The Funhouse, Keighley
Part Two: Building On It
Having established Gory Details as a weekly club, I needed to maintain the momentum established during those first five gigs. Clearly punk and post-punk worked, but I still hoped to be able to attract a good audience for exciting indie acts. This would prove more challenging,
One of the best indie bands in Bradford was Radio 5 who’d released two good singles and had done John Peel sessions. I booked them with Huddersfield’s Or Was He Pushed as support. Though both bands brought people with them, the overall attendance was lower than I‘d hoped. Not to worry, this was helping to build the broader base that I wanted, all be it more slowly than I’d have liked.
For week seven, I booked a mixed bag from Blackpool – two very different bands both managed by an interesting guy called John Bentham who, with his wife Karen, ran a company called Jettisounds which made and marketed music videos. The headliners were The Zanti Misfits, a quirky combo who took their name from a 1963 episode of the cult TV series The Outer Limits. Though older and more art school than punk, they’d released two singles through Clay Records, the same label a punk legends Discharge. Their support band, One Way System, were skinhead punks who’d been on several samplers and had an imminent debut single. Attendance was okay, but the headliners got a mixed reception from the mostly punk audience.
Week eight saw the club once more heaving when I booked Derbyshire hardcore skinhead punk band The Blitz who were excellent. They’d released two fine singles and had a debut album on the way. Supporting them was Crash, a good punk combo from Hebden Bridge who’d recently released an EP on No Future records.
And so to week nine which proved disappointing. There was a low-ish turn-out for two really good ska, reggae and two-tone influenced bands. Topping this bill were Birmingham outfit The Mood Elevators who were signed to Go Feet. They’d had several singles out, the latest of which had been produced by two-tone giants, The Beat. Supporting them was The Dub Club from Leeds.
Attendance rallied a little for week ten. This featured Sheffield’s cult band Danse Society supported by 1919, a young band from nearby Shipley whose first single ‘Tear Down These Walls’ had secured them a John Peel Show session and a recording deal with premier York indie label Red Rhino.
Week eleven featured three much-vaunted northern bands – Liverpool’s Cherry Boys plus Crying Shame from Leeds and Bradford’s Rhythm 21. All three were variously tipped for bigger things. Most of my punters, clearly keen to teach me not to believe the hype, decided to stay away.
Week twelve drew a much bigger crowd. It featured six bands all being filmed by Four Ridings Video. They included Keighley’s two most popular bands – The Shakes and Teenage and The Wildlife –both punkish, two Bradford indie bands – The Tour and Cut-Out Shapes, and two bands with which I’d later gig and record – the quirky Apocalypse Choir from Hebden Bridge and, from Leeds, To Be Continued… a garage punk outfit, inspired by Johnny Thunders. They’d later achieve cult status as The Vaynes.
The Shakes live on stage at The Funhouse, 7 June
Week thirteen was an odd one which might have worked better. Manchester’s Diagram Brothers were signed to the Buzzcocks label, New Hormones, with a single and album out. Support band, Fiat Lux, from Dewsbury featured Ian Nelson, brother of guitar legend Bill Nelson whose label, Cocteau, was about to release their debut single on which Bill Nelson guested. Attendance was small.
Week fourteen was packed. Leeds band Abrasive Wheels were the definitive West Yorkshire punk outfit and consequently drew a huge crowd. Supported by Huddersfield’s Xpozez and Ultra Violent from Halifax they presented a triple bill of pure hardcore local punk. A brilliant night.
The following week saw the return of The Business, this time supported by Birmingham punks The Verukas. Once again, the club was full. Fifteen gigs and, despite the inevitable ups and downs, things were going amazingly well.
I’d got into punk early on. On 27 September 1976, when I was living in Birmingham, I’d been among about twenty locals at a club called Barbarellas who saw The Clash supported by Model Mania and Spizz ’77. At the same venue, eight months later on 24 May 1977, I caught an amazing American double bill of The Ramones and Talking Heads. Just three days later I watched sound-checks at The Odeon for another American pairing – Television and Blondie. On 14 September that year, at The Bull’s Head, a pub in Hall Green, I saw The Slits and The Prefects. Six days later (on 20 September, my twenty-seventh birthday) I saw The Adverts supported by local reggae stars Steel Pulse. On 7 November, at The ABC, I once more saw The Clash – this time performing to a huge audience – with Richard Hell And The Voidoids in support. There were more such gigs. Somewhere along the way I also saw The Vibrators, The Boys and a couple of other early punk combos.
I tell you all of this partly to explain my enthusiasm for punk, but also to explain why my next gig headlined Birmingham band The Nightingales (who’d previously been The Prefects). Supporting them was Divan Japonais from Leeds and Huddersfield. Under their previous name, The Prisoners, they’d released two albums and had supported The Damned, The Fall, Penetration and Adam and The Ants. There was a very reasonable audience for this gig which was one of my personal favourites. Both bands were truly original and inventive.
The next gig, my seventeenth, was a slightly unexpected success. I’d booked, as the headline act, a much-vaunted Edinburgh band called Twisted Nerve, however they pulled out. I therefore headlined the support act. They were a Bradford outfit who’d originally been called The Hustler Street Band but had changed their name to New Model Army. They’d had problems and had disbanded for six months before deciding to re-form. This was their return gig and so they brought a big crowd of supporters, filled the club, and owned the gig. To support them I booked a Manchester trash-horror band called Doctor Filth who went down well.
I was on a roll with acts who were going to break big. Gig eighteen headlined Keighley band The Elements whose bass guitarist, Trotwood, was my club DJ. As you’ll soon see, they were soon to change their musical and nominal identity and become huge. Supporting them was a Leeds band, The Three Johns, who were already becoming established as one of that city’s defining indie bands. Third on the bill was Bradford’s funniest punk poet, Little Brother. The result was another packed and very satisfied audience. This is what really matters when you’re trying to make a club work. It’s not the individual gigs, it’s that you give your audience a series of gigs which they enjoy. Pull off that trick, and you’ll build a reliably loyal following.
For gig nineteen, on 26 July, I originally planned to headline Keighley’s finest, The Shakes, supported by Halifax punx The Breed. Some gigs fall apart. This one did exactly that but gave me the chance to put together an amazing replacement punk bill. I booked as headliners Brighton’s Oi! punk madmen Peter And The Test Tube Babies with two support bands: Bradford’s manic Complete Disorder and Lancashire loonies Sick Youth who hailed from Rossendale. However, this then also vanished when my headliners again pulled out. How to replace them? Many former skinheads were gravitating to psychobilly – a crossover blend of fast punk and rockabilly music – with its adherents adopting dyed blond flat-top haircuts. Foremost among the emerging bands were The Meteors fronted by a fiery character called Paul Fenech. Suddenly they were available. Everyone wanted to see them.
I seemed like the perfect solution. The previous day, The Rolling Stones had performed in Roundhay Park in Leeds, an event promoted by John Curd who happened to also be the manager of The Meteors. Curd himself then turned up at The Funhouse to see The Meteors. Perhaps anxious to impress Curd, Fenech was unhappy with his sound-check. Soon after I arrived, he lost his temper, threw a drink over the mixing desk and pushed the whole set-up onto the floor. While my p.a. guys packed up and left, I had a row with Fenech and Curd. Fenech pulled a knife on me. Curd told me he’d see I never worked again. The bouncers escorted Curd, Fenech and the rest of The Meteors out of the building and the gig never happened. Amazingly, I was asked to put The Meteors on again six months later and – after lots of negotiations – actually did so. I eventually put them on successfully several times. However, suffice it to say that that first time wasn’t a perfect event!
August and my twentieth gig. I thought I’d use the slight lull of summer to try out some more off-the-wall bands. Basking Sharks headlined. They were an electronic threesome from Lancaster. Supporting them was U.V. Pop – a solo performer from Sheffield called John White. They drew a small but interested audience.
For the next gig, I headlined Aemotii Crii, an intense four-piece from Huddersfield who played what they termed ‘desperate soul music’. To support them, I brought back Leeds band To Be Continued… plus a wonderfully wacky Bradford outfit, Eaten Alive By Insects, who blended noise, percussion and elements of Jazz.
Gig number twenty-two was originally headlined by a Leeds electronic duo called V.C.O. This consisted of Paul Mirror who’d previously fronted Free State and Scott Peters who’d fronted The Start. Theirs was electro-rock, a sound harder than most of the emerging electronic outfits. Between booking them and putting them on, they’d reverted to the name Free State. Supporting them was a Sheffield outfit, The Neutral Stars, who were punkish in a Siouxsie And The Banshees sort of way.
This excursion into less punky outfits had been an interesting experiment but it hadn’t really taken off. I was learning that my loyal audience of punks and skins wanted their own music. However, they were starting to look further afield. Goth, psychobilly, speedcore and other musical forms developing out of punk were being accepted and adopted. Meanwhile, I had to rebuild my audience for the coming autumn/winter. One way to do this was to feature local bands which brought their own crowds.
Gig twenty-three was a second night in which all the bands were video’d. There were four featured bands: The Breed from Halifax, 4th Arch from Ilkley, A Desire from Chorley in Lancashire and Rip Snort from Bradford. This predominantly punkish bill brought in a good-sized crowd.
For the last of the five August gigs, I headlined The Stacks from nearby Skipton supported by Divan Japonais, re-booked by popular demand. It was quite well attended. Having put The Meteors gig behind me, I’d got a really promising autumn season lined up and was feeling optimistic. Two dozen gigs under my belt and things were looking good.
Nick Toczek, July 2018