On a glorious bright late winters day, this Penguin sat back and wondered what will Hagar The Womb sound like after twenty five years in the wilderness? The Mob were in the wilderness even longer and decided to perform the debut reformation gig at this very same venue in Bristol last April. From the Mob’s few rehearsals up until breaking their duck at the Fleece, performances have got somewhat tighter and the buzz around the band has never been stronger with the help of the internet specifically. Will Hagar The Womb be able to match and possibly even out do what The Mob have achieved in the short time that the original line up have been performing again? Only time will tell. If the experience of this one night suggests anything to me, it is that Hagar The Womb could, and no doubt would be welcomed onto the stages of the UK and further afield with as much interest as The Mob had almost a year previously.
I arrived in Bristol the day before the gig was planned to take place. Being driven up the M4 listening to The Ruts at an amazingly stupid volume on my headphones in rather unseasonal but gloriously pleasant temperatures was not a bad start to the long weekend that was planned here in Bristol for me and my family.
During the afternoon on the day of the gig I has a quick doze for an hour or so and then around five o clock wandered off towards the venue, which was only a five minute walk away from where I was staying.
After saying hello to various Hagar and Mob members that were already in attendance, and then getting a nice surprise seeing Mark Astronaut who was also in the venue, I went on the search for Rich Munday the Fleece’s sound man who would be charged with looking after the sound for the whole of the night. I had previously contacted Rich from Penguin Towers several days previously to make sure that he would archive the audio of all the bands on the night. This had been agreed previously and so I was relaxed in the knowledge that I could enjoy the night without too much bother. Rich Munday was the same sound man that looked after the sound on the previous occasion that The Mob had performed at The Fleece last April so I was, along with the band, very confident that the sound would be spot on, and the recordings would be safely in the bag!
Now all I needed was to get the slide show sorted out with Rich and then get a well earned can or two of Strongbow cider expertly snatched from the band’s rider stored up in a room above the venue.
Throughout some of the band’s sound checks; members of Hagar The Womb were discussing their collective nerves to the crowd who had gathered up in the room above the venue. Importantly, members of The Mob were in attendance. The advice that Mark and Curtis shared to the members of Hagar was along the lines of “do your best and if mistakes occur then the crowd will carry you all through”. I remember being with Mark Mob and Leah in Stroud the night before The Mob’s debut comeback performance at the Fleece last year and for anyone not aware, Mark was really very worried about the night and how the band would perform. That first night The Mob performed did have several bum notes, but not enough to worry anyone, and of course the crowd did carry the band on throughout the performance, bum notes or no bum notes. From that performance The Mob have now become a formidable live act with a further eight performances under the band’s collective belt. I think the Hagar’s appreciated the words shared by a band who had gone through the same worries less than a year before.
I spent some time with Chris and Paul from Hagar who have had strong ties with Southern Studios in the past. Chris was in charge of looking after the promotion back in 1990 or 1991 for a year or two. If memory serves me correctly Chris came after Vicky left for San Fransisco and before Anton Brookes joined briefly. Paul was one of John Loder’s most trusted self employed electricians who would always be around Southern Studios and Southern Record Distribution tinkering around doing odd jobs for a little over a decade until he moved away from London in the early 2000’s. Chris Hagar was ‘proudly’ showing off his mohican that he had somehow grown out of literally nothing, specifically for the gig tonight. About a centimetre of wispy hair adorned Chris’s head with much pride to all that would notice it at any rate!
Mark Mob, Leah and various members of their families arrived with the beautiful vegetarian curries that all the bands (and myself) could enjoy, and enjoy we all did. Thanks to them for the sustenance to kick off the evening. I had seconds (and possibly thirds, it all gets a bit hazy) there was a lot of curry!
Richard’s soundchecking was almost over and doors were opened to allow the crowd into the venue.
First band on were Shocks Of Mighty! I assume the band were named after the early reggae classic by the Upsetters with Dave Barker. Shocks Of Mighty! has within the line up, Veg who went onto perform bass duties for Hagar The Womb when Mitch left the band in the mid 1980’s. Equally important (or at least to me) the band also contains a certain Mistah Brown who used to select tunes at Tighten Up club nights in north and east London. Myself and Bobbly Jax Bird would go to these nights quite often before Aaron was born. In fact the last time we went as a couple to one of Mistah Browns nights was at the On The Rocks bar in Hoxton at a time when Aaron had been sitting for several months inside Jax’s belly. Amazingly Duke Vin, a Jamaican born but London based pioneer of sound systems from the late 1950’s was rolled out for this night and selected some rare vinyl and dub plates from his own collection. Due to the man’s age (over eighty at that time I would guess) he spent most of the time sitting on a chair at the back of the venue whilst a younger man (possibly Mistah Brown?) would place the stylus onto the actual records.
Shocks Of Mighty! performed in front of a small audience right at the start of the night which was a shame as the band were very good and energetic. During the performance I noted mentally the influences of Stiff Little Fingers, The Ruts with melodies possibly inspired by the second generation 1978 / 1979 mod band’s like The Chords and The Lamberettas. The only other time I witnessed the band was after 2010’s KYPP picnic in Hagerston Park in Hackney. The folk who turned up for that picnic including Mark Mob and Leah driving from Bristol went to this performance around the corner in a Kingsland High Road club, and not only was Mitch Hagar in attendance at that Shocks Of Mighty! performance but Steve Corr from Idiot Strength was also there. Which brings me nicely onto Idiot Strength the next band to perform at this gig at The Fleece.
Idiot Strength performed with the reformed Mob last year at The Fleece also taking in support slots to The Mob gigs at the Hoxton Macbeth, Yeovil Quicksilver and the Brixton Jamm Weird Tales night. Steve Corr along with some the earlier members of Idiot Strength (Andy Tuck and Bob Butler) were from Yeovil and around in the Glover Walk scene at the same time as The Mob started to release 7″ vinyl singles in 1979 and 1980. The Mob and the members of Idiot Strength go way back. Idiot Strength were one of my most cherished bands who I saw a fair amount in the mid 1980’s (most browsers who have read my reviews of the Mob reunion shows on KYPP throughout the last ten months will already know and no doubt be bored with this fact by now). Even with this more recent line up the band can still crank out the tracks in a pleasing manner. Another great performance by Idiot Strength. Again another small audience but a small appreciative audience never the less.
It was around the time that Idiot Strength were performing that I got to hear a story of an old KYPP collective member that was duped into coming to this gig in Bristol all the way from his home near Ipswich. Andrew ‘Greenhair’ who lived in the same squats and went to the same social centres as The Mob and the KYPP collective was in total shock when Sandra (who had engineered the surprise) told ‘Greenhair’ that there was a dinner date that the couple should be attending. A few hours later ‘Greenhair’ is in a Bristol venue with Mob banners hanging from the back of the stage. Sandra found me and asked if I was Penguin, after the affirmative from myself she took me to ‘Greenhair’ and I immediately set to work on finding some of his old comrades that were in the building.
‘Greenhair’ found Curtis and Captain Max up in the room above the venue and found Mark Mob and Fod outside the venue. He spent time with these people, some of the Hagar’s and no doubt many more people throughout the night. He looked absolutely made up that this had all been set up by Sandra. A lovely surprise for sure, and I hope you both had a lovely rest of the night and weekend. Trumping ‘Greenhair’ and Sandra (on the miles travelled to this gig in Bristol) was Gen a friend of Des Hoskins one of the old crowd that stayed true. She travelled down from Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders for the gig… Great stuff. Perhaps The Mob should perform up north at some point?
Another notable visitor to this gig in Bristol was Adie who used to visit and stay in Seend at a house where members of The Mob and Null And Void lived back in 1980. Adie caught up with Captain Max, the members of The Mob and Debbie who helped The Mob create the All The Madmen fanzine way back in the late 1970’s along with Christine and Geoff. Debbie was the bassist of Bikini Mutants from Yeovil and went onto join My Bloody Valentine. Adie also caught up with Joanne who was in a long loving relationship with Wilf, the artist who was responsible for much of the Mob artwork in the bands lifetime along with Steve Beatty. Joanne is the girl at the bottom right of the fold out poster for the 1982 Crass released ‘No Doves Fly Here’ 7″ single.
It may well have been a Mob gig but it was most certainly a Hagar The Womb night; with fingers crossed and a handful of lyric (and no doubt key change) prompters on scraps of paper the band got ready to go downstairs and this was the point of no return… After a quick tune up the members nervously (except for Mitch who does not suffer from such an affliction) entered the venue to clamber up on the stage.
Unbelievably there were three Hagar bassists in the venue on this night. Steph the original bassist, Mitch who took over from Steph, and Veg who took over from Mitch and who had previously performed in Shocks Of Mighty! earlier that night. Janet Spaghetti Hagar who was in the venue to support her old band was the original guitarist along with Jon From Bromley. Janet was not interested in learning guitar parts for tracks not performed for over twenty five years so Steph took up Janet’s guitar parts. Steph, no doubt under the tutelage of Paul Hagar would have got taught the basics during the three rehearsals that all the band members had travelled to from all over parts of the UK and Wales.
The very last time that I witnessed a Hagar The Womb performance was in the middle of December 1985 down the Broadway Bar underneath the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith. It was a Jon Fat Beast promotion with Wat Tyler and The Shout from St Albans supporting that night. Interestingly the very next night at the very same venue in Hammersmith, Patrik Fitzgerald performed with the Stitched Back Foot Airman. This was also a Jon Fat Beast promotion and this was the last time I witnessed Patrik Fitzgerald.
Well, how did this Hagar The Womb performance over twenty five years later here at the Fleece go? Personally I thought it went wonderfully. Yes there were a handful of bum notes here and there, the odd misplaced lyric. For a band that have not had an awful lot of contact with each other save three recent rehearsals within the four months the Hagar reformation idea had been bandied about, Hagar The Womb were a truly marvelous sight back performing together again on this small stage in Bristol. Chris had not even picked up a drumstick since We Are Going To Eat You split up twenty years ago so he was a little worried about his stamina. Mitch of course was fittingly outrageous and towards the end of the set threw his bass guitar on the monitors to allow Veg to perform a song; the band’s last ‘Dressed To Kill’. Mitch danced on stage and did the “COME ON THEN” shout towards the end of the last chorus. The band seemed happy enough coming off the stage to the large audience giving a very positive response; as the photographs below show…
Hagar The Womb’s debut performance was in 1981 at the Wapping Autonomy Centre supporting The Mob, it is only fitting, or perhaps just good fortune, that Hagar The Womb’s debut reformation performance should also be here in Bristol supporting The Mob.
I would expect Hagar The Womb to continue to perform for a year or two and who knows, I understand the U.S.A is interested in some Womb action. Whether Mitch can cross the border to enter the U.S.A with his new legal ‘name’ on his U.K passport is of course another matter!
After the Hagar The Womb performance I noticed a bunch of young tearaways scowling around the hall looking like they were game for a ruck.
I believe that these people used to be in a band called Napalm Death back in the days when The Apostles wrote that bands name on as many cassette and 7″ single sleeves as possible. This was way before Napalm Death became the darlings of the new grind core / speed metal scene. These members hanging around in this Bristol venue had long departed the band before the hardcore breakthrough in the mid to late 1980’s, success courtesy in no small part to John Peel. If any one sees Miles, Nic and Finbar they are not to be approached as they are dangerous individuals as this rare undercover photograph that I took at great personal risk would testify. The band are on a mission to reclaim the name of the band from the parasitic hosts that have been looking after the Napalm Death name for the last thirty years. It could turn nasty. These three individuals have bulked up for the ensuring punch up and they will not accept defeat. All those missed publishing rights payments for the last few decades have taken a toll on these three desperate individuals and they have anger in spade loads on their collective black hearts.
Waiver: All the above was written for dramatic effect and I on behalf of KYPP can vouch that these three original members of Napalm Death are cool and cuddly and are in no way out for a spot of Barney Rubble…
The very last time that I witnessed a Hagar The Womb performance was in the middle of December 1985 down the Broadway Bar underneath the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith. It was a Jon Fat Beast promotion with Wat Tyler and The Shout from St Albans supporting that night. The very next night at the very same venue in Hammersmith, Patrik Fitzgerald performed with the Stitched Back Foot Airman. That was the last time I saw this artist live.
Myself and Steph Hagar placed ourselves stage right and chatted some and then listened to Patrik’s set. Patrik Fitzgerald with one guitar to hide behind and a fairly long acoustic set (almost an hour) transfixed a large part of the audience into near silence throughout. Quite a feat considering by this time of night a fair few folk, including myself, were getting a little more tipsy and the possibility of the audience getting a little louder than when they and myself, were sober was almost upon us. The Mob were also almost upon us. This was an immense performance from Patrik Fitzgerald.
“Bristol we have a problem”. Mark Mob’s voice goes west during the days leading up to this performance. After seeking herbal remedies for a few days, including of course, many types of honey mixtures the voice returns somewhat. Mark pleads with the audience from the stage that he may need a little help tonight in case his voice cuts out a little. After being at these gigs a handful of times during the last ten months I can vouch that a fair amount of the audience are already singing along to the lyrics as they also did this night in Bristol. As with the advice given to the Hagar The Womb members up in the room above the venue; “do your best and if mistakes occur then the crowd will carry you all through” the crowd certainly played their part during this Mob performance, covering up slightly for the odd croak from the vocalist.
The band started with their cover version of the Entire Cosmos ‘Looking For You’ a classic Street Level studios recording from a band that at one time consisted of Josef Porta at that point also drumming with Zounds and J.B who organised the Weird Tales tours and who was also for a time a Zounds roadie…
The Mob performed near enough the same set that the band have been performing for the last ten months. One punter decided to try and grab the microphone and pull it away from Mark which he succeeded in doing temporarily. Mark made his feelings known from the stage at the time away from the microphone, but after the gig felt absolutely rotten for doing so. Mark was very bothered that the punter did not take too much offence from his comments on the punters over exuberance. If the punter reads this KYPP post, Mark felt pretty grotty and he hoped you had a good time never the less. Mark was already struggling with his voice and to have the microphone handled out of his reach did not help him too much. Anyway this incident was only a very small matter that at worst knocked a few lyrics from ‘Another Day Another Death’ off the performance of that song.
Mark and the band are going to be expanding their repertoire with some other old material still to be relearned and more excitingly some new material. I will report anything that is worth reporting on the Mob / All The Madmen Records facebook page if anything comes together.
Tonight’s gig was a benefit for Fiona Fallover who I think spoke to Mark after the Yeovil gig last year. She is sadly quite ill and mentioned that she would like to have the chance to take her son on holiday before her illness gets much worse. Her favorite Mob song is ‘I Wish’ and I understood from Mark that during the Yeovil gig she was singing along to this song quite passionately. During the night in Bristol, Mark invited her up on to the stage to help sing along to ‘I Wish’ which she seemed to do quite well from where I was standing stage right. I do not think the microphone she used was turned on though as I cannot hear Fiona’s voice during the song on this recording. Also I am not sure that Rich the sound man was aware of the situation in advance so it is entirely possible he may have turned the microphone down or off completely, thinking it was a stage invader. I am not sure, but either way she was chanting the lyrics at least acapella from the stage. Fiona did get a fair chunk of the proceeds from the door to go towards paying for a holiday with her son.
The night was nearly up, The Mob walked off to yet another positive ovation, Hagar The Womb had got the first performance out of the way, and hopefully many more chances of gigging will come forth. Patrik Fitzgerald and the other bands all played well. I was fairly tipsy and well fed with various vegetarian curries.
I remember saying goodbye to most and even remember suggesting that Tottenham Hotspur should surely do quite well against Arsenal on the Sunday as our goals against record, at least since the first two games of the season, has been top notch and apart from Robin Van Persie who would get the Arsenal goals against our tight defence? I now know in hindsight that I had probably had quite enough to drink after spouting out such nonsense!
I waddled the now alcohol induced extended ten minute walk back to the hotel and to my already sleeping wife and child.
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICKEY PENGUIN