Archive for the ‘Penetration’ Category

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.


The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 12th October 1977

The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 12th October 1977
stranglers77tixI have already written about the first couple of times I saw the Stranglers in concert which was at gigs in early 1977 at Newcastle Poly and the City Hall. Well it wasn’t long before they were again, once more headlining at Newcastle City Hall. I think that support on this occasion came from local punk heroes Penetration (or maybe that was the City Hall gig earlier in the year); it is all, I am afraid, a bit of a blur…. I saw the Stranglers quite a few times over the next 7 or 8 years and I’ll blog a little about those gigs over the next few days. The Stranglers live was always guaranteed to be wild, with the crowd going absolutely mental, goaded on by Hugh Cornwell and Jean-Jacques Burnel. By late _DSC3097 [LR]1977 the Stranglers had just released their second album “No More Heroes” and were massively successful with punks and rock fans. These were one band which seemed to be able to bridge the two camps, and thus drew massive crowds to their concerts. They were in the UK singles charts 4 times in 1977, first with “Grip”/”London Lady”, which was a minor hit early in the year reaching No 44, then with “Peaches”/”Go Buddy Go”, which made No 8, “Something Better Change”/”Straighten Out” which reached No 9, and their final hit of 1977 “No More Heroes” which got to No 8.strangled1The October 1977 concert was a pretty wild gig with some trouble as I recall, Hugh and Jean-Jacques arguing with the bouncers (I think Jean-Jacques may have tried to kick one of them at one point), and Hugh encouraging the crowd to push their way past the bouncers and climb up on stage. By the end of the gig the stage was completely full of pogoing fans surrounding the band. All of this resulted in the Stranglers not being welcome in the City Hall for some time. Indeed the next few Stranglers tours missed out the North East completely, and it was 1980 before they returned to the region for a gig at Sunderland Mayfair, which I will write about tomorrow. I believe one of the band (either Jet Black or Jean-Jacques Burnel, depending upon which report you read) was arrested after the 1977 Newcastle gig. But then the band were used to _DSC3130b [CROP][LR]controversy at the time, not least because of their very non-PC songs and lyrics and their attitude towards the press. I would always buy a copy of “Strangled” magazine at each gig, as these were often on sale in place of a programme. This was a regular fanzine type mag; one of my early copies is pictured here. Based on setlists at the time the Stranglers set will have been something like this: No More Heroes; Ugly; Bring on the Nubiles; Dead Ringer; Sometimes; Dagenham Dave; Goodbye Toulouse; Hanging Around; Five Minutes; Bitching; Burning Up Time; I Feel Like a Wog; Straighten Out; Something Better Change. Encore: London Lady; Peaches; (Get A) Grip (On Yourself); Go Buddy Go

Updated 13th of June 2020. Pictures of Hugh Cornwall of the Stranglers and Pauline and Rob of Penetration added. Many thanks to Mark for providing the pictures of the gig!

The Reading Rock Festival 25 – 27th August 1978

The Reading Rock Festival 25 – 27th August 1978
readingprog1 This was the year punk finally arrived. The festival was now officially known as the Reading Rock Festival, having dropped “jazz” from the title and the line-up, and weekend tickets cost all of £8.95. Our old friend John Peel was compere, as always, and a van load of us descended on the riverside site, having driven part of the way down on Thursday, gone for a drink in Wetherby and slept on Wetherby racecourse (the crazy things you do when you are young 🙂 ) Highlights of the weekend for me were Penetration (I was a big fan at the time), Sham 69, The Jam, Status Quo (most of our group were heavily into them) and Patti Smith.
Friday line-up: Dennis O’Brien; The Automatics; New Hearts (who would become mods and change their name to Secret Affair); Radio Stars; Penetration; Sham 69; The Pirates; Ultravox; The Jam.
Memories: Radio Stars were always good for a laugh; “Dirty Pictures” (turn me on) was a favourite at the time; it was great to see local north east punk heroes playing up on the massive Reading stage Penetration, although they suffered from murky sound throughout their set; The Pirates rocked the place with no-nonsense rock’n’roll, “Shaking All Over” and ace guitarist the late Mick Green (a big influence on Wilko); and the John Foxx version of Ultravox! played a quite moody atmospheric electronic set. The main event was Sham 69, who were excellent with Jimmy Pursey his usual cockney “boy on the streets” self, and those anthems “What have we got?”, “Borstal Breakout” and “If the Kids are United”. The Sham Army had come across to Reading in force, all braces, No 2 cuts, and Doc Martins, and ready to take on those hippies. We were right at the front, although we soon moved to the side of the crowd when the fights started. A bunch of skins climbed on to the stage, and Pursey tried to call order, pleading with the crowd to stop fighting to no avail. He was in tears, watching bedlam and violence all around him, and not being able to do anything to stop it. But that was the nature of a Sham gig at the time. Jimmy even brought Steve Hillage on stage to show that it was ok to mix with hippies, but that just annoyed the skins more. A nasty, frightening experience, which marred an excellent performance by Sham. The Jam were great, Weller the edgy young mod, getting himself into a strop at the poor sound quality, and trashing his gear. Punk really had arrived at Reading.
The Jam set included: Mr Clean ; Away From the Numbers; Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane; Tonight at Noon; David Watts; Down in the Tube Station at Midnight; “A” Bomb in Wardour Street; News of the World
Saturday line-up: Speedometors; The Business; Jenny Darren; Next; Gruppo Sportivo; Nutz; Greg Kihn Band; Lindisfarne; Spirit; The Motors; Status Quo.
readingprog2Saturday was a little more straightforward rock. Lindisfarne had recently reunited and hit the charts with “Run For Home”. The Motors were OK (Airport!). Spirit were excellent, with great Hendrix-style guitar from Randy California. Status Quo played a solid respectable set, nothing earth shattering. I know quite a few people were disappointed with them that night, but I thought they were OK. “Dirty Water’ was to become a crowd singalong favourite.
Status Quo setlist: Caroline; Roll Over Lay Down; Backwater; Rockers Rollin; Is There A Better Way; You Don’t Own Me; Hold You Back; Rockin All Over The World; Dirty Water; 4500 Times; Big Fat Mama; Don’t Waste My Time; Roadhouse Blues; Rain; Down Down; Bye Bye Johnny.
Sunday line-up: After The Fire; Chelsea; Pacific Eardrum; Bethnal; Squeeze; John Otway; The Albion Band; Paul Inder; Ian Gillan Band; Tom Robinson Band; Foreigner; Patti Smith Group.
Memories: Paul Inder is Lemmy’s son and was 11 years old (!) at the time; what a great thing to do when you are 11 🙂 ; Bethnal were a good band, who had a manic violin player; Squeeze were fun; Otway was as crazy as ever (Really Free); Tom Robinson led a mass singalong of “Glad to be Gay”; and Foreigner went down well with the crowd. But the day belonged to Patti Smith who was amazing. I was a big fan and left my mates to push my way right to the front of the crowd for Patti’s set. She had the whole crowd with her as she tore into “Gloria”, “Because the Night” and great covers of the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be (A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star)” and the Who’s “My Generation”. Stunning. I saw her again at Newcastle City Hall two days later and she was equally as electric.
Patti Smith setlist: Rock n Roll Nigger; Privilege (Set Me Free); Redondo Beach; Free Money; Ghost Dance; It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World; So You Want to Be (A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star); Ask the Angels; 25th Floor; Because the Night; Gloria, You Light Up My Life; My Generation; Godspeed

Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls Newcastle City Hall 1980

Pauline Murray, John Cooper Clarke and the Invisible Girls Newcastle City Hall 1980
apauline I went to see Penetration play a lot in the North East during the late 70s, and was sad when they split. I always thought they deserved greater recognition and success than they achieved. But not to worry, lead singer Pauline soon bounced back with her own solo career, releasing an album and touring in late 1980. This home-coming gig featured Pauline and punk poet John Cooper Clarke each performing their own set. Both performers were backed by the Invisible Girls who had originally been formed to provide backing music for John Cooper Clarke. The Invisible Girls were Manchester producer Martin Hannett’s house band at the time and featured various members including at one point Wayne Hussey. I can’t be certain who was in the band at the City Hall concert but do remember that it featured the excellent Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly on guitar, Buzzcocks drummer John Maher, and Penetration’s Robert Blamire on bass. paulinemurray I think the Invisible Girls may have played their own short instrumental set before John Cooper Clarke came on stage. Vini Reilly had a particular guitar style, very atmospheric, beautiful and melodic. I never quite understood the need to add music to John Cooper Clarke’s poetry, which is strong enough to stand in its own right. I enjoyed seeing him with the Invisible Girls, but his set that night didn’t have the same edge as previous performances I had witnessed; the music somehow almost stifled John’s poems, and didn’t allow him to experiment with phrasing and rhythm in the way that he normally did. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable performance. Pauline’s solo material was much more melodic and poppier than the punk rock of Penetration, and her set that night featured songs from her first album, which is a classic of the time, and quite under-rated. The music is very atmospheric, dark, almost goth in parts. I remember this gig as an enjoyable evening with some uplifting music.

Iron Curtain 30 June 1979 Spectro Arts Workshop Newcastle

Iron Curtain 30 June 1979 Spectro Arts Workshop Newcastle
ironcurtain “Iron Curtain, a new band formed by Gary Chaplain, who left Penetration early last year, present an evening of unusual events, including a reading from Tony Jackson, and their own debut performance.” Spectro Arts Workshop was an arts centre in Bells Court, off Pilgrim Street, Newcastle. This was guitarist Gary Chaplin’s first gig after leaving local punk heroes Penetration. His band was called Iron Curtain, and their music was quite poppy punk as I recall. This was the only time Marie and I visited the Spectro Arts Workshop; I remember it took us some time to find the venue. The evening also included a poetry reading by local poet Tony Jackson. I found the following entry on a message forum: “Tony Jackson (1945 – 1997). Tony was closely involved in the Newcastle poetry “scene” of the 1960s – a close friend of Tom and Connie Pickard at that time, active at the Morden Tower, and in the running of the Morden Tower Bookroom and Ultima Thule Bookshop.  Adrian Mitchell’s poem “Tony Jackson Is A Walking Jungle” comes from this period… From the ’70s he worked extensively with the People Show, increasingly devising his own routines (in chains) as his movement became restricted by MS. He refused to give way to his illness as long as possible, with the courage so many MS sufferers show – worked for various MS groups, but refused to get typecast as such. His work over the years appeared from a number of presses including Writers’ Forum, Galloping Dog and Pig Press.”

Penetration Newcastle City Hall December 1978 and October 1979

Penetration Newcastle City Hall December 1978 and October 1979
pen78 Penetration played two memorable headlining concerts at Newcastle City Hall in December 1978 and October 1979. The 1978 concert was to promote their glorious first album “Moving Targets”. Support came from Punishment of Luxury and Neon. Punishment of Luxury were building their own following at the time, and were quite unique in their approach. Although their music undoubtedly grew out of punk, their spiky staccato art-rock had much more depth to it, and their performance were very theatrical (they had been members of a local theatre group), with use of masks and dance, lead by front men Brian Bond on vocals and Neville Luxury on guitar. Punilux (as they were known) had released the single “Puppet Life” in Summer 1978. Penetration were achieving national success at the time of this show, with Pauline and the guys often popping up in Sounds and NME. This concert was both a coming home and a celebration of their success, demonstrating that they were now of sufficient standing to headline the great hall where so many big acts had played, and where they had supported The Stranglers and The Buzzcocks only a year or so before. The set consisted of all the old favourites and tracks from the first album, including such great songs as: Life’s a Gamble, their cover of the Buzzcocks Nostalgia, Lovers of Outrage, and Movement. pen79 Penetration returned to the City Hall almost a year later. I can’t fully recall who the support act was; my memory tells me it may have been local band The Angelic Upstarts. This time Penetration were promoting their follow up album, ‘Coming Up For Air’. This was part of a full UK tour which visited all of the major venues on the circuit. But things were not right within the Penetration camp, and on stage that night Pauline announced to our shock, “This is the last gig that this line up is ever going to do here… I think everything’s got to change after a while”. I was sitting a few rows from the front, but remember not quite catching what Pauline had said, and not wanting to believe that we were witnessing the end of Penetration. They played the rest of the set with a level of passion and emotion like never before, to a hall full of fans who were simply stunned by her announcement. Penetration went on to complete the tour, including another local gig at Dunelm House, Durham which I attended, and their final gig at The Nashville in London. And there you had it. The end of a very under-rated band who were much more than simple punk. Pauline returned to the City Hall a few years later as Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls, and in recent years Penetration have reformed. But for a couple of years Penetration were out at the front of the local and national music scene, and gave us some great gigs to remember. Setlist from a gig on the last tour: Shout Above The Noise, Life’s A Gamble, She Is The Slave, Life Line, What’s Going On, Movement, Lovers Of Outrage, Party’s Over, Too Many Friends, Killed In The Rush, New Recruit, On Reflection, Nostalgia, Come Into The Open, Danger Signs, Free Money, Don’t Dictate. The following songs were recorded live at Newcastle City Hall in Dec 78 and Oct 79 and appear on the official bootleg: Come Into The Open; Movement; Lovers Of Outrage; She Is The Slave; Too Many Friends; Killed In The Rush

Penetration Peterlee Leisure Centre July 14th 1979

Penetration Peterlee Leisure Centre July 14th 1979
penpeterlee This gig was one event during a weekend of activities held in Peterlee, as part of the Peterlee Festival. Penetration played two shows at Easington Leisure Centre, an afternoon and an evening show. Support came from local heavy rock band White Spirit, who were up and coming at the time, and were soon to find fame as part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement. White Spirit featured Janick Gers who went on to play guitar in Gillan, and then Iron Maiden, who he plays with to this day. A strange pairing of acts, who both put on a great show. I went along to the afternoon concert, which was full of young punks. Penetration played a blinding set, as usual. I found the following entry on a message board, which I thought was interesting “…. a bunch of Hebburn Punks went to this gig. We got the bus from Newcastle but it broke down on the way. We thought we would never make the gig. However, the bus company sent another bus. We commandeered the top of the bus and changed the number and location to the 999 to No Place. We thought it was pretty appropriate considering, it was pretty cool watching peoples faces as we approached bus stops. Sean Halligan”

Penetration gigs in the North East 1977 and 1978

Penetration gigs in the North East 1977
penredcar In my opinion, Penetration were the best local punk band around in North East in the late 70s. Marie and I went to lots of their gigs, seeing many of their performances from early 1977 onwards. The gigs all blur into one now, but I remember seeing great gigs at Newcastle Poly, Newcastle Guildhall, the City Hall (as support and headlining), Middlesbrough Rock Garden (lots of times; Penetration were a big favourite there), Redcar Coatham Bowl, and probably some other places (maybe Sunderland Seaburn Hall, Newcastle University?) who knows….as I say its all a blur now. What I do remember are some great songs, and Pauline Murray’s performance which was always stunning. The early Penetration (and for me the classic line-up) featured Pauline, Gary Chaplin on guitar, Robert Blamire (R) on bass, and Gary Smallman on drums. I recall listening to them played on the radio for the first time; I think it was Duty Free Technology, and thinking how great it was that local guys had made it! And I got to know all the early tracks well before any were released on vinyl. Those early gigs included Don’t Dictate, Money Talks, Firing Squad, Never, Silent Community, VIP, Duty Free Technology, and of course their excellent version of Patti Smith’s Free Money. penetrationprog We would often run into Pauline and the rest of the band at punk gigs in Newcastle and the Rock Garden. The way in which they caught early Pistols gigs, and how that influenced them to form the band is well documented. Penetration in turn were a big influence on the North East music scene and on many local bands. They built up a solid following locally and gigged all over the country, becoming quite a “name” band, to the extent that they were one of the first punk bands to play the Reading festival in 1978 (another great gig). I remember their first gig with Neale Floyd, who replaced Gary Chaplain on guitar in early 1978. Fred Purser joined shortly afterwards and brought a heavier rock style with him. I recall going out and buying their lp Moving Targets (on luminous vinyl 🙂 ) when it came out in October 1978. All great memories. The ticket here is from a later gig at Redcar Coatham Bowl on 8th December 1978. Support act on that night were Teesside punk heroes (and Rock Garden regulars) Blitzkrieg Bop. The programme has a picture from their Reading Festival performance on the front cover, so must date from late 1978 or from 1979. I’ll reflect on some specific Penetration gigs over the next few days.

Cherry Vanilla and the Police Newcastle Poly and Middlesbrough Rock Garden 1977

Fallout I’d seen Sting several times in Last Exit and the Newcastle Big Band, and knew that he had gone down to London with Last Exit. The next thing I heard was that he had formed a punk band called the Police and was supporting an American punk singer called Cherry Vanilla who was touring the UK. The first chance to see this pairing was at a gig at Middlesbrough Rock Garden in early 1977. Cherry had been David Bowie’s USA publicist, and relocated to London in 1976. The set up for the tour was the Police as support act, with Sting and Stewart Copeland also playing in Cherry’s band. The Police line-up at the time was Sting on bass and vocals, Stewart Copeland on drums, and Henry Padovani on guitar. I remember thinking it a strange set-up. Here was the drummer from the prog-rock band Curved Air, a jazz bass player and an unknown guitarist supporting an American new wave singer. It didn’t seem that authentic at the time compared to other punk and new wave acts. I’d always been impressed by Sting in Last Exit, liked Curved Air, and was interested in the punk scene, and hence wanted to see Cherry Vanilla, so Marie and I went to the gig at the Rock Garden, which was on 12 March 1977. As it happened Cherry Vanilla didn’t turn up for some reason, and the Police headlined that night. Their set was pretty straight ahead punk as far as I can recall. The only recored output from that period was the single Fall Out. Their set at the time include Grand Hotel, which was a Last Exit song and Clouds in Venice, which was written by Stewart Copeland and his then wife Sonja Kristina (from Curved-Air). I recall the music as fast-paced typical 1977 speed punk. The Cherry Vanilla / Police pairing appeared at Newcastle Polytechnic on 6 May 1977. and Marie and I went along again. This time Cherry Vanilla did perform with Sting and Stewart in her band, the Police played their own short set, and the evening was opened by local band Penetration who were starting to gig around the region at the time. I was a big fan of Penetration and although their songs were just forming at the time, they were the highlight of that night for me.

The Bedrock Festival Newcastle July 1977

The Bedrock Festival Newcastle July 1977
bedrock1 I’m going to jump out of sequence now and then over the next couple of weeks, as I want to cover a few punk and new wave acts that I am writing on for another project. Apologies for that; I’ll return to the letter I soon (lots of Iron Maiden gigs to cover). Today I’m going to blog on The Bedrock Festival which took place over the fist weekend of July in the year that punk broke, 1977. The full line-up was: Friday lunchtime: Penetration; Harry Hack and the Big G; Friday night: Southbound; East Coast; Steve Brown Band; Scratchband; Saturday lunchtime: Sidekick; Harcourt’s Heroes; Saturday night: Pete Scott Band; Arbre; Hot Snax; Sunday lunchtime: Kip; Moonlight Drive; Sunday night: Young Bucks; Michael Ford’s Limousine; Junco Parters. penetration I went along to the Friday lunchtime session and on Sunday evening, although I only have a ticket stub for the Sunday gig. I definitely remember the Friday session because I went especially to see Penetration who I was a great fan of at the time. I can only assume that I paid on the door for that session, and hence didn’t get a ticket. The event was part of broader Newcastle Festival activities, and was a weekend devoted to local rock talent. The venue for all the concert was the University Theatre, which is a small hall sited next to Newcastle University. It is now called the Playhouse Theatre, and is the home of Northern Stage. bedrock77 The venue for the Friday lunchtime gig was changed at the last minute to the dining hall of nearby Newcastle Polytechnic, because the University Theatre took a policy decision to pull out of any punk rock gigs, which just shows the paranoia which surrounded punk at that time. The venue wasn’t full, and the audience was a small grouping of punks, rock fans and students who had gathered on a Friday lunch time to enjoy the music of a couple of local punk bands. Harry Hack and the Big G were up first followed by Penetration, who were starting to build up their own following. newcastle festival1977 Both bands put on a good show, but my memories are of Penetration who had assembled a set of strong, self-penned songs, which became the tracks on their first album, Moving Targets, which was released the following year. I remember my early favourites were Duty Free Technology, Silent Community, Firing Squad (which was to become a single) and Pauline’s great treatment of Patti Smith’s Free Money. Great stuff. The Sunday night was headlined by Michael Ford’s Limousine. Michael Ford was also known as Mick Whittaker, who is a great soul singer in the mould of Joe Cocker and Paul Rodgers. He was great that night, and there was a feeling that this guy was going to go on and make it really big, which never happened, and is a great shame.