At last; this Weird Tales showcase gig that was one of the most anticipated events since it was conceived had finally arrived on a November night way down in the depths of no mans land between the Brixton and Oval underground stations. The old White Horse was the chosen venue for this night. Now renamed JAMM for reasons I never got told, it is a venue separated into two performance areas, which is just as well as the amount of bands that had agreed to perform for this special night were numerous. The bands were going to perform in both rooms, overlapping slightly throughout the night. A video link to a big screen was to be set up in the small room so punters could decide when they wanted to leave one bands performance in that room to join the start of another bands performance in the larger room. Both Zounds and The Mob were the only bands that would not overlap with other bands on the night or at least this was the plan.
I went to work at Southern Record Distribution in the morning as normal, carrying my trusty Denon double tape recorder along for the ride. I skipped lunch so that I could release the chains from my day job a little quicker. Off I wandered, undertaking the five minutes journey to Seven Sisters underground station with my Denon safely by my side. Sat down on the train and waited for the end of the Victoria line to arrive. Within forty minutes I was in the familiar area of Brixton, once an area I frequently used to go to and stay over twenty five years ago… But where the hell was Tony D? He was not in the station as planned. I ducked into the Beehive pub to search for the ‘boss’. No Tony D there either. Knowing Tony D’s timekeeping and rather than getting an early drink and waiting, I took the brisk walk for fifteen minutes to the old White Horse pub. Met up outside the venue with early birds Mark Astronaut, Steve Corr from Idiot Strength and both Curtis and Mark from The Mob. The trip from Bristol for these band members travelling east towards London was not without incident, as there was an accident just in front of them on the M4 which needed some sort of evasive action. Gladly the transport got through unscathed as did the band members. Curtis went up for a power nap in the rooms above the pub.
I mooched around the venue waiting for the Jamm sound guy Stuart to become known to me so I could set up my Denon into the smaller performance area’s mixing desk; as this bit of kit would be recording the performances by the bands in that room. Stuart had agreed to record the bands that were performing in the larger area which was much appreciated by me. Stuart became known to me and after a quick greeting I set up the Denon ready to record when the bands started on the night in the small room. At this point I then fancied something to keep me going for the night so I wandered over the road to get a large salad and hummus in pitta bread with chips. The elusive Tony D then made contact. He rung me up from the Beehive in Brixton, having got there much later than when I had been searching around that pub. Within an incredible ten minutes or so Tony D was outside the venue even before my pitta bread was toasted nice and crispy and to my liking in the takeaway opposite! I took a photo for old time’s sake with Curtis, Tony and Mark; thankfully the photograph was in black and white as Tony was wearing a bright orange fleece which by the standard punk rock marking system ended up in Tony D gaining negative points for his attire!
More bands had started to turn up at this stage, and I had the honour of eating my salad with hummus in pitta and chips on the stage steps of the larger room whilst not only The Mob sound checked, but also Zounds and a little bit of The Hamsters (Kill Pretty). Not a bad way to start the night. But after all that hummus and salty chips I was gagging for a drink. Thankfully cans of Strongbow cider were in plentiful supply in the room upstairs above the venue. Result.
Back in the smaller room, Idiot Strength had sound checked and The Astronauts were almost at the end of their sound check. Worrying there was still no members of Rubella Ballet to be seen and time was getting a little tight. Almost opening time. I went upstairs for another can of Strongbow cider and took some photographs while I was up there. Particularly nice were the three front men from Zounds, Astronauts and The Mob all sitting together in the same room for the first time since the very early 1980’s. This Weird Tales 2011 moment I felt had to be photographed and archived, so I took two photographs, just in case…
Still no Rubella Ballet; and from the top floor vantage point I noticed the line of punters outside was growing and spreading out onto the side streets. I mooched around a little more and got in some minutes with the wonderful Andy T who was in fine fettle, we spoke of the following nights Steve Ignorant show in Shepherds Bush amongst several other subjects of interest. A lovely guy is Andy T.
I went downstairs and saw members of Rubella Ballet were turning up. Sid, the giant drummer of the band had not been well for the weeks leading up to this Weird Tales night had needed to wait for some medication, hence the lateness of the band. He arrived hobbling through the door and across the venue on a pair of crutches and for a moment I thought the worst, but thankfully, and very courageously I thought, Sid told me he was going to battle on with the drumming as he would not want to miss this opportunity to perform at this gig. He stated it was all part of the recovery process and being positive should help him overcome the problem. On guitar for this Rubella Ballet performance would be ex Lack Of Knowledge member Tony Barber.
After another half an hour or so whilst on another search for Strongbow cider upstairs; I noticed that the crowd were still not being allowed into the venue. I went downstairs and spoke to the security guy on the door, he seemed adamant that no one should be let in until one of the management told him so, sadly for him Mick Lugworm and some others just wandered in the door that I had just exited from. This was followed by a wave of other punters who were previously standing around outside on this November night. I went back in the venue and immediately got told off, by I assume the management, for drinking one of the cans of Strongbow cider out of the designated area upstairs. I wandered off upstairs obviously shamefaced until such time that Idiot Strength were about to go onto the stage in the small room.
Idiot Strength wandered onto the stage as most of the crowd was still being checked off outside, but while this was happening outside the band performed a decent set and my Denon recorded the set with no real drama. The soundman for that side of the venue had warned me earlier in the night that the output channels on this small mixing desk which was placed precariously onto a small and high pub table in the middle of the room, were faulty and that it may cut out from time to time. Great stuff, just what I needed, being chained to my Denon tape recorder all night long just in case! Still everything was set up now so fingers crossed and hope for the best. Idiot Strength were always one of my favourite bands in the mid 1980’s and although several line up changes have occurred throughout the bands career, they can still focus and perform a very good set. The photographs were taken, the recording was captured and I relaxed a little until the next band was expected on the stage.
The Astronauts clambered onto the small stage and my finger was ready to press record once more on the tape recorder. The room was filling up a little more now and this mixing desk in the middle of the small room started to get punters knocking against it a fair bit more often than during Idiot Strength’s set. This was going to be dodgy… Every time someone passed by the mixing desk set up, or passed by people already standing there, the leads from the mixing desk to my Denon were being knocked about. This meant that I would have to keep an eye on the recording as the room filled up even more, just to make sure I could salvage any recordings if the mixing desk output cut out at all. This was not really what I wanted to do throughout any of the bands performances but whatever…
Mark Astronaut, who is the only member of the Astronauts to remember the times of the Weird Tales tours in 1979 and 1980 started the band off and they went through a mixture of old and new songs with gusto, and with a very appreciative audience. This was nice to see, if you had seen the band as many times over the last few decades as I have, this appreciation for The Astronauts was not always the case! I feel very happy for Mark and his new young band. The band seems to be performing more in the 20oo’s than they seemed to in the 1980’s. And that is an achievement. The recording of the Astronauts does, from memory, cut out once or twice, and I had to joggle the leads a bit at the back of the mixing desk to keep the recording going. Also the band suffered from some kind of weird sound desk hum during a part of the set. I do not think it was the leads I brought along or my Denon recording levels being out, but whatever. The Astronauts were great on this night down the Jamm, but I fear the cassette recording may not bring out the best of this bands performance on the night due to the glitches already mentioned, but they were really really great.
Rubella Ballet were the last band that were going to perform in the small room so after this performance I did not have to worry about ever so intently watching the recording going through my Denon. The venue was full to bursting by the time Rubella Ballet had taken the stage, and my worries for my tape leads hanging from the dodgy mixing desk output into the slipstream of punters squeezing past each other were well founded. I had to attempt to quickly joggle those leads throughout large chunks of Rubella Ballet’s set just to keep the recording going so you will hear various dropouts throughout the recording. As I was also trying to archive the night with the use of my camera, I had to rely on my old friend Iain Aitch to keep an eye on the recording whilst taken some hasty photographs and running, or rather squeezing, back to that sound desk area.
Rubella Ballet performed well in what must have been a very difficult time for Zillah and Sid (and the rest of the band no doubt). I was amazed the band performed at all with all the health problems that Sid had leading up to this gig, health problems that Sid and Zillah are both concerned with. The health of Sid will always be more important than performing the music of their longstanding band. But as Sid had stated earlier, this performance was going to be part of the recovery process.
A lovely dedication to the memory of the late Raymond at the beginning of the band’s set was a very nice touch. From there the band played well, although again I fear that the cassette tape will not capture this special performance, again due to the glitches mentioned before. Other than the early line up of Blyth Power, I think that gigs involving Rubella Ballet have been my most numerrous in quantity throughout the 1980s. Seen them many many times and this performance again was very special for the enthusiam shown from the crowd and also Sid attacking the drums right through the pain barrier.
I must now remind the browsers to this blog who may not have been at the Weird Tales event, that the small performance room and the larger performance room were both operating with bands performing in both areas around the same time. Although Zounds and The Mob should be the only bands on in either of the rooms towards the end of the night. Because of the dodgy output connection from the mixing desk to my Denon in the small room; I would have to be based almost exclusively in that room, on that exact spot to keep an eye on all the bands recordings throughout the night. This meant that I could only go into the large room to take photographs quickly and then go back to the small room to check my trusty Denon still had the recordings going through it.
Andy T’s set I witnessed for only a very short time as The Astronauts were performing so had to check on the recording for the above reasons. Unfortunately for me, Andy’s set was not recorded due to an oversight on the night. I apologise to you Andy, next time yeah?
The Hamsters (Kill Pretty) who were another band on the original Weird Tales tours in 1979 and 1980 went and performed around the same time as Rubella Ballet were performing in the other room so again due to that dodgy mixing desk output I did not witness too much of the set, just went in to take some photographs for archiving and stayed for a few minutes, but listening to these excellent recordings courtesy of Stuart the sound guy for the large room, it seems that I missed a right treat.
All the larger room recordings from The Hamsters (Kill Pretty), Zounds and The Mob were done via the sound desk mix alongside separate stage and ceiling based microphones. Stuart also remixed all these band’s performances a few days after the event so what you get is pretty near a full on (dare I say professional) sound with no glitches within the WAVs which were then converted at 320 to mp3’s by me. With these recordings from the larger room you could go along and release a CD box set of the evening! But if you do please credit Kill Your Pet Puppy!
About now I should mention specifically to Mick Slaughter and Gary D.I.R.T that I apologise for not being able to chat properly during the night as the time you had got my attention I was between rooms and I was rushing back to check the Denon recordings. I gave my spare ticket to Palmer to give to Deno from D.I.R.T who was ticketless outside so maybe that is what Gary was going to talk to me about, not sure… On nights like these I always seem to be ‘working’ (recording, sorting slideshows, photographing) when I really want to catch up with people from decades ago.
J.C, Tinsel, Angie, Ruth Hagar, Sean Forbes, Dan MacIntyre, Palmer, Iain Aitch, Chris Low, Miles Rat and Jim Wafford along with Gary from D.I.R.T and Mick Slaughter are all among the folk I would have loved to spend a few more minutes with but I remained in a recording and photography frenzy for most of the night. Also Dominic, John Turner, Andy Tuck and Tim Soars deserve a mention also. I hope to be more relaxed and talkative at any of the future gigs!
Weird Tales veterans Zounds were already on stage as I was removing my Denon tape recorder from the mixing desk to place somewhere safe after Rubella Ballet had completed their set. By the time I got through the doorway to the larger room the place was packed. Too packed. I somehow steadily made my way to the stage to take some photographs of the band (and also of Des and Jaz from Virus who were down the front). I made my way to the right side of the stage as it looked a little more relaxed there than down the front. I chatted to one of the Jamm security guys to ask him to open the large double doors near the stage side. He coldly refused. I explained to him that no other bands were performing next door so opening the doors should not be a problem, and that it would get people that were still trying to get in a fair bit easier than through that one other entrance at the back of the hall. He coldly refused again. I found out the next day that the air conditioning had failed in the large room around this time and that later on in the night, one or two people had collapsed due to heat exhaustion. I am surprised I did not join the casualties as only having a hummus and salad in pitta bread with chips for the whole day on top of several Strongbow ciders is not a great idea when you add heat. On top of all that I had my Crombie overcoat on all night long! Some days previously on the The Mob / All The Madmen Facebook page someone had written on a post that he had a cassette tape given to him from Ted Chippington, of Max Flying Pig singing with The Mob back in 1980 and mentioned that he would give it to ‘Penguin down the Jamm on Friday night’ or words similar to that. I wrote back saying ‘yes please, and I will be wearing my Crombie overcoat’ or words similar to that.
No one came to me with a tape and I had that Crombie overcoat on all night just in case he did spot me later on… Even at the end of the night no luck with any rare Mob material to place up on KYPP! Next time I need to meet someone blind I will go for the more traditional newspaper under arm and a red carnation in my lapel!
Zounds were great and this recording captures the band well. Steve Lake was his usual cynical self between some of the songs that the band performed but that’s not a complaint, I always liked that from Zounds. A really dry humour bordering on sarcasm. An excellent performance and well worth a listen.
The Mob; the stage was set for their long awaited official reunion London show. There was a gig in Hoxton in the summer which was an invite only affair for some lucky Mob followers from the old days and for Jamie Hince’s group tagging along for his stag night which included Mick Jones from The Clash and Bobby Gillispie from Primal Scream. One hundred and fifty places were up for grabs at the free gig at the Macbeth in Hoxton, but this Brixton Jamm comeback gig had almost four hundred punters attending. An important gig for sure. It was also the last performance of the year for the band, a year which had a total of five one off and very special performances that kicked off at the Bristol Fleece in April.
I took my vantage point at the back of the stage near to Curtis’s bass amp to take some photographs. Due to the heat and so little room to move on the venue floor I more or less stayed there for the remainder of the night. The band started with a spectacular version of ‘Looking For You’ originally penned by the Entire Cosmos. Entire Cosmos was a band that had the original Weird Tales tour organiser J.B as vocalist. Josef Porta of Zounds and The Mob played drums for the Entire Cosmos at one point or another. The band recorded a fairly small amount of material during the bands career and it was always recorded at the Streetlevel studio and engineered by Grant Showbiz who was sadly not at the gig although I understand a couple of original Weird Tales veterans, Androids Of Mu members were! J.B himself was meant to have shown up at this event. Did he at all? Anyone?
The Mob went on to perform the tracks that everybody wanted to hear and of course went down a storm with the punters grasping for breath in the room. The only problem from my side of things occurred when someone decided to either stage dive or to tamper deliberately with the ceiling based projector that had been running my slideshow behind all the bands that performed in the large room, all night long. Halfway through the set this projector was somehow knocked and ended up pointing toward the ceiling rather than the white projector screen situated behind Graham, the drummer of The Mob. There was nothing that myself or Stuart the sound guy could do at this point of the night with this situation so obviously had to let it go. A bit of a shame but never mind. Other than that the performance was strong and the crowd seemed to revel in the Mob’s return to the big smoke. The band were tight and focused. A massive success on the stage, and a relief to see the night though with the minimum of problems.
After the Mob’s performance I mingled for some time with Tony D and Mick Lugworm, also met up again with Huntington Street squat veterans Hugh and Andrea along with Linda. I spent a little time with Miles (ex Naplam Death) and Chris (ex Apostles), two people that had not seen each other since 1983 and who both met up at this gig unexpectedly. This situation was repeated many times throughout the whole night by many different individuals that had taken the time to come out for this occasion. So many folk in the venue had not seen so many other folk that were in attendance for many decades. From these folk there were smiles all around, and above all there was a strong feeling of love. It was great to see J.C come over from Spain to attend this gig. J.C who drummed in the south African punk band Riot Squad was the person that opened up the door to me for the very first time at 96 Brougham Road, then the base for All The Madmen records. Over the passing decades the rest, you could say, is history.
It was almost time for me to try and scrape Tony D away from the venue to share a well-earned and very long cab ride home, first riding east and then to north London. I placed my Denon into its large hessian bag and placed the cassette tapes safely into my Crombie overcoat. Myself and Tony D gave our regards to any of the band members and old friends that were still in the venue, and along with Andrea, now performing with The Pukes, jumped into a Brixton cab to take us all home to Leytonstone and then to the out reaches of Enfield.
Already looking forward to Bristol Fleece in February where The Mob will perform alongside the newly reunited Hagar The Womb, that will be fun fun fun. Can’t wait.
A special thank you must go to Stuart the sound guy who was on the night and indeed after the night, very helpful. Thanks for all the effort you put into getting me the audio from the larger room so I could get it onto this post on KYPP. Cheers for everything Stuart.
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICKEY PENGUIN
This post is dedicated with love from all at KYPP to Louise ex Puppy Collective member who was at this Weird Tales gig in spirit but unfortunately not in person…
…and also Chris Low ex Political Asylum and Apostles who was most certainly at the gig in person.
Both Louise and Chris celebrate birthdays this week. Happy Birthday to the both of you.