Song of the day: BANG BANG MACHINE – 16 Years (1992)

Today’s conviction of Ronald Castree for the murder of eleven year old Lesley Molseed in Rochdale in 1975 brought the close to one of the most shameful episodes in modern British legal history. In 1976, an Inland Revenue clerk with the mental age of twelve was convicted of Lesley’s murder despite the lack of any clear evidence that linked him to the crime, aside from a confession made under duress. For sixteen years Stefan Kiszko was imprisoned before being freed and formally declared innocent in February 1992. One thing that never came out in the trial was the fact that due to a condition called hypogonadism (which meant that Kiszko had an extra Y chromosome), he was impotent. Lord Chief Justice Lane said “It has been shown that this man cannot produce sperm. This man cannot have been the person responsible for ejaculating over the girl’s knickers and skirt, and consequently cannot have been the murderer”. There was no happy ending. Kiszko developed serious mental problems in prison, and was a virtual recluse after his release. He died of a heart attack just before Christmas 1993, aged 41. DNA evidence, unavailable in the 1970s, was conclusive in achieving Castree’s conviction, 32 years after his crime. There is more detail on the case here, and there was a book published called Innocents: How Justice Failed Stefan Kiszko and Lesley Molseed (Fourth Estate, 1997) by Jonathan Rose, Steve Panter and Trevor Wilkinson.

This is a music blog, and the Bang Bang Machine track “16 Years” is topical as it was specifically written about Kiszko’s case. The group, from Evesham in Worcestershire, came to prominence with the fantastic single “Geek Love”, released on their own label and a 1992 John Peel Festive Fifty number one. It was a ten minute tour de force, inspired by (and using dialogue from) Tod Browning’s classic 1930s circus horror Freaks. Unfortunately, it proved to be a bit of a millstone. They did two albums and released a slew of singles, but never really attracted anything more than a small cult audience. It was the era of Britpop, Oasis and thuggish ‘authenticity’. BBM were too dancy for the indie crowd, too indie for the dance crowd, and too Gothy for either. Their records were a bit inconsistent, but at their best (“Show Me Your Pain”, “Technologica” and an awesome cover of Jane’s Addiction’s “Jayne Says”) they made music as good as any of the period.

“16 Years” first appeared on the Evil Circus EP, the follow up to “Geek Love”. Perhaps it was a foolish move following one ten minute epic with another – it was bound to invite comparisons. In some ways “16 Years” is the debut record’s awkward little brother. It has the same shuffling rhythm and epic construction. But it is, nevertheless, a superb track with a sterling vocal by Elizabeth Freeth and great guitar work by Steve Eagles. I sense that a Bang Bang Machine revival may be due on the back of the revival of all things shoegazy. Amazon’s secondhand prices for all of the out of print records are pretty healthy, if that’s anything to go by. “16 Years” was rerecorded for inclusion on the album Eternal Happiness.

Expressed his sympathy
Though someone killed her
A human empathy
Though someone killed her

My heart goes out to the man
My heart goes out to the man
To lose your life like that is said

Somewhere is the man
Who killed her sister
Somewhere is the man
Who killed their daughter

Grim satisfaction, 16 years ago
Grim satisfaction, 16 years ago
There’s naught for anyone’s comfort here

In a sense the absence of any political dimension makes it worse
What happened was without possible excuse
Broken by his experience, victim of a system which failed him
There’s naught for anyone’s comfort here
Still be there but for the luck of a single champion.

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2 responses to “Song of the day: BANG BANG MACHINE – 16 Years (1992)

  1. Pingback: The M M & M 1000 - part 1 « Music Musings and Miscellany

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