the sixteenth 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”.


16. Suicide, Spacemen 3, Into A Circle, 999. Town & Country Club, 13th December 1987.

It was cold. Sign on the door of the T&C: “Unfortunately 999 will not be appearing tonight”. The general consensus in the queue was that this was fine by everyone. I associated 999 with the uncreative dregs of punk, purely because their logo (a raffle ticket) appeared on the back of leather jackets alongside the Anti-Nowhere League, Exploited and all those other bands I could never be arsed to check out.

So an odd choice for the lineup, but perhaps not as odd as Showaddywaddy supporting Einsturzende Neubauten around the same time. Which I missed out of guilt at my exam fuck ups. Bah. I suppose this gig was like an early xmas present to myself. I think I probaby went along with either Chris (an old school mate) and/or Martin (a mad Ramones fan I had hooked up with doing resits).

Into A Circle were on a psychedelic/pop/goth tip. They had evolved out of Getting The Fear, who had in turn spawned from Southern Death Cult. Bee, their singer, had some connections with Psychic TV which obviously piqued my interest. Their single “Forever” had been on the Chart Show and was pretty good. They had some nice collages as projections and tapes of flowing water between songs.

I picked up some leaflets from the stall and found you could order some demo tapes and collage artwork off them. They also had a pseudo-TOPY magickal group associated with them called “The Game” if I remember rightly. I ordered some tapes and a collage. The former was pretty good and even had a recording off them at the end talking about financial arrangements for a gig. The collage arrived in a clipframe which smashed into a million pieces in the post (it was just in a regular jiffy bag).

There was  buzz about In To A Circle, but they didn’t really get anywhere. Bee was rumoured to be the source of PTV’s “why don’t you just enjoy your own fucking body” vocal sample, taken from an answerphone message. (The other story I heard was that it was the bloke from Bomb The Bass.)

“1987 and all I want to do is get stoned
All I want for you to do is take my body home.”

Spacemen 3 were excellent. I’d first heard them on Peel (he’d faded a 25 minute track of theirs in and out a few times in between other records). I suppose the Spacemen were the flipside of the Butthole Surfers in the eighties psych revival. Dreamy gentle drones and some almost-pop songs with choruses vs the Surfers balls-out chaotic rock. I saw Spacemen 3 a good few times and they were always completely brilliant. They often finished up by taping down several keys on their synth and leaving this huge cavernous drone running. I’ve never really bothered with Spiritualised, though.

As I pointed out in a previous episode, I spent a large chunk of the summer of 1987 rinsing valve casings in paraffin:

  1. Pick up one casing in each hand from the dirty pile on the left.
  2. Rinse in small vat of paraffin.
  3. Place carefully in the clean pile on the right.
  4. Repeat.

To help pass the time I’d think about the records I was going to play when I got home. It only helped a bit, I was completely isolated without anyone to talk to and was probably going a bit mental. Possibly the actual records I was listening to didn’t help very much. “Industrial Music For Industrial People” sounds very evocative if you’re on the dole or in an office, I guess.

One of the records I was caning was the first Suicide LP:

“Frankie teardrop
Twenty year old Frankie
He’s married he’s got a kid
And he’s working in a factory

He’s working from seven to five
He’s just trying to survive
well lets hear it for Frankie
Frankie Frankie”

I probably tried to kid myself that I was having a really hard time of it like Frankie but the reality was that I was living with my Mum and Dad and was spending virtually everything I earned on records and gigs. But that Suicide LP is perfect – from the lush ambience of “Cherie” to the timeless astro-rockabilly of “Johnny”, it really has it all. The debut has been a staple of my late night listening for the last 22 years. In fact it is so perfect that I have studiously avoided hearing anything else by Suicide in case it detracts from my enjoyment of them.

They were awesome live. Martin Rev (basically Dr Teeth from the Muppet Show in a squatted space station) and Alan Vega (one of them androids out of Blade Runner channeling the ghost of Elvis) ruled the stage like they were a 32 piece ensemble. I’m not sure if Suicide or Sparks can claim to be the first synthpop duo but Rev held it tight, barely moving from his minimal equipment, yet conjuring up walls of incredibly rich sound. Vega prowled the stage, every inch the superstar.

Such was the iconic minimalism of the Suicide schtick that Vega decided they’d make up a song for the encore. How cool is that?

This was a Sunday night gig, so I think the place was half full. That didn’t stop me getting completely immersed in it all…


  1. well annoyed that i missed Neubauten with Showaddywaddy. the Neubauten gigs i did see were inspiring. didnt get to see Suicide till late 90’s (with Mouse on Mars ?) when they just seemed tired and obvious

  2. I saw Neubaten , I think with the Birthday Party. All distance memories now, but I believe the gig was stopped by the concert promoters/hall management when Neubaten used a chainsaw, drills and hammers to cut up and break up the stage.

  3. If memory serves, the Neubauten gig took place at the ICA in the mid-eighties, I guess the ICA management draw a line across the free expression of art when it involves someone chopping up the stage with a chain-saw…collapsing new art venues anyone?… It’s strange looking back at how “violent” some of the gigs were “back in the day”. Sometimes they were zones of physical violence…early eighties punk gigs, especially going to see Crass, Flux, Conflict et al, I remember multiple incidents of violence either with the far right skins or with the police (and sometimes both). Or there was the “symbolic violence” of seeing the early Psychic TV events (too young for TG sadly) and the other “industrial” artists like Neubauten, Test Dept and SPK (the early multi-media library of autopsy/executions/riot/S&M footage were the staple images of that time)..and sometimes it crossed over, I remember the singer of SPK at the Leadmill in Sheffield wielding a ten foot long chain above the audience’s heads in a symbolic display that turned a tad ugly or an early Jesus & Mary Chain gig that was mayhem…
    Now we live in a world where filmed executions and ultra hardcore S&M are but a click away and where the Control mosaic has appropriated the image of violence to a degree never before imagined (the half a mile tall twin towers vanishing before our eyes in the free-fall of 17 seconds played endlessly as the image replaces the language of ideology and the rhetoric of power)….I imagine its hard these days for an artist to genuinely shock and/or be so dangerous to the State and/or culture that violence swirls around them a la Crass…anyway, good to see you are still writing after all these years!

  4. I have studiously avoided hearing anything else by Suicide in case it detracts from my enjoyment of them.

    Yeah, I get a bit like that with bands/albums too! BUT, I would recommend the second Suicide album (which I put off checking out for ages). It’s a lot more polished than the first, tho seems pointless comparing them as they’re quite sonically different…quite sleazy in places…and still a few years ahead of what the English and Germans were doing with electro at the time.

  5. Paul, I was at the Neubaten gig and many others in the late 70’s, where audience members risked a severe kicking, either from skinheads,or else from the more idiotic kind of ‘punk’ from the Sham 69 end of the scale, who weren’t punks in the intelligent sense of that word, but rather people looking for any chance to get out of it and enjoy some violence.

    Your other points are good too, that real,merciless violence is so close these days, as in the Gaza massacre — that making a thing of ‘symbolic’ and ‘arty’ or hyped record label violence a la JAMC, is just absurd.

    And on that point, I will get willfully propagandistic, and add a link to the Goldstone report, in which it is made clear by UN investigations, that the Palestinians were walled into a ghetto,starved,humiliated,stopped from escaping, and then 1,400 of their number were systematically slaughtered.

    One Israeli soldier said of the slaughter “You felt like a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants,”

    14 Israelis died — some of that number from friendly fire.

    Watch Chapter 11 of the Goldstone Report here —

    Chapter 11 is the central one here — And I add the link here because it’s more important than bass lines and ‘chunes’, and grime, and dubstep,and rock and roll, and Neubaten gigs and silly skinheads wanting to beat up kids in 1979.

    Peace and love !

  6. On another point in connection with Paul’s good points about violence in ‘art’ and ‘music’ — it seems to me to also be a self centred, narccisstic, cathartic, therapeutic exercise,and often just seems absurd now — in art, I am thinking of people like Marina Abramovich, whose self centredness seems without bounds ( though I have to admit to being someone who once liked her early work ), and I am also thinking of people who just seem plain silly now, for their self publicising actions, such as ‘beating up’ audience members, or , as I remember one sleeve note page said about Nick Cave, that he sometimes ‘rained down blows’ on his audience’s head. And there is that embarrasing footage of Henry Rollins smashing a hapless teenager in the head repeatedly — from high above him, on the stage of course.

    These people look like idiots now — to think people I knew once thought them ‘cool’. Henry Rollins just looks like a right wing GI.

    Whew, rock and roll eh? Can’t beat it for a self serving circus.

  7. I wrote “it’s more important than bass lines and ‘chunes’, and grime, and dubstep,and rock and roll, and Neubaten gigs and silly skinheads wanting to beat up kids in 1979.”

    Eeerrrr, sorry Mr. Eden, I wasn’t taking taking a weasel worded shot at your obvious love of bass lines ( on your blog, no less ) — I love ’em too, very much. I just feel exhausted with anger and sadness after watching that Goldstone Report link.

    Love and light; keep fighting against the darkness and the devils that dwell therein.




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