Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The first gig you ever went to...?

As with the first album you ever bought, the first gig you ever went to is something of a rite of passage.   Perhaps you were, as I was, under-age and with tender ear-drums.  Getting through the doors past the bouncer, in spite of being nearly four years under eighteen (and him being the size of a house), wasn’t a problem (perhaps because I was a girl…?)  Even the process of buying a pint of cider at the bar was painless.  Coping with the volume was something that got easier as the night wore on.  But concealing my excitement at seeing a band I really admired up there on the stage, in all their real, raw glory, playing songs I had only previously heard in session on John Peel’s radio show, was impossible.  For my first, proper gig was (cue drum-roll)…. Siouxsie & the Banshees at a little club called Triad in  Bishop’s Stortford, January 1978.

I say ‘proper’ here because, to be honest, I had sort of seen a few live musical performances prior to this.  The very first ‘grown-up’ one was a few months before when my friends and I stumbled into a 'Rock Club' night and caught a few numbers being played by some local bunch of long-hairs about whom every detail except that escapes me.  The hall was sparsely populated and most of the punters were sitting on the floor, so it wasn’t exactly what you’d call wild.  And as we were being picked up at 9.30pm by my friend’s over-anxious dad (we had school next day) the evening was a bit of a dead loss.  So I’m not going to count that, particularly as I haven’t a clue who the group was.  However my overwhelming delight and incredulity when I heard that Siouxsie and co. were coming to our small, provincial home is something I can’t forget.

I grew up in that quiet Hertfordshire market town, and had been to Triad many times before as a kid – it started out as an Arts Centre and my mum got very involved in it, so I got taken along to see arty puppet shows, strange plays, an evening with Richard Nixon (the ‘70s newsreader) and even an Indian sitar performance which I like to think might have been Ravi Shankar but which I suspect was very probably not…  Then in the late ‘70s it became more of a rock music venue.  It must have had a pretty on-the-ball team doing the bookings because in the space of just a couple of years not only the Banshees but also Motorhead and Adam & the Ants played there (yeah I was lucky enough to see the early Ants too -  pre-mainstream fame, pre-white nose stripe and pre-two drummers…)  Later it became a regular haunt for local punks and was where I spent every Tuesday and Saturday night, taking in bands as diverse as the Newtown Neurotics (local heroes of the time), Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, Crass (who hailed from just up the road), and the Passions.

Siouxsie & the Banshees were seminal, though.  Siouxsie was dressed just as I’d seen her in music mag pics (striped t-shirt and thigh-length boots, black hair short and glossy and  characteristic eye make-up) and performed to an enthusiastic audience.   I bet if somebody was to do a TV drama on early punk they'd show the crowd at an early 1978 Banshees gig in band-name t-shirts, boutique bondage and spiky crazy-coloured hair but it really wasn’t like that then.  There were loads of blokes with longish hair wearing great-coats, and those of us who had just started to adopt a very embryonic punk look were deemed outrageous simply for wearing straight trousers and baggy shirts, etc.   The look was so shocking, apparently, that the local paper sent a photographer along to take some shots of the kids enjoying themselves, including me and my friends. 
We pulled faces for the charming camera man and posed as defiantly as (really rather sweet) fourteen-year-old girls at their first gig could. 

"Don't tell my mum I've drunk a pint of cider"

It all seemed like good, harmless fun.  Funny, then, how the event made front page news in the next issue with a very questionable editorial which suggested that “…these disgusting punks should have been aborted at birth..”   Such was the mood in the media at the time (and it’s really quite hard to believe that anyone should make such a fuss, but it was a common occurrence in the newspapers then.)  My experience, however, was of a truly great night – very much as real, raw and glorious as I had hoped.  I’d got past the burly bouncers, drunk a little too much and passed my initiation into the world of proper, live music with nothing worse than perhaps slightly ringing ear-drums the next morning, seeing a band I had admired from afar.  The excitement lived on for a long while and it’s been fun to revisit it here.  (Thank you, Siouxsie!) 

Maybe it’ll bring back some memories for you too?

Siouxsie & the Banshees a few months beforehand - see what I mean about the crowd?


  1. I really shouldn’t look on here during the day - far too distracting: Another great post that will set me off down memory lane. You even made me feel nostalgic for Bishops Stortford! Great blog this - you have quite inspired me.

    Wonderful photo - what a cute punkette - and what attitude! Having Siouxsie as your first gig and The Clash as your first album - well you can’t get more ‘cred’ (as we used to say) than that.

    My first proper gig was Slade at the old Empire Pool at Wembley. I was excited for weeks before hand and I was not disappointed! (I’ve just done a quick google and found this link: - No more work for me today!)

  2. PS. And your description of the audiences then is spot on!

  3. Aw, thank you, A, you are really far too kind...but it's much appreciated. Of course the nice thing about writing this is being able to selectively edit out all the embarrassing moments in your life if you want to, just leaving the better bits like these! If only one could do that for real...
    I liked that bit on the Slade gig - and how he described feeling like a child amongst adults was very resonant. I can imagine your excitement being much the same. Also cred!

  4. "Don't tell my mum I've drunk a pint of cider" that made me convulse into a heap of laughter. As always your post is witty and spot on, thanks for sharing such a cool experience. Keep up the great work as a once great man sang in his younger/better days:
    "true is the dream mixed with nostalgia"

  5. Thanks so much, Wilthomer, very much appreciated! I'm having great fun with this, strangely enough instead of making me feel old by looking back it's all really rather rejuvenating. Hope you enjoy the addendum just added too - it seems unbelievable now...

  6. Hi C - for spurious reasons I was searching for the exact date of this Banshees gig when I stumbled across your blog...and spent the next four hours reading it...fantastic stuff! It wasn't my first gig, but I was there - and 34 years on one of my pathetic claims to Warholism is that Siouxsie spilled my pint all over me when she went to the bar before the gig. I vividly recall all these scary people arriving en masse from Liverpool Street at Bishop's Stortford station. We thought we were pretty cool in our tight red Levis and white kickers and two and a half inch punk badges. This lot, however, were positively the start of the post-punk movement as you so aptly describe their clothing. I'd never seen anything like it. From memory, Pete the Meat and the Boys and The Sods supported. And Shane, the Triad DJ, was slightly perplexed at his playlist ! Incidentally, I too have a spurios link to the Flux of Pink Indians, by way of the off to devour more. "1970s have been made in Hong Kong"!!

  7. Hi! And wow - you were there too! Yep you're right about the support bands too as far as I remember ('slighly scary people from Harlow' to me then). Tight red Levis, white kickers and those over-sized badges sums it up so well, but it was certainly different enough when you were in the provinces, wasn't it? Great anecdote about Siouxsie, I never got that close! I'm intrigued, naturally, by your link to Flux/the Eps... we must've moved in the same circles...Do you remember the other bands around the same time as the Epileptics - like Urban Decay, U-Samples, Erratics...? And that whole Stortbeat thing? etc etc etc...!

    1. Absolutely - it was much more "Sound of the Suburbs" than "Anarchy in the UK" in Harlow / Stortford, wasn't it ? I recall Woolworths in Harlow having a reduced/ex chart singles section, where, in February 1977 I bought eight copies of "Anarchy" on EMI for 19p each. The manager of the sole record shop in Stortford had a "pretty persuasion" for photographing young, just-teenage we used to get first picks of the display stuff there. Ahem...I got everything from there, from the Ramones to Willie Alexander and the Boom band - it was on clear vinyl after all. 12 months after the Siouxsie gig was one of, if not the very, first Mod all Dayers at Triad with Secret Affair et al. Stortford got invaded again. By scooters. That was a terrific gig. As was The Epileptics at The Station Hotel. The Stortbeat 2 CD thing issued in 2004 is just wonderful, packaging particularly. I do believe that, through my Dad, I got the only fully autographed copy of 1970's EP. The band, of course, refused to autograph anything, snarling "we ain't no-one's heroes, we don't sign nuffin". But they were lovely chaps - and autographed it. In 1983, my wife swapped ALL my punk singles for the Marvin Gaye album with "Sexual Healing" on it. Divorce came later....

    2. Ah - so interesting! We shared some of the same experiences - buying records in Stortford (called Startime when I started going there, they had a little singles box on the counter - some great stuff in that, I bought the Neon Hearts single and my mate Slaughter & The Dogs and we were so chuffed to find them in our little backwater town!), Mods May Day at Triad (Chords, Purple Hearts et al - sunny day I seem to remember? and lots of parkas - music was good), many many Epileptics gigs ...and yes they were lovely chaps! Keen to maintain some small degree of anonymity on here, well for now anyway, I shall say no more about that!
      But very sorry to hear about the punk singles swap....

  8. Oh God... I was at loads of those early punk gigs and a regular at the old mans rock club. Bishops Stortford in the late 70's and early 80's. What a crowd.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Anon.
      They were great days down at Triad!


Please come in, the door is open

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...