Kampnagel, Hamburg GERMANY
…Supporting Marc Almond, playing with Baby Dee
11 – Cliff’s Pavilion, Southend
12 – The Anvil, Basingstoke, Hampshire
13 – De La Warr Pavilion Marina, Bexhill On Sea, East Sussex
15 – St David’s Hall, Cardiff
19 – The Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
20 – The Lowry, Salford
22 – The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds
23 – The Picturehouse, Edinburgh
24 – The ABC, Glasgow
25 – The Sage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
28 – The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Stay tuned for more news, and if you want to purchase Genderful then you can do so via the Southern Records webshop. Thanks!
In which our guest blogger, Little Annie, regales us with tales from her unpublished biography. In this chapter, the little lady from New York travels far far away across the ocean to take up residence with a gang of British anarchist hippie punks called Crass. They call her “Annie Anxiety”.
TEETERING DOWN the single file country ‘road’ that snaked its way to Crass’ Epping Forest home in my faux Frederick’s of Hollywood stilettos and dragging my equally glitzy chi-chi drag behind me, I may not have been the quintessential ugly American, but I was definitely the quintessential inappropriately dressed one. As the country lane turned into a path through a mud-slicked cow yard, I couldn’t help but wonder where this incredibly hip-and-happening second English Explosion Jammy Wonderland that all the knuckleheads back in New York were always yapping about was. Just as I was figuring that I was the butt of a very expensive and complicated episode of Candid Camera, the smoky-eyed, Jean Seberg-cropped Crass vocalist, Eve Libertine, drove up and rescued my quintessential daft ass. As we pulled up to the sixteenth-century former labourer’s cottage in Eve’s old blue Mini, its soft beauty knocked me out. Some members of Crass had found this once uninhabitable wreck many years ago, seen its potential and rented it from the farmer, who thought they were crazy, hence the ridiculously affordable rent. Hard work had turned this crumbling structure into a House and Garden – worthy Zen dream, and one that was more or less obscured by beautiful lush vegetation. Inside was equally impressive, immaculately clean and lovingly handcrafted. It was paradise, except for one little thing – it was in the country.
I had believed from the conversations with Steve (Ignorant) I had back in New York that they all lived in some sort of English version of the projects. In one of his letters, he had spoken of everyone sitting around in the garden. I just assumed he had meant a vacant lot or basketball court. I mean this was rural with a capital W, and I’m just not down with the country groove. It scares the hell outta me. Country life is all about the natural order: the cyclical process of growth and decay, sowing and harvest, waxing and waning. Children raised in rural areas grow with a firm comprehension of birth and death. City children have no such acceptance. We beat death by aspiring toward immortality by becoming drug addicts, boxers and movie stars. Continue reading →