In March 1979, there was an announcement in the music press that an incredible bill was going to take the stage at the Lyceum Theatre in London: Stiff Little Fingers / Gang Of Four/ The Mekons / Human League and The Fall.
Looks good to me, I thought. So along with my mate Bip, we caught the train from Castle Cary in Somerset up to Paddington, London.
Having never been to a gig before, the idea that such a big event would sell out didn’t even cross our minds. So, sure enough, we couldn’t get in. I was mortified as I’d spent my pocket money on a SLF badge, a PiL badge, and we’d even ripped our t-shirts Pistols-style, daubed them in paint and put slogans on them.
Mine read: “Alter Your Native Land” and Bip’s read: “I Wanna Be Me”. Jake Burns wasn’t going to see us down the front after all.
Desperate to see something, we had a look in the NME live section to see what else was on that night. The Music Machine in Camden had the Bishops supported by a band called the Limit.
I had a 5” single by the Bishops called “I Want Candy” and it was dirty enough for me to want to check them out, also considering the door price was a mere £1.50. Bip wasn’t so keen, but seeing as his Mum lived close to the venue and we were staying with her, he went for it.
The place was pretty empty when we got inside and the bar staff had no problem serving us pints (I had just turned 14 years old at the time) at around 62p a go. We ventured upstairs, sat down in one of the huge ornate balconies and watched fascinated as two punks staggered around the dancefloor to the Pistols’ recently released “Lonely Boy” single, played at ear splitting volume. This was amazing. I felt like I had arrived at last.
The Limit took to the stage and we went down to watch from the floor. The singer was really tall, with crap hair but was wearing a really cool black leather jacket. A five piece band as I recall, the first song went something like “This is the LIM- IT!!”, tall singer guy punching the air as the lights shut off in time. I was blown away. Then things got a bit blurry as the first pint of lager took hold of me and I got the spins a little bit.
Then something happened. The lights went down and on came………..Ramrod!?!
An alarmingly average prog-rock outfit appeared and I had to sit down. The singer looked like the little guy from Fantasy Island, while the guitar player was gripping his Les Paul goldtop for dear life, throwing his head of golden-Robert Plant-locks back whilst tearing into another boring solo, his high buttoned slacks straining around his waist as his beer gut threatened to make an appearance.
This wasn’t supposed to happen… “Herve Villechaize”, the little guy picked up a champagne flute from the drum riser and toasted the dwindling audience, grunting something about the Bishops not being able to make it, but hey, thanks for having us…oh fuck.
We watched them aghast right until the end. It was not good.
Ramrod finished their set to barely a smattering of weak applause and it was exit stage left.
Lene Lovich’s “Lucky Number” came on over the PA and suddenly the dance floor was full of punks and Ari Up lookalikes. For a time I was pretty happy again, but the beer had numbed my legs and it was time to leave.
My gig virginity had been taken by the wrong outfit, but I was a live music convert from then on.
On the way out we were handed free tickets to see an up and coming all-girl metal band called Girlschool. I walked up to one of the doormen and asked: “What happened to the Bishops?”
“They had an accident on the way here”
“Yeah. They crashed into a church”.
With that, we walked onto the High Street and headed back to Bip’s Mum’s place on Ferdinand Street, Chalk Farm for a bowl of sugarpuffs with no milk.
(As a footnote, a day or two before the gig a car accident occurred seriously injuring the guitarist Zenon de Fleur, and days later he died in hospital.)