the twelfth gig I can remember going to

Click here for a complete list of entries in the series  “the first 23 gigs I can remember going to”.

banshees

12. Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Fall, Wire, Psychic TV, Gaye Bykers On Acid. Saturday 25th July 1987, Finsbury Park Supertent.

My ears were still ringing from the Big Black gig the night before, but a handy crew had assembled for some post-post-punk frolics in Norf London. In a big fuck-off circus tent.

The promoters needn’t have bothered with the tent, the weather was fine. Quite a nice way to spend a summery Saturday afternoon in fact. I must have worn my gleaming new Psychic TV t-shirt because I remember we were accosted on the way from the tube station to the park by someone flyering for a squat gig who got chatting to us about the group. This confirmed my view that London was full of awesome freaks, but obviously he was there for the same reason we were, not just passing by…

Smile10

One of the other memorable things from the gig is that I bought a copy of SMILE Magazine by Stewart Home from a bloke outside the tent who had laid out his wares on a blanket. I think he may also have run the “skidmark” t-shirt stall on Camden market, back when there seemed to be some genuinely subversive and sinister goings on down there. These days it’s all trance CDs and goth boots. It was in the eighties as well, so yes I was probably just young and naive.

But back then Camden did have stalls, like the aforementioned Skidmark, which gave me genuine “what the FUCK” moments. He had a nice hodge podge of t-shirts including Crowley stuff, Stewart’s “I love Hackney” design, and some off the wall things like the classic “Joy Through Disobedience” as modeled here by Stefan. Shirts like that weren’t band merchandise, they weren’t even flogging a political ideology. They were just weird and hinted at a whole subculture of weirdness which I was magnetically attracted to. And then you’d have the zines as well – strange occult stuff like Joel Biroco’s Kaos nestling up against “Towards A Gay Communism”. There was this spooky ephemeral undercurrent of ideological nihilism and polymorphous perversity. The zines and shirts hinted at people creating and consuming them: a whole mysterious underground culture – tantalisingly out of reach…

I’d read about SMILE in Vague and some of the Coil literature put out by R&D Group 28. It freaked me out a little when I read it the day after. My sister found the magazine hidden under my bed and got very disturbed by the de Sadean aspects of the pulp fiction and the “SAY NOT TO DEMOCRACY” centre spread. I was more bothered by the deranged manifestos and theoretical texts.

I met Stewart a couple of years later at Beck Road and later still hitched up to the Festival of Plagiarism in Glasgow in the summer of 1989. But that’s another story.

As for the gig, I remember watching Gaye Bykers On Acid from the back of the tent and not being overly impressed. I think this may have turned into a bit of a “wandering around with a beer” session rather than studiously watching the bands.

It is entirely possible that a vast quantity of goth girls may have had an impact on my attention span. To my eternal shame I didn’t make strenuous efforts to see Wire.

live at thee circus

We all piled down the front for Psychic TV though, and eyed up the rest of the crowd. Genesis P-Orridge came on in a Siouxsie wig. Jokes! This gig was later released as part of the PTV series of live LPs and it sounds like a pretty good psychedelic freak out to these ears. There’s stuff on the net suggesting the Chaz Jankel was laying keyboards for them. Really? How did that happen?

The Fall were brilliant – John Peel had been caning their album “Bend Sinister” since it came out, so I was well up to speed with tracks like “Lucifer Over Lancashire”, “Hey Luciano” and “Mr Pharmacist”. I guess the line up included Brix Smith on keyboards and all that. I’ve never been obsessed with The Fall but have always had a healthy arms-length appreciation of them.

banshees

The first time I ever heard Siouxsie and The Banshees was during an especially dull Christmas visit to my grandparents in Weymouth. Actually that’s probably uncharitable of me, because they took us all into their home even when I would have been a snotty 14 year old. I’m sure I got some good presents as well.

But after that it seemed like nothing was happening and it was all really polite. For an eternity, like that Tony Hancock show about a Sunday afternoon. We went out for a walk. Somewhere, somebody was playing “Dear Prudence” really loudly. It echoed around the streets, filling the dead air with life and energy.

But this gig was four years on from that. The Banshees had just done their covers album “Through The Looking Glass” and were still touring their “Tinderbox” LP of original material (including the single “Cities In Dust” which I doubt many people remember, but it was pretty good pop-goth with BIG EIGHTIES STUDIO SOUNDS).

The well-worn formula of teenage drinking has eroded any trace of recollection of their set, so I am guessing it was passable but not especially good or bad. According to this link they did a bunch of older material, so I expect we were all pretty chuffed with that.

We got the tube back to Kings Cross and I sat there proudly with my SMILE “SAY NO TO DEMOCRACY” centrespread open on my lap. A woman next to me giggled about it, which was not the effect I was after.

8 Comments

  1. I saw Siouxsie and the Banshees around that time at an open air concert in Boston, USA. Julian cope was on first and I arrived half way through his set before being blown away by Siouxsie. One of the best stage performances I have seen but I can’t remember exactly when it was (I know it was between 1985 and 1990).

  2. well, I just like the idea of a supertent, though I read it first as superted…

    tents ARE super, aren’t they? (if a little camp etc)

    never heard that PTV set but there are 2 tracks from the Jack The Tab album on there? Would’ve liked to see how they panned out…

  3. Sharon – yeah I wouldn’t mind seeing it all again myself, actually!

    Ian – yeah I still reckon they can pull it off these days judging by a live set I saw on the telly a while back of “The Creatures” doing some mininmal percussive biz with Siouxsie over the top…

    Loki – just to confuse matters the live LP combines tracks from this with the ’88 Astoria gig, I think that’s where the jack the tab stuff hails from – more on that gig anon, of course!

  4. For the one of me (or maybe more) that might be interested… Skidmarks was a business originally set up by both me and John Flush (not his real surname) on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. But once the £40 a week subsidy from the government ran out, I was out of it and John carried on in partnership with his girlfriend Claire…. But we also all had a band together, me on guitar, John on bass and Claire siinging (as Dolly Zippy), and various drummers but ending up with our best one Ade L. Vice (from Community Copyart). And yes, we did songs with titles including both Towards A Gay Communism and Say No To Democracy! But I think we only ever played friend’s party’s and my art openings… It was a strange but fabulous time. Very funny to read your take on it… I saw Wire, The Banshees and The Fall more than once back in the 1970s and PTV at their first gig only….. Gaye Bykers where after my time….. But sounds like you had a top day out….

  5. Pingback: UNCARVED.ORG BLOG » BLOG ARCHIVE » THE TWENTIETH GIG I CAN REMEMBER GOING TO

  6. This was my first ever gig. I hardly slept in the few weeks running up to it, I was so excited. It was terrifying, stinking and thrilling, well it was to a 14 year old anyway. I think in retrospect the Banshees were probably a bit ropey, but I didn’t notice or mind at the time. The Fall were great, and Wire were too – performing their whole set in brilliant white light, i remember – I’ve been a massive Wire fan ever since. I wish I’d seen Big Black the night before, but it would be another year or two before I heard of them.

Comments are closed.