Thursday, 5 July 2012
-- "A change of speed, a change of style, A change of scene, with no regrets; A chance to watch, admire the distance, Still occupied, though you forget; Different colours, different shades; Over each mistakes were made..." – Curtis / Hook / Morris / Sumner
I wanna take you back to where it all began: to the outset of my profound infatuation for music and concerts, and more preciously, Punk Rock: I’d watched Punk mature – if that’s the appropriate word? – on Top of the Pops and listened to the late night Radio 1 John Peel Show, on my wireless. I also became a master of tape-recording Punk on my birthday present; a Philips cassette recorder. I would sit in my bedroom on Sundays, index finger on the record push button, between 5 and 7pm, waiting for Simon Bates to countdown the ‘official’ compiled top selling 40 singles of that week, on the Radio 1 Chart Show. You had to be quick off the mark before Bates jabbered over a Punk track near the end of its three minutes airplay. I’d stacks of BASF C30’s, C60’s, and C90’s, go! The bleeders were fookers for snapping, though!
Then collecting vinyl became my vice. I’d racks of artistic picture sleeves, coloured vinyl’s and obscure shapes. Some, I have to this day. By late ’78 I’d began dressing the part too; scruffed up hair, a drawing pin through me ear (done at school, for a laugh), logoed band T-shirts ordered out of Sounds magazine, striped jumpers, Wrangler straight jeans or owt that Frank Clarke stocked and DM’s. F. H. Clarke had an Army & Navy store on the outskirts of the town centre and many a trip would be made to Frank’s on Saturday mornings. Frank always wore a grey warehouse coat, white shirt and tie, his dark hair slicked back with an oil leak disaster of brilliantine, and he always seemed to have a un-tipped Park Drive or a Wills Capstan cig on the go. “Right then lads. I’ll see what has arrived this week, shall I?” he’d say has he cut the strings from the brown paper bundles on the counter with a pair of scissors. In his compact shop there were hardly room to let-rip with shelves crammed floor to ceiling with ex-military combat wares, emergence service uniforms and industrial clothing. Standout items are a pair of brown hessian/canvas leg-hugging strides and a beige full-length overcoat, which I adorned with Punk lyrics and slogans purchased from Frank.
The next step on the ladder was to attend The Warehouse, St Johns Place, Preston. This were either with my Mums blessing, when she advanced me a few pretty greens, but I hadn’t dare tell me Dad (Mums are great, aren’t they?) or, I’d climb out of me bedroom window when grounded on more than one occasion. I’d two paper rounds on the go plus a part-time job unloading a local shops Sunday delivery and the shops shelves to fund my fix too. Just into the Nineteen-Eighties, I fulfilled my next goal.
The Warehouse – Preston’s Hacienda - was a hidden backstreet nightclub in Preston town centre, situated to the left hand side of the towns Parish Church, and its bygone hewn gravestones. On Thursday nights the club was a haven for Punks, Skins, New Wavers, waifs and strays, pissheads, oddballs, the curious and one or two norms/squares who’d stumbled across the place in a drunken haze, by falling through the doors. The approach to the club was a narrow granite-set street; a bedroom store to the left, a four foot high stonewall that encircled the church to the right. If there were a band on that night, there were usually a drunk and disorderly queue, de-formed, gone nine, waiting for the big black doors to open as the thud thud of the base from the DJ’s speakers would pulsate through the thick, white walls of the building. Or if one the ‘biggies’ in the Punk world had been booked, sometimes on a different week night, tickets had to be purchased weeks in advance. This because the club only held around the hundred mark.
Following visits to the ‘normal’ Punk pub hangouts; the Dog & Partridge, Toms Tavern and maybe The Britannia, Old Black Bull or The Sun, the lads I went with ventured across town to the Warehouse. If there was no queue, you would BANG on the door and a minute or so later one of the two doormen would open up. Just inside the doors was the till, and to the rear a secure cloakroom. Entrance fee paid, which varied on whoever was playing, you turned left through a second set of doors under the watchful eye of the doormen. BOOM; the music punched you full in the face, leaving g-force impression and your ears bleeding. To the left were the lavs, which were covered in bodily fluid stains and graffiti and stunk to high heaven; the his or hers toilets were only used when the bladder were busting by both sexes in whichever of the two; or, by some lovers, for a knee-trembler. To the right was a small, 8ft be 8ft dancefloor with its own speakers and spotlights and a brick pillar on each corner, situated next to the stairs. The stairs lead to half a dozen dimly lit alcoves with a central fixed table and benches either side that overlooked the tiny dance area, routinely frequented by a lonesome pretty vacant, too drunk to fuck Punk, giving it his all. Or an alcove may have sometimes had a courting couple engaged in activities best be known to man and woman. There was also a kitchen where you could order chicken and chips, or burger and chips, or chips, in a basket.
Back downstairs; the floors under foot were covered in quarry tiles which added to the din as tunes bounced off the surrounding solid surfaces. The walls were painted an off white. To the left were cast iron tables and chairs, to the right was the bar. The hairy-nosed, scruffy old bloke who owned the Warehouse worked behind the bar, as well as a barmaid, serving up dishwater Lion bitter. If the beer weren’t bad enough, it were served in plastic following a fracas with the Morecambe and Lancaster Punks one evening down to different opinions of dancing techniques - the night ending in total bedlam and mass carnage.
Coming away from the bar, shaking your head in disgust after taking a sip of the swill in the plassy glass, to your left were the DJ box with its chain mail curtains. Dropping down a couple of steps was the aluminium dancefloor 15 to 20ft square. When beer slops ended up on the aluminium it was treacherous underfoot while attempting to pogo; many an outfit were ruined. And raised up a couple of steps was the stage. The setting behind were the bands strutted their stuff was organic, bare brick walls; profoundly, urban chic indeed. All-in-all, a compact gaff. A gaff where bands should be watched and where bands should listen to; plain and condensed venues, not venues such as stadiums or open air concerts. Raw, pure and simple.
Outside the Warehouse, come 2am, the beads of sweat that had turned in to a flood and saturated your T-shirt during the course of the night, due to the intense heat created by the sardine can packed venue, now turned to steam and rose skywards in the cold night air as we made our way to the Real McCoy for a flame grilled burger to munch on the three mile walk home. Gone 4am I’d hit the sack; I’d rise three hours later for my paper round, and then school, in a right fit-for-nothing state.
In the first month of a new decade, 1980, I went to my first Warehouse gig. On that night were the anarcho-Punks Poison Girls, Honey Bane and Crass. I was fourteen at the time. And they didn’t even ask me my age when I gained entry. I’d recited the 14th of February 1961 in my head all day too, so I wouldn’t balls-up if asked my age. I’d asked for a pint of ‘beer’ in the Bull & Royal pub in town, though. That night walls to the rear of the stage was decked out in daubed, anti paraphernalia flags and banners which also prompted animal rights, feminism and direct action. The Crass logo represented an amalgamation of several icons of authority, including the Christian cross, the Swastika, and the Union Jack flag, combined with a two-headed Ouroboros to symbolize the idea that power will eventually destroy itself?
All very confusing to a 14 year old. It still is now! They had a back-projected slideshow and video collages going on before and after each group performed, who were all dressed head-to-toe in black, accompanied with propaganda chanting, speeches and weird music being played too – so what? I don’t give a toss.
Over the coming years I was lock, stock and barrel wholly hooked on live gigs and the Warehouse with groups having me doing an array of weird stuff; the Notsenisbles, sick of being normal. Athletico Spizz 80, looking for Captain Kirk. Discharge, fighting the system. Salford Jets, walking round town looking at the squares.
The Exploited, fucking Mods. UK Subs, had a stranglehold on me. Theatre of Hate, believing in the west world. Angelic Upstarts, wound me up like a clockwork orange. Black Flag, had me... rolling round the stage, the dancefloor with Henry Rollins, and getting thrown out of the Warehouse! (I’ll save that tale for another day, though.) But like all good things, they came to an end. I began frequenting the Warehouse less and less with less and less bands playing there.
Only over the period of my Thursday night jaunts, there are one band and one gig that stands out from the crowd: The next time I crossed the Warehouse’s threshold was on the 28th February 1980, this is when the post-punk band Joy Division played there. The Warehouse is also where the live album, Preston 28 February 1980, was recorded; for some unknown reason though, the recording wasn’t released until May 1999? Also, the gig took place just 12 weeks before Ian Curtis tragically took his own life. Curtis had hung himself in his Macclesfield home leaving a suicide note, declaring “ At this very moment, I wish I were dead. I just can’t cope anymore.” - RIP
Section 25 were the support band that night, another group signed to the iconic Manchester record label Factory Records. Only when Joy Division took centre stage, they had my wide blue eyes, and lugs, transfixed – it being a true, sound & vision encounter: Though the gig were riddled with technical difficulties involving the PA system allegedly caused by interference from the electric beer pumps - Curtis chatted to the crowd and at one point declared “Everything’s falling apart!” while the road crew troubleshot the sound problems - Joy Division delivered the goods. Their set was impressive as Curtis sung haunting lyrics while doing his dying fly routine with the stand out song for me being ‘Transmission.’
I left the Warehouse that night, ears ringing, staggering slightly too, with a lasting impression, and a promise to purchase ‘Transmission’ on single the very next day following school, which I did. The single was played time after time on my hi-fi and also took pride of place in my single rack parallel to my LP rack where Joy Divisions ‘Unknown Pleasures’ took pride of place. Unknown Pleasures pulsated intense vibes that I seemed to be in touch with even at an early age too. The cover was a textured sleeve and featured a design of the PSR B1919+21, which is a pulsar with a period of 1.3373 seconds and a pulse width of 0.04 second, fact fans. The LP sleeve contained no track information on the back, nor the traditional side one and side two markings on the record. The only writing on the labels was ‘Outside’ for side one, and ‘Inside’ for side two. Track information and album credits appeared on the inner sleeve only. An iconic record sleeve and record if ever there was one.
All these harboured memories came flooding back recently with the release of the awesome CC tee shirt, Sound & Vision*. Though I hasten to add, the Sound & Vision isn’t a direct copy on the Unknown Pleasures. Within hours the tee shirt in three different colourways and styles sold-out. But not to worry, the lads a t’CC informed me there has recently been a reprint is the process of being prepared for those who missed out. - Bill [Some of the above extracts are taken from the forthcoming book, Northern Monkeys]
*not a Joy Division tee.