I ended up signing on at the local Higher Education College to study for ‘A’ Level resits a year later. Having done a round of visits to Universities and Polys I’d had a taste of student life and was all the more keen to get my head down and escape work and my parents for another few years.
Physics had been my worst failure – a “U” grade (Unclassified) indicating that I was now worse than when I’d passed a physics ‘O’ level two years previously. I tried to swap it for Philosophy, but nobody else wanted to take that, so I plumped for Psychology instead.
My other two subjects were retakes of Maths and Chemistry. On reflection I should have torn everything up and started from scratch.
College was a breath of fresh air after school – there were girls there and the staff mostly treated you like adults. My classmates were in the same situation as me – people who had screwed up their exams and were giving it another go. People who had learnt a bit of humility.
I responded quite well to all this regime initially and got my head down. This meant less gigs, not least because everyone I used to go out with had fucked off to a better life somewhere else. Wal had headed for Manchester, Peter had jammily managed to set himself up in Vienna. And so on.
I can’t really remember, but I might have gone to this by myself:
15. SWANS, Dave Howard Singers, The Sugarcubes. Town & Country Club, 14th October 1987.
Something of a dream line up, really. The Sugarcubes were of course “Bjork’s band”, evolving out of Icelandic anarchopunks Kukl. There was quite a buzz around them and I think this might have been their first or second London gig.
They were pretty upbeat and poppy and odd, especially in terms of banter. I guess it seemed obvious that they weren’t going to remain a support band for very long.
To quote myself: “Much madness ensued as Dave ran around the stage with his acetone on a wheelchair. He also dragged some unsuspecting guy out of the audience to do a keyboard solo.”
SWANS had just released their “Children of God” double album. This was a turning point for the group as it combined the brutal sludgy minimalism of their previous work with the more folksy material which was to come.
I’d been fed tidbits of gossip about their previous live shows – people running out with hands over their ears, lots of stuff getting thrown, that sort of thing. This was also really really LOUD. Apparently some poor punter kept falling over because the sound messed up the balance control in his inner ear. The noise aspect has inspired some wimp at Uncut to rate this as one of the worst gigs ever. Pah!
It was pretty intense. Pounding. Gira was possessed. And he had a rug. A large rug covering most of the stage, which allowed him to pace up and down barefoot, wearing a thong. Intoning balefully. He stuck his arse in the first few rows of the audience. I don’t really know why.
It was hot and sweaty and a crowd surfer managed to dislodge my specs, which then got trampled under the feet of other audience members. I managed to retrieve them. They needed some serious attention from an optician the day after – she seemed pretty impressed with my account of the gig. As was I.
You used to be able to buy “Time Is Money(Bastard)” t-shirts in Carnaby Street. They were grey shirts with the text and iconic dollar sign in purple if I remember rightly. Not wanting to antagonise my Mum and more than I had already, I plumped for a “Greed” one instead with a nice gold dollar sign on it.
Peter went one better by acquiring a “Public Castration Is A Good Idea” shirt which caused our boss some consternation when we worked alongside each other in some shit temp job at a warehouse.
I don’t think I fancied any of the shirts at the gig, though, possibly because I was skint or more probably because I didn’t want to be wearing anything with “Children of God” written on it. I do seem to recall having this poster on my bedroom wall at some point, though: