Rotterdam – 1983
Level of Drunkenness : Shit-faced
Gig rating : *
Damage to Hotel: ****
Arrests Made : 2
Messiness : *
Bootleg Available : Unknown
Not the first time that King Kurt had played abroad, in fact it was the second. Kurt’s only prior foreign gig had been a cultural exchange affair in Paris arranged by French-speaking guitarist Big John through his school. Rotterdam, however, would be the band’s first professional appearance away from home shores, and the first gig of a three-gig mini tour of the Netherlands that would end with a fine performance to the pot-smoking crowd at Amsterdam’s legendary Melkweg venue.
A week or so before the Rotterdam gig kicked off the tour, there had been another kind of kick-off in the city when local team Feyenoord met Tottenham Hotspur in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup. This had bought together two of the fiercest firms of European football hooligans and there had been widespread rioting and extensive damage to property in Rotterdam, universally blamed on the English fans.
There was also an ongoing garbage collector’s strike (King Kurt always seemed to play in cities during garbage strikes) and the atmosphere in the city for a couple of Englishmen, Onions and Grimbsy, was not good. Having taken a night ferry across the North Sea we had arrived in Rotterdam early clutching our precious duty-frees and were looking to find some girls to open them with. I stopped a guy on the street, he was about our age, and asked him where the Dutch women were at and in so doing told him about the gig we were going to, offering him a back-stage pass if he could hook us up with some fanny. Before he could answer Grimbsy taunted him over the football violence claiming, falsely, that we were Spurs fans. We didn’t find any girls so we fooled about with some garbage sacks for a few hours, and went to examine the still boarded-up windows broken in the previous week’s riots.
Arriving at the hall late for some reason, we found the band relaxing in the public bar amongst some stuck-up student girls. Smeg was playing on the Space Invaders machine and when he saw Grimsby and I arrive, he called us over to show us what he had done.
He had set the first four high scores (see right). It was an achievement worth sharing, but as the excitement wore off we were accosted by the guy we’d spoken to on the street earlier in the day. He said that as Spurs fans he wanted to show us something. I quickly clarified that we had been joshing with him and were nothing to do with football, but he figured we’d be interested anyhow and bought us both beers and bade us sit down.
He had bought his scrap book with him containing photos and newspaper clippings of many Feyenoord football riots, of which he considered himself something of a ring-leader if not Top Boy. He had Dutch, UK, and German reports of the Tottenham riot and, translating for us, demonstrated that the UK papers were lying when they claimed Spurs fans had won the fighting. The European reports, he suggested not without some justification, told that it was in fact Feyenoord’s crew that had given Spurs a sound thrashing. He related the history of the two clubs back to the serious rioting that took place when they met in Rotterdam in 1974, marking as it did the historic day on which English soccer violence first manifested itself in mainland Europe. He was quite friendly, and as we were nothing to do with football hooliganism he had no beef with us. But he said, if we had been Spurs he would have had no choice but to give us a kicking.
When the band came on stage, mess free for once, the audience were rigid. Only Grimsby and I took to the dance floor. We were shortly joined by two local guys who came over, punched us both to the ground and started kicking us for a bit. We both decided that we didn’t really understand, let alone like, the Dutch style of dancing so we spent the rest of the gig hanging back from the dance floor. At one point these two went up to the very front of the stage and pulled at Smeg’s ankles, trying to physically drag him off the stage until Thwack kicked out at their wrists. They then turned their attention to Maggot, trying to grab his Saxophone and ram it down his throat. Big John took charged, gave one of them a quick kick in the teeth that sent him reeling, and threatened the other with a warning guitar-swipe over the bows. The two thugs then went around the hall randomly harassing and beating up anybody they didn’t like the look of.
The band, and presumably everyone else, couldn’t wait for the show to finish. When it did everything let fly. As soon as the last chord was struck Big John was off the stage, he’d grabbed one of the thugs and had him up against the wall where he was angrily punching his face to a pulp. The thug’s mate came running to jump John from behind but before he got there, our football hooligan buddy from the bar demonstrated his Top Boy credentials by steaming in on our and John’s behalf and decking the cunt for us. The fight was over pretty quickly and two sorry-ass thugs left the club dazed and dishevelled where they were promptly arrested and taken back with the police for another kicking.
The post-gig atmosphere in the dressing room was fairly poor and there wasn’t a single groupie in the room. Even the traditional pots of tea were left untouched. Nobody wanted to do anything but get back to the hotel as quickly as possible.
Back At The Hotel
It was back at the hotel where the night’s real fun was scheduled to begin. This was the first time the band had played on tour as bone-fide rock stars, and the first time they had been booked into a hotel at a record company’s expense. It just had to be smashed up. For the budding rock star, trashing hotel rooms is a right of passage. Smeg was the first to go, kicking the hand-basin off the wall (it took him many kicks) and using the broken piping to spray water around the room. Maggot kicked in the doors of the ward-robes and threw them through the rear windows. There was a communal streak through the hotel corridors accompanied by Banshee wailing, and somebody, we never found out who, threw the TV out the front window. From three floors up it made quite a bang as it imploded on the concrete below. One of the mattresses was cut up and two band members spent the night flushing it down the toilet, while another had decided he wanted to put his bed up in the false ceiling which resulted in the false ceiling ending up on the floor and all the electrical wiring being ripped out.
As darkness descended everybody decided to get some sleep and we’d see if there was anything left to break in the morning. But there wasn’t. It had been an efficient night and the two rooms that had been booked for the band had been pretty effectively merged into one. Apart from the shit gig, it was the perfect way to get the tour started and the following two gigs, in Apeldoorn and Amsterdam, would bring even more mayhem, mess, and music.