The Clash Newcastle Polytechnic Oct 28 1977 and Dec 2 1978

The Clash Newcastle Polytechnic Oct 28th 1977 and Dec 2nd 1978
Support acts: Richard Hell and the Voidoids (1977); The Slits (1978)
The Clash came back to Newcastle later in 1977, and again in 1978. I only have vague _DSC3340 [CROP2][LR]memories of the 1977 gig, and can’t be certain that I attended, although I think I did. I remember there was trouble and some fights at one, and maybe both, of the gigs. I read somewhere that Richard Hell had a firework thrown in his face. I have very vivid memories of the 1978 gig. By 1978 The Clash were massive, and the gig sold out almost immediately. I also bought tickets for their gig at Middlesbrough Town Hall, but sold them to a couple of mates so that I could go and see The Jam at the Mayfair that night. That night at Newcastle Polytechnic I saw something different in The Clash. It was as if they had moved up couple of levels, and were now a confident, and great rock band, rather than another punk act. The place was packed, with everyone standing on chairs and tables. I think they started with Safe European Home; I do remember that they were just stupendous. I also remember being particularly impressed by Mick Jones guitar work, and when he took the lead for Stay Free, which remains one of my favourite songs to this day. This was the best time that I saw The Clash, and the night I realised that there were a major rock band. I remember saying to Marie that, on that night, for me they were up there with The Who and Zeppelin as one of our best live rock acts.

Blog entry updated on 23rd of June 2020. I recently wrote a chapter for a book about The Clash (Smith, 2017). I have enclosed a short extract below which relates to these gigs. I have also taken the opportunity to include some great photographs which Mark kindly send me of both The Clash and Richard Hell.

_DSC3349 [CROP2][LR]“The Clash returned to Newcastle later in 1977, and again in 1978. There was violence and fighting at both gigs. Both gigs took place at the Students’ Union of Newcastle Polytechnic. Both were weekend gigs, party nights for the students. Admission was once again “students only,” which was a source of anger and violence, and in direct contravention of the tour policy which “guaranteed access to non-college students” (Gray 2003). Richard Hell had a firework thrown in his face at the 1977 gig, which took place a few days before bonfire night. These were crazy nights of excitement, violence, clashes between rival gangs and excellent rock music. “The gigs were mayhem,” recalls Johnny Green: “never seen anything like it in my life” (Gray 2003). A member of The Slits urged the crowd to “wreck the place” (Newcastle Journal, 2011).

I have very vivid memories of the 1978 gig. By 1978 The Clash were established, popular and the darlings of the music press, and as a result the gig sold out almost immediately. There was much anticipation for the concert. The students had come to see what punk rock was all about, and fans to experience their new rock heroes. The local people, those who managed to gain entry, were there to spit at the band and (for some) to fight with the students. The group of people outside were trying to force their way in, getting angrier and angrier, and ended up waiting outside to attack students as they left. At the 1977 gig a fan tried to pull Mick Jones off stage, damaging his Les Paul Junior (Gray 2003)._DSC3343 [CROP][LR]

Although I enjoyed the gigs, I was scared on both occasions. I had very long hair and looked out of place at a punk gig. The fact that the gigs took place in a students’ union building added a level of safety. I could blend in with the students, although I was also the subject of taunts from local punks. It was leaving the venue which was the most frightening aspect of the evening. We had to run the gauntlet of a large group of punks and skinheads who, having been denied access to the gig, were determined to vent their anger and frustrations on students, many worse the wear from alcohol, leaving the hall. Some people were seriously hurt. A heavy police presence minimised the violence and the danger and we survived both gigs unscathed.

_DSC3376 [CROP][LR]The Newcastle Journal (2011) reported the 1978 gig as an example of the “harum-scarum days of punk rock” where “hundreds of drunken youngsters” had “fierce scuffles” and “specially trained security guards with dogs and walkie-talkies” tried to keep order inside and outside the venue.”

Gray, Marcus (2003), The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town, London: Helter Skelter.

Journal, The. (2011). Reuniting the wild women of punk rock, The Journal, Newcastle 23rd February 2011.

Smith, P. (2017). An Analysis of The Clash in Concert: 1977 to 1982, in Cohen, S and Peacock, J (eds.), The Clash Takes on the World: Transnational Perspectives on The Only Band that Matters, Bloomsbury, pp 27 – 44.

Many thanks once again Mark for your great photographs, and for allowing me to use them to update my blog posts.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tony Poolan on September 7, 2014 at 8:10 am

    I was at both. There was a big fight – I avoided it thankfully – at the first and a lot of windows were smashed as people weren’t students or couldn’t get in. There was a lot of ‘gobbing’ at the first and Strummer eventually got angry and took his revenge at the front in similar fashion. The air was electric the Clash were hyped up and 100mph but they were a much better band than expected – Complete Control was amazing as was City of the Dead – a cracking gig. The second was more Give Em Enough Rope orientated and they had calmed down a little as had the crowd although there were still scuffles and the spitting had died down too.


  2. Reblogged this on SJ Lavery and commented:
    Thinking of when I headed out Christmas shopping in 2002 and heard his death announced on the radio. I was stunned. Saw him live ’77 and ’78 at the Poly. Richard Hell moaned a lot about all the gob on his guitar !


  3. Posted by Michele on May 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I was at the 77 gig. Turned up for the soundtrack at around 3pm, met Joe and Paul who then put me on the guest list for the gig. Fourteen tears old and on the guest list!!


  4. I was at the ’77 gig. What an experience for a young punk. 16 years old and just reaching out to this new phenomena. Loved the music. Didn’t have a ticket. You had to be a student at the Poly. I was still at school. Couldn’t get in as the crowds outside the front door were massive. Hung round the back and, behold, Richard Hell let me in. I’d shouted to him that I loved his album (I did!) What a pure punk moment for me. The Clash were of course stupendous. As was Richard Hell and the Voidoids. I’ll never forget him.


  5. Posted by Chris Brookes on October 9, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Weren’t French punk band the Lou’s also at that first Clash gigat the Poly. I was there because my brother was at the Poly. I remember the gig as superb but genuinely scary.


  6. Posted by jez on April 4, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Can anyone confirm the exact address for the student union bar ?


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