Tuesday, 29 March 2011

23 Hours Over Teesside

I arrived at Middlesbrough Railway Station (a place so full of sentimental memories of departures and arrivals that I never like to linger long) and was picked up by my Dad in his car. This in itself was a novelty as my Dad never drove when I lived in Teesside, then back home for lunch with Mum and Dad, before being dropped off at Andy Kiss's house, where Neil Jones was already unloading his car (he'd driven up with his wife and daughters). Chris Oberon was already there, complete with large printed-out set-lists. Ever prepared.

Andy's front room has been turned into a low-volume rehearsal room, with an electronic drum kit and various practice amps. We had a couple of hours to run through the set a (including new songs), which we did, singing without mics, ironing out any problems as we went. I sang the songs whilst looking out of the window at an ice-cream van supplying the children of Saltersgill.

Then it was off to the venue in two cars- passing the site (now a drive-thru MacDonalds or something) of the Teessider pub, where we four last played together in the summer of 1979.

The Georgian Theatre was great - a really beautiful PA, a very helpful sound-guy (unusual enough) and the promoters bent over backwards to help us feel welcome. Subway Sect were just finishing their soundcheck, and were happy to let us use their amps. I changed the setting on Kevin Younger's guitar amp to "Metal".

A quick walk into Stockton for chips, passing the Subway Sect on the way - the riverfront looks so beautiful now, hardly recognisable, but the high-street, like many in Teesside is suffering badly...

Doors opened, and in came the late 70s... Ste Weatherall, Gary Widdowfield, Geoff Spence, Mark Sanderson, Mark Hammonds, Paul Wanless, Stevie Hewitt, all in terrific form. It really was extraordinary how 32 years just slipped away. Gary McGee was there too, and I reminded him of an incident 32 years ago when he burnt my testicles with a cigarette at a party - now best forgotten to be honest- he apologised.

Then on stage, we introduced ourselves and rattled through a 19 song set in under 40 minutes. A couple of sloppy endings and missed cues, but on the whole not bad. I must have been enjoying myself as I talked to the audience a bit, and was possibly a bit cocky. We even did an encore. We also had a bloke ("Bob") doing daft, probably piss-taking dancing, demanding to be the centre of attention. Harmless enough but undeserving of further comment. I couldn't help noticing the whole band was beaming afterwards, we had enjoyed ourselves. It was an effort to settle our faces to of-the-era scowling for the post gig photograph-

Andy Kiss, Richard Sanderson, Neil Jones, Chris Oberon. Photo by Alan Morley

The Subway Sect were great - they now do a really neat version of "Stop That Girl" but it's in the more "punky" material - Ambition, Nobody's Scared, Chain Smoking that they really excel. And Vic used my guitar - I'm not sure why, his bust I guess, although maybe he remembered the interview he gave back in the day when he explained that the trebly sound of the Sect was due to their use of the Fender Mustang. I do love that guitar...

Vic Godard plays my guitar. Photo by Gary Widdowfield

The affable promoter, Steve Harland, gave me a lift home ("I don't drink, and I'm a safe driver") dropping me off at Longlands roundabout. I let myself into my Mum and Dad's house at 1.00am, banging straight into a door and probably waking them up.

My mum made a fantastic "full English" for breakfast to fortify me for the journey home- then it was back to Middlesbrough Railway Station, really missing the hour robbed from my sleep by the clocks going forward overnight. The station was still full of ghosts, and I was glad when the train started moving...

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