Monday, April 29, 2013
All the punk gigs I went to from March 1977 to April 1980 (the story so far - bear with me)
I was living in Hastings and back in the day the pier was on the gig circuit (it's sadly closed now and falling to dilapidation) and I also used to bunk off school early to come over to Brighton when - would you believe it? - there was actually a 1.30am train back, so I could get to school the next day.
My only regret was not going to see the Pistols when they played the Pier in July '76. I was too scared because I'd just turned 15 and being a weird kid, I was always being verbally and occasionally physically attacked by older blokes, so it wasn't the Pistols I was scared of but the bloody greboes, as none of my schoolmates would go with me. Bastards. Oddly, I never got to see X-Ray Spex at all, and didn't see The Fall or Wire, a couple of my very favourite bands, until 1980.
Being a teenager in Hastings was a largely a miserable experience, so John Peel and the steady stream of bands coming to the Pier was a life-saver. Oddly, there was never any issue about being over 18 to get in (or even to drink, for that matter!) as there often is now.
26.3.77 The Stranglers/Eater, Hastings Pier
I recall this cost 75p! There were about 50 of us there and we were all a bit scared by Eater, with their nasty-looking 14 year old drummer, Dee Generate. Every time Andy Blade lurched to the front of the stage, we all shrank back a few feet, just in case. In case of what, I don't know. High Cornwell did a weird thing rubbing his throat to make a spurt of sick come out. Nice.
7.5.77 The Vibrators/ Sham 69, Hastings Pier
One of the very loudest gigs I've been to. 90p I think this one was. The Vibrators were god-awful C-List hippies who'd swapped their flares for skinny plastic trousers and got lucky for 5 minutes. I can't believe they've re-formed now. After Sham's set, Jimmy Pursey did some idiot dancing in the meagre audience then pretended to wee in his beer glass and drink it. We thought he really had.
21.5.77 The Damned/ Adverts, Hastings Pier
This was more like it. I loved The Damned, having heard their Peel session in '76 then 'Damned Damned Damned' being the first punk album out. After the horrors of Prog and the nadir of music from '75-'76, there was something so refreshingly exciting about a band whose songs clocked in at under two minutes, played at breakneck speed. I'd barely heard The Stooges at that point, so it was all rather new to me, and as I was into wearing black and dinner suits with brylcreemed hair (said I was a weird kid!) I became a bit of a juvenile Dave Vanian stalker and always loved Sensible's utter daftness too. Rat Scabies getting his willy out at every opportunity wasn't so pleasant though.
16.7.77 The Damned/ Auntie Pus/ Skrewdriver, Hastings Pier
Yes, you read that right - Skrewdriver. This was before they turned nazi, when they were a dumb-as-fuck bootboy band from Blackpool playing rubbish Rolling Stones covers at double speed. Auntie Pus was an Elvis Costello-lookalike who played guitar and sang a song about being "Halfway to Venezuela" which I still bloody remember. His main role seemed to be as a recipient of streams of gob and missiles. I wonder where he is now.
On the way to the gig with my friend Virginia, we were stopped by the police. She was wearing a binbag with real razor blades sellotaped to it, and they made her pull them all off. One early adopter of punk gigs in town was artist Laetitia Yhap, who had curly pink hair and always appeared with her then partner, fellow artist Jeffrey Camp. We always used to get rather excited when they arrived ("The old people are here") as we had a degree of consternation that they were so old they might get over-excited and have a heart attack, which of course neither did. Years later I re-met Laetitia and told her of our anxiety. Turned out she was in her thirties at the time! And I'm glad to say she's still alive and kicking, and still with pink hair.
I also have fond memories of Tracey Shipley, who had the hugest knockers and would wear just a string vest. Cripes, that was some sight when she was pogoing down the front.
By this time the 'straights' had picked up on punk so gigs were getting busier and buzzier. After every gig a rumour would spread that there were "a hundred Teds outside" ready to beat us up. There never were.
17 & 18.8.77 The Damned/ Adverts/ Fruit Eating Bears, London Sundown Club
2 nights in a row in a venue on Charing Cross Road which was still halfway to being built. The floors weren't installed, so you would find yourself pogoing in the throng, then falling into a concrete hole. Bizarrely jazz sax player Lol Coxhill joined them onstage, presaging his performance on the band's second (dire) album. I found a flicknife at one of the nights, which I kept for ages and was rather excited about.
The Fruit Eating Bears were ghastly pub rockers who did a song about wanking as presumably they thought that made them Punk Rock. Their only claim to fame was competing to be Britain's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of years later. They came last.
I loved The Adverts. They wrote brilliantly wordy and complex songs, waaay beyond their capacity to actually play the bloody things. TV Smith would spend each gig dripping with gob, Gaye standing coolly to one side, staring at her bass as if she was off her face on speed (I suspect she may have been) and cocking up every bassline. One Chord Wonnndeeerrrrsss! Oh yeah!
22.10.77 The Adverts/ Joe Cool and the Killers/ Wrist Action/ Plastix, Hastings Pier
Oh dear, a real C-List support lineup here. The Plastix were Hastings' own punk band, who had a track on a ghastly 'Live at the Vortex' compilation. They were fronted by Hastings 'bad boy' Huggy Lever, who later went on to form nouveau-mod band The Teenbeats (more of them later) then resurfaced in the film 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and a stint on 'Eastenders'.
29.10.77 The Stranglers/ The Dictators, Hastings Pier
By this time the whole world had caught on to punk and the gig was full - 800+ people bouncing up and down as one had the pier floor unnervingly bouncing too. I hated The Dictators, long-haired yank bullshitters who rode on the coat-tails of punk. I gobbed on the guitarist's hand so he stood on my face, which I suppose I deserved under the circumstances.
12.11.77 The Clash/ Richard Hell/ The Lous, Hastings Pier
Wow, this was a really exciting one. The Lous were a female French band, ok but not that special. I recall Richard Hell being given hell by the audience, presumably for the crime of Being American, and being arsey in return only made things worse. The Clash were amazing, high energy, dripping with sweat, Strummer spitting out the lyrics with passion and venom, the entire audience in one voice on the intro to 'City of the Dead' (the b-side to 'Complete Control' still two of my very favourite Clash songs). I was so excited I had to pogo all over the furniture in my parents' living room when I got home.
30.11.77 The Damned/ Dead Boys, Brighton Polytechnic (Moulsecoombe)
Oh dear. This was The Damned at their nadir. 'Music For Pleasure' was an appalling album, rubbish weak tuneless songs, shabby production from Nick Mason. You know a band's lost direction when they get someone from Pink Bloody Floyd to produce them. Stiv Bators did his best to inject some energy into the proceedings, writhing inside the bass drum, but it was generally a feeble affair.
I recall the Captain smelt rather agreeable, so I asked him what he smelled of. "Egg roll, booze and snot" came the reply. To this day, if someone mentions something smelling nice, those words always come to my mind.
4.2.78 The Lurkers/ Crabs/ Plastix, Hastings Pier
The Lurkers were pretty poor sub-Ramones C-Listers, who released their singles in desperate marketing ploys such as pressing them in red, white and blue versions, and with 4 different picture sleeves, or a gold flexi-disc. Yes, I bought all the bloody things. I recall The Crabs were as creatively and musically suspect as their piss-poor name. As for the Plastix, see above and Teenbeats below.
8.3.78 Buzzcocks/ Slits, Brighton Top Rank
Now, I don't think this was the infamous 'riot' gig, or if it was, I'd gone for the train by the time it kicked off. Someone else will know. This was before the Slits had become Dennis Bovell-ised, so they were still at their Peel session-era raucous best. As we queued outside the gig, the band came out the side door like terrifying tykes, hair akimbo and knickers over their jeans, and we watched in amusement as they went to the steak house over the road (above what was/ became Swifts) and were rapidly ejected by the staff, to be followed by ejection from all the other nearby eateries in West Street. Pete Shelley wore a badge onstage which said "I Like Boys".
18.3.78 (Eddie and the Hot) Rods/ Radio Stars/ Squeeze, Hastings Pier
Eddie and the Hot Rods were fortunate to get a career piggy-back from punk but they were really only part of the pub rock/ white male r'n'b scene of the mid-70s (Dr Feelgood, Kilburn & The Highroads, Count Bishops, Hammersmith Gorillas) and achieved an element of notoriety when fans ripped out the seats at a London Rainbow gig; their 1976 album 'Teenage Depression' without doubt has one of the finest album covers of all time but unfortunately the contents didn't live up to it.
Slimming their name down to The Rods (to escape their pub rock associations?) they at least released the anthemic new wave (rather than punk) song 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' in '77.
Radio Stars were another dodgy pub rock bunch, but with a poppier edge and tried to acquire some punk credentials with songs like 'Dirty Pictures'. Lead singer Andy Ellison had been in original 60s mod band John's Children (with Marc Bolan) and was trying to re-invent himself as a punk, with varying degrees of failure. However, he was renowned for a daredevil live show, and climbing on the speaker stack, managed to shove his head through the ceiling and I think was hospitalised for his troubles.
Squeeze were the new boys, having released their debut EP 'Packet of Three' and their first album coming out around this time. Jools Holland managed to resist the temptation to play bloody boogie-woogie piano over the other two bands' sets.
2.4.78 Doctors of Madness/ Johnny Warman, London Marquee
Another not-punk band who managed to get in on the act, the Doctors of Madness were a post-glam/prog group with spacious sweeps of electric violin and Burroughsian lyrics containing copious references to drugs and sex, most of which were lost on me at the time (I could never figure out why anyone would have a load of 'snow' in their head or their "breakfast on a mirror with a blade"). Fronted by the quoteworthy Richard Strange (more of him later) the Doctors had a punkish single 'Bulletin' out in '77, and by this point The Damned were imploding, prompting Vanian to take on a stint as a co-vocalist, hence my interest in the band.
Actually co-vocalist was probably a bit generous: he'd come on about three songs in, growling and staggering a bit, drawl along for a couple then stagger off again, but I was happy. During this gig Vanian jumped off the speaker stack and landed on my forearm; rather than wash off the black footprint, I displayed it proudly to my friends until it went of its own accord after a few days. Johnny Warman? Dia-bloody-bolical. More pub rock. Begone!
8.4.78 The Damned/ Soft Boys/ Johnny Moped/ Prof and the Profettes, London Rainbow
The Damned's first (of many) farewell gigs. Jon Moss (formerly of the band London, later to become Boy George's boyfriend and drummer in Culture Club) had replaced Scabies by now. The gig was a manic mosh, the band playing hard and furiously, to be joined by Scabies a few numbers in and Lol Coxhill again for 'You Know', ending with the obligatory trashing of the gear.
I don't remember what the Soft Boys were like at all, though I did subsequently see them headlining at the Hope & Anchor, maybe in 1980. Johnny Moped and Prof were mates of Sensible's and I recall them being pretty shite.
16.4.78 Doctors of Madness/ Johnnny Warman, London Marquee
Again? Blimey. I loved the Marquee in Wardour Street - the stink of stale beer and fags, the sticky floors, the sweat, being able to see right up the noses of the performers. And always a chance to go to Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, a sci-fi shop up a nearby back alley which stocked ZigZag, Sniffin' Glue, Ripped & Torn and the finest selection of punk badges.
13.5.78 Doctors of Madness/ Roger the Cat, London Nashville
Not sure if Vanian was still singing with them at this point. The Nashville was a grotty pub venue in West London... and who the hell were Roger the Cat?
6.5.78 Here & Now/ Alternative TV, Kent Canterbury University
An open-air afternoon gig. Here & Now had some kind of Hawkwind connection with all the attendant hippy tendencies, who shared a ghastly split album with ATV. Mark Perry was of course a Punk Rock Hero but I fear the hideous barefoot hippiness of this whole event left me with a tarnished image of ATV.
16.7.78 Magazine/ Zones, Canterbury Odeon
The Zones were a Scottish band featuring members of former mid-70s teenybop band Slik, again a bunch of losers trying to reinvent themselves off the back of punk. Magazine were superb: their debut album was out about this time, 'Shot By Both Sides' was one of the finest post-punk singles. Devoto was amazing, climbing his peculiar mic stand-cum-ladder affair (Julian Cope later used a similar prop), sneering out the lyrics and prowling the stage.
20.8.78 Ultravox/ L-7; 21, 22, 23.8.78 Ultravox/ Angletrax, London Marquee
I absolutely loved Ultravox. I'd like to point out that this was the original lineup with John Foxx on vocals for the first three albums, the band only finding commercial success when ex-Slik vocalist Midge Bloody Ure joined them. I thought John Foxx was gorgeous and slightly androgynous, and in my teenage angst I was drawn to his lyrics of alienation, sexual ambiguity, drug-fuelled dissipation and walking rainy streets in moody overcoats - pretty much how my life turned out in the end as it happens (I wish). Again, a band coming in on the back of punk, they were nevertheless hugely influential on acts like Simple Minds and Gary Numan, and had that good old electric violin too.
Yes, I went four nights on the trot with my mate Walnut and these were some of the sweatiest gigs I've been to in my life. Hanging around Wardour St for a glimpse of our hero pre-gig, on the last night night Foxx recognised us for being there at the front of every gig and put us on the guest list. Thanks! They were still playing tracks from their guitar-based first two albums, but were moving toward the synthier sound of 'Systems of Romance'. All amazing gigs.
As far as support bands went, L-7 were not to be confused with the female grunge band of a few years later and were totally nondescript, and Angletrax did a herky-jerky post-punk thing with a female singer who sang a song about anorexia which involved a lot of shrieking. Three nights on the trot got a bit wearing.
24.8.78 Punishment of Luxury/ Very, Very Nervous, London Nashville
Punilux were a theatrical jerky post-punk band whose single 'Puppet Life' had been played heavily by Peel. I must dig it out and play it as I suspect it's probably unlistenable.
2.9.78 Tanz Der Youth/ Plain Characters, London Nashville
Brian James' pretty poor post-Damned band dabbling in a 'Nuggets' style psychedelic sound. Plain Characters were as memorable as their name. Who?
5.9.78 The Doomed/ Softies/ Rudi, London Electric Ballroom
And so The Damned re-surfaced with Sensible now on guitar, and Lemmy guesting on bass for this gig. Back in action with some fresh songs and a renewed energy, this was an amazing gig. The Softies were the Dutch equivalent of a pub rock band, and Northern Ireland's Rudi had garnered a fair bit of airplay for their first Good Vibrations single 'Big Time'.
20.10.78 The Doomed/ Molesters/ Smeggy & The Cheesy Bits, Sussex University
My loyalty to the Damned meant I forewent Siouxsie's gig on Hastings Pier that night (though I've still got the poster from the gig somewhere). Support from two Brighton bands, the Molesters (shite name) had a couple of quite cute female vocalists, and the diabolical Smeggy went on to form King Kurt.
26.10.78 Doctors of Madness/ Cabaret Voltaire, London Music Machine
I hated the Music Machine. It had probably been quite suitable as a late Victorian/ early Edwardian music hall but as a sprawling gig venue I found it militated against the intimacy I enjoyed of small gigs by virtue of its ridiculously high stage which meant you either had to crane your neck uncomfortably or retreat to a distant balcony to get a better view. It later reinvented itself as New Romantic venue Camden Palace, and is now Koko.
Cabaret Voltaire were suitably noisy and I have a feeling this was the last ever Doctors of Madness gig, accompanied by Vanian and TV Smith (who'd co-written some songs with Richard Strange) on occasional vocal duties. A very pissed Captain Sensible invaded the stage momentarily to do some push-ups for no apparently good reason.
29.10.78 The Doomed/ Snivelling Shits/ Cowards, Croydon Greyhound
Another hideous venue, this time like a soul-less sports hall. The Cowards were Sensible's brother and mates, and pretty shite too. Snivelling Shits were fronted by Sounds journalist Giovanni Dadomo and were a comedy punk band, though I love their single 'Terminal Stupid' for its spoof Rottenisms.
3.11.78 Buzzcocks/ Subway Sect, Canterbury Odeon
Buzzcocks superb as ever; Subway Sect noisy and jangly.
10.11.78 Siouxsie & The Banshees, Spizz Oil, Human League, Canterbury Odeon
Weirdly the first time I managed to see the Banshees, and in their original 'The Scream' lineup. Spizz had a certain charm in this, his first incarnation, but I was excited to see the Human League as I already loved 'Being Boiled' and was into bands using electronics with a punk attitude (the League, Cabaret Voltaire and a bit later The Normal and Throbbing Gristle) as an antidote to the prog vileness of Tangerine Dream et al (OK, I'd not really heard Can at that point, but I was already a fan of Kraftwerk). The League's performance was truly multi-media, with slide projections on two screens behind them; terribly technologically primitive of course, but I'd not seen anything like that before so it was a bit exciting.
14.11.78 Rezillos/ Undertones/ Joy Division, Canterbury Odeon
How's this for a lineup? I didn't catch Joy Division's name but recognised tracks from 'An Ideal for Living' which had been played by Peel. I think they were barely known down south but I was captivated by the bass and drum-heavy sound, and Ian Curtis' manic dancing. Really exciting.
The Undertones were lovely, and I had my copy of 'Teenage Kicks' on Good Vibrations with its fold-out A4 photocopied sleeve with me, which I got Eugene Reynolds from the Rezillos to autograph, probably rendering it worthless. Lucky I'm not selling it. Faye Fife looked gorgeous in a yellow PVC mini skirt and when Walnut and I blagged backstage afterwards and she said "Oooh, I saw you down the front," I thought I was going to die.
7.12.78 The Jam/ The Cure/ Patrik Fitzgerald, Canterbury University
I'd missed The Jam in '77 on Hastings Pier due to Damned-following duties I think, so this was the first time I'd seen them, and the time of 'All Mod Cons'. They were tight and powerful, and I thought Rick Buckler the coolest drummer ever, making it look so easy while bashing it out. This was vein-popping sweat-pouringly good.
I loved Patrik Fitzgerald's 'Safety Pin Stuck in my Heart' but was really impressed by The Cure. Pre-lipstick, daft hair and goth, 'Killing an Arab' was just/ imminently out, and they wore anoraks and had a shy charm, songs like '10.15 Saturday Night' and 'Arab' really standing out.
10.12.78 Ultravox/ Snips/ The Skids/ Angletrax, London Lyceum
Angletrax were tolerable despite the screeching, don't remember Snips at all, but who could forget Richard Jobson's ridiculous dancing in the Skids? I had their first EP and for some reason really liked them, though I think they were pretty much pretentious rubbish by now.
Ultravox were amazing - possibly even better than at the Marquee. They were showcasing their new electro direction for 'Systems of Romance' and John Foxx was in fine voice.
14.12.78 Adverts/ The Innocents/ Drill, London Music Machine
No matter how much I hated the Music Machine, I kept ending up going to gigs there. Not a clue who the support bands were.
21.12.78 The Clash/ The Slits/ The Innocents, Hastings Pier
Can this have been the first decent gig on the Pier since March? Seems odd. Those Innocents popped up again and still I don't remember them. Once again bouncing round down the front, loved the Slits for their don't-give-a-fuck chaotic charm.
23.12.78 The Doomed/ Rods/ Waldo and the Wimps, London Electric Ballroom
Waldo and the Wimps seem to have been lost in the mists of time, which is probably a blessing judging by their name. This was the gig that saw the Damned return to form with new songs which would form the basis of 'Machine Gun Etiquette', giving away a free 7" white label of 'Love Song'/ 'Burglar'. Yes of course I've still got it!
26.12.78 Ultravox/ Patrik Fitzgerald, London Marquee
Weird choice for Patrick Fitzgerald as a support. I loved the material from the new electronic direction of 'Systems of Romance'. Walnut and I were always terrible liggers (does anyone use that word any more?) and we hung around backstage in the grotty Marquee tunnel-like dressing room, covered in graffiti and stinking of sweat and beer (us and the dressing rooms). Seem to recall John Foxx had a rather gorgeous willowy girlfriend who we were a bit jealous of.
30.12.78 Elvis Costello/ Richard Hell/ John Cooper Clarke, Canterbury Odeon
I liked John Cooper Clarke a lot but I think this was the only time I got to see him. Elvis was on crackling form, and this was the time he used to do his 'breaking down' schtick during 'Alison' when he'd pretend to lose it and run offstage.
6.1.79 The Damned/ Rockpile, London Venue (Victoria)
The Damned reverted to their proper name, showcasing the new songs from 'MGE'. Support from pub rocker Dave Edmunds. Horrible venue, too big and impersonal. Now demolished.
14.1.79 The Damned/ Heroes, Crowdon Greyhound
You'd think I was sick of them by now, wouldn't you? Don't recall the Heroes at all.
16.2.79 The Piranhas/ Teen Beats/ Stunshot, Hastings Carlisle
Brighton comedy jangly-ska band with support from Huggy Lever (ex-Plastix)'s neo-mod band The Teenbeats. They played a fearsome live set, and although they were lacking any great musical originality, Huggy was a charismatic and energetic frontman and they were always entertaining. I think this might have been their debut gig, and I'm not sure if it was this Carlisle gig or a later one where Ken played guitar so fast and hard his hand bled impressively. Don't remember Stunshot.
14.4.78 UK Subs/ Teen Beats/ 4th Reich, Hastings Pier
The Subs were always a 3rd division punk band, some quite good tunes but they were so bloody old and fat. 4th Reich had a ghastly name and a sound to match.
22.4.79 The Damned/ Auntie Pus/ The Nips, Croydon Greyhound
Notable support from The Nips, who'd changed their name from the charming Nipple Erectors and were the proto-rockabilly band fronted by Shane Macgowan.
3.5.79 Magazine/ Simple Minds, Canterbury Odeon
Another amazing outing from Magazine, this time showcasing songs from 'Secondhand Daylight', a much overlooked album for a reason I can't fathom as it's brilliant. Simple Minds were just starting out, and I became a bit of a fan. Jim Kerr learned everything he knew from Devoto until he stopped copying him and decided he wanted to be fucking Bono instead.
21.5.79 Kleenex/ Raincoats/ Spizz Energi, Canterbury Art College
This was a real goodie. Spizz's third incarnation, raw, angular and energetic, pre-"Captain Kirk"; The Raincoats ramshackle, jangly and shouty, and Kleenex, three moody Swiss women whom I couldn't resist for their chugging pop and "ee-ee" punctuations in their songs. Kleenex later became Lilliput after legal threats from the tissue company (like you'd mistake a Swiss female punk band going "ee-ee" for a snotrag) but their first two singles as Kleenex were always my favourites.
25.5.79 Nicky & The Dots/ Rampage/ Teen Beats/ The Same, Hastings Carlisle
Don't remember Rampage or the Same. Nicky & the Dots were a Brighton 'Vaultage'-era band; much more pop than punk.
9.6.79 Purple Hearts/ Fixations/ Teen Beats/ Scooters/ The Lambrettas, Hastings Pier
Now all the punks and skins had acquired parkas and an inane chant of "We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, we are the mods" to accompany smashing the windows down Robertson Street after the gig. This, The Lambrettas' first outing was competent if shy; don't remember the Fixations or Scooters (now there's a shit name). The Purple Hearts made a name for their sharp suits, gobby frontman and pretentions at being the spokesmen for the mod generation. The Purple Hearts and the Teen Beats had a certain punkish energy and I recall this was one of the Teen Beats' best showings.
28.7.79 UK Subs/ Cyanide/ Security Risk/ The Names, Ashford Stour Centre
This gig was vile. Along with the rise of the mods, this was also the era of nazi skins - and this gig was over-run with them. In a hideous sports centre, they sieg-heiled their way through the bands, fighting and thumping anyone in their way. Pretty vile. I don'r remember The Names, but Security Risk were a female-fronted punk band, Cyanide a proto-oi band who were all pretty crap. The Subs did their best in the face of the hostile crowd but Walnut and I left before the end as the aggressive atmosphere was intolerable.
28.9.79 Gary Numan/ Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Hammersmith Odeon
5.10.79 Gary Numan/ OMD, Brighton Dome
Did I really go and see Gary Numan twice in a week? Obviously. Actually I quite liked him. "Are 'Friends' Electric?" had already been a hit, I had the two Tubeway Army albums and I rather liked his Burroughs/ Bowie rip-off and androgyny. Yes I know he's a plonker but I didn't know at the time. OMD were fun, they'd only had "Electricity" out so far, which I had, but I remember they also played "Red Frame/ White Light" (a song about a phonebox fer christ's sake!) but I'm not sure what else.
OK, there's more to come later when I find my diaries: lots of Bauhaus, The Birthday Party at Jenkinson's in Brighton... but that's for another day.
I like the story about P. Shelley's badge & also Captain's snot & invasion on a Dr of Madness gig!