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The Funhouse, Keighley

Part Three: Bowing Out In Style

To be honest, there are details that I don’t remember. I kept no notes. All I have to go on are the flyers coupled with vague memories. What’s more, I was gigging myself and so didn’t actually make it to all the gigs I booked. So, for example, I’ve no idea what happened with the videos we filmed during the autumn of 1982. If I remember correctly, they were filmed by John Bentham’s company Jettisounds which may well have released some or all of them. Nor can I even recall quite why the Funhouse gigs came to a close at the end of the year… or whether there was a Xmas party… certainly I was getting tired by August. The flyer covering the dates from mid-August to mid-October was obviously a rushed one. There’s less style and variety to the lettering and there are mistakes (4th Oct gig’s Mansfield label was not No Future but Rondolet, founded in 1980 by Alan Campion who had a record shop in Mansfield; and I’d had to hand-correct the date for the Sex Gang Children gig on every single flyer). The job was demanding. I had constant cash-flow problems and was therefore touring and gigging extensively myself in order to bring in money. On top of this, all the hassles of learning how to book, promote and run a club took their toll, not least that disheartening Meteors gig back in July.

Anyhow, the autumn season kicked off with what I still think was an inspired idea. Bands all wanted videos and so did record labels, especially the small indie ones that struggled to promote their artists. The labels outside London had the hardest time. We were outside London, as were most of the bands that I booked. This thinking led me to hit on the idea of a series of video’d nights, each one featuring artists from a particular non-London record label. Clearly, with each label keen to impress and the bands keen to be filmed, we got some excellent packages.

The first of these was fairly local, C.N.T. being a Leeds label. We’d already had good gigs from both The Newtown Neurotics and The Three Johns. The third band, Troops Withdrawn, were – if I remember correctly – a new signing by this label which also released discs by The Sisters of Mercy, The Mekons and The Redskins among others.

For the next gig, my twenty-sixth at The Funhouse, I booked a package from Bristol’s hardcore punk label, Riot City. It featured four bands, all popular with many of the Funhouse regulars who’d long been on at me to book Disorder and Chaos UK in particular. With them came Mayhem and The Ejected along with as many of their hometown fans as they could bring with them. Gigs like these were by now anyway starting to attract fans from as far afield as Scotland and South Wales. There weren’t many regular northern punk clubs  And when The Funhouse got busy, it’d be a great atmosphere.

Nick Toczek's Gory Details flyer 2
Newtown Neurotics
The Three Johns
The Xpozez

York label and indie distribution service, Red Rhino, was run by an amazing guy called Tony K (his surname was Kostrzewa). While he had his detractors, I’ll not say a bad word about him. He went out on a limb for so many acts, putting up the money for their releases (including my own 12-inch EP More To Hate), buying and distributing ridiculous quantities of virtually every disc he was offered, and single-handedly keeping the indie scene alive, not just throughout the north of England but further afield as well. He worked himself into an early grave by selflessly helping and promoting others.

Red Rhino therefore had a real mix of bands. The package for my third label night included Huddersfield punks The Xpozez (fronted by Andy Turner who later fronted The Instigators with whom I would do a US tour), Darkness and Jive who were a new wave band from Wallsend, Leeds punk-edged pub-rockers Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and a band called Nod who’d a single out on Red Rhino called ‘Dad’.

The fourth of these five consecutive Monday nights featured four bands from Malvern-based hardcore punk label, No Future. All four – Insane, Red Alert, Blitzkreig and Crash – were familiar names to most of my club regulars.

 

Before the fifth label night, I slotted in an extra gig on Wednesday 29 September to fit in with the northern tour dates for The Business who were crowd-pullers in their own right, especially after their previous visit. And support band, Major Accident from Darlington, proved popular too. I was learning that you could do more than one night a week if you booked the right acts.

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
The Membranes
Vice Squad

And so to the final video night which featured four very different punk bands from Mansfield’s Rondolet Records. The Membranes and The Fits were punk outfits with a melodic edge. Special Duties were more hardcore and I simply can’t remember whether the fourth band was Anti Pasti or Riot Squad – both big names on the punk circuit. Anyone out there remember which it was?

The usual weekly club nights resumed with a strong series of bookings. Vice Squad were fronted by Beki Bondage (later also to front Ligotage). Anyone remember which band(s) supported them?

 

London punk outfit Oxy And The Morons released three singles (check out ‘Dirty Harry On The Falls Road’ on YouTube) and came close to making it when they nearly signed to EMI. Instead, they broke up acrimoniously. Most of the band later resurfaced as indie rockers See You In Vegas.  A recent play called ‘Oxy And The Morons’ was based on the history of the band. It was jointly written by Mike Peters and Steve Allan (both of The Alarm) and Paul Sirett (who also wrote the play ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ which was based on Ian Dury And Blockheads). Once again, I don’t remember who supported them at The Funhouse.

The next gig was a crucial one. It was the first northern gig by newly-formed and highly theatrical Brixton goth-punk band Sex Gang Children. There was a real buzz about them and the club was heaving. It’s possible that The Elements were the support band. Certainly they got on very well with the headliners and were deeply influenced by seeing them perform. Within weeks, The Elements had split up, drafted in another Gory Details regular, Anne-Marie Hurst, as their vocalist and re-formed as goth group Skeletal Family.       

 

For the next gig, I’d brought back two bands, Zanti Misfitz and March Violets, both of whom had gained fans through their previous visits. When March Violets then pulled out, I booked Belfast band Colenso Parade who’d just moved to Leeds. It was their first gig in England.

 

The following week’s headliners were also quite a coup. The Lurkers, a much-admired seminal punk outfit from the late seventies had just re-formed and this was their first northern outing. Supporting them were The Xpozez.

Sex Gang Children
The Lurkers
The 4-Skins
Nick Toczek's Gory Details flyer 2

The following week’s headliners were also quite a coup. The Lurkers, a much-admired seminal punk outfit from the late seventies had just re-formed and this was their first northern outing. Supporting them were The Xpozez.

Then we come to a gig that took a vast amount of work to set up but which never happened! Renown political playwright, Trevor Griffiths, had written a play about skinhead racism called ‘Oi For England’. It had caused a sensation when a TV version had been broadcast. I was asked if I’d put on the stage version, by Doncaster Arts Co-op. I liked the idea. Skinheads who came to The Funhouse had been hassling me to put on The 4-Skins, the band with a strongly racist following who’d headlined that 1981 gig at the Hambrough Tavern.

I had the idea of combining the two to create an event that really confronted racism Neither band nor theatre group were initially enthusiastic. After long conversations with both, I finally talked them round to trying it. The plan was to start with the play, followed by the band, and then to have an open discussion about race, working class values, and issues connected with the play and the band’s gig at the Hambrough Tavern. The club and the bouncers were ready to stop any trouble and to ensure that none of the band’s fans would get away with displays of racism. Keighley, however, had a sizeable Asian community and, a couple of days before the event, I got a phone call from Len at the club to say that the police had been in touch insisting that we cancel the gig. Perhaps I was naïve in setting it up. However, I still wish it had happened.

 

November 1982 ended with two excellent headliners – Ipswich punks The Adicts and, the following week, Bradford’s own New Model Army. I’ve a feeling that this is where it ended. II don’t think that the December gigs happened. For the record, Ada Wilson was a local legend of the West Yorkshire pub-rock scene. ‘The Tramp’ was another experiment in putting on music theatre. Max Splodge (manic frontman of the upredictable punk loonies Splodgenessabounds) would become a regular at my later punk venues. And Andy Cunningham was a rock and festival circuit puppeteer. It may even be that everything ended with that banned gig. There must be people out there who remember these details better than me. All I know for certain is that by the start of January 1983 I was running gigs in Leeds and Bradford venues. And that’s where we go with my next few pieces.

Nick Toczek (July 2018)