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Bernard Meets Dorothy, Waterloo Station, Every Friday Night

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‘For me the perfect pop song is Waterloo Sunset,’ Dave Gilmour has said on a number of occasions, while according critic Robert Christgau, it’s ‘the most beautiful song in the English language’.

‘Three minutes of sheer musical genius which is still regarded by many as the apogee of the swinging sixties single,’ Allan Laing gushed in the Glasgow Herald twenty years ago. ‘Quite simply, nothing better ever revolved around a Dansette turntable at 45rpm.’

So, if I told you I had seen the band take to the Glasgow Apollo stage early in 1979, you might ask how it felt to be singing along with thousands of others to one of the most achingly poignant and evocative songs written in the twentieth century?

Whether or not Waterloo Sunset was fine on that particular night, though, was not disclosed by Raymond Douglas Davies.

Okay, it was a long time ago and I would have been the worse for wear after far too many beers for somebody who was still underage and relatively new to the drinking game, but I am pretty certain they didn’t play it, which must be the equivalent of the Stones failing to trot out Satisfaction in whatever enormodome they next perform in, or Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey deciding to remove My Generation from their set-list.

Certainly, The Kinks did put on a fantastic show that night despite the absence of their most loved track.

I’m not sure about Waterloo Sunset being the most beautiful song in the English language myself. That’s a big claim. It’s definitely up there but if I’m being super pernickety, I’m not very keen on the double negative of ‘I don’t need no friends’ or the ‘chilly, chilly is the evening time’ line which sounds as if it comes from the England of Thomas Hardy rather than the London of Blowup, Oz and the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream. Not that the contrarian singer would be much enamoured with the summer of love, which when Waterloo Sunset was released that May 1967, was just beginning to get into gear.

Davies, incidentally, has claimed that before he settled on Terry and Julie for his lyrics, he considered George and Mabel and even Bernard and Dorothy instead. Just try singing ‘Bernard meets Dorothy, Waterloo Station / Every Friday night.’

Not quite the same ring to it, has it?

I reckon Ray was on the wind-up when he mentioned those names as they scan so badly. Not only does Terry and Julie have a better flow but I would guess by choosing them, Davies intended to inject a talking point into the song knowing the public would inevitably debate whether it was about Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, two of the stars of Far From The Madding Crowd, John Schlesinger’s high-profile adaptation of the Hardy novel that was being filmed as the record was being recorded.

Sadly no promo was shot to promote the single and there doesn’t seem to be any performances of the track from the 1960s available to watch online but here is Waterloo Sunset from The Kinks In Concert, a half hour live concert first shown on BBC 2 in March 1973:

For more on The Kinks: https://www.facebook.com/TheKinksOfficial

The Fourth Stiff

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Wreckless Eric: Whole Wide World (Stiff Records)

Having already featured Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe in this series, it’s now time for another artist from the Stiff stable.

October 1977 saw many exciting acts booked to take to the stage of the Glasgow Apollo. Dr Feelgood would play together with Mink DeVille; The Stranglers were pencilled in to make their Apollo debut backed by The Rezillos; The Clash were coming too and so were The Suburban Studs, although they were only a support act and the headliners for their show held no appeal for me. I’m still not an AC/DC fan. Then there was the Live Stiffs package tour featuring five different acts that were each playing twenty minute sets before coming together onstage to end the evening with a rambunctious rendition of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.

I wanted to see all five shows but there was a problem – I was a schoolboy and money was tight. I could only afford two tickets at most if I wanted to continue being able to buy a few records and have the odd night out at the dancing.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Although The Clash was a definite.

Suffering from a touch of lazyitis, taking on a part time job was something I’d always found easy to avoid. Most of the girls in my class put in a few hours in shops at weekends to supplement their pocket money; many boys delivered newspapers, but there were no rounds on the go at this point. A guy that sat next to me in Geography said he could get me a job as a milk boy. This would entail getting up at five in the morning and then jumping on and off an electric milk float, lugging heavy crates of milk around housing schemes even in the most hellish of weather so households could drink a pinta milka day.

No thanks.

My pal would come into school knackered each and every morning and would remain knackered for most of the day. Half my time in that class was spent nudging him as our teacher attempted to teach us about the tributaries of the Amazon or tell us what the capital city of Yugoslavia was.

One day, on the cusp of becoming sixteen, I bunked off geography and all my other classes with another pal, jumped on an appropriately named 77 bus, and joined a queue in Renfield Street outside the Apollo. Back then, the best way to get your hands on a ticket was at the venue’s box office, waiting patiently while (in our case) attempting to appear much more adult than our years by affecting an air of nonchalance while all the time half expecting to be hauled out the line by some truant officer, whose daily duty might include visiting hotspots such as this where teenagers would regularly skip school.

We’d decided to attend The Stranglers’ date, although if that had sold out, plan B was to spend our cash on the Stiff night. I’m still not entirely sure that we made the right decision but, hey, since then I have managed to see four of those Live Stiffs acts, although not Larry Wallis even though I did like his single of the time Police Car. Here it is accompanied initially by some footage of Larry’s old stomping ground of Portobello Road in Notting Hill from the 1968 film Otley:

Another minimal production job by Nick Lowe, Whole Wide World is utterly wonderful from the two chord Telecaster strum that introduces the song through to Eric Goulden’s impassioned ‘Yeah’ and Nick Lowe’s Duane Eddy-ish outro. The reverb on that guitar is magnificent. The bass is magnificent and even those simple drum thuds but best of all is Eric’s reedy rasp which grows increasingly manic as the song reaches its climax, as he insists that to find his perfect partner he’d go the whole wide wirld, go the whole wide wirld just to find her.

Timeless, perfect pop.

Okay, some smart-arses might complain about the geographical blunder in the lyrics, the Bahamas being technically situated in the Atlantic, outside the Caribbean rim but I like to think that the lyrics reflect the viewpoint of a character who is fictional – and who maybe had a long milk round meaning he could never properly concentrate on his geography lessons. You don’t automatically assume that Mrs Goulden ever advised the young Wreckless that the only girl for him probably lived in an island in the Pacific, do you? Or for that matter that Larry Wallis was actually a police car?

The story of how Eric was signed to Stiff is an unusual one and I wouldn’t necessarily advise young musicians to copy it today if they’re on the lookout for a deal.

The singer got boozed up before handing in a demo to the Stiff offices in London, announcing his arrival by kicking open the door. A tall guy with a beard and a shaggy haircut asked if he could help and Eric informed him that he was ‘one of those cunts that brings tapes into record companies.’ The bearded guy incidentally was Huey Lewis whose terrible band The News went mega in America in the 1980s with tracks like Hip to be Square and The Power of Love. The tape was passed on.

Once outside the office, Eric immediately wanted to forget the way he’d acted. Before too long, Jake Riviera of Stiff phoned and a pessimistic Eric explained that they could re-use the cassette tape rather than going to the trouble of sending it back. Riviera, of course, loved the tape and the punkish bravado displayed by Eric. He asked him if he could make his way back to the office ASAP before trooping over to Pathway Studios to record Whole Wide World.

Nick Lowe on bass as well as guitar. Steve Goulding of The Rumour on drums. Bish bash bosh. Two takes before bouncing the handclaps together with some tambourines. A few days later Wreckless was back to put down his vocal. And then a very long wait before the song was paired with Semaphore Signals to become Buy 16.

Amazingly, the song failed to chart in Britain and only ever sold a tiny fraction of Huey Lewis’s output but in the forty odd years since its release it has endured and arguably grew steadily more popular.

Ten years after its release, The Monkees covered it on their Pool It! album. Twenty years after that The Proclaimers recorded a version for Life with You. Marilyn Manson has performed the song live and Will Ferrell sang it in a film I have never seen. Earlier this year, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day had a go at Whole Wide World too. Not that I have any desire to ever hear any of these.

I have, though, seen and enjoyed Eric perform the song live onstage with singer-songwriter Amy Rigby. And if you don’t know, Amy, who hails from Pittsburgh, P.A. rather than Tahiti or the Bahamas, turned out to be the one for Wreckless with the pair marrying in 2008.

For more on Wreckless Eric click here.

  • Up next, a 1979 British film with one of my favourite ever soundtracks – which includes Whole Wide World.

The Hanging Debate Takes A Curious Twist

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John Cooper Clarke: Suspended Sentence (Rabid Records)

Why John Cooper Clarke didn’t pen an autobiography before, I have no idea as it has struck me for a decade or more that that the life of Britain’s premier punk poet was ripe for the memoir treatment. But good things come to those who wait, as the old cliche goes, and I Wanna Be Yours was finally published last month.

I’m now on the home straight, after reading a big chunk of it almost addictively in one go yesterday – although, as is my usual non-linear autobiography reading habit, I jumped in at what promised to be the most fascinating segment of the story for me – which was when Clarke was making the move from playing cabaret clubs in the north of England to embracing what might loosely be called the punk scene. I will get back to the start at some point, though.

Cooper signed to Rabid Records, a local label that had already put out singles from Slaughter And The Dogs and The Nosebleeds, and would go on to become best known for Jilted John’s Going Steady, a #4 hit in Britain in the summer of 1978.

Founded by Tosh Ryan, Lawrence Beadle and Martin Hannett, the label grew out of Music Force, a socialist musicians’ collective that set up live shows and arranged PA hire for bands – an offshoot of this being a profitable fly-posting business that apparently helped pay for the launch of the record label.

Initially, Clarke wasn’t keen on committing any of his work onto vinyl, especially with contributions from musicians, but did see the opportunities of helping promote himself with a single. A one-off band called The Curious Yellows was assembled and Martin Hannett oversaw production duties for what became the Innocents EP. ‘I didn’t really enjoy the recording process, and the results were mixed,’ Clarke admits. ‘Occasionally, it somehow hung together by accident, and I was pleasantly surprised, but generally I could only hear the mistakes.’

Released in November 1977, I first heard Suspended Sentence on the John Peel show and failed to notice any mistakes. Late at night, likely with the lights switched on low, Clarke’s surreal vision of a dystopian Britain made for a simultaneously comic and chilling listen. Peel adored it too. On his end of the year Festive Fifty list, he placed it at #5.

After signing to CBS, Clarke grew increasingly pissed off with Rabid. In the book, he complains (or maybe kvetches might be a more Cooper-esque way of putting it) about them punting out an album with the frankly shite title Où est la maison de fromage? ‘A shamelessly cheap, probably illegal move by a bunch of no-mark chisellers, secretly recorded and marketed without any input or consent from me. Naturally, I only want to present the polished end-product of my labours, therefore its very existence is a continuing thorn in my side. It never stops hurting. If you love me, throw it away.’

Sorry, John but the chances of that happening are the same as me being able to fit into a pair of your kecks.

I Wanna Be Yours also details two appearances at the Glasgow Apollo. The first came via a support slot early in 1978 on Be-Bop Deluxe’s Drastic Plastic tour.

My home town of Glasgow, it would have to be admitted, isn’t a city where acts can be automatically guaranteed a warm welcome. If they like you, you are treated like an absolute hero. If they don’t take to you, then there may be trouble ahead. I’ve mentioned before that I witnessed Suicide receive an Apollo reception so vituperative that Alan Vega still sounded a little shell-shocked when talking about it almost forty years later.

Sheena Easton’s Glasgow Green show in 1990 was to end badly too. Recording a Bond theme, winning Grammies and hooking up with Prince count for very little when your audience consists of boozed up Glaswegians if you commit the cardinal sin of speaking with a Mid-Atlantic accent when you’re fae Bellshill. Let’s just say that adulation was in short supply throughout her set.

According to John Cooper Clarke, his first taste of the Apollo stage was not to last long. Four minutes to be precise. ‘I just stood there,’ he writes, ‘ with no indication that the hostility would ever abate. You can’t fight that level of animosity, so as soon as the volume dropped a fraction, I just said, ‘Let’s call it a draw.’ ‘

Within a year he was back for a re-match, on the same bill as Richard Hell and The Voidoids and Elvis Costello and I was there to see the great man for the first of many times. His onstage banter and breakneck renditions of poems like Kung Fu International and (I Married a) Monster from Outer Space were all met with raucous laughter and appreciative applause. You shoulda seen him go-go-go.

‘The redemption of that night was priceless,’ he explains. ‘Ever since then, my Glasgow audiences have been some of the wildest in the world. It’s a wonderful city full of beautiful people.’

He’s way too kind.

For more on I Wanna Be Yours click here.

Prince of Players, Pawn of None

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T. Rex: Dandy in the Underworld (EMI)

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Like most 50-somethings I truly believe that I was lucky to grow up with some of the most exciting music imaginable.

Even before I’d reached my teen years there was Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Slade, The Sweet (yeah!), Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed, Cockney Rebel, Sparks and more who all seemed to routinely bring out a sparkling new album every year (or maybe even two albums in the same year) and make regular must-see appearances on Top of the Pops to be dissected at length in school the very next morning. Bliss it was in that glittered and feather boa’d dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven. Well, that’s how it felt at times.

Firstly though there was T. Rex fronted by glam rock trailblazer, Mr. Mark Feld, better known as Marc Bolan.

Bolan’s first words to manager Simon Napier Bell back in 1966 were supposedly: ‘Hi, I’m a singer and I’m going to be the biggest ever British star.’ Marc really did patholigically crave fame and although not many would argue that he achieved that particular mid-’60s prediction, for a couple of years at the height of T. Rextasy in the early 1970s, few would have totally dismissed the idea as his band let rip with a string of pure pop classics with crunching guitar hooks that instantaneously lodged in your brain – Ride a White Swan, Hot Love, Get It On, Jeepster, Telegram Sam and Metal Guru – that my fellow children of the revolution lapped up.

They all still sound fantastic today.

The world of pop was fast-changing back then and, by 1972, Bolan was already talking of how his success couldn’t last, that the fans’ tastes would change as they got older, how they would want to find new stars to adore and how pop music was all based on cycles anyway.

This proved to be a more accurate prediction. Soon there were no sell-out shows at enornodomes throughout the country, no ex-Beatles wanting to colloborate on films and diminishing sales returns. Bolan’s Zip Gun, released in February 1975, failed to even chart in Britain, although a single taken from it, Light of Love was a minor hit; the follow up, though, Zip Gun Boogie, stalled just outside the top forty.

Critics at NME and elsewhere loved to sneer, especially about the few extra inches that had been added round his waistline. By 1977, Marc looked to many like yesterday’s man, a little washed up, still capable of making some very good music but far from the sensation of his Electric Warrior days.

Yesterday’s man, though, had a few aces up his sleeves. He recorded an album Dandy in the Underworld, which was likely his best since The Slider and he notably became one of the relatively few elder statesmen of rock and pop to fully embrace punk, persuading The Damned to support him on his British tour and launching Dandy that March at London’s punk central, the Roxy in Covent Garden.

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He also agreed to host the late afternoon ITV pop show Marc where he showcased many of his own tracks as well as inviting on the likes of The Jam (or Jam as he introduced them), The Radio Stars and Generation X. ‘They have a lead singer who’s supposed to be as pretty as me,’ Marc cooed as he introduced that latter group while sniffing a flower. ‘We’ll see now.’ He didn’t look too convinced by the possibility.

In his new book, The Age of Bowie, Paul Morley describes Marc’s presenting style as: ‘a cross between kindly wizard, scatterbrained sweetheart and lapsed hipster, as though his years as pop star had made him possessed by a general sense of mind-altering cosmic jive.’

Marc, as you’ll see, may have looked kindly on the new breed and even went as far as to introduce a ripped T-shirt into his wardrobe but he wasn’t quite ready to completely ditch the satin, mascara and Tolkien.

Taken from Marc, here is Dandy in the Underworld:


The highlight of the entire series promised to be the duet with David Bowie that would close the sixth and final episode of the show. Since the 1960s the two men had been involved in a (usually) friendly rivalry, with Bolan winning the race for superstardom before Bowie came up on the rails, racing ahead in both the artistic and commercial stakes with Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane.

In fact, by 1977, the rivalry looked as lopsided as the footballing one between England and (West) Germany. By this point Bolan maybe wished that he had set himself up in competition against someone who didn’t quite possess the stratospheric capabilities of musical invention and consistent reinvention of Bowie; Ian Hunter, say, of Mott the Hoople or Steve Harley – who incidentally provided some backing vocals on the Dandy album.

The tour and album and even the TV series did though help rehabilitate Bolan but as you’ll know, his comeback was cut sadly short. On the sixteenth of September, Marc was killed instantly when his Mini 1275GT, driven by girlfriend Gloria Jones, crashed into a steel-reinforced fence on Barnes Common only a mile away from their home, before hitting a sycamore tree.

Recorded only days before his untimely death, the final episode of Marc was shown eight days after his funeral (attended by Bowie, Tony Visconti, Steve Harley, Rod Stewart, members of The Damned and hundreds of fans). Their race against the clock jam was an anti-climax and ended embarrassingly for Bolan, who tripped over a wire causing him to fall off the stage, although the incident is mostly hidden by the programme credits.

Better though is Bowie in his solo slot. This is “Heroes”:


Footnote.

Bolan had also taken on the task of penning a regular column for Record Mirror and, a month before his own death, Marc had commented that it was sad that Elvis was gone but that it was probably better that he went before he turned into the Bing Crosby of rock’n’roll. Bizarrely enough, not long afterwards Bowie agreed to bridge the generation gap by appearing on Bing Crosby’s annual Christmas TV special, the pair performing Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.

‘Too Punk Even For The Punk Crowd’

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SUICIDE: GHOST RIDER (RED STAR)

Last week Suicide performed what they called a Punk Mass at the Barbican in London and though I wasn’t there to see the show, reading the reviews did bring back memories of the first time I saw the duo live.

Asked to select an unforgettable, career-defining gig in the Guardian back in 2008, Alan Vega of the band chose an infamous night at the Glasgow Apollo in the summer of 1978 when an audience member threw an axe in the direction of the singer’s head. “We were supporting the Clash and I guess we were too punk even for the punk crowd. They hated us. I taunted them with, ‘You fuckers have to live through us to get to the main band.’ That’s when the axe came towards my head, missing me by a whisker. It was surreal, man.’

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I was there, right down the front of the stalls and can confirm that, even by the standards of the Apollo, this was a mightily wild night even though I can’t remember any axe being thrown.

So why did this particular night explode into such a state of disorder?

Well, firstly Suicide was all about confrontation, two New York nihilists who liked to goad audiences and their shows were as much performance art as concert.

Alan Vega and Martin Rev were sonic innovators who can be compared in that respect to The Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk or My Bloody Valentine. As Joe Gross wrote years later in Spin: ‘Suicide managed to tear a giant hole in rock orthodoxy and scream inside the wound’ but this obviously wasn’t something that a majority of Clash fans wanted to hear on the night.

Historically too, at least from the era of music hall and variety onwards, Glasgow audiences have always been quicker than most to let an act know if they are unhappy with them. If they like you they love you, if they don’t like you, you might have problems.

It might be difficult to believe today when Joe Strummer is seen as an almost saintly worldwide punk icon but when The Clash headlined the Apollo at the tail end of 1977 as a ‘thank you to fans’, there was repeated booing from some punters between songs.

They weren’t bad but neither were they anywhere near the form of their Apollo debut just weeks beforehand.

Importantly, this third visit to Glasgow from The Clash was due to be the final ever time a rock act would play the venue as owners the Mecca organisation were reportedly keen to convert it into a Bingo Hall despite the ‘Save the Apollo’ campaign that quickly gained hundreds of thousands of signatures, including Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton… and myself.

Actually I must admit that I signed the petition more than once. Or twice. Or even more than three times.

As fears grew about potential trouble, rumours surfaced that the concert might be switched to the venue upstairs, the much smaller Satellite City. ‘Lynch law and mob rule will prevail, no doubt,’ one letter writer to Sounds predicted.

Things kicked off within seconds of Suicide taking to the stage and many in the crowd began demonstrating just how much they detested the avant-garde rockabilly racket conjured up by Vega and Rev. Boos and insults rang out across the old hall and before too long a hail of missiles were being aimed at them. And here I should add that luckily the Apollo stage was around eighteen feet high and anybody hoping to scale it required something approaching the climbing skills of Sir Edmund Hillary.

Some did occasionally manage the feat although I forget if anybody did that night.

Singer Alan Vega is not someone who is ever gonna come out with any ‘Make some noise, Glasgow’ or ‘You’ve been a wonderful audience’ clichés and the reaction of the baying crowd only encouraged his adversarial streak. ‘You’re all a bunch of bastards–bastards–bastards’ and other abuse echoing out from his mic in his Elvis yelp while Rev’s keyboards throbbed on.

Seats were broken, seats were thrown at the stage. Bouncers versus punks violence grew out of control and then managed to worsen. Once Suicide ended their set a comparative calm did descend but the aggro resumed with the appearance of the headliners.

This is how Chris Salewicz described the atmosphere in NME as The Clash hit the stage: ‘It’s like the Apocalypse is upon us and performing live in the stalls. Pogoing kids being dragged to the back of the hall and having the shit kicked out of them…Pogoing kids having the shit kicked out of them in front of the stage… ’

Some in the crowd believed that The Clash could have done more to end the beatings. Outside afterwards, an exasperated Joe Strummer was caught by plain clothes police officers smashing a lemonade bottle while discussing the idea with an assortment of fans. Paul Simonon came to his aid and both were arrested.

In court, the Judge is said to have asked Strummer the name of his band. ‘How appropriate,’ he observed on hearing it was The Clash. ‘Twenty five pounds fine.’

The Apollo remained closed and in limbo for the remainder of the summer with various acts offering to play benefit gigs. The campaign continued and in the middle of September good news finally arrived when it was confirmed that the hall would reopen for concerts later in the month coupled with an assurance that the venue would be given a £50,000 facelift.

The Tom Robinson Band, The Stranglers and Steel Pulse were some of the acts lined up to play though Suicide would never again play there.

From their self titled debut album, released on Marty Thau’s Red Star record label in December 1977, this is a live version of Ghost Rider:

 
For more on Suicide, click here.

Confessions Of A Teenage Buzzcocks Bootlegger

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More Buzzcocks today, folks.

I managed to see the band twice at the Glasgow Apollo back in the late seventies and one of those times I sneaked in with a dimply Philips N2207 cassette recorder, recorded the show on a C90 tape and then made copies of the tape, put an ad in a local record shop and started a very short career as a bootlegger.

This wasn’t quite as easy as I’ve maybe just made it sound. In fact, the sneaking a cassette into the Apollo was a highly risky business as this kind of thing was strictly verboten and two sets of bouncers generally had to be negotiated before you could gain entrance to the concert hall with routine searches taking place. If caught I’m guessing that at the very least the cassette would have been confiscated and I would have been thrown out, not as in escorted out, but thrown physically out onto the pavement of Renfield Street.

The first set of bouncers, though, let me and a bunch of pals past without a search and the second lot actually asked me if we had been searched, a strangely trusting attitude from men never noted for trusting attitudes. Nerves made my mouth feel like it had been coated with pepper but I managed to croak out some words along the lines of, ‘Yeah, we’ve already been searched.’

And to my relief, we were happily waved upstairs.

Whether a basic search would have found my cassette is another matter, as I was wearing a duffle coat, repeat – a duffle coat, and had sewn the cassette into the bottom of the back of it, wearing the coat unbuttoned and loose. I wouldn’t have been the most credible looking member of the audience that night but I was likely the only one to emerge with a tape of the concert, which although the quality wasn’t that great, was good enough to listen to repeatedly and enjoy.

After much trial and error I figured out a way to hook the cassette player up to the family music centre and began making copies, which I advertised in the basement of Listen, which was largely dominated by second hand records and where punky/new wavey types tended to congregate for hours on end, especially on Saturday afternoons, this being a time when record stores (or shops as we called them) didn’t remotely need to have a special promotional day every year because people like me flocked to local independents like Listen, Bruce’s, Graffiti and Impulse on a near daily basis.*

Even stranger as it might seem to some younger readers, at this point in Britain, many families didn’t even possess landline telephones and others, like mine relied on what was known as a party line, which sounds like it might have been fun and possibly even dodgy but it was just short for multiparty line.

This meant that our line was shared with our neighbours from two doors down. Long calls were discouraged in case the neighbours possibly needed the phone to make or receive an emergency call. After six o’clock when I got back in from being a young factory wage slave, I would sit down for a meal and for a few weeks anyway, my mince and tatties or gammon steak with chips would be interrupted by somebody wanting to get their mitts on one of my tapes.

I made a little money and met some new friends but I eventually flogged the original tape after someone made an offer to buy it as a one off. My short career in low level bootlegging was over.

Buzzcocks Joy Division Glasgow Apollo

The third time Buzzcocks played the Glasgow Apollo (towards the end of 1979) I was unable to attend as I was living hundreds of miles away working in a seaside town which, since the summer season had ended, really did have the feel of every day being like Sunday. Pity as I would’ve loved to have seen them again especially as Joy Division was the support act. All these years later, I still regret not being able to go along that night to see both bands.

It would be another decade or so before I would get the chance to see Buzzcocks live again when they reformed in 1989 and announced a series of dates including one in Glasgow. Posters at the time claimed that the original line-up would be taking to the stage but this wasn’t actually true albeit you could easily argue that it was the best known Buzzcocks line-up of Shelley, Diggle, Maher and Garvey.

Buzzcocks Barrowlands

This time around though I wasn’t quite as keen to see them. Even though the band had only formed thirteen years before, after a break of eight years or so their reformation struck me as being dangerously close to nostalgia and nostalgia was something I was determined to avoid so I have to assume that the me of back then might not have entirely approved of everything about this blog.

As David Belcher asked later in his review of the gig in the Glasgow Herald: ‘Wasn’t that punk business supposed to be about burning bright and going up in smoke rather than having a career and gradually fading away?’

Still, most of my pals were going along and I judged that the Barrowlands would be the ideal venue to see Buzzcocks perform in, so I stumped up my £6.50 for a ticket, had a good few drinks in a famous, or should I say infamous, bar across from the Barrowlands and went on to absolutely enjoy every second of the night.

Well, it would be impossible not to enjoy hearing all those classics like I Don’t Mind, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and Fast Cars, wouldn’t it?

Tonight Buzzcocks play the Baltimore Soundstage.

Buzzcocks Baltimore Soundstage

For the latest Buzzcocks news and some great links – okay I’m saying this mainly because there’s one to my previous post – head to their Facebook page.

* If you are heading out to Record Store Day you might want to look out for exclusive releases by Alex Harvey, Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe, Django Django, Bis, Honeyblood, The Heartbreakers and N.F. Porter’s Keep On Keeping On, a track that inspired Joy Division’s Interzone, from their 1979 album Unknown Pleasures.

Top of the Pops & Hanging Around

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Here are The Rezillos performing Top of the Pops, not on Top of the Pops but Revolver.

 
The first Rezillos album Can’t Stand the Rezillos was released in July 1978 and like the single Top of the Pops, the album speedily made its way into the UK top twenty.

Within four months, though, the band had imploded.

Extraordinarily enough the second Rezillos studio album, Zero, is finally set to be released and is due out on March 10 via Philadelphia based Metropolis Records.

Anybody who has seen the band live in recent years or heard the session they recorded last summer for Billy Sloan will know that they sound surprisingly fresh and irresistible as ever. This is a band that clearly never lost the ability to whip up taut, hook-heavy gems like Tiny Boy and Groovy Room, songs that possess the same kind of clamorous energy that helped earn them their reputation all those years ago.

Stranglers March On Tour

The band is touring with The Stranglers in the UK this month including dates in Aberdeen, Kilmarnock and Glasgow.

I saw both bands together at the Apollo back in 1977 and that night, Tory councillor Bill Aitkin, chairman of Glasgow District Council’s licensing committee and a group of fifteen or so committee members attended the event to monitor the behaviour (or misbehaviour) of ‘punk’ fans and to find out if punk concerts were suitable for the young people of the city. This kind of thing actually used to be depressingly common back then.

Not long into into the headliner’s set, Hugh Cornwell instructed the lighting crew to shine a spotlight up onto the balcony where the councillors were seated and made some disparaging remarks about them. The audience promptly booed them and you had to suspect that this might further give them the hump and the city’s unofficial punk ban would continue.

The next day the politicians got their say in the local press.

Talking about the dress sense of the crowd, Aitkin noted that some punks had shocked a number of his colleagues and claimed they resembled walking ironmonger shops with their chains and razor blades – obviously he had no idea of the amount of gear that the bouncers confiscated from fans during searches as they waited to enter the concert hall.

Aitkin also commented that the event was noisy and exuberant but at all times the fans had remained good natured, cheerful and ‘a credit to the city’. Apparently the council group even joined The Stranglers afterwards in their dressing room and had an enlightening discussion.

It was decided to finally welcome punk bands to the city.

The Stranglers have been playing Glasgow on a fairly regular basis ever since. Last year they fitted in a date at the O2 Academy during a sold out tour that celebrated their 40th anniversary. This time round the band will be at the same venue where they intend to dip into some of the less obvious music from their seventeen albums worth of material. The show has already sold out.

This is the song that was pencilled in to become the third Stranglers single although Something Better Change was eventually chosen instead. This is Hanging Around:

 
Here’s the Facebook page of The Rezillos. For The Stranglers’ Facebook page, click here.

Goodbye, Kim Fowley

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Back in September 1976, an issue of NME confirmed an upcoming tour of ten British shows for five Californian teenage girls heralded as ‘America’s latest punk-rock sensation’. The first date, which would also be their British debut, was scheduled to take place on the 23rd of the month at the Glasgow Apollo.

The Runaways Glasgow Apollo 1976

Punk rock, I should mention was a bit of a fluid term at this point and The Runaways, despite being covered in Sniffin’ Glue and playing CBGBs, were, in reality, more of a glam rock/heavy metal hybrid, a fact that didn’t stop many of the leading lights of British punk, including Johnny Rotten, making their way to their Roundhouse set and party later on in the same tour.

At this point for teenagers, The Runaways appeared almost impossibly glamorous and the Apollo crowd for their show on the night apparently largely consisted of hordes of overexcited male teenage Heavy Metal fans.

Afterwards, according to Mick Farren in his NME review, many of these fans crowded outside hoping for another glimpse of the band as they left the venue. Supposedly fire hoses had to be turned on some of the mob eventually in order to let the girls get into their waiting cars. The Runaways were also pestered all night long in their hotel by a scattering of young fans waiting outside.

Did fans really have to be hosed down?

Maybe they did but it does sound to me like the kind of the thing that their manager at the time, Kim Fowley, might have made up in order to further hype the band. Maybe some reader of this blog was there that night and can confirm or deny the story.

Co-composed by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley, this is Cherry Bomb:

 
Pop genius/svengali Kim Fowley is still best known for his association with The Runaways, although over the years he also collaborated with a slew of other acts. He co-wrote for Alice Cooper and KISS and had some kind of involvement with everyone from Slade (when they were known as The N’Betweens) to Frank Zappa, as well as being a recording artist in his own right.

I can’t claim to have been at that Runaways concert – I wish I had but don’t think I’d heard them yet then although I soon would. Almost twenty years later, though, I did manage to see Kim himself play at the 13th Note in Glasgow, where he was accompanied by various BMX Bandits and, at different points, many members of the audience.

A very mad, entirely unpredictable night that was definitely fantastic fun.

Here’s Kim aka Jimmy Jukebox with Motor Boat. Listen to him rrrrrrrrrrrrr:

 
Kim Vincent Fowley: July 21. 1939 – January 15. 2015

New York, London, Paris, Wishaw

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Over the past week or so I’ve been to see The Jesus and Mary Chain performing Psychocandy in its entirety at the Barrowlands and watched Channel 4’s What We Wore: 80s Glasgow – The Outsiders.

Just like thirty years ago when I first saw the Mary Chain in their early days, their sound was often atrocious; unlike back then, though, they showed up bang on time and played a fairly lengthy set, launching immediately into an ‘encore’ before getting down to tackling their debut album in its original running order.

At least that’s the way I remember things as, just like 1985, I have to confess to overdoing the booze beforehand, although probably not to the extent that I would have when I once saw them play in Glasgow club, Daddy Warbucks, which also used to host the Splash One nights, the main subject of the Channel 4 doc.

Although I generally avoid Channel 4 nowadays due to some of the contemptible crap like Benefits Street they insist on cluttering up their schedules with, this was definitely worth a watch and is still available as I type on 4oD.

The interviewees were well chosen: no Reid brothers admittedly but their Barrowlands support act Rose McDowall appeared, as did Stephen Pastel, Thurston Moore and others, including the always entertaining Mr. Duglas T. Stewart, who should really have his own show. Preferably replacing Benefits Street.

Oh and the Griffin Bar on Bath Street got a couple of mentions, something I hadn’t envisaged ever happening in the course of any documentary. Was there a few weeks back but rather than any indie kid hang-out, the joint was rammed with middle aged women having a few G&Ts before heading over the road to the King’s Theatre to see the stage version of The Full Monty.

I could have did with another half an hour of The Outsiders although, on the minus side, one or two of folk did occasionally come close to the old cliché that punk didn’t arrive in Glasgow until years afterwards.

No punk scene in Glasgow in 1977?

Dear reader, there was even a punk scene in Wishaw.

And just like New York had CBCGs, London had The Roxy and Paris had Le Gibus, Wishaw had their own venue for punk music in the heady days of ’77, the Crown Hotel.

Okay, that last sentence could be described as a little jokey but it is undeniably true.

The moderately sized town of Wishaw in what is now known as North Lanarkshire lies around 15 miles to the south-east of Glasgow and it would have to be said it’s a fairly unremarkable place. When I interviewed Ming City R*ckers a few months ago, they took great pleasure in portraying their home town of Immingham as a hell-hole. One anonymous reader posted the following comment: ‘They’ve obviously never been tae Wishaw if they think their town is crap’.

The Jolt consisted of singer and guitarist Robbie Collins, Jim Doak on bass and Ian Sheddon on drums. Robbie and Ian were from Wishaw, Jim from neighbouring Shotts.

Fanzine Ripped and Torn showcased the band early in their career, Collins revealing that he’d jacked in Uni after a miserable couple of years there, while Doak had been kicked off his course at Glasgow Uni after failing everything two years running. Tut. Tut. Ian Sheddon meanwhile was writing the pop page for his local paper, the Wishaw Press, whose offices were handy for the Crown.

The three had known each other since their schooldays and began thinking of getting something together musically in the first half of 1975, a time by which Collins was already fed up with the direction that most music was taking.

Increasingly he found himself attracted to 60s R&B with Dr Feelgood’s Malpractice being one of the few contemporary records he loved.

As Collins told Ripped and Torn: ‘We played our first gig (as a trio) with more of a punk repertoire on Dec 2 [1976]. The punters were more interested in knocking hell out of each other & the cops arrived. We climaxed our set with a thundering “New Rose”’. He then explained: ‘The ‘new wave’ arrived at the best time coz it made us feel that we weren’t alone in what we were trying to do and it helped us to move our ideas into the seventies.’

Their second gig was played in front of only half a dozen punters in the Crown although they demonstrated enough potential to secure themselves a Saturday afternoon residency, where their set would showcase a mixture of their own tunes like Show Stoppers, Dire Straights and Decoyed along with some punk covers and some more punter friendly covers of songs by the likes of The Small Faces. They went on to play twenty straight gigs at the Crown, all the while building an audience.

The venue also witnessed the first appearance of The Skids outside Dunfermline; Johnny and The Self Abusers and Rev Volting and The Backstabbers made the short journey from Glasgow to play there too and another punky Wishaw outfit The Pests were regulars. The Glasgow Herald paid a visit to the hotel with a photographer in tow to take some snaps for their The Punk World feature (part of which is reproduced here, sorry for the state of the scan):

Glasgow Herald.The Punk Worldj

In another article in the summer of ’77, this time one from the Wishaw Press, titled It’s Punk – and we love it!, Jack Kerr, the hotel’s owner, spoke of the perceived gamble in allowing punk. ‘At first there were many small incidents, mainly the customary spitting among the audience, but I have this controlled and have no regrets that I gave the group a chance.’

By this point, dozens were being turned away due to the limited capacity of the Crown and The Jolt began to attract the attentions of some London record labels, quickly becoming the first Scottish punk or new wave act to sign with a major, Polydor, reportedly on a four year deal worth £90,000.

Polydor was already the home of another three-piece with passion for punk flavoured 60s R&B inspired songs, The Jam, and Paul Weller became a big fan of the Lanarkshire band, roping them in for support slots whenever possible and (later) even giving them a song of his called See Saw.

The Jam & The Jolt - Glasgow Apollo November 1977

Inevitably, The Jolt made the move south and while in London, were one of the acts filmed by Wolfgang Büld, a young German director who had just moved from Munich to Britain to make documentaries. Punk in London (which would surface in 1978) showcased the band with a short interview together with footage of them performing at the Red Cow on Hammersmith Road, where they belted out the song that would become their first vinyl offering: You’re Cold.

With the imminent release of the single, The Jolt embarked on some promotional gigs in London before returning again to Scotland where they fitted in a homecoming show at the Crown – this, though, didn’t go quite as planned and apparently near the end of their performance, the band walked off the stage and refused to play on after the Crown’s owner insisted that the audience stop dancing.

Jack Kerr suggested the band’s success might have gone to their heads and there was talk of a ban although the band could have easily claimed they’d outgrown the Crown anyway.

The Jolt faced more criticism after a proposed date at the Silver Thread in Paisley supposedly had to be cancelled following a sound check where it was declared they were too noisy although they did go on to play dates in Edinburgh at Clouds, followed by, on the same day, a lunchtime gig at the Isle of Skye Hotel in Perth then one at the Maryat in Dundee that evening.

A week after the Crown walk-off, You’re Cold was met with some less than sparking reviews. NME’s Steve Clarke summed up the track in fourteen scathing words: ‘Strictly third division punk from this Scots combo. Untidy and lacklustre playing. Flat production’, while Ian Birch in Melody Maker denounced the record as: ‘Two rapid songs full of identikit sentiment. Chris Parry’s production makes the experience even more drowsy.’

To be fair, the band themselves weren’t hugely impressed by Parry and Robbie would later accuse the producer of thinking it was still ’76; claiming the single sounded like a demo.

I reckon the critics were being very harsh though. See what you think, this is You’re Cold:

 
More on The Jolt in 2015.

Goodbye, Tommy Ramone

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Sadly the last member of the original Ramones line-up, Thomas Erdelyi aka Tommy Ramone, has died, aged 62 in New York City.

The Ramones defined the sound of punk rock more than any other single band and Tommy played an absolutely integral part in that; drumming on and co-producing the first three classic albums, Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia. He also wrote or co-wrote some of the band’s finest tracks including this one, from the eponymous debut. This is Blitzkrieg Bop performed at their famous Hogmanay 1977 show at the Rainbow Theatre in London:

 
I saw the band play a relentless, pulverising concert at the Glasgow Apollo on that tour and it’s one of most exciting shows I’ve ever witnessed.

Ramones Glasgow Apollo December1977

To read one of Tommys last interviews click here.

Tommy Ramone
January 29, 1952 – July 11, 2014.

 

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