Episode 16. Adventures with Mr Healey

Long before I even thought about being a roadie, I was an apprentice at Marconi Radar Systems Ltd., a large company in Leicester with an excellent reputation that proudly boasted they ‘developed systems for ground based air defence and missiles, air traffic control, naval surveillance and weapons, electronic control systems for all defence applications, and simulation and instrumentation’. All very ‘Wow!’ until you became an apprentice and were given some rudimentary, well-used tools and taught to make an adjustable spanner from a block of metal. Altogether us apprentices were an eclectic bunch and were trained in metalwork and electronics, training that would supposedly, eventually, lead us to contribute to the toppling of the Russians; some skills that I must say, I have made good use of over the years although I hasten to add, not against anybody from the former USSR. As good as the company was though, life in the hush-hush world of work for the government seemed to be exactly the same as my Dad’s work at the metalworkers he had been employed at for some forty years; a disappointment for myself although many of my fellow workmates who started that day probably had different expectations.

We were put into groups of twelve and some of us were somewhat shy towards each other (I was somewhat pleased to discover that Richard Cooper was in my group, a lad from the same school as me and lived locally) but over the next few days, as nature took its course, our natural characters started to emerge as did our interests. One of our group though initially didn’t talk much and later, in his own words Mark Healey told me he was “desperately lacking in self-confidence” at that time. I liked him though for reasons I don’t recall and still friends to this day, his narrative forms a part of this article. Here he recounts his first impressions of me:

Mark: “I first met Glenn and immediately it was apparent that here was someone who was different. Long hair, denim jacket with various bands emblazoned across the front and back. But it wasn’t just that, that made him different, in 1978 that was fairly common if you were in that crowd. It was his knowledge and commitment to music even at that young age.”

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Celebrating his 18th birthday, Mark did eventually lose the moustache.

We started at Marconi in September 1978 and by the end of the year, we had become good friends. I was going to a lot of gigs even back then (Yes, Hawkwind, Whitesnake, etc) and one day, Mark let on that he had never been to a gig. I sat stunned…surely everyone had been to at least one gig? Nope! Not Mark so over the next few days and weeks which rolled into months, I badgered him to come to a gig with me. ‘You’ll love it’ I kept promising and I suppose at some point he had finally had enough and either to shut me up or to push his own self-confidence, he said he’d go to the upcoming Roxy Music gig at the premier concert venue in Leicester, the De Montfort Hall.

The ‘DeMont’ as is affectionately known in Leicester first opened in 1913 and over the years it has hosted almost everyone including The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Built just outside the city centre in a serene location, there is an incredible atmosphere outside the venue on gig night as the fans come from all directions towards the DeMont. Mark and I met at The Marquis of Wellington pub just a few minutes’ walk from it and after a couple of pints of beer, we headed off and as it came into sight I saw Mark’s eyes widen…

Mark: “The crowd of people entering through the large doors at the entrance of the Hall, the atmosphere of anticipation was tangible, the smell, the noise, the clothes of some of the real fans. The place seemed to vibrate with a kind of hum, I hadn’t known anything like it. My parents hadn’t been theatre goers, not even pantomimes, so it was all completely new to me. And I liked it!”

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The De Montfort Hall

Now at this point I should tell you all that to any of us growing up at that time in any city, their local venue was the best – the Newcastle and Sheffield City Halls, the Birmingham and Hammersmith Odeon’s, the Manchester and Glasgow Apollo’s, these were all long established theatres that had been taken over by the Rock fraternity and made their own but as I’m a Leicester lad, with apologies to those that grew up elsewhere, sorry folks, the DeMont was the best in the UK J as Mark very quickly found out. Oddly enough – and this was quite a rarity at the DeMont for Rock gigs – there were seats installed downstairs where there was usually standing, general admission. That threw me a bit but I chose not to mention it to Mark and once we found our seats we settled in for the support band, another in the long line of bands I’d never heard of, this one called The Tourists.

Mark: “So the support act started and I was transfixed. It was loud and it was bright! There was Annie Lennox on the stage who was then completely unknown to us singing with The Tourists. I was hooked. It took 30 seconds and I knew that I wanted more. I’d completely forgotten who I was, it was a different world, one I wanted to be part of. I now realised what Glenn had been talking about. Of course, Glenn the old hand (at 17!) at this sort of thing was very blasé at this point although he did say ‘not bad for the support.’”

Yeah, truth be told, The Tourists were bloody brilliant and we slipped off to the bar for another pint returning just as the slow handclaps and ‘We want Roxy’ chants began. Another anomaly…a stage curtain and I commented to Mark that it was unusual as they normally just walk on to the intro music after the houselights went down.

Mark: “Then the Hall background music fell silent and it seemed that at the same instant the crowd momentarily went quiet too. The curtains drew back and the crowd bayed. The stage set had a kind of geometric design and was lit to highlight the modernistic look. Glenn looked at me and said “wow”. Bryan Ferry was singing Love is the Drug* and everyone was singing along. The next two hours seemed to fly by.”

Mark had eyes like saucers and grinned from ear to ear throughout. He was hooked and when the show was over, he fumbled for words to express his amazement at what he had been missing but I did try to tell him that he was lucky and that not all concerts were like that or as good as that but undeterred he said ‘When’s the next one?’. 

‘A week on Monday if you want to go but it’s in London…’

‘Who?’

‘Kate Bush’

‘Yeah!’

And so it came to pass that Mark’s second ever gig would become one of the most talked about and celebrated tours in Rock history. I had bought tickets earlier knowing that someone would want to go but hadn’t had any confirmations from anyone so Mark got it and after work, we jumped on a train, to St Pancras, London and from there took the Tube to Hammersmith Odeon. We had good seats, halfway between the stage and mixing desk in the stalls and there was an air of expectation, the tour having had stunning reviews from all who had seen it. What happened next though, I didn’t expect…

Mark: “The thing that really sticks in my memory was my unexpected reaction to Kate entering the stage for the opening song. I was on an aisle seat and without thinking I instinctively just got out of my seat, ran down the aisle and made for the stage. I think the occasion had just got to me, that’s my only explanation. It was a kind of hysteria I think. It was completely out of character for me and I haven’t done anything like that since. Glenn was shocked by my behavior and soon followed me and brought me back to my seat, I was more than a little embarrassed.”

Kate was stunning in every sense. It was a sensory overload of theatrics, dance, mime, illusion and perfectly reproduced music delivered by the (back then) love of my life and when she came back out for the encore, it was me shoving Mark down the aisle as hundreds of us stormed towards the front, the bouncers suddenly realizing they were out of their depth and heading for the exit doors. One of my strongest memory of that night was the Tube journey back to St Pancras which was filled with concert-goers and was in complete silence; no one could think of anything to say and even now, forty years and some 1,000 concerts later, it’s still the best gig I’ve ever seen.

Mark then was now my new gig partner and at least once a month we were off to see Queen, John, Cooper Clarke, The Boomtown Rats, Yes or Blondie or a host of others, Mark with his camera slung around his neck as he was a keen photographer (he was once spotted by a steward at the Genesis concert taking photos who quickly removed his camera from him) and for some unknown reason, something happened at every gig that made the gigs I went to with Mark stick in my memory.  One particular singer we saw a lot of though and went to as many shows as possible was Judie Tzuke. We had seen her late in ’79 supporting Gallagher & Lyle and both agreed that she was better than the main act and so went to Derby – just a 40 minutes train ride from Leicester – to see her support them again two weeks later. The following year, she headlined in Leicester, Derby and Birmingham on 1st, 2nd and 4th May respectively and we went to all three. The Derby gig was most notable for us being daft enough not to check if there were tickets available and upon arriving at the venue saw ‘Sold Out’ notices everywhere. Mark wanted to go home but I said we should stay and try and blag our way in and after a while, he reluctantly agreed although unbeknownst to him, I had no idea how I was going to do that.

The Derby Assembly Rooms was a large multi-purpose building with one main entrance to all the facilities inside. Mark and I decided to have a walk around the back of the building to see if there was another way in and as we did, Mark spotted a door…

Mark: “It was just a plain door with no signs at all. There were no windows near and it did seem odd that there was a door here at all. It was set back around 3 feet into the building and seemed miles away from the main auditorium doors. I said to Glenn ‘let’s see if it’s open’ and tried the handle. It opened but it seemed unlikely that it would lead to the theatre and it was very dark. So I said to Glenn to stay there and keep the door open and I would see where the corridor went. I had walked about 10 feet when Glenn shouted ‘Hold on, I’m coming’. What we hadn’t realized was that it was on a spring hinge that letting go of the door and letting it close meant we could not get back out, there was no way back! It was now not just dark but pitch black without the light from the door. We literally could not see each other.”

We fumbled our way through the darkness until Mark found another door which to our relief opened and we suddenly found ourselves in a large noisy kitchen filled with steel shelves and a dozen cooks in white aprons preparing meals. We walked quickly with purpose through the clattering of pans and inaudible shouts hoping nobody would notice us and went through the first door we saw into…the auditorium! Dumbstruck that we had found our way in, we panicked momentarily when we realized that it was all seating (sold out remember) but as luck would have it, as the five-minute bell sounded, there were two empty seats so we just went and sat in them hoping nobody would show up and thankfully, they didn’t. After the gig, Judie did an autograph session, we got her autograph and we told her we were coming to Birmingham.

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One of Mark’s photo’s of Annie Lennox in her days with The Tourists. We saw them again headlining at De Mont in February 1980.

As mentioned, Mark was by now a keen photographer and had taken some shots of Judie previously, one of which he printed and took with him when we travelled to Birmingham two days later. Again we had no tickets but I had had the crazy idea of making fake backstage passes using our Marconi security cards and sticking a picture of Judie on them we had cut out of a newspaper. Arriving in the afternoon and half hiding our passes, we strolled straight into the Birmingham Odeon with aplomb and no one stopped us. We were in but the problem was, it was still early so we had time to kill but on hearing the soundcheck start, we decided to brave it and went inside, sat in the back row and hoped nobody would spot us. Someone did though…

Mark: “Judie spotted us from the stage. They had finished one song, I’m not sure what it was, butt hen Judie spoke to us! “Which song would you like us to do now?” she asked. The way she said it, I’m sure she had guessed that we had blagged our way in and Glenn’s favourite song of hers at the time was ‘Radio Days’**so he shouted it back to her and then the band started to play it. We were having a song performed just to us, it was unforgettable! We said thank you at the end.”

We were on a roll now, full of confidence so we went outside to a pub where we bumped into a couple of friends who were also going to a lot of Judie’s shows. Back to the Odeon and we sailed straight in as we were by now familiar faces to the doormen and the whole experience of the afternoon made the concert that much more enjoyable. After the show, we went backstage where Mark showed Judie a photo of her he taken and asked if she would autograph it…

Mark: “When I presented the photograph to her she immediately said that she loved it and asked where it had come from. I replied that I had taken it. I was a little worried because I thought I might have infringed one of the ‘no photographs at concerts’ rules but she was fine and said that she really did love it. So I said “Would you like me to send you a copy?” Amazingly she said yes and I duly sent the photograph to the address she gave me and waited to hear something back but I did not get a reply. Some months later at the next concert, we met her again and asked her “Did you get that photograph” and she said “Yes, it’s sitting on my mantelpiece at home right now!” I could not have been more pleased. If I hadn’t had a crush on her before I did now!”

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Mark’s autographed copy of the photo of Judie she had on her mantlepiece for a while.

There were many more adventures to come in the next two years until I decided to leave Marconi and on my last day there, I had no regrets about leaving, moving to London and becoming a roadie  but I really didn’t want to leave Mark behind and even asked if he would come with me. He wisely declined, spent several more years at Marconi and then went on to become a Criminal Intelligence Analyst with the Northamptonshire police. He is now retired and has paid off his home loan after winning handsomely on an outrageous bet on Leicester City winning the Premier League at odds of 5000/1 in the 2015/16 season and is highly praised for his photography, winning the odd competition or two. He’s the first person I call after my family whenever I am back in Leicester.

*My recollection is that they opened with Manifesto and that Love Is The Drug was towards the end of the set but I could be wrong.

**I have no recollection of this being my favourite song of Judie’s and to be honest, I don’t even remember the song!

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