The Palm Cove, Bradford
Part One: More Gory Details
Having started Fatal Shocks at The Manhattan Club in Bradford on 3 January 1983, followed by 1984 at The Warehouse in Leeds, I then opened my next one, at The Palm Cove Club in Bradford, on 11 January. For this venue I used the now-familiar name Gory Details. This and the next venue, Brannigans in Leeds (which I opened on 18 January) were to run in tandem. I booked three initial gigs, weeks apart, so that I could work on publicizing them, setting up weekly gigs thereafter. Because they featured punk and skinhead bands, I was fairly certain from my Funhouse gigs that they’d draw good audiences. However, this wasn’t guaranteed. For a start, The Palm Cove was a good thirty to forty minutes’ walk from the centre of Bradford. Brannigans, on the other hand, was slap-bang in the middle of Leeds. Another possible drawback was the problem of so many rival events in these two busy conurbations. Overall, however, I was optimistic. Both were well-established venues, and gigs in these two large cities were a much better proposition than in a small town like Keighley.
From the late seventies until it was burned down a quarter-century later, The Palm Cove – a former working men’s club in the Manningham district of Bradford – was a reggae club, owned and run by Robbie and Di. The venue consisted of a central bar area (and kitchen serving Jamaican food), a large, bare black-painted concert room featuring a sizeable stage with dressing rooms in either wing, a pool room, and a couple of back bar-rooms. Glitzy in its heyday, it had grown spartan, dingy and distinctly seedy. Weekends, it played host to parties and to gigs which generally featured live reggae bands or reggae sound systems. Mid-week, however, it was a rock venue, mainly for local bands.
I’d got to know Di and Robbie well while I was running Wool City Rocker. I liked and trusted both of them. From the outset, I knew I could work with them. It was Robbie who mostly ran the day-to-day business of club events. He was placid, measured, tolerant and sensible. Di was hard-nosed but always fair. They were a great couple who took everything in their stride but tolerated no nonsense. They trusted me and I trusted them. Our relationship was one of mutual respect. It worked and I enjoyed promoting at their venue.
We’d personal history too. Going back a couple of years, Gaynor and I had held our engagement party at The Palm Cove with a cool set by Bradford band The Rockabilly Rebs.
I revived the name Gory Details for my Palm Cove gigs, the first of which was on Tuesday 11 January. This was headlined by Infa-Riot, a North London punk band with two good singles and a well-received LP. Having had a track on one of the Oi! skinhead sampler albums, they also appealed to skins. Supporting them was Darlington punk band Major Accident who’d formed back in 1977 and had released single and an album. Both bands were also booked to launch my next venue, Branningans in Leeds, a week later.
My next Palm Cove gig was just over three weeks later, on a Wednesday night. This bill proved even more popular. It featured two Ipswich bands, The Adicts (who’d previously played for me at The Funhouse and would soon return to play The Mahattan Club) supported by their friends, Panorama In Black. Also on the bill was Bradford poet Dave The Dog (real name Andy Yeadon). In fact, that gig also featured a second but unbilled Bradford poet, Ginger John The Doomsday Commando, a formidable figure who’d soon become a regular DJ at my Leeds gigs, a lodger in my Beech Terrace home and a co-performer at numerous gigs. The two of us remain close friends to this day. Ace guy! Even more successful was gig three, two weeks later, which was headlined by re-formed London early punk legends The Lurkers supported by A Church In Ruin from Leicester.
The following week, after I’d reshuffled my clubs as a consequence of losing The Warehouse as one of my venues, Gory Details began a regular weekly Thursday night slot. This kicked off with another re-formed early punk band, The Destructors from Peterborough. Supporting them were popular young Leeds punks, The Underdogs. Thus began a regular pairing of Wednesday and Thursday night punk gigs at Brannigans and Palm Cove respectively. These drew growing audiences from throughout northern England and beyond.
Week two of this new set-up saw the pair of venues hosting a hard-core anarcho-punk package of three excellent bands, all associated with Crass. They were Conflict, Omega Tribe and, from Wales, Icons Of Filth. These three bands drew my biggest audiences to date. This was hardly surprising, all three could’ve headlined. This booking, made through Conflict’s frontman and organizer Colin Jerwood, began a long-running working relationship with him. He was good to work with and Conflict would always bring their own impressive support acts.
Week three also worked well. The musical double bill of Peter And The Test Tube Babies plus The Newtown Neurotics would have been fine in itself. The bonus act, which Peter and co. brought with them from their Brighton hometown added a memorable element. He was their local Punch and Judy man who’d specially created a punk version of Punch and Judy which was the evening’s opening act. Having got all the punks to sit down in front of his booth, he had Punch ask the audience if it would be okay for him to put out some food. What they didn’t know was that Punch had a tube running up to his mouth with, on the other end, a balloon filled with liquid mush of biscuits dissolved in warm milk. When they told Punch he could go ahead, he opened his mouth and spewed up all over the audience, not briefly, but copiously for about thirty seconds! It was an inspired start to a truly funny set.
Week four was a rarity in that the Leeds double bill of The Adicts and The Xpozez wasn’t available for Bradford the following night (which is why they played Brannigans in April) so Palm Cove had One Way System – who’d just released their debut album – supported by Genocide from Preston. Though good, this gig drew a smaller audience.
Week five brings us to the most memorable pair of gigs I ever put on. Punch the puppet puking over his audience might have shocked the punks two weeks earlier, but it was nothing compared to the two nights featuring the latest and craziest flat-top psychobilly combo, King Kurt. These were their first two gigs outside London, but their reputation had preceded them… and how! The only thing that the punks, skins and flat-tops who completely filled both venues knew about King Kurt from the fanzine and music press reports was that their fans turned up with bags of flour and of baked beans and of raw animal guts. I’d read some of these reports but had not quite envisaged the full effect of all their fans turning up prepared for utter mayhem. I’ll tell you about the Leeds gig when I get to the section on Brannigans. Here’s what happened at Palm Cove…
Following the previous night’s chaos in Leeds, I warned Robbie and Di about the coming madness. Despite this, all three of us still grossly underestimated the situation. The problems were exacerbated by the fact that, unlike Brannigans, The Palm Cove didn’t have professional bouncers to search everyone as they came in. Whenever there was any violence, Robbie was able to call on some of his West Indian mates (of whom there was always a small contingent hanging out in the back room, drinking, chatting, smoking weed and playing pool or dominoes). However, there was no regular door-check or crowd control. To add to all of this, word had spread after the events of the previous night in Leeds and the turn-out was huge. From the outset, flour was flying everywhere, as were assorted animal guts. There were vegan and veggie punks for whom all these butchers’ leftovers were abhorrent. Did they stay away? No! They were the ones who arrived bringing bags full of baked beans. Robbie put up with all of this because the bar had seldom been more busy… but the drunker everyone became, the worse things got, and glasses were being used to get tap-water from the toilets to fling everywhere. Part-way through King Kurt’s set, the venue’s piano was dragged into the centre of the dancefloor and utterly ripped to pieces.
By the end of the night, the whole hall was in an unbelievable state. On the plus side, the bar and the door takings were really high. On the minus side, the flour and water had hardened in the heat. The carpet was thick with it and trodden-in beans and animal guts, the walls were caked in it, and there was even a solid coating of flour, beans and guts glued firmly to the ceiling. The whole venue had to close for a couple of days while Robbie had the carpets (and piano!) replaced and the walls and ceiling pressure-washed and completely re-decorated. Luckily, the night’s profits more than covered the cost of this work and, remarkably, Di and Robbie didn’t hold me to account for the damage. They fully accepted that I’d not anticipated quite how crazy it’d be. Indeed, King Kurt would be back – albeit under slightly more controlled circumstances – a few weeks later. Don’t get me wrong here. The two nights with King Kurt had been utterly brilliant – two of the funnest, funniest and most anarchic nights I’ve ever run!
Nick Toczek, August 2018
The Underdogs, live at Palm Cove