Bradford Palm Cove, 1983 – The Signing Party

Part 1

Bradford’s Palm Cove Club was another of those superb finds on the amateur and semi-professional gig circuit. A great club in an unlikely place. Bradford, then as now, was a city that cannot really be described in terms of unemployment. It was, probably still is, one of those Northern English cities where it is more efficient to count the small number of people who have jobs rather than attempt the awesome task of trying to put a number to the vast swarming hordes of poorly-attired Northern England job seekers – as if there were any jobs going for them to seek, poor ducks.

However, in spite of the hopelessness, the lack of opportunities, the wives of formerly working husbands forced to take up stripping to put food on the table, the dilapidated pre-war housing, and the all-round squalor of North Yorkshire’s signature town, in spite of it all, the people of Bradford had a right good club to go to which was just, as all things inevitably are up North, “down t’road and ’round t’corner”.

The Palm Cove was, this narrator believes, also the venue where rival psychobilly followers of The Meteors gained the nick-name “Kattle” after the way they had all been packed into the Meteor-mobile for the trip up the M1. A jolly boys’ outing, it would later turn out, for those who would come to regard being crammed into cattle trucks comparitive luxury opposed to Kurt’s death-defying means of transport. Certainly the Palm Cove’s dressing room graffiti was where the first circled-K logo had appeared marking the welcome end to Fenech’s pretentious leadership of the hapless “Wrecking Crew“.

Soccer violence

My first visit to Bradford had been for football, four years previously. A Division Four match at the Valley Parade (before the fire). I don’t remember the score but I do remember the chunks of concrete being thrown at us, almost being pushed down a stone stair case, and all under the watchful eyes of the local police who did nothing to stop the violence (many of whom, a few years later, would be clearly seen on live TV fleeing the burning stadium leaving behind to die the very people they were being paid to protect – notwithstanding the few good apples still left in the rotting morass of the British Police barrel who did do their duty that day).

The Valley Parade Fire (right) Valley Parade Fire was to show the inante courage of so many civilians who risked themselves to help strangers with whom they could identify. A similar courage was on display the day I went to the stadium – if a crumbling tinderbox of broken croncrete and firewood can be called a stadium.

The visiting fans had endured 45 minutes under a hail of stones and missiles, women and children were bleeding from their wounds, and the cops were simply ignoring demands that they do something. When the half time whistle blew the visiting crowd charged the police line and as the police dispersed in panic, tore down the dividing fence and fought the home fans off. The stone throwers ran across the pitch to their own end of the ground and thankfully the hail of missiles stopped. It wasn’t until the final whistle blew that the visiting fans also took to the pitch, took the home fans’ end, and settled accounts. I don’t remember the score, but the visiting team went up, and the losers – Bradford City AFC – stayed down.


Going back to Bradford for music, on the other hand, I was understandably nervous atfer my experience of the city as a visiting football fan, but it provided a different experience of the city and its people, and gave me a chance to meet some of the less psychopathic locals. This gig was to be King Kurt’s third performance to the Bradford crowd, and the first gig they played after signing up with Stiff Records and recieving their first (and, as it would turn out, last) payments of their professional musical careers. A post-gig party was duly orgainized, to be held over the entire weekend (the gig was on a Friday), at the home of the promoter, named Elvis.

We’d stayed with Elvis the night before. There was a typically English open-all-hours corner shop next door to him that sold everything you could possibly need. The family running it, a Mr and Mrs Patel, had lost their previous home during Partition and in moving to England assimilated themselves quickly into the local culture which then – not any more – was a nation of shopkeepers.

These were the days when thousands of British families like the Patels lived over their own shop, as opposed to two or three families of billionairescum owning all the shops and when “convenience store” meant just what it says. Convenient indeed if you happened to run out of beer, fags, johnnies, rolling papers, or perhaps as so often happens all four, at 3 O’clock in the morning. Even if the shop had the closed sign displayed, some family tradegy perhaps, it was interpreted as “ring the door bell”, after which they would be happy to come down and sell you things.

Try driving to the out-of-town Tesco’s super-store at 3AM for a packet of three and see if you’re still going to be needing them when you get back.

Rock Star Debut

King Kurt had good connections with Bradford, largely from their association with Johna who would regularly be seen staggering around Brixton High Street on his forays down south. There were also a couple of lovely girls from Harrogate who regularly travelled with the band, and many more. Thus Yorkshire had become a favourite destination for the group and an ideal place to celebrate their inauguration as rock stars.

A couple of members of the press, with attendent photographers, would also be at the party, along with a freshly severed pig’s head, to record King Kurt marching out of obsurity into the dream.

King Kurt's Thwack and a dead pig - publictiy photo

Not at all like Battersea Power Station, although Bradford City itself is in about the same state of repair as the famous power station featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album, largely thanks to that cow Thatcher. An independent review of the gig can be found here.

A Certain Unease in the Air

A few things to add about the gig, at least that part of it prior to the welly throwing competition. Before the doors opened The Onions was, yet again, temporarilly ejected from the club for allegedly ‘interfering’ with the female barstaff. When the doors opened we soon discovered that King Kurt’s new found publicity had attracted an unwelcome element of undesirables to the venue – particularly that element of the city’s community to whom a ‘good time’ means ‘beating someone up’.

Beating someone up is an English contact sport played throughout the year in or around pubs and clubs. It usually involves a shit-faced team of cooperating young men picking out a defenceless individual at random and knocking seven bells out of him (the victims of violence are overwhelmingly male).

Then there were those who took the King Kurt “throwing shit around” motif literally, lobbing their own steaming excrement at the stage. The Smeg calling over the PA for, “Branzley, come and take a shit on the stage”, didn’t do much to discourage them. Of the three Palm Cove gigs of that era, this was not the best. It wasn’t even the second best either. The party afterwards, as so often was the case, was where the real action took place.

Only Dimly Aware

After the musical instruments – or at least the servicable remains of them – hand been tossed into the van everybody, the band included, piled-in. Rory, as ever, was driving and he couldn’t find the place where he was supposed to be going – Elvis’ House – and seemed to be just driving around random streets hoping he would find it by chance. Your narrator, alas, eventually found himself lying beneath everybody else and getting crushed. There were far too many people squeezed in the back of the van but my days of following football had taught me well and I knew I had to keep my chest clear in a crush so that I could breathe.

Compressive asphyxiation has got to be a shit way to go, not because of the comparatively limited suffering it involves, but because of the sheer futile pointlessness of it. Somebody though, it would later turn out that it was the Hackney Werewolf, had his boot over my throat pressed in by whoever it was who was sitting on his leg. The Werewolf himself was clearly in some trouble as I could hear him crying out as he kicked out with his other leg, his Doctor Marten catching me around the ear.

As conciousness faded I began to wonder from which leg I would pass out first? Would the Hackney Werewolf be kicking me unconcious with his right leg, or suffocating me with his left? I started to think what the band were going to have to say when they finally stopped the damn van and found it full of corpses. Probably write a song about it, knowing them – once they’d all stopped laughing. But as luck would have it some Northern bloke had only jumped in the van for a free ride home, using it like a taxi, and suddenly shouted out that this is where he wanted to get out. As the door opened bodies spilled out and the pressure eased. I was able to bite the Werewolf’s left leg to get it off me, and as I was drawing a much needed breath I heard Rory angrily demand if anybody else wanted to get out.

The van drove off, but I was glad to be out of it, standing on my two feet and breathing in what passes for ‘fresh’ air in polluted Bradford. At that moment it didn’t bother me that I was standing in a random part of one of Britain’s most violent and dangerous cities, in the middle of the night, covered in dung, and without the slightest idea where I was. “Fuck it”, was all I thought, “I’m alive”. I looked around, and there, just the other side of some burned out ruins was the corner-shop, the same one that is next door to Elvis’ House. I just had to go down round, and round corner. If only Rory had learned to follow such simple directions rather than following his nose.

Tidy Old Turn Out

Elvis was there and, after handing me a beer, asked me where the band was. I told him they were still driving around with a bunch of loons in the back. He asked me how I managed to find my way back to his place, and I could only tell him it was because I got out of the van. Ït would be over an hour before the van and the band finally made their entrance, but it was still only the early hours of Saturday morning, there was plenty to drink, and the party – in celebration of King Kurt’s first ever professional recording contract – was scheduled to go on until Sunday night.

[To be continued…]

Life on the Road with King Kurt

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