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.
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“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.”
I FIRST came across Brigandage when John Peel broadcast the session they recorded for his seminal nightly radio show in 1983, although they first came to national prominence in the NME’s examination of the so-called positive punk scene around the same time, alongside Blood & Roses, Southern Death Cult and The Mob in a piece entitled The Music, Mystery and Magick of the New Punks.
North would go onto to join the reformed Brigandage after they imploded following the NME coverage, while the scene he dubbed positive punk somehow ended up becoming Goth. They were never my favourite band or anything, and I don’t recall ever seeing them live, but I had a lot of time for Brigandage’s shouty yet tuneful punk, which occasionally seemed to take as much from Joy Division as it did the Pistols and Siouxsie.
As a result, I did a postal Q&A with lead singer Michelle (pictured with North) in early 1985 and published in my fanzine Airstrip*2, alongside interviews with Omega Tribe, Inca Babies, Lunatic Fringe and Toxic Shock. While the interview remains the product of a very particular time and place, it still makes for an interesting read, I think.
SHORT but rather sweet little fanzine interview with the Jef Antcliffe from Sheffield drums and vocal duo D&V, one of the few bands who released more than one record on the Crass label in the early Eighties.
As well as interviewing D&V, at the same gig I also talked to Flux and KUKL, an Icelandic band who would later become the Sugarcubes. For some reason, I kept the Flux interview but gave the D&V and KUKL interviews to mates to publish in their zines. Needless to say, I lost my copies soon after they came out.
Actually, come to think of it, did I ever see that KUKL interview?
Either way, I recently rediscovered that long-lost D&V interview in the marvellous Punks Is Hippies zine archive. Big love to them.