The one thing that the punk explosion did for me was to make me realise that I, too, could realise my musical aspirations. It allowed me, and many friends, a creative outlet. From approximately 1978 to the 1985 almost every friend I had was in a band, sometimes in more than one. Those heady days we wrote and played our own songs, wrote and appeared in fanzines, recorded and distributed our own music. It was amateurish, it was tremendous fun, it was hard work at times too, and for me it was many lonely hours writing words and mastering as many unusual chords as my fingers could wrap themselves around. There was a real sense of discovering. Ours was an embryonic indie scene, then called ‘alternative’, and we often arranged our own gigs in order to play.
Last night I want to The Gettitude Album Launch Party at the Railway Hotel, in Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea. I have known The Get since the very early 1980s (I even guested on stage with them at one gig), although I have not seen much of them in the intervening years. I went to many of their early gigs, and a number of their rehearsals too. I bought their tapes and the flexi-disc.
So, what of the gig? I turned up halfway through the first support act’s set. Crying Queerwolf is actually a very old and dear friend Stephen Dobson. Steve is someone I played in a band with for a while (Dr Pretorius and the Lazy Sluts) – I vaguely recall a musi-cassette and gig way back in either 1981 or 1982. Anyway, I hope it won’t offend Steve when I describe his stage presence today as being far camper than thirty years ago. His stuff is definitely an acquired taste, and certainly original. I was reminded of a cross between Quentin Crisp, William S. Burroughs, with a touch of electro-pop thrown in.
I enjoyed Sinister Chuckles very much. Their guitar work reminded me a lot of The Stooges. The sound was not good enough for me to make out the lyrics (my dodgy hearing doesn’t help either), but there was obvious humour. They were the best act on the night.
Luis Drayton was certainly unusual, and not really to my taste. His act was the most controversial I have ever seen, and in many ways it gave me the impression that this was a cover for little in the way of real artistic skill. I took a perverse interest in his performance, which left me wondering if the audience were voyeurs in his exhibitionist masturbatory act. Certainly Jim Morrison was arrested for far less. I am sure there is an audience for his output, and I am sure that this audience does not include me.
The main act, as I have already stated, are one that I have seen many times. However, there is easily a quarter of a century between the last time I caught The Get and last night. There has been a line-up change; they have a new bass-player, Stephen Dobson quitting to pursue solo work. This is their second line-up change in more than thirty years – they originally had a second guitarist. The Get certainly have longevity and consistency on their side.
They, much like the Stripey Zebras in their time, revelled in their amateurishness. I guess they had The Mekons as role models here, with a large slice of The Fall too. (They also used to claim Gary Glitter as an influence, something that for obvious reasons has been conveniently forgotten.) To be honest it was a mixed set. It was all new material, except for one number, and some of it could have done with a bit more practice. That being said, Bruce’s voice has held up over the years and Gary’s guitar-work is getting better. Jon makes a virtue out of not practising his drumming, and whilst there is a certain charm in this it definitely needed to be tighter in some places. I liked the new material enough to purchase the CD. I hope they perform again soon.
I turned up to pay a flying visit and ended staying for over three hours. It was as much an exercise in catching up with old friends as it was to see and hear new music. The Railway Hotel reminds me of the Top Alex at the end of the 1980s in many ways.
My thanks to Bruce, Audie, Steve, Steve, Graham, and Jon for a good evening.