The Palm Cove, Bradford
Part Two: The Really Gory Details
In the wake of King Kurt’s chaos at the Leeds and Bradford venues, it was obvious that there was a fast-growing and eager audience for psychobilly. The punks identified with it and many former skinheads had sprouted dyed blond flattops. For the following week I’d originally booked Chelsea, the early punk band fronted by Gene October which had initially also included Billy Idol (who’d since formed his own band, Generation X and who’d go on to solo stardom). With them supported at both venues by Bradford’s own anarcho-punks, Anti-System, this would have been a brilliant line-up. However, when Chelsea pulled out, I was offered and indeed booked psychobilly kings The Meteors. For an account of how and why this came about despite our violent clash at The Funhouse in Keighley eight months earlier, see my write-up of the Brannigans gig.
There followed three further weeks of gigs, none of which ended up featuring the bills I’d originally advertised. In every case, however, I think I managed to put on replacement bands that were at least as good the advertised ones. Thus, instead of a double-bill of Major Accident and Red Alert (both from the north-east, Darlington and Sunderland respectively), when Red Alert pulled out, I ended up booking five bands in what I billed as a ‘Mini Punk Festival’.
The Exploited, live at Palm Cove
Major Accident, live at Palm Cove
Blood, live at Palm Cove
Dead Man's Shadow, live at Palm Cove
This featured The Exploited (from Edinburgh), Major Accident, The Blood (an Oi! but not skinhead band from London), All Over the Carpet and Dogsbody (friends of Major Accident). The following week should’ve been a double bill of bands on indie label Rondolet – Special Duties and Dead Man’s Shadow. When Special Duties (from Colchester), who’d a slightly dodgy right-wing rep at the time – pulled out, I replaced them with The Mau Maus from Sheffield.
The last of this messed-up trio of nights was to have featured Serious Drinking, a comic punk band from Norwich, for whom I’d booked All Over The Carpet as support. When the headliners pulled out, I added All Over The Carpet to the Mini Punk Festival and booked Urban Dogs (featuring Charlie Harper from UK Subs and Knox from The Vibrators) with the support slot going to Bradford’s ever-popular punks, The Negativz. Despite the changes, all three gigs proved popular and successful and, one week later, there was an even better turnout for two really popular Leeds bands – Abrasive Wheels and The Expelled.
May kicked off brilliantly with Bad Brains, the legendary American Rastafarian band from Washington D.C., who played Brannigans in Leeds on 4 May and The Palm Cove on 5 May. Support in Leeds was The Crash and in Bradford was The Skeletal Family. Bad Brains’ unique set alternated hardcore thrash punk with slow blissed-out reggae. There’s an interesting story about their Leeds set in my account of the gigs at Brannigans. Many of the Leeds fans came through to the Bradford gig which, like the one in Leeds, drew a huge crowd. The whole band stayed at my Beech Terrace home of several days.
The following week, I actually put on five gigs. The Adicts were touring with Panorama In Black and asked me to find them Leeds and Bradford gigs early in the week. I therefore booked them into The Palm Cove the Monday night (9 May) and Brannigans on the Tuesday. However, when The Palm Cove suddenly became unavailable, I booked them instead into Bibi’s (The Manhattan Club) which had never had a full-on punk gig. See my write-up of The Manhattan for more about this event. Then came the regular weekly nights in which I featured The Subhumans from Wiltshire and three excellent West Yorkshire bands, Anti System from Bradford, The Underdogs from Leeds and The Instigators from Huddersfield, this package appearing at Brannigans on the Wednesday and The Palm Cove the next night.
Like The Adicts, The Subhumans were on a UK tour which then took them up north for a couple of days. I was good friends with their singer and organizer, Dick Bluurgh. He asked me if I could find them a second gig when they were returning on the Sunday. I secured them a gig at The Vaults Bar in Bradford, a venue I’d regularly played in the very early eighties with my band, Ulterior Motives. Their support bands for this gig were The Instigators and, from Bradford, The Convulsions. The Vaults Bar (demolished during the 1990s) was a regular venue for local punk, indie, post-punk and heavy rock bands. It was also a hang-out for bikers, and particularly for those known as Satan’s Slaves. They liked to take the mickey out of punks, and did so on this night.
Most of the punks at this gig, whether in the bands or along as audience, were teenagers. Most of the bikers were much older. The atmosphere was tense from the outset, but when The Convulsions who were the first band on changed the words of their fifth song ‘System’s Slaves’, from ‘we don’t wanna be system’s slaves’ to ‘we don’t wanna be Satan’s Slaves’, bottles were thrown and threats were made although, in the end, it all came to nothing… except that the punks became very frightened by the situation which got lurid write-ups in various fanzines… the truth being that if the Satan’s Slaves had seriously wanted to make trouble, they’d have done so in no uncertain terms.
The following week saw me headlining another seminal punk outfit, The Vibrators, supported in Leeds by Monkey On A Rope, and at The Palm Cove by Bradford band Cannibal Feast.
If memory serves me correctly (I don’t have the flyer for this gig), 25 & 26 May featured a return of The Meteors supported by The Guana Batz and drew huge audiences. If you’re reading this and know for certain, please get in touch.
Though there was no clash with Di and Robbie, my regular gigs at The Palm Cove were over by the end of May. I’d other commitments and was struggling to stay afloat financially. Leeds offered me more reliable gigs and better financial support from the venues. Thereafter, I ran just the one weekly gig in Leeds – first at Brannigans, then at The Bierkeller and lastly at Adam and Eve’s. I’d only make a return to Bradford in 1986 when I ran gigs at The Royal Standard for a few months. These and my Leeds gigs came to an end that autumn and, that September, Willi Beckett and I launched our seminal alternative cabaret night, Stereo Graffiti, at The Spotted House in Bradford. This began ten years of running alternative cabaret events… all of which I hope to document here… eventually!
The Convulsions, live in 1983
Before I close this account of The Palm Cove, I’ve two more stories to tell. The first is about mindless violence, the second about mindless vandalism, both of which occurred at The Palm Cove.
Though the atmosphere at punk gigs often had the appearance of being violent, real trouble was rare. However, this first story is about a truly scary incident. I can’t remember which gig it was, but I was standing watching a band performing to a crowded Palm Cove when one of my gig regulars, a kid nicknamed Mugsy, a singer with Bradford anarcho-punk band Morbid Humour, emerged from the middle of the stage-diving throng in front of the stage and approached me saying ‘Hey, Nick, look. Some nutter in here has slashed the back of my jacket with a Stanley knife.’ He then turned round to show be the damage to his jacket. When he pushed his shoulders forward, there was a vertical split down whole of his leather jacket which gaped open, so did his tee-shirt, so did the skin all down his back, revealing cut flesh from which blood was copiously pouring. Part of his spine was visible too. Luckily, The Palm Cove was not far from Bradford Royal Infirmary. I think Robbie drove him straight there in his car. To my utter relief and astonishment, his back was simply stitched up and he was at the following week’s gig, as if nothing happened. There was a second guy whose jacket’s been slashed that night, but not his skin. To warn everyone else, I got onstage immediately and announced what had happened. That stopped it, though we never did find the culprit.
Mid-way through another gig, the one headlined by Abrasive Wheels on 28 April 1983, Robbie called me into the gents. Every toilet bowl had been blocked with toilet paper, left till full and then smashed. The entire floor was a mess of water, piss, smashed porcelain and piles of shit. Rather than call the cops, Robbie locked the venue doors while I stopped the gig and told the audience that no one would be allowed in or out until we found out who’d done it. I knew that there must have been witnesses. There were. Within ten minutes we’d identified three drunken Huddersfield punks. Confronted, they admitted to it. Robbie and some of his mates took their jackets and their Doc Marten boots. Suddenly they began to panic and to say how sorry they were. ‘You will be sorry,’ said Robbie. He hustled them into the toilet and told them to clean it up. ‘What with?’ they ask. ‘Your bare hands,’ said Robbie.
The gig was long over by the time they’d finished. They were covered in shit. Outside, it was snowing. The last trains and buses out of Bradford had left well over an hour earlier. They asked for their boots and jackets. ‘You can have them back tomorrow,’ said Robbie as he threw them out of the club in their stocking feet, tee-shirts and jeans. It was a long cold walk back to Bradford Interchange where they’d have hours to wait for the first bus or train back to Huddersfield. I hope for their sakes that one of them had a willing parent with a car. Whatever happened to them that night, they survived, returning next day to re-claim their jackets and boots.
Nick Toczek, August / September 2018