“England was thine- and it owed thee a living”

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I went the other night to see England is mine, the newly released film biography of Stephen Patrick Morrissey.  The cinema was full of people of a certain age, all summoned to the stalls by nostalgia.

I enjoyed the film, but I’d say it’s definitely one for existing fans of The Smiths.  The film ends with Morrissey and Johnny Marr meeting for their first song-writing session: you have to know what follows, and care about what follows, to engage with the story.  If you’ve never heard The Smiths, if you don’t like their music, you’re not going to be inclined to invest in the film’s account of events.  Nothing much happens- Morrissey has a crap job, he is briefly in a band, he gets depressed and is put on medication, he stays in and types a lot; what gives all of this meaning is the awareness of what is to come.  It helps too to know something about the other characters- that ‘Billy’ is Billy Duffy who becomes lead guitarist of The Cult and that Linder Sterling designed the covers for Orgasm Addict and Magazine’s Real Life album.  In other words, you have really to be of a certain age group and musical persuasion (and to like Keats, Yeats and Wilde perhaps…)

A couple of complaints- and if you are of said age group, you may well have rankled over these things too.  There was some carelessness over period details in the film, I thought:

  • no-one in 1976 went to a gig and asked for “a beer” at the bar, then to be given a glass bottle.  Huh?  It was a pint or half of bitter in a dimple glass, surely!
  • definitely no-one, especially a middle manager of middle age at the Inland Revenue, would have said in 1977 “get your shit together, Stephen.”  The phrase did not exist in our language then.  “Pull your socks up,” would have sounded right for a man of that generation and background;
  • likewise, “I don’t need this” when Stephen’s first friend can’t take his negativity anymore.  These are Americanisms which would have meant nothing to us then- and sounded wrong now.

There was plenty of humour in the film.  It reminded me too of Morrissey and Marr’s musical roots.  Both were fans of Motown, Morrissey in particular having a high regard for the sixties soul groups and female singers in particular.  We see him perform one song in the film, and that is a cover of ‘Give him a great big kiss’ by the Shangri-Las.  Often now, there is a taint of racism lingering with Morrissey’s name, but this early love of his for the Tamla bands gives such rumours the lie.

For more detail of the facts behind the film as well as the career of The Smiths, see Johnny Rogan’s book Morrissey and Marr- The severed alliance.

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The Skids live, 2017

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I’ve written previously about the Skids’ fortieth birthday tour.  Here are a couple of reviews of the actual gigs.

Firstly a review from the Scotsman,  by Fiona Shepherd, who gave their Glasgow ABC gig fur stars:

“When I’m up here I feel like I’m sixteen, but afterwards, the limbs…” For all his understandable apprehension around The Skids becoming part of the creaky punk heritage trail, lurching dervish Richard Jobson looked to be having a ball as the much-loved Dunfermline band embarked on their 40th anniversary reunion.

For justification, he need only have registered the reaction in the rammed venue – pints aloft from a sea of men of a certain age, exactly the sort of constituency.  The Skids represented with their meaty, politicised rabble rousing anthems such as debut release Charles, its bouncy bass-line propelling an ode to a factory worker literally ground down by the job.

Four decades on, The Skids are far from ground down. Even with the quickly acknowledged absence of Jobson’s wing man Stuart Adamson, lost to suicide 15 years ago, the band sounded in peak condition. Original bassist Bill Simpson and drummer Mike Baillie were the rock solid engine room, augmented by no better custodian of Adamson’s legacy than his former Big Country cohort Bruce Watson to provide that distinctive ringing, melodic lead guitar so admired by peers such as U2 and Siouxsie & the Banshees. The set was a pretty comprehensive romp through the singles and album standouts, with the pugnacious Working For The Yankee Dollar and turbo-charged The Saints Are Coming providing early highlights, fist-pumping chants Charade and Masquerade firing up the masses and the daft nosebleed roll call of TV Stars rewritten to name check the day’s political figures.”

Secondly, a review written by John Robb for Louder than War of the Manchester Ritz gig:

“Well, that was pretty fucking special.

The triumphant return of the Skids worked on so many different levels that it’s hard to believe they ever went away. The band, who emerged in the punk wars, are further proof of the strength in depth of that musical wave – a time when perhaps 40 odd bands all had a whiff of greatness about them. Some of them crashed and burned, some of them soldiered on to their never ending victory lap and some like the Skids seemed destined to never return.

… a rock solid rhythm section makes the band super-tight, serving the songs up with a real care, with all the shape shifting rhymes and rhythms and clever constructions in place and perfect for charismatic frontman Richard Jobson to project his still powerful voice over.

The last of the classic punk generation bands to reform the Skids hit the stage to a rapturous reception. They have, of course, got back together a couple of times before – a 30th anniversary thing in their home town of Dunfermline but this time it’s serious – a whole tour and some festival action.

Jobson is on fire fire tonight – a great frontman with charisma to spare his autodidact intelligence and powerful stage presence is still in place even if he amusingly complains of being knackered from jumping around in the songs like his youthful self complete with his trademark one legged scissor kick dance which he takes the piss out of for his lack of cool. Jobson is an engaging and powerful presence and he commands the stage with his voice delivering a series of songs that like so many of these classic bands sets is full of long lost album gems that fly back at you from over the decades.

The hits are, of course, here Working For The Yankee Dollar is still a timely reminder of the world order and catchy as fuck with that guitar lick ear worm, Masquerade and Charade are both anthemic, The Saints Are Coming is huge with that football stadium chorus and Into The Valley is a thrilling rush – one of the great songs of the period, they even play early favourite Charles and even throwaway b side Albert Tatlock and a new song which augers well for the new album. It’s hard to believe that the last time I saw them play was in 1978 supporting the Stranglers at Lancaster University when the band was drowned by a storm of spit. Decades have come and gone and all the young punks are now old men but still filled with the fire and passion of musical adventure.

The set only underlines the Skids unique position in the culture – a band born out of punk with huge ambitions, a band who were in a creative rush and helped laid the bed rock for eighties rock – time and time again you wonder how much of a debt U2 owe them soundwise and the band’s innovative and highly intelligent take on punk rock was rewriting the rule book as it went along.”

Tonight the Skids are fantastic and leave you hoping that this is more than some short term comeback but a full time concern – they will rule any festival they play and need to be embraced by the Beautiful Days/Bearded Theory festivals as well as the post punk ATP set. Their futuristic vision has served them well and they sound far from dated – unique and timely and hungry.”

Reassuring news for a ‘man of a certain age’ that the band and the period I chose to immortalise in my novel Feeling called love are still capable of inspiring excitement and dedication!

 

Saxon at Steelfest

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Last week I had to help by daughter move home in Cardiff.  Stopping in an AirB&B between flats, I was looking at the 2017 Welsh Tourist Board brochure.  What’s on for July included Steelfest at Hafod y Dafal, Ebbw Vale at which Saxon are appearing.

The brochure asked (cheekily, you might think):

  • are they actually still going?  The answer is, of course, loud and strong.  The band recently released a 14 disc box set (Solid book of rock), a live album, Let me feel your power (2016) and there’s another album Thunderbolt due; and,
  • are they still wearing those trousers? The brochure answered yes; my feeling (my hope, for men approaching 70) is no.  I’ve featured this picture before, but here they are- the monsters of rock at Castle Donnington- just to remind you what was being referred to…

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In the meantime, I have continued to add to my history of the origins of the band as Iron Mad Wilkinson, Coast and Son of a Bitch in Barnsley during the early and mid-1970s, updating my posting as I find further material in the archives.

From Son of a Bitch to Wheels of Steel- the origins of Saxon 

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New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers Saxon are currently reaching the end of their fortieth birthday world tour.  Coming from the same South Yorkshire mining town of Barnsley, I here reflect further upon the band’s roots.

From the 1960s into the 70s there was a thriving music scene in the South Yorkshire mining town of Barnsley.  A variety of venues, from council premises through to pubs and working men’s clubs, put on national, and even international, acts from a range of genres.  These included names like Brian Eno, Mud, Alex Harvey, The Real Thing, Nazareth, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.  This is an impressive roster of names for a moderate sized town sitting between the major concert venues of Sheffield and Leeds and with many other smaller venues in between.

Not only did Barnsley residents listen to music, they responded with their own and the many clubs and pubs were always on the lookout for acts to fill their schedules.  Bands could get plenty of live experience, then, and, as a result, Barnsley produced a wealth of live acts and two groups who went on to gain national and international status of their own: Son of a Bitch (who subsequently became Saxon) and goth band Danse Society.

Formation

Son of a Bitch, as is often the case, went through several configurations and name changes before they came together in late 1975 in the first line-up that would be recognised by later Saxon fans.  Members had been playing together or in other local bands since about 1970, performing as Coast, The Iron Mad Wilkinson Band, Son of a Bitch, Pagan Chorus and Blue Condition.

Peter ‘Biff’ Byford was originally from Honley, West Yorkshire.  After a spell down the pit at Flockton, he started playing in rock bands as a hobby, first as guitarist, later as bassist and then vocalist.  After leaving the seven piece Iron Mad Wilkinson (who supported Suzi Quattro in Barnsley in 1973), he formed three piece Coast with guitarist Chris Morris and drummer Dodd. Morris the guitarist had formerly played in a nightclub cabaret band called Dusty in Huddersfield, but had grown tired of endlessly playing the Four Tops.

Coast were ambitious and they had a keen eye for self-publicity.  On January 30th 1974 the pub venue Changes in Barnsley announced the “return of the sensational Coast.”  The band appeared again “by popular demand” within a week and played there eight times during that year.  They also found slots supporting Cockney Rebel and Be Bop Deluxe at the town’s Civic Hall in June, at an outdoor festival in Sheffield’s Parson’s Cross Park and supporting Be Bop Deluxe again at the Civic in December.  Coast played several solo gigs around the town as well.  Their live appearances always got good reviews.  For example at the Cockney Rebel gig the band were complimented on their vocals- “unusually high quality, smooth and refined, not gritty and tinny.”  They made a “triumphant return” in front of a “jubilant crowd” at the Barnsley’s Centenary Rooms in September, assailing the audience with “a mind blowing barrage of light and sound.” (NB The support at this gig was from Trace, whose rhythm guitarist was Tony Whitaker.  His younger brother was to play guitar in Nightmare and Trace’s first gig at Broadway School’s main hall is recalled in my novel Freak or smoothy?)

The future looked promising for Coast during 1974.  They won the semi-final of the Tetley brewery Sound of the North contest in March and proceeded to the final hopeful of the prize of £600 of equipment and the chance of a recording contract.  As it turned out, they came fourth at the final, although Morris won £50 in recognition of his guitar skills.  The competition had been good publicity, though, and another feature appeared in the local paper in which the band announced that they were seeking a manager to handle their bookings.  They were touring colleges and universities nationally, as well as their ‘resident band’ status at Changes, and  they had a tour of Holland lined up; they needed someone to handle all the admin work.  Despite this plea for help, it’s obvious that someone in Coast had very good contacts with a local journalist and knew what could make an interesting story which would get coverage.

However, there was a set back.  Morris left the band in July and a replacement had to be recruited.  Byford had met guitarist Paul Quinn after the latter’s band, Pagan Chorus, had played Club Baba in Barnsley (the town’s premier night spot). Chorus billed themselves as ‘cabaret style pop’ (whatever that genre entailed) and having heard them Byford suggested to Quinn that they could both do better.  He joined Coast.

In February 1975 the Barnsley Chronicle reported that Coast had been recording a new cassette of songs at Holy Ground studio in Wakefield (this was owned by Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe and the band had plainly built upon the friendship forged when they had supported them in Barnsley).   To promote this they were issuing badges, t-shirts and posters bearing the logo ‘Bap shoo ap’, the title of one of their most popular songs. Things did not work out as hoped, however.  By April the newspaper was announcing that a new band called Blenheim had been formed, featuring a former Coast member and three ex-members of Trace.  The result was that Biff and Paul had to spend the next few months auditioning new members.  However by early August they announced the new line up and its first gig at the Victoria Hotel, Cudworth (a former Coast venue).  They promised new songs and revamped oldies.  A further gig at the Centenary Rooms took place on October 3rd.

Finally, late in 1975, Byford and Quinn teamed up with Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson from local rivals Son of a Bitch.  The previous line-up of Bitch gigged very regularly in Barnsley.  The pub Changes, situated on the edge of the town centre, offered live bands at least once a week and “SOB” played the venue nine times in 1974 and eleven times during 1975.  I assume that the capitalised SOB was a discrete abbreviation of the band’s name (certainly the local paper preferred to avoid giving offence by using it).  The band hailed from Mexborough and were described after one Barnsley gig in July 1974 as a “good tight, noisy band” who “belted out good solid rock… great.”  This was perhaps not the greatest of endorsements, but the reviewer went on to suggest that SoB could “mellow into something really good.”  Whether the transformation into Saxon counts as ‘mellowing’ I’m not sure.

In January 1976 Metro Management advertised that “out of the ashes” of the previous bands had come a new Son of a Bitch, who were booked to play their first gig at a small civic venue, the Centenary Rooms, on February 6th 1976.  The choice of venue indicates that they were still unsure of their audience, but the band members all had solid live experience and they were confident enough to return within a month (with Fix as support), albeit for only 50p (now about £3.80) on the door.   Aged 15, I first saw the band playing at one of these two gigs- I have forgotten which, but it was my first experience of live rock and I remember it as being packed with grown-ups and being smoky, beery and very loud!  It felt like my first taste of an exciting, adult world.

The band played their home town regularly after that, although they graduated to the main auditorium of the Civic Hall from June 1976, playing a gig that promised to “make your feet steam” for a mere 65p.

The band appeared in Barnsley nine times over the next thirty nine months.   This averages one appearance every three months or so, but in fact five of those gigs were during the first year.  It seems apparent that the strategy was to establish a core local audience and to hone the group’s live skills and set at minimal expense, before gambling time and resources on unknown audiences further afield.

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Chasing a deal

Bitch were hungry for public exposure as well as live experience and accordingly they agreed some odd appearances and pairings.  Usually the band were supported by other local rock outfits- for example, in November 1976 support was provided by Heaven’s Above from Cudworth and Weasel from Mexborough.  This was not always the case, however.  In July 1976 Bitch again played Barnsley’s Civic Hall, this time (bizarrely) as part of the borough’s ‘Youth Dance Week’.  Support surprisingly came from Manchester’s Afro-Caribbean soul band Masterpiece; on another occasion Bitch were supported by a white soul outfit, Kokomo, and at another gig films were shown instead of a live guest act, one being of a live performance by avant garde experimentalist Eno.

The local paper, the Barnsley Chronicle, announced that the July gig proved that “rock lives” (in the face of the birth of punk, presumably).  Bitch, “arguably Barnsley’s foremost rock band,” had played to an audience of 300 and had provoked “wild scenes, pandemonium, chaos and cheers.” The report listed the set- it included Freeway, Lift up your eyes, Envy, Taking in the dollar and longstanding favourite Bap shoo ap.  The favourite that night, though, was a ballad called Anne Marie.  I recall this song, even today.  It was a certainly a fave of me and my friends who were in attendance that evening and- at a push- I think I could still play the opening riff, even after four decades.

When the band returned again in November that year the paper declared them to be “possibly the town’s leading band at the moment” and “well on their way to ‘making it’” as they had just distributed demo tapes to record labels.  It was, however, to be another two years before Bitch finally found a recording contract.

You can trace the band’s steadily rising profile directly through the pages of the Chronicle.  SoB (as the reporters discretely liked to call them) were a local success story the paper was happy to feature, whilst the band plainly recognised the benefits of guaranteed press coverage.  Today, acts can promote themselves directly to fans through Facebook, Bandcamp and the like.  During the seventies you had to work harder for publicity, but the local paper was very willing to fill column inches with praise.

Another route to recognition, now as then, was through competitions.  In late September 1977 Bitch won a local ‘battle of the bands’ heat in Sheffield and were headed for the semi-finals of the US Sound Spectacular in Manchester in October.  Perhaps to capitalise on this success, another Barnsley gig was announced and the band set about recording further demo tapes.  Nonetheless, it must have been galling and dispiriting for them to see brand new punk outfits getting signed within months of forming whilst SoB– despite their considerable musical and live experience- were still gigging around the working men’s clubs and hunting for a deal.

The November 1977 booking was put in doubt by an event at the same venue in late October.   Barnsley’s one and only punk gig ended in an alleged riot and a police raid.  In response, a review of the council’s bookings policy was initiated and SoB were caught by this over-reaction.  As vocalist Pete Byford told the Chronicle, the “antics of the punk rockers” had threatened all live performances in the town and, before the concert could proceed, the band had been obliged to provide legal undertakings to pay compensation for any damage wrought by the audience.  As it was, the gig passed off peacefully, perhaps because the heavy metal fans restricted themselves to drinking Barnsley Bitter and head-banging rather than pogoing…

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Recognition

In mid-1978 the Chronicle announced that SoB had finally secured a recording contract.  They had been flown over to Paris to sign a five figure deal with Carrere Records and were to begin recording their first album in the near future.  Everything seemed promising: in mid-September the local paper reported that the album would be released by Christmas.  That said, it had no title, as yet, and there was also talk of the band changing its name too.

A triumphal return to Barnsley Civic Hall took place in December 1978.  This gig is memorable for two reasons: firstly, we learned that, like Tony Iommi, the lead guitarist had nearly severed the tip of his left index finger, imperilling his ability to play; thankfully he was still able to riff and solo as well as he had ever done.

Secondly, and most significantly, Biff, the vocalist, told us that the band had signed a record contract (roar of approval) BUT that the record company had insisted that they change their name (boos- but perhaps not altogether surprising in the circumstances).  From thenceforth they were to be known as Saxon, but (Biff assured us) to the loyal fans of Barnsley they would always be Son of a Bitch.  For many of us in the audience, there was a sense that this success was cursed.  It had been endangered by the guitarist’s injury whilst it had been bought (it seemed) at the price of their true identity.

In fact, (with shades of Spinal Tap) the appearance of the new album was further delayed- doubtless in part because of the name issue.  Recording took place at in Barnet, between January and March 1979, and the album ‘Saxon’ was eventually released on May 21st of that year.

The advent of Saxon

In that same month the band returned home for a special thank you concert for local fans (support was provided by another local band, The Diks).  Pete Byford told the Chronicle:

“A lot of people criticised us, but a lot of people stuck by us and gave us their support.  They believed in us and helped us to believe in ourselves.”

The gig was preceded by an album signing in the local record shop, Scene and Heard.  Thereafter, though, hometown gigs ceased to count.  The album release was backed up by a twenty date German tour, followed by appearances in Holland.

It seemed that at last everything had fallen into place for Son of a Bitch/ Saxon, except- they had secured their record deal just as the hard rock of the late 1960s and early 70s was becoming outmoded.  This change in tastes had a demonstrable impact upon their early career: there was the near cancellation of a gig after the punk ‘riot’ whilst it seems highly probable that the long slog to finding a contract – and then with an obscure French label- was a direct consequence of the shifting market.

Son of a Bitch had no inclination to reinvent themselves as a punk band (as some on the pub rock scene did).  They were a good ten years older than most of the emerging punk acts and they had grown up with a different set of musical role models.  To their credit, they remained true to these roots, and they were able cannily to position themselves on the crest of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, thereby launching a very successful career spanning four decades and over thirty albums.  Biff Byford and Paul Quinn are still members.

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The other original members, Graham Oliver, Steve Dawson and Peter Gill left the band in the mid-90s.  They reformed as Son of a Bitch and released an album, Victim You, in 1996.  Their debut gig was headlining the Isle of Man TT Festival.

 

 

Scared to dance? marking The Skids’ fortieth birthday

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Amongst the new wave bands celebrating their fortieth birthday this year is Scottish band The Skids.  They are releasing their first new album in 35 years and are embarking on a four month nationwide tour, including several dates in Dunfermline, where they got started.  I’ve taken this opportunity to revise and reissue my novel, Feeling called love.  The story is set partly in Dunfermline just at the time that The Skids started their career and punk rock is a major theme in the book.  

Here I pick out a few themes in the career of The Skids which were significant to the development of many other bands too.

Marking four decades

A range of events took place in London during 2016 celebrating four decades of punk rock.  These concerts and exhibitions have now all closed, but in 1976 punk was still very much a metropolitan fashion, limited to London, Manchester and a few other cities.  It was in the following year that it reached all the smaller towns and cities.  It might be said that this year began on December 3rd 1976 when the Sex Pistols appeared on Bill Grundy’s teatime television show and gained publicity and notoriety in an instant.  After that interview, and the hysterical reaction of the media to it, everyone knew what punk was (or though that they did) and lots of teens wanted to join in.  For most of the UK, then, 1977 was in fact the year of punk and 2017 is the true fortieth anniversary.

One of the teens converted to punk in 1977 was Stuart Adamson, born in Manchester but brought up in Fife.  He got his first guitar aged eleven and, by the time he was fourteen, he had formed a band with Bill Simpson, a bass player attending the same school in Cowdenbeath.  By 1975 this band, Tattoo, had established a reputation as a rock covers outfit and  had regular work, playing songs by Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Status Quo, the Rolling Stones and Bowie.  Their career was curtailed following O-grades by one member leaving to join the police.  Briefly, Adamson and Simpson went to Amsterdam to live and work, but this ‘Beatles in Hamburg’ venture was neither happy nor a success and within two weeks they were back home and resigned to returning to school to study Highers.

Punk iconoclasm

1977 was a musical watershed when rock went out of fashion, sometimes overnight.  In March Adamson saw the Damned play in Edinburgh.  Like many of the same age, he was instantly converted by the new music’s energy and feeling. Tattoo quickly rejected their previous heavy rock allegiances and were reconstituted as a punk band (a transformation that again affected many bands that year).  All the same, the two friends were still in full time education and not yet fully committed to a musical career.

It was not until after their exam in summer 1977 that the pair found a suitable vocalist.  Their choice was Richard Jobson, who was neither a singer nor a musician; he has variously been described as being, at the time, a chancer, a drunk and violent.  The last is certainly true: he had been in a notorious local gang and was well known as a ‘tough wee guy’ who enjoyed a fight.  This was part of the reason Jobson was recruited as the front man: he was ‘cocky’, ‘confident’ and ‘arrogant’ and he looked the part.  By early July 1977 an advert in the Dunfermline Press had a secured a drummer, Tom Kellichan, and The Skids had formed.  With a core of songs by Adamson and Simpson already in place, events moved quickly from that point (as was the case for many new bands at that time).

Gigs came thick and fast, a tribute to The Skids’ ability and confidence.  Their first public performance was at Dunfermline’s Belleville Hotel on Friday August 19th 1977.  The band was well received and a succession of small local gigs followed.  Of these the most significant were the string of dates during late-1977 at Dunfermline’s Kinema, where they consistently attracted substantial crowdsThey supported The Clash and Richard Hell and the Voidoids there and finally, on December 25th, headlined an unsuccessful Christmas Ball before an audience who wanted to hear covers of Wizzard and Slade and who reacted badly to a set comprised of challenging new wave originals.  It was all excellent experience, nonetheless, enabling the band to hone their set and their stage craft.

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Entrepreneurial pioneers

With the start of 1978, it was time for The Skids’ next career step.  The band had recorded a demo back in the autumn, and now Adamson and Jobson approached Bruce Findlay, owner of Bruce’s Records in Edinburgh, with a view to him releasing a single on his new Zoom label.  He liked their tapes but didn’t feel that he had the capacity to handle another release just then; instead he suggested they contact Sandie Muir back in Dunfermline.  Sandie ran Muir’s Music, an independent store in the town that stocked punk releases.  He had seen The Skids at the Belleville Hotel and he knew there was money to be made from the new genre.  With a promise from Findlay that he would take five hundred copies of any release, Muir funded a new PA for the band and set up a company, AIM Music Ltd, to run a new label, No Bad RecordsThe Skids’ first single, ‘Charles’ b/w ‘Reason’ and ‘Test Tube Babies’, was released on February 24th 1978.  It sold ten thousand copies, easily recouping Muir’s investment.

Despite its anarchic associations, the spread of punk depended considerably upon individuals like Muir and Findlay speculating upon success by investing in the movement.  Bands funded their own labels and releases, as did their managers and as too did some independent record shops: Small Wonder Records of Walthamstow, E17 is another example, issuing singles by Crass and Bauhaus amongst others, and the Manchester branch of Virgin Records was instrumental in launching Buzzcocks’ first ever release.

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The patronage of Peel

As with so many bands, endorsement from John Peel was crucial.  Further gigs in mid-Scotland followed for The Skids, but what finally lifted them out of mere local success was their visit to London in April 1978.  They met John Peel, who had loved the first single, and agreed to record a prestigious session for his Radio One programme; secondly, they played several famed punk venues in the capital.  The Peel session was broadcast in mid-May and major record label interest became intense.  In June The Skids signed to Virgin Records.  More gigs in London, a nine date UK tour and two singles followed during 1978.  The classic single ‘Into the valley’ was released on February 16th 1979, in advance of the band’s first album, Scared to Dance. The Skids were now firmly established as a band with a national reputation, based in London and touring extensively.  Three more albums were released before they split in 1982.

Adamson quit The Skids in 1980 and went on to form Big Country.  Sadly, he took his own life in 2001, but Jobson and Simpson have reunited for the fortieth birthday concerts.  Jobson and Adamson both feature in Feeling called love and I have added a new preface to the book examining the band’s formation and influences in more detail.

 

 

Soundtrack to revised edition of ‘Feeling called love’ released

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I have just published, on Kindle and Amazon paperback, a second, revised edition of my story Feeling called love.  The novel is set partly in my hometown of Barnsley and partly in Dunfermline during the peak years of punk, 1976 and 1977.  As I was writing the book I discovered that Dunfermline was hometown of Scottish punk pioneers The Skids and it made sense to incorporate them into the story.

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2017 is the fortieth anniversary year of the formation of The Skids.  I have marked that by issuing a revised edition of the novel, including a preface describing the early years of the band.  The band themselves are staging a tour of Scotland, including several dates in Dunfermline, to celebrate this significant birthday.

I have published on WordPress a new soundtrack page to mark the second edition of the book and to act as an aural guide to the story.  Just click here and enjoy the sounds that John and Shona, the young lovers of the story, are so excited about.

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From SoB to Saxon- from coal-pits to ‘Wheels of Steel’

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SoB/ Saxon as I remember them.

I am pleased to announce the publication of the latest edition of Memories of Barnsley magazine, which contains an article I have written on the early career of Barnsley heavy rockers Son of a Bitch/ Saxon.  This piece is an elaboration upon earlier postings I have made on this blog discussing the band‘s career and its place in the cultural life of Barnsley during the 1970s.

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Band members Byford and Quinn next to a quintessentially South Yorkshire bit of stone wall

The new article is based upon my further researches at the British Library and gives a brief account of the band’s emergence and development through the 1970s, culminating in their record deal and their transformation into Saxon, changes which set the stage for their international success.  The story is told through the perspective of the local newspaper, the Barnsley Chroniclewhich was happy to fill column inches with reportage on the band’s progress through increasingly large gigs, a battle of the bands and the elusive hunt for a deal.

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Saxon at Donnington festival, 1980. To quote Nigel Tufnel: “[Female fans] are really quite fearful, that’s my theory. They see us on stage with tight trousers and we’ve got, you know, armadillos in our trousers…”

For me, the band were a formative influence upon my musical tastes and aspirations (and to some degree upon my dress sense- photo above excepted) so that I am pleased to offer a small tribute to them, not least because they are still active after all these decades.