Tag Archives: stiff Little Fingers

DISCOVERING JOHN PEEL 

In a previous posting i mentioned my introduction to John Peels night time radio 1 show, It was Christmas time and I was up late just playing a few records and flicking through the dial on our newly acquired state of the art music centre, Xmas 1977 I was 13 and i came across this glorious shambolic speeding punk blasting out in fine crystal clear glorious FM Stereo from the speakers, I sat and listened waiting for the end of the song for the DJ to say who it was, the short sharp and extremely good tune came to an end and the dulcet tones of John Peel came across the airwaves announcing I had just listened to Johnny Moped’s”Incendiary Device” and it held some position in a record chart that the 13 year old me had never heard of and certainly would never see either being performed by the band, or Pans People throwing a few shapes whilst dressed in pocket handkerchiefs,high heels and bad timing on good old TOTP. It was followed by more Fabulous tunes, again bands I’d never heard of, they just kept coming and coming, it was Punk tapas, a never ending line of small plates being served up, I was the junkie searching around for a lost stash of drugs, as i frantically looked  for cassettes to record what was cartwheeling out of the speakers, The Lurkers “Shadow ” Sex Pistols “Holidays in the Sun” The Clash “Complete Control” John Cooper Clarke “Suspended Sentence ” The Rezillos  “I can’t stand my baby ” The Motors “Dancing the Night Away ” it was a Thunderbolt of Biblical proportions,  at midnight he announced it would be repeated later in the week, I just couldn’t wait. I went to bed that night buzzing, sleep didn’t come easy, I was making plans for the following night just hoping there was more of the same, that evening 40 years ago had started with my parents watching some Christmas time variety show full of flares and horrendous haircuts, by choosing not to sit with them and watch this “Adult Entertainment ” I had put the radio on by chance and found John Peel, all these years I’ve always believed in chance meetings or spur of the moment decisions can change your life as this certainly did.

Early next morning I was in that limbo state of not asleep but not quite awake, that time lapse of “who, what, where ” am I, that blank period, then the exocet missile hit me between the eyes as my mind slowly coughed farted and crunched into 1st gear, the previous night came kicking the doors down of my teenage memory bank, I reached for the cassette I’d used last night and stuck it in my small “hand me down ” Tape Recorder pressed play and laid back listening to my new found music. Later that morning I was sprinting round to my mates house, cassette squeezed into my jeans pocket as I hopped skipped and jumped over, around and through the puddles on the pavement as I headed for my mates house. 
My mates mother answered the door and I shot up to his  room, I burst in on a slumbering comatose adolescent vampire, blinking and holding his hands to his eyes as I pulled open the curtains to let in this grey damp Christmas 1977 morning “listen to this” I spat out as my shaking hands rammed the cassette into the tape deck laid on the floor, I pressed play and turned the volume up as high as possible, “fucking hell what’s this” he muttered as the morbid monotone voice of John Cooper Clarke reciting the joys of “bring back the rope for everyone ” slowly brought him out of his Xmas slumber, I told him how I found it and what was played the previous evening and it was on again tonight, we grabbed some toast and ventured out into the Xmas gloom, catching a bus to town we bought some cassettes to record that night and then made our way through the Christmas shoppers to Virgin Records at the bottom of the Moor, this was the hang out for all the young punks and rockers and most Tribes back in 77, at times it got tasty with various Tribes slugging it out with each other, we made our way to the punk records and looked for some of the band’s I had recorded the previous night, we came across Cooper Clarke, The Lurkers, a band called the Boys who we hadn’t heard of before who looked pretty punky and The Motors who didn’t look punk but where featured a couple of times in the festive 50, I spied Johnny Moped’s”Incendiary Device” and i just had to have it, I picked it out and paid at the counter and just wanted to get home to play it.


We arrived back at my mates house and put my new single on, now this was bloody class, what a record! the B side “No one” was just as good as the A side, so we played it again and again, we  fiddled with my mates radio to tune it to radio 1 so he could listen later, I floated of home in the gloom of Christmas and stuck my new single on the hifi, my mum was making tea and kept giving me funny looks as I sat in the dining room headphones on rocking backwards and forwards to the sound of the mopeds, I grabbed my tea and shot of to my bedroom amid protests from my parents that I should be sat at the table eating and not laid on my bed, that night I must have checked the clock a thousand times, at one point I swear it was going backwards, just before 10 I made my way towards the kitchen, switched the radio on and sat back and waited, major panic as the intro music was not what I had expected, my fears were eased as the sombre dulcet tones of (my future all time hero) John Peel cut across the airwaves and into my (sweet) suburbia. I was completely mesmerised for the next 2 hours, punk, reggae, and new wave, but also other genres all totally obscure to this 13 year old, I listened every night after that and the following days I would play my ever increasing collection of tapes all filled with his shows.

I also had a well earned “brucey bonus” as 1978 brought along The old Grey Whistle Test into my life, so one night a week I would record peely and sit and watch TOGWT patiently waiting for a punk band to make an appearance in between the rock operas of meat loaf and various other long haired, flared trouser American MOR FM radio rock band, some weeks it was a waste of time, but as punk and new wave took 1978 by the scruff of the neck more and more bands made there racket heard presumably to the displeasure of whispering Bob Harris, that however is another story to tell.

Over the next few years I accumulated hundreds of tape recordings from these shows, my collection of tapes probably documented the changing musical landscape of the late 70s and early 80s, from punk to new wave, post punk, ska revival and 2tone to the burgeoning small label indie scene to the coming of the smiths and early dance such as New Order etc. 

I sort of lost interest around 1983, mainly due to my favourite bands either splitting (The Clash, The Jam) or just going past there sell by date, I still occasionally listened in mostly when I was working nights, I went a long period in the 80s of not buying music or going to concerts, only now have I found music from that period that I missed which If I had carried on with peely I would have had! Live and learn eh! My tapes all ended up being thrown away by my parents around the late 80s along with various other musical gems I had collected over that fantastic period of my life,  when the Internet came along it brought all this great music back, I found loads of John Peel sessions readily available to download and listen to all over again, I went one step further and actually put a lot of what I had downloaded back on cassettes, I went full circle! Thank you Internet!!

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STIFF LITTLE FINGERS THE AVENUE CHESTERFIELD 

A 2nd visit to Chesterfield this year to a new venue recently opened called The Avenue, previously a Rileys Snooker centre (so I was told). The first “proper ” concert i went to was The Tom Robinson Band back in 1978 they where supported by tonight’s band Stiff Little Fingers, billed as a 40th anniversary tour it was a first time ever in Chesterfield for the mighty SLF,the last time I saw them was maybe 5/6 years ago at the plug in Sheffield and overall I’ve seen them 6/7 times over the last 39 years (f**kin ell!) My first time at this venue and I was impressed, fairly wide stage so plenty of opportunities to stand near the front, a balcony looking down at the stage was quite crowded so you had options of which view you could have, huge downside was the bar, at least 10 deep with 4 people serving, 25 minutes before we got served so my mate and I got 2 pints each, maybe the fact that this was probably the first big band they had put on and never expected it to be this busy, so hopefully they get that sorted for this cracking venue.

Jake burns, Ali McMordie on bass, Ian McMallun on guitar and Steve Grantley on drums came bounding on stage and quickly straight into “breakout” minus his singing as it was so distorted “straw Dogs” followed and sound corrected and Mr burns could now be heard quite clearly, dressed in a polka dot shirt and looking rather portly I may add! “Fade away” followed and a quick breather as jake  introduced the next song “my dark places” what I like about jake burns is he always explains his songs, about the backgrounds to them and how he came to write them.

“Safe as houses” “nobody’s hero” “at the edge” followed next then a real oldie in “barbed wire love” and “roots ” then a newish (well this century ) “Strummerville” Jakes tribute to the legend Joe strummer, who was instrumental in the Fingers first footsteps on the punk scene.

The heat is turned up as early classics are played “wasted life” “tin soldiers” and the classic “suspect device ” one of my all time favourite punk records, play it at full blast and hear the anger in his voice, jake burns was well and  truly pissed off with his lot back in 1977, and that’s your lot! We missed the encores due to running for the last bus back to sheffield ( tight gits) but a cracking show none the less, this was no going through the motions, no nostalgia circuit performance, it still means a lot and the songs mean a hell of a lot to this band whether they are last century or this century the Fingers are still as important today as they were back in the days when they came full throttle at you courtesy of John Peel. 

SET LIST 

Breakout
Straw Dogs
Fade away
My dark places
Safe as houses
Nobody’s hero
At the edge
Barbed wire love
Guilty as sin
Roots, radical
Strummerville
We were young
Wasted life
Tin soldiers
Suspect Device
——————
Johnny was
Gotta getaway
Alternative ulster