Thursday, 29 October 2015

Balti and Soul

This has to be the most obscure of the venues (where the Sisters played) covered so far in this blog, and it’s also the earliest gig discussed here. There’s never been much to do in the West Yorkshire town of Keighley on a Monday night, but all that was to change in March 1982 when enterprising Bradford music fan Nick Toczek, founder of the local Wool City Rocker fanzine, leased the local Funhouse nightclub for a series of gigs under the name “Gory Details”.

If you head down North Street (the address listed on Toczek’s typically information-rammed hand-written flyer), you’ll come across a fine century old Edwardian cinema known as The Picture House, a venerable institution which as its own website points out, has “remained in continuous use as a cinema without suffering the indignities of bingo”. It did however also stage one off gigs featuring legendary stars such as Billy Fury and Marty (Dad of Kim) Wilde.

However, only if you were peckish after a trip to the cinema are you likely to stumble across the road to the location of the Sisters gig of Monday 29th March 1982, for the second Gory Details gig (like others in the series) took place above the current Mango’s take away restaurant, which as can be seen from the photo has an extensive menu from pizzas to Balti dishes! For information on this gig I am hugely indebted to former Keighley resident Graham Smith, a long-term Sisters fan who was at the gig and has provided much of the supporting material for this post. “The Funhouse entrance was next to what is now Mango’s and is shown on your photo as the Walayat Plaza apartments,” Graham told me. “You used to go through that front door and up a steep staircase to the club.”

Graham also pointed me in the direction of a YT video of his cousin’s band, The Shakes, shot at a Gory Details night at The Funhouse. Not only does it give some decent shots of the venue itself, but it also allows New Model Army fans a sight of a song (51st State) which was to be adapted and made famous by Justin Sullivan’s clog-wearing goth-folk rock ensemble. Keighley is also famous as the home town of Skeletal Family, and many locals started bands after being inspired by what they saw at the Funhouse.

As well as the Sisters, the bill on March 29th also featured labelmates The March Violets surely playing one of their earliest ever gigs here around the time they were to record their first MR single Religious as Hell (released in August of that year), and joining TSOM on stage for the first time (quite literally for the encore, an improvised Silver Machine over a typical Doktor Avalanche encore back-beat). Heartland Forum member Poisonheart, who was also at the gig told me “The Violets seemed quite excited by the gig as a whole to be honest. I can’t remember much of what the Sisters played that night but they definitely played my favourite song – Floorshow”. At the bottom of a memorable bill was ubiquitous ranting poet Seething Wells, better known as the late influential journalist Steven/Susan Wells (described by Everett True as “a tastemaker”) of the NME. 

Unfortunately, there is no recording of the gig currently in circulation, but as further evidence that this gig (for which there is no known recording) actually took place, Graham has kindly shared a second flyer for later gigs in the Gory Details series which lists the previous gigs in the “run”.
Although Southern Death Cult, Dance Society and Sex Gang Children also featured in subsequent events, Toczek increasingly filled the bill with the dying embers of the punk/oi movement, and Graeme, Poisonheart and others drifted elsewhere to the likes of Francs in Colne (covered in a recent post) and The Hellfire Club in Wakefield (to follow shortly) to see more bands from the emerging posi-punk scene. Promoter Toczek himself moved on to present further club nights in the Bradford area for the next couple of years, before (having married and started a family) returning to his original profession as a poet/writer, and he is to this day still very much in demand for school visits as a children’s author.

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