Thursday, September 11, 2008

Big Black, Hammersmith Clarendon, July 1987. Part 1


In 1987 I went to London, in the summer, like the kid in The Smiths song, except that I wasn’t from the north of England (I was living in the north of Ireland) and I knew that I’d go back home at some point (to finish school) though I was broke as a joke. That was the reason I went over there, not to find myself — I already knew where I was, I started at the end of my fingers and finished at my feet and head, easy — but to get some money together to go into my third and last year of school. Invariably that meant working on the building sites of the great, late ‘80s English building boom. So be it, but there would be clubs and shows and trips to the Rough Trade shop on Talbot Rd. off Portobello, and various indie dance stores to fidget through empty shrink wrapped sleeves with names like Phuture, Lidell Townsell, Denise Motto and Dynamix II scrawled on them and a dj knocking out some kick ass mixes over a stellar sound system. Oh yes.

However, it was one of the shows that really stood out that summer, defined it, if you will. A bunch of us who knew each other from going to school and hanging out in Galway (a cute city on the Irish west coast) were squatting in South London, in Camberwell, not far from the green and close to the North Peckham Estate. This was the worst housing project in Western Europe at the time, and wasn't just comprised of a few blocks, but rather a huge, sprawling maze of two storey flats, all connected by bridges. At its centre an intense drug war was being conducted between local and African immigrant gangs. Nice. But, there was still the art college, some dope kebab places around the green,  great pubs and some nice weather.

But back to the show, one evening while I was hanging out with my buddy Keith at his squat on Vicarage Grove, he played me a John Peel session of an American punk band called Big Black. I had heard of them, but not heard ‘em as there were plenty of American exchange students in Galway and they would pass me tapes of some of the new hardcore that was coming out on labels like SST and Homestead Records: Hüsker Dü, Phantom Tollbooth and Black Flag. Plus buddies of mine would go out to Boston or California for the summer and come back with Minor Threat, Fugazi, Sonic Youth and Bad Brains records. And you'd get hipped to bands like Meat Puppets, Salem 66, Naked Raygun, Butthole Surfers and Dinosaur Jr. It was a good time and good music, but I hadn’t heard Big Black. So when Keith played me their hard, funk-infused, and drum machine driven punk rock and told they were playing at the Hammersmith Clarendon in two weeks I had to see them live.

July 24th 1987 was a Friday and we  jumped on the bus or maybe the tube at Elephant and Castle (I can’t remember which mode of transport) and we piled into the Clarendon sometime in the late evening. The venue also housed a psychobilly night called The Klub Foot (a legendary psychobilly club) so there were a gang of heads mulling around the venue, mostly outside, with insane mohawks on insane heads. I also spotted Wayne Hussey from The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission.

To be continued….

Orr

2 comments:

Virgil said...

Steve Albini is a fucking GOD

amanda said...

BRILLIANT