The first band I ever went to see play live were The Vibrators. I was 12 at the time, not far off 13, and they were playing at a night club in Doncaster called The Outlook. My older brother (he would have been about 16 at the time) was going to see punk bands there every week and I was jealous as fuck.
As fate would have it, there was a story about The Vibrators in the Daily Mirror that week, it said they played their guitars with sex vibrators. I had no idea what one of those was, but it sounded absolutely filthy so when I found out they were playing nearby I just had to see it for myself. So I begged my mum to let me go and see them with my brother and his mates. At first she said no because it was a school night, and I could go at the weekend instead, but I soon wore her down with pester power. I think she probably only agreed because she thought I wouldn’t get in and I’d be back home within an hour.
So come the night, I picked out my scabbiest looking jeans and stuck a safety pin through the lapel of my plastic leather jacket and I was all set. Me and my brother got a bus into Doncaster and met his mates outside The Outlook. His mates looked at me and said I’d got no chance of getting in, but the bouncers didn’t even glance at me as we paid our 50p and walked through the door.
It was a massive room with a bar at one end, a very small stage at the other, and a hard dancefloor in the middle. Around the dancefloor was a carpeted area with people just sat on the floor smoking and drinking beer. Loud reggae music blasted out of the biggest speakers I’d ever seen, and a black guy with long dreadlocks glared out from behind a record deck between them. He played Fuck Off by WayneCounty and all the people sat around on the carpet got up and started leaping around on the dancefloor, making V-signs at each other. Then it was some more reggae and everyone sat down again and waited for the next punk record.
My brother went to the bar and got me half a pint of bitter. It tasted fucking awful but I drank it with pride. Then Do the Standing Still by The Table came on, and I saw the coolest dancing I’ve ever seen. They were bent over, clutching their bollocks, and jumping up and down while they swung their shoulders from side to side. My brother said it was called The Cripple Dance, but the best part was when the song’s chorus started they would all stop dead still in whatever position they had been in, like a game of statues. Then go back to leaping around again after the chorus ended.
Someone came round with a free fanzine, The Lookout, and I grabbed one. It had stupid, made-up interviews with bands that had played at The Outlook, things like “Jimmy Pursey: Where’s the bog? Lookout: Over there mate.” It also had record reviews (basically everything was a must purchase) and a gig list for the coming month.
The music faded out and people walked onto the stage with guitars, so we all wandered over to watch. I elbowed my way to the front so I’d get a good view, this was my first ever punk band and I wanted to see what they looked like. I can’t remember who they were, but they were from Sheffield and wore boiler-suits. Other than that they looked pretty normal.
After the first song ended everyone started spitting at the band, but the band didn’t seem to appreciate this show of affection judging by the expressions on their faces. I was crammed up against the edge of the stage when everyone surged forward to get a better aim and there was all this phlegm flying over the top of my head in both directions when the band started spitting back. I’d never seen anything like it before, it was just fucking mental. They played for about 20 minutes, then it was back to the DJ playing non-stop reggae with the occasional punk song thrown in.
My brother got me another half a bitter and I sat on the carpet around the edge of the dancefloor and drank it. I’d just about finished it by the time The Vibrators came on and left the glass on the floor when we all shuffled towards the stage again.
The first thing I noticed was the guitar players had no sex vibrators, unless a sex vibrator was a little tiny bit of plastic they held in their fingertips. Next thing I noticed, you couldn’t hear the singer’s voice. His mouth was moving, but nothing came out through the speakers. The lead guitar was also way too high and overpowered just about everything else, the guy on the mixing desk obviously fucked up somewhere or there was a loose wire or something. But they were a famous band, they’d been in the Daily Mirror and had a record out and everything, so that didn’t really matter. I jumped around with everyone else, sweat pouring down the inside of my plastic jacket.
When they finished it was time for some more beer, then we had to get a taxi home because it was gone midnight and the last bus had gone over an hour ago. My ears were ringing and my head felt weird from the beer.
My mum didn’t bother waking me up for school the next day, either that or she tried and gave up, so I stayed at home and watched telly instead. When I went to school the day after, nobody believed I’d been to a punk gig. It was about another month before I went to my second gig, to see Sham 69 who were my new favourite band at the time.