Abbo and I recently visited The Hat Factory Arts and Media Centre in our hometown to discuss Punk Rock in the UK’s 40th year. Our performance was entitled “Luton, Centre of the Punk Rock Universe with Abbo and Spon”
The chair and MC for the night was Fahim Qureshi from Luton Culture whom was more than well qualified to host the proceedings as Fahim or ‘Fame’ was an active spiky haired punk about town back in the late seventies. Back then he was promoting some of the earliest punk gigs in Luton including the Barnfield College Gigs and was a co-hand at promoting the infamous Crass, Poison Girls and UK Decay gig at Marsh Farm in late 1979.
I prepared a powerpoint slide show of images of gig posters, press cuttings, punks, punk bands of most of the early events that happened in Luton from 1976 onwards. This acted as a stimulus for discussion with ourselves and the audience. Forty years is a long time and memories can sometime play tricks, it can be good to share with others that were around at the time. Sometimes forgotten stuff can resurface in discussion with others and alternative insights can enlighten a memory. Hence I think everybody that participated provided real interest and content to the discussion.
Abbo had attended his Mothers funeral late after getting caught up in the ‘Black Friday’ traffic that afternoon so it couldn’t have been more difficult for him. I don’t know how he managed, most people would have been in pieces , I certainly would! You have to have maximum respect for the man’s professionalism.
We talked about the early punk gigs in Luton including the first at the Royal Hotel in Mill Street on October 6th 1976 with The Damned playing their tenth ever gig. There was a few in that company who had been there all those years ago! Including myself! We talked about the gigs and the bands , the great creativity , the great antipathy that punks suffered in what was difficult times. There was often trouble at gigs back in the day, but this was the price to be paid for deliberately stepping into what was then a tribal culture which to some seemed hell bent on nihilism and disorder, To us it was an exciting new territory of music , sound and anti-fashion voyeurism to be explored and populated. In an age before the interweb we networked , created anarchistic fanzines, painted our jackets, wore cool punk badges (or buttons as they are called today) , dyed our hair with crazyclour (no wonder many of us ain’t got any hair left today!). Some of us promoted gigs, some of us did poetry, we created artworks and some of us did music , then of course it was the band! Our band.
Of course as Abbo and I were later both in UK Decay, there was a history before Decay in Luton. Of course Luton’s first punk was The Jets who were basically inspired by the Damned gig. They played at the infamous Roxy club in Covent Garden back in 1977 and appeared on the “Live At The Roxy” compilation. Things moved on through some of my other early bands as I eventually moved on from playing keyboards in Toad The Wet Sprocket – which more than a few in the audience remembered embarrassingly! Well perhaps I should be prouder of my history, Toad were a good band! but after seeing The Damned and later that month The Sex Pistols at the Queensway Hall in Dunstable, I started to wonder if the Blues that Toad tws played was right for me! I loved the new energy of Punk. It took me a year or two to realize that I would have to trade in my Vox Continental keyboard for a Guitar. This is what I eventually did in late 1978 when I teamed up with Captain Bluett and a bit later Gaynor (Snow White)
So we squatted an old house in Wellington Street and turned the coalbunker basement into a rehearsal room. We soon got to know The Resistors another young band of whippersnappers he he! particularly Martin and Steve Harle. some of the other chaps in the Resistors were in the audience and were delighted to see their younger selves up on the screen!
So there it was, we had created a potential meeting point that would help launch Luton’s Punk scene. Which by 1979 it did. Snow White had now changed name to Pneumania and The Resistors, now with Abbo on vocals to UK Decay., We collaborated on a ‘Split Single’ , gigs and just about everything else! Later that year I joined UK Decay on guitar and it went on from there! The Split Single was Luton’s first D.I.Y release , we pipped the Jets, now The Tee Vee’s and The Friction’s ‘split single by a few weeks! So the Luton punk discussion for a time looked at this what we called ‘the second wave’ and actually some called it the ‘third wave’ after the initial explosion of 76. I guess the UK Decay part of Luton’s punk history has it’s place and I guess it would be natural for Abbo and I to talk about it!
It wasn’t all discussion either, we broke up the evening with half a dozen or so songs which was the closest thing we could do to being ‘unplugged’. Justin Saban joined us onstage to help ‘glue’ our performance together. He brought along a bespoke stompbox which provided a rhythm and we played through a number of songs which included our first ever live performance of ‘Drink’ from our recent ‘New Hope From The Dead’ album. For that I created an mp3 of the violin part and played my guitar with my cell with the mp3 playing – all going through my stomp boxes and space echo! It was a first! Being as it was an ‘unplugged’ performance we had every excuse to sit down and play which to some might appear ‘unforgivable’ But it seemed to be about right for the timbre of the evening.
Eventually the evening rolled out to questions then more personal meetups at the bar later. The feedback I got was really good, we had provoked a keen interest and it was really good catching up with some of the peops from all those years ago. I guess next meettup and discussion wil be for the fiftieth in a decades time.
Thank Ron Todd for the pictures and video clips.