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Sunday, September 25, 2005

GO FLY A KITE: Thoughts on Stiff Little Fingers and Millwall FC

If ever there was a case of the support band upstaging the headliner it was when Stiff Little Fingers supported the Tom Robinson Band in Cardiff top Rank (1978/9 ish?). From then on, I was up for going to see SLF whenever they played within a reasonable travelling distance (this was before the days when I would travel half way around Europe to watch a band). That first album ‘Inflammable Material’ still rates as one of the top five punk albums of all time.

Last Friday they played Blackwood Miners Institute, a venue within walking distance of my house… was I excited? Did I go? NO! Was I gutted that I did not go? NO!

This is a classic case of never meet your ‘heroes’. A couple of years ago SLF played Blackwood and turned up without a full road crew. They are now to big to lug their own gear about so I got a phone call from the manager of the ‘Stute (at the time I was putting on gigs regularly there so knew the management quite well) asking if I wanted to earn fifty quid and get in for free. Of course I did. So me and Ginger John (this was back in the days before he went grey) trucked on over there and merrily lugged about bits of sound equipment happy in the knowledge that we were doing it for one of the all time great punk bands. Anything to help the cause of punk.

While the support band were on stage (some no hopers from Aberdare that thought they were the next Stereophonics) the road manager called me and the ginger one to one side. “Look”, he said, “when the support comes off stage, get them to go into their dressing room and stay there, then get their gear off stage as quickly as possible.” “OK”, we said, not suspecting anything. As they finished, that was what we did. Then when we had all the gear off the stage he called us into the dressing room with the support band and said.. “look, you have two options. You can stay in here till SLF come on, or you can go in to the auditorium now out of the way, but what ever happens I do not want you mingling with SLF backstage. And if you do accidentally bump into them in the toilet, you are not allowed to mention The Jam" (Bruce Foxton now plays with SLF). This was starting to get a bit weird. After a quick debate we all decided that we would stay in the dressing room and get stoned until the band came on.

When the band eventually came on, the manager came looking for me. “This is the last night of the tour” he told me, “and the band have brought a bottle of champagne with them.” Cool, I thinks to myself….I am going to have champagne with SLF! “At the moment the band only have half pint glasses back stage” he continues “and they refuse to drink out of anything less than proper champagne glasses, can you go and sort it out?” I just look at him blankly trying to take in what I am hearing and thinking, “punk rock my arse” to myself. When I finally realise he is serious I set off in search of champagne glasses, more specifically the ‘classic’ flat ones that you cup in your hand, not the fluted type. Luckily the ‘Stute also do weddings, so we were in luck. Once I found them for him it was, “OK, thanks, no f*uck off out back in the auditorium before the band come back off stage”. No champagne with the band then.

At this point I am starting to think.. “you’re not famous anymore, who the f*uck do you think you are”. I stood and tried to watch the band but all this arrogance spoiled it all for me. As I looked around I could see lots of beer bellies and Phil Collins look-alikes, basically it was a crowd full of people old enough to remember when SLF were a force to be reckoned with, out for an evening of nostalgia. There were no youngsters there. You can’t strut around being self-important relying on an increasingly aging fan base forever.

When we were taking the gear down at the end of the show we started talking to the two ‘roadies’ that have been doing the whole tour with the band. I asked why they were not backstage necking the champagne back and discovered that the band will not even talk to the road crew that travels around with them!

It got worse. I had not really done it for the money, more for the crack, but because of SLF’s attitude the money took on an increasing importance. So when the road manager tells us he cannot give us the full fifty quid each he had agreed I am furious. “It’s the venues fault” he tries to tell us, “they did not sell enough tickets”. “It’s SLF’s fault”, I tell him, “for not being famous anymore! If they cannot pull a crowd anymore they only have themselves to blame. They used to be legends and they have blown it by being crap.” He still refuses to wedge up properly but I have neither the time nor patience to argue. I call back to the club a few days later, the venue manager had ‘redistributed’ the door takings to make sure we got paid. Scott had his faults but he was not a bad stick.

So when I saw in the ‘Stute's latest brochure that SLF were playing again, did I get excited? No. As I sat there, reading that it was £15 a ticket (I can remember paying £2.50 to se them) and reading that they recorded the classic albums ‘Nobody’s Heroes’ (not a bad album, but they had definitely lost their edge) ‘Go For It’ (apart from 'Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae', a pretty forgettable album) and ‘Now Then’ (so forgettable I had forgotten about it), did I get angry that they do not even mention ‘Inflammable Material’ in their publicity? No. Did I sit there thinking to myself that I could not even name any of the albums they have released since 1982? No. I just sat there thinking, “You’re not famous anymore” and “you can go fly a kite”.

Talking of “you’re not famous anymore”, City were away to Millwall yesterday. I was more concerned about missing that than SLF. 20 years ago I would not have missed it, simple as that. I used to travel all over the country to watch Cardiff City, which was a bit odd really; I did not like football and was not really a hooligan, I just liked the idea of being somewhere other than Blackwood on a Saturday afternoon and getting p*ssed with me mates. If there was a band on I wanted to see, I would travel just about anywhere to see them, but if there wasn’t, it was City away.

Anyway… Millwall. Back in the ‘80s, when we went away it would be either on the train or in the back of a transit van, but for some reason we went on an official coach to Millwall. It was a long time ago and I was probably to drunk to remember what happened the week after, but I do remember that there were 13 coaches and 12 of them had their windows put through as we were heading out of London. Can’t, for the life of me, remember why we were on a coach, as I say, we always did our own thing.

Yesterday, if I had gone, I would have had to travel by coach. The game was designated a ‘bubble’, which basically means that you cannot buy a ticket for the game, you have to buy a voucher which covers you for both the bus and game. You get on the bus, the bus has to meet the police at a pre-arranged rendezvous point and the police hand out the tickets and take you straight to the game. It is intended to stop people travelling on their own uncontrolled by the police and getting into ‘dust ups’ with the home fans. It tends to happen for games when there is a high likelihood of agro, and given City’s reputation over the years that is quite often. The arrangements for yesterday was that the coaches had to be at the RV point at 12:30 and the fans would be held in a compound for 2 hours before being marched to the ground.

As I say, 20 years I would not have missed it. 5 years ago I would not have been interested, I had gone right off it, what with being a dad and all that, but the last few years I have got back into the vibe and once again travel away a few times a season.

In the end, it was a choice of going through the hassle of a bubble to go to a ground I have been to twice in the last two seasons or see my kids, who I have not seen much of lately. The kids won. The Metropolitan Police could go fly a kite and stick their bubble up their a*se.

So, I did not go to see SLF and I did not go to Millwall. What did I do? I went flying a kite.. obviously! Took Tara up to Penyfan Pond (as you can see from the photo) and had a great time.

Photo taken by me, today, at Penyfan Pond


At 7:23 pm , Blogger SimonT said...

Are you allowed to mention Casbah Club? Bruce Foxton's new band Casbah Club are selling CDs on their new website - take a free listen....

Cheers, ST


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