January – March
Woking was famous for being the home of The Jam. I had sped through the station on the way to Waterloo on many occasions but prior to working there, had never actually visited the town itself. My first few Our Price lunch hours were spent walking around getting my bearings. There was a phone box a short walk away, where I called agents about the Buzz Club.
Monday morning was chart day. This meant changing things around in the shop, the Our Price album chart was displayed via sleeves on the wall at the front. A copy of the new chart in my hand, I’d go down there and update everything, also adding the new releases.
The chart 7″ singles were in order behind the counter, so next they would be rearranged. I’d cut the Top 100 out of the new ‘Music Week’ and stick it in the A4 red plastic board which was on the counter for the customers to look at. I had been a keen observer of the charts for as long as I could remember, but this took things to the a whole new level, I started to know them inside out. A-Ha, The Pet Shop Boys, Fergal Sharkey, Mr Mister, Whitney Houston, James Brown, Dee C. Lee all had hits in January ’86.
During the week we were allowed to play what we liked, this was a wonderful time to explore artists and albums I’d only read about. On Saturdays, or if the shop was particularly busy, we had to play chart music. This made things a little trickier if it was my turn, there were a few though – Lloyd Cole, Fine Young Cannibals, Billy Bragg, Suzanne Vega. It was always annoying working with someone who had very different taste to me, if it was their turn, I’d try and work upstairs processing the boxes of orders that had arrived instead.
7 January – The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announces that a record of more than 1.8 million new cars were sold in Britain during 1985, beating the previous record set in 1983. The Ford Escort was Britain’s most popular new car.
In January I went to the West End Centre in Aldershot and met with Dave Ambrose, the manager. We had done one Buzz Club there in December (The June Brides) and wanted to make it our regular venue. The meeting went well and Dave gave me lots of dates to fill.
The psychobilly / rockabilly scene was pretty big still around Woking / Weybridge and London. We went to check out a band called Inspector Tuppence and the Sexy Firemen at Fleet Country Club on 8th January and I was a amazed to see that they were the band I had seen busking in Saint Tropez the year before. I had booked Terry And Gerry to play The Buzz Club in February and offered these guys the support slot – they were perfect.
20 January – The United Kingdom and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel, which they hope to open by the early-1990s.
January 28th The Higsons / The Larks – Guildford University.
I’d seen both bands play a gig together at The Clarendon in June 1985. As this was a local show loads of The Hero crowd were there. I had the tape by The Larks, so knew a few of their songs, including this one.
31 January – Unemployment for this month has increased to 3,204,900 – a postwar high which accounts for 14.4% of the workforce.
February – Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures affected most of Britain during the month.
On February 7th, Danny and I drove to the Queen Mary’s College in South East London, to see The Mighty Lemon Drops. Support came from a new band from Leeds called The Wedding Present. We met up with Dan from The TVPs and lots of the Room at the Top / Dreamworld Records crowd.
The Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road in London was home to a club, run by anarchists who lived there in the huge squat and put on some very decent nights. The Jesus and Mary Chain had famously played there in 1984.
(Photos from Kill Your Pet Puppy website)
We went there on 8th February to check it out. I don’t know who was playing, a loud band with feedback and a female singer. The place was insane. Dark and full of punks and anarchists. There was actually a fire in the middle of the floor with people sitting round it chucking plastic bottles and paper into it. We didn’t stay long. It felt like a bit of a nightmare scene to be honest. Maybe we didn’t go on the best night!
I was desperate to get The Housemartins to play The Buzz Club. I went to a phone box in my lunch hour and called their agent. He was into the idea but kept asking me to call back in a couple of days, which I did. This went on for about ten days. ‘Sheep’, their second single had just been released and I think he was waiting to see how it would do, before confirming.
Paul Heaton and I had stayed in touch after the gig we had played together in November the previous year. We wrote to each other. ‘Sheep’ made the top 75, number 56. This meant they were already too big for The Buzz Club!
On 12th February, The Housemartins played the Wag Club in Soho. A great night, sold out and very different to the Room at the Top just a few months before. Everyone crammed together and singing along to the songs we knew. We stayed and said a quick hello to the band afterwards, before heading back to Surrey on the train. Their star was rising so quickly!
On 14th February, we saw The Mighty Lemon Drops again. This time at The Clarendon in Hammersmith with The Wolfhounds, (who’s single, ‘Cut The Cake’ had just been released on the Pink label), supporting.
The rockabilly / psychobilly scene produced lots of colourful quiffs, bleached jeans and sleeveless tee shirts. Bands like The Meteors and King Kurt were very popular. Not really my thing, there was however also a more indie side, that produced bands like Terry and Gerry. Their album, ‘From Lubbock To Clintwood East’ was popular in Our Price Woking, among staff and customers alike. They’d been on tv. a few times too, so I decided to book them.
Here they are performing live on ‘The Tube’ in 1985.
It was freezing in early 1986. I got a call at work on the day of our Terry and Gerry gig to say that there was too much snow on the roof of The West End Centre and they couldn’t open the venue that night. By luck a larger venue, also in Aldershot; The Princess Hall, was free and we were able to hold the gig there. This turned out to be very lucky as more people than we could have fitted into The W.E.C. turned up. We were happily able to accommodate them all at The Princess Hall. We made a bit of money and the night was a great success.
See a few more photos and live recording from the night here.
Inspector Tuppence and the Sexy Firemen
Go! Service had a photo shoot and continued to play live regularly, both local pub gigs and up to London for the odd Room at the Top show.
We got another live review, from ‘Sounds’.
‘….she stretches up onto her toes for those particularly important lines and I feel like proposing marriage’.
I got teased about that at work.
The band also made a crazy journey, all the way to Stockton in the North East of England for a one off gig Danny’s uncle had organised for us. It was a great night. We did an interview on a local radio station and the d.j. told us that The Housemartins had been in recently. When they saw the Go! Service 12″, Paul and Stan had asked him to finish their interview by playing it!
6th March The Pale Fountains / The Weather Prophets/ The Servants – Bay 63 Ladbroke Grove, London.
What a line up! I was keen to get The Pale Fountains for The Buzz Club, so thought I might be able to meet the band and see if I could make that happen. I did manage to get Michael Head‘s phone number. Danny and I had been fans of The Loft; The Weather Prophets were Pete Astor‘s new band.
The Servants featured Phil King who, over the years has been in so many brilliant bands, including Felt, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Lush.
13 March – The Sun newspaper alleges that comedian Freddie Starr ate a live hamster.
15th March The Buzz Club – Skiff Skats
After the success of the Terry & Gerry gig, we kept the vibe of quiffs, stand up bass guitars and British hilly billy music, we booked Skiff Skats. Back at the West End Centre, we got a pretty good crowd in.
(Read about this gig in more detail here)
Through working at Our Price in Camberley, Danny had befriended an indie music fan called Gary Wollen. Gary proposed that we drive to Brighton in his Triumph Herald to see The June Brides at The Escape Club on 18th March. Another fantastic line up – first on were McCarthy. We piled into Gary’s car, Dave and Paul came too and decided to make a day of it. We sat shivering on the beach for a few hours before the gig.
This is The June Brides playing in Stockton in January 1986, the same venue we played and a couple of months before.
The Housemartins were growing in popularity at a very fast rate. Their next London show, having played The Wag the month before, was upstairs at The Clarendon.
Cath Carroll‘s band Miaow were on before them, while they were on stage, they asked if there were any guitarists in the audience as they were looking for one. One fella put his hand up and actually ended up in the band – he would later be my boss at Ultimate Records – Andrew Winters.
From 1985 ‘Belle Vue’ (they later released the wonderful ‘When It All Comes Down’ on Factory in 1987).
23 March – Chelsea F.C. are the first winners of the Football League’s new Full Members Cup, beating Manchester City 5–4 in the final at Wembley, although Manchester City clawed the deficit to a single goal in the last five minutes after being 5–1 down.
New Order Poole Arts Centre on 29 March. A very cool vibe and crowd. Great gig.
Recorded a couple of weeks earlier –
31 March The Greater London Council is abolished, as are the metropolitan county councils of West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire