For some reason, the Warehouse tends to be left out of Liverpool’s clubbing history, so Banjo attempts to put that right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amid self-isolation Simon Kirk strikes gold as he shares a personal story about the importance of a collection.
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 charity. We won’t give up until everyone experienceing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.
The Samaritans. We’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.
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.
2 Kill City
3 Sister Midnight
4 I`m Bored
5 Happy Birthday To Iggy
6 Fortune Teller
8 Five Foot One
9 Little Doll
10 Endless Sea
11 Cock In My Pocket
12 Shake Appeal
13 New Values
16 Don’t Look Down
17 I Wanna Be Your Dog
How far would you go for your favourite band? Buying all their albums? Maybe a tattoo?
How about following them around the country and abroad when they tour, hitching between gigs and sleeping rough for a few weeks or even months?
No? Well back in the 80s/90s, this was what a few dedicated fans did, and nowhere was this more popular than Liverpool.
Common mostly within the early Goth scene, the dedication of fans was almost boundless. Liverpool had a very healthy Goth scene in the early/mid 80s, centering around the infamous Planet X, although other clubs such as Steve Proctor’s System also played tracks by many of the bands emerging at the time.
Before the scene was perhaps pigeonholed with the ‘Goth’ tag, it was not uncommon for the likes of The State and Macmillans to play tracks by Sisters of Mercy or The Cult before segueing into some of the latest electro or funk cuts.
As happens at the best clubs, those meeting on the dancefloor formed lifelong friendships. Groups of people came together and went to gigs and clubs all over the country, such as the Planet X coach trip to see The Cramps at the Hacienda. Fans were devoted to this particular type of music, and this gave rise to groups of people following bands on whole tours.
These travelling fans were even given their own gang name, so The Mission’s followers were The Eskimos, New Model Army had The Militia and Play Dead were followed all over Europe by the Stay Dead Crew.
But what drove fans to up sticks and endure the hardships of life on the road? The good folk of Getintothis have asked some of the Liverpool road warriors to tells us the whats and the whys. This is their story.
So firstly, why put yourself through all this?
Debbie Evans: “Aside from the love of live music, following bands meant freedom from the constraints of home at a young age and membership to an elite club, part of a gang, all with same goals…to secure a guest list place, drink until you could drink no more and membership to the mosh pit with guaranteed protection.
I would only admit it now but as a teenager there was nothing better than walking to the front of the queue at the Astoria in London and saying “guest list””
Debbie also followed this up with what seems to be a common theme among those who embraced life on the fringes of society – belonging. “In secondary school I always felt like an outsider. Following New Model Army at 17, I finally fulfilled my desire to be a part of something that mattered.”
Scouse Ali: “I went to see The Mission at The State Ballroom in 86 and was totally hooked so went to a few more gigs and I that was it I was hooked with life on the road, hooking up with mates”
David ‘Ramone’ Woolsey: “It was a social thing back when I was a teenager. Whole new genres of music were opening up to me via John Peel and through friends.
Bands would come to Liverpool but then you’d see that they were also playing Manchester, Stoke, Leeds, all relatively close by. So we’d go by car or National Express who used to run very early morning services that got you back home by 6am.
To be honest , 80% of the fun of following a band was the experience of getting there and meeting up with people beforehand and not knowing where you were staying that night. The bands almost became secondary”
So where did you sleep while travelling?
Debbie: “In the early, novice days the sleeping arrangements were primitive. We once slept on a platform at the top of a slide in a kid’s park. One of us didn’t even have a sleeping bag just a scabby grey army blanket, he was bloody frozen!
On the Claytown Troupe European tour we slept anywhere and everywhere, train stations, shopping precincts, doorways of apartment blocks, the homes of kind hearted German students who took pity on us and the occasional hostel.
Some of us even slept in a bedroom that was being used as a cannabis farm – they wouldn’t let us switch the lamps off all night!”
Martin Atherton: “Where did we sleep? Car Parks, Train Stations, Subways. After one gig, we decided that the photo booths in Victoria Station were our best chance, so my friends got in one booth and I got in another, sat on the cold floor with my knee’s up willing myself to get some rest”
Ramone: “Everywhere, from multi-story car parks in Leeds and Zurich, a train in Dublin, Bus stations in Stoke, Arye ,Toilets in Rome, A museum in Glasgow , an empty double decker bus in Munich and, occasionally, the bands tour bus or hotel.”
How could you afford it at that age?
Debbie: “Guest lists were essential, so ligging on a massive scale had to be done! And if you could get some of the rider even better!
I would save up my wages if a big tour was coming up. For the European Claytown Troupe tour I sold the first All About Eve EP and the first Stone Roses 12″ to raise some funds.
Food was never really a priority on tour – I came home from Europe weighing 6 ½ stone!”
Ali: “I worked every hour I could to get the money to follow The Mission, I even spent the driving lesson money I had on following them. I still haven’t learned to drive and don’t regret at it one bit!
Once, at The Mission’s end of tour party in Nottingham, the band gave the following £100 as a thank you. We spent it on crates of Stella and ciggies. Very rock n roll!”
Ali is still following her favourite band: “Last year was The Mission’s 30th Anniversary so I’ve been doing this for31 years this year. I wouldn’t change a thing, life would have been pretty boring had I not decided to follow The Mission. Roll on the next tour in May!”
Ramone: “The Majority of us were on the dole and I went everywhere with my Post Office savings book. I’d cash my giro and put it all in the account and then simply draw it out when needed.
But food and drink wasn’t always a priority back then. I could live on a pack of Marlboro Reds, some coca cola and whatever passed for speed in that town.”
Did young girls ever feel they were in any danger on the road?
Debbie: “I don’t recall ever feeling at risk, it was all just a big adventure. Although looking back we put ourselves in some very vulnerable situations, but we were always in a large group, travelling with people from all over the country and we all stuck together.”
Martin: “Girlfriends and female friends were all in our party, it wasn’t just a male preserve and we all looked out for each other.”
Ramone sees this happening in the present day, as manager of Evil Blizzard. “I see what it’s like from the other side of the looking glass. Being asked for guest list, times, gossip, news, money off merchandising, etc. We must have been real pain in the arse pests with tour managers and bands back in the day!”
Martin Atherton also saw this from both sides, as a fan on the road and as guitarist in Liverpool’s Scorpio Rising.
Did this influence the way he saw and treated his own fans? Martin: “We did become friends with our followers with regards to Scorpio Rising. How could you not after having done it yourself, it was a proud feeling that people cared enough to make the effort and we in turn shared what we had, van space, rider and such like.”
Are you still in touch with your fellow road warriors?
Ramone: “Oh yes – Evil Blizzard not only contain friends from then but are also followed by some of the same people I used to go to gigs with back then”
Ali: “Thanks to Facebook we’ve all near enough been reunited and a few Eskimos still follow The Mission”
Would you do it nowadays if you were the same age as you were then?
Ramone: “I’ve often thought about this scenario. Life is so different for this generation. Going to see the bands we followed was a lot more financially achievable.
Tickets were a maximum of £5 and we hitched everywhere. These days’ bands seem to be catapulted from small venues to the main room of the 02 in a heartbeat and the ticket price follows. Nowadays you book hotels, tickets, time off work, trains and a single show can run you up to close to £150 – £200, which was my entire budget for a whole month on the road in 1986 with the Mission.
I don’t travel as much as I’d like to today, with work, mortgages and other financial commitments. Going to see bands is not as frequent as back then. We occasionally go and see bands out of sheer nostalgia.. The Mission, Spear of Destiny, Chameleons and even the Sisters of Mercy,who were awfu!
But it’s just not the same. – Must be an age thing.”
Martin: “I still go and see a lot of live music, but these days I prefer small venues where I can see what the musicians are playing”
The travelling fan seems to be a phenomenon very much of its time. It is likely that this is because those brave enough to take it on were at the right time in their lives, with youth and resilience on their side and before bills, mortgages and jobs took precedence.
And, perhaps more importantly, they were lucky enough to be at this stage of their lives as a brand new music scene was emerging in front of them. If this is the case, they were lucky indeed to have wrung so much enjoyment and passion out of their youthful years.
As Martin Atherton put it “I’m so glad that we made all that effort and put up with the freezing, sleepless nights, because we made the most of those times. Which was just as well, because they were the best times to be young”
First a bit of background information.
Being a Birthday Party fan was never easy. Or, more accurately, it was seldom a group activity.
I had friends who liked all kinds of noisy, out there music made by people who inhabited the fringes of society and convention, but none of my immediate social circle were Birthday Party fans.
On the other hand, I loved them! I loved them with an intensity that set them above other bands I followed. Liking the Birthday Party became a badge of honour, a way of identifying like minded souls.
It seems strange in these Internet-enriched times, but finding fellow fans was not easy. At the time, I was writing to a girl who had placed an ad in the classified pages of the NME, wanting contact with fellow Birthday party fanatics, and we were in touch for many years. However, we only met at Birthday Party gigs.
I had one other friend who I dragged to see a Birthday Party show at Liverpool Warehouse – he didn’t say he hated it, but he never came to see them again.
I saw them three times and, at last, here was a band who were a truly unpredictable proposition. You never knew if you were going to get a conventional show or a violent confrontation, a kiss or a kick.
The second time I saw the Birthday party Nick baited the crowd a little, but definitely led from the front. The next time he drank a whole bottle of Jack Daniels whilst performing, in less than an hour and finished the night collapsed at the back of the stage crying.
Moving forward to post-Birthday Party times, Nick definitely had the public’s attention. His shows were getting bigger, the critical reception was generally very good and the spotlight was firmly pointed at him.
Rowland on the other hand seemed to have been critically neglected and his stock was much lower. This was obviously wrong and obviously a shame.
By now I was no longer in touch with my pen pal and finding fellow believers in the cause was even harder. I did manage to drag a friend along to see Crime and the City Solution in Manchester, but no-one I knew liked or would listen to These Immortal Souls.
Moving forward again. I had a job in Our Price records – remember them?
I thought this would be my ideal job – there were after all questions on the application form asking me who my favourite bands were and what kinds of music I preferred. I remember thinking that all application forms should ask these questions if they were expected to reveal anything worthwhile about a person.
It actually turned out to be more concerned with shifting units and marketing the big sellers, but that’s another story.
Again, this may seem strange in these download days, but it was tricky finding records and CDs by some bands, so customers would place an order and we would try to find it for them and then call them to let them know if we were successful.
One day it was my job to phone customers and tell them we had their orders ready to collect. Part way through I came across a CD of Get Lost (Don’t Lie).
I was amazed; I didn’t know one other person who had this! So when I phoned the guy up to tell him his order was in, I couldn’t help myself. I went against company protocol and asked him about it and generally struck up a conversation.
When he came to pick his CD up, we spoke again and arranged to go for a drink a few days later. Fans of These Immortal Souls had to take company where they could find it, and as I mentioned earlier, this was a way of finding people who were on the same page as you. We occasionally went for drinks and swapped tapes and tales.
Anyway, this is all background.
Shortly after this, I saw in the NME that These Immortal Souls were on tour. This was quite an infrequent occurrence so I had to be there.
I contacted my new friend and we got tickets for their Liverpool gig. Bearing in mind that Nick Cave was by now playing some fairly big venues I found it a little sad that Rowland and TIS were playing at the tiny Planet X venue in Liverpool.
I had headlined this venue myself (well, with my band) so I thought they should be playing somewhere much more prestigious. But even this venue seemed to be out of their reach as it was far from sold out, I’d played to bigger crowds there myself!
Hindsight has led me to see this as an unexplainable and shameful neglect of a truly great and individual talent, but there we go, life’s like that sometimes.
Now, occasionally when I went to a gig I had an ambition to do a certain something.
For example when I saw Hanoi Rocks I wanted to have my photograph taken giving Michael Monro a hug, or when I saw the Au Pairs I wanted to share a spliff with Lesley Woods. I’m not sure why these ideas even came up, but both of these ambitions were fulfilled.
When I went to the These Immortal Souls the idea had formed that I wanted to buy Rowland a drink. I wasn’t sure how possible this would be but, for some reason, the ambition was there.
At the gig, the crowd was sparse and the band were just hanging around. Seeing my chance, I went to speak to Rowland.
He was a surprisingly slight figure, but I always thought that when he was in the Birthday Party. It always amazed me that this thin, almost geeky looking individual was responsible for the whirlwind of noise that was emanating from his guitar amp.
Even though he was quite a weedy looking kind of guy, he had an air of something about him. Not violence exactly, but perhaps the potential for violence.
Not arrogance exactly, but perhaps the potential for an aggressive tirade. He looked like the kind of person you didn’t want to argue with, not for fear of a physical attack, but because you imagine he could cut your argument dead with a well chosen barb or two.
Anyway, he looked a lot more approachable this time around.
I asked him to sign a few things for me. The Honeymoon in Red album, Some Velvet Morning 12”, a CD or two.
We chatted while he was signing. When he was signing Some Velvet Morning I asked him what Lydia Lunch was really like. He replied “when she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bas she was horrid”, which struck me as a great answer. Partly because it sounded true!
I seized my moment and asked if I could buy him a drink. He asked for a vodka and lime which struck me as immeasurably cool, partly because it was so un-rock ‘n’ roll, i.e. because it was about as far away from a Jack Daniels or a pint of lager as you could get, but partly because it gave me a flash back to one of my earliest experiences with the demon drink.
This was when I was about 13 or 14 and my mum asked me to drop some Christmas cards off at next door’s house. The lady of the house invited me in and was obviously a bit tipsy by this point.
She asked me if I wanted a drink and wouldn’t hear of me having a glass of orange, so she gave me a vodka and lime! I don’t know why, I can only assume that they were big spirits drinkers. I
thought it tasted nice enough, a bit strong on the lime cordial front because I was more used to having it diluted with a glass of water. I don’t remember the vodka tasting of much, but it doesn’t really does it?
It also tasted a little like the Lime Barrel from a box of Terry’s All Gold chocolates, which I also loved. She must have given me three vodka and limes, quite a lot for so young a chap, and I was at least a little drunk by the time I got back home.
So I bought Rowland his drink, and I got one for myself too. I was so enormously pleased to be buying him a drink, and fulfilling my latest gig ambition.
I remember being at the bar asking for two vodka and limes and wanting to shout out “I’m buying a drink for Rowland S Howard!” but thankfully I managed to resist these urges.
I gave Rowland his drink and we chinked glasses.
We chatted a bit more; he seemed to be quite an intense sort, his answers seemed very thought through; possibly because he’d been asked them all before, but possibly because he genuinely gave a lot of thought to what came out of his mouth.
It was, is and always will be such a shame that he didn’t become more famous, because he suited being a star. He had the charisma, the talent and the bearing of someone who was born to be feted, to have his picture on a million teenage bedroom walls, to be admired from afar.
Maybe there’s an alternate universe somewhere where Rowland S Howard is a name synonymous with an almost superhuman level of fame and worship. I hope so.
I was a bit concerned about looking like a bit of a fanboy by this stage, so I went off to chat to the other members of the band.
Genevieve was as lovely as I’d imagined, all elfin and smiley. I didn’t talk much to Harry, but I had a brief chat with Epic about the Swell Maps.
I always thought it odd that two people from this underachieving tinny punk band would go on to become these respected figures, working with some of the greatest musicians I had ever seen.
A friend of mine used to run away from home to stay with the Swell Maps, I asked if he remembered him. He didn’t.
During the gig, the friend I was with kept shouting out for Black Milk. When this song was about to be played, Rowland dedicated it to his ‘friend’ at the front.
After the gig I never saw either of them again.