Monday, 16 April 2012

The March Violets

Of all the gigs I paid to see in Leeds back in 1983, the best value by far must have been a triple bill on May 14th at the legendary Riley Smith Hall at the Uni. U2 proteges The Alarm, promoting their latest single "Marching On", which they played twice that night, were the headliners, with Mike Peters' combo touted as the new Clash in the more easily excitable quarters of the music press. The Alarm had been support on some of U2's recent "War" tour but The Nightcaps did the honours for the Leeds Uni refectory show some two months earlier.
The main attraction for most local music aficianados however were the other two bands on the bill that night, The Three Johns and The March Violets, both vying with the Sisters in the indie charts at that time and featuring the distinctive Leeds drum machine sound. The Three Johns featured (and still do) ex-Mekon Jon Langford on guitar who had played with the Sisters for some very early live shows but now kick-started (literally) the pedal-operated drum machine track that was the backline to the Three Johns live sound,with singer John Hyatt's Lydonesque croon soaring melodically over the scattered shards of Langford's jagged chords. This was the time of their more indie rock second single "Pink Headed Bug" ("I was a pink headed bug, crawling up the side of the City Hall") which brought them greater success than the angry anti-apartheid debut single "English White Boy Engineer", which was also aired that night in an energetic performance which showed why they were to become Indie Chart residents over the next five years. (Incidentally the band are back and touring in 2012 and seem to have lost none of their youthful vigour).
Second on the bill but main focus for many were The March Violets playing a homecoming gig on their Tetragrammaton (goth ? us ??) tour, back in the days when Rosie still shared vocal duties with Simon (think Ben Gunn to Cleo's career-minded Wayne Hussey).  Visually the Violets seemed to be the template for Floodland-era Sisters, Denbigh bearded and full of cock-rock testosterone, Garland the feminine counterpoint. Tom and Loz created a rather diluted version of the Girls' rock beat but which was nevertheless still powerful, and songs such as The Undertow, 1-2 I Love You and Children on Stun all had more impact live than on record. New single Crow Baby and breakthrough hit Grooving in Green were the highlights though, and it seemed as if the band had the potential to go as global as the Sisters already seemed destined to become.
And back in May 1983, three bands of the future for a measly two pouns ticket cost seemed like the bargain of the century - a shame there were only about 250 there !