Liverpool – 1983
Level of Drunkenness : Trolleyed
Gig rating : ***
Damage to Bodies: ***
Arrests Made :
Messiness : ***
Bootleg Available : Unknown
The night before had seen us in Glasgow on what history was to record as the “second best gig of the tour”. Onions, your narrator, was the only one to follow the band into the centre of enemy territory to find a great club, smashing crowd, brilliant DJ, and free beer for every Englishman in the house. In Glasgow the band had arrived on stage to the traditional Scots welcome of beer bottles and glasses, which continued to be thrown at the stage throughout the performance. Nevertheless, and thanks largely to the protective netting over the stage, the band were able to walk away unscathed. They wouldn’t be walking away from tonight’s gig, they were destined to be driven away. In ambulances.
The mere fact that the gig was in Liverpool should have put them off. Widely regarded in the nineteen eighties as being the shittiest, most crime-ridden, jobless city in England, if not the whole of Western Europe. It put everybody else off and only the Onions and a couple of groupies he’d picked up the night before, traveled to the gig.
We hitched down from Livingstone where we’d spent the night, passing what was at that time the still smoking remains of the Lockerbie Disaster that had just happened two days before. The girls acted as decoys to hitch the rides while Onions piled in after the girls had stopped the cars. This tactic got us into Liverpool early and we all wanted to get something to eat. It was four PM but the local chip shop refused to serve us anything, claiming that it was “too early”. We’d have to wait two hours, but then it occurred to us that none of us had any money any way.
We went back to the club and I dropped the baggage off with the band while they were setting up. It was part of an unspoken Gentleman’s Agreement I had with the band: I would bring the groupies, and they would turn a blind eye to the amount of alcohol I ripped off from the clubs – so long as I only took no more than I could drink. After dropping the girls off I rummaged though the filth and torn fabric that was all that remained of my rucksack after two weeks of heavy touring, and I was delighted to be able to scrape together enough sticky loose change to afford a bag of chips and a sausage in batter.
The club was a bit of a dive but probably considered “up market” in Liverpool. The bar staff were nice and friendly, and one of them clearly had the hots for The Maggot. The same cannot be said for the bouncers though. If they had the hots for anybody, it was only for themselves. They strutted about the unopened club as if they were kings.
One of them looked a bit like this guy on the right, also known as “Gus Killick” a fictional Cockney hard-man played ably by actor Ken Kitson in Thames Television’s police comedy-drama “The Sweeney” which was popular at that time.
This Liverpudlian (Scouse) bouncer didn’t only look like the character played on-screen, but also appeared to have adopted the villain’s manners as well. It cannot be said that he sported the well-groomed, manicured, demeanor of the professional TV actor and one’s first impression was that beneath his suit was a layer of unkempt fur. Similarly his face had features more beast like, too prominent brow, patchy stubble, and a jaw that looked like it had been worked over several times by a jack-hammer before being given up as a bad job.
Shoulders as wide as most people’s elbows are when held up in Monty Python’s Gumby-style, and with hands the size of spades he was busy preening himself in front of a full-length mirror back-stage as if he, not nobody else, was the only star of the show. He was adjusting his bow tie and brushing off fleck’s of dried blood and gristle from his tuxedo. The suit, itself, seemed entirely inappropriate on such a man, given his form and function. Unless the tailor had been tasked with “make me a suit that shall let it be known to all that the person wearing it is more ape than man“, in which case it lived up to both the design specifications and the name by suiting this Neanderthal doorman to a tee.
Bemused and at the same time bewitched by this thuggish dress-rehearsal, it was six o’clock before we knew it and the chip shop was open. But they still refused to serve us. By this time the night spent on the moors a few gigs back was starting to catch up, and I’d been on the road for a full two weeks already. Giving up on food I returned to the club and ordered brandy, an odd order for a snivelling punk rocker to make, but I told them it was “medicinal” to forestall the cold I had coming. As she knew I was with the band, the bar tender gave us the whole half bottle gratis.
The gig was fairly messy, and some pretty intense numbers coming out from the boys on-stage. The bog-standard First Tour Set: Destination Zululand, Wreak A Party Rock, Bo Diddly, Zulubeat, Blue Rondo A La Kurt, (yet to be rebadged as ‘Banana Banana’), Tharg, and of course Thwack’s lead on Lonesome Train. There was also a particularly good dueling guitars sequence in the still developing Gather Your Limbs. The crowd were rowdy, but after Glasgow they could be considered tame in comparison.
A girl got up onto the stage and took all her clothes off, but for some unexplained reason the bouncers made her put them back on and then threw her out. Rumors went around that the bouncers were probably gay, which if true would mean a net gain in the ratio of loose women in the club, which met with broad approval. Other than that, scouse violence thus far was directed at the speaker stacks, and a group of high-spirited, slightly inebriated, concert-goers were making a determined effort to bring one of them down. I don’t know what their purpose was, but if they had been successful in the endeavor the gig would have been over. The Onions was forced to earn his half-bottle of Cognac by spending most of the gig on-stage trying to hold the speaker stack up.
Right after the gig I met one of the girls we’d stayed with earlier in the year after I’d been busted outside Franc’s Club in Colne. She spotted me holding the speakers up, but hadn’t been able to get through the crush around the stage. She’d traveled to Liverpool in her car for the gig and invited me back to Colne for the night. We left directly after the band finished. I went back-stage to collect my rucksack, but found the back-stage area had been robbed during the concert.
Still, it was Liverpool and we expected to get ripped off, so we’d only been carrying junk with us anyhow. But that rucksack did have P. Paul Fenech‘s autograph on it, so it couldn’t have been worth anything. On the way out I passed Monkey Man who was looking mightily pissed off at the mess all the flour and eggs had made of his shiny tux. Grinning, I jumped in the car with me lass and we set off into the aptly-named Pennines to have a shag and throw up together.
The band didn’t fare quite so well. It had remained fairly quiet back-stage until after the punters had left. While the bar-staff were cleaning up, the budding romance from before the doors opened moved to a more physical plane. The bar girl grabbed The Maggot’s cap and made him chase after her, threatening him that she would not give it back unless he gave her a kiss. On hearing this, the rest of the band all offered their caps to her as well, but before she could take them, let alone kiss anybody, Monkey Man took the loss of his suit out on Maggot’s head.
Allowing himself, in what passes for a brain in that Ape’s cranium of his, to be deceived into thinking that “Maggot was attacking one of the girls”, he swung a baseball bat around the back of Maggot’s head without warning. Maggot, just sixteen years old at the time, was out for the count and most of the rest of the band jumped in apart from Rory who said he had to go check on the van.
This was precisely the trigger the rest of the bouncers were waiting in the wings for, since now they could claim that their unprovoked attack with baseball bats and pool cues was “self defense”. If that’s the case it was pretty efficient self-defense since none of the ape-men received so much as a scratch while every band member was beaten unconscious and required hospital treatment for serious head wounds. Apart from Rory, who was mysteriously unharmed.
Back in the Pennines we knew nothing of this, of course. We only found out the band were hospitalized and worse than that, the tour cancelled, the next day when we arrived in Cardiff.