Relics 1: And Don’t Forget the Joker

In his review of Words and Music, Simon Robinson of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society suggested that the book would have benefitted from a few more photos. I’m not sure exactly what Simon had in mind, but one or two other people have asked me about particular events or items mentioned in the book. I thought, therefore, that I would dig out a few of the more accessible relics and curiosities I’ve acquired and present them here. Part One …

First gig: the Saxon patch

I bought this patch at my very first gig from an unofficial vendor outside the venue (Sophia Gardens Pavilion). I was 13, a very small 13, and this was Saxon’s Strong Arm of the Law tour. I’ve no idea how common it is to find an embroidered patch that is so gig specific, particularly for a young band on the up.  The seller couldn’t possibly have expected to sell many. Anyway, buy one I did, and it’s become one of my most treasured gig relics. It’s a wonderful memento of an evening that turned me on to gigs and, in that sense, proved to be not only life-affirming but set me off on a path from which I’ve rarely wavered since.

Black Sabbath: selling souls for rock and roll

I love this badge. I bought it from the merch desk on the Heaven and Hell tour. The geometry, the colour contrast, the symbols drawn from some obscure alphabet. I found it powerful and aptly expressive of what I was experiencing at the time through Black Sabbath’s music. I was a good Catholic boy, troubled not at all by the devilish character on the badge, which I wore proudly on my denim jacket for many months after the gig. In school I’d doodle away in class – it aided my concentration; not that the teachers believed me – trying hard to replicate the design on the covers of my exercise books. Invariably I’d also write lyrics around the outside of my drawings. “The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams, it’s heaven and hell” ran one. My friend Anne-Marie thought I’d made it up myself and told me I was very profound. I reluctantly confessed that they were Ronnie James Dio’s lines.

I also had a ticket to see Sabbath at the same venue, the Sophia Gardens Pavilion, almost a year later on the Mob Rules tour. Unfortunately the roof of the venue collapsed under weight of heavy snow just a few days before Sabbath were due in town. The old pavillion, pictured in its collapsed state at the top of this piece, had a lasting effect on my idea of what a proper rock gig should be like – and the sights and smells and feel of those early gigs have stayed with me.

Ozzy Osbourne: button badges of a madman

I loved the first two Ozzy albums (sorry Sharon, but I still think of them as the Blizzard of Ozz albums) and, in particular, the playing of Randy Rhoads. I bought this simple button badge at the Sophia Gardens gig on the aborted UK leg of the Diary of a Madman tour. (For more on that particular gig see my Diary of a Madman: or ‘a few gigs short of a tour’ blog and the relevant section in Words and Music itself.) There’s nothing particularly aesthetically pleasing about it, but it has value because this was the one and only time I saw Randy Rhoads playing in the flesh.

This second badge I think I bought on the Speak of the Devil tour at Birmingham N.E.C. Randy had not long died, and for band and fans alike the wound was still raw. This heavier duty badge is striking and a touch gothic. Those who saw those gigs will remember the castle stage set, the hanging dwarf, Ozzy’s throne and the theatrical stage show that were part of the mayhem surrounding the band at that time.

Marillion: Fugazi playing cards (and don’t forget the joker)

I was well into early Marillion and remember rushing into town to buy Fugazi on the day it was released. I bought in from the old Marillion - Fugazi playing cardsVirgin Records which used to be on Castle Street directly opposite the front of Cardiff Castle. (Spillers* was my record shop of choice, but it was at the other end of town and I was worried about failing to get there before it closed.) I remember this well, as the first copy I bought was damaged. I didn’t discover this until I was on my way home on the bus, and I leapt off quickly and went back to change it. This meant I had to pay a second lot of bus fare from my meagre pocket money, but there was no way I was going to go home with a cracked, chipped unplayable copy and have to wait another 24 hours to hear it!

At a slightly later date, I went back to the same shop to buy a Marillion 12″ single (‘Assassing’, I think). The shop assistant, who I’d always fancied like mad (long tousled hair, tight jeans, leather boots, sultry poise) took a look at my purchase and my ‘Punch and Judy’ sweatshirt and said: “Oh, do you like Marillion?” Second image of Fugazi playing cards
“Yeah, love ’em.”
“Wait there, then,” she said and she disappeared into the back room. “Would you like these?” she asked on her return, thrusting a pack of Fugazi playing cards in my direction.
“Wow, yeah, thank you,” I said, hardly able to contain myself. I couldn’t have been more excited, even if she’d asked me out on a date (which, of course, she didn’t).

Saxon: the power, the glory and the signed pound note

Saxon did a signing session in the HMV in Cardiff on the day of their St. David’s Hall Power and the Glory gig. My friends and I were there, of course, in high spirits and eager to meet Biff and the boys. I bought the album, and duly had it signed by the whole band. I lived for this band for a while so it was fantastic to finally get up close and … er … conversational.

I don’t remember whose idea it was, but as we waited our turn in the queue, one of my friends suggested getting the band to sign a pound note. The band did so with looks of amusement and mild bewilderment. “No one’s ever asked us to sign a pound note before,” said Biff, and I felt a bit proud and all warm inside. Someone later told me that in British law it’s a treasonable offence to deface the Queen’s head, so Glockler, mate, you’d better not upset me.

Of course, all this was before pound coins were introduced, when pound notes were still a very common unit of currency, so having a pound note signed by Saxon was a bit cool, and a bit funny, more than anything. With the demise of the pound note, however, I’ve sometimes wondered about its collector’s value. “You might get 99p for it,” someone told me recently, “if you’re lucky.” But I don’t believe him, and I’m still anticipating a big cash offer – probably from Nigel Glockler. This is my pension plan.

Marillion: Sidestep

My Sidestep experience is recounted in Words and Music. It’s an experience in which a teenage boy drives 45 miles to wave a fish earring on a chain in the face of a fully grown man called … er … Fish, while simultaneously asking him a question “that will probably shatter all my illusions.” Ho hum, that’s what happened, can’t do much about that now. It was also the night that a young Peter Trewavas promised that same teenage boy that Marillion would never stop playing ‘Forgotten Sons’. (For more about that particular conversation, and a subsequent follow-up, see Tobusaurus Wrecks)

Anyhow, here’s my autographed Sidestep ticket. It was the first time I had met any of the band and the last time I’d meet any of them for about twenty years. Since then though there have been quite a few opportunities, not just for me but for most of the loyal, hard core, Marillion fan base. Marillion certainly look after their fans, giving them a sense of engagement and involvement that I’ve not seen replicated anywhere else.

Magnum: Ollie and the SMF

Readers of Words and Music may recall the failed attempt made by some friends and I to start a mag which, with a tip of the hat to Twisted Sister, we christened SMF – Southampton Metal Fanzine. At the first editorial meeting, which was really me making suggestions and everyone else agreeing, it was decided that the jewel in the crown of Issue 1 was to be an extended Magnum feature. I’d communicated on the matter with a bloke called Ollie who ran the Magnum fan club. He sent me tons of biographical material, some gig information, and a set of signatures on Magnum headed paper to accompany my piece. I suggested meeting up at a subsequent gig so I could buy him a pint to say thank you.

It turned out that Ollie was singer Bob Catley’s mum. I learned this from speaking with some other Magnum fans, well known to Ollie, in a West London pub just before a Hammersmith Odeon gig. They had made the same mistake. It also turned out, as reported elsewhere, that despite pulling together quite a body of material, we got precisely nowhere with SMF, meaning that none of the Magnum material ever saw the light of day. Until now that is, when I can proudly present the set of signatures that Ollie and the band so kindly provided.

I later had cause to communicate with her again, not least when a dodgy Swansea promoter traded on the band’s good name to get people along to his rock disco under false pretences. In my experience you always got a response from her, and you always got a friendly response from her, regardless of the nature of your request. There was always a sense of bonhomie around Magnum. They were good times.

*If I’d thought about it I’d have also photographed my giant cardboard Script For A Jester’s Tear jester, which I did get from Spillers Records (free, for no money) and which was originally part of a promotional display they were about to chuck out!

Read Relics Part Two: Programmes That Can Be Read

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  1. Ha, ha! That anecdote about Sabbath jogged a little memory: I used to doodle Metal band logos and lyrics in my school exercise/textbooks too, as did my sister. She had an English teacher who was openly contemptuous of her predilection for rock music, telling her it was a bad influence, would ‘rot her brain’ etc. One time, for a joke, she submitted some reproduced lyrics (Metallica, I think) for a poetry assignment … and got an ‘A’. Funny as fuck! She could never tell him, of course.

    Nice blog, mate.

    • Cheers Guls! I like that story about your sister. A similar thing happened to me when I wrote a lengthy fictional piece around some ‘Diary of a Madman’ lyrics and got full marks. My teacher always called me his storyteller after that (e.g. “Here comes my storyteller”, “How’s my storyteller today?” etc. etc.) Never quite found the right time to confess that my reputation was built on some cribbed lyrics!

  2. Lambchops

     /  September 22, 2012

    Hi Michael – come here: – we would love to have ya!

  1. Relics 2: Programmes That Can Be Read « Words and Music

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