Saturday, 26 September 2015

Gothic nightmare

Probably the most gothic venue that TSOM ever played at, Middlesbrough Town Hall, was the second stop off on the Spring 84 tour, and Wayne Hussey’s third UK date with the band. The Town Hall, typical of post Industrial Revolution northern civic architecture, was officially opened by the then Prince of Wales in 1889 (the year the Eiffel Tower opened) and was widely regarded as one of the best examples of the French Gothic revival style in Yorkshire. Some ten years prior to the Sisters’ visit in 1984, Middlesbrough had officially ceased to be part of God’s Own County and was at the time of their visit formally part of the new (but subsequently abolished) county of Cleveland.

The Town Hall, which is being lined up for an £8m revamp next year, features two music venues, the smaller, 300 capacity low roofed Crypt, and the main hall, which can hold more than four times as many. With its plush red seats, arched windows, and (appropriately for the town which provided much of British Steel) wrought iron roof struts, the sumptuous Main Hall is used for everything from weddings to graduations as well as concerts. The Town Hall (see more photos of the magnificent interior here ) is one of the few 80s venues with a recent Sisters connection, with Chris Catalyst having played there in his Robochrist days in 2005 as part of Middlesbrough Music Weekend, shortly before he joined the band.
Various artefacts have surfaced from the Sisters gig at the Town Hall, including this poster (like many other promoters, the Teeside Poly – now University – Students’ Union who organised the gig omitted the definite article in the band name) which I am very grateful to legendary Sisters collector LG for allowing me to share here :
and several tickets, including a signed one on the Sisters’ wiki (a photo kindly provided once again by Bruno Bossier) and this one, number 1027, which proves that the band could draw a decent crowd by that stage.
A recording of the gig (which like many of that era began with Burn and ended with Ghostrider) is widely available on the internet, but despite being of reasonable sound quality, it wasn’t a vintage performance, for reasons which became clear only recently. Writing to Heartland Forum Admin Quiff Boy, Gary Marx explained that the gig was the first he played without his trusty Shergold Maquerader guitar. For reasons which remain unclear, during the encore of the first night of the tour at Nottingham’s Rock City (where the band is to return in a fortnight), Marx “started smashing the guitar to pieces against the stage and the monitor wedges….The next day, the tour bus detoured (en route to Middlesbrough) through Leeds and stopped off for me to buy a second-hand guitar from a pawn shop on Boar Lane. Apologies to anyone at that gig – it was possibly the strangest sounding electric guitar I have ever heard. I can only assume that I borrowed guitars for the remaining days.”

If Middlesbrough Borough Council are looking for a suitable act to re-open the Hall after its forthcoming refurbishment, they could do far worse than contacting Mr Catalyst and getting TSOM back to the grandiose arena – with a proper guitar sound this time.

(As usual, my thanks to all those who have helped – wittingly or unwittingly – to provide the detail in this post, including Phil Verne, LG, Bruno Bossier, QB and of course Mr Marx himself)

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