“That was a belter, so was the Belgian beer…”
Department S played the W festival in Belgium last weekend, and what a hoot it was. It probably ranks as one of the most pleasurable gigs I’ve ever played; the hospitality was first class and the technical crew (who were all volunteers) were absolutely ‘on it’ in every respect.
We travelled over on the Eurotunnel train on the Friday so we’d be fresh and ready for the gig on Saturday afternoon so I booked a hotel for Eddie, Phil and myself in the lovely old town of Mons, about 45 minutes drive from the venue. I gave the nearby city of Lille a wide birth as it’s usually just full of Brit tourists which is never fun.
We arrived in good time, just early enough to saunter into the town for a beer or two. We hit on a bar on the town square and settled in to enjoy the ambience, talk shit and watch the world go by. The choice of beer was a bit confusing, they all seemed to be really strong, we couldn’t find one that was any less than around 8% but we thought that as we we’re essentially drinking halves, it didn’t matter.
We had a lovely chat, then moved on to another bar for some food, all the while, having more beer. I’m not sure how many we had, but by around 11 we were feeling tired and sloshed so decided to go back to the hotel which was when I found out that my legs weren’t working properly.
Walking back to the hotel with Ed navigating there is always a chance you could get lost, despite him using his phone to navigate, and this was no exception. We wandered around for ages in what seemed like an ever increasing circle with legs that weren’t working. Phil and I were in hysterics, absolutely pissing ourselves. At one point I was laughing so much, I couldn’t stand upright and had to hang on to Phil’s arm for support. Shortly after that, I thought it would be a good idea to rugby tackle Phil through a hedge into a garden. We ended up in a heap and I think we narrowly missed falling in some dog shit.
Despite being a bit sloshed, I took over the navigating with the help of Google maps and had us back at the hotel within 5 minutes. By this time we were hungry so decided to order pizza and more beer at the hotel, not a wise move.
I woke up in the morning with all the room lights on and my shoes off, so I had at least achieved something before I fell asleep! I threw up the remnants of last night’s pizza and went back to bed. Breakfast was hard work, I forced down a bit of egg, well, we had paid for it so I had to have something, then spent all morning nursing a hangover from hell. Thankfully Phil was driving.
We arrived at the venue for the festival nice and early. There was a dressing room reserved for us (Paul Young had three of them) and it was next to Katrina’s as in Katrina and the waves. The hospitality was laid on, some really top notch food, a nice outdoor lounge area and a free bar. Of course, as a professional, I didn’t drink before the show, but it was comforting to know it was there, not that I really fancied any more Belgian beer to be honest.
The show was great, we pulled in a good crowd into the tent and we gave it a blast, all too short for my liking. Afterwards, we chatted to some fans and retired back to the VIP area. I was too pooped to stay for the rest of the night so we hung around for a bit and decided to have a drink at our hotel in Kortrijk which by all accounts was very nice. Our drummer had been there for a couple of days and reported back it had a nice bar, swimming pool etc.
The only problem was, when we went to check in, they had no knowledge of our booking (through the promoter) a few frantic phone calls later and it turns out, we were at the wrong hotel. For some reason we were booked into a hostel elsewhere.. a fucking hostel? as it happens it was ok and we all had our own room. It was late, I was tired, I didn’t care.
An easy trip back the next morning and that was that. A lot of effort to play one show but it was worth it. If you get a chance to do the W Fest next year, give it a go.
See you at the Byline festival this Saturday fuckers!
‘I felt like I’d been sawn in half…’
We had just moved out of our house to a comfortable 3-bed flat in St Albans while building work was being carried out. It’s amazing how quickly your home becomes nothing but a pile of bricks once you move all your stuff out. Everything was organised at the new place; possessions unpacked and found a place for, furniture arranged (several times), TV connected etc. A good friend had come to stay for the weekend en route back to Canada following a 5 year stint in Berlin and the weather was hotter than hot.
We decided to go to the closest pub for dinner. The King William IV, located at a major road junction a short walk away, a pub I had never been in before. It is one of those large soulless pubs that has little atmosphere and a bar menu that shouts very loud and bold but punches well below its weight. I said to my friend ‘Be aware, that in the UK in pubs such as this, the menu sounds a hell of a lot better than it tastes and I would advise you order something that doesn’t sound too ambitious’.
I should have heeded my own words but I honestly thought the fish pie would be a safe bet and I also thought it would act as a marker as to how good or bad the food was at this particular pub. A fish pie is something I would often order as a pub lunch. I knew my fish pie. They ordered veggie burgers.
Of course, it met expectations, it was shit. Tasteless and unrecognisable lumps of sea fare heated to surface-of-the-sun temperature served in a not-quite-right cheese sauce. Against better judgement I still ate it, I was starving, the sun was shining and I didn’t want to make a fuss in front of our house guest.
If it had ended there I wouldn’t have minded. I was only living near this pub for a few months so I didn’t really care how good or bad the food was but all evening my stomach rumbled and rattled away, churning as if the fish were still in the stormy seas and I felt as sick as a pig. I have a fairly robust constitution in that respect, It takes a lot to make me empty my stomach contents and in fact, I hadn’t been sick in years. I was convinced that the pie would end up affecting the other end of my digestion system and so I waited for the inevitable.
By next morning I still hadn’t rid myself of the offending surf items, from either end and this felt a little odd. I was still getting really bad stomach cramps and the pain had moved down to my lower abdomen. I still felt as sick as a pig. I struggled through the day taking various home remedy medications, Rennie and the like. Later I was perplexed when I had a normal dump, the expected blowback never occurred and I went to bed rumbling and a rolling, feeling quite uncomfortable.
The next day, we said goodbye to our guest, who by this time was sick of hearing me bang on about the bloody fish pie and then I had to take my partner to hospital to have her planned double foot surgery. I had two weeks clear in the diary afterwards to look after her as obviously she wouldn’t be able to walk much. The tide had gone out on my fish pie problem but the pain remained lingering in my lower abdomen with a general feeling of nausea. Something wasn’t right.
The girlfriend’s surgery was only for the day, so in the evening I got her settled with all she needed, walked the dog and tried some more medication to rid me of the sickness. The next morning, partner was in a lot of pain, I was still moaning about fish pie, I was going to have to see the doctor so I made an appointment for the following day, 4 days after the King William IV visit.
The GP laughed as I explained about the fish pie incident and said it was probably coincidence so she asked me to pop up on the table and have a lie down. A couple of painful prods later she declared that it was probably appendicitis, less common in a man of my age and I should get myself up the hospital if I felt ok to drive. See ya.
At Luton and Dunstable hospital they admitted me straight away, while I got on the phone and tried to arrange someone to look after my partner and take the dog off our hands. You find out your true friends at a time like this and ours rallied round to help out and to bring me an overnight bag. I still thought it was the fish pie.
Blood tests were inconclusive so I was booked in for a CT scan the next day. I spent a lovely night not sleeping, listening to the other patients snoring and farting, lights going on and off, beeping of various machines. Such fun. I didn’t have a chance to sample the hospital food as I was certainly in the nil by mouth category but I couldn’t help noticing the first item on their menu was fish pie!
CT scan confirmed acute appendicitis, that was it, off to surgery for removal. It turned out, my appendix had withered away somewhat but was still inflamed. It was also stuck to my colon. The operation wasn’t quite as straightforward as it should have been and I had a drain fitted in my stomach. I was full of holes.
The operation was a success, thankfully, my GP knew what she was doing and the hospital machinery went into action swiftly. I must say, the treatment I got from the NHS was first class, the nurses and medical team excellent and even though I tried to enter into discussion about the ongoing politics not one of them would say a bad word about their employers. I was one of 5 appendectomies that day, one of which was a 4 hr operation on a burst appendix. Scary stuff.
I’m at home recovering now, back to looking after my partner after her foot surgery, not that I’m much use. We are shuffling round the flat like a couple of old age pensioners but can manage quite well. I do the walking, she does the lifting. Our friends have been immense and our dog returns this evening to keep us company.
I know it was a coincidence, but I can’t help thinking all along, if only I hadn’t gone for that fucking fish pie…….
See you fuckers x
“It’s evenings like this that make it all worthwhile..”
The Centurion Club Somersham was the scene of a very unusual Department S gig at the weekend. We were asked to play in support of a charity event run by none other than Dave Greenfield and Baz Warne from The Stranglers. They have been holding this event for a number of years following the untimely death of local friend Rob Ashurst.
We arrived early in the afternoon heat, far too early for the soundcheck, so we grabbed a beer and a sarnie and settled down to watch the World Cup France v Argentina game.
Eventually, a PA of sorts turned up, as did a drum kit and various other bits and bobs of equipment that were needed and we set up. No sound check though, we had to pop down the road to Dave Greenfield’s house where his lovely wife Pam had prepared quiche and salad for us all, washed down with some nice cold prosecco. I spent some time admiring one of Dave’s Gold discs on his lounge wall, presented many moons ago for 400,000 sales in the UK for one of the Stranglers albums. Do you remember when there was a time when bands had decent record sales? What lovely warm and welcoming people, the Greenfield’s really are top notch. It was also our drummer’s wife Ruth’s birthday and some friends had baked a special Department S cake, very tasty it was too!
The venue was unbelievably hot but luckily, there was no stage lighting which was a blessing to be honest. Lighting was provided by a few fluorescent panels in the ceiling. We managed to find two spotlights but they were above the dartboards, and the idea of trying to point them at the stage wasn’t worth exploring. When The Stranglers All Stars took to the stage, the sell out crowd flooded in from the evening sunshine and were treated to a delightful delivery of Stranglers favourites and the crowd sang along with gusto (whoever he is).
There was a special guest for their final number “Heroes”, none other than our very own Department S guitarist, Phil Thompson. Baz had asked us earlier if he could come and join us on stage during our set to play Is Vic There? to which Phil cheekily replied, “Yeah, if I can join you to play “No More Heroes” Baz agreed and thus, Phil leapt up and played a blinding second guitar, duelling the solo with Baz with great aplomb. Phil has been playing this song for years in his punk covers band The Sugar Bullets so it was an easy job for him and he was made up that he had played Heroes with his heroes. A career high for sure.
Their set came to an abrupt end when, and I have never seen this before in 40 years, some idiot tried to deliver 6 pints of beer on a tray to the stage. I watched this chump fight his way through the crowd and try to put the tray on top of Phil’s effects pedal board. Of course, it was blindingly obvious what was going to happen and sure enough, the six pints fell off the tray and flood the pedals as well as the mains supply and blew a main fuse. All the electrics cut out and that was that.
It took a while for the stage to be mopped and the effects pedals to be emptied of beer and wiped down. The delay pedal was fucked, thanks for that, but time was passing and we were now late to start our set. It was pure chaos, but I loved it, it’s what makes a gig more interesting when these odd events occur, such fun.
We delivered our set to an enthusiastic crowd, Baz and Dave joined us for a noisy and sweaty rendition of Vic, Phil conducting them both for the breaks and endings. All done under the strangely flat florescent lights. What a night.The only downside was getting home, the A1M was shut and a stupid detour took us on a bonkers route back to where we started. After about 45 minutes driving we were 2 miles further from home than when we started. Throw in 2 stops for Eddie to have a piss and further closures on the M1 meant I didn’t get home till nearly 3am. That stock n roll life for you.
See you next time
“The last time I heard PiL play live, I was playing with them…”
It was April 1983, it was my last PiL gig at Toad’s Place, New Haven. Shortly after that I handed in my 2 hr notice, got on a plane and came back home. I never spoke to John Lydon again.
So it was with some reticent interest then that I agreed to go to the 100 Club Wednesday night with my old mate Guy Jardine from Rebel In Print to see PiL play the the Fred Perry Subculture event. Pre-drinks at the Blue Posts then off to the 100 Club. It was a strange crowd, a lot of younger people than I expected who were obviously there by winning free tickets or connected with Fred Perry in some other way. The rest of the crowd was made up of old lags and punk die hards like me.
Some familiar faces were there; Spizz Energi (of course) with flashing teeth in place and Charlie Harper from the UK subs dropped in with his wife. The Department S merch man Martin Weedon had also managed to blag a ticket. So there was a cosy familiar atmosphere.
There was no support band, PiL were due to kick off at 9pm so there was a bit of hanging about, the band weren’t even in the building. The stage was set with drums to one side, John in the middle in front of the infamous pillar and a barrier of sorts had been erected using flight cases. The low stage had been deemed unsuitable to guarantee John’s safety apparently.
Just after nine, the band swept in down the back stairs, fronted by Rambo and 100 Club security, the crowd parting like the Red Sea as the great punk Lord himself swaggered to the stage. John was bedecked in a Chef’s outfit for the evening. An odd look, but John is never one to stick to convention. I did happen to notice though that he looked as if he’d eaten most of the food, being somewhat bulkier of frame than I remember (aren’t we all).
The sound was good, PiL launched into their opener ‘Warrior’ and the crowd lapped it up. The set was delivered efficiently, some songs sounded great ‘Memories’ and ‘The body’ sounded strong. All the parts were there but to me, something was amiss. Lou Edmonds seemed to be struggling a bit in places, he went through numerous guitar changes but didn’t seem to be on top of it. Perhaps that was just me. Things went downhill further when ‘Death Disco’ was delivered without any of its drama or menace. I guess John has sung it so many times it’s lost a bit of its edge. The rhythm section sounded a bit tame in places, but I mustn’t be too harsh comparing them to Martin Atkins and I who were of course, a formidable force.
John milked the crowd as per usual, even taking time at one point to berate a fan for not listening “Oi you fat cunt, stop talking, there’s a show going on here!” A classic line that prompted zero response from the embarrassed sycophant.
Rambo was prowling stage left, looking for trouble, and finding it from the most innocuous places; a camera too close, a fan leaning too far, you know, really dangerous situations.
The rest of the songs came and went, ‘Flowers of Romance’ with prerecorded drums didn’t really lift off and ‘This Is Not a Love Song’ plodded. Scott Firth adding to the bass parts with frills and trills that were interesting but unnecessary in my view. ‘Rise’ ended the set and was a good one to end on. The band departed. Some of the crowd mustered enough enthusiasm for an encore but mostly people stood around silently. The band remerged and launched into ‘Public Image’ and it sounded truly awful. I have never heard that song played so badly. Even when Keith Levene was at his worst he delivered the guitar parts to that song with much angst and ferocity. Lou Edmonds was well off the pace and I have no idea why because he is such a fine guitarist.
The encore ended with ‘Open Up’ and ‘Shoom’ and as the last lyrical echoes of “Fuck off, fuck off” rang through the crowd, they were off into the 100 club dressing room which is conveniently situated opposite the stage so another forced plough through the crowd led by Rambo took place.
After the show
I wanted to say hello to John, I wanted to close the circle by meeting him for the first time since 1983, just to see if we could be at peace. There was a bit of a wait before I was granted access during which time I grabbed a quick hello with Scott Firth and we briefly swapped bass playing notes about ‘Love Song’ but eventually I was allowed past the Rambo guard and given a very warm welcome by John who was sitting with his wife Nora.
We chatted for 15 minutes or so and John expressed his pleasure at me having taken the time to drop in to say hello, he seemed genuinely pleased I had done so. We quickly touched on how things were back in the 80’s and we both acknowledged where the problem lay back then, agreeing that we always got on well and never had any disagreements. We spoke about Keith, Martin and Maureen Baker. Rambo took A couple of pictures for me for the album before I said my goodbyes and with a sweaty hug from the man took off home.
That’s probably it with PiL for me, I can’t see me going to see them again unless I happen to be on the same bill! But I wouldn’t mind going one more time to see by comparison if this was a one off or what. I hope their new album is a scorcher, it needs to be.
All in all it was a fun night, always is when Spizz is around and I am happy to have finally met John, in peace and with respect.
Peace, fun and love. Pete Jones x
“We always thought Maureen had no film in her camera, she was constantly taking a photo, on and off stage..”
A photo paints a gazillion words. During my all too brief spell in the PiL bass slot, Maureen Baker was a regular presence in the PiL camp. She always had a camera pressed against her face whether we were on stage or off. Constantly documenting that weird PiL chapter when the band were based in New York in 1982/3, Maureen took some extraordinary shots, capturing some powerful and illuminating images of all four of us.
I saw very few of these until about 10 years ago when Maureen made contact again and was willing to share what she had in her cupboard. Even now, I occasionally get sent a shot I’ve never seen before such as this one of me and Keith Levene taken in San Francisco.
I have no recollection of what it was that Keith and I found so funny, perhaps he was laughing at my hat, but it goes to show, perhaps it wasn’t all doom and gloom back then. But look at this next shot; again, not seen by me until this week. It seems to tell a different story?
I can’t remember where this was taken but I’m reliably informed that it was in Chicago and we were bored to tears it waiting for a TV crew to do their stuff. It seems to be at a soundcheck, and tells a different story. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of myself looking more unhappy than here. But, I could be putting on a pose for the camera. We were constantly goofing about and if we knew the camera was on us would often ham it up.
You decide. Which is the real me? Answers on a postcard please…..
Maureen had an exceptional talent back then and with unprecedented access built up a wonderful collection of photos of that era. Her best work in my view are the candid shots when we weren’t aware of what she was doing, they should really be in a gallery or at least, in a book.
“Stunned is a fucking understatement..”
The news this week that Heavy Drapes lead singer Gary Borland had suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away after a suspected cardiac arrest has left the whole punk family deeply shocked and stunned. Heavy Drapes had just appeared at the weekend Amsterdam Rebellion Festival where by all accounts he and the band were on fine form. The pictures posted on Facebook certainly show him and his mates having a great time, doing what they loved, giving it large and there was certainly no hint of the tragedy that was to come just a few days later.
I met Gary at the Blackpool Rebellion festival last year in the artist’s bar where we had a beer and a great all too brief chat. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I was a great fan of the Drapes, though I totally got what they were about, Gary knew this and he was just as frank in return but we had a common thread of honesty that was quite refreshing for both of us. I asked him if the new album was finished yet (it wasn’t) and what his plans were going forward. He told me his plan was to get the album finished asap and gig as much as possible and when I asked what he hoped the album would achieve he said without hesitation “Top 30”. I laughed, but he was deadly serious, and for me this typified what Gary was about; he had a belief in what he was doing with a passion and was aiming for a bar that he had personally set very high.
All too soon, this opportunity was taken from Gary and the band. Their work wasn’t finished, it had only just started. The band had made an impact on the punk scene, a scene that has often been described as a bit stale of late, but the Drapes were trying to smash that apart and they had won over many friends in a relatively short period and played some great gigs with more decent slots planned. Gary had an infectious belief in his art, and enough bluster and bravado to not give a fuck about what anyone thought, they were gonna take over the world one audience at a time…. As Punk as fuck.
Gary will be sorely missed by his family and friends for ever, I for one will miss his presence, attitude and of course, his snarly vocal delivery. Punk has lost one of the good ones. RIP mate.
Pete Jones x
“It’s funny seeing your own fat lumpy face 6 foot wide on a cinema screen….”
I went to see the new Public Image Limited documentary ‘The Public Image Is Rotten’ last night at the Odeon with my good friend and musical collaborator Andy Trussler (Rogue Sector). It was an interesting evening. As usual, the trains in and out of London on the Thameslink have gone to pot so I decided to drive up (20 miles) which was dead easy given it was a quiet Sunday evening. Plenty of parking to be had a short walk away from the venue.
Screen 3 was fairly small, cosy I guess, and I was given a complimentary VIP seat (which is just what a normal cinema seat should be like when in actual fact all the standard seats are too small). The documentary itself is a very good chronological account of the entire PiL history from it’s inception up to the present day and there are some interesting characters interviewed in it.
Of course, I’m in it for a bit when the film moves on to the New York segment and I am very pleased to say I wasn’t made to look a big chump in the editing suite. It’s bizarre seeing yourself up on a big screen like that, a 6 foot wide head is not a good look for anyone! It was good to see my old mate Martin Atkins on screen, he was very funny and I miss him.
There were a few people I knew in the audience which was nice. There was also one or two people there who I didn’t really want to see and I even had a bit of a confrontation with one of them but it soon settled down. The film was a tad too long I felt, could have done with shaving off a few minutes. It was good to see they had also used some of my personal photos from that era.
John Lydon held a short Q & A after the film but I couldn’t face listening to him spout on about the same old shit so I left. His wife Nora was there so it was a shame I didn’t get to say hello to her. She was great fun back in the 80’s when we were all living in NYC, a lovely lady, though I have no idea what she saw in John!!
I will be seeing PiL perform at the 100 Club on the 20th June, that should be fun, to see how much of it I can stand!!
See ya next time!! PjJ
“It’s a big punk party, similar to a wedding only more people wearing black.”
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy at Morecombe was the first Department S festival date this summer. It was competing with Strummercamp not many miles away but despite this, it was very well attended and good to see number of friendly faces there to support the bands. There was a danger of the venue running out of beer at one point, such was the raging thirst of the punk mob. Luckily, emergency supplies were sent for and all was well.
It was a bit of drive (4 hours) for such a short set but a promise of a bed for the night at our guitarist’s house made it worth the trip.
A great night all round, The UK Subs were on fire as usual and it was nice to see our vinyl on the merch stand getting noticed.
“That was a wonderful noise….“
The 100 Club is an iconic London venue that’s great place to play but not so much fun as a paying punter. The stage has seen some classic performances over the years and it was a pleasure to go there last night along with our lovely Department S drummer Alan Galaxy to see Eric Goulden perform his one man Wreckless Eric show. Just him and a guitar. It was a very powerful and engaging show; Eric has some great tales to tell and songs to match and the sound he got form his acoustic through a variety of effects was immense. ’twas a great night all round. I even bought his CD!
Of course, you can’t go to the 100 Club without bumping into someone you know and it was great bumping into the mighty Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC and some old mates form years gone by that I hadn’t seen for a while. The only downside was getting home again thanks to Thameslink messing up the trains but standing up all the way back to Harpenden was worth it. Go see Eric if you get the chance, its a refreshing change.
Now, its a quick cup of tea and back in the studio to work on my new solo album. Perhaps I should get the acoustic and Big Muff out to play with!!