WITHIN a year or so, I’d find myself making shapes to The Message and Klacto Vee Sedstein on this very same sticky parquet dancefloor, but tonight it was all about the punky reggae party that was the 2Tone ska revival.
I was tagging along with my cousin Nicky and a load of his mates on a trip to the cavernous Top Rank in Sheffield to see the Beat on their first headlining tour, around the time their debut album I Just Can’t Stop It was released in 1980.
Before the gig started, I bought a couple of big A2 posters, a really nice pink and black one based on the album cover and a crappy cheap-looking black and white photomontage of the band.
I ended up getting them signed by Ranking Roger, who was sitting around in the upstairs bar – which was just extraordinary in itself – chatting to a couple of girls. He barely looked at me as he quickly scribbled his moniker on both posters. I don’t know what I would have said to him if I’d got the chance but I remember feeling a bit disappointed that he was more interested in talking to attractive young girls than me.
I had a lot to learn about rock‘n’roll. I had a lot to learn about everything.
MY FIRST Crass gig was in Sheffield, where a group of people with too much time on their hands had cadged resources from the city council – then led by David Blunkett – to create a community-focussed arts and music venue, complete with vegetarian café, in an old factory near the train station.
The Leadmill opened in 1982, in the wake of rioting in St Pauls, Brixton and Toxteth (followed by a series of copycat mini-insurrections around the rest of the country) and – the way I remember it, at least – keen to head off any youth rebellion in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, the council had sponsored an opening programme of cheap gigs.
In the same situation now, Blunkett would probably just send in the army, but back then he sent Boy George instead.