Our Generation: The Punk and Mod children of South Yorkshire 1976 - 1985
'Rock n' Roll hatred and anger'
Back in the 1970’s and 80’s ‘The Falstaff’ pub in Rotherham Town centre was dog rough. Not quite as rough as the old ‘County Borough’ but rough enough. Punters would always make sure they wore their six shooters and the place had an air of Dodge City about it. Wyatt Earp would have trod carefully if he had ventured in there. Some of the fellas in there were rough diamonds and if you were ok with them, they would leave you well alone. Unfortunately, not all the clients were that tolerant and some would get tanked up and go looking for trouble, either on the premises or around town. A red-hot summers day many years ago I discovered this ritual first hand.
There were these two burly 30 something brutish Ted’s - the type that hated Punk Rockers and I happened to cross their path - worst luck... We were minding our own business on a sunny afternoon walking through Rotherham town centre. There was myself and my mate Gary, Joanne (who later joined Sheffield’s answer to The Slits… Debar) with her purple spikes poking the sky and a guy called Chippie who later played in a local band called Vision.
The doors of the old Rotherham boozer Falstaff opened up and out came Eddie Vincent and Shakin Cock-rum; who were both as pissed as a pair of barmaids’ blouses and straight away they caught a glimpse of us and the array of colour we displayed. “Oi! Punks hold on there,” they shouted. We carried on walking, quickening the pace - as we could sense what was about to come. We could hear the drunken shouting and the abuse following us like a pair of bloodhounds who thought we had taken their favourite bones. We managed to get to the doors at the market and - I first felt a fist and then a kick, I could now smell their breath. Bang! a smack to the back of my head whilst at the same time a blue suede shoe attached to a drainpipe leg twisted round my ankle- giving me a push, twist and a kick to the floor. My face hit the rock hard floor. I looked up and Gary – though looking to give me an helping hand - was being pulled in to the market by Chippie and then Joanne - whilst two heaps of rock n’ roll hate and anger were laying into me thick and fast. Old ladies were ‘ooohhh ing’ and ‘aaaaaarrr ing’, the Teds were swearing and kicking me in the face and everywhere else, and I kept trying to get up. It seemed like ages but probably wasn’t. I eventually managed to stand up and my arm felt limp, as it had been twisted round my back. My other arm managed to lift a stern two fingers up and my mouth also managed to say something that was anything but thanks for my summer afternoons performance of ‘How a Ted shows his punk enemy how to kiss the floor with a blue suede shoe in his face’. Anyway I took it and was the only one who got hurt (cheers guys) - my faith in Edwardian gents forever tainted, covered in bruises and cuts. Still I always had that evening’s youth club to go to and show off my wounds…That night I went to the youth club with a blue suede shoe imprinted on to the side of my face and I am not kidding either. That was what it could be like being a Punk Rocker in Rotherham back then!
Punk Rock is coming our way
The Clash had now begun their career spanning love of Sheffield as a place to play, whilst the Black Swan’ closed and eventually became The Boardwalk. Certainly, back in mid summer 1976, Sheffield had been part of one of Punk’s first main acts. The Mucky Duck’s much-loved Pub Rock genre was coming to an end and Punk was sneaking in through the back door…but not as yet through the nation’s television sets. Ironically, it was at the legendary Black Swan gig, that Clash guitarist Keith Levine spoke - between sets with Rotten - and said ‘If our groups don’t make it we will form a group together’. Less than two years later Levine and Rotten (then Lydon) had formed Public Image LTD.
The Black Swan received a nasty little present from the Luftwaffe during the war, when the pubs top floor was blown clear off. Now it had received the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the impact would be just as explosive!
Earlier in the year, in February, the two main protagonists of Pub Rock and what would become Punk Rock (a term actually tagged onto the new garage music-by-music journalists in homage to the American garage Punk groups of the mid to late 1960’s), Eddie and the Hot Rods and Sex Pistols had played together. The Pistols had supported the Hot Rods and gained notorious attention in the music press by putting on their ‘manager incited acts of indifference’ to the Hot Rods, who they believed were a symbol of the old to be replaced by themselves (the new). In fact, the Hot Rods had not been around as a recognised professional act that much longer than the Pistols.
Barrie Masters (Eddie and the Hot Rods singer)… “Yeah, I remember that night pretty clearly. The Pistols were totally controlled by Malcolm Mclaren. The actual incident was actually over nothing really. They were showing off and smashing up the stage gear – which wasn’t even ours anyway – so I told Johnny Rotten that the next time they played with other bands it may be wiser not to try and wreck their gear. I then gave him a sort of gentle slap, as if to say naughty- naughty behave your-self, and the next thing after he had ran off and told Malcolm that’s when they had got their heads together and a bit of a ruckus kicked off. It was all hype and a put on. After that there was a bit of a war of words between both of our groups but they never turned up to sort it out; but there you go.”
Timothy Green (Rotherham Punk Rocker) … “When Eddie and the Hot Rods released their EP ‘Live at the Marquee’ virtually everyone I knew in Rotherham appeared to buy it. It was now 1976 and I heard the Ramones & Patti Smith on the John Peel show. Around this time, I started wearing drainpipe jeans and a leather jacket and got accused of being a teddy boy? I went to the London Roundhouse to see Patti Smith (supported by a band I instantly hated: the Stranglers) followed a little later by the Ramones at the same venue, which was on American bicentennial day. The Ramones came on …Dee Dee shouted ‘1234’ into his mike, but we couldn’t hear anything, so they went off until it was fixed! They did a fabulous twenty-minute set and went off. Sadly, the support band were once again the vile Stranglers but the main band the Flamin’ Groovies weren’t too bad.
Afterwards we were given a flyer advertising a Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club on Monday, but I had to leave London.”
Timothy would fortunately grab his chance to see Punk in the making a little closer to home a few months later… Meanwhile, some local music fans were becoming tired of the same old adult controlled rock and its boring diet of virtuosity and safeness.
Bryan Bell… “In 76 I used to watch the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ with old whispering Bob Harris…I wasn’t very impressed with the music on at that time. Something had to happen.”
Jo Callis …“During our very early days we were finding the work of contemporary groups like Dr. Feelgood and Eddie And The Hot Rods quite inspirational to our cause, and with these sort of bands already paving the way for what would become the new wave and the first tremors of the approaching Punk earthquake being felt on the Richter scale, it seemed there may be a current relevance for our new band. But in order for us to move on we really needed to develop our own original material, so Mark (Hi-Fi) and myself thought we'd give this a go, and see what we could come up with. Mark was a real vinyl enthusiast, he not only had a proper Hi-Fi system, but also a treasured collection of American blues and R n' B records which he'd built up over the years. Mark also had his finger very much on the pulse of what was upcoming and crucial on the underground music scene in both the UK and the US. I hung out with Mark quite a lot then, either disturbing his domestic peace with girlfriend Frances when we'd play his records and then listen to the John Peel show, or accompanying him on his record hunting jaunts around the many independent record shops in town. Between John Peel and Mark, I was discovering acts like Nick Lowe, Motorhead, Television, The 101er's (featuring a pre-Clash Joe Strummer) Larry Wallis -still keeping ‘Kings of Oblivion’ and the Pink Fairies alive, and many more.
Punk hits Donny Outlook and Bill Grundy
Doncaster Rock fan Patrick Tierney was turning onto Punk by the time The Sex Pistols played their first Doncaster Outlook date; but the Punk look had not filtered through to the early Pistols gigs up North and the standard seventies long hair was still much more common than a short spiky cut.
Patrick Tierney (Doncaster Punk fan) … “At the first Sex Pistols outlook gig in 1976, I went with a school mate, Gav Gee from Harworth.The gig was sparsely attended, and we stood about 10 yards from the stage on the left hand side. The crowd did seem to have a largely negative attitude. Musically, the band was alright, but nothing special. Matlock seemed to be the only one trying, but this opinion may have been influenced by what I had previously read. The one thing that does stick in my mind is that Johnny Rotten started to stare at Gav and held the stare. Gav always maintained that he out-stared Johnny Rotten. I wondered if this was to do with our appearance, as we both had very long hair. Maybe Johnny thought we shouldn’t be part of their crowd.”
Punk fans in the provinces and places like Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster during those days of late 1976 were fairly scarce. True, there were the odd scattering of kids who were excited by the prospect of this new attitude and a return to basics of the new music, but they were almost out on their own and any resemblance of a scene was just not yet happening. Then something happened that brought ‘Punk Rock’ and its followers into the media spotlight and straight on to the front pages of the daily papers- the infamous Bill Grundy interview!
The Daily papers had been running inquisitive and uninformed articles on the Punk scene for a few weeks previously. They were asking ‘Who are these Punks?’ and were attempting to describe and categorise their clothes, look and music… almost always embarrassingly wrongly. It was obvious that they needed some serious headlines and outrage to sell their version of what Punk was. Punk, being unconsciously honest, naïve and open would inevitably send the gutter press the present they were wanting for Christmas.
In December super group Queen pulled out of an interview for ‘Today’ programme and the Sex Pistols were invited along as a quick replacement. The group arrived and were soon taking advantage of the free drinks in the bar. Grundy who himself was part drunk, quickly tore into the assembled crowd of the Pistols and their ‘Bromley Contingent’ followers- goading them into a provoked response of verbal expletives that were plainly every day language for the interviewees. Soon Steve Jones gladly gave Grundy exactly what he was hoping for with his hilarious and legendary retort of ‘You dirty bastard’…. ‘You dirty Fucker’… ‘What a Fucking Rotter’.The plugs were pulled, the programmes credits came up and Punk Rock’s future, reputation and infamy were now sealed in sensationalist tabloid fervour. ‘The Filth and the Fury’ was now born and the media had its darling of outrage to play with at its own will. The headlines were typical and the public’s reaction also as predictable (as could be expected). What was not expected was the catalytic explosion of New groups, teenage music fans and clued in writers, that would take the initiative and do something with their lives – inspired by the idea that ‘Anyone can have a go’. The whole country was now gripped by the excitement, disgust and outrage of Punk Rock. After the ‘Grundy’ spectacle, there can hardly have been a person from comprehensive outsider kids to everyone’s grandma, who had not heard of the Sex Pistols and Punk Rock.
Anthony Cronshaw… “Like a bolt from the heavens, the Sex Pistols gave poor old Bill Grundy a right fucking gob full, and with this being tea-time viewing the media launched head on into these foul mouthed Punks. With it being shown on Granada, the youth of South Yorkshire missed it, but on grabbing my morning paper while dragging myself off to work, it was there for all to see in all its glory. Punk had hit the headlines and boy did we reach out and grab it with open arms.”
Phillip Wright … “I was only about 13 when our first Punk experience had occurred, but as 1976 became 1977 things started moving fast. My brother came home one night from the local pub, The John O’Gaunt, which had a Wednesday night disco, saying that the DJ had played the Sex Pistols song that was all over the NME, ‘Anarchy in the UK’. It had nearly caused a riot as local middle aged blokes had threatened to hit the DJ for offending them (Gleadless Valley estate and the John O’Gaunt area in particular was a tough place, full of hard nuts), but the DJ would not back down. The following week, me and a few mates crowded outside the fire doors with our ears pressed to the wood, trying to make out what songs he was playing …waiting to hear more Punk Rock.”
Paul Bower … “The Ramones gig was unbelievable. I had seen them the night before at the Electric circus in Manchester and they were fantastic. I interviewed them and they were really nice people, very friendly and down to earth. At the Outlook, they came on and the crowd went bananas; Encores? They did so many I can’t remember how many? It was perfect.”
Anthony Cronshaw … “We were now well into 1977 so it was now time to see some of the Punk music played live for the first time. Time to see the Ramones. I was still eking out a living at the ‘arse slapping’ supermarket I was exiled out to in fucking Rotherham, so I knocked off early, telling my Boss I was going to the dentist and then I dashed back to the Steel City. Once there, I rendezvoused with the lads in the local boozer…I bloody looked the biz- baseball boots, ripped jeans and a bin liner that I used for a shirt. I’d attacked an old jacket with a Stanley knife and it looked a mess- Punk style mess that is. My Mother had given me a puzzling look as I had bolted through the door and strutted through our Council estate on my way to the boozer. In the pub, my mate Martin walked in.
He looked cool in his sheepskin trousers that were about four sizes too big for him- looking like a bag of shit which was a compliment in that sense. It was Andy, though, who stole the show with a bin liner on and a noose around his neck and topped off with a mop of red fucking hair that he’d emptied two full bottles of cake dye onto his bonce to get the effect. We jumped into the car and we were off to Doncaster Outlook club - our mates we’d left behind pissing themselves at the state of us, but did we give a fuck?.We had arrived!
At the Outlook, we paid our 75p - yes 75 bloody pence - and we climbed the stairs and entered one of the smallest clubs I had ever been in. It was heaving and as we fought our way to the bar, the place was buzz, buzz, buzzing. Talking Heads were playing support but we’d come to see the Ramones and boy was this a sledgehammer of a set- the place was literally bouncing and how we didn’t finish up in the basement I’ll never know.
I looked around and it was electric- this was something I’d never experienced in my life, the adrenalin was shaking my body and what a feeling this was. It even beat my other passion in life and that was fighting at the football matches. This was simply the biz. Andy was bouncing his hefty frame like some kind of demented Ballerina, but his face was covered in the red cake dye. It was so hot, that when he was wandering round the place the red food colouring in his hair was dripping all over his face and the bouncers were thinking he had been glassed in the face or something. We were sweating and steaming that much moisture that it was rising off our saturated bodies.
But it was over far too quickly; mind you, they must have played their entire record catalogue of the two LP’S and the singles. It was one song done with and then a quick 1-2-3-4 and off they’d go again. You never had time to draw breath- it was amazing. As we descended the stairs and out into the chill of the evening, we were piss wet through. I didn’t get this wet in the fucking bath. I was on such a high that I could not wait for my next fix- there wouldn’t be too long to wait to get that fix.”
The Ramones Outlook gig was also reviewed in Rotherham Advertiser (who at the time was surprisingly quite on the ball with the local Punk scene and especially the live circuit). In the issue dated 27 May 1977, the reviewer recounts ‘The club was hot and steamy. The Atmosphere was tense and the Ramones were due on any minute. Talking Heads had set the scene. They had played songs that no one had heard before and had been called back on for more. But they finally cleared the stage and tightly packed bodies pushed forward. People stood on chairs and The Ramones appeared.
As the first two minute song was unleashed, the mass up front began bouncing up and down, jostling and pushing against each other. And from then on, through nearly 30 numbers, the high level of excitement and energy never dropped. It was exhausting, it was magnificent. ‘Gabba Gabba Hey! is all there is to say.’
Patrick Tierney … “The epochal Ramones/Talking Heads gig. That was one of the biggest crowds I ever saw at The Outlook. It was Life-changing and still in my top 5 gigs of all time. Madly enough, I remember the sweat marks under Tina Weymouth’s arms when the Heads finished. ‘Wow’, I thought, she's human.”
Summer of Hate
The summer of 1977 was not termed the summer of hate for no justifiable reason. Amongst the many widespread incidents of violence directed at Punk Rockers that summer were attacks on the Damned in Penzance, and assaults on TV Smith of the Adverts, Kid Reid of the Boys, Heartbreakers manager Lee Childs, Bob Geldof…notable violence involving the Stranglers in Cleethorpes and the more famous attacks on Johnny Rotten and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols. The NME ran a centre page spread on the subject of punk and Violence and on 2 July a front page on the Murder at Punk festival incident. These were mainly attacks on known Punk group members, but the average Punk kid himself could usually expect similar or worse. Sheffield was no exception in displaying this kind of indifference towards the Punk generation.
On July 28 1977 a gang of boozed up straights and beer boys decided to go to the Crazy Daisy in Sheffield city centre and throw their weight around, bashing punks who were pogoing on the dance floor. Many bloody noses and bruised faces were the result of this misdirected and senseless violence and even after the bouncers tried to get between the thugs and the punk kids, another attack started up. The trouble really kicked off and the Police and an ambulance were called for to help the injured punk kids. Still, the situation was dangerous for anyone looking slightly New Wave-ish. The manager of the club offered protection for the punks, but only if they all left together as the trouble makers were still hanging around waiting for the ones and twos to dwindle out of the venue.
Around this time, another outburst of violence occurred at the Slaughter and the Dogs concert at Sheffield Top Rank. Punk bashing straights were already gathering at the Claymore pub just below the venue and were abusing and threatening the punks as they passed by on their way to the gig. Once inside the venue, the kids who had come to see the groups were met with ongoing unprovoked attacks from the mindless punk hating straights who had followed them into the place. The violence continued throughout the gig despite many efforts to sustain it and calm it down.
This was now at the height of the Punk bashing period that followed the Jubilee ‘God Save the Queen’ spectacle and the general media sensationalising that would more often than not result in anyone with short hair and tight jeans being subjected to verbal and physical abuse for looking different. This attitude would continue on and off for the next few years all the way through the Punk era and sometimes beyond. Being a Punk Rocker, expressing your-self clothes wise and just being different were not easy past times in Sheffield and the locality back then.
Sex Pistols play Donny again
Jet (Punk Rocker from Doncaster)… “I went to the Sex Pistols gig at the Outlook and they were bloody awful.”
Timothy Green … “I heard about the news of the secret Sex Pistols tour and managed to get to see them at Donny outlook; the first time they had played - the September before - was empty just about but this time it was rammed. I wore a homemade anti-fascist t -shirt and got a bit of grief for wearing it. The atmosphere was quite heavy, but I thought the band were fine.”
Steve Lloyd … “I remember at the Pistols gig, they fell out with their roadie ‘Rodent’ and he was throwing and smashing bottles about. I think he was aiming for Nancy. Being totally honest though, for me, the Pistols weren’t that good really.”
Phil Tasker … “The first time the Pistols played the Outlook it must have been late 76 but I didn't go to see them then, luck would have it that I saw them second time around, but to be honest I can't remember much about the gig, apart from it was packed.”
Steve Lloyd … “The Sex Pistols were awkward that night, and Sid Vicious was a completely nasty piece of work. I asked him ‘so Sid, are you as vicious as they say that you are’ to which he replied nastily ‘what’s it Fucking look like’. Nancy Spungen was there and I think he was showing off in front of her. She was just sprawled all over the front of the stage most of the time that they were in there. They were setting out conditions that they would only have kids so close to the stage etc and then when they played they were encouraging them to get on stage and the bouncers were giving the kids a few kicking’s.”
Identity its the crisis can't you see!
Tony … “Back then I felt so angry and frustrated. My dad had passed away at the very start of 1978 and I felt really pissed off about that, but at the same time it gave me so much more freedom to do what I wanted. I don’t know how much of a Punk I would have been if my dad had still been around but I could never accept the authority of school. I was always ready to rebel against the ones who were telling me what to do. Punk perfectly reflected how I felt back then and its energy just completely took me over.”
The idea of how a punk looked was a new one. The look had only been created just over a year ago and so the classic uniformed Punk look was not yet that prevalent. Many young teenage Punk fans were approaching the style and image with a mix of uninformed naivety and the Media’s version of what a Punk should look like. With this cheap and quick approach, the Punk kids around the area started to create their own version of Punk attire.
Nicky Booth … “I had always been a bit creative, so I learned how to use my mum’s sewing machine and began converting flared trousers into drainpipes. Over the next year or two everything changed. X Clothes opened in Leeds selling punk gear, but I could never afford it so I went to jumble sales and converted clothes instead. I made bum flaps (I never understood what that was all about but they looked great) and being a bit arty I started painting punk t-shirts for myself (and for friends at £5 a go). I was a regular customer at the pet stall on Rotherham market where you could get dog clips – just the job for finishing off home made bondage trousers.”
Steven Doidge (Rotherham Punk Rocker) … “My Mum has never forgotten me going out with my pyjamas on, just to be different.”
John Harrison … “We would wear plastic trousers, mohair jumpers, string vests and always used to wear baseball boots. The Jam used to wear them and I always used to make a point of wearing them. Spiky hair was a must. Some of the kids used to call me ‘Sid Vicious’ (laughs). I used to rip my clothes, my jeans and stuff. Now they bloody buy em already like that (laughs).”
Stuart Bates … “We were not your archetypical punks. We didn’t go for the leather jackets and bondage trousers. We wore tight jeans, pointed toed shoes, ripped and pinned t- shirts. Most of the shirts we made ourselves – just plain tees which we splashed or ripped and I made stencils on a machine at work, which we then spray painted through onto the shirts things like ‘Anarchy’, ‘Destroy’, ‘The Clash’, ‘White Riot’ etc. We also made our own badges from pictures in the melody maker and NME.”
Tony ... “Funnily enough, I did the home made badge thing as well. I did a great Clash one with a Joe Strummer picture that I cut out of an observer Punk supplement. I did this during an art lesson at school. I covered it with sellotape.”
I can remember taking extra toys with me to the Marples, and giving them to the punks waiting to get in who had none - Valerie Garvey (Sheffield Punkette)
It had been less than four years since the Punk explosion had hit Sheffield and its lower paid cousins Rotherham and Doncaster. Back then it had been a slow developing movement with only an handful of inspired musicians grabbing the flame… aiming to set the clock back to zero and start again using the new barely scribbled Punk manifesto as their blueprint to kick down the doors of the establishment.
By the turn of the new decade and into 1981, the main stars of Sheffield’s ‘New Wave’ B-movie flick had either broken up or taken a different journey on a spaceship to the stars. Sheffield’s biggest stars that had landed at the advent of Punk Rock were The Human League and they were now at the brink of major stardom; although to achieve this, they had traded their style of cutting edge post – modernist dance music for a slightly sweeter taste of synthesiser Pop.
By 1980, out of the pioneering local ‘New Wave’ venues that had sprung up from the blitz of Punk Rock - Rotherham Windmill, Doncaster Outlook and Sheffield’s Limit club - only the latter one was still open for business. The local Punk and closely related ‘New Wave’ community had also changed unrecognisably in comparison to its 1977 founding fathers.
Gone were the open mindedness and experimentation aspects of Punk Rock’s original approach to both clothes and music. In its place came a new flavour of Punk Rocker. One who wanted to hear their Punk played fast, faster and faster… louder and even louder…a crusty studded leather jacket and a bullet belt were essential in clothing attire ideal to match the velocity of a thousand bullets being fired at one ever speeding train called ‘New Punk’...It did all sound and feel very much like Heavy Metal. It was the Blitz of 1981.
Tony … “There was still plenty of forward thinking Punk kids around, but Punk itself was starting to become stale and safe; much like the stuff it was meant to replace.”
The rapid descent into ‘mediocre Panto performance’ of Punk and the increasingly grotty wallowing of the so-called New Punk was not making much of an impression on some of the seasoned 2 generation Punks of the area.
Dave Spencer … “It just became awful really. I was thinking ‘what’s all this about’… Anti -Nowhere League and the like? That was not the Punk Rock I enjoyed and had been so fond of.
Here is a link to some pages out of the book that are featured on the 'Bored Teenagers' website
To Be continued!