Archive for the ‘Angelic Uptarts’ Category

Stiff Little Fingers and The Angelic Upstarts Newcastle Guildhall 28th February 1979

Stiff Little Fingers and The Angelic Upstarts Newcastle Guildhall 1979
slfMy memories of this gig are sketchy, but what I do remember is that it was one of the wildest, craziest and most amazing concerts I have been to. It was around the time that Stiff Little Fingers were just starting to break through and make a name for themselves. They’d had some success with the singles “Suspect Device” and “Alternative Ulster”, and had just released their first album “Inflammable Material”. I’d already seen them play as support for Tom Robinson at the City Hall in late 1978. What I do remember well was that the place was jam packed; dangerously so. They had somehow crammed so many people in there that you couldn’t move at all. And there were lots of fights. The Upstarts manager, Keith Bell, aka The Sheriff, kept jumping into the crowd and sorting out the trouble. Both bands put in awesome, high energy performances; Stiff Little Fingers were unbelievably good: raw, full of energy and passion. The place went completely crazy when they played those classic songs: “Suspect Device”, “Wasted Life”, “Barbed Wire Love” their great version of Bob Marley’s “Johnny Was”; and when they played “Alternative Ulster” the crowd was going entirely nuts. I didn’t think I was going to get out of the place alive. That night SLF were, without question, simply the best new rock’n’roll band on the planet. The atmosphere was a mix of danger and pure rock energy. My mate and I lurked near the back of the crowd, being two of the few people in the hall with long hair. Where did those days go? Was it really more than 35 years ago? I saw Stiff Little Fingers again at Newcastle Mayfair in June 1979 (with support from the Starjets) and then at the City Hall a few times in the early 80s. They were always great but none of those gigs were as raw, energetic or exciting as that night at the Guildhall.
I’ve just watched SLF playing Suspect Device live in 1978 on YouTube and it brings it all back:

I’ll write more about SLF tomorrow.
SLF were (in those days):
Jake Burns – Vocals, guitar
Henry Cluney – guitar, Vocals
Ali McMordie – bass guitar, Vocals
Brian Faloon – drums.
“What we need is
An Alternative Ulster
Grab it change it’s yours
Get an Alternative Ulster
Ignore the bores, their laws
Get an Alternative Ulster
Be an anti-security force
Alter your native Ulster
Alter your native land” (Jake Burns and Gordon Ogilvie, 1978)

The Angelic Upstarts Bolingbroke Hall South Shields and The Old 29 Sunderland late 70s gigs

The Angelic Upstarts Bolingbroke Hall South Shields and The Old 29 Sunderland
upstarts1 Writing about the Old 29 the other day made me think about that great punk band the Angelica Upstarts, who I was lucky enough to see quite a few times in the late 70s and early 80s. The Upstarts grew out of the punk movement and hailed from South Shields, a town very much in the heart of the North East of England. The original line-up of the band was Mensi (vocals),Mond (guitar), Steve Forsten (bass) and Decca Wade (drums). Mensi worked as a miner and this was his escape route from the pits. Mond worked in the shipyard as an electrician. They were very much of a working class background, and started to appear at local punk gigs, accompanied by a group of punks and skinheads. They had been influenced by seeing The Clash on the White Riot tour at Newcastle University (a gig which I also attended) and their first gigs were in local venues in South Shields, including Bolingbroke Hall, which if my memory serves me right is a sports and recreation hall a couple of streets behind South Shields town hall. I saw the Upstarts in concert quite a few times in those early days, including gigs at the aforementioned South Shields Bolingbroke Hall and Sunderland Old 29, a gig at Newcastle Guildhall where they supported Stiff Little Fingers on their first visit to the North East, and a gig at Newcastle City Hall where the upstarts were the support act, possibly for Penetration. Their gigs were legendary and they found themselves banned from many venues, including the City Hall, because of the hardcore troublemakers who came along, and their controversial stage act. An Upstarts gig had an atmosphere of its own. The audience would be strongly committed fans, mostly skinheads and punks (more skinheads as time went on) who bought 100% into the Upstarts socialist and anti-establishment philosophy. Their manager, cum bouncer and minder at the time was local hardman and ex-boxing champ Keith Bell, better known as The Sherrif, who could be found at the front or on the side of the stage at their gigs, always ready to jump into the crowd and sort out any fights. Bell went to prison in 1980 for arson, and was sentenced to a further 18 months for threatening to kill Upstarts drummer Decca. And there often were skirmishes and fights at Upstarts gigs; I always lurked around the back; I felt pretty exposed as one of the only people in the hall with long hair :). The Upstarts made it into the charts with a few of their singles,including “I’m an Upstart” and even played “Teenage Warning” on Top of the Pops, which was their highest chart entry at No 29. Their set at the time consisted of those two songs along with “Student Power” (“F***ing Shower” according to the lyrics; I was also a student at the time; another reason to lurk quietly at the back at gigs), “Small Town Small Mind”, “Police Oppression” and the song that was always a highlight, and became their anthem “The Murder of Liddle Towers”. Liddle Towers was a local amateur boxer who died at the hands of police. In his own words: ‘They gave us a bloody good kicking outside the Key Club, but that was naught to what I got when I got inside’. Towers died in hospital in 1976 from injuries received at the hands of the police during the night of January. The inquest decided that it was “justifiable homicide”, a verdict which was widely criticised at the time. The Upstarts song told the story with lyrics “Who killed Liddle? The police killed Liddle”. The track is a great slab of raw punk, and it was amazingly powerful live. At the early gigs Mensi would introduce the song by brining on stage a whole pigs head which he had purchased at the butchers that day. The pigs head would have a policeman’s helmet perched on top of it, and Mensi would hold it above his head at the start of the song before throwing the head into the moshpit of the crowd. The audience would then throw the head about the place, kick it around the floor, and generally go crazy. I have an enduring memory of a skinhead at Bolingbroke Hall biting the ears of the pigs head. Mensi would be screaming and growling the lyrics of the song, wearing the policeman’s hat. Great memories, of a very under-rated and in terms of the North East punk movement, a very influential band. The Upstarts have reformed over the years with various line-ups, with Mensi the one original member (although at one point the band did continue without him). They are currently on a hiatus as their official website explains: “Unfortunately the Angelic Upstarts had to cancel all scheduled gigs for 2012. Since Mensi is single parent again he currently can’t combine parenthood with the band. Expect new live dates in 2013.” I’ve never seen them live since the early 80s, and haven;t felt the need to do so, but writing this makes me linger for one more Upstarts experience. I must remember to keep my eye on their website for any future gigs.