Angst in an East Lancs wasteland
ZOO MET Factory half-way (between Liverpool and Manchester) and very few came.
Blame it on the site — hastily prepared fields a mile outside Leigh, surrounded by an East Lanes landscape of collieries, slag-heaps, bare hills sloping into dull 1930’s estates and the inevitable Victorian mill. Inaccessibility and uncertain weather, plus inadequate promotion/media coverage, resulted in a turn-out (200) a tenth of the original estimate.
Apart from a more relaxed, intimate atmosphere, this meant a top-heavy and intrusive police presence (a ratio of about 1:5) which didn’t go away; preferring instead to impose searches on as many people as they could get their hands on…
Eight bands: all, save openers Crawling Chaos (from Durham; a punk Hawkwind), from the North-West, all involved with either Factory or Zoo. The earnest and slightly exaggerated coverage afforded to both labels would have led you to expect a large turnout, whatever the weather: obviously people don’t always take the press to heart (thank God).
Sometimes — too — they miss what’s on their doorstep. Both Manchester and Merseyside are centres — important, still alive and innocent; both labels are exposing and servicing, a gap in the market with care, style and panache. So don’t overburden it!
Their crunch comes soon: any of the bands playing today (bar Chaos) could be very successful — with the usual tangibles: promotion/leasing/management/bribery/whatever hype — and so pass outside the labels’ current capabilities. Distribution deals and advances… is an intermediate position possible and tenable?
Due to organisational inefficiency, things ran late from the outset; curtailed sets were necessary throughout. A Certain Ratio played five numbers: inverted funk with an amusing visual anomaly. Four rationed and undesized Forties youths concentrating furiously in front of an extrovert black drummer in baseball cap and shorts; the music is a similar (and effective) mix of functional, drab, grey thrashings — trebly guitars scrubbed rhythmically and stylised, crooned vocals — and a massive, blaring rhythm section — booming melodic bass and pounding drums. Titles: ‘I Fail’, ‘Crippled Child’ and the (revamped) 45 ‘All Night Party’.
Moving out of embryo, ACR hint that they might clean up — get marketed and rich — in an area (an art/ disco crossover) where The Pop Group’s qualms left them high and dry.
The Distractions, next, are a perfect youth-club band. Amateur flash, jokey off-the-cuff introductions, fresh beat music with the unselftonsciousness of Sixties punk/folk plus sharper lyrics.
They run through a batch of great pop songs: ‘Maybe It’s Love’, ‘Waiting For The Train’, ‘One Way Love’, and the new 45, ‘Time Goes By So Slow’. Innocence and energy. They cocked up the break in their disco stab, ‘Sick & Tired’, and it didn’t really matter at all.
THE SUN went in: it was Teardrop Explodes’ unenviable task to counteract the increasing cold, and late-afternoon lethargy. Their careful, bright sound of precise guitar, fish-and-chip organ and attacking rhythm section seemed to freeze in the cold air and the distance between the (oversize) stage and the (undersize) audience.
Initially, they could sound contrived, but a warmth quickly shows through on record; live this came through near the end of their set — ‘I Go Crazy’, ‘Sleeping Gas’ and a more dynamic version of their new 45, ‘Bouncing Babies’. I think the elements are all there — but the spark? Perhaps in a more sympathetic situation…
Due to the (avoidable) attentions of the drug squad, your reviewer missed most of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. What he did see — a song called ‘Mr Reality’ with taped saxophone, the future hit ‘Electricity’ and a passable electronic version of ‘Waiting For My Man’ (which, at least, came out into the open about the frank Velvets influence of most bands playing) — didn’t alter his impression that he’d rather listen to the nice record, thank you. A good live sound — the two members playing keyboards and occasional bass, the rest of the instruments on reel to reel — a reasonable if gawky presence, and awful clothes (that’s important!).
Echo & the Bunnymen caught a quickening of mood, exploiting the drama of darkening sky and simple but effective stage lighting, and played an excellent set: ringing, passionate pop Velvets — endless rhythm guitar and crossing lead slashes, electronic percussion — with Ian McCullough’s strong vocals, hinting at Neil Young’s romantic melancholy. Fuller versions of their current single than on record — ‘Read It In Books’, ‘Pictures On My Wall’ — and new, equally memorable songs, ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Star On Stars’. A new romanticism.
Joy Division come into the dark like a late-night horror movie — scary but right. Sabotaged to an extent by poor sound — the interplay between instruments needs more careful preparation than the time allowed — they exorcised the increasing cold with cinematic, metallic blocks of noise.
Songs from the album — ‘Insight’, ‘She’s Lost Control’ among others, the new single ‘Transmission’, and the unrecorded ‘Colony’, ‘Dead Souls’ (with a stunning chorus) and the final ‘Sound Of Music’. Two encores, and general dancing.
Apply the truism: you should have been there.
© Jon Savage, Melody Maker, 8 September 1979