This event is 39 years old and obviously the few memories i have of this are jaded to say the least!im not quite sure if we had tickets or it was a pay on the door,but one thing is you had to be signed in,this was of course back in the days when the “students” where all a bit elitist,ie you had to be one to drink cheap cider in the students union bar even tho you had put fuck all in to the system,all that type of shit,keeping the riff raff out type of thing,it was a nightmare and as a 14 year old you can only stand being told to fuck off so many times,the thing with the students around that time was it was there kind of music circuit which was basically for them and nobody else like i mentioned earlier an elite club,so there we where me and jimmy and im not sure who else was with us,standing around trying our hardest when the man himself paul weller came walking down the steps in a parka,we managed to grab him and have a word about getting us in,but no chance there was nowt he could do as there was loads on the guest list,somehow one by one we managed to get in, and assemble at the bottom of the steps that went upto the concert hall,i remember there being a table selling tee shirts and stuff but not purchasing anything at all,on getting to the door that lead into the concert hall i can clearly remember the sound of patrik fitzgerald banging away on his guitar the song “safety pin stuck in my heart” i think we worked our way down to the front as all 14 year olds would do at the time! and next up where the dickies a great band from america who played everything at 100MPH, i already knew both artists from the peel show,so they where another 2 added to my slowly growing list of bands i had seen.So showtime and to this day i can hardly remember anything about the jam playing this night, it was the 1st time i had ever seen the jam and hardly anything i can remember!One thing is, i went in as a 14 year big jam fan but came out a massive jam fan,this gig along with a few others put me on to a lifetime of listening to this great band and paul weller solo stuff and the style council and the future recordings of bruce foxton and rick buckler,why post this you may ask? well it’s 39 years to the day that i saw this band which changed everything in my life after coming out of the now demolished sheffield polytechnic building things where different,these events in life may not really be important to a lot of us,however over the next 4 years i went on to see the jam 25 times,along that way i had some truly great times,met some great lads and lasses,and of course watched a truly great band just get better and better,would i swap this event for anything? NO! in fact i won’t swap any of the 25 times i saw the jam,probably not even to see the pistols who are the only one of my favourite bands ive never got to see.
As usual our bible of the time,The NME (New Musical Express) announced a Jam tour and as usual my mates and I got our heads together and decided to do a few dates mainly to venues we hadn’t been to before, as luck would have it i was due some holidays from work, tickets all sorted by the usual SAE And Cheque method, no booking fees back in those days! As I had 2 weeks off work i made the most of it and went to a few gigs on this tour and saw a few other bands as well.
1981 is a hell of a long time ago 36 years if we are going to be precise and my recollections of these times are hazy to say the least, however they where good times.Apart from getting the tickets, which was easy it was how do we get there? None of us could drive yet so it was going to be the train, I was 17 and this was the first time I had ever been on a train, along with my 2 best mates at the time jimmy and John we where joined with andy a mate from work, Andy was a year or so older then us and was a good lad who loved his music and was a big Stranglers and joy division fan, I’m glad to say I’m still mates with him 36 years later, I reckon jimmy booked the train as he was good at that sort of thing, if it had been left to me we would have ended up in Inverness or somewhere.
Somehow we had got to discussing getting to Skegness a few weeks before and what I can remember was one of the lads reckoned he could ride a bike to Skegness rather than use the train, Steve was a bit of a lad, always stage diving at gigs, mad as a hatter, but a great lad who again loved his music,and over the years he learnt to play both bass and lead guitar pretty well and played in quite a few bands, but sheffield to Skegness on a bike? It’s a long way even in a car, I’m sure he borrowed some standard bike no gears at all, my memory is telling me it was a kids bike which would be about right for Steve, I seem to recall he set off on the Thursday and basically just pointed his bike in the direction of Lincolnshire and fair play to him on doing it as I didn’t have a clue in which direction Skegness was.Saturday morning and we are on the platform at Sheffield Midland station waiting for our train, I’m nervous, I’ve never been on a train before and I’ve got a thousand and one things running through my head, will we be on the right train? Will it crash? Does it go fast? John is winding me up even more, he can’t believe I’ve never been on a train, at 17 I had never ventured anywhere, my parents never took me anywhere, anytime soon I’m going to clip John, he’s my best mate but he’s pushing his luck! Our train pulls up and there’s a few more assorted mods and Herbert’s boarding the train so it eases my worry of getting on the wrong train, there’s a gap between the train and platform of around 4 inch so I take a running jump and leap across this bottomless void and I land halfway across the carriage I turn and look around and my mates are falling about laughing at me along with most of the people in the carriage, “you where lucky there Pete, none of us have a rope to pull you back up if you had fallen thru that 4 inch gap” jimmy tells me as he wipes the tears from his eyes, I shuffle down the train taking it all in, I’m looking in the various cabins as I make my way down the carriage,in those days most of the carriages had a long corridor with cabins off to one side that sitted 6 or 8 people unlike today where most train carriages are open with seats facing both ways. We settle down and the train leaves and after a while I wonder why the train is going backwards, it’s then that I realise I’m sitting with my back to the engine, I’m just about to say something about it but decide not to purely as more piss taking will ensue, we pull in at various stations and various shady characters get on all looking like they are heading to the same destination as us.We get talking to some lads from Mansfield and we all swap stories of bands we’ve seen and different jam concerts we’ve been to, cans of beer duly arrive and our carriage party is in full swing .We pull into Boston station and change trains for Skegness, it was a mixture of mods, skinheads, punks and families all going to skegvegas for there own variation of the bucket and spade tour, we eventually arrive at skeggy train station and we make our way up into the town centre, now I’m not sure if we had booked a B&B but we end up in one on the corner where the clock tower is,and bang across the road from the seafront and the pavilion, huge added bonus of a pub next door as well!
We are all in the same room and there’s 2 single beds and 1 double and I cop for the double with andy, John and jimmy snigger at us and try there hardest to wind myself and Andy up with gay jokes etc,which are duly noted and filed away until my moment comes. A quick wash and brush up and change of clothes and we are in the chippy next to the pub, this is what we came for, there’s hundreds of jam fans and mods mulling around, there’s small groups of scooters arriving laden down with overnight bags and tents strapped to luggage racks, the pub below us has its patio doors open and “tubestation” is blasting out,we sit on the wall outside chips in one hand, lager in the other,the jam in the background, does life get any better than this? (I was only 17!!) We got chatting to some lads from Lincoln who had hung around the pavilion whilst the band’s equipment was being set up and they are going back over later for the sound check so we decided to do the same, I always hung around for the soundchecks when I was a teenager, I wagged school a lot around the ages of 14-16 I just loved that hanging around and watching bands soundcheck, hopefully getting to chat to the bands, all the times I got in I never encountered any nastiness from bands and roadies to fans who at times could get in the way, bands where on that level with fans, punk rock got rid of all that “aloofness ” We decide to have a wander around and go across to the pavilion and see what’s happening, this is where my memory starts to play tricks on me and I’m struggling to put things in order, we made the soundcheck and also copped for a brucey bonus as we bumped into Rick Buckler in a bar on what remained of Skegness pier, like the “chicken and egg” scenario I’m unsure if we went to the soundcheck first and bumped into rick later, or the other way round?
Common sense would tell me any musician would soundcheck first then go for a beer later, we played the state of the art video games (rather badly in my case) pinball machines (rather good in my case) lost money on the slots and bumped into rick! Along with a few more jam fans we had a chat with rick who was quite willing to chat to this bunch of teenagers which steadily grew in size, I can remember one lad asking where Paul was and his answer was “probably on the dodgems with his dad ” which brought quite a few laughs and giggles from everybody especially ricks mates, where divisions already setting in back in 1981? One of ricks entourage politely declared drummers question time over and everybody went away with a smile on there face. How would the same scenario look here in 2017? Loads of “selfies” fucking Facebook check ins, texting and ringing mates “guess who I’m with?” Tweeting etc, and that’s if you’ve not been told to do one by some self important minion! It was definitely simpler times last century!
From memory there was quite a gathering of excited lads and lasses who charged into Skegness pavilion on that Saturday afternoon when the doors where flung open for the soundcheck, Paul as ever looking the style icon dressed in sky blue trousers, blue bowling shoes, black Fred Perry and a white denim jacket and longer hair,Bruce more casual in jeans and sweatshirt, rick in jeans and tubestation tee shirt, the hundred or so lads and lasses got treated to an hour or so of snippets from the nights set list, that’s all I can remember apart from the band finishing up and signing autographs before floating to the nearest bar or the dodgems.
Somewhere between this point and the gig we got talking to 4 lads from Sheffield who i think had been on our train, over the next couple of years I became best friends with 2 of these characters doing lots of gigs and spending a lot of time on West Street and in particular The limit club, again I’m proud to say I’m still friends with one of these lads, following The Jam back then created many friendships and nearly 40 years on they are still creating new friendships of like minded souls who gladly have a story or two to swap about “the best F**king band in the world ”
The evening started off back in the bar next door to our beds for the night,which again was rammed with Ben Shermans,Fred Perry’s, boating jackets, the odd parka, lads in suits, girls in sixties dresses, the odd punk or two, jam tunes blasting out again amongst a healthy mixture of Mod Revival bands such as purple Hearts and the chords, a great singalong to “Time For Action ” with all the pub shouting “Wankerrrrrrr” as the record faded out ( turn the volume up at the end) some 2 tone sneaked it’s way in between some Small Faces and The Who records, such a great atmatmosphere, that’s what being a teenager was about then, that’s what I miss from those days, I can’t see it happening now, the mobile phone and (anti) Social media killed all that, we are all a bit tipsy by now, at 17 we where still at entry level drinking so we decided to make our way across to the pavilion and catch the support, and that’s about all I can remember of that night! A mixture of alcohol and adolescent excitement wiped the memory banks of that night, I can’t remember the support bands but I can remember at one stage being down the front and soaking wet with sweat bouncing away with teenage adrenaline to Eton Rifles and not giving a fuck actually! Towards the end of the set we made our Way to the back of the hall gasping for breath and needing a drink desperately, what I do remember is as we made our way out into the cool seaside air Andy egging me on about a girl at my side eyeing me up and saying something about her night would be complete if she got to meet a nice mod boy as she stared at me, I never got the hint really and Andy gave me some stick about “how much on a plate do you want it”? I’m not not ashamed even now at 53 to say that I was one nieve teenager, or just an innocent one?
We went back to the pub buzzing and full of ourselves over the concert, the pub filled up quickly with hot and thirsty teenagers downing pints at a rapid pace, everybody going over different parts of the concert with voices raised above the sound of the music being played, soon there was kids dancing on the tables outside and one lad got everybody singing acapella style to Eton Rifles, it was such a fantastic night but it had to end,1981 had licencing hours back then and it was last orders, across the road was a nightclub and a fair few made it over and up the stairs, we swerved it and retired to our B&B exhausted but having again had the time of our lives , I had loads more weekends out like this over the next few years be it concerts, scooter rallies or football, in fact some of the best times in my life.
The next day we dragged our arses out of bed and made our way home, a quick jaunt along the beach and a few photographs and it’s homeward bound changing at Boston for Nottingham for sheffield! We sat around the station with our new mates and other rather subdued lads who had been to the concert, addresses and phone numbers exchanged and “see you Wednesday in Leicester ” and other cities could be heard. Over the next couple of weeks I went to 3 more The Jam concerts, I caught The Teardrop Explodes a couple of times as well during those 2 weeks, I wasnt home much but that’s what being 17 was like during the early 80s there was so much music going around.
Over the years I’ve seen many bands, my memory has never been great recalling the hundreds of concerts I’ve been to, 25 times I’ve seen the jam and there’s not much I remember, mates I’ve been with have filled me in on details, my photographs have added pieces to the jigsaw I form around every concert , we all see things in different ways and interpret them in our own way so there’s never a true account of events. At the start I mentioned our mate Steve betting he could ride a bike to Skegness, setting out on Thursday he made it by Saturday morning! He slept in bushes, fell off a few times and got a lift the last few miles by a van load of mods from Coventry who he ended up drinking with all weekend, we saw him around early evening on Saturday but the next time I saw him was back in Sheffield 4 days later, and to this day i don’t know how he got home!!
The first records I bought where in the spring and summer of 1977, David Bowie’s sound and vision single and Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Fanfare For The Common Man, slowly I got hooked on the new punk sounds that where now appearing on our TVs, Radio’s and the nations press,I started discovering radio and although it was limited as to what was being played I slowly became a follower of radio one’s Saturday rock show and later I discovered a life changing late night show and in glorious stereo,namely the John Peel Show,(more to follow)
The Saturday rock show was as its title suggests a rock show, however slowly but surely punk and new wave records slowly starting appearing, here I heard The Clash for the first time,with White Riot in BBC session mode getting a serious playing, XTC and the stranglers also seemed popular, A record that really stuck out for me that was played a lot was Dr Feelgoods Roxette, great big bass guitar, wilkos scratchy rhythm guitar riffs and blasting harmonica, this record had everything.
Over the coming months I bought singles and albums, dinner money saved all week and off to town on Saturday to buy records, up until this time I was all football, all my school mates where the same,anything else was not entertained, slowly I saw less and less of my mates as I spent more time listening to records and reading the music papers about all these great new bands and great music, at times I thought I was the only person in school who liked punk music, of course there was the rockers with there denim jackets covered in led Zeppelin and status quo patches but not for me was any of that!
The First ever album I bought was The Jam This Is The Modern World, Quickly followed by The Ramones Rocket to Russia, followed by Ian Dury New Boots And Panties, then I got a bit Daring and went all pub
and bought Graham Parker And The Rumour Stick To Me, Various singles as well, The Jam The Modern World, The Stranglers Peaches, Sex Pistols, Pretty Vacant, I then back tracked and bought all the first punk singles such as the Damned New Rose, The Clash White Riot, Complete Control,Generation X My Generation, Grip by the stranglers, early Elvis Costello singles such as Alison, Less then Zero and Watching the detectives, I discovered The Buzzcocks, and The Saints purely by flicking through every single in the punk section in virgin records, there just seemed to be great records coming out every week, and as a 13 year I had limited money! I was steadily building up a nice record collection and adding all the time to it, somehow I discovered that Debenhams had a music section and would have boxes full of ex chart singles and records that hadnt sold all at really low prices, over the next few months I regularly plundered this goldmine of vinyl with great success.
The life changing event from this period of my life happened as most things do, purely by accident, Christmas 1977 and I’m up late and as far as I can remember I was flicking through the channel’s on the music centre and I came upon The Lurkers Shadow, clear as a bell in glorious FM Stereo, wondering what it was I sat and listened until the record ended and the voice of the DJ appeared singing the praises of the record and then introducing another punk record in some kind of top 50 that I was certain had never appeared on Top Of The Pops! What I had found was the John Peel Show and his festive 50, I stuck a Tape in pressed record and for the next 10 years or so I was hooked, over the next 2/3 days I wished the fingers on the clock around to 10.o’clock and armed with cassette tapes I recorded just about every record peely played.
To Be Continued!!!!
Here’s one of my oldest badges,and one of my favourite pieces of punk memorabilia, back in 1978 I filled up on breakfast and stuffed my pockets with crisps and chocolate to keep me going thru the school day, carefully saving my dinner money until the weekend so i could venture into town to buy the latest singles and the odd album, one of these was All Mod Cons the break through album by The Jam.
I spent hours in my bedroom playing this record, flipping the record over constantly, on each play I had a new favourite song, I knew all the words, I would lay on my bed reading the lyrics and singing along to each and every song, the inside sleeve with its illustration of the scooter, the references to The Who, the Ska LP,the Union jack badges,coffee bars,Tamla Motown records,London,school crests,photos of the band live, it was a truly great collage, the lyrics over the top of the cut away illustrations of the Vespa GS Scooter, not that I knew at the time was the ultimate Mod Scooter.
All this a throwback to the mid sixties a time when I was just making my debut into the wide world, a culture of cool clothes,great music,great bands and just looking great and wanting something different from the norm! I was drawn to the Jam badges on the cover,and as a 14 year with an active mind and a thirst for music and everything to do with the jam I had to have one of these badges!!
So I wrote a letter to Paul Weller, 38 years ago,most of my life away,I put pen to paper, I presume I wrote to polydor records,” dear Paul, love the album,where can I get these badges? ” etc etc ” I’m not sure how long it was but one day I came home from school, “there’s a letter come for you” my mum said, looking at me totally amazed, I had forgotten all about writing to Weller by this time,the franking on the letter stated Polydor records W1 I was in it Like a shot!”dear Pete I have sent you 2 badges you asked about, however the David Watts badges where promotion badges only and have all gone hope these are OK” signed Paul Weller ! Those are the few words I can remember, and it was written on long forgotten hotel notepaper
Fucking hell! I sat and read the letter over and over again, just couldn’t believe it, I rang my mates up and soon we where all gathered round in my bedroom passing the letter around,everyone wanting to be my new best mate, hoping I would give them the other badge! This little item started me on collecting everything to do with the jam, over the next 4 years I collected badges, every magazine and newspaper article,posters,photos, tee shirts, I made scrapbooks, I saved my gig tickets, anything and everything.
As for the 2nd badge? well we all have those moments when it was “a good idea at the time” I swapped it with my best mate for a ben Sherman shirt, I cant for the life think what colour or style it was now,but if he still has it then the value far outweighs the value of the shirt now! As for the letter? well no idea what happened to it, and my scrapbooks filled with cuttings etc, even now at 52 years old I know that as a teenager I would never have thrown them away, years ago my parents where adamant that they didn’t get rid, so maybe one day soon a search thru my parents loft may shed some light on them still existing!