the fifteenth 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”.

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.

The Dave Howard Singers were most famous for their indie chart hit “Yon Yonson”. I have previously written about them here and the Yon Yonson backstory here.

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:


  1. I saw Swans a number of times between 1987 and 1993 and they were always very intense. The best show I remember was in Middlesbrough when they were touring the White Light from the Mouth of Infinity LP. They had 3 acoustic guitarists and the music was much more gentle and folk based, but the songs were great and the performance was raw.
    I’m looking forward to hearing any new stuff they do.

    The Sugarcubes were a great live band too! What a great line up this night was.

  2. Yeah I was there. Was the last gig before leaving UK (I believe 2-3 days after). The car had been sold for about a fiver, so we didn’t drive up.
    Certainly was loud, but not quite as the ULU show in 1986 with Mark Stewart (!!) on the bill. That was seriously the loudest situation I have ever found myself in, with the the near full hall being reduced to about 20 freaks. Nothing has come close since.
    Those records Cop, Greed, Holy Money…. are really the only rock records anyone needs to owm.

    Next day was that massive storm.

  3. pr – ah right! I wasn’t sure about the chronology and had forgotten about the storm.

    dub – yeah I read that, not sure if it will be noise or folk or both?

    Mr Tear – thanks for dropping by! I think this is the only Swans gig I’ve been at.


  5. I’ve had “Cop” for a little while now BUT I remember picking up “Children of God” when it came out in the Our Price in Windsor and deciding against it – sticking it back in the racks.

    If you bought a bad LP in those days, and it seemed much easier to do, it was a real bum trip. I only just bought a copy of it last week! Funny coincidence your reminiscences.

  6. Swans at Reading Festival circa their Burning World pop phase is one of my favourite ever gigs… a drenched, barefoot Gira singing Let It Come Down and the rain just hammering down after him…

  7. I caught them a few times during my “american bands are far more interesting than anything going around at the moment” mid-eighties phase..glad I did now, happy memories of Black Flag, Bad Brains, Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth (did the first and second tour, even the Brighton Beach gig lol) and of course the Swans..without a doubt the loudest gig I ever attended (and I have seen Motorhead a few times, Psychic TV, early Jesus & Mary Chain and a few other artists renowned for their decibal infractions) was at Nottingham venue in gods, when I think back I can still remember the feeling as my molecular structure vibrated…people talk about feeling sound, it felt like a sonic avalanche..astonishing.

    The only other time I remember being physically “hit” by sound was at a PTV gig during the Godstar tour in Sheffield when they hit a particular tone and all of a sudden that was it!… it felt like ten minutes were missing, I remember the whole audience was dazed and shaking their heads as though “what the fuck just happened?”..I know they were researching sub-sonic ELF/ULF sounds since the TG days so I guess by 85 or 86, Genesis Bryer P.Orridge had the sonics sorted. Still one of the strangest non-drug experiences ever.

    So the Swans are reforming too? I guess post-net its inevitable that everyone will eventually reform like some weird sonic omega point where the musical novelty wave approaches vertical status…hey I’m not knocking it, be good to see the Swans again..after all, Time Is Money(Bastards..speaking of legendary reforms, check the Goblin footage on Youtube in Paris 2009….awe-inspiringly cosmic.

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