The Stranglers Vs Department S shoot out

“It’s evenings like this that make it all worthwhile..”

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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!

Norman Bates cuts the cake

 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

Pete x


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