I hear the sirens calling
As the rain is gently falling

Farewell to the Wirrina

The Wirrina Stadium in PeterboroughThe Damned ticket for Wirrina Stadium in Peterborough, 1979I’ve just found out that the Wirrina Stadium in Peterborough was pulled down a couple of years ago. It wasn’t really much of a stadium, it was more a grubby sports hall, but I saw quite a lot of bands play at the Wirrina in the late 1970s and early 80s, and I have fond memories of the place. Among the gigs I particularly remember were The Clash (the 1978 “Sort It Out Tour”, supported by The Slits and The Innocents), The Damned, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Madness (supported by The Go-Go’s). I wrote about The Damned’s show, which ended in something of a riot, in Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail (click here to read that part of the book over at my archive website) and the image of Ari Up from The Slits bouncing and skipping across the stage with her dreadlocks dripping in spit will stay with me for ever.

I’ve no idea what they’ve built on the site of the Wirrina, but I guess there’s every chance that it’s a Tesco or a Sainsbury’s or some other fluorescent-lit temple of consumerism. If it is, I sincerely hope that, every once in a while, some unsuspecting late-night shopper hears the sound of Ari Up singing “Shoplifting” drifting down the aisle: “Put the cheddar in me pocket / Put the rest under the jacket / Talk to the cashier, he won’t suspect / And if he does, if he does…”

Wirrina Stadium photograph courtesy of Peterborough Images

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Grail hunting at Christmas

Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail, Christmas 2001 (front)Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail, Christmas 2011 (inside)Did I mention I’d written a book called Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail? I believe I did. It’s very good, you know. It’s about what the title says it’s about – punk rock legend Rat Scabies and me on a mind-bending (and probably soul-bending) hunt to find ye olde mystic and elusive Holy Grail – and you can read a couple of extracts here. Go on. You know you want to.

Several of the episodes described in Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail have been turned into cartoons by our arty friend Stu Warwick, some of which Stu has published as limited edition prints and auctioned off for charity (lovely bloke that he is). Each year since the book came out, Stu has also produced a small run of Christmas cards for Rat and me – and his 2011 card is my favourite to date. The front shows Rat and me with photographer Richard Bellia, who occasionally joined us on our questing (that’s a technical term us grail hunters use), and the inside has a secret message hidden in Stu’s specially adapted version of one of the coded parchments from Rennes-le-Chateau in France, a place which features heavily in the book. Click the images to see them nice and big and readable.

On this seasonal note, that’s about it from me for a couple of weeks. Have a great Christmas. I’ll start posting again when I’m able to extricate myself from the armchair.


A bit of Guns N’ Roses for your wall

Guns N' Roses at The Marquee in London (1987) by Richard Bellia

My old buddy Richard Bellia has a small selection of his photographs available as prints at Yellow Korner, a website specialising in affordable art imagery. The prints include Joe Strummer (The Clash), Robert Smith (The Cure), reggae idol Lee “Scratch” Perry, two different photos of Nirvana, and the above shot of Guns N’ Roses, which was taken at The Marquee in the summer of 1987, on the band’s first trip to London. Each print is numbered, comes with a certificate of authenticity, and costs €69 – a bargain at twice the price.

I worked with Richard on loads of jobs for Melody Maker in the late Eighties and early Nineties. One of my most vivid memories was when we covered the 1988 Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, an event marred by the tragic death of two fans in the crush of the crowd during Guns N’ Roses’ set. You can read my review of the festival here and a Guns N’ Roses piece based on a couple of interviews I did with Slash (one of them backstage at Donington) here. And if you’ve not had enough of clicking, you can read more about Richard Bellia here. This last link is an extract from my book Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail, in which Richard plays a leading part (although I’m sure Scabies and I would have found the bloody thing quicker without him).