Monday, November 27, 2006

The Clash

November 12, 1977. Hastings Pier. In the summer of ’77, I started going to the Basement Club, near to the Art College in Brighton. Saturday night was punk night and although it was dark and dingy and the walls ran with sweat, we went there for the music. The DJ, Tony, was always happy to play requests and after a few visits, I got to know him. During a party at his house, Tony came up with the idea to drive to Hastings to see the Clash in the White Riot Tour. (The band had played in Brighton on May 25th, but that night I was watching the Stranglers instead at the Suite.) Tony being a DJ, drove a van so there was room for several of us to go. I left work early on the Saturday to give myself plenty of time to get dressed up. This wasn’t just an ordinary concert, I was going off with the coolest DJ to see THE punk band of the moment! Tony and a girlfriend turned up at 6.15 and to my horror I found them sitting on the settee drinking tea with my mum and dad! In full make-up, black leather, pins and chains – the embarrassment! I quickly got them out the house and we drove around Brighton picking up an assortment of hardcore punks eager to get to Hastings. Of course, there were more people than there were seats in the van. We all squeezed in somehow, wedged between the seats and propped on the floor. With the Clash blaring out the speakers to get us warmed up, we finally arrived at 8.30.
The concert was actually on the end of the pier, which for some reason I hadn’t really realized. As we walked along the wooden slats, you could see the sea below and I was wondering if this was a good idea after all. I thought I had seen lots of punks and punk bands in Brighton, but they were tame compared to the busloads of punks that were going in to see the Clash. The band had clearly brought an entourage of punks down with them from London. These were scary. I didn’t know whether to look at the stage or the crowd.
The support band was Richard Hell and the Voidoids. An American, but well known in the English punk scene with his singles Blank Generation and Love comes in spurts. He didn’t seem to be too comfortable with the spitting and the beer emanating from the front rows, but nevertheless managed to get the crowd focused on the stage instead of each other. There was a distinct feeling of aggression and expectation. There was no way I could get to the front with this crowd, but the view from the side was just as good. My friends from Brighton of course, had all dispersed and were lost somewhere in the heaving black mosh pit at the front of the stage.
When the Clash came on with a raw rendition of London’s Burning, I really thought we would end up in the sea. The Pavilion vibrated to the pogoing and the floorboards groaned. Joe Strummer seemed to recognize faces in the crowd and the energy on and off the stage was overpowering. Mick Jones, dressed up in his SS gear stomped around, launching into the next song before the other was finished. I’m so bored with the USA, Career Opportunities, Janie Jones – the songs whipped the crowd up into a jumping frenzy that I hadn’t seen before. What a buzz - it was a relentless jostle of dancing, jumping and seething bodies. The crowd had been screaming for White Riot since the start, but they had to wait for the encore to hear it.
Hoarse, battered and streaked with smeared make-up, we met back up at the van for the drive back. That we got back in one piece, after all the drink etc. that had been consumed, was a miracle. It was unanimously agreed that this had been the best punk concert ever.


Anonymous said...

i was 15 when i went to this gig, it was the first time i had seen a band live.i can remember the explosion when the clash came on stage with londons burning.this was the first of many many gigs i went to, but it was also the best.big thanks to joe and the boys for one of the best nights of my life


Anonymous said...

Agree totally, the best Clash gig ever. Mind you, I remember thinking we were all going to end up in the sea. We arrived with no tickets...£2.50 on the door! Yeh, two pounds fucking fifty. These days you're lucky to get in for £50. I went on to sea Joe and the boys five more times in total but this gig was by far the best of the bunch

Anonymous said...

I remember coming down from Kingston for this, I was a student, four of us drove down in a dodgy Ford Anglia. The Lous were on first and I remember the crowd singing 'I'm so bored with the USA' during the Richard Hell set. Privileged to have seen the Clash in such thunderous form.

Anonymous said...

We went to the gig on a coach!
Picked us up in Newhaven.
It was the best concert ever!

Anonymous said...

We got picked up at Denton corner.
Singing punk rock Karioke on the coach
Was an epic exciting gig.
I was 16

sambeckett said...

Mick Jones 'stomping around in SS gear' are you SURE about that??

Anonymous said...

It was an amazing gig but the night after was long and cold and included police violence. I remember being moved on by them near the railway station. Some German young people had also got stuck there and were sleeping on the floor in waterproof clothing. Mistaking the plastic for punk gear a cop kicked one of them to wake him up. I still feel sorry for him to this day. He had no idea what was going on and why the police were picking on him. For us punks, it was just part of the game....

Noodly said...

Came down from Kent and the car overheated in the middle of nowhere. So a bunch of punks knocked on this little old lady's door to ask for water for the radiator. She didn't bat an eyelid and on we went. It was quite windy and together with the pier's dodgy wooden flooring it felt like we could collapse into the sea at any moment. Great gig and great memories. Passed through Hastings last week for the first time in over 40 years and the pier's still there but with new flooring and nothing remaining if the venue.