Episode 19. 1980 A year of gigs
January: It was usually a dull month on the touring circuit in the UK the month after Christmas and this year was no exception. I only saw one gig, UFO on their No Place To Run tour. This was the first album after Michael Schenker had left to be replaced by Paul Chapman and they were good but Chapman lost his way in the Rock Bottom solo. Support band was Girl and I was impressed enough to buy their album the following week.
February: Uriah Heep were back in town and I get to see Girlschool again as they are the support act having now been signed to Bronze Records. For Uriah Heep, Chris Slade is on drums having recently left Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and their new vocalist is John Sloman. Both are great musicians but I didn’t think they really suited Heep. After the show I get Mick Box and Ken Hensley’s autographs on my Uriah Heep Live album. I also get to meet Girlschool again and have a chat with them. Two weeks later, my third Peter Gabriel solo concert promoting his third album with Random Hold opening the show. They are a sort of dark, neo-punk thing, not my cup of tea but Gabriel was his usual outstanding self. The following day I’m back at the DeMont with Mark Healey (see article 16) to see a sensational show by The Tourists and we get album covers signed by the band afterwards.
The Tourists second album autographed.
March: Things are hotting up. Rainbow on the Down To Earth tour, Judie Tzuke, Girlschool and Judas Priest on the British Steel tour. Rainbow’s new singer was Graham Bonnet and they had All Night Long in the charts. Cozy Powell on drums, Don Airey on keyboards and Ritchie demolished a Strat at the end of the gig...great stuff. The support band were Katchis who I remember nothing about at all, unlike Priest’s support band who you couldn’t forget. They were called Iron Maiden. My mate Bruce Pegg and I made a last minute decision to go and see Genesis at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on the last weekend of the month but we both left the show feeling that something wasn’t right. Genesis seemed to be in 3rd gear all night. Promoting their latest album, Duke, they played very little from the Gabriel line-up.
April: A varied month this one. Sammy Hagar opened his UK Loud And Clear tour in Leicester having postponed the shows from February. After Riot warmed us all up, Sammy tore the place apart. Dressed in red from head to toe, the energy coming off the stage was something to behold. I was still raving about it on the train to Loughborough with some friends the next day where we saw Mike Oldfield. I couldn’t appreciate the gig; I needed a volume fix. I had calmed down by the time we went to see Genesis again a fortnight later, this time in Leicester and this time they were superb, adding The Knife for a final song.
May: The month starts with three Judie Tzuke gigs in four days (see Article 16 again), the support band is Graduate who neither make an impression on me nor achieve any sort of success but the band who is starting to make waves as a support band is Girlschool and I take a trip to the Hammersmith Odeon in London on the second Saturday of the month to see them support Black Sabbath with their new singer, Ronnie James Dio. I hang around the backstage door in the afternoon with a few of my new friends – the Barmy Girlschool Army (BGA) – and say hello to the girls as they go in. Bonus: Tony Iommi arrives on his own, in a taxi and shakes hands with us as he goes in carrying his own guitar. Both bands were great but there was a bit of a negative feeling about Ozzy not being there at the start that Ronnie had to contend with. He eventually won the audience over. After the show, we go to the backstage door to catch Girlschool before they leave but the doorman won’t let us in so we stand outside smoking and drinking cans of Carlsberg Special Brew. Every time the door opens, we strain our necks to see if it was anyone famous. It usually wasn’t but then a guy walks out wearing a hat and sunglasses and slips through the crowd unnoticed until my mate exclaims ‘That’s Michael Schenker!’ The stranger starts to run down the alley towards a waiting taxi whilst proclaiming in a very strong German accent ‘I am not Michael Schenker! I am not Michael Schenker!’ The following Monday I’m at the DeMont watching a stunning concert by Sky promoting their second album; their P.A. is painted white which looks wonderful when the PAR64 lights hit it in a variety of bubblegum colours. On the 25th I’m back in London with the BGA, this time at the Lyceum for Krokus, Girlschool, Angel Witch and Angel City, the latter being the English name for Australian band The Angels. Krokus 5/10, Girlschool 10/10, Angel Witch 9/10 and The Angels 2/10. I’m invited back to Jeff Roland’s place (a BGA mate) to crash the night but I opt for the last train home at 00:25 as Black Sabbath is in Leicester tomorrow. French band Shakin’ Street open for Sabbath but I’m not impressed and am in the bar by the time they start their third song. Sabbath were better than the Hammersmith but again Ronnie had to deal with a few Ozzy diehards and it was clearly not sold out. My last gig for May was on the last day of the month at Birmingham Odeon, Krokus, Girlschool and Angel Witch. I arrive early, see Kelly, she puts me on the guest list and within an hour, the BGA have met up and we are in the pub. Great night but missed the last train back to Leicester so slept on a bench in Birmingham New Street station.
June: Three Girlschool gigs kick-start the month and I hitchhike around the UK to see them. Various members of the BGA turn up to each one and much beer is drunk. At various times we sleep on railway stations, in telephone boxes and for my last one of the three, in a forest. Next is Iron Maiden who is in Leicester with support band Praying Mantis. I had seen PM a couple of times before supporting Girlschool and really liked them. Just before Maiden came on stage, PM walked out into the hall and I got their autographs on my ticket stub. Maiden, needless to say, were incredible. Van Halen next and as German band Lucifer’s Friend were the warm-up, I had high expectations for the gig as this was the band that Uriah Heep’s John Lawton came from but they disappointed me by abandoning their earlier Heavy-Prog sound for a more commercial one. Hopes of a rescue by Van Halen were dashed when Dave Lee Roth forgot the words to one of the songs and the band fell apart during an improvised jam. One song (I forget which) simply petered out as no one seemed to remember the ending. A drastic change of pace for my next two shows starting with Steve Hackett promoting his Defector album which was aurally and visually lovely. Rather curiously, his support act was a ventriloquist but there was no support act for Fleetwood Mac a couple of days later at Wembley and another disappointing gig. Stevie Nicks kept going offstage, Lindsey Buckingham seemed to have on off-night with his playing and although the rhythm section seemed solid, nothing ever really got going. The show was saved by Christine McVie who performed Songbird for the final song of the night and with no support band, I was back in Leicester, tucked up in bed by midnight. Just one more gig for June and that was my safety blanket Girlschool, this time at the UMIST building in Manchester.
Praying Mantis autographs on my ticket stub. Hard to believe the price of the ticket...
July: This was Girlschool/BGA month with gigs in Nottingham, Peterborough, Northampton, London, Bristol, Rickmansworth and Stafford; the only other bands I saw this month were on the same Girlschool shows. The Bristol show was most notable for BGA founder Ash singing Bomber with the girls at the soundcheck and then several members of the audience swinging from the balcony during the gig – a regular occurrence we were told later. The London gig was a terrific line-up with Vardis, Praying Mantis and Mae West and an encore of Girlschool playing Take It All Away with Lemmy taking the guitar solo and his ex-Hawkwind band mate Nik Turner on saxophone. I stayed the night at Jeff Roland’s house and his mum cooked the best Full English Breakfast I have eaten to this day. The gig in Stafford has gone down in HM folklore as it was the Heavy Metal Barn Dance: Motorhead, Saxon, Girlschool, Angel Witch, Mythra, Vardis and White Spirit, the opening band having future Maiden guitarist, Janick Gers. Sadly, my memory is hazy at best but the bits I can recall include Motorhead being presented with gold records for the Bomber onstage by a woman impersonating The Queen.
August: More Girlschool gigs in the first week and then Pink Floyd performing The Wall at Earls Court. It’s another gig I don’t really remember because of what I consumed on the day but fortunately they performed it again the following year and I can remember that one. There was then the best Motorhead/Girlschool gig I have ever seen and it was at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. Ash and I were there as were the TV cameras for the Rockstage show. Both performances were outstanding with Lemmy jumping into the Bomber lighting rig at the end of the night as it rose upwards. Unfortunately the cameras didn’t capture the audience tearing up the seats in the adrenaline rush but from our vantage point in the balcony, it was one hell of a view. On the train on the way home, I alighted at Leicester with a cheery ‘See you at the weekend’ to Ash; Reading Rock was imminent. The festival had grown in stature and reputation over the preceding decade to be the best festival in the UK and the line-up this year was exceptional although Ozzy and Gary Moore both cancelled. Slade were added in their place and were one of the best bands on and it launched them back into the public eye. Whitesnake were Marsden, Moody, Murray, Lord and Paice; Def Leppard unfairly had cans and bottles thrown at them because people thought they had ‘sold out’ with their single Hello America and the BGA? We slept, drank, smoked and watched the bands. Oddly enough, I don’t remember eating for three days. I did have a bath in the Thames.
Reading Rock advert 1980
September: Kiss at Wembley arena with the full pyrotechnic show and the original line-up. I wasn’t even a Kiss fan but one of my best mates was and he wanted to go so I went along to keep him company. Girl were the support band and had just released a new single, a cover of Kiss’s Do You Love Me? They had the audacity to play it which didn’t go down very well with the Kiss fans. Incidentally, Kiss didn’t play it. Two concerts by Rick Wakeman (Derby and Coventry) and then Gillan in Leicester. I had seen Gillan the year before and this time around he had the same band and was promoting Glory Road. After the two support bands of Quartz and White Spirit, Gillan entered dressed in his half-cut denim jacket sporting a mane of wild hair, the epitome of British Heavy Metal vocalists. His band of John McCoy, Bernie Tormé dressed in his gypsy clothes and scarves, Colin Townes and Mick Underwood rocked and rolled like no other Heavy Rock band I had ever seen. I declared Bernie a guitar god on the spot but the next night – and think about this – the next night was Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz. Yes folks, Ozzy, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, original keyboard player Lindsay Bridgewater and for me, the first time for me to see the inimitable Randy Rhoads. Bruce was with me at this one as was Paul Canny and we looked on in awe at Randy's playing, his polka dot Flying V and white Marshall stacks. What else can I tell you about the gig? Oh yeah... the support band was Budgie.
October: Surprisingly, checking my diary, only two gigs this month. Both in Leicester, they were firstly Scorpions whose drum riser was a giant silver scorpion that has a laser as the sting in its tail. They were supported by Blackfoot whose autographs I managed to get on an album cover I stole from the promotional display in the foyer. The second gig was AC/DC, Back In Black tour supported by The Starfighters whose guitarist just happened to be Angus and Malcolm’s nephew. It was another case of the diehards not wanting to accept a new vocalist, the purists preferring Bonn Scott but personally, I though Brian Johnson was better. Either way, unsurprisingly, the 2,500 seat venue was only half sold.
November: The Deeside Leisure Centre had a terrific line-up of Motorhead, Girlschool, Vardis and Weapon which a few of us from the BGA went to see. Ash and I managed to get a lift back to London after the show with a guy named Anthony who was badly afflicted with Mysophobia but was also a pig farmer – we never did figure that one out. Anyway, we stopped off at a service station where we bumped into Lemmy who proudly showed us his Polaroid photos of him and Tiswas presenter Sally James together. A week later I went to Derby to see Tangerine Dream with a couple of friends. I liked their albums but have to admit, I fell asleep during the gig. Then Girlschool are on tour again, this time with Angel Witch and Tank. The original line-up of the latter of brothers Mark and Pete Brabbs and Algy Ward could always be found in the nearest pub pre-show and would happily buy anyone and everyone a pint. They would also put anyone on the guest list that didn’t have a ticket. The month came to a close with three gigs back-to-back, the first two being the new line-up of Yes with Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson being replaced by Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn from Buggles. It was not a popular decision by the Yes diehards of which I was one and this was made clear at one of the gigs during the quiet passage of And You And I when Trevor Horn is singing a delicate piece and someone shouted ‘Fuck off!’ from the back of the hall. I hasten to add, it wasn’t me. The last of the three shows was a wonderful performance from Elkie Brooks and a very funny Richard Digance warming up the audience.
December: Mark Healy had been dragged along to a lot of shows by me this year but now it was his turn to drag me and I am forever grateful he did. Our first one this month was Hazel O’Connor whose support band had just released their first single. It was called Planet Earth and said band was Duran Duran. Then we went to see Queen at the NEC in Birmingham with a group of others. This was our second Queen gig, the first being last year at the same venue. Last time we were standing and got to the front, this time it was all seating but Mark was having none of that. We were up high on a tier and Mark just walked down to the bottom, proclaimed to the security that he couldn’t sit up there because he suffered from vertigo and they found him a seat near the stage. I think he gave us a little wave just before the band came on. Ex-Yes frontman Jon Anderson played some shows and he played the DeMont with the lovely Claire Hamill as special guest. I managed to meet her between the sets and get her autograph and then Jon Anderson played a superb set of re-arranged Yes classics and a selection from his two solo albums. That was the 15th December and there was just one more gig for the year. You guessed it – Girlschool. Bruce and I headed down to London for the day, met the BGA in The Ship and drank until the gig at the Marquee opened. Tank warmed us up on a dreadfully cold night and then Girlschool saw the year out in style.
Bruce and myself at the last gig of the year.
1980, I salute you.