Posts Tagged ‘punk’

John Lydon, I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right Durham Gala Theatre 18 October 2021

LYDON TIX“He’s a legend and an icon, a revolutionary and an immortal. John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten – changed the face of music and sparked a cultural revolution. The frontman and lyricist of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd (PiL) caused a political earthquake and transformed music for good. To coincide with the publication of his new book, the brilliant, funny and insightful I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right, he is touring the UK. Lydon will talk about how he sees life, along with his unique and extraordinary career, and take audience questions during a pyrotechnic, one-off tour. Lydon will be sharing his thoughts with audiences. He Could Be Wrong. He Could Be Right.”(Tour announcement, 2019)

LYDON 5You couldn’t get much more of a contrast: Cliff Richard two days ago and then John Lydon! Two very different icons of popular music. But then, perhaps not as far apart as you might imagine: “Lydon, the uncompromising man of punk, explained his admiration for Cliff Richard: “My parents had a fantastic collection. It wasn’t just Irish folk tunes and accordion diddly-doos, there was early Beatles and lots of Cliff Richard too. The first record I would have ever wanted to buy was ‘Move It!’ by Cliff Richard. It was a really good song at the time and still is.” Richard may be a bit square now, but he influenced tonnes of acts form the sixties. “Early Cliff was a riotous assembly of sorts, and he had moves that left a good impression on a 5 year old.”” (Far Out)

I waited some time for this one. It was originally announced in 2019 and scheduled for 2020; then postponed until 2021. This is quite a lengthy tour, seeing Lydon visit venues up and down the country, promoting his latest book: I could be Wrong, I could be Right. I bought a copy of the book when it was initially issued; one of 5000 signed copies, each presented in a lovely box featuring one of John’s paintings on the cover (see images). Now I have seen John at a similar event a few years ago when he was promoting his last book, in Manchester, where I was lucky enough to meet the man himself and have him sign my book. I have already written about that encounter.

LYDON 1The stage was nicely set out with two red velvet chairs, one for John and one for his on tour interviewer. We weren’t allowed to take photographs, hence the image of the stage setup. The evening consisted of two segments separated by a short interval. The entire show lasted around two hours. The first segment was devoted to John telling us some memories of his life. The second and final segment took the form of a question-and-answer session. Attendees were allowed to write questions on special cards and post these in a box, placed at the front of the stage, during the interval.

John was on good form. He really doesn’t care what he says or who he may offend; but then, that’s just him, as he always was. The first segment started with John talking about his early years and being brought up by Irish Catholic parents: a father who finished every sentence with “you f**king c**t!” This phrase would reappear throughout the evening along with many other expletives. One thing I have learned about John, is that he is a mixture of 100% authentic, some exaggeration and speaks from the heart. Through all that he is very, very funny and there is a total honesty about the guy. I hope all that mix makes some sense, somehow. Anyway, that’s how he comes over to me. And so the story continues. We learn a lot about his childhood in a Catholic school run by nuns and priests who abused him in several LYDON 4ways. He talks a lot, and becomes quite emotional, about his wife Nora who has Alzheimers and for whom John is now primary carer. He has been with Nora since the 1970s and she is of German origin and the mother of the late Ari Up of the all girl punk band, The Slits. He clearly has a deep love for the lady and speaks with great affection about how best to deal with, in a very positive way, those who suffer from Alzheimers. He talks also about Jimmy Savile and how he outed Savile on the BBC in the 1970s, only to be banned by the Corporation from then on. He talks briefly about Sex Pistols and the recent court case, referring to his former bandmates in less than harmonious terms; involving more expletives. I guess I won’t be going to any Sex Pistols reunion gig for some time; if ever! “Speaking on the opening night of his extensive ‘I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right’ spoken-word tour this week, he ranted: “They’ve turned themselves into really greedy, selfish, nasty f****. But c’est la vie.” (Contactmusic) “JOHNNY Rotten shouted “liars, liars filthy liars!” on Good Morning Britain” (The Sun)

During the interval I chat with my carer Lisa and my sister-in-law Elaine, who has come along with us to the show as she is a fan of John and the Pistols. Now there is a story about this if you will bear with me for a minute. When I was going to see Sex Pistols at Scarborough Penthouse with my late wife, Marie and my friend Trevor, Elaine was a young teenager and cried for us to take her along to see the band. However, the Penthouse being an over 18 venue, we felt we could not risk it as she may not have been allowed entry. She was very upset, and has remained a fan since those days. Back to the show. I also partake in a nice cold pint of LYDON 3Guinness which goes down really well (even through one of those horrible paper straws).

The final segment of the show is the question-and-answer. This features questions about the recent legal case, and one which, most of all, both surprises and pleases me. John is asked who his favourite bands were before he joined Sex Pistols. His answer is, Roxy Music, The Kinks, and to my surprise: the Edgar Broughton Band, Pink Fairies and Status Quo. About the latter, he explains that Status Quo were a pretty great rock band in the early 70s; a sentiment which I fully agree with. He talks about putting his head into the bass bin at a Status Quo concert, something which I remember doing at a Motorhead gig. Very foolish. But Edgar Broughton! I was delighted to hear that he was a fellow fan. Indeed he went on to quote the main line of Edgar Broughton’s single “Gone Blue”: “I love that little hole in the back of her head”. I still don’t fully understand what Edgar was referring to there. Anyway, back to John. Another question asked if he believed Sid would still be alive if he had not met Nancy. John answered “No” and revealed that Sid’s mother was a heroin addict who gave Sid some heroin for his 14th birthday! He spoke quite emotionally and touchingly about his love of Sid and how he was his best mate. He also revealed a love of one of my own heroes: Alice Cooper, and talked about how he auditioned for Sex Pistols in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop in the Kings Road, by singing Alice’s “Eighteen” and “Schools Out” in front of a jukebox. The evening finished with John discussing his love of reggae music, how it influenced Public Image Ltd and leading us in a singalong similar to his single “Rise”.

LYDON 2Both Lisa and Elaine really enjoyed the show, as did I. A very entertaining evening with an icon of punk rock and popular culture. It doesn’t come much better than Cliff one night and John two nights later. A short taxi ride and we were back home where Lisa and Elaine hoisted me back into my bed with thoughts of John and Edgar Broughton swirling around in my head, no doubt aided by the pint of Guinness. A great night.

Patti Smith Veeps live stream from Electric Lady Studios 10 September 2021 2 AM BST!!

patti lady tixThis was (I think) my third live streaming event by Patti Smith. This was a little bit special as it was billed as a one-off live streaming event (no re-watching afterwards) from the famous Electric Lady Studios. There was one problem. It was at 2 AM BST (British Standard Time). Now my days of being awake, or getting up, at 2 AM are well past. I am just too old for this lark! It was different when I was younger and I was lying in a station bench in King’s Cross, Edinburgh Waverley or Victoria, but these days this was a real test of strength and willpower. Anyway, a little against my better judgement, I bought my ticket from Veeps. On the night before the event I drank my usual evening tipple, one can of draught Guinness, and went to sleep around 10 PM. At 1:45 AM my carer for the evening, Chris, woke me up, perched the computer above me in bed and switched it on ready for the show to start.

patti lady 3The event was billed as: “Patti Smith returns to Veeps for a very special collaboration with Electric Lady Studios and Spotify: streaming from the legendary recording facility on September 9th. A message from Patti “We are very proud to be part of this very special series at our favourite recording studio. It was a unique challenge and offered us an exciting and innovative platform”.”

This was particularly interesting and tempting because of the venue. Electric Lady Studios is a famous recording studio in Greenwich Village, New York City. It was commissioned by Jimi Hendrix in 1968. Hendrix spent only ten weeks recording in Electric Lady before his death in 1970, but it was later used by many famous artists from the 1970s onwards, including Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, and David Bowie.

Patti has recently recorded a short album at Electric Lady Studios, and this event was a live performance of that album.

So, there I was, now fully awake and alert, waiting for Patti Smith to appear. It is always interesting at these live streaming events reading the chat box to see who else is watching alongside me (metaphorically). So, I notice messages such as “hello Patti from Tokyo”, “hi from London”, “hi there from Berlin”, “waiting for you Patti, from New York”, and so on… You get the idea.

patti lady 1Soon Patti did appear and we were treated to a great performance of the songs from the album. The aforementioned album contains a selection of old Patti Smith’s songs and some covers including a wonderful version of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”. The lady was on top form and was backed by her usual musicians including long-time collaborator Lenny Kaye. Great! Now, a few people in the chat box were questioning whether the performance was really live or pre-recorded. To be honest, the way the songs blended from one to the next did feel like a pre-recorded performance and Patti had little to say on the evening. However, to me it didn’t matter; it was still another opportunity to see the great lady performing at her best. The set was short, matching the length of the album. Some people in the chat seemed disappointed at this. Me, I was quite satisfied, and in some ways, a little relieved that I could return to my sleep; dreams of Patti Smith live swirling around in my head. I awoke the next morning, a little tired, but actually none the worse for my experience.

patti lady 2Setlist: April Fool; Ghost Dance; Blame it on the Sun; Broken Flag; Birdland; One Too Many Mornings; Peaceable Kingdom

Patti Smith Birthday live stream 30 December 2020

patti4An invitation from Patti Smith dropped into my mailbox:

“The winter solstice filled me with new energy, I hope for you as well. I am writing to thank you for your support, and spending time with Tony, my daughter Jesse Paris and I on Black Friday. We hope to feel your presence again on my birthday, Wednesday, December 30th. There will be the full band beneath a full moon.”

How could I resist? Celebrating Patti’s 74th birthday with herself and her band in the comfort of my own room. Excellent! There was one small drawback, however. This time the concert was at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time (USA) which was 2 AM UK Greenwich Mean Time. Still a man has to do what a man has to do; so I pressed the button and bought a ticket.

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So it was that, last Wednesday, both Alexa and my nightshift carer Jackie were given precise instructions to wake me up at 1:45 AM so that I was ready for the start of Patti’s concert. The plan worked precisely and I was awake, remarkably refreshed, ready for the show. This time Patti was accompanied by her band including long time member Lenny Kaye, who had also celebrated his 74th birthday only a few days earlier. A small tot of whiskey surprisingly helped keep me awake and was an ideal accompaniment for the early morning (or late evening, depending on your perspective) concert.

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The set was a collection of Patti Smith favourites from throughout her career. She started with “Grateful” dedicated to Jerry Garcia, followed by “Kimberly”. Then we were transported right back to the start with a wonderful “Free Money”, building up to its majestic climax, Patti’s voice sounding as strong and unique as ever. “My Blakean Year” was followed by a short poetry reading. Then it was back to familiar Patti Smith territory, with a number of favourites including “Dancing Barefoot” which she dedicated to her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith; both of their children performing with her.

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The set climaxed with a great rendition of her collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night”, which she also dedicated to Fred “Sonic” Smith. Hughes in Billboard (2018) declared “Because the Night” “a layered tribute for Fred and Patti’s love, as well as the family and art that came from it.” (Billboard, Hughes, 2018) Then it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” to the great lady herself, complete with birthday cake. I noticed that she blew out the candles with a fan; I guess really blowing them out is not acceptable in the Covid world; it is strange how things have changed in so many little ways. Finally, a lovely hours entertainment closed with “People Have the Power” and a reference to the new political regime in the USA. 3 AM and it was time to go back to sleep. Happy Birthday Patti.

Setlist: Grateful; Kimberly; Free Money; My Blakean Year; Poem; Ghost Dance; Dancing Barefoot; We Three; Beneath the Southern Cross; Because the Night; Happy Birthday to You; People Have the Power

Live Birthday Performance with her band: Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan, Jay Dee Daugherty, Jesse Paris Smith and Jackson Smith

Patti Smith A Black Friday Performance Veeps livestream 27 November 2020

patti ticketSo I finally entered the live streaming era. I couldn’t resist, of course, “seeing” Patti Smith “in concert” in a Veeps live streaming event on Black Friday. I must admit to being quite intrigued and excited about how my hero Patti would join me in my living room through my laptop. What would it be like? Could it in any way match a real live event?

Well all was to be revealed at 8 PM on 27th November. Having resisted the rush for online bargains on Black Friday, I made up for it by treating myself to joining Patti, her daughter Jessie Paris Smith and long-term sidekick Tony Shanahan for a concert in my living room. Patti appeared, on time (no long waiting for the artist to appear in this medium) in what looked like her Bowery upstairs room set out as a studio, with her patti tix 2daughter Jessie Paris on keyboards and Tony Shanahan or electric piano.

Patti started with a reading from her book “Year of the Monkey”, followed by a series of songs, most of which I recognised, on which she accompanied herself with an acoustic guitar and the keyboards of her fellow musicians. These included “My Blakean Year”(based around her thoughts and feelings of the poet William Blake), another poem “The Woes of the Young Scientists”, a beautiful cover of “After the Gold Rush” (for Neil Young’s 75th birthday the week before),”Elegie” for Jimi Hendrix, whose birthday it would have been that day (“Happy Birthday Jimi”, said Patti sweetly) and the lovely “This Is the Girl”, Patti illustrating the song with some lovely small hand/arm movements. The set closed with songs from more familiar territory including “Dancing Barefoot”, “People Have the Power” and, finally “Pissing in a River”. Patti was on fine form throughout, looking as lovely and natural as ever. A great performance by all three musicians.patti 1

Well, what are my final conclusions of a live streaming event? Did Patti really join me in my living room? Well, of course not, but there was a strange intimacy to the performance. Did it match up to a real-life event? No, nothing can match the atmosphere of a live rock performance, but it was okay as a substitute during these strange times. Would I go to another such event? Yes, perhaps, depending upon the artist and the context. Did I enjoy it? Come on, yes of course I enjoyed it. After all, it is Patti Smith!

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Setlist: Year of the Monkey (reading); Grateful; My Blakean Year; The Woes of the Young Scientists (Poem); After the Gold Rush (Neil Young cover); This Is the Girl; Elegie; Dancing Barefoot; Beneath the Southern Cross; Peaceable Kingdom / People Have the Power; Pissing in a River

The Pretenders Newcastle City Hall 30 September 2017

“I’m special, so special,” (Brass in Pocket, The Pretenders, 1979)

pretenders tixChrissie Hynde is as sassy, soulful, passionate and uncompromising as ever. No longer a young rocker who grew out of punk, new wave, working in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop in the Kings Road, who almost married Sid Vicious, and did marry her hero Ray Davies, Hynde still strikes a commanding pose and comes armed with a set of rocky, jangling songs which are as relevant and as much fun as they ever were.

Laura, Jackie my carer and I went along to the City Hall looking forward to hearing a string of hits, some great rock ‘n’ roll, and seeing the living icon that is Chrissie Hynde. The girls sitting beside us were a little worse for wear, singing along with every song and every now and then threatening to fall on top of, and flatten, Laura. All the ingredients for a fun night out, on the town (or should I say “the toon”).

And a fun night it was. The Pretenders treated us to a set of new songs, old hits, Chrissie Hynde solo tunes and more. After a couple of songs I didn’t recognise the old classics started to emerge: “Message of Love”, the exquisite “Talk of the Town” and then we were back to the start and “Kid” with images of the young Chrissie being soaked in beer thrown over her by members of the crowd at the Mayfair in the late 70s flashing through my mind.

The band may be different with only Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers remaining from the original Pretenders but the sound and the songs remain the same. The new members bring new life and continue the soulful, edgy, rock ‘n’ roll that is The Pretenders.

pretenders prog“Don’t Get Me Wrong” was followed by “I’ll Stand by You” and then after a few more songs my mind was flashing back again to the first time I saw the band in the Mayfair with the Kinks classic “Stop Your Sobbing”. “Back on the Chain Gang” took us towards the end.

But we knew it wasn’t really going to be the end. The encore included the classic ballad “I Go to Sleep” and finished with (of course, what else but) “Brass in Pocket” taking me back to a Friday night in Newcastle Polytechnic Students Union, the week the song was number one in the charts, standing on the tables with Marie, while the place erupted around us. It was so many years ago and yet in many ways it seems only like yesterday.

The girls next to us finally fell on the floor. We went out into the cold night and got in to our respective taxis, Laura back to her house in Newcastle and Jackie and I back to Sunderland. Happy days.

Setlist: Alone; Gotta Wait; Message of Love; Talk of the Town; Down the Wrong Way; Let’s Get Lost;   Kid; Private Life; Don’t Get Me Wrong; I’ll Stand by You; Night in My Veins; Don’t Cut Your Hair;  Boots of Chinese Plastic; Hymn to Her; Break Up the Concrete; Stop Your Sobbing; Adding the Blue;  Back on the Chain Gang; Mystery Achievement. Encore: I Go to Sleep; Middle of the Road; Thumbelina; Brass in Pocket

 

 

Blitzkrieg Bop: Various gigs 1977 and 1978

_DSC3253 [LR]Mark recently sent me some great photographs of punk bands playing locally in the late 70s and I have been including these in my posts. One band that I now realise I should have highlighted before is Teesside punk rockers Blitzkrieg Bop, who I saw many times often supporting “name” punk bands. The line-up of Blitzkrieg Bop changed several times but the main character I remember was “Blank Frank” the lead vocalist.

The core line-up of the band started as John Hodgson aka Blank Frank, Alan Cornforth aka Nicky Knoxx & Damian (Dimmer) Blackwell aka Telly Sett. After many line-up changes this trio finally emerged as Blitzkrieg Bop in February 1977, joined by Mick Hylton (aka Mick Sick) and Anne Hodgson (aka Gloria). They recorded their debut single “Let’s Go” / “Bugger Off” / “9 Till 5” and released a limited run of 500 copies in early June 1977. By this time guitarist Dimmer Blackwell had left and the band carried on as a four piece. The single sold out within days and received a good review in the NME. (Adapted from Wikipedia).

I definitely saw Blitzkrieg Bop support Radio Stars at Newcastle Poly (7th October 1977) a_DSC3235 [CROP][LR] gig in which their set was interrupted by young band Speed who would often turn up and play at gigs unannounced. I also saw them supporting Generation X at Newcastle University (11th March 1978), X-Ray Spex at Redcar Coatham Bowl (23rd April 1978) and Penetration at Redcar Coatham Bowl (8th December 1978). I also saw them supporting Penetration at Middlesbrough Rock Garden on at least a couple of occasions (possibly 27th January 1978 and/or 18th March 1978). (Thanks to the great Blitzkrieg Bop site for the dates of the gigs).

Like many of the local punk bands of the time, Blitzkrieg Bop were a breath of fresh air: crazy, kooky, cool (all at the same time!), fast, reckless, exciting and best of all LOUD! Happy, happy days.

Thanks again to Mark for his great photographs of Blitzkrieg Bop, taken at Middlesbrough Rock Garden.

In the next few days I shall return to some more recent gigs and cover concerts I have seen over the last few years including KISS, Rolling Stones, The Who and many more.

The Stranglers Newcastle Polytechnic Green bar 23 February 1977

stranglers1

My Ticket

This is an update of an earlier post, thanks to Mark the promoter, who sent me more details of the first three punk gigs in Newcastle. This was the second gig of the three, the first being the Vibrators and the last being Penetration; both of which I have already written about.

I first saw the Stranglers in the Green bar of Newcastle Poly in February 1977, and have a natty little ticket from the event (pictured here) which shows a victim of (I think) the Boston Strangler. The bar was completely packed. The audience was a mix of students, and locals with a smattering of people starting to wear punk gear. A group of fashion students were into the punk scene and would dress in Vivienne Westwood gear which they must have bought from Seditionaries in London. The Stranglers played a blistering performance featuring early songs, many of which were to appear on their soon to be released first album, “Rattus Norvegicus”. Their only release at the time of the Poly gig was the first single “Grip”/”London Lady”. “London Lady” was probably my favourite song of theirs at the time.

I found a bootleg listed for a performance at Middlesbrough Rock Garden, also on 23rd February 1977. The Rock Garden gig was in fact the night after, on 24th February 1977. The recording shows the set as being: Get A Grip On Yourself; Sometimes; Bitching; School Mam; Peasant In The Big Shitty; Straighten Out; Hanging Around; Ugly; London Lady; Down In The Sewer; Something Better Change; Go Buddy Go. If that set list is correct it seems that the band had already written, and were playing, tracks such as “Bitching” and “School Mam” that would end up on their second album “No More Heroes”.

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Picture courtesy of Mark from a later gig at The City Hall

Mark says: “The Stranglers originally asked for more money than we had in the bank. But they made us an offer… if we put them up for the night, they would reduce their fee by £50, which made the gig possible. They were a great bunch of guys, very interesting to talk to. And they gave my and my bother a lift in their old rover car to the gig at the Rock Garden in Middlesbrough which was the next day. I recorded the Middlesbrough gig and is available amongst collectors (Aha, so that is where the aforementioned bootleg came from; it was courtesy of you Mark!) I also recorded the Newcastle Poly gig, but the sound on the recording was no good, so I didn’t keep it (the sound at the gig itself was great). All the posters had the same design, except different colours. The Stranglers sent publicity stuff, which I used for the tickets. But I designed my own poster, because I didn’t want people copying the poster to forge tickets. At that time, the Stranglers were the best known punk band after the Pistols.”

“RIP Dave Greenfield. His keyboards defined The Stranglers sound.” Well said Bryan.

The Vibrators Newcastle Polytechnic 10 January 1977

vibrators lpThis was another gig promoted by the Alternative Rock Society in collaboration with Newcastle Polytechnic Students Union, and was the first punk rock gig to take place in Newcastle. Mark the promoter says “Jan 77 was originally the Buzzcocks, but they cancelled at very short notice, and the only band we could get to replace them was the Vibrators. There were very few punk bands in existence at the time”.

I was particularly excited about seeing the Vibrators again. Marie and I had seen them a month earlier at Middlesbrough Rock Garden, and had been quite impressed by them. Their single at the time was “We Vibrate” which had quite a catchy riff to it.

“The Vibrators were founded by Ian ‘Knox’ Carnochan, bassist Pat Collier, guitarist John Ellis (who later joined the Stranglers), and drummer John ‘Eddie’ Edwards (who remains in the band to this day). They first came to public notice at the 100 Club when they backed Chris Spedding in 1976. On Spedding’s recommendation, Mickie Most signed them to his label RAK Records. Most produced their first single, “We Vibrate”. “ (Wikipedia)

They were one of the pioneering punk bands that played at London’s Roxy Club. In March 1977 , I was to see them again supporting Iggy Pop on his British tour (with special guest David Bowie on keyboards), when they played at Newcastle City Hall. Later that year, they backed ex-Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter ; Marie and I saw them once again, this time at Newcastle Mayfair.

Buzzcocks cancellation

Letter of cancellation from Buzzcocks

The gig took place in the Green Bar, a small bar upstairs in the Students Union building. Marie and I were right down the front, facing Knox. The music was loud, pounding and exciting. All around us, the crowd were going crazy. Some were starting to do “the Pogo”, the new punk rock dance which involved jumping up and down while standing straight, bolt upright. Soon the crowd would start spitting at the band, although I don’t recall any spitting on this occasion. Sometimes the front man would be covered in spit; which was very unpleasant for the band and anyone close to the front (we soon started standing close to the back!) Happy crazy days! These were incredible times, I felt something new was happening in music, and was becoming converted to punk rock.

I took every opportunity to see punk bands, whenever they came to the North-East. The next gig to take place in the Green bar was the Stranglers, which I shall write about soon.

Many thanks to Mark for allowing me to reproduce the document.

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

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.

 

Elvis Costello Sunderland Empire 3rd of March 2020

Wind back 40 odd years. Marie and I are in the upstairs bar in Newcastle Polytechnic Students Union. With us is Gary Chaplin of Penetration, Captain Sensible of the Damned and a young guy named Elvis Costello The occasion is, I think (my memory is hazy these days), the first Stiff Tour.ELVIS TIX The Captain is holding court, telling tales of the Damned on the road and how his favourite band is ABBA. He demolishes a packet of crisps in one go including the plastic pack itself! Elvis is quiet, drinking his pint. I’m not sure why the Captain was there, as he wasn’t appearing that night; I guess he must just have come along for the ride. This was the second time I had seen Elvis Costello live and I must admit I was very impressed, particularly by his second single “Alison”. I had seen him a few weeks earlier at Middlesbrough Town Hall, again on the Stiff tour. I think it must have been around November 5th and Guy Fawkes night, as I recall we were waiting outside the venue and some young kids had their “guy” against the wall and asked Elvis “Penny for the Guy?” as he passed them on his way into the Town Hall. I think he threw them a few coppers. “That Elvis Costello” I told my mates. At the time I wondered how a young guy dared call himself “Elvis”. I was soon to find out. He was soon to be in the charts with “Watching the Detectives”. A few years later, in 1980, I saw him in my home town of Sunderland, at the Mayfair. I’ve seen him a few times before and after that over the years, but I must admit I still prefer those early, rocking, concert performances by an angry young Elvis who spat out the lyrics.
Wind forward 40 years and Elvis is back in Sunderland, this time at the Empire Theatre; the venue where I saw my very first concert and where I have enjoyed many gigs over the years including those by Rory Gallagher in Taste, the Nice, T Rex, Slade, Chuck Berry, Kate Bush and many others. The support act was Ian Prowse and pretty good he was too, warming up the crowd well before our hero took to the stage.ELVIS 2
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Which Elvis would we get? The angry rocker, the middle-of-the-road crooner, or perhaps a mix? Well what we did get was a show that surpassed anything I could have expected. Elvis was backed by a great band; the Imposters, who included some old faces (Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas from the Attractions) and two excellent girl singers. For the next two hours plus we get a full selection of our favourites from throughout his career: some I am hearing for the first time but the majority I know very well. Elvis wears a silver lame jacket and is very much the rock star. The sound is loud, a little murky at first, but soon becomes clear. Elvis stands at the front, pointing his Fender Jaguar guitar at us and he spits out the lyrics as he always used to. He reminds us of that gig in Sunderland forty years ago, referring to the venue as Tiffany’s, rather than the Mayfair (but he wasn’t wrong, Tiffany’s was the sister club, next door to the Mayfair and a little more middle-of-the-road). Funnily enough I met with my friend Marianne a couple of weeks ago and she served behind the bar in Tiffany’s at the time and told me that Elvis was drinking in the club after the gig. He can’t resist dropping some names of his collaborators such as Bert Bacharach and Carole King (but who can blame him). The hits keep flowing: “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”, “Watching the Detectives”, “A Good Year for the Roses” which has grown on me over the years, “I Can’t Stand up for Falling down”; then we are back to the very start and “Alison” and he finishes with “Pump It up”. He returns (this time the lame jacket is gold and very fetching) ELVIS 1 and sings a beautiful version of “Shipbuilding”, followed by “Oliver’s Army” with everyone standing up and singing along and finishing with an excellent version of “(What’s so Funny about) Please, Love and Understanding”. Excellent. A marathon of professionalism and much, much better than I had expected. A great night. I also ran into some old friends Ian, Pete, Mike, Maureen and John. Happy days can be here again. 🙂

Setlist: Strict Time; Clubland; Green Shirt; Accidents Will Happen; Watch Your Step; Tokyo Storm Warning; Little Triggers; (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea; Unwanted Number; Watching the Detectives; Man Out of Time; A Good Year for the Roses; A Face in the Crowd; I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down; Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter; High Fidelity; From a Whisper to a Scream; Alison; Everyday I Write the Book; Pump It Up. Encore: Shipbuilding; Oliver’s Army; (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding