We’ve just had St Andrews Day, so it makes sense that I choose a Scottish (sort of) band for this week’s entry. The reason I say “sort of” is because, although often referred to as Scottish, only Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson – the guitarists in the band – were Scots. Bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki were English. Listening to Tony and Mark had a big influence on me wanting to be a drummer or bassist.
I’ve chosen this track because it’s one of my favourites, and because the video shows the incredible energy that surged through the crowd at a Big Country gig. I love the interaction the band members have with each other and the way they feed off the crowd – and vice versa. This was recorded at Glasgow’s Barrowlands Ballroom – The Barras – which regular readers will know I enjoy as a venue. Watch the video, and try to imagine you’re near the front enjoying the show…
Back in March I posted about how long it takes to recover from being at the front at a punk gig. I’m thinking now that maybe it was a one off, and here’s why.
Last weekend, the same band – Stiff Little Fingers – played a homecoming gig in Belfast, Northern Ireland as part of their 40th Anniversary celebrations. The venue was outdoors, in Custom House Square, and the capacity was around 5000. When tickets went on sale, over 3000 were snapped up in the first 48 hours – I got two, one for me and one for my friend S – and all 5000 were sold out long before the event. Dee came for the weekend but had decided that she didn’t want to join us at the gig.
The support acts were not too shabby: Belfast’s very own The Outcasts, Ruts DC (best known for Babylon’s Burning) and The Stranglers, who had their 40th Anniversary a couple of years back. I hadn’t seen the first two before, so I was looking forward to hearing them: I wasn’t disappointed.
S and I met up around lunchtime and took in some of the sights (pubs) in Belfast. It seemed like everyone in the city was wearing a tshirt or something related to one of the four bands, and the atmosphere was brilliant. We moved to the pub nearest the venue a couple of hours before the gates were due to open and joined the throng of cheerful fans.
For the last couple of years Jake Burns, SLF’s lead singer and only ever present in the band, has worn a black shirt with white polka dots when gigging. Someone on the SLF forum on Facebook thought it might be fun if fans turned up wearing something similar. Eventually it was decided that we’d all meet up near the gig venue an hour before gates opened for a polka dot photo. There were 50 – 60 people in polka dot shirts (S and myself included) who congregated at The Big Fish (officially called The Salmon of Knowledge) on the banks of the river Lagan, and everyone was in a happy and excitable mood.
Once photos had been taken, people either went back to the pub or, as S and I did, started queuing to get in to the venue. Once we got in, we headed straight for the merchandise stall and each bought a tshirt which had been specially produced for the gig: as it turns out, they were sold out very early on, such was the demand (more are being printed now, for a limited time only).
We then turned the corner and saw that there were hardly any people in ahead of us, so managed to secure a spot against the barrier at the very front, right in the middle of the stage. This was a prime position and we were very surprised to have captured it.
As the various bands came and went, the venue filled up and the press from behind grew stronger and stronger – but we didn’t lose our spot. Cue SLF, and the place went wild: there was a general frenzy of singing, pogoing, chanting – everyone totally blessed out on the music and the fact that we were there, in Belfast, where it all began for our favourite band. What could be better? What could ever top that?
From a music perspective, possibly nothing. But, the whole experience was enhanced by a couple of things. First off, at the end of the gig, I managed to get a hold of Jake’s set list, which is now framed and on my wall. Second, it turns out that the Ruts were staying at our hotel, and I managed to grab a few words with their bassist and got a couple of photos with him. Third, I found the exact spot – not far from the hotel as it happens – where the photo for SLF’s latest album, No Going Back, was taken: I of course had to get a photo of me taken there. And fourth, we found Hope Street, which is the title of a song and album by SLF.
At the end of the gig, the crowd dispersed, still on a high and in very good humour. Since then, my Facebook feed has been full of praise for the city of Belfast, for the welcome the fans received, and plaudits for how good the gig was. Just imagine that: a punk gig with 5000 people and no trouble, no fighting, no bad temperedness. Everyone was just glad to be there.
I described in my article in March how I’d been battered and bruised by being in the second row at the gig at the Barras, so how do you think I fared being in the front row at a gig that had more than double the attendance? I was absolutely fine. Other than temporary deafness which went after a day or so – and which would have happened even if I was further back – I had no ill effects. My legs were fine, elbows weren’t damaged and there were no bumps or bruises to speak of.
So, this begs the question – when I next go to an SLF gig, will be at the front again? You bet!
Last weekend Dee and I were in Belfast for Stiff Little Fingers‘ (SLF) homecoming gig on their 40th Anniversary tour. They had a great supporting cast of The Stranglers, The Outcasts and this week’s TBT selection, Ruts DC.
The original Ruts were also around during the punk days, and probably best known for Babylon’s Burning. Their lead singer died of an overdose, and their guitarist died about 10 years ago. Now a 3 piece band, with the original bassist (Segs Jennings) and drummer (Dave Ruffy), their set had some of their old classics and some newer numbers which sounded great. The DC in their name is from the musical notation Da Coda, or “go back to the beginning”.
I had the pleasure of seeing Jennings and Ruffy last year when they did an acoustic tour as part of Dead Men Walking, along with Jake Burns from SLF and Kirk Brandon from Theatre of Hate. That was a very intimate gig: Saturday’s was the opposite!
The gig was sold out, with over 5000 tickets for an outdoor event. The weather gods looked kindly on us, and the gig gods were even kinder. I spent the whole gig in the front row, right in the middle: I was in seventh heaven. And to cap it all off, Ruts DC were staying in my hotel and I had the pleasure of meeting Segs the next morning.
On the Dead Men Walking tour, they talked about this song, It was based on a real night out that they were at, along with Jake from SLF and others, where a serious fight broke out and all the various factions got involved. The song itself is very textured, and tells the story really well. I hope you enjoy it!
Sticking with the punk theme from last week, I thought I’d share this classic track from The Clash. Not just because the bassline is excellent, but because the photo that goes with it has become iconic in its own right.
Paul Simenon is in the process of smashing his bass – presumably at the end of the gig – and I think the image has such powerful energy and makes a statement all on its own.
I played this track with a covers band a few years back, and had it as my ringtone for ages (I now have an AC/DC tune, but that’s for another week!). For all that the bassline is a classic, and is so much fun to play, I can also state from experience that if the guitarists don’t play with some attitude the song becomes a bit bland. The song is crying out to be played with passion, with a swagger, and if you don’t play it that way it loses a lot of its power.
I should probably state for posterity that, for all I like(d) punk, I was never a massive fan of The Clash. They just didn’t seem to “do it” for me in the same way that other bands – notably SLF, the Sex Pistols, The Damned or Siouxsie and the Banshees – did. It’s almost heresy to admit that, according to some fans, but we all like what we like, right?
One of the tunes I use when warming up prior to rehearsal or practice is this one. Only the intro, but it gets the fingers and hands moving well I think. The sound is unmistakably The Stranglers, and is a really dirty, grungy tone which I love. I’ve written before about how much I like JJ Burnel’s playing, and this is one of the classic examples that illustrate why. The first few notes are enough to give me goosebumps. I hope you enjoy it too!
Simple Minds are another one of those bands that I didn’t like, then I liked for a while, then I didn’t like them again. Now I can listen to a couple of their songs at a time, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to hear a whole album, and I doubt I’d try to see them in conert again. I went once, but was at the very back of the SECC in Glasgow and couldn’t really see them. And it took longer to get out of the car park than the gig had gone on for!
Anyhow, I chose this track because it shows that bass lines don’t have to be complicated to be effective, and I don’t think you can get much simpler than playing one note over and over!
I hope you enjoy this blast from the past: it doesn’t seem to get played on the radio as often as some of their other tracks but is very worthy. This is the only one of their singles I bought (on 12″) and I don’t think I’ve any of their albums on vinyl.
Did you know that the first punk single released in the UK was New Rose by The Damned? Or that their brilliant double LP, The Black Album, had one side which was recorded live and which isn’t included in the CD version? I listen to that album a lot, and really missed the live side – until I found Spotify. Smash It Up (Parts I and II) is on there, and for as long as I can remember I’ve loved the bass line in Part I.
This version on the video is a studio version, but it’s almost as good as the live one.
I was lucky enough to see The Damned when I was in my teens. They released their Friday the 13th EP on the same day as I saw them, and the gig was memorable for a couple of reasons. There was a power cut during it, so Rat Scabies (the drummer) played a 10 or 15 minute solo while they got everything working again. Captain Sensible (guitarist) swapped his jacket with someone in the crowd because his original mohair one looked to be covered in spittle (not mine!) as was kind of customary (and gross) at punk gigs in those days. The support act was the Anti-Nowhere League, who found notoriety by having the B-side of their Streets of London single banned as an obscene publication, and they were very growls and menacing.
I still follow The Damned and Captain Sensible on Facebook, though I’ve not seen them since the very early 80s. Listen to the track, and see if you can hear why I think the bassline is brilliant.