The night I saw The Nolans was the night that I truly understood the punk ethic; don’t worry about what others think, do your own thing in your own way and if others don’t like it, that’s their problem! I was working, I had money and I was back in Sheffield. I started gig going with a vengeance. In June I’d been to see Teardrop Explodes and whilst it was the music I went for, it was the spectacle of the audience that was the most memorable – it was more like a fashion show than a gig. 1981 was near enough the peak of the New Romantic “movement” and the City Hall was full of preening, pouting, puff-sleeved dandies, all standing around elegantly, desperate to be seen. As for the band, Julian Cope was at his bonkers, magnificent best fronting a really powerful sounding band.
In August I went to the Top Rank night club (where I’d seen the Ramones the previous year) to see Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive. It was completely different from anything else I’d ever seen, a real big band playing swing and jive music. The audience had a few New Romantics in it but not many – they were far too cool to be seen at something that might be a bit hot and sweaty! Later that week, our Neil bought the album and we played it to death.
October saw a bit of a gig going frenzy. First up were The Clash at the Lyceum Theatre, a new venue for live music and, with the ornate Edwardian decor, completely at odds with the thunderous, clattering, dub-punk-thump. The support band were Theatre of Hate and blew me away with their almost tribal drums, even though singer Kirk Brandon apologised for “being crap” and promising to “come back and do better next time.” As for a The Clash, Joe Strummer in particular was just brilliant. He meant it.
Two days later and Madness, supported by the Belle Stars, were chaotic nutty-boy genius.
And then it was The Nolans. Whilst we stood outside the City Hall waiting for the doors to open, we noticed all types trying desperately NOT to be noticed! There were rock fans hiding their faces in their old RAF great coats with the big collars turned up. There were punks hiding their faces in their leather jackets with the big collars turned up. When the time came, everyone surreptitiously sidled into the building and slid down into their seats, scowling and trying to pretend they weren’t really there and probably wondering why they actually were. By the end of the concert (it doesn’t seem right to call a Nolans show a “gig”) absolutely everyone was on their feet, dancing, clapping and singing along. On the way out punks, rockers and everyone else held their heads high with huge smiles on their faces, coat collars turned down proudly displaying the newly bought Nolans badges! Good pop music will always win and can break down the superficial barriers of popular culture.
The last two gigs of the year were The Human League at the Lyceum and Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark at the City Hall. Both were great but I was particularly impressed with OMD and a feature that shaped my idea of what a band could do. All the members of the band seemed able to play all the instruments and swapped around depending upon which song they were doing. The drummer could play the keyboards or change to play brass or guitar. I wanted to do that. Or be a Nolan!