April – June
We hadn’t been living in London for very long when our friend (and Bluetrain drummer), Kevin Moorey, told us there was a Boys Own party at the Holloway Road Studios, just up the road from where we were living. Kevin and I had written to each other while I was in America. He had started to go to Danny Rampling‘s ground breaking acid house club, Shoom along with Boys Own parties and I was very eager to go once we were back.
Danny and I met him outside the studio – a mad place. There was a dusty old shop front with a massive platform boot in the window with a dark wooden door to the side. I used to look at it from the upstairs window of the 190 bus on my way to the tube station every day and wonder what it was.
I wore a long sleeved tee shirt, baggy 501s, Argyll socks and a pair of red Vans. Kevin had a lovely pair of blue Kicker boots. The music was a wonderful eclectic mix of house, guitars and reggae. Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley were djing. We danced and took it all in, walking home in the early morning. Talking excitedly as the street lights flicked off and it started to get light, grey pavement with red Vans pounding.
5 April – 500 workers on the Channel Tunnel go on strike in a protest against pay and working conditions.
It was so good to be able to go and see bands or hook up with people and only have to travel for about twenty minutes. Jumping on and off the underground trains, checking out new parts of London when you come back over ground. Meeting friends in Kentish Town or Soho for drinks. No more up and down from Farnborough to Waterloo.
The Triffids played the Shaw Theatre on the Euston Road on April 12th. A lovely 1970’s, 400 capacity theatre, which I’d never been to before. David McComb was such a cool front man and song writer. He exuded that dark Australian charisma along similar lines as Nick Cave. I remember coming out of the theatre and up the steps to the street, into the cool night air, hearing the noise of London around me and thinking ‘yeah’.
I had a few albums by The Triffids, including ‘Born Sandy Devotional’ which features this splendid song, ‘Wide Open Road’.
When I had been given my job at The Rock Garden, Sean asked me to stop running the Buzz Club. There was no way I could do this, so I didn’t. I had to make phone calls from the telephone boxes in Covent Garden in my lunch hour to book the bands. If I was talking to an agent on the phone in the office, I asked them not to mention The Buzz Club, strictly Rock Garden bookings.
15 April – 94 people are killed in the Hillsborough disaster during the FA Cup semi-final at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield during the FA Cup semi-final between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool F.C.
‘Skin Storm’ by Bradford had come out in 1988 and I had the 7″.
Bradford are one of the few bands to play The Buzz Club twice. This was the first time, 15th April 1989. Morrissey loved the band and invited them to support him on his first post Smiths show and later recorded a version of ‘Skin Storm’.
We put ‘Morrisey’s favourites‘ on the poster to sell a few more tickets. We had about 170 people in.
Read about this gig in a little more detail here).
20 April The London Underground is at virtual standstill for a day as most of the workers go on strike in protest against plans for driver-only operated trains.
A few weeks later we went to another Boys Own do, with Alice a friend of mine from Our Price and her boyfriend Simon. This time it was under the arches in Vauxhall. White brick arches. Bigger than the Holloway Road one, with hired toilets outside. I remember really enjoying Andy Weatherall‘s set. He played ‘Naive Melody’ by Talking Heads. We danced and really got into the whole vibe.
Alice and Simon stayed the night back at ours. Simon was from Leeds and in a band called The Bridewell Taxis. We later booked them to play The Buzz Club.
1–3 May – 54 prisoners stage a three-day protest on the roof of Risley Detention Centre before giving themselves up.
On 2nd May, The Stone Roses album was released. There was a big Our Price Records at the end of Neal Street – I ran down there and bought it (on vinyl), I was slightly breathless to see so many copies displayed in the window. I got home and played it, played it, played it. Hearing the recorded versions of songs I had only heard live up until this point. They had announced two London gigs – the I.C.A. on the 15th May and another one back at Dingwalls on the 22nd. I had tickets for both.
4 May – Margaret Thatcher completes ten years as Prime Minister – the first British Prime Minister of the 20th century to do so.
Sean had given me the freedom to start an indie night at The Rock Garden. The first was Sheffield band, Treebound Story on the 5th May. I loved their song ‘Forever Green’. The band featured Richard Hawley later of the The Longpigs and of course a solo artist, on guitar.
5 May – The Vale of Glamorgan constituency in South Wales is seized by the Labour Party in a by-election after 38 years of Conservative control.
On 12th May, another band from Sheffield, this time label mates from my Dreamworld Records days, 1000 Violins.
14 May – A public inquiry, headed by Lord Justice Taylor of Gosforth, begins into the Hillsborough disaster.
By the time The Stone Roses I.C.A. gig came round, they were really starting to explode. I spoke to their agent, Pete Target who said the phone in the office would not stop ringing with people wanting to book them. Pete put me on the guest list. The evening of June 15th was sunny and warm and I walked down after work, a lovely feeling – walking to a gig (a Stone Roses gig!) in London.
There were crowds of people on the Mall, trying to buy tickets. It had long ago sold out. I bumped into a mate of ours from home, Billy Campbell who had been at the Buzz Club show and an old school friend of Danny’s, Kieran Best (the drummer in my first band when I played bass and sang, aged 14). I wanted to check 100% we were on the guest list before selling my tickets. We were, so I sold them at face value to one very happy young man.
The gig was fantastic. I remember there being sound issues, Danny doesn’t, he remembers it as being brilliant throughout. The mists of time….one thing we both remember – everyone knew the words! We all had the album. They were still playing ‘Standing Here’ and ‘Where Angels Play’ so still a chance to show off knowing the lyrics to those ones…I’m sure you can hear me wolf whistling in the drop down on ‘Standing Here’ on this great live recording.
May 19th another Manchester band – The Waltones who had released a few records on the Medium Cool label and who featured Mark Collins, later of The Charlatans, on guitar. Their album ‘Deepest’ had just been released, so I booked them for The Rock Garden. Medium Cool was a great label, run by Andy Wake, he also had The Raw Herbs, The Corn Dollies and The Rain on the roster.
20 May – Liverpool win the FA Cup final with a 3–2 victory over their Merseyside rivals Everton.
So many gigs! Back down to Aldershot on 20th May for another Buzz Club. McCarthy‘s second visit. They had also played the previous year
The second Roses gig in a couple of weeks. 22.5.1989 Dingwalls. My third time seeing them here and easily the best. This is one of my all time favourite gigs, it was mental. It was heaving – more so than when they supported The La’s there the year before. We danced and swayed and sang and beat Reni’s rhythms in the air. I was pushed and pulled, sometimes seeing people I knew sometimes smiling at people I didn’t know.
23.5.1989 A Certain Ratio at The Town and Country Club, Kentish Town. Iconic Manchester band, releasing records on Factory since 1979.
We had put A.C.R. on at The Buzz Club in June 1986. They had a newish line up in ’89, which featured a bleached haired female singer. During the gig, I felt someone tweak me from behind, turned round and there was Ian Brown, ‘If she sucks in her cheeks any more, she’ll burst’ . Wow. Keep cool Jo, ‘haha, yeah’. It was Ian and John Squire still in town after their gig the night before. They talked about the Buzz Club ‘we thought it was really cool to see the promoter down the front’ (Ian had been on stage and noticed me?!) They asked if there was anywhere to go on to after this gig. Six months later I would have had no problem with this. By then, I knew lots of great clubs to go to and could probably have also organised guest lists. But we had only been living in London for a few months and sadly, I didn’t know anywhere to go. So we said our good byes after the gig and headed home.
24 May – A police raid on a suspected drugs operation at a public house in the Heath Town district of Wolverhampton, leads to a riot in which up to 500 people throw missiles and petrol bombs at police officers
The Stone Roses played The Majestic in Reading on 6th June and we went. An edgy night, but still wonderful.
A few days after that, it was back to the I.C.A. to see The House of Love on June 9th.
They played five nights in a row at the I.C.A., all sold out shows , with a different support each night. We were lucky enough the get The Lilac Time, Stephen Duffy‘s band. The House of Love‘s debut album had come out while we were in America the year before. I was reading about them in the N.M.E.s my Mum had posted over and they were starting to get played on the alternative radio station we were listening to, KROQ. I bought the l.p. in L.A. and couldn’t wait to see them live.
Then, on 10th June a Buzz Club that had sold out in advance. My band Go! Service had supported The Housemartins at The Room at the Top in Chalk Farm in 1985. I had stayed in touch with P.D. Heaton. We used to write to each other. He told me when he had got his first pair of jeans, to film the video for ‘Happy Hour’. They were very supportive and great people. Go! Service played a gig up North and we did a local radio interview before we played. The dj told us that when The Housemartins had been in recently, they saw the Go! Service 12″ and said ‘finish our interview by playing that, not us’! When he formed his new band, The Beautiful South, Paul contacted me to say they were going to play a hand full of gigs and could The Buzz Club be one of them. Naturally I said ‘Yes’. They released their debut single, ‘Song For Whoever’ and were on Top of the Pops on the Thursday before they played.
It was their third ever gig and was very intense. They were late going on stage as they had been down a local Aldershot pub getting interviewed by my friend Malcolm for his fanzine‘Captain’s Log’ and hadn’t realised how late it had got. We were getting pretty nervous wondering where they were as the sold out crowd started to get a little fractious. Then in the side door they came and moments later were on stage. Paul Heaton walked on in a boxing robe and they finished with a version of ‘Fame’!
My friend Clare Patterson was always great at spotting when note worthy plays were about to go on sale and organising tickets – often collecting vouchers from The Evening Standardfor weeks before hand. As a result of Clare’s fastidious voucher saving, we were able to get tickets to see Dustin Hoffman as Shylock in Peter Hall’s production of A Merchant of Venice at The Phoenix Theatre.
I found this cool clip of Dustin Hoffman in rehearsals.
I decided it would be a good idea to start a record label. Danny worked at a vinyl and cd manufacturing company, I had a great A&R source with my various live events, and we were friends with John Andrews and Sally Agarwall who were keen to be a part of it. We had known John from living in Surrey – he was from Farnham and he now worked for Concert and Tour Advertising in London and could do the marketing, Sally was a graphic designer and would look after the artwork. All we needed was a band. So, I started to look for one. I got a demo tape by The Way Out who were pretty good, saw them at The Bull and Gate in Kentish Town on 14th June, and then headed to the T&C 2 (later The Garage) to see The Beautiful South – on the guest list.
I arranged a meeting with The Way Out but they wanted a deal beyond us, so I kept looking.
I put The Parachute Men, from Leeds, on at the Rock Garden on 20th June. They were supported by Tim Kegan’s Railroad Earth, a band I’d met through gigging together at Surrey University.
21 June – Police arrest 250 people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.
22 June – London Underground workers stage their second one-day strike of the year.
I’d seen R.E.M. quite a few times, had all their records including ‘Orange‘ which had come out in late 1988. The first time I saw them was at the Lyceum on the Strand, December 1984. I had musical notes tattooed to the top of my arm during the day, so went to the gig looking super-cool with a bit of toilet paper sellotaped over the fresh tattoo.
This was their biggest gig by far. I’m not really a fan of Wembley Arena I usually find gigs there to be fairly lacking in warmth. R.E.M. did a great job though…..June 22nd.
From R.E.M. at Wembley to Mega City 4 in Aldershot!
A couple of days later it was back down to Aldershot for local heroes, from Farnborough and now big, Mega City 4. The band were on tour to promote their debut album, ‘Tranzophobia’. Steve Lamacq at the N.M.E. was a massive fan and they were getting healthy plays on evening radio shows along with a Peel Session. This gig was a home coming for them and the venue was rammed, with a great atmosphere. The Senseless Things were also pretty big in that scene and the two bands had often done gigs together, so they were the perfect openers.
Here’s Mega City 4 in action, supporting Mudhoney in Chester, 1989.
We finished June off with a trip to the Town and Country Club to see Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. I loved ‘What I Am’.