Sunday, 25 August 2013


It seemed like we’d been home for about two minutes but it was probably nearer a week when the ‘phone rang and the conversation went something like this…

‘Alright Chris ?  How was Cropredy ?’
‘It was good mate, thanks.  Saw some bloody good younger bands this year… What’s happening ?’
‘Have you been contacted by Herts Music Service ?’
‘Who ?’
‘Herts Music Service… Probably a woman named Suzanne, I gave her your number…’
‘Ok… Any idea what it’s about ?’
‘Yeah…  The museum want to do a big deal exhibition on the bands that played Bowes…’
‘What !!!  Stevenage museum ?’
‘Yeah… I told ‘em you could help ‘em out…’
‘You’re having a laugh… That’s more your thing…’
‘They’ve already contacted me…’

Sometimes knowing the Nuzz Prowling Wolf has its upside and sometimes it has its down side, but I have to admit it’s very rarely boring.

Apparently the youngsters (After Dark) who all hang out at the largest purpose built youth club in the country (Bowes Lyon House, Stevenage) had the bright idea that our local museum should put on an exhibition based upon all the artists who had played the venue, and since the two buildings were actually next to each other it obviously wasn’t going to involve too much moving about, so they had asked around, and Nuzz’s name had come up…
So Nuzz had been contacted, and after they’d had a little chat about what he could offer in the way of bits and pieces and remembrances, he’d tossed my name into the mix as another promoter who might have some bits and bobs salted away in the attic…

When I was growing up back in the 1960’s, there used to be a programme on the television entitled ‘All OurYesterdays’.
It had a presenter and used old television newsreels and the old Pathe news that we all used to watch in cinemas up and down the country.
The fact that it was on weekly from a period of about twenty five years previously gave you a good idea of what was once happening in the world and I have the feeling that this piece is going to be a sort of ‘All Our Yesterdays’ script ?
Oh well, like it or lump it.
Whatever I write and however I write it, it’s definitely going to come out as my back pages so here’s the lowdown.
We start our story in the late 1980’s…

I opened my second record shop in late 1985 in Stevenage.
It used to be in Baker Street which was a pedestrianized area just off Stevenage High Street in what was called ‘The Old Town’.
It’s not really, it is actually Stevenage and goes back centuries but the local council had stolen the name ‘Stevenage’ and had taken it to mean Stevenage New Town which was started in 1948 just after the Second World War had finished.
So the Old Town’ers harboured a bit of resentment toward the Council (still do as a matter of fact…)
for the theft of their town name.
And into this harbour of resentment stepped this record shop proprietor and pirate radio dj…

The first year was quite hard, but we soon got ourselves established and became part and parcel of the Old Town community with our own hardcore music fans who hung about listening to everything from avante-garde classical through to avante-garde rock with all the rest in the middle.
The fact that we seemed to exist on a diet of cigarettes and tea or coffee which was liberally shared with all the customers seemed to bring even more of them in and so long as the pot was always hot we all managed to get along.

Phil: Folk and Country, Andrea (In Phil's hat) Classic Heavy Rock, and Jack: Jazz, Swing and Piano Boogie
I say this, but think for a minute…
You have a shop full of ‘Metal’ heads and bikers and an old couple who like Bach or Mozart come in…
What are you going to do ?
Offering them a tea or coffee (made by one of the ‘metal’ heads) while they wait a few minutes for the ‘noise’ on the turntable to desist and they can have a preview listen to what they want to buy seemed to go a fair way toward placating any stupidity.
Well, it worked for us anyway, and everybody ended up ‘knowing’ each other because they all seemed to end up in the shop regardless of musical taste.
Nuzz was an occasional customer in all of this, but he was more a purveyor of weekly flyers for the gigs he was promoting at the Klub Wiv No Name, which was the name of Bowes Lyon House’s music club, so I’d see him on a reasonably regular basis.
I’d been asked a couple of times, being a record shop owner, to be a judge in their ‘Battle of the Bands’ competitions along with the guys from the musical instrument shop, so I knew the type of thing that they seemed to like locally.
And then tragedy struck and ‘Hurricane Laura’ (as she was known in the Old Town vicinity) died.
Laura Adams was a biker.
She was riding her motorbike home from Hitchin ahead of the pack that was about two minutes behind her, and somehow she came off in Martins Way at the side of the second bridge.
Laura was an occasional customer with her younger brother, Rob.
She was doing her law exams in the hope of becoming a solicitor, although the sight of her in leathers and ‘colours’ didn’t really go with the ambition, but she was passionate about what she wanted to do, and she was doing very well at University.
There were no witnesses to her accident and she was found by her friends at the side of the road, taken to hospital locally, and then, because she was in a coma, transferred to the Royal Free hospital in London, where, two weeks later, they turned off her life support system.
Now round about that time, I was making enquiries about putting on a concert with Flaco Jimenez and his Tex-Mex Band with my customer and mate, Frank (Still my front of stage guy at Rhythms of the World) and Laura had been a party to the conversation with Flaco’s British agent, being in the shop at the time.
Anyway, words were exchanged and bets were made…
Laura bet me we’d never get Flaco, and I bet her we would.
If we didn’t then I’d have to buy all her drinks at the Red Lion all night and if we did then she’d have to come to the gig dressed as a Mexican woman with the long dress, deep cleavage and petticoats…
(For those old enough to know this stuff and maybe for those who don’t, think Katy Jurado in all those John Wayne and Henry Fonda westerns that you/we all watched in our youth…)
She had one stipulation, if she did she’d be wearing her Doc Martin boots and anybody who laughed at her would feel the full force of them in their balls…
(A nice touch and so typically Laura-esque…)
I figured what the fuck ?  They’d be covered by the long dress and petticoats anyway, so yeah, we have a bet.
Anyway, I got Flaco and then she had her accident.
So I went down to the Klub Wiv No Name and hired it as an outside promoter for the Flaco gig which we were now putting on as a tribute to Laura.

I’d booked an outside p.a. and advertised it as well as we could which included running round Hitchin town centre one step ahead of a couple of policemen with paste buckets and ladders and four foot posters (that was a fun evening, I was absolutely knackered after doing it) but we did it.
We had people of all ages, all sub-genres, punks, bikers, country fans, Tex-Mex fans and Laura’s Mother and family, and Flaco loved it.
He said it was like playing the bars at home but without the ‘chicken wire’ cages and he felt right at home.
Literally everybody there (nearly 300) loved it and wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks.
That was the start.
And sales of Flaco’s back catalogue went right up too.

A couple of years later and I’m producing the Folk Show for Chiltern Radio and Audio Graffitti for Horizon Radio and for Big Tony Haynes who dj’d them, and in the shop I’m fast selling out of an album entitled ‘Eagle In The Rain’ by an American singer-songwriter named Tom Pacheco.
Tom’s one major claim to fame prior to this had been writing a track entitled ‘All Fly Away’ that Jefferson Starship recorded on their Dragonfly album.
This had sold in sufficient quantities (the odd million or two) to keep the royalties flowing, but now Tom is apparently playing the Cambridge Folk Festival that year as a solo artist and he is literally the opening act, so first things first, arrange tickets.
Ring up Clive at Tom’s English record company and arrange interviews for Tony with Tom while at Cambridge.
Go to Cambridge…
Tom was excellent so there was no disappointment there, and after Tony had recorded the interview I suggested that Tom get his name on the board at the Club Tent which is where a lot of my punters who went to Cambridge used to hang out.
This he duly does and manages to play another complete set but before he can escape the organisers at the Club Tent ask him if he wouldn’t mind playing another one nearer the end of the evening ?
The man is definitely mad because he signs up for it.
While we’ve been hanging with Tom and Clive, they have given us some projected dates for Tom returning to the country and doing a small club tour, so I bear it in mind and as soon as I get back I started making enquiries with my mate Ed White.
Bowes Lyon is busy for the Saturday night that we’d like, but we can book him into the Buff’s Club in Baldock, which we do.

Ticket from 'Buffs' Club gig

Half the Red Lion is up for going as they’d seen him at Cambridge and so we had another success, this time booking one of Klub Wiv No Name’s engineers and p.a’s and Mick McCarthy to go with it and run the p.a.
A couple of days later I get a visitation from Nuzz asking why we didn’t use the Klub ?
‘Cause you don’t put on that sort of thing and the date we needed was booked…’
‘Yeah, true, … But we could have changed it… Come to our next meeting, it’s on such and such a date…’
And that’s what started things off.

Apart from the two gigs mentioned, I hadn’t put on a gig since the mid 1970’s but the principle was still the same and Mick and the crew and Nuzz were sound, so why not ?
I ended up putting my first one on at Klub Wiv No Name after waiting a year and getting an inkling of how they all worked down there.
Doing all the jobs that nobody wanted to do (ie front of house) in the meantime.
I have to admit it WAS different… But it seemed to work.
My first gig at Klub Wiv No Name as part of the organisation ?

Tom Pacheco’s next tour.
And that’s how Nuzz and I got together.
The hippie and the punk, both with the same attitude problem.
One extolling the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan and the other extolling Johnny Thunders and The Clash, both working from the outside toward the middle but both from different sides…
He’s left, I’m right, and we’re gone… To misquote an old Johnny Cash track.

Anyway, enough back pages, so let’s move forward…
Nuzz says he’ll pop round within the next couple of weeks to outline what’s going on as far as he knows, and that’s where we leave it.
Of course a couple of days into the next week I receive the ‘phone call from Suzanne of Herts Music Services explaining what they’d like, which was pretty much how Nuzz had described it anyway.
No problem, I can do that.
A couple of days after that, Anji Archer rings up…
Apparently Anji is involved in this, too ?
Anji is a local ‘artist’ and although that word may be correct, it doesn’t really do justice to what she does.
Painting, sculpting, murals on buildings, designing things, writing stuff… Anji has a vivid imagination when it comes to creativity.
Apparently I have some recordings ???
Now who told her that, I wonder ?
Yes, actually I do, and so has Nuzz, and so has Dread Ed, in fact it’s probably fair to say that most of us have a few p.a. recordings of some of the artists that played there.
Is there any chance we could transcribe them from cassette to cd so that the museum could play some of them in the exhibition ?
Shit !
This is beginning to sound like work.
‘Anji, I’m not against it, but let me have a chat to Nuzz before I commit myself, ok ?’
And that is where we left it for the time being.

So Nuzz pops round and gives me a few more details…
Apparently we are going to be ‘interviewed’ about our involvement ?
He has been given a date for his, but since I’ve heard nothing about an interview I file that on the back burner.
‘So… Are you gonna give them any recordings ?’
‘Yeah… The Johnny Thunders one, ‘cause that’s already appeared on the blog and a couple of others.’
‘Ok. I’ll give ‘em a Blyth Power and a Tom Pacheco and a couple of others.’
It’s not as if I’d put on as many gigs as Nuzz had.
I put them on when I thought something I was offered was worthwhile, as did Dread Ed, who seemed to concentrate on the more dance and rave oriented acts.
Nuzz booked them by the week, and it was a very rare week when there wasn’t at least one gig, but, because we all concentrated on different types of music we all seemed to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw.
The p.a. crew, Ralph, Mick, Lewis and Ed used to chip in with their own suggestions and so did everybody’s partner so there was a fair bit of musical input, which can only be a healthy thing 
(Well I think so) and we had some seriously good nights with acts like Blyth Power, The Walkabouts,Tom Pacheco, Redd Kross, Steve Young, Johnny Thunders, and on one amazing and crazy Sunday, a solo set by Jeff Buckley. 
Of the above, three are mine and three are Nuzz’s, the other one is a Nuzz start and a me finish and I’ll let you work out who did what, because it’ll give you something to think about ?
(It’s pretty easy actually if you’ve read any previous bits of the blogs, his or mine ?)
And that’s not even mentioning some of the local bands who all got fitted in around those touring…
King Rizla,

Scum of Toytown,

The Astronauts,
 Transworld Siren, 

The Monster Kids who became The Immortals,

Serve The Servants,

Waysted Frame,

Eastside Jimmy, and two of the most contentious,

Kocaine and The Drug Prowling Wolves…

Everybody had a band.
I had a band, Wordz n Musik who became Kocaine, and Nuzz had The Drug Prowling Wolves and occasionally the sensible thing was to book one of us a support to an artist that would make a good and interesting bill.

Why did we change our name to Kocaine I can hear you wondering ?
Because at The Red Lion Folk Club one Sunday lunchtime we were introduced by compere Roy Birch with the following wordz (or is that words ?)
‘These two get up so many noses they should call themselves cocaine… Chris and Emma… Wordz n Musik…’

Emz: On Tom Katz bike with my Hofner was probably the best rhythm guitarist in the area which is why I wanted to work with her. (Wordz n Musik & Kocaine) She also had her own 'metal' bands, The Monster Kids & The Immortals
And so cocaine became Kocaine for our continued existence because we wanted the joke and not the drug connotation.
Unfortunately the newspapers took the drug connotation and so we were rarely mentioned anyway and that’s a double-edged sword because you have to rely on word of mouth, but we seemed to be doing alright at that, so…
As for The Drug Prowling Wolves, if punk had taught anybody anything, it was that anybody could form a band and play…

Advertising material from The Drug Prowling Wolves
They didn’t actually need to have talent, they just needed the balls to get up and do it…
And so, closely modelled on the MC5 crossed with Johnny Thunders and possibly Mick Farren’s Deviants, The Drug Prowling Wolves became the band that nobody wanted on their bill because they were soooo bad.
Actually they weren’t bad at all.
They had something, and whatever it was, they traded on it and became, whether they liked it or not, an institution.

Was this the worst band musically in the area ?
Possibly ?
But were they entertaining so would you go and see them again ?
Grimaces and groans all around but of course we would (and did)
So yeah, the pair of us were known about for various reasons.
And both of us wrote a bit…

Nuzz had been a member of Parnassus Performance, the local poetry group and had ‘sort of’ retired from it, while I was a current and extant member…
And I didn’t want to write books, I was happy to get up and do it live.
I still do, but I pick and choose what I want to do these days, rather than trying to get to everything I’m offered.
The heart attack was probably the deciding factor.
Back then I would be happy to admit I was a gig-tart… Now… Not so much.
And once I’d tried working with a musical backing to some of the stuff I was writing, I knew it worked.
Not everything, but some things just lent themselves to it and so I started working with a rhythm guitarist and that’s what Wordz n Musik were all about because THAT is what we were.
I did the wordz and Emma (Emz) did the musik.
Anyway, Parnassus had been formed in Bowes Lyon House and so there was yet another connection.

Of course the following week I get the ‘phone call…
Can I come in to Bowes Lyon to be interviewed ?
‘Yes, if I can bring my wife because she has never seen some of my back pages and that place is certainly part of mine ?’
‘Yes, that will be fine…’
Haddy gets to take some pictures of a place I have some crazy and memorable memories from, which helps her put some of my previous lives into some sort of perspective, so that’s alright then.

On the day, Haddy and I turn up on time and are met by Anji who takes us round to the old ‘den’ as it was nicknamed, where we used to put on about 80 % of the gigs.

I finally meet Suzanne and the girl who is going to do the interview, Emma, from After Dark.

Emma's on the right

At which point Nuzz turns up, greets us and whoever else he knows and we’re pretty much ready to go.

Nuzz and me

A quick run through on Emma’s first question so that the sound and camera (Yes, they filmed it) got a level check, and we were ready to go.

I’d brought along one of the posters from the Flaco gig (I have two, one is autographed from the band) to literally start my involvement from the beginning, but it wouldn’t have mattered because the conversation went everywhere…
‘I don’t really want to get sort of political but when we put the gigs on it was like true communism at work… You know… The ideal ?
The person who booked the headliner is in charge, everybody else is subservient to them, and when the promoter changes then the subservients change along with it and because we mainly worked on genres, the whole system worked like a well oiled clock.’
‘It’s not just me and Nuzz, there were others involved too… Dread Ed, he did most of the dancey type evenings, bands like Back To The Planet or Credit To The Nation… Where is he anyway, he should be 
here ?
Mick Mac’, he’s in Oz right now (Oz=Australia)
Ed Sparrow ?
All these people were part and parcel of it…’
At that point Brian walked in.

I’d forgotten his name but the face was familiar…
Back in the day it used to have a bloody great cocks crow Mohican hairdo above it…
Brian had been predominantly a punter but he had a good memory and he had gone to one hell of a lot of our gigs and so Brian became the third of us at the reunion.

Like a 'still' from Hammer films 'Children Of The Damned...'

‘If you could go back and do it all over again, would you ?’
‘God, yeah…’
‘Christ, yeah…’
That was Nuzz, me and Brian answering the last question.

Nuzz, me and Brian

Haddy took a few more pictures and we had a guided tour of the building remembering who played where ?

Emma and Nuzz

 The large hall upstairs has been seriously done up since we’d last seen it, that’s for sure. 

Me, Suzanne from Herts Music Services, and Anji

(Flaco, Credit To The Nation, Back To The Planet, Dogs D’Amour…)
Jeff Buckley actually played upstairs opposite the stairwell.
He wasn’t even in any of the three rooms.
Before I get anybody writing in, I have to say that Jeff played middle of the bill (as his management requested) on a Sunday night at what Nuzz had termed  a ‘Naff Night’ gig.

'Naff' didn’t refer to the artists, it referred to the fact that Sunday was a pretty ‘naff’ night to be putting on a gig, but these gigs took place once a month and were a great way of ‘auditioning’ the younger bands.
A headliner (In this case Coloryde, a 'Mod' band from Welwyn Garden City) would be booked and the other two would be playing possibly the first, second or third ‘proper’ gig of their career.
All of them took place adjacent to the upstairs stairwell.
In Jeff’s case the middle band dropped out with a week to go and because Jeff was playing Stevenage officially (Red Lion Folk Club) that Sunday lunchtime, I cheekily rang his management and asked if he’d like a second gig in the evening for the same
money ?
They said yes please, and the rest is history.

And that’s where we left it.

Lionel, who ran the bar when we were there, and Anji

We gave Nuzz a lift home and promised to contact each other when we heard anything.
The museum looks like it could be having a very interesting exhibition ?
Before our time there, The Who played Bowes Lyon House…
But back then, Stevenage was one of the ‘known’ Mod towns.
Those who live there have always supported live music.

So yeah…
My back pages
‘I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…’

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