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Running Order Squablefest

By Alan Metcalfe

I have a confession to make, readers.  I was 17 years of age before I saw a live gig, by a bona-fide rock band.  17!  Actually, that's not strictly true.  When I was around 15, or so, the church youth leader took us all in his Datsun Sunny, over to Hoylake, to see some Christian Metal act.  Pretty scary, looking back, as they were all heavy guitars, and a lead singer ranting verses of scripture from Revelation (there's no 's' in the book of Revelation). Being a bad trainspotter, I remember that they ended up becoming 'Pieces of Glass', and were regularly featured in seminal fanzine 'Merseysound'.  But that's another story.  It gave me a taster for it, though, and I hankered to see some real fretwork action, from artistes I'd actually heard of, all up close and personal.

After working the season in Llandudno, in '79, and spending all my spare dosh on the hip sounds of the day ('Replicas' by Tubeway Army, anyone?), I decided that it was no longer enough to just listen to the vinyl; I had to be there.  A glance at some upcoming tour dates, in NME, late-August 79, showed me that there were loads of hip New Wave acts coming to Liverpool in the autumn, so I immediately sent away for some wraparound shades, and a Clash tee-shirt, and joined the queue outside the Empire to buy some tickets for my first ever proper rock 'n roll action.  Yes, that's right, the Boomtown Rats.  Two nights they were doing, too; a measure of their disproportionate popularity following massive hits with 'Rat Trap' and, natch, 'Don't Like Mondays'. 
That Boomtown Rats September '79 Mob in Full 
Promoting the shite album, 'The Fine Art of Surfacing', they were, supported by a fellow-Irish band, 'Protex' ('I Can't Cope', anyone? Thought not), and I thought that they were fantastic.  And did Johnny Fingers really wear his pyjamas all the time?  Anyroads, you know the drill.  Polite applause for the newies, and bedlam for the aforementioned biggies and genuinely-decent stuff like 'Like Clockwork' and 'Mary of the 4th Form'.  I made my way back to the bus-stop, ears ringing from those 'loud' (ha!, how little I knew then) guitars, and excitedly looked forward to my next gig, the following week  . . . .
That Siouxsie and the Banshees September '79 Mob in Full
Cracking bill, this, at the Empire again, with support from Spizz Energi and The Cure.  Robert Smith, of the latter, doubled-up as an honorary Banshee, given the walk-out, earlier in the week, of John McKay and that other one.  The atmosphere was electric and, the very next day, I rushed out and bought Spizz's 'Where's Captain Kirk', and the new Banshees album, 'Join Hands'.  I was getting into this, now, and I didn't have long to wait for my next fix . . . .  
That Joy Division / Buzzcocks October '79 Mob in Full
To the Mountford Hall, at Liverpool University, for a much-vaunted Mancunian double-bill.  I was well into Buzzcocks (important Punk Rock point - not 'The'), having had my heart broken to 'Ever Fallen in Love With Someone You Shouldn've', but I'd never heard of Joy Division.  The attendance was about 600, although, nowadays, 4,000 people reckon that they were there, and, criminally, all that I recall about Joy Division was thinking that Ian Curtis was off his head.  "He'll fall off that stage in a minute if he's not careful", I muttered to nobody in particular, as he flailed around screaming some intelligible nonsense about dancing to the radio.  Interestingly, the one true urban myth (a contradiction in terms, but you see my point), was that those 'in the know' did walk out before Buzzcocks' headline set.  I didn't.  They were great. Next gig please.
That The Jam November '79 Mob in Full
Me, our Mike, our Mark, Andy and Tim from the Housing, Alan Armstrong, Tony Woods from Bebington
This is the one.  The Jam at the height of their powers.  'Setting Sons' on everyone's Christmas list, and only 5 months until 'Going Underground' would debut at number one with a bullet.  Outside Deeside Leisure Centre, there was murder.  "We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, we are the mods".  Inside there was murder.  Paul Weller : "stop fackin' fightin' or we're going off".  It was electric, and still one of the seminal moments in my extensive gig-going canon.
I could go on.  Moving into 1980; Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, Gary Numan (with support from the robotic dance pair, Tik and Tok.  I never went actually - Everton were at home - but our Mike and Hasky did, and Stuart Ennis was reported to have walked all the way back to Walton from Deeside; that's what I call PUNK ROCK, lid!!), as well as discovering Brady's (which had succeeded Erics, but with the likes of Sons of Egypt and Unoccupied Europe, rather than The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen).  And The Specials and The Skids, at Rotters night-club, have got to be worth an article in their own right.  I even went to see Barry Manilow, for Cliff's sake, but, again, that tale can wait for another day. 
I'm a bit too old, now, for live music.  Wild horses normally couldn't drag me out on a school night, these days, although I couldn't resist the recent lure of the likes of Edwyn Collins, Shack, Half Man Half Biscuit, and bright new kids on the block, Epydemyk.  I like to keep my hand in, from time-to-time,as you can see, but sadly now head for the exits as soon as the lead singer pipes up with 'here's one we've just written'. 
Half past four? Half past four?  You said half past ten to us  . . . .






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