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13 – Hello!

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

SPACE In February 1979, at the Hälle Munsterland in Germany, I watched with envy as some kid caught John Cohglan’s drumstick when he threw it into the crowd after a pretty awesome solo.

SPACE A little later I felt the greenness returning when Francis Rossi, once he had finished mopping his glistening brow, hurled his sweat-soaked towel into the assembled mass of an adoring audience. A brief melee ensued until I saw it held triumphantly aloft like a trophy or the spoils of war. And I could only curse myself for having chosen to stand here, instead of over there in the direct line of fire.

SPACE I had the last laugh though, for during a lull in the lively proceedings and once  the band finished trading greetings and jocularities with the audience, I waited until the absolute last moment. Then, just as I sensed that they were about to start the next number, I jumped as high as I could and shouted out “Hello!”

SPACE Rick Parfitt happened to be looking in my direction and he shouted back, to me, “’Allo!”

SPACE The rest of the gig was a blur. I didn’t get a drumstick or a smelly towel. I maintain that with Mr. Parfitt’s personal greeting I got something far better. Nothing tangible, but something that will always be with me. The drumstick would have been nice though…

SPACEA year later I was back in the UK, my brat-pack travels as a dependant of the British Army well and truly behind me. As a newly turned 18 year old my adult life was just starting, and what better way to kick it off than a two hundred mile trip to Leeds to meet a friend, then another one fifty or so to Stafford to see the Hottest Band In The World.

SPACE My love of KISS, courtesy of my mate Kev in Germany, has been well documented. The fact I was now making this pilgrimage to see them play, here in the UK for the first time, was testament to my adulation.

SPACE September the 5th, 1980. A date that is synonymous with my musical enlightenment. Only my fourth ever gig but by far the most important to me. It was symbolic of a Rite of Passage. It would be the furthest I traveled on my own to an event I had wholly planned, organised and paid for myself..

SPACE The buzz in Stafford was incredible. Special buses had been laid on from the train station to Bingley Hall. The venue was a heaving sea of denim, hair and leather, and it was packed solid. Arriving quite late we agreed there was no way of working our way toward the front of the crowd so we stood our ground toward the back and waited for the show to start.

SPACE Researching that show now and thinking back to then, I don’t think I was aware at the time but the tour was called the ‘Unmasked’ tour which was also the name of their latest album. Yes, that album. If Dynasty had marked the beginning of the end, then Unmasked merely proved the cynics right.

SPACE Also unbeknown to me at the time was that this tour was to be the last that featured Ace Frehely (well, for 16 years anyway). One sad fact that I was aware of though, was that this would be the first tour that did not feature the percussionist talents of Peter Criss, having left to be replaced by Eric Carr.

SPACE But all of that didn’t really matter. I got totally blown away by the show. I saw Gene Simmons fly across the heads of the crowd, spewing forth blood as it erupted from his mouth. I saw fireworks and flames and incredible lighting. I saw Space Ace let go of his guitar which then rose into the air, smoking and sparking until he went off stage and came back with another one. He then proceeded to shoot pulses of light at the floating guitar until it exploded in flames and fell to the floor whereupon he smashed it into pieces and showered them onto the crowd. Marooned at the back, not even close enough to have been slightly spattered by Gene’s bloody spittle, I could only feel rising morosity as another missed opportunity to catch a piece of rock memorabilia passed me by.

SPACE I made do with a silk scarf and a program, and an early morning ride on the milk train back to Leeds. But at least KISS were crossed off the list and I had another memory that would never be forgotten, even if the ‘Catch Something Thrown By A Rockstar’ tick box still remained elusively blank.

SPACE As the Eighties finally escaped from the shadow of the Seventies, the most notable thing happening on the music scene was the New Wave absurdity, which was all hair-do’s, make-up, fashionable clothing and romanticism. And that was just the boys.

SPACE Our ears were assailed by the warblings of the likes of Soft Cell, Adam Ant, Boy George, Altered Images, The Human League, Duran Duran, Depech Mode… the list is endless and I’m sure you get the picture. But once more, lines were being drawn in the sand, across which no true metal head would dare step.

SPACE Luckily for the denim mob, we had our own new wave going on. Back then it was just another new band, another great gig, another awesome album. As good as or better than the last, sometimes not, but in all cases it was music being created.

SPACE These days, that era is reverently referred to as NWOBHM, pronounced NEWWOBBEM. Quite simply, we were living through the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. One of the great exponents of the genre at the time was a radio 1 DJ by the name of Tommy Vance who hosted The Friday Night Rock Show on the radio. And through the dark times of Tainted Love, Karma Chameleon and Ant Music we sought solace and refuge with our radios tuned to TV on the Radio.

SPACE And into this melting pot of musical mayhem came an urge within me to experience more and more live music. The closest and most convenient venue was the now sadly departed, West Runton Pavilion. A legendary and hallowed place in the annals of rock concert history. A place where up and coming bands, too numerous to mention, cut their teeth on the tour circuit. Tucked away far up on the North Norfolk coast it was probably one of the most unlikely locations ever thought of but it welcomed with open arms young bands such as Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, ACDC, Blue Oyster Cult, Status Quo and Iron Maiden to name but a few.

SPACE The biggest band I got to see there was the incredible Motorhead, on their Bomber tour. I was also lucky to see Magnum, Saxon and my piece de resistance, the wonderful Diamond Head.

SPACE They were a four man band from Stourbridge and their popularity soon earned them a cult following. By 1979 they were supporting big acts such as ACDC and Iron Maiden so by the time I saw them in ’82 they were well established as a noted forerunner of the NWOBHM phenomena. Later in the Eighties they would be cited as a major influence by bands such as Metallica and Megadeath.

SPACE But I didn’t really care about much of that. I was in seventh heaven. We had arrived in good time, fought a path to the bar and grabbed a fourpack of the notorious Breakers Malt Liquor, the only known beer that could bang the inside of a headbangers head while he banged his head to headbanging music. It was a required source of sustenance while stuck in the middle of the heaving crowd. But I’d gone one better and actually made it to the front, for the first ever time. In the heady days of pre-Health and Safety officialdom there were no safety barriers to contend with. Being at the front meant leaning on the actual stage.

SPACE West Runton was my church and I was at the altar. Finally.

SPACE I don’t recall the set list. If you know anything about Diamond Head you’d recognise the titles of the songs I know they played such as It’s Electric, Sucking My Love, Shoot Out The Lights and Helpless. Much of what they played back then has gone on to become classic rock songs and is often heard on rock radio stations today. And there I was, in total awe of these guitar playing demigods (and the drummer of course) offering my soul in exchange for eternal rock n’ fuckin’ roll ecstasy.

SPACE And then it happened. Brian Tatler, founding member, lead guitarist and all-round, long-haired, nice guy, finished whichever song they had just been playing and threw his plectrum into the crowd. Or to be more precise, he threw it at me and I caught the damn thing!

SPACE Words cannot adequately describe my feelings at that exact moment.. My devotion to the faith had paid off and my reward was just and fitting. It was no drumstick, or splinter of broken guitar. It was a small triangular piece of black plastic with rounded points, and embossed with the immortal words ‘Gibson Medium’ in silver. And thirty years later, I still have that particular piece of manna, along with the autographed program which I got them to sign when I went backstage after the gig and met them all, to shake their hands, and say “Hello!”


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