A ‘package’ evening of several bands appeared at London’s Lyceum Theatre, on 23/03/80, somewhat reminiscent of those tours in the 1960s, which combined Top Of the Tops hit groups, all playing brief sets of around twenty minutes each. Famously, these smorgasbords of all the talents contained such unlikely mix and matches as Engelbert Humperdinck and Jimi Hendrix, each performing, in a bizarre cognitive dissonance for that time, a few minutes and a few feet apart. Back then, ‘the charts’ were ‘the charts’, and that’s all that counted for tour promoters. These sorts of programmes died out with the formation of rock music culture and of the new phenomena of festivals and the ‘rock concert’ itself, i.e. the main attraction, following on from one, or at the most, two ‘support acts’.
I was reminded of this multi-act post-punk gig (of which there were many in the 1979-80 period, at the height of post-punk) when recently playing Eric Random’s 12″ single That’s What I Like About Me, which features the lengthy guitar/FX piece Call Me, the solo guitar performance that started the whole Lyceum event of all those years ago. An interesting gig from an interesting guy at an interesting time. The Mancunian’s solo 12″ record was released on New Hormones, co-produced by Random and Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire, mostly in the latter’s Sheffield Studio Western Work in April 1980. So it’s a fairly obscure example of the music that I’ve been trumpeting in these blogs recently. Call Me has a six-note over-driven guitar theme, backed by analogue, headache-inducing synth drums (forming a thumping, three-to-the-beat undertow throughout) and primitive keyboard electronic spirals and helixes. File next to Live at West Runton Pavilion The whole thing makes the first Stooges album sound like Kenny G, and the Cabs themselves must have looked on as proud parents. I’m put particularly in mind of Mallinder’s own solo 12″ of the time, Cool- Down/Temperature Drop, surely a nod to Fade-Out/ Fade-In on Random’s record?
Back to The Lyceum gig, which had representatives from Manchester: Random himself and Manicured Noise (a cut-price Talking Heads, who I really liked, and who had one mini-hit, Faith), A Certain Ratio (dour as f***, but enjoyable, with the great Donald Johnson on drums); Liverpool (The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & the Bunnymen, both well before releasing their first albums) and London (the Psychedelic Furs, somehow at the top of the bill, to add insult to tedium, but whose first album was due out that month so they were ahead of the rest of the bill in that respect). Both Zoo and Factory Records, the two hippest of the hip labels of 1980, were thus represented - however, The Birthday Party, Australia’s revenge-of-the-transported-convicts band, sneered, to any journalist who’d listen, that this gig was definitely not what they had come across half the world to experience. Apparently Cave & Co. expected London to be full of band like The Fall and The Pop Group, and when they found this to be far from the case, set about to invent their own version of Anglo-grot to oppose all these preening poms. I’d like to think that they may have made an exception with Eric Random’s set, which was definitely uneasy-listening, as opposed to the commercially-minded pop-punk of the rest of the ‘package’, bands who were, to use the currency of the time, ‘long macs’ to a man.