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Syd Barrett – Remember When You Were Young, You Shone Like the Sun

Sun 13’s Banjo looks at the life and troubled times of the Pink Floyd founder

April 6th saw the 50th anniversary of one of rock’s strangest and saddest chapters, when Syd Barrett was officially declared to be no longer a member of Pink Floyd, the band he had captained since their birth and the vehicle he used to give voice to his unique artistic vision.

Barrett formed Floyd with Roger WatersNick Mason and Rick Wright, moving them from R & B beginnings to their own psychedelic style. The Barrett-penned Arnold Layne was enough to get the band signed to EMI in 1967 and his See Emily Play gave them their first top ten hit.

Of their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn’s 11 tracks, 8 were solely credited to Barrett, while a further two tracks had him as co-writer. Barrett was Pink Floyd‘s chief songwriter, the man who gave them their direction and the reason they first found success.

But by the time Floyd’s second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, was released, it contained only one Barrett composition and his time in the band was almost at an end. The reasons for this are captivating, unsettling and, ultimately, very sad.

Barrett was creatively unique and a lot of the psychedelic movement’s bands owed a great deal to his vision. But he was also mentally quite fragile. As is the case with much of Barrett’s story, there are a lot of tales that have since become legendary, but many of the people close to him have contrasting accounts of his behavior and his mental well being.

What is certain is that Barrett developed a taste for the drugs that were fueling much of the psychedelic movement, drugs such as weed, mandrax and, most notably, LSD. Despite his prodigious drug intake though, it seems likely that these days there would be clearer diagnosis of Barrett‘s mental health, perhaps even one that was not recognised in the late 60s.  There would also be more help available, but back then this was sadly not the case.

My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall II – “A best-of without being just that”

Barrett’s family denied that he had suffered from any form of mental illness, but did allow that he had once spent time in a ‘home for lost souls’. Bandmate Roger Waters however believed that Barrett was ‘without a doubt’ suffering from schizophrenia. The huge amounts of LSD he was taking at the time may well have been a contributory factor, but David Gilmour stated ‘his nervous breakdown would have happened anyway. But I’ll say the psychedelic experience might well have acted as a catalyst’.

Whatever the cause, his behavior became increasingly strange and erratic.  Barrett reportedly went missing over a long weekend and came back irrevocably changed. Rick Wright believes that this was as a result of a massive overdose of LSD, as the change in him was so sudden. Following his return, Barrett was unable to recognise some of his friends and experienced hallucinations, confused speech and mood swings.

His performance on stage inevitably suffered. Sometimes he would play one chord for the entire evening, detune his guitar so that the strings went slack or he would simply not participate in the concert and refuse to play. This behavior extended to other promotional duties; during an interview on American TV, Barrett refused to answer any questions, fixing the interviewer with a dead eyed stare and total silence. Nick Mason commented that Barrett ‘wasn’t into moving his lips that day’.

As a result, David Gilmour was asked to join the band as a second guitarist, filling in when Barrett was unwilling or unable to perform. Sometimes, Barrett was simply not able to function as a live musician, to the extent of being unable to even hold a plectrum.

“The tyranny of collecting” – why I gave away my entire record collection

His performance on stage inevitably suffered. Sometimes he would play one chord for the entire evening, detune his guitar so that the strings went slack or he would simply not participate in the concert and refuse to play. This behavior extended to other promotional duties; during an interview on American TV, Barrett refused to answer any questions, fixing the interviewer with a dead eyed stare and total silence. Nick Mason commented that Barrett ‘wasn’t into moving his lips that day’.

As a result, David Gilmour was asked to join the band as a second guitarist, filling in when Barrett was unwilling or unable to perform. Sometimes, Barrett was simply not able to function as a live musician, to the extent of being unable to even hold a plectrum.

He soon tired of living in London and so gave away most of his possessions, including his guitars and master tapes, sold the rights to his solo records and returned to Cambridge. Obviously going through some sort of breakdown, he walked the 50 miles to his sister’s home and turned up unannounced on her doorstep in what would appear to be a very clear cry for help. His sister Rosemary remembered ‘he had some huge blisters on his feet that took a while to heal

Once here, he stopped calling himself Syd and reverted to his birth name of Roger.  He took up gardening and returned to painting, his retreat from music and fame earning him a reputation for being a recluse.  He survived on royalties from sales of the Pink Floyd songs he wrote, bolstered by the compilations the band released. David Gilmour was later to say that he ‘made sure that the money got to him’.

He had occasional contact with members of his old band. Roger Waters remembered bumping into him in Harrods where Barrett, on sighting his old friend, dropped the sweets he was buying and fled from the store. Waters, not wanting to add to his old friend’s distress any further, made no further attempts to contact Barrett.

One other meeting has since become the stuff of legend. Barrett somehow gained admission to the studio where Pink Floyd were recording Wish You Were Here and stood at the back of the room. The rest of the band failed to recognise him due to the fact that he had become quite overweight and had shaved off all his hair, including his eyebrows. This was the last time any member of Pink Floyd saw Syd Barrett.

Floyd were criticised by some quarters for the way they handle the situation, but with the band being so young it is hard to see what else they could have done, or how else they could have handled Barrett.

A few years later, Joy Division found themselves riddled with guilt after the death of Ian Curtis but, with the benefit of hindsight,  realised that they were ‘just kids’ and that they did not have the life skills, the knowledge or the experience to help their friend.  It is easy to see comparisons with Pink Floyd and the way they coped with Barrett‘s problems.

Following years away from fame and the music business, Barrett died of pancreatic cancer in 2006. His death certificate listed his occupation as ‘retired musician’

Syd Barrett’s influence cast a long shadow over British music for many years, whether in psychedelic music that he helped define or the articulate literacy of his lyrics, many people have found inspiration in his work. He was a one-off and an individual who had a creative drive and vision matched by few of his peers.

Although the band he helped become famous went on to huge success, they owe their journey to the crazy diamond that was Syd Barrett.

Despite their differences and awkwardness with each other over the years, it is perhaps Pink Floyd’s tribute to him,Shine on You Crazy Diamond, that sums him up best:  ‘Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/69jyJl6Lyo80nQae0X312i

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“The tyranny of collecting” – why I gave away my entire record collection

Those of us who have spent many years building up on our record collection may never dream of giving it all away, but that is exactly what our man Banjo did.

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In Defence of Madonna

Banjo leaps to the defence of the extraordinary career of Madonna.

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Land Trance interview: “Everything we do we feel sits in the broad continuum of psychedelic music”

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Polvo: a buyer’s guide and look into the bipolar world of the underground touchstone

We put one of Chapel Hill’s greatest exports under the microscope, assessing their era-defining body of work.

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Scott Walker’s Fire Escape in the Sky: “A voice that could inhabit a room.”

Scott Walker had a huge effect on post-punk Liverpool and David ‘Yorkie’ Palmer looks into the story behind Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker.

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Voodoo: Liverpool’s best dance club

Voodoo was Liverpool’s first and best techno night and has been running, on & off and at various venues, since 1993.  Starting at the Mardi Gras, this dark, sweaty cellar brought some of the biggest names in techno to the city; the Chemical Brothers, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills are just some of the acts who were involved in making Voodoo famous across the country…along with the Voodoo crowd themselves.

My own first experience with Voodoo happened after a search for a proper dance club.  This was when both dance clubs and the Internet were in their infancy, pre-Google, so the only way to find somewhere really was word of mouth or just trying different places out and trusting to luck.  We tried a few places around Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire with limited success, but they had an air of acid tourism about them, in that there seemed to be a lot of people wanting to look at the weirdos they’d read about in the papers.  Plus they were all still the old type of club, slightly done up for a new crowd, they didn’t seem right, or any different.

And then one Saturday night someone suggested we try Voodoo, so we piled into cars and headed off.  As soon as we walked down the stairs to the dark basement all thoughts of this club not being the real thing were banished.  A hot, loud club full of people really going for it on the dancefloor, no posers, no tourists and DJ Lewis (The Orb’s tour DJ) banging out the tunes. 

Minimal lights and no theatrics meant that the music and the crowd were allowed to be the main things in the club.  Everyone seemed into it, even the barstaff were jigging away whilst passing out free water and serving the occasional pint.  Our conversion to Voodoo wasn’t instant, but we had at least found a night we wanted to return to.  A couple of weekends later we were back and then, slowly but surely, Voodoo became our club. Later it became the centre of our life.

Voodoo had echoes of my first clubbing phase when, as a wee lad, I went to the Eric’s matinee shows.  Again there was the chance to wander into a grimy basement and see acts who had been in the newspapers or on Top of the pops just days before and a sense of being involved in something that was about to go overground.  Sometimes the planets seem to just line up right and everything seems to click into place, this was one of those times – we were in on the ground floor and those coming after would regret missing what was going on.

I once read an article in the NME, where Julie Burchill reviewed the week’s singles and slagged each of them off for not being by The Sex Pistols or Patti Smith.  She went on to say that the reasons she loved the Pistols so much was that they were so total – you couldn’t love them without realizing how shallow, feeble and inconsequential every other artist was.  Voodoo operated in a similar way, once the place had got under your skin, all other clubs didn’t even come close. 

One night a lad came in with a brand new Cream tattoo only to curse his luck that the week he’d had the logo tattooed on his chest he’d found somewhere better.  Compared to the rising ‘Super Clubs’  it was a no frills experience, but the techno scene was always about the music, the crowd and the shared experience, and this is where Voodoo won out over the likes of the Creams and Gatecrashers of the day.

New Year’s Eve at Voodoo was pretty much the high water mark of my clubbing experience, as well as the reason I no longer like going out on New Year’s Eve; nothing comes close to matching that time, that complete abandon – people on shoulders, hands in the air, like every gig you’ve ever seen on TV or seen a picture of and wished you were at.

As further evidence of Voodoo’s no nonsense approach to clubbing, one New Year’s Eve techno legend Robert Hood was booked to play, but was late arriving as he was in his hotel room waiting for the club to send a car to pick him up.  The car, of course, was never sent, so an angry Hood turned up at the club and tried to create a scene.  Hood was told, in no uncertain terms, to leave and the party carried on without him.

As a happy end to the story, he was recognized by some Voodoo goers who had failed to get tickets and was taken to a house party where he DJ’d into the early hours, apparently having a great night.

The turning point for me, the day where Voodoo became more of a way of life than just a club, was when a coach trip was arranged for 42 Voodoo goers to get to the Tribal Gathering festival in Luton Hoo – perhaps the first proper Dance music festival, precursor to the likes of Creamfields

I desperately wanted to go, but none of my crowd did, so I decided to go on my own; I knew a few of the Voodoo folk to say hello to so I thought ‘what the hell’.  I may have gone on my own, but I came back with 41 new best friends.  From here on in Voodoo became an essential part of our lives.  For the next two years I only missed out on four Voodoo weekends, and I regretted those.

Other coach trips were arranged and the Voodoo crowd invaded other clubs for a night, such as the Orbit in Leeds when our own Andy Nic was invited to play alongside techno pioneer Joey Beltram or Sankey’s Soap in Manchester for the great Jeff Mills Lost Weekends.

What these clubs must have thought when 42 up for it scousers landed on their doorstep is another matter, but I can only assume they didn’t mind too much as the favour was returned and they came to visit us.  The coach trips themselves have become the stuff of legend amongst those who attended, with tales of mass shoplifting from service stations, 60-odd year old coach drivers trying their fist spliffs and long, hazy journeys back to Liverpool from far flung parts of the country.

Voodoo also invaded the Big Love and other Tribal Gathering festivals and we partied and danced our way around the country.  Some of the friends we made came to Voodoo to see what the fuss was about and our own social networks were formed.  And all the talk of club friendships not lasting or drug friendships not being real is just so much media bullshit, as my Voodoo family and I have grown up together, been on holidays and attended each other’s weddings.  Those friendships forged in the white hot Voodoo heat will be with me for the rest of my life.

Voodoo’s spiritual home was unquestionably at Le Bateau.  It may have moved to bigger, even better venues over the years, but Le Bateau is where it started and where its heart was – the right setting for the right crowd at the right time.  Le Bateau closed at 2.00, so after people had left a crowd would gather on the pavement and the question of where the party was would go round the still buzzing group.

Taxis would be hailed and the night was carried on at a flat, in a basement or god knows where.  The cliché about living for the weekend was completely true here, as sometimes we would leave our beds on the Friday morning and not see them again until Sunday night or beyond, recovering through the week and Blue Tuesday before readying ourselves for another Voodoo weekend.

In some respects the parties that followed Voodoo were an extension of the club rather than something separate; the same faces, the same music and everywhere you looked were Voodoo flyers and posters blu-tacked to walls, doors, ceilings and windows.  Voodoo became a tribe, something that identified us as a group of people.

Who were we? What did we do?  We were Voodoo.

Voodoo’s success meant it had to move to larger premises and the 051 club years had their charms and many further adventures were had, but whenever I think of Voodoo, whenever I hear an old Voodoo classic being played, it’s the sweaty Le Bateau basement that I return to in my mind.

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In defence of Goth

Often ignored or ridiculed, Banjo comes to the defence of Goth and remembers having the time of his life.

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Labradford: a buyer’s guide to a band way ahead of their time

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The Clash play Liverpool Eric’s: “That day everything changed… nothing in Liverpool was ever the same again”

Clash were undoubtedly Liverpool’s favourite punk band. While the Sex Pistols’ debut gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall has been acknowledged as the starting point of that city’s punk scene, The Clash’s first gig at Eric’s performed a similar magic for Liverpool.

The gig was witnessed by Jayne CaseyJulian Cope and Ian McCulloch, who went on to form Big in JapanThe Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen respectively, amongst other bands.

Also in attendance was one Pete Wylie of Wah! fame who, legend has it, approached The Clash’s Mick Jones after the gig to tell him how he had been inspired him to form a band.

The story goes that Jones handed Wylie his guitar with the words “Pay me back when you’re famous.” Wylie later stated “That day everything changed… nothing in Liverpool was ever the same again

It wasn’t that Liverpool didn’t love Sex Pistols, but that, apparently, they just weren’t that good when they played Eric’s, for what would be the only gig the band ever played in the city.

Also, this was only the 3rd gig at Eric’s, so both band and venue were still unknown quantities, which meant that only around 50 people were present.

Of course, over the years the number of people who have since claimed they were there is probably over 100 times the number that actually attended, such is the impact punk has made on history.

By the time The Clash played on May 5 1977, things had changed. Punk was exploding all over the country, attracting the outcasts, the curious and those in search of something to match how they felt and to give voice to the noises in their heads.

Liverpool at the time was not in a particularly good place; financially in the trough of an economic slump following the decline of its docks and shipping industries and culturally still looking for a way out of the shadow cast by The Beatles’ unprecedented success.

Musically, Liverpool had yet to find a post-Beatles identity, although The Real Thing had kept the city’s flame burning in the charts.

When Roger Eagle and Ken Testi decided to open Eric’s, Roger, perhaps sensing that change was in the air, asked those members of his club he took under his wing not to listen to The Beatles, for fear that the past would infiltrate the new present.

Jayne Casey, One of those who were so instructed, remembered “A couple of years ago we’d been to a funeral and we were all sat round a table. There was me, Ian McCulloch and Pete Wylie. Ian looked at me and said, “Have you listened yet?” And I said, “No, have you?” And he said, “No” and we both looked at Wylie and said, “Have you?” And he said, “No” and we both in the same second said, “Yes you have! We know you have!” And he was like “I haven’t, I haven’t” but we were like “We can tell from your composition that you’ve listened to them for years!” So we’re convinced that he listened, he pretends he didn’t but he did.

But the music that was being made by the new generation paid no heed to the likes of The Beatles. The Clash themselves penned a song called 1977 that famously claimed “No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones in 1977”.

The Clash (Copyright: Chalkie Davies)
The Clash (Copyright: Chalkie Davies)

The Clash were everything a band should have been at that particular point and place in music. Young, good looking, well dressed, confused and even contradictory.

Their songs combined political thrust with killer riffs, signing about hate, war, being bored and riots. Live they were described as being like “three James Deans coming at you”, as the front line of Mick Jones, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon charged and attacked, backed up by the mighty Topper Headon.

That gig revitalized the city’s music scene. People met there and were jointly inspired to do something.

What nobody could have predicted at the time was how much they could go on to do. There are times in life when the stars just seem to line up and things work out right, a one in a billion meeting of minds and talents, and this seems to have been one of those occasions.

People formed bands before they knew what kind of musicians they would turn out to be, taken by The Clash’s messianic call. We can thank the gods of chance, or perhaps some other agent of destiny, that this crowd included the extraordinary voices of Ian MCCulloch, Pete Burns, Pete Wylie and Holly Johnson, along with the mercurial talents of guitarist Will Sergeant, drummer extraordinaire Budgie and art prankster/cultural terrorist Bill Drummond.

It may be the case that this astonishing pool of talent would have come together regardless of this particular gig, but the point remains that The Clash lit the touch paper and the firework duly went into the higher atmosphere and exploded.

The Clash were one of the first bands this writer saw at Eric’s, a few months on from their debut appearance,  on their Tommy Gun tour.

As confession is alleged to be good for the soul, I will hold my hand up and say that I was never a massive fan after their initial run of singles, nailing my colours to the Pistols’ mast instead.

That said, this was without question one of the most thrilling gigs I have ever seen, The Clash were undoubtedly at their best live, unmarred by the poor production of their first album and the American sheen of their second.

To this day I can remember the energy of the gig, along with the heat, the packed crowd and the feeling that, somehow, this was a gig that would stay with you long after we had left the venue.

I had never seen Eric’s so crowded, perhaps the fullest I ever saw it, with the possible exception of Iggy Pop. The size of the crowd was such that people had spilled out from stage front through to the bar area, making even a glimpse of the stage tricky.

The Specials were supporting them on this tour and, although I tell people I saw them it is probably more honest to say that I glimpsed them, through a doorway and over people’s heads. The crowd looked hot and we didn’t fancy getting caught up in the heat and mess of it, just for a support band.

If I had the chance I would tell my teenage self to get in there and catch one of our era’s most important bands while they were still unknown. I was amazed at how popular they seemed to be despite few people in my social circle having heard of them.

As The Specials left the stage and people headed to the bar, we saw our chance and pushed our way in. Thankfully we got to within a few people of the front of the stage and The Clash burst forth and blew our teenage minds!

Playing their first album and early singles, they already had a run of songs to make most new bands weep with envy.

With the Sex Pistols banned from almost everywhere and soon to split up, The Clash were head of the punk pack at this point, and made a nonsense of the myth that punk bands couldn’t play their instruments.

The people inspired by their first Liverpool, gig have achieved much in the years since and have doubtless inspired other people in their turn.

Perhaps this is the ultimate compliment for a gig, or even a band – that they create these ripples in a pond to such extent that they are still being felt all these years later.

Liverpool, and indeed the whole world, would be so much worse without them.

Banjo

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Baxter Dury: a unique artist transcending mere cult status

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The Teardrop Explodes and Club Zoo

Banjo looks at the Teardrop Explodes and their Club Zoo folly, where one of Liverpool’s most famous bands went off the rails.

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The Warehouse: Liverpool’s Forgotten Club

For some reason, the Warehouse tends to be left out of Liverpool’s clubbing history, so Banjo attempts to put that right.

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Eric’s – a personal journey through Liverpool’s original punk club

Punk has become many things in the 40 years since it went overground.

It has become acceptable, stripped by time and familiarity of the ability to shock.  It has become common place – punk fashion and influence can be seen pretty much everywhere.  It has become an exercise in nostalgia; punk bands still play gigs to the same crowds who saw them decades ago, cosy gigs reliving a collective youth.

And it has become commodified, a trend that in truth started worryingly early.  These days, Ramones and Joy Division t-shirts can be snapped up in Primark, extravagantly dyed hair, ripped jeans and multiple earrings are mainstream and raise not a single eyebrow.

But it was not always like this.  Oh no – once upon a time, Punk was a dangerous, exciting thing to be involved with. Questions were asked about it in the Houses of Parliament and just looking like a punk could get you chased, beaten and worse.

In those far off days, this shocking new phenomenon was news!  Music papers particularly couldn’t get enough of it, devoting almost whole issues to its rise. But, John Peel aside, it was almost impossible for young teens to actually hear the music itself.

Thank God then for Roger Eagle being, not for the first time in his life, in the right place at the right time. And, more importantly, with the right attitude.

Following on from creating successful and influential nights at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and the Stadium in Liverpool, Roger, along with Pete Fulwell and Ken Testi, opened Eric’s in 1976, just in time for punk to spread out from London to Manchester and then to the provinces.

The first band to appear at Eric’s were The Stranglers, followed a week later by The Runaways and then The Sex Pistols. Eric’s had clearly tapped into a rich vein of exciting new music with punk beginning to explode. Not that it was ever a punk club per se, also featuring gigs from such diverse artists as Steve Hillage, Van der Graaf Generator, B.B. King and many reggae artists such as Prince Far I and Inner Circle.

The first run of gigs at Eric's
The first run of gigs at Eric’s

Roger Eagle was one of the rare breed of people who were more interested in the art of what they were doing rather than the finances, so the more popular gigs by the likes of The Clash and The Damned funded gigs by artists less likely to pull in a large number of paying guests, but Roger would rather spend time and money showcasing wonderful music for a smaller audience than have it ignored.

His legendary enthusiasm for music and for turning other people on to bands he loved was undoubtedly one of Eric’s best assets.

This writer’s own calling to Eric’s came whilst still a fresh-out-of -school 16 year old, starting what would be my final summer holiday, marooned between the childish world of school and the more grown-up world of college. 

Towards the end of my school life, a schoolmate had moved away, only about 5 miles down the road, but enough at that age to make it difficult to maintain a friendship where seeing each other every day was normal and effort free.

We have, in fact, remained friends to this day. We got into punk together that year, neither of us knowing the full seismic effect this would have on the rest of our lives.

On the second week of this summer break, this friend phoned with an invitation to join him and some others in going to a punk club in Liverpool to see Magazine play a matinee show. To my eternal regret, after hearing all the shock horror stories in the press, I bottled out and stayed at home, wracked with jealousy.

When I found out the day had passed without major incident, we plans to go the following week to see Rich Kids, the band  Glen Matlock formed after leaving The Sex Pistols. So when the next Saturday came around, I pocketed my £2.50 pocket money and headed off to a brave new world.

Graffiti was quite big with punks at the time, not the arty tags or Banksy murals we see now, but crude Magic Marker scrawlings of band names and slogans. We all set pen to the train shelter while waiting for the train into town.

Terrible really, and the kind of thing I hate to see these days, but it seemed to be somehow important then; part of the Destroy culture that punk embodied, a lack of respect for your elders and surroundings. We thought we had a point to prove; to go against the grain, be disruptive, sign your contempt for the world and your surroundings as boldly as you can.

There was an interview with John Lydon’s wife Nora, many years later, where she recalled in 1976 being advised not to have these punks in her house, not because they would steal or break anything but because they were likely to write on her walls in paint and pen.

Arriving at Eric’s, we found we had to first become members before being allowed entry (something about it being a members only club gave it extra freedoms within the law, such as staying open late).

At first this extra expense was dismaying, taking my last 50p as it did, but looking back, 50p for a year’s membership of Eric’s must be classed as something of a bargain.

I paid this and the £1.00 entry fee and went down the Eric’s staircase for the first time. Memories of this portentous event are scarce, but it was like nothing we’d seen before.

Previous experiences of music played at anything above front room levels of volume had been local discos, and Eric’s was nothing like that. Dark, damp and with dirty red walls, walking down those stairs was walking into another world.

Proper bands played here, proper punks came here and we were entering their world. This was a big deal, although how big a deal was not immediately apparent.

As this was a matinee gig for under 18s the bar served only soft drinks, so we bought Cokes. This was a masterstroke of Eric’s – adding a matinee show meant that bands could be booked for two shows in Liverpool and then another night at Manchester’s Factory venue which in turn, made it more financially viable for bands  to make the trip North.

Away from those practical considerations, it meant that a generation of kids, ideally aged in 1977 for the shockwaves and upheaval of punk, could be part of things in a way that otherwise would have been beyond our means, schemes and wildest dreams.

It is impossible to overemphasise the impact this had on a bunch of 16 year olds from the sticks. Being a punk in a small town was to be in a small minority and made walking its streets and corridors a dangerous prospect, but Eric’s gave young outsiders a place to belong, maybe for the first time.

In return, the Eric’s owners, movers and shakers seemed genuinely fond of the young crowd and what they brought to the club.  Big in Japan dedicated their only proper release to “the Eric’s matinee crowd” and their singer, Jayne Casey, still tells the tale of when Iggy Pop played Eric’s on his birthday.

The matinee crowd, myself included, burst into a spontaneous version of Happy Birthday to You in a way that a grown-up crowd would most definitely not have done. Not expecting this reaction, Iggy grinned from ear to ear, his rock star persona punctured by this young gesture.

Iggy Pop at Liverpool Eric’s: Shock was part of the currency of the early punks and, in Iggy, they had inspiration of sorts

Memory is not perhaps 100% reliable here, but there were a plethora soon-to-be famous faces working on the bar or on the door.  Ian Broudie certainly used to be on the door a fair bit, and there are blurry recollections of Mac, Julian Cope and Pete Wylie’s talents being employed in some capacity or other.

I seem to remember Pete Burns DJing occasionally. I always strongly suspected that he brought records down from his day job at Probe Records, played them in the club and then took them back and sold them, along with a nice crackly coating of sweat and beer.

The bar area was the first room you walked in to as you came down the stairs, with a dark seated area with the legendary Eric’s jukebox to the right and the stage area through a doorway in front.

After collecting our Cokes, we took our place stage left, me marvelling at the fact that I was in a punk club for the first time in my life.

Everyone looked punkier than us, so mental notes were made to make a few changes to wardrobe in future. The long hair had already gone, chopped off a few days after hearing God Save The Queen for the first time.

After standing around for a while, the support band came on. I had no idea who they were and had never heard them before; few people had then. The lead singer walked to the mic and said, “Hello. we’re Joy Division.”

So the first live punk band we saw at Eric’s turned out to be Joy Division!  Sometimes fate just seems to treat you well. Obviously this gig was now a long time ago and we had no idea just how immense Joy Division would turn out to be, but I can clearly remember the bass lines of Transmission and She’s Lost Control and can recall them playing Ice Age and They Walked in Line.

We were instantly hooked. From now on Joy Division were our band and we saw them every time they played a matinee show, as well as gigs in Preston and Leeds. We saw them go from support band to headline act, although the first headline show I saw them play was to less than 20 people.

After they finished their set, we waited for Rich Kids to take to the stage. We were about to see a Sex Pistol and were beside ourselves with excitement. Again, time has dimmed my memory of the gig somewhat, but loud punk music (or Power Pop as the Rich Kids were briefly classed) had well and truly got us and this was without question the most exciting day of our young lives.

Following the gig, the band came out of the dressing room and hung around the bar, chatting and signing autographs.

At the tender age of 16 and in one single afternoon, we had been to a punk club, seen Joy Division and got an autograph from a Sex Pistol. How could we not fall in love with this wonderful place?!

My second trip to Eric’s was to see The Clash on their Tommy Gun tour, ably supported by The Specials, in one of the best and most overcrowded gigs we ever attended. Eric’s had delivered again and our fate had been sealed.

For the next two years or so we would be back every Saturday. I even once, through a special mixture of sulking and badgering,  forced my poor suffering parents to cut a holiday in London short so I could be back in my beloved Eric’s to watch Joy Division again.

It doesn’t happen often in life that we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, but when it happened  I am eternally glad that I made the most of it and have so many memories of my time at this legendary club.

Banjo

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Features

Protomartyr: the story so far

With their new album, Ultimate Success, released tomorrow, we look at Protomartyr’s story so far before their show Manchester’s Deaf Institute in late 2017.

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Features Live

Sleaford Mods: a voice for the voiceless

As Sleaford Mods play a barnstorming gig in Lincoln, we look back at their story so far and explains why they are the most important band in Britain.

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Features

Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me and Now Only – tackling bereavement and mental health

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Features

Lockdown luck: reuniting with my CD collection

Amid self-isolation Simon Kirk strikes gold as he shares a personal story about the importance of a collection.

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Features

Mental Health Awareness: talk to each other

Mental Health Week.  The name itself tells us of a difference in attitude between physical and mental well being – you will notice that we don’t have a physical health week.

The reason for this is, I think, the secrecy and the stigma that still hangs over the very idea of being ‘mentally unwell’.  It perhaps conjures up negative images of sufferers, when the reality is that they could actually look like the person sat next to you on the train, or a friend or a person you admire. It could look like Keith Flint or Robin Williams.

Mental illness also can also provide feelings of guilt or weakness on the part of those it affects.  Thoughts along the lines of ‘I’m sorry I’m like this’, ‘I’m sorry other people have to put up with me when I’m like this’ or ‘If I was stronger I would be able to deal with things better’ can make us feel worse and can feed a cycle of self recrimination and worsening illness.

Maybe it would help if we took the word ‘mental’ out of ‘mental illness’, maybe a lot of these negative images and damaging feelings or our lack of self-worth would lessen.  We don’t tell people we have been ‘physically ill’, just ill.  Maybe this is something we should adopt for issues that affect our mind as well as our bodies.

If we tell people we have a cold or if we hurt ourselves in an accident there are none of these attendant negative feelings associated with it.  Yet we are as unable to stop the likes of depression or anxiety as we able are to stop getting a cold.

This can lead to much more serious consequences for those caught up in these kinds of health issues, it can stop people feeling able to discuss their illness.  And this can in itself lead to feelings of isolation which can again worsen and deepen the whirlpool that we may feel is dragging us under.

One way to try to reverse this is to talk about our problems.  Unlike a cold or flu, the simple act of discussing how we are feeling can sometimes help.  It can help us realise that we are not alone in what we are going through, that other people have felt like this and may know what it feels like when we are ill.  And with that comes comradeship, support and the externalizing of our once pent up turmoil.

During a particularly grim time for me, I kept everything hidden under a surface of smiles and a forced normality, telling people I was fine, just tired.  When some good friends were able to get the truth out of me, I almost immediately felt a little better.  Not cured, not well, just a little better.  And that was the most important step on a long and eventful journey towards better days.

From then on I have vowed to discuss my battles with my own mind with no regard to any supposed stigma.  I don’t care who knows about it, I no longer feel it reflects badly on me as a person.  If somebody thinks I am trying to get attention, let them.  In all likelihood the time will come when they or someone they know will be affected by similar health issues and they may then be given a clearer understanding of the problems or survival techniques involved.

People can show the scars they have from operations, accidents and suchlike and get sympathetic responses.  But people discussing the scars they have from self harm are again often though of as attention seeking.  But personally,  these are my battle scars, they show I have survived.  I’m not proud of them exactly, but they prove that I won, so I refuse to hide them or not give honest answers when asked about them.

Twice in my life I have been prescribed Prozac, there may well be other times in my future where it will again be needed.  Again, I think I will be able to tell people if it came up in conversation with the same lack of shame or embarrassment than if I were to tell people I had taken a pain killer.

I do think this is key.  If I were unable to do this I think there is a very good chance I would not be here to say so.  Talk.  Open up to friends or family.  You are not being a burden, you are being a human being.

The people nearest to you may well be looking for a way to help you; let them in and let them help.  Friends and family may be glad of the chance to be able to help.

We all need help from time to time, be brave enough to ask for it.  It will be better for you.

If you do not feel able to talk to your family or your friends about it, there are some excellent organisations out there who can connect you to a stranger who is prepared to listen and to help.  It may be that the anonymous nature of these organisations would suit you better, so please do call them – details below.

Official statistics say that one in four of us will be mentally unwell at some point in our lives.  Personally I would put this much higher, much nearer 100%.  If this one in four estimate is based on those of us who seek medical help or who are willing to respond to a questionnaire, then the whole thing of not telling people kicks in again.

This can, of course, artificially lower the reported percentage, making sufferers again feel like they are in a more isolated minority when the truth may be very different.

And if we count those who are impacted by somebody else’s illness this figure rises exponentially.

We can be surrounded by people who can relate to what we may be going through, who have some direct experience of the stresses and worries that may be taking us over and we may never know it.  So talk. Talk about it with those around you.

The more we do this, the less stigma mental illness can hold over us.  Each conversation we have removes a little bit of that stigma and the more we do it, the weaker that stigma gets and the stronger we become.

If you are going through a tough time at the moment, I wish you well and I can assure you that, no matter how dark things may be at the moment, brighter times lay ahead.  This is the nature of life, no situation is permanent, no bad times are forever.  The skies will clear again after the rain and the sun will shine on us all in the future.

Talk to each other, support each other and we can get through it.

Mind, the mental health charityWe won’t give up until everyone experienceing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.

The SamaritansWe’re waiting for your call.  Whatever you’re going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. We’re here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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Iggy Pop at Liverpool Eric’s: Shock was part of the currency of the early punks and, in Iggy, they had inspiration of sorts

Iggy Pop is a survivor. Not many people who were aware of him in the 60s would have bet money on him surviving the 60s, much less his 60s.

But, in the year zero declarations that accompanied the early days of punk, Iggy was one of the few members of the old guard to be given any form of credibility or kudos, along with Patti Smith and Can.

Iggy’s exertions and his attitude with The Stooges had some common ground with the new breed who were decrying what had gone before as boring and irrelevant.

Iggy and the Stooges were far from being boring and the noise they made was similarly far from irrelevance in the brave new world that was being created in 1976 and beyond.

Punk’s early dalliance with self harm was echoed in the antics of Iggy, an act that carried with it much shock value. Shock was part of the currency of the punks and, in Iggy, they had inspiration of sorts.

As a result he was adopted by the punks. This admiration was a two way street, as he had often struggled to find an audience and now a new appreciative crowd was opening up for him. It seemed the times had finally caught up with Iggy Pop.

On a personal note, my initial reaction to seeing Iggy on the cover of my brother’s Raw Power album was to think that he couldn’t be a punk as he had long hair. This was enough at the time for us to decry him as being part of the older generation and that the likes of Johnny Rotten had got this one wrong.

We played the album lifting the needle off the opening Search and Destroy, thinking it plain old Heavy Rock. Second track Gimme Danger had acoustic guitars on it for god’s sake, and so the experiment was quickly abandoned.

We hated Iggy Pop.

A few weeks later, John Peel played Sick of You and we fell in love with it, rushing to see each other in the playground the next day to tell each other about this incredible ‘new’ song.

We decided to give my brother’s record another go, and this time we’d listen to the whole thing, rather than the opening few seconds of the opening few tracks.

Raw Power blew us away. Yes, the production was dreadful, but here was the attitude and power of punk writ large in an album recorded way back in 1973. We got it.

We loved Iggy Pop.

His legend preceded him, and we discovered that his life was already the stuff of legend. The drugs, women and self-mutilation, the stage diving, the silver hair, the peanut butter!

We started buying his other records, notably the first two Stooges albums. Live album Metallic KO made the hairs on the back of our neck stand up as we listened to Iggy bait the Hells Angels in the audience, who in turn responded by showering the stage with bottles.

In June of 1978, we started going to matinee shows at Eric’s and getting hands on with the whole punk thing. It was an incredibly exciting time and, looking back, we can appreciate just how spoiled we were.

My first Eric’s gig was Joy Division and Rich Kids, my second was The Clash and The Specials. Further shows included Gang of Four, Ultravox!, The Cure and a memorable afternoon that gave us Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes for 50p.

Like I say, spoiled.

Then, a year or so later, we got the news that Iggy was coming to Eric’s. and, incredibly, that gig was 41 years ago at the time of writing, April 21 1979.

Now, when we went to Eric’s there were always flyers available on the door and, once a month we got the new schedule and we could check who were going to be seeing for the next few weeks.

This time though there was something different. A second flyer. This one didn’t have a list of bands on it, it was for one particular show, it was for Iggy Pop.

Adding to the unusual nature of this show, we could buy tickets in advance rather than just paying on the door.

Our excitement was tempered by the price of the tickets, which were a shocking two pounds! Most gigs at Eric’s were only a quid, so this was a 100% price increase. By foregoing records for a couple of weeks we managed to save enough for this extravagance and bought tickets.

In 1977, Iggy had played at the Manchester Apollo, a famous gig that was filmed for Granada TV, who played a clip of him singing Lust for Life, wearing leather trousers and a horse tail. And yet, just 18 months later he was playing Eric’s, with a capacity of around 300 people.

One reason for this, according to Doreen Allen, who worked at the club and was given the job of sorting out Iggy’s rider, is that he wanted to play in Liverpool and no other venue would book him.

The blow was surely softened by the fact that they were able to book him for two shows, a matinee in the afternoon and an evening show later on, thereby doubling the attendance.

Come showtime of course, the venue was rammed. I had seen the place packed out before, notably The Clash gig I mentioned earlier and when The Skids played after appearing on Top of the Pops just a couple of days earlier with their breakthrough hit Into the Valley, but this was smoothing else.

Although this was ostensibly a matinee show for under 18s, such was the demand to see Iggy that there was a real mix of ages at the show. Demand far outstripped supply, so fans took whichever Iggy show they could get tickets for, with some lucky punters going to both shows.

Iggy walked on to the stage and launched straight into Kill City. My first thoughts, after months of seeing him only in the pages on the NME and Sounds, was amazement that he was actually in colour, not just black and white like in the photos! And he was also 3D – wow!

As an added treat for us young punks, ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock was playing bass in Iggy’s band.

Somehow, and this used to happen fairly regularly, I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd and had a view of the gig from about three rows back. This also happened with The Clash although I am at a complete loss as to how I managed it.

The audience were aware that this particular day was Iggy’s birthday. Whether he actually announced it from the stage or not I can’t remember but, seeing as the majority of the audience were young kids, we burst into a spontaneous singalong of Happy Birthday.

There was always a part of the Eric’s crowd who were too cool to clap, but we were 15 and 16 years old and cool was a problem for another age. Such issues weren’t going to stop us wishing Iggy Pop a happy birthday in song. Of course they weren’t!

At first he seemed unsure how to react to this and it is easy to imagine that this kind of thing had never happened at an Iggy Pop gig previously.

But as it became cleat that yes, we were going to sing the whole song to him, he relaxed into it. Towards the end, after the “happy birthday dear Iggeeeee” he ran around the front of the stage with the biggest smile I think I had ever witnessed plastered across his face.

Once we had finished, I stuck my hand out when he was within striking distance. He grabbed my and shook it and my teenage life was complete. I swore there and then that I would never wash it again.

Glen Matlock has his own, kind of strange memories of this: “We did it this matinee at Eric’s in Liverpool and it was all these Boy Scouts and Cubs. Just after the music Iggy would come on. All these kids started singing ‘Happy birthday to you…. happy birthday Iggy Pop, happy birthday to you!’

Iggy was really taken aback (it was his birthday obviously!). He looked at me, looked around, looked at the crowd, and went ‘Well fuck you’ and went straight in to ‘Kill City’! There was all these 13 year-old kids! That was quite funny.”

I’m not sure where he got the Boy Scouts thing from, but it’s good to know that it still sticks in his memory all these years later.

The rousing version of Happy Birthday we were able top provide him with can be heard below.

We were all treated to a full Iggy show, taking in 17 songs including the likes of Sister Midnight, Shake Appeal and finishing with a storming I Wanna Be Your Dog.

Iggy Pop at Eric’s is a gig that tends to stick in people’s minds. Author Frank Cottrell Boyce mentioned it when he appeared on Desert Island Discs, the Liverpool Echo included in their top ten punk gigs in Liverpool and it gets mentions in Liverpool Museum, The Independent and… well, you get the picture.

At last year’s Sound City, I somehow found myself on stage sat next to Andy McClusky from OMD on a panel discussing the importance of Eric’s to Liverpool’s music scene.

I was asked what was the best gig I had seen at Eric’s. I replied that, as we saw so many incredible bands there it wasn’t possible to say which was the best, but the one that stuck in my mind the most was this one.

It was a genuine anyone-who-was-anyone-was -there-where-were-you-sucker type of gigs, one of those incredible moments that, even as you were watching it you knew it was never going to truly leave you.

And here we are, 41 years later, still talking about it, still recounting those shock waves that rocked our teenage years.

Banjo

1 Intro
2 Kill City
3 Sister Midnight
4 I`m Bored
5 Happy Birthday To Iggy
6 Fortune Teller
7 Loose
8 Five Foot One
9 Little Doll
10 Endless Sea
11 Cock In My Pocket
12 Shake Appeal
13 New Values
14 Girls
15 Dirt
16 Don’t Look Down
17 I Wanna Be Your Dog