Penetration Newcastle Polytechnic 4 May 1977

I am stepping back in time for my next few blogs. I have recently had some comments by Mark on my blog, reminding me of the first three punk rock gigs to be held in Newcastle, way back in 1977.

I have written quite a long about Penetration, one of the first punkPenetration poster [LR] bands in the north-east, and certainly the first to make any real impact. However, Mark has recently reminded me of these concerts and the fact that he promoted them. Martin, who is writing a book on north-east punk rock, confirms that this along with gigs by the Vibrators and the Stranglers, also promoted by Mark at the same venue, were the first three punk gigs in Newcastle.

Mark says: “There was no contract for Penetration… it was done word-of-mouth because I knew them. We’d met them at a punk gig at the Rock Garden in Middlesbrough. The three gigs were organised by a student society started by me, called the “Aternative Rock Society”. There was some resistence from the official students union entertainments committee to us putting on gigs; but to be fair, they did let us do it, when they could have just totally refused. For legal reasons, the entertainments committee provided security, signed contracts and paid bands. I negotiated contracts, made tickets & posters and did everything else.”

The Penetration gig was the third of these three concerts and, like the others, held in the Green Bar, which was a small bar upstairs in the Students Union of Newcastle Polytechnic. Marie and I went to many gigs at Newcastle Poly, usually on a Friday night; but these gigs, promoted by the Alternative Rock Society, were a bit different and a chance to see punk rock bands close-up. By early 1977 we regularly frequented Middlesbrough Rock Garden on a Friday night, the only venue in the North-East that featured punk bands.

dont dictate

Don’t Dictate

We talked to Pauline and the rest of Penetration at several gigs. I first remember seeing them at the Flamin’ Groovies and The Damned gig at Redcar Coatham Bowl in 1976. I was so jealous that they had seen the Sex Pistols several times and they were clearly well into the punk scene. Musically they were a breath of fresh air and had a great set of early songs, including their anthem and first single “Don’t Dictate“. Many of these songs developed further and were featured on the band’s first album including “Life’s a Gamble”, “Lovers of Outrage”, and “Silent Community”  all written by original guitarist Gary Chaplin and singer Pauline Murray. Another favourite at the time was their excellent version of Patti Smith’s “Free Money”.


Moving Targets

This gig gave us another chance to see the band. I remember that we were standing right at the front, as we were for the Vibrators and Stranglers gigs. Punk rock was still new to us, I had swapped my flares for drainpipe jeans and my desert boots for winklepicker shoes with side laces; Densons as I recall. Marie was wearing a black leather jacket, very like a biker’s jacket worn by the Ramones. These were exciting times and we felt we were part of a new movement.

As I recall, Penetration were excellent that night, as always. Happy happy days.

Many thanks to Mark for sending me the image of the poster, and for his memories of organising the gigs. I will report on the Vibrators and Stranglers gigs soon.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by david howarth on June 11, 2020 at 11:52 am

    It really is wonderful reading these blogs. I was a member of the Alternative Rock Society which came out of the Fine Art Department. My recollection of Mark was seeing him wandering around with copies of the Ramones and Patti Smith albums under his arm. Memories fade with time but my recollections of the Penetration gig was Pauline Murray wearing an all black shiny cat suit and in what must have still been a formative stage, doing covers of the likes of Velvet Underground. I was the Union President at the time and the Ents committee viewed the emerging punk scene as rubbish, although by the summer of 77 the new Entertainments Officer, who was sadly killed in a car crash, was on board and we had some great discussions about who he should book.


    • Posted by vintagerock on June 11, 2020 at 11:57 am

      Thanks David pleased you are enjoying them. My memory is fading which is one reason for doing the blogs! Happy happy days Peter


  2. Posted by George Ward on July 13, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    Rock Garden was a very dangerous place if I opened my bloody mouth they knew that I was a Mackem and they wanted to knack them .


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 13, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      Yes I agree George how I didn’t get killed in there I don’t know. I remember a very scary night when Crass played there. Still it was all part of the experience and the atmosphere. Happy days Peter


  3. Posted by Deviation Street on September 15, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Great to see these posted up .
    I seem to recall a gig on a Saturday afternoon at the poly with Penetration headlining and Harry Hack and The Big G supporting .
    BTW Raw later went on to become The MPS. I did a review of them for the fanzine Deviation Street . Kevin Anderson I think did one of the 1st interviews with Penetration in issue 1 .
    After Deviation folded , myself and John Evans (who was the 3rd part of the fanzine ) both joined The MPS as vocalist and bassist. I relaunched Deviation Street with a wider scope , incorporating artists and writers work, as a blog a few years back, followed by a print version . The pandemic put the print on hold but there’s a new Deviation Street launching soon .


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 15, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Hi I think the afternoon concert was part of the Bedrock Festival in the Green bar of the poly, as I recall. I am sure I was there and it was poorly attended. Your fanzine sounds interesting; do you have a link to it? Best wishes Peter


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