William Charlie Hamper, aka Billy Childish, is reputed to have recorded over 120 LP’s during his 35-year career. As if that’s not enough to be getting on with, he’s also painted 2,000 odd paintings, written 4 novels & penned 40 plus collections of his poetry.
Billy Childish was born in 1959 in Chatham, Kent; Childish left secondary education at 16, an undiagnosed dyslexic. Being denied entry to his local art-school, he began work as an apprentice stonemason at Chatham Naval Dockyard.
During his 6 months on the job (the only employment he has experienced in his 49 years) he produced 600 drawings in the “tea huts of hell”. This portfolio eventually earned him a place at St Martin’s School of Art studying painting. Unfortunately, due to his outspoken views & rude writing, he was expelled shortly afterwards and lived on the dole for 15 years. Childish has continued to paint, write and make music independently ever since.
Billy formed his first band, The Pop Rivets, in response to the Punk Rock explosion of 1977. Already a big fan of 50’s r’n‘r and English r’n‘b, a combination of alcohol & boredom inspired him & his cohorts, Bruce(gtr), Big Russ (bass) & Little Russ (drums), to embrace the new creed, Childish, unable to play an instrument, took the vocal duties. They soon established a modus operandi; small gigs for little or no money, then borrowed 300 quid from a friend’s Social Security back pay & set about recording their now legendary “Greatest Hits” LP. The band played gigs in Switzerland & Germany & recorded a 2nd LP, “Empty Sounds From Anarchy Ranch” + two EP¹s before splitting up in 1980.
Next Billy learned a few chords and joined up with his mate Mickey to form The Milkshakes, shortly followed by Thee Mighty Caesars, Thee Headcoats and The Buff Medways. Never veering far from the path of homemade punk rock/rock ‘n’ roll, Childish is the epitome of the homemade ethic, making music because he likes it.
Childish bands have been championed by a succession of fashionable artists: Kurt Cobain, Beck, Jack White (who appeared on TOTP’s with Billy’s name scrawled on his forearm after the BBC refused to let them have Billy paint live on stage with them during their performance, and even Kylie Minogue named an LP after one of Billy Poetry Collections.
A few years ago, Billy turned down a fee + the chance to win £50,000 on Celebrity Big Brother, after putting the offer to an audience vote at a show in north London. The audience said no, though it was Childish who decided the ballot. Childish has the integrity & patience to wait for his recognition. Neophytes & long term admirers are welcomed in equal measure because in the grand scheme of things, Billy Childish isn’t going anywhere. He’s new band The Musicians of The British Empire are a chip off the old block, expert in their basicness. Billy will continue to be an inspiration to each new generation who want to hear the real thing, done with heart.
Billy’s most recent bands include THE SPARTAN DREGGS, The Musicians Of The British Empire, their latest album is ‘Thatcher’s Children’ & The Chatham Singers (Who have their second album, ‘JuJu Claudius’ came out on DG in 2009).
As you can see we’ve been working with Billy since 1990 with our first release, a split 7” with Thee Headcoats & Thee Headcoatees and since then we’ve released more than our fair share of his albums including a couple of great compilations worth checking out if you’re new to his music. These are…
Damgood 335 is ‘Archive From 1959’ a 50+ song double CD/triple vinyl featuring tracks from all his bands as well as rare solo stuff as well.
Damgood 178 is a double CD of all Thee Headcoats singles. ‘Elementary Headcoats’
And the most recent release…Damgood 313 ‘Thatchers Children’
Also look out for collaborations with Sexton Ming on Damgood 159 and 208, they’ve been working together since 1979 writing poetry, playing music and painting pictures together when they formed Phyroid Press. Their work together, documented by several LP’s and 25 small press publications, is inspired by the early Dadaists, Edward Lear, Captain Beefheart and the literature of the absurd.The Guardian described their material as ‘An authentic output of creative play’. Billy and Sexton describe it as ‘A smoking chimney stack that falls over and crushes your wife and kids’. Curiously both are true.
Their latest and last album is just out now, 21st May 2012 ‘Dung Beetle Rolls Again’ on LP only. BUY IT HERE
Here’s a few press quotes…
BILLY CHILDISH is…
“a seething, dyslexic, better-looking British Bukowski”
“the most garage and most punk rocker alive”
“a musician, artist, writer, and rabble-rouser”
DAZED & CONFUSED
“The three Medways crank out almost unbearably perfect early rock’n‘roll”
You can find out more about Billy on his own website ‘www.billychildish.com’