The Robster has been putting up some great stuff over at Is This The Life? including a great tale of his first ever gig which happened to be The Wedding Present.
I’ve mentioned a few times that my own first live concert was in May 1979 at the Glasgow Apollo. The headline act was The Police and support came from both Bobby Henry and The Cramps. It was a chaotic night in loads of ways. The tickets, costing £2.50 in advance or £2 on the door, had gone on sale a few months earlier but such was the lack of interest in any of the bands that the promoters and venue management decided to close off all areas except the stalls. Nobody however, would anticipate that The Police would storm the charts shortly beforehand with a re-released Roxanne and be tipped by many as the ‘next big thing’, which led to a huge demand for tickets. I think it was 48 hours in advance of the gig that the circle and upper circle tickets went on sale and soon it was a total sell-out.
The problem for the venue was that all tickets were for unreserved seating and they just weren’t geared up for that…also the fact that groups of friends were coming along and demanding that they be allowed to sit together even when their tickets were for separate parts of the building (I can vouch for this from personal experience). The upshot was that the stalls filled up very early while those who had tickets for that area (ie had bought them ages in advance) were angry at finding themselves shunted to the nosebleed seats high up in the gods (which was a ridiculously long way up at the Glasgow Apollo).
I can’t remember much of Bobby Henry who, gawd bless, will always be the first live musician I had the privilege of seeing. The Cramps were chaotic and confrontational and didn’t go down too well with the majority of the audience. Lux Interior didn’t help things by constantly challenging folk to invade the stage and fight with him – which was a near impossibility as the stage was a good 30 feet above the font of the stalls but was reachable if you were crazy enough to jump down 20 feet from the circle area – so instead the front man got his cock out while singing Human Fly.
The whole place was at fever pitch by the time the main act came on stage. They opened with a song that I would later place at #20 in my 2008 45 45s at 45 series:-
mp3 : The Police – Can’t Stand Losing You
The fact that the band became the biggest act on the planet for a brief time in the early 80s, as well as Sting becoming the most self-righteous and pompous prick imaginable makes it all too easy to mock The Police. But as a 15 year-old lad, I thought they were as good as anything else that was emerging from the post-punk era that had been christened New Wave which is why I’m proud that they were my first headline act.
Not too many other bands were singing about prostitutes in 1979. These were the days when even the use of the word ‘damn’ was liable to get your song banned from the airwaves. The Police were actually regarded as a group that was a bit daring, cutting edge and subversive. You’ll have to trust me on that for I know it’s almost impossible to imagine.
I’d bought Can’t Stand Losing You a few months earlier after seeing the band play it live on The Old Grey Whistle Test. I hid the record away from my folks cos I thought they would go crazy about the sleeve. Pictured at the head of this post you can see it is an image of someone (turns out it was drummer Stewart Copeland) slowly hanging themselves by putting the noose around their neck and standing on a block of ice that was melted away by a three-bar electric fire. The back of the sleeve was a close-up photo of the ice block having melted…..and beside it was the photo that had been held by the hanging man.
I honestly had some nightmares about that sleeve. Is this what you were driven to when someone chucked you and broke your heart?? Surely not…(and it has since occurred to me that perhaps a certain Ian Curtis might have glimpsed this sleeve at some point or other….)
But aside from the sleeve, it was a record that I played constantly hour-after-hour and day-after-day. I hadn’t been exposed to all the much reggae, so the song had a beat and rhythm that I thought was really unusual. I also loved the sound of Sting’s voice – it was so much sharper, clearer and tuneful than most other singers fronting new-wave bands. I was gutted when I realised the single wasn’t going to chart (it only made #42 on its first release) but it made up for it when it was re-released in the summer of 1979 and reached #2.
They say you never forget your first time, and that a small part of it lives with you forever. I’m no different…..and although I’ve been left embarrassed by an awful lot of the stuff that came out after the initial singles, I’ll never forget the part The Police played in developing my life-long love and affection for music and live gigs.
Here’s the b-side
mp3 : The Police – Dead End Job