I MET John White aka UV Pop when I bunked off sixth form and went over to Doncaster with some girl I was seeing at the time to interview Marcus Featherby about his label, Pax. I’d come into contact with Marcus through the punk gigs he promoted at the Marples in Sheffield. I’d never met anyone quite like either of them before.
At the time, Marcus was staying at John’s two-up-two-down in Bentley. My most vivid memory is the heating not being on, despite it being a very cold Yorkshire winter, but then again, I was still living with my parents, and didn’t have to worry about paying for leccy. And I think my girlfriend was much more impressed with both John and Marcus than she was with me.
Marcus gave me a copy of the debut, Cabs-produced UV Pop single, and I was impressed enough to interview John for my fanzine. I have no clue whether we did the interview in person or through the post.
People being vegetarian seemed to be really important to me at the time (I’d gone veggie about six months earlier, so I had the conviction of the convert), and I had yet to work out the world was coloured in various shades of grey rather than the black and white certainty I so clearly craved.
I’d like to say my interview technique is more subtle and nuanced these days but it really isn’t.
I can’t find any activity for UV Pop (who eventually became a proper band despite John’s reservations), beyond 2012, but I hope John is still making music.
ANY group that has a song with the chorus “Aaaaargh! Aaargh! Aaaaaargh!” must be pretty good. Bristol cider punks Disorder were precisely one such band. Plus, they are named after the fantastic Joy Division track. Me, Doug and John went to see them, Antisect and Amebix at one of Nick Toczek’s excellent and cheap (£2/£1.50) gigs at the Bierkeller in Leeds in December 1983.
As the intro to the original interview in my zine put it:
Lots of people were drunk so it might not make all that much sense in places. For realism, add lots of stupid laughing in between each question.
I’M PRETTY sure this is actually the worst interview I’ve ever done.
The content, written by the lead singer of Dudley industrial metal band Head of David, who’d recently signed to Blast First when we did this postal ‘interview’ in 1987, is not uninteresting in itself – there are one or two truly off-message moments – but with a brief that appears to have consisted of ‘just go through the alphabet and talk about your favourite things that start with each letter or something’, the poor guy was up against it.
Even worse, I clearly ran out of time when I was putting the magazine together – ie Prittsticking, Letrasetting and photocopying idiotic shit onto pieces of A4 – and just pasted a bare transcript onto the page and handwrote an introduction in biro. This is laughably amateur, even in the context of fanzineland, but it’s also a shame because the rest of the magazine had a bit of style to it. No, really.
I’m not sure if Justin Broadrick was playing drums for Head of David at this point but I didn’t get to talk him. Skillz.
I’ve always despised heavy metal – obviously – and I think I tired of Head of David’s stuff pretty quickly, although some of it doesn’t actually sound that bad today. Either way, the whole thing just about represents the nadir of my interviewing career. Or it, would do, if I wasn’t still trying to pull this kind of shit.
I don’t know what to say to you.
IF EVER there was an archetypal ‘John Peel band’, whatever that actually means, then the Cravats are probably it. It seemed like they were doing sessions for Peelie’s legendary late-night Radio One every couple of weeks at one point but I only really began paying attention when they released their seminal single Rub Me Out on Crass Records in 1982.
Although they largely conformed to the Crass ‘format’ in the single’s packaging, with the front cover featuring the title picked out in the Crass label’s trademark circular stencil, the image in the centre wasn’t some convoluted hybrid CND/anarchy A logo or whatever, but actually featured a member of the band.
I imagined Crass fans all over the UK asking: are these blokes on some kind of ego trip or what? Maybe it was just me being as daft as a brush.
“WE WALKED around for a while before we could find someone to tell us where the gig was. We went up these endless dark steps up to a massive hall with lots of people with funny hairstyles, selling ace fanzines called Kill Your Pet Puppy, while other people with green and red dreadlocks smoked sweet-smelling ciggies. We sat in front of the stage and read some fanzines.
The Passion Killers came on and did a lot of songs and I liked them all. There were three of them and the drummer was very good. They went off and I went to the toilet.
When I came back, D&V were on and by now the hall was filling up with girls with fluffy pink hair and studded leather jackets with ‘The Destructors’ painted on the back. There were lots of other people as well but I didn’t really notice them. Anyway, D&V were ace. They did the stuff off their Crass record and most people seemed to like them.
Zillions of people came onstage and started to put a washing line up on stage. A bloke started sweeping up in the middle of the audience. Chumbawamba’s set was very theatrical, with people swapping instruments, chalking stuff on the floor, and splashing red paint over Action Men and themselves. Some of the songs were slow, gentle ballads, I suppose, and others were like wall of noise aaaaargh-type things. I liked it…”
FORGET Glastonbury, forget Leeds Poly student union, forget the Radio 1 Christmas party – John Peel’s favourite gig was Scunthorpe Baths. Fact.
He used to play at the celebrated municipal venue at least once a year in the mid Eighties and generally spent the next couple of nights on his Radio 1 show going through enormous lists of shouts and requests he picked up from trollied patrons. And he always said that it was his favourite gig of the year. We loved him for that.
We loved him for other reasons too – the sheer variety and quality of music he came up with, night after night. We loved the avuncular, slightly dotty professional persona, which often found him playing records at the wrong speed or playing the wrong side. And we loved him for the fact that he bothered turning up in Scunthorpe at all.
His gigs were the highlight of the year as far as many punters were concerned, no question about it. And I think he liked the fact that he wasn’t playing to a bunch of student wall-flowers waiting for the new single from the latest NME-approved indie muppets on a full discretionary grant.
When he played at Scunthorpe Baths Hall, Peel was playing to a bunch of hard-drinking northerners who lived in an absolute shit-hole and needed to pack in as much fun as possible before they returned to the grim realities of the early shift at the steel works – if they had a job at all.
Everybody danced, all night.
I interviewed Peel after a gig at the Baths in 1986. He got the beers in and bought us a curry and was every bit as brilliant and hilarious and knowledgeable and impressive as you would imagine.
As of today, we can all listen to Peelie’s record collection.
Close your eyes and you could almost be at Scunthorpe Baths.
* * *
“I THINK a lot of people might come expecting something like the Mob.”
“The thing is, a lot of people come to see us in London who I never saw at a Mob gig. And nobody came to see Zounds in any case.”
“Out of London, it’s still very strange to people. In London we’ve had whole places dancing. People are even getting special dances together to cope with the slow ones ..”
It’s not like Blyth Power avoid talking about the past. They’re quite ready to talk about the past, even if you ask them direct questions like, how much is your popularity to do with the Mob? They’re not afraid of it. They just think that what they’re doing now is a lot more important and interesting. I’m inclined to agree with them.
Josef: “At Adam & Eve’s in Leeds, they put ‘ex-Mob’ on the posters and a lot of people walked out when we didn’t play Mob songs.”
Andy: “That happened in Doncaster as well. There was about 10 people and the hall was massive. There was a skinhead sitting at the front who obviously loved the Mob and he sat there through the set and halfway through he just got up and walked out. That was the past walking out.”