It was hard for me to stifle a laugh when I read reports of Bob Geldof castigating the audience at a rock festival last year for what they were wearing – taking a fuming dislike apparently to the Primark attire worn by many of the festival-goers. My amusement was caused by the memory of seeing Bob Geldof and his fellow Boomtown Rats once being thrown out of a pub in Shrewsbury due to the clothes they had on.
Playing a gig in the town that night, some teenage mates and I went for a drink close to the club where they were appearing. Given a dressing down by a landlord of the old-school for the clothes we had on, he was apoplectic when creatures from another planet walked into his saloon bar – Bob and his fellow Rats given short shrift and sent, in no uncertain terms, from the premises.
In the 1977-78 early days of the Punk/New Wave movement, Shrewsbury established itself on the concert circuit when a club owner saw the potential in giving these fledgling acts somewhere in the vicinity to play. In a two year period I remember seeing – often before these bands managed a hit single – The Jam, The Stranglers, Wreckless Eric, Squeeze (the original line-up with Jools Holland on keyboards), The Damned, the Buzzcocks, The Ruts and the Rich Kids – with a certain Midge Ure on bass.
Despite The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who all playing in the town during the previous decade, Shrewsbury had never been a music-mecca, but to be a teenager there in the late ’70s was to be truly blessed as raw, energetic new bands turned up on almost a weekly basis. At the time I remember, mistakenly, dismissing The Jam, with their Union Jack jackets and power-cords, as blatant Who-copyists – but then again name me a punk group that didn’t start that way.
The only major punk bands not to play Shrewsbury were The Sex Pistols and The Clash. I never saw the Pistols but saw the mighty Clash on several occasions. In fact I came across Clash guitarist Mick Jones last Autumn. Sitting in the main stand at Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers came out to the dynamic pounding of ‘London Calling’ and at the start of the second verse Jones walked past me. I pointed him out to my son, who replied that Mick, in his smart suit, didn’t dress like that in 1977.
But then again neither do I – and neither does Bob Geldof.
NEIL SAMBROOK is the author of MONTY’S DOUBLE – an outstanding new thriller now available as an Amazon Kindle Book.