Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Iggy and Spiggy - Leeds, 2nd July 1981

If time travel is invented during my lifetime, I know exactly when and where I will set the dial for : the evening of Thursday 2nd July 1981 at the Warehouse club, Leeds. As I would discover a few years later, early July was a joyous time in Leeds when the tens of thousands of students would leave the city for the summer at the end of the academic year, leaving the locals back in charge of the cultural scene.

Thursday 2nd July was the night of a gig by one of Eldritch’s chief inspirations, Iggy Pop, at the local university. Pop was promoting his Party album with lenedary platinum-selling French band Téléphone in support, and their gig in Leeds came in the same week as I saw the tour myself in Nottingham at the Rock City venue. It was the strangest gig I have ever been to: Téléphone, accustomed to selling over half a million albums per release and playing stadia in France, being almost totally ignored apart from one would-be comedian shouting out the only French phrase he knew ""Machine à laver" between each song, and Iggy for me being a huge letdown, flouncing around in a bad mood, fleeing the stage when someone threw a plastic glass vaguely in his direction, baiting the audience in a half-hearted manner and (choosing my words carefully here) clearly not on great form (unlike the gigs later in the 80s when he had re-become the ultimate showman). 

I can't imagine that the Leeds show was much different, and most of the audience from the Leeds University show were enticed to the Warehouse after the gig, a venue where Claire Shearsby DJ’d, and TSOM were billed to play a late night set to capitalise on the large number of punks in town. Simon McKay of Newcastle fanzine Eccentric Sleeve Notes was one of many (“Not a night to forget” as he reminded me earlier this year) who made the short trek from the university after the Iggy gig past the Fav(ersham pub) and the hospital, through the city centre and down to Somers Street for the Sisters show at the Warehouse, a venue which was allegedly the inspiration for the song “Floorshow”. Also down at the Warehouse that legendary night was Paul “Grape” Gregory of the Expelaires, who remembers Iggy himself putting in an appearance at the gig. “The Warehouse gig was an amazing night,” he told Sisters fans on Facebook earlier this year. “The Sisters on stage, Iggy dancing all around the upstairs bar and all the best of LS6 [Headingley’s post code] in the house. Music For Pleasure had played Amnesia that night too so the place was jammed with everyone from these gigs….the beer, the gear, and everyone dancing like loons, an epic night followed by epic hangovers.”

(Contemporary advert for the Iggy gig at the university from the York fanzine, Beaten to the Punch. Note the self-publicity by Union Ents secretary and future radio DJ Andy Kershaw on the right)

According to an interview with promoter John Keenan on the now defunct "North Nights" website, Keenan himself was largely responsible for what happened that night. "Iggy was playing at the university on the same night [as the Sisters gig at the Warehouse which I was promoting] so I went up to the gig to hand out some flyers. The Sisters used to do a version of the Stooges' 1969 so I invited Iggy and the crew down. After the gig we were all having a few drinks together in the bar when Iggy got up and walked over to a poster on the wall advertising a New Romantic night. He went up to it and went "New Ro-f**king-Mantic" and ripped it off the wall. At that time, the Warehouse had a big gay barman called Chris who was about 6'4" but as camp as ever. He went over, picked Iggy right up off the floor, held him against the wall and in a really unexpected camp voice shouted, "That's my boyfriend's night!" Of course, Iggy was really shocked, but they're the kind of rock and roll stories you don't always hear."

The above press advert, which featured in the anthology of Heartland fanzine (and thanks to Phil Verne of the essential TSOM 1980-1985 unofficial Facebook group for this pic) shows just how far the band had come, less than six months from their live debut, with respected promoter Keenan sufficiently impressed to put them on at the Warehouse as headliners under the Fan Club banner after the band had played only half a dozen or so gigs. This July night is therefore a significant staging post in the band's history, the night they began to stand out from a very talented crop of local bands as the one with the potential to make it big. With the success of this gig and the buzz now beginning to build around the band, their relatively late addition to the line-up for Futurama 3 is all the more understandable.

When TSOM became more famous, stories circulated that the band had given Iggy a copy of a demo cassette which included 1969, but that the great man had been unimpressed. Presumably this incident also took place that night, as Eldritch had form for this sort of thing. Just six weeks earlier, the singer had pressed a copy of the tape into the hands of Psychedelic Furs’ saxophonist Duncan Kilburn who handed it on to guitarist and subsequent "Alice" producer John Ashton, an event recounted in some detail by the genial guitarist in a video interview last yearHowever, according Mark Andrews' definitive account of the early life of TSOM published last year, Iggy and Spiggy did not meet. 

The Warehouse remained a second home for some of The Sisters for a number of years, with the band playing their three times in the first four months of 1983. Later that year, Wayne Hussey was astonished to be treated like “a mini celebrity” on visits to the club just by virtue of having joined the band, as he recounted to contemporary DJ Mark Musolf in a video interview last year (twelve minutes in).

If time travel were invented, I would certainly take a Sony Walkman with me to record the gig on 2nd July 1981, as everyone was having such a good time (as Grape recounts) that as far as we know no-one thought of recording the Sisters’ appearance for posterity, either in audio or pictorial form (not even the John Keenan flyer mentioned above), a point on which (as ever) I would be only too happy to be proved wrong!

My thanks are again due to all the many people involved in the lives of TSOM in the early 1980s for their willingness to share their recollections of those special days.

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