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C30, C60, C90 Go! Larks in the Parks
By Carl Linneaus
Starting in 1979, the Larks in the Parks mainly hosted local talent, many of who went on to bigger things. The first Larks were instigated by a group of like minded individuals who in 1979 had done "guerilla"gigs, playing on the level with a generator in a van for the pa setups in one of South Liverpool’s landmark Victorian Parks, Princes Park on four consecutive Sundays. The Larks were born.
It wasn't quite right so they decided to get more people involved and the following year the Larks moved to Sefton Park, with the protagonists performing from the band stand island in the breeding lake.
Now this may initially sound idyllic but bear in mind what type of playground the city, and in particular Sefton Park was back then. Surrounded by grandiose tree line avenues with massive detached houses, the park bordered rough arses areas of the South End of the city and was a dangerous place. It still had the quaint Peter Pan Island, the Jolley Roger full size replica, boating house, exotic avery, lush grass tennis courts and the ridiculously opulent Palm House that was decorated by mighty bronze and marble statues of pioneering travel figureheads. But Day or night, it a dangerous place.
Pretty much like Central Park, gangs would stake their turf and if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, there would be blood. The visiting Whit Week fair would be full of roving mobs from Toxteth dressed like Black Panthers, using the time honoured and chillingly threatening ‘gis your last man or I’ll fuck yer’ shout to whovever was on Space Invaders. Plenty of time lads from where I grew up were taxed of their pod/kickers/adidas whilst waiting to get on the Ghost Train.
The toilets were haunted by seedy stereotypes by day, and gangs looking for some ‘queer bashing’ at night. So naive was I that one night me and a friend decided to tell each others parents we were staying in one another’s then planned to sail across the lake to the Peter Pan Island and live a night as pirates. On the way to the lake, a transvestite stumbled out of the bushes and offered to be our ships concubine. We did exactly what any nine year old would do in this situation and abandoned ship. We ran straight into a gang of aggressive black lads who were glue sniffing and giving each other borstal tear tazzers with Indian ink. They chased us to the gates but we didn’t stop running until we ended up back at my mates. I don’t think I slept for fear of the glue sniffers finding his house, or worse still the tranny who stunk of piss.
Now, where was I, oh yer the Larks. Held over four days during August Bank Holiday weekend in 1980 was the inaugural Larks in Sefton Park, first line up highlights were Eat at Joes and Motion Picture, the concerts were besieged by electrical problems and was quite amateurish. It turned out to be too difficult to get any consistency for the four days so 1981’s Lark’s was cut to the now familiar three day event. The Icicle Works, Cook da’ Books, Carl Chase and Taxi Anne (Connie Lush) were the stand out acts, there were hardly any problems and the three days were bathed in glorious sunshine.
The following year the organisers had it down to a fine art and it was 1982 when the BBC got in touch to film the Larks. The gigs actually took place two days before the Larks, with local heavyweights Echo and Bunnymen playing one night followed by Bow Wow Wow the next. Both played to enormous audiences and I can clearly remember whowho hectic it was. Even though it was 1982 the city still had its Punks, Skins, Rockabilly, Pyshco Billy, Ratsas, Goths and of course scalls. I can still see the weirdo from Callan Military selling glue sniffing kits alongside stacks of them Italian combat jackets that were de riguer for the wannabe political activist.
I can remember the crown for both being wild but looking at the youtube clips from both nights, they look sedate. You can still catch a glipse of a few punks jumping in the water during Go Wild in the Country (likewise the Bunnymen clip, wrecked yer joggers their lid) , though no sign of punks being wasted on glue and walking around bollocko, which is how I remember it. Oh and the Bunnymen playing Paint it Black or was it See Emily Play? Probably both. Oh and I fell out of tree drunk during Bow Wow Wow, vomited all over my trabs then was spotted by my dad who was walking the dog, he gave me ‘the look’ and took me home…rock and roll! Anyway, check out the youtube links at the bottom, anyone else shocked as to how good Bow Wow Wow are live?
The Larks proper was a wash out, a bit like the summers we always seem to have now. Notable local acts in 1982 were Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who were dressed as butch homsters, that’s the first time I’d ever witnessed men kissing men but these weren’t flowery queens like John Inman, they were hard looking bastards like the ones in Cruising. Truly terrified, we shuffled off to the Boating Lake, waiting to be out of earshot before shout ‘yer big faggots’ and running.
Another BBC special followed the year later, compared by Janice Long and broadcast on the radio as well as Telly, Cook da Books, Big Country, who were massive at the time, played with the Icicle Works then the head line act the following day was to be Nick Heywood. Nick was bottled off after one tune, the BBC never returned. Another ‘first’ was the appearance of Craig Charles who got up onstage and read out a few poems, 15 years later years later he was a crackhead and was getting chased around Toxteth in a white Ford Escort by Police after being accused of rape, the streets were lined with well wishers chanting ‘go Lister, go!’ Frankie returned to play the Larks ‘proper’ after cutting Relax, although they now had a pop following, they still had rugged homs in attendance.
The BBC didn’t return again, which was a shame because they donate a wedge load of dosh to the organisers, as well as providing a team of volunteers to pick up rubbish etc. The 1984 line up didn’t contain a ‘big’ act (I could be wrong but I’m sure the Farm played) but the Larks still pulled in the crowds. It was the place to be and continued on and off for years to come, I seen the La’s on the same bill as the Stone Roses, who, in 1988 were bunch of goth chancers in wincle pickers and bandanas.
The Larks eventually stopped, ironically after the city was on it’s knees, they had a brief reunion but it never touched the early 80’s highlights. I Park has hada complete overhaul and is back to its majestic best, I seen a brass band on the bandstand, hopefully the Larks will start again but in today’s age of Health and Safety, I doubt they’d risk it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvbhbGQjy6Y - Big Country
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Wmaz3S-DR4 - Bow Wow Wow
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eQWJRP-lAw - Bow Wow Wow
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