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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Anarchy in the ukulele

The Pukes version of Damned Damned Damned The Pukes version of London CallingThere’s only three weeks until Christmas and if you’re still wondering what to get the punk in your life, the answer may lie with The Pukes. I’m not talking about some obscure group from 1977 with a solitary crackly seven-inch to their name. The Pukes are about as here and now as you can get. Well, kinda. They are a self-proclaimed “anti-society” of 10 ladies, some of whom have had several 21st birthdays, who perform classic punk songs on ukuleles. Which is a marvellous concept – and all the more so since they play with considerable skill and a big bucketful of gusto.

I’ve got to say that I’m buying pretty much whatever The Pukes are selling. And right now, as well as dusty old ditties rattled and twanged from teeny-weeny stringed instruments, the ladies are selling a 2012 calendar featuring their interpretations of 12 iconic punk record sleeves. Should you need telling, the revamped creations above are The Damned’s “Damned Damned Damned” and The Clash’s “London Calling” (yup, that’s a ukelele being trashed on “London Calling”), and others in the set include Blondie’s “Parallel Lines”, X-Ray Spex’s “Germ Free Adolescents” and the first Ramones album. The images have been put together by photographer Diana More and designer Lorna Tiefholz, who is herself a Puke.

The Pukes’ calendar is A3, printed on glossy art paper, and will set you back a freshly ironed tenner (plus postage). You can order it by clicking here. You can also see the covers on display at Filthy MacNasty’s in Islington, London, until 17 December, and then at Norwich Arts Centre from 6 to 30 January next year. Watch out for the sweetcorn and the bits of carrot.

Punk collage (from Sounds, 2 April 1977)

I can’t find the words to tell you just how much I love this. It was printed across the middle pages of Sounds in April 1977, accompanying an A-to-Z of the first wave of UK punk bands. I’ve lost the first and last pages of the article, and there are no credits on the pages that I do have, but I think the A-to-Z was written by Jonh Ingham and I presume the collage was put together by the Sounds art team, in a style in keeping with the fanzines of the time.

Sounds was several leagues ahead of the rest of the music press in covering the embryonic days of punk. The collage features all the obvious names – Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash and so on – but it also includes less well known acts such as The Models, The Cortinas and Suburban Studs. Click the image to see it in its full glory and keep an eye out for The Police (before they got hold of the peroxide bottle), Skrewdriver (before Ian Stuart Donaldson turned into a Nazi bastard) and a terrific early photo of The Slits. One outfit that you won’t see on there is Iron Maiden – but then you wouldn’t expect to, would you? Well, as it goes, Iron Maiden do appear in the A-to-Z, where they describe themselves as “bloody shock rock”. They were fronted by Den Ace at this point and had somebody called Ron Rebel playing drums.

I had the collage on my bedroom wall for ages and ages, so it’s badly discoloured, but I’d say that adds to its historic value. I’m not sure history will look kindly on me for having censored the “Fuck Off” on Gaye Advert’s T-shirt with a biro, though. At least I think that was me. I don’t remember doing it, but the scribbling out seems to be in blue ink rather than being an original feature of the collage. If it was me, I suspect I did it in case my mum ever took a close look at it on my wall.

UPDATE (posted 30/10/2011)

I was wrong about Jonh Ingham writing the A-to-Z that accompanied the collage. Jonh has been in touch to say that he wrote a big article about punk for Sounds in around October 1976 (The “?” Rock Special), but he had nothing to do with this piece. My next best guess is the A-to-Z was by the late Giovanni Dadomo, another early champion of punk in the music press. As well as being a journalist, Giovanni was a member of Arthur Comics (later known as The Snivelling Shits), who appear in the article between Alternative T-TV [sic] and The Boys.