& THE VOID- OIDS
Kings Hall, Derby
I'VE DRIVEN from London to Derby with Clash manager Bernard Rhodes for the first of my projected three nights and two days with the band. I am not in the best of shape as I've still got jet-lag, have been averaging two to three hours sleep a night since I got here, and the previous night was stranded in Aylesbury by the Stiff's Greatest Hits tour, hitching a ride back to London with a roadie in the course of which we were stopped by provincial police in search of dope and forced to empty all our pockets, something which had not happened to me since the hippie heydaze of 1967. This morning when I went by Mick Farren's flat to pick up my bags he told me "You look like Night Of The Living Dead."
Nevertheless, I make sure after checking into the Derby Post House to hit the first night's gig, whatever my condition, in my most thoughtful camouflage. You see the kind of reports we get over in the States about your punk rock scene had led me to expect seething audiences of rabid little miscreants out for blood at all costs, and naturally I figured the chances of me getting a great story were better if I happened to get cannibalised. So I took off my black leather jacket and dressed as straight as I possibly could, the coup de grace (I thought) being a blue promotional sweater that said "Capitol Records" on the chest, by which I fantasised picking up some residue EMI-hostility from battle-feral Pistols fans. I should mention that I also decided not to get a haircut which I desperately needed before leaving the States, on the not-so-off chance of being mistaken for a hippie.
When I got to the gig I pushed my way down through the pogoing masses, right into the belly of the beast, and stood there through openers The Lous and Richard Hell and the Voidoids' sets, waiting for the dog soldiers of anarch-apocalypse to slam my skull into my ankles under a new wave riptide. Need I mention that nothing of the kind transpired?
What I am saying is that contrary to almost all reports published everywhere, I found British punks everywhere I went to be basically if not manifestly gentle people. They are a nice bunch of boys and girls and don't let anybody (them included) tell you different.
Yeah, they like to pogo. On the subject of this odd tribal rug-cut, of course the first thing I saw when I entered the hall was a couple of hundred little heads bobbing up and down like anthropomorphised pistons in some Max Fleischer cartoon on the Industrial Revolution.
When I'd heard about pogoing before I thought it was the stupidest thing anybody'd ever told me about, but as soon as I saw it in living spring it made perfect sense. In fact, it's sheer logic (if not poetry) in motion: when you're packed into a standing sweatshop with ten thousand other little bodies all mashed together, it stands to reason you can't dance in the traditional manner (ie sideways sway).
No, obviously if you wanna do the boogaloo to what the new breed say you gotta by dint of sheer population explosion shake your booty and your body in a vertical trajectory. Which won't be strictly rigid anyway since because this necessarily involves loosing your footing every two seconds the next step is falling earthbound slightly sideways and becoming entangled with your neighbours, which is as good a way as any of making new friends if not copping a graze of tit.
There is, however, one other aspect of audience appreciation which ain't nearly so cute: gobbing. For some reason this qualifies as news to everybody, so I'm gonna serve notice right here and now: LISTEN YA LITTLE PINHEADS, IT'S NAUSEATING AND MORONIC, AND I DON'T MEAN GOOD MORONIC, I MEAN JERKED OFF. THE BANDS ALL HATE IT (the ones I talked to anyway) AND WOULD ALL PLAY BETTER AND BE MUCH HAPPIER IF YOU FIGURED OUT SOME MORE ORIGINAL WAY OF SHOWING YOUR APPRECIATION. END OF moral lecture.
The Clash were a bit of a disappointment the first night. They played well, everything was in the right place, but the show seemed to lack energy somehow. A colleague who saw them a year ago had come back to the States telling me that they were the only group he'd ever seen on stage who were truly wired. It was this I was looking for and what I got in its place was mere professionalism, and hell, I could go let The Rolling Stones put me to sleep again if that was all I cared about.
Back up in the dressing room I cracked "Duff gig, eh fellas?" and they laughed, but you could tell they didn't think it was funny. Later I found out that Joe Strummer had an abscessed tooth which had turned into glandular fever, and since the rest of the band draw their energy off him they were all suffering. By rights he should have taken a week off and headed for the nearest hospital, but he refused to cancel any gigs, no mere gesture of integrity.
A process of escalating admiration for this band had begun for me which was to continue until it broached something like awe. See, because it's easy to sing about your righteous politics, but as we all know actions speak loader than words, and The Clash are one of the very few examples I've seen where they would rather set an example by their persona! conduct than talk about it all day.
Case in point. When we got back to their hotel I had a couple of interesting lessons to learn. First thing was they went up to their rooms while a bunch of fans and me sat in the lobby. I began to make with the grouch squarks because if there's one thing I have learned to detest over the years it's sitting around in some goddam hotel lobby like a soggy
douchebag parasite waiting for some lousy high and mighty rock 'n' roll band to maybe deign to put in an imperial appearance.
But then a few minutes later The Clash came down and joined us and I realised that unlike most bands I'd ever met they weren't stuck up, weren't on a star trip, were in fact genuinely interested in meeting and getting acquainted with their fans on a one-to-one, non-condescending level.
(Lester Bangs tour diary 1977 serialised in the NME)
Birthday of Adam Ant today. He was born Stuart Goddard in London 1954.
Begin a 5 night residency at the Roundhouse.
The Club, Hucknell