Archive for the ‘The Slits’ Category

The Slits : Simply Whats Happening; Newcastle City Hall 23rd September 1979

The Slits, Don Cherry & Happy House, Prince Hammer & Creation Rebel: Simply Whats Happening; Newcastle City Hall 23rd September 1979
slitstixThis was a very adventurous and quite ground breaking tour, which united female punk thrash icons The Slits with legendary innovative jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and Jamaican reggae masters Prince Hammer and Creation Rebel. An early example of punk acting as a platform for world music fusion, this collection of artists toured the major concert halls in the UK, calling at Newcastle City Hall. I’d seen the Slits perform twice before as support for the Clash, and also supporting the Buzzcocks. They had just released their first album “Cut”. Viv Albertine “We knew we were a first, which could be uncomfortable, and we were much more revolutionary than the Pistols and the Clash. They were rock bands, whereas we were using world music and reggae, filtered through our own musicality. We were like a female Spinal Tap, really: we argued, toured and wanted to make a classic album that never dated.” (Interview by Caroline Sullivan, The Guardian, Monday 24 June 2013)
slitsprogThe Slits line-up was the late Ari Up on vocals, guitarist Viv Albertine, Tessa Pollitt on bass and (soon to be Banshee) Budgie on drums. I think Neneh Cherry, Don’s daughter joined them for the tour. Ari Up was a crazy wild front lady, complete with dreads, outlandish outfits and nifty dancing.
From the programme: “This is simply what’s happening…..what’s happening here is real music played by people from three different cultures. Three different musics united by one expression – freedom.
Enjoy yourself, keep room in your head and heart for music from all different cultures and places – we all live under the same sun…” Disc O’Dell
Sadly, with no massive audience draw on the tour, attendance was not great. The Newcastle show was very poorly attended with only a couple of hundred people in a hall which holds 2,400. Pity, because this was an interesting evening with some different and challenging music. The programme (pictured here) is also very different and contains some scribbly doodling artwork and slogans, presumably drawn by one or more of the band.

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.

The Buzzcocks Newcastle gigs 1978 and 1979

Saw them at least three times in 1978. Newcastle Mayfair (support from The Slits) in March 1978. The City Hall (support Penetration) in May 1978. The City Hall again (support Subway Sect) in October 1978. And then again in 1979 at the City Hall with Joy Division support. All of these gigs were just great. They was an air of excitement at the time, we all felt that we were part of something new and exciting, and that music (and everything else) was changing, and fast. Although I had been brought up music-wise on The Beatles, The Stones, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, The Who, and was also heavily into Yes, Genesis, ELP and Floyd, and took to punk 100% and immersed myself in new wave music. Marie and I went to all the punk gigs in the North East in the early 70s, even though I was often the only person there with long hair. I remember reading about the Buzzcocks in the Sounds and NME, and hearing the Spiral Scratch ep but we didn’t get to see them play in the North East until they came to The Mayfair in early 1978, supported by The Slits. By then they had released their first album and the singles “What do I get?” and “I don’t mind”. My recollections of that early gig was of a set of great pure pop songs played in an almost shambolic manner at times. The next tour brought the Buzzcocks to the City Hall a couple of months later with support from local heroes Pentration. The ticket for this gig has no seat number, which suggests that seats weren’t allocated and you could sit wherever you wished. I remember sitting upstairs with Marie, and that the sound wasn’t too good up there. If you look at the songs they had assembled in those early days, there was a stream of classic pop: “I don’t mind”, “Ever fallen in love”, “What do I get?”, “Autonomy”, “Fiction Romance”, “Boredom”, “Love you more”. Their gigs were the same, tune after tune of classic hooks, often not sung or played anywhere near as well as the recorded versions, but Pete Shelley and the rest of the band were so engaging, and the crowd was so into it, that none of that actually mattered. My recollections of the 1979 concert were more of support act Joy Division and of Ian Curtis’ unique, bizarre and compelling performance than of The Buzzcocks. Looking at the ticket stubs, and the single programme that I have from those gigs bringsback such vivid memories: “Nostalgia for a time left to come”. Where did all the time go? Typical setlist from 1978: I Don’t Mind; Fast Cars; Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve); Get on Our Own; Sixteen; Moving Away From the Pulsebeat; Fiction Romance; Love You More; Real World; Breakdown; Noise Annoys; What Do I Get?; Autonomy; Boredom; Oh Shit! Laura and I went to see The Buzzcocks a year or so ago at Newcastle Academy, and they were still great. In fact, if anything the band were more together and the sound clearer than in those early days. I wish I’d gone to the recent reunion show in Manchester with Howard Devoto; I regret not doing so. Hope they do another gig together some day.