Out of Control the reviews
Review by Steve of Mur Mur blog site March 2011
If it only takes me a week to read a book then it is either:
A: A bloody good book and unputdownable or
B: Only about 4 pages long.
"Out Of Control" by Tony Beesley is 165 pages long and it took me a week to read. An excellent book. From the opening foreword by Paul Bower (of 2.3 fame) I was hooked. He beautifully paints a picture of life in a Northern town mid 1970's.
"Computers are the size of twenty school lockers. The Internet has not been imagined. Social networking is going to the 'Dial House Working Men's Club' for six pints of Tetley's and a game of billiards. last orders are 10:30 p.m. If you want a job you got one. The National Coal Board; Shardlows; The River Don Works; or even night shifts at Bachelors packing cartons of Vesta Chow Mein. Wages come in notes and coins in a small brown paper envelope on a Friday. You feel a rush when you discover that the double shift you worked on a Tuesday has pushed you above £35 to take home. Hardly anyone you know has a bank account".
The book is the second part of the trilogy written by Tony about his youth as a punk rocker, a teenage punk rocker. I enjoyed the first part: "Our Generation" (mentioned in December 2010's blog pages), and bought this one as soon as I had finished it...about a month later! Tony doesn't feature in this tome though, he lets others tell the story of two years in the life of two influential venues in South Yorkshire. The Outlook in Doncaster and The Windmill in Rotherham.
In 1978 I used to frequent a similar venue, AJ's in Lincoln. The same bands at the same time where playing the Outlook. The Lurkers, Ultravox! (with John Foxx), UK Subs, Cyanide, The Skunks, Patrik Fitzgerald, Rich Kids etc. It makes me smile every time Ultravox! is mentioned it has (with John Foxx) in brackets afterwards. It is difficult telling folk nowadays that one of my all time favourite groups is Ultravox!, quickly followed by "before Midge Ure". Same when I tell folk I like Adam & The Ants....before he went shite. So the book hits an immediate chord. (Just the one). Folk in Doncaster were up to the same tricks as me...being 14/15 years old and trying to get into an over 18's venue...turning up outside the venue at around sixish and waiting for the battered white transit van to show up from across the Market Square. Offering to carry amps, drums, whatever up three flights of stairs to the stage area (what was it with clubs and stairs)? Then disappearing in to the shadows and praying the bouncers don't notice.
There is also a piece by Nigel Lockwood (of Gun Rubber Fanzine) about the Adverts gig at Lincoln Tech College that ended up as one great big bloody battle between punks and "local in-breeds" as he calls them. I mentioned this gig in my blog about the TV Smith diaries, and I'd forgotten that the ENTS folk belatedly locked the doors so half the in-breeds were already in the place and we couldn't get out! No where to run, nowhere to hide. Ahhhh, great days, eh?
Tony has got quotes from bands that played the venues too. Most interestingly from members of The Skunks and Strangeways. I never knew Strangeways (never saw them, never had their single) but I do know they had Ada Wilson as their lead singer. I'm a big fan of Ada Wilson, his "I'm In Control Here" 7" on Barn Records is one of my all time favourite songs...ever. I must admit to have never heard of The Windmill, a club situated in Rotherham United's Football Stand, but for a year or so it too was on the "punk" circuit. Not as famous or as long lasting as The Outlook (or AJ's or The Porterhouse in Retford) but then again it had no stairs to lug the gear up.
The book beautifully captures the age, the era, the violence, the fun, the thrill...just what is like to be a teenager back in the mid 1970's and discovering live fast music and punk rock. For all those who were part of it then and nearing 50 now...buy this book. The book can be bought via Amazon, or direct from Tony at www.ourgenerationpunkandmod.co.uk . No excuse.
It does finish on a where are they now section but fails to mention the whereabouts of Ada Wilson. Does anybody know? Back in the early 1990's I went to see Bill Nelson and Harold Budd play at York Arts Centre where I found myself standing in an adjacent urinal to Ian Nelson (Bill's brother and saxophonist in Ada Wilson's band Tattoo Hosts Vision On). I asked Ian on the whereabouts of Ada then and apparently he was playing karaoke pubs in Wakefield as an Elvis impersonator. Can this be true? I'd love to know.
by Den Browne Mudkiss fanzine 15/7/2010
Another highlight of last year was Tony Beesley's book "Our Generation", an in-depth exploration of the late 70's punk scene around South Yorkshire, dealing mainly with punk life in Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield & Rotherham. That was a pretty massive book & gave a fascinating overview, the amount of detail giving a great sense of time & place. Since then Tony's carried on the labour of love in documenting & recording the scene - this new book narrows the focus from "Our Generation" to concentrate on two particular venues, the Outlook in Doncaster and the Windmill in Rotherham. Like "Our Generation", the book's mainly made up of skilfully edited & interwoven interview quotes, interspersed with commentaries from the author. There's also an absolute gold-mine of fan photos, posters, fanzines & fliers reproduced here.Although they appealed to the same audiences, there was quite a difference between the two places. The Outlook's manager & promoter Bob Roberts comes across as someone for whom the music always came first, even it was at the expense of business considerations. The Windmill provided some great nights too, but was a more hard-nosed operation, where there was often a disparity between what was advertised & who actually played there on any given night.Apart from representing for the nascent punk scene, both clubs also catered to the late 70's mainstream of Heavy Metal & "progressive" nights & disco, & Tony Beesley & his interviewees are very good at evoking these tribal differences & how change takes place, as hair is cut & loyalties alter. Where the detail of things like gig lists really help is in showing for how much of the time, various different musical scenes could overlap & co-exist. Sure, everything changed with the Pistols, but in a more subtle way than is usually represented now. Thus, taking the summer of '77 as an example, in addition to legendary gigs like the Ramones/Talking Heads double bill, Damned/Adverts & Jam gigs, bookended by two Pistols shows, the Outlook also hosted shows from Alberto y los Trios Paranoios, Split Enz, Drs of Madness, Kursaal Flyers & John Otway. The book is pretty essential reading for any serious Pistols fans. There are some great fan photos of the group & the reports on their two contrasting shows are pretty revealing. At their first show - just after the Grundy fiasco on tv - Glen Matlock was still in place, but with Sid along for the ride as part of the gang. The group are short of material, but are friendly & engage with the audience. The next show was only a year or so later, but already the punk landscape was changing. This was the "SPOTS" tour, with the Pistols' Doncaster show advertised as being by the "Tax Exiles"(!). This time Sid is in the group, but off his face most of the time. Only Steve Jones & Paul Cook turn up for a record signing session with fans. There's also some very interesting insights into the commonly held belief that the Pistols were "banned by the authorities" from playing - according to people who were involved at the booking end of things (like Bob Roberts) this was largely another Maclaren fantasy to get more publicity/notoriety for the group, with promoters actually desperate to book the most sought-after group of the day. It's cool too to see the contracts for the Pistols' Outlook shows, already looking like ancient relics.While there was always a scarcity value to Pistols gigs, the fans' account of the week-by-week gigs at the clubs show who were the bands who were really out there working & connecting with the fans - groups like the Adverts, Generation X, Stranglers & the Buzzcocks. There's also belated respect for people who've almost been written out of the story or forgotten now, like Wayne County & the Electric Chairs, the Boys, John Foxx-era Ultravox, & the Rich Kids (with a couple of really nice photos of a young & happy Steve New).The whole punk story is landmarked with legendary clubs & venues - CBGB's, Max's, the Roxy, Barbarella's, the Vortex, the Electric Circus, Eric's - and in "Out of Control" Tony Beesley makes a good case for at least one of these places to be given the same status. There's also a very nice balancing act in the way the author describes a scene that in some ways is still close & ongoing, & in others is part of a distant, pre-internet/mobile phone black & white world. By the end of the book it feels like you know the Outlook & Windmill crews & another story starts to seep through, between the lines: the eternal mysteries we all undergo at that age of finding your place, your mates, what you like, where you're going to...The main thing is that the book's a really entertaining read & massively informative. It'll get you scurrying to find music you'd almost forgotten about (got the Boys playing now!). In years to come it'll also be a great piece of ground-level oral history for anyone wanting to know what the late seventies punk scene was really like.
Record Collector September 2010 issue by Shane Baldwin
Endearing look at punk in Doncaster and Rotherham. The first book in Tony Beesley's planned South Yorkshire punk trilogy, Our Generation, gave a broad overview of the whole scene, also taking in the area's mod revival and fans, before Neil Anderson narrowed the focus by covering Sheffield's Limit Club in 'Take it to The Limit'.
Beesley's second outing takes a similar route, telling the story of the punk scenes in Doncaster and Rotherham byconcentrating on those towns' most important punk clubs, the Outlook and Windmill. As before, his approach is to let the musicians, fans, promoters and fanzine writers paint teh picture, interspersed with his own observations and quotes from local papers and fanzines. This is punk as it happened for teh majority of us: out in the provinces, for whom the Roxy, London WC2 was just an LP with Johnny Moped on it.
Like it's predecessor, Out of Control could have done with a bit of sub-editing, but the odd mistake doesen't detract from an entertaining look at an important and - before Beesley and Anderson - largely unexplored bit of punk history.
South Yorkshire Times