Friday, 22 January 2016

Crash and Brum 2

(This is the second in a series of three posts about gigs TSOM played in the Birmingham area in 1982/1983)

Speaking of The Sisters of Mercy’s special relationship with Birmingham (as well as the three gigs under review, Wayne Hussey’s TSOM debut famously took place there in 1984, and it remained a favoured stop-off) Eldritch told a reporter from Wolverhampton’s Express and Star in 1993 : “I’ve always liked playing ‘Brumidgeham’. We have a certain rapport with the fans.” Unsurprisingly therefore, the Sisters' second visit to the Second City came barely two months after the first, as they were re-engaged by promoters Nitelife to play at one of their more regular venues, the Fighting Cocks pub in Moseley, where they also promoted a legendary gig by The Smiths that year.
As co-promoter Clive Whittaker said in an interview with a local online magazine, once a band came to be established, they would draw a crowd from a wider area, and Nitelife prided themselves on looking after bands sufficiently well when they were less well-known to be able to continue to promote them in the city as they rose up the musical food chain.

Thanks to the generosity of Belgian TSOM archive poster supremo Bruno Bossier and the hunting skills of arch collector LG, we have this little seen striking poster advertising the gig, confirming the date of the show (Friday 21st January 1983) and revealing that up and coming local band "Ourselves Alone" (a translation, from the Irish Gaelic, of Sinn Fein) were the support on this occasion, a band who seem to have sunk without internet trace. Like Clive’s other posters, this was a basic home-made Letraset job, with a medical scalpel used to cut out the different sections.

As these recent (Streetview) photos will attest, The Fighting Cocks is one of the more aesthetically pleasing venues where the band played in the early days, at least from the outside, and was built in 1899 by TWF Newton and Cheattle. With its imposing fa├žade of red brick, sandstone and terracotta, it is a noted local landmark. The downstairs bar boasts many of its original features and looks worthy of a visit in its own right, but the Moseley online magazine B13’s Martin Mullaney has also unearthed pictures of the function room upstairs, where the gigs took place and which seemingly hasn't been used for over twenty years!

Uniquely for the three TSOM Birmingham gigs of the Ben Gunn era, the show was (bootleg) recorded, and thanks to well-known Sisters fan Ade Matthews' upload to YouTube we can enjoy an extract from one of the recordings to surface so far, “Valentine.” Legendary TSOM collector Phil Verne tells me that indeed this was possibly the final gig before the band headed to Kenny Giles’ studio in Bridlington once again to record The Reptile House EP. The rest of the setlist was the same as at the previous night’s gig at the Leeds Warehouse, except that they omitted Lights and Damage Done. Like most concerts of that era, they started with Kiss The Carpet, and ended with Sister Ray, after one of the last playings of 1969. The band again went down a storm with the local fans at the Fighting Cocks, with Clive Whittaker saying “(Blurt blew the house down and) Sisters of Mercy ground it into the dirt.” At least I think he’s being complimentary!

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