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Billy Childish

Few could have expected that a painfully dyslexic child by the name of Stephen Hamper living in an unglamorous English port town in the '60s would grow up to become one of the most independent, charismatic, and prolific characters ever to pick up a guitar. It seemed even less likely when, after finishing high school in the mid-'70s, Hamper entered the naval dockyard there to become a stonemason's apprentice. But he was unable to settle down and soon departed for nearby Canterbury, where he adopted the pseudonym Billy Childish and started his first band, the mod-inspired proto-punk Pop Rivets.

A little over 20 years later, he's become veritable legend to independent musicians and artists the world over. He has played in numerous bands, including The Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, and of course, Thee Headcoats, and issued countless recordings. In his spare time, he's authored novels and books of poetry, painted, painted, written criticism, and edited fanzines. Apparently no one ever told him to pick a career and stick with it -- or if they did, he wasn't listening. And apparently, given the extraordinary volume of his output, he's one of those rare individuals who don't require sleep.

Part of the reason Childish has been able to record so much material over the years (more than 60 albums over the last two decades) is that he's utterly uninterested in polish, finesse, and technical sophistication. What he's interested in are the raw, wounded passions and lurid emotions that shape all human beings, and he seems to have uniquely direct access to his own. For that reason it seems natural that he's consistently been drawn to blues and punk, perhaps the two most visceral styles of popular music.

In addition to his many efforts with his various groups, Childish has put out nearly 20 albums under his own name. The essential Childish collection, 1999's Crimes Against Music: Blues Recordings 1986-99, includes songs from many of these, as well as a few previously unreleased gems. The featured "I've Got Everything" originally appeared on the 1987 LP I've Got Everything Indeed.