Part Three: Up And Running
By June, I’d given up promoting at Palm Cove. Natural Disasters at Brannigans thus became my one weekly club. It was rapidly becoming a northern punk institution. Thirty-five years later, the punk band Hospital Food who put in an excellent set at the 2018 Rebellion Festival, would include a song in their set about going to Brannigans. The band’s frontman, Nathan Seaton, posted: ‘Because of Branningans in Leeds in 1983 I have always played in bands… 35 years of gigs, still a complete unknown and still love it.’
June kicked off with the wonderful Toy Dolls – a ridiculously enjoyable band absolutely guaranteed to draw a good audience. Supporting them and returning by popular demand was Major Accident. The next headliner was another top band, U.K. Subs, led by the ever-reliable Charlie Harper. They were ably supported by Debar. The following week’s bill drew a much lower attendance. The two bands, The Gymslips and The Membranes, weren’t standard punk outfits but still had their coterie of fans. Both were excellent and I was still stubbornly pushing the envelope by sometimes booking bands which weren’t among the more predictable names. This gig was followed by another Conflict package, again with the reliable Icons Of Filth, but this time with the addition of The Destructors and the extraordinary Annie Anxiety. Also known as Little Annie Bandez, her subsequent and continuing career path has been an exceptional one that’s taken in dub, literature and much more. When I interviewed her in 2015 for R2 Magazine (now RnR Magazine), she was touring with Marc Almond (of Soft Cell fame) and fellow-eccentric, Baby Dee. Check out her Wikipedia page to see how a truly creative artist can evolve from basic punk roots.
If anyone has pictures of any of these gigs at Brannigans please get in touch or post them on the Facebook page: Nick Toczek's Gory Details, Fatal Shocks and Natural Disasters
June ended with another fine anarcho-punk package consisting of Omega Tribe, Varukers and Skeptix.
Chelsea returned in July, supported by The Enemy and the wonderfully-named and hard-drinking punk poet Ginger John The Doomsday Commando, now living in Bradford and well on the way to becoming my lodger and the DJ at my punk clubs.
Next up was another package of three good punk outfits, all new to my venues – The Insane from Wigan, Welsh indie-pop-punks The Partisans and The Deceased, also from Wigan. Then came the gig at which Serious Drinking made the mistake of insisting that they went on after returning masters of mayhem, King Kurt. The result was that the audience went so utterly ape-shit for Kurt that Serious Drinking, good as they were, came across as a complete anti-climax, struggling even to get the attention of the crowd. That was a shame, but no one could have followed King Kurt.
The final gig of the month was originally going to be another slight departure from pure punk featuring two punk-ish bands on the psychedelic rock label Flicknife Records – Erazerhead and The Martyrs. However, when that fell through, I booked instead English Dogs, a hardcore punk band from Grantham in Lincolnshire, who’d quickly build a solid fanbase and would return regularly. Supporting them was another great hardcore group, Uproar, from Peterlee in County Durham.
The bands I booked for August and September further demonstrated the growing importance of the club on the punk circuit.
First off, I headlined a much-requested band – The Defects from Belfast. Support band, Emegency, was a new outfit formed by Mackie, the former bassist from Blitz. The following week saw the club hosting five anarcho-punk bands. Disorder and Lunatic Fringe both came from Bristol and many of the punks at my club had been on at me to book them. They brought with them The Amebix (misspelt on my flyer!) who were from Devon, and one Italian band - Cobra. A second Italian band, Wretched, was billed but didn't turn up.
The Defects, 3 August 1983 (from The Defects Archives '78-'84)
Tenpole Tudor who headlined the next show had already had hit singles with the quirky Who Killed Bambi, Wunderbar and then the massive Swords Of A Thousand Men. Their charismatic frontman, Edward Tudor-Pole (known as Eddie Tenpole) was actually directly descended from Tudor royalty. He’d risen to fame via his role in the Sex Pistols’ 1980 movie, The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, after which he was, albeit briefly, rumoured as the intended replacement for the departed Johnny Rotten as frontman of The Sex Pistols. Eddie has since gone on to establish a successful acting career, Support band, The Crash from Hebden Bridge, always brought a good-sized contingent of supporters with them. This was therefore a predictably well-attended gig.
After that, Conflict were back again, once more with Icons of Filth, plus two London anarcho-punk outfits, Vex and the all-female combo Hagar The Womb. One week later came an excellent pair of bands when The Lurkers returned, supported by one of my favourites, The Cult Maniax, who were from Devon.
The Toy Dolls returned to kick-start my September programme when they were supported by East Anglian punks Reality and Leeds locals The Underdogs. Next up were, once more, One Way System. Supporting them was The Burial, an East Yorkshire skinhead band from Malton/Scarborough, with whom I’d later record several tracks under the collective name of Nick Toczek’s Britanarchists. Some of these can be found on The Oi! Of Sex, on my 12-inch EP More To Hate…, on my vinyl album InTOCZEKated, and on my CD album Totally InTOCZEKated. Opening for these two was a third band, Subnormal, a short-lived but powerful speedcore combo.
Edinburgh’s Exploited, fronted by the irrepressible Wattie, would become another staple of my punk clubs. They’d long been requested and I knew they’d pull a huge crowd. Headlining bands this popular made it easy for me to book less well-known but enthusiastic support acts – which is exactly what a good club should do. I booked Disease and, from Hebden Bridge, Ultra-Violent whose frontman, Ade Bailey, would later front English Dogs. However, at the last minute, The Exploited pulled out. This sort of thing happens occasionally to all venues but it’s never easy to placate disappointed fans. I always kept a list of good reliable bands who’d stand in at short notice, but can’t now remember which band took on the unenviable task of trying to impress an audience who’d been all set to see Wattie and co. By way of compensation, I was able to assure the audience that Wattie had promised me they’d do a replacement appearance a.s.a.p.
September ended with one of my favourite bands, The Newtown Neurotics, merchants of anthemic political pop-punk tunes who’d become good friends of mine. I’d booked another great band, Action Pact from Stanwell in Middlesex, to co-headline. However, when they pulled out I added two support bands. One was Rough Justice. The other was The Instigators from Dewsbury with whom I’d later do a U.S. tour.
There was a fine bill at the start of October. This featured three excellent bands – returning Welsh punks The Partisans, Leeds anarchists Icon A.D. and Bradford’s Anti-System. The following week, the ever-popular Conflict were back, again with Hagar The Womb and Vex, plus a newly-formed Surrey band, The Lost Cherrees (misspelt on my flyer). They all stayed the night at my house.
Many of the bands and their fans would stay overnight at my Beech Terrace home. This was an old Bradford terraced house with two downstairs rooms, two mid-floor bedrooms and two attic rooms. Over the seven years from 1982 to 1988, more than seven thousand people stayed there. Conflict and their support bands always brought loads of fans with them. That October night we had the most people ever. When we assembled outside for a group photo next morning there were forty-two of us!
The next headliners, Poison Girls, were a politically active anarcho-punk band from Brighton fronted by Vi Subversa, then a mother in her late forties. They brought three support acts, all of whom were performance artists who later became involved (as I did) with the burgeoning alternative cabaret scene of the late 1980s. The first, Mark Miwurdz was a ranting poet who, under his real name, Mark Hurst, has gone on to become a well-established political stand-up comic. The other two were Janice Perry and female sax’n’bass vocal duo Toxic Shock.
After this gig, Brannigans was scheduled to be taken over by new owners and punk gigs weren’t part of their plan. I’d reluctantly been making arrangements to move out. However, due to a last-minute delay in either the sale or the planned re-development, we were allowed to stay on for a few weeks more.
Meanwhile, I’d become actively involved in the picketing of Thornton View Hospital, a long-stay geriatric unit in Bradford which threatened with closure. The cuts being carried out under Thatcher often hit the most vulnerable, as in this case, and there was a strong local grassroots movement determined to oppose the closure. On Tuesday 25 October, to help fund our campaign to save the hospital, I organised a benefit gig at Bradford University under the title The Big Brother Cabaret. It featured Poison Girls, Mark Miwurdz, Toxic Shock and Leeds anarchist band Chumbawamba (another misspelling on the flyer!). Although we succeeded in raising money, our picketing proved to be in vain. The hospital was eventually closed down and the frail elderly patients were all moved. Several of them died from the shock of being moved and the disturbance of finding themselves in an alien environment with different routines and without familiar faces. This was the murderous reality of the cuts imposed on the most vulnerable by the Thatcher government.
Next day, King Kurt returned to Brannigans. That week, their new single, ‘Destination Zululand’ got into the top forty and they were offered a slot on Top Of The Pops. I got a phone call on the morning of their agency to say that they were filming their appearance early that evening but would still try to make it to Leeds because they didn’t want to let down their fans or me. They’d be there late. Was that okay? I said it would be. It was after ten o’clock when some of the band arrived on foot, having travelled up by train. Half an hour later, the van turned up with the gear and the rest of the band. And they were on stage just after eleven. Almost all the audience had waited. A Top Of The Pops appearance was still a big deal in those days, and theirs had been a predictably wild one, culminating in vocalist, Smeggy, being tarred and feathered by the rest of the band. He was still trying to get that sticky mess out of his hair when he arrived at the venue. Greeted with wild enthusiasm and still buzzing from their chart success and TV appearance, they put in a storming set.
Nick Toczek, August / September 2018