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



  1. Lux Interior and Sting. Now there’s an essay in opposites! I envy you seeing The Cramps in 1979, although it clearly meant little to you. I saw them once in the late, late ’80’s or early ’90’s. They were still confrontational and the sight of Lux in very high red stillettoes and a some DARING lingerie is not easily forgotten.

  2. Ah, loved The Police and clearly remember taping all the LPs as my big brother bought them (even though home taping was, apparently, killing music). Hadn’t seen that sleeve though – hard to imagine it came from the same band who would later record Canary In A Coalmine

    Sidenote: your blogroll link to Pipspeak (much appreciated, by the way)… well, Pipspeak has had a bit of a revamp and moved to The old site will stay up for a little longer, in parallel with New Amusements, but I’d be grateful if you could update your link (not least because T(n)VV sends me lots of traffic!)

  3. I have to confess I loved the Police right up to the end. I had ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ was one of my early singles, and I also recall buying Synchronicity on cassette while on a caravan holiday in Dorset. I would have been 12. True, Sting is a prick, but I was never aware of this at this point, but I think his awfulness only really came to light post-Police. His solo stuff has been almost universally unlistenable.

    I never saw the Cramps, but I did see Imelda May a few years ago, the week Lux died and she paid a rousing tribute to the great man.

  4. Well, we have a lot in common here… or do we? It’s odd, but The Police were the second rock concert that I ever attended. Unfortunately, I lived on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the cultural backwater that was Central Florida, so New Wave acts playing where I lived only existed as an aberration. Acts I was into usually played a six date US tour involving New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and other metropoli of similar size.

    Sure, The Police had pounded the backwaters of the USA under Miles Copeland’s [successful] work ethic breakthrough methodology. I remember the band playing dates in Disney World for their “Regatta De Blanc” tour but in fact, they hit Central Florida on all tours except for their “Zenyatta Mondatta” opus. But I was not driving at that time, so I missed out.

    What I finally saw as my second rock concert was the endlessly depressing “Synchronicity” tour in the form of a “Rock Superbowl” with 20,000 other people [barely that, actually]. I was in college and was enrolled in a popular culture class for a few elective credit hours. We were assigned to write our term paper on either professional wrestling in a sweaty tin box known as the Eddie Graham Sports Stadium, or to write our paper on Rock Superbowl. I thought I picked the best choice by seeing The Police. I was so wrong.

    I spent 13 hours or more locked in a stadium with young people who were drunk, high, sick, and throwing anything they could get their hands on during the interminable ordeal! The opening act was The Animals, who had reformed briefly at that time. They were the highlight of the day. The Fixx were the most pretentious band I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing. I only had their first album, the mediocre “Shuttered Room, ” but by this time, their second waxing “Reach The Beach,” with the annoying hit single “One Things Leads To Another,” was nearly topping the US charts.

    But the acme of the charts that year were reserved for The Police who were deep into the “ghastly mistake” phase of their career arc with hit after hit peeled off of the embarrassing “Synchronicity” album just to spite me for ever liking them! By the time of this concert, they had three chart toppers released as singles, but I had not bothered with buying the album as the advance single was not compelling. I had stopped listening to the radio by 1980, so unless there was an MTV video, I didn’t hear pop songs any more. I heard the fatuous “King Of Pain” for the first time in concert; a distinctly underwhelming experience.

    How I wished that I had even seen them during their “Ghost In The Machine” tour instead, but this was how it played out. By the time I was in bed by 1:30 a.m. after that tribulation, I no longer liked The Police, and I made a solemn vow to never attend a stadium show ever again! In the subsequent 30 years of gigging I’ve enjoyed, the truth is that at numbers over 1000, the possibility of the event achieving flight is slim to none, and with my tastes, this is not much of a problem as I don’t usually achieve congruency with popular tastes.

  5. My younger brother liked the police so I couldnt. No name acts really came to the Isle of Wight so the first real concert I went to was at Puckpool holiday camp, the headline act was er… Gary Glitter backed by a local band given a tape of the songs a week before. Remember almost nothing about the night assume underage drinking was the winner. Rock and Roll eh.


  6. you know that scene in Quadrophrenia – where Jimmy finds out that that cool character played by Sting is a bell hop in a stupid uniform. That’s your Police, right there.

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