Electronic Chaos

How Chaos Made Electronics

Answer – by hand mostly.

The Crawling Chaos’s works in the public domain derive from two main sources – viz the crawling chaos of Jeff & Rees and the nothin’ of Paul & Holly.  Each had their own equipment and ideas…

For Jeff & Rees it’s not generally known that a great deal of The Crawling Chaos’ sound came through early experiments in electronics.  They started with a bought guitar or two, a practice amp and an inherited upright piano, but the rest of the gear was by and large home-made simply because commercial products were horrendously expensive.  Jeff had a dinky acoustic (which I still have, amazingly) and then got his red electric, from Woolies or similar I think.  After a short while he ditched the neck by measuring it, cutting a piece of thread to the exact length, and then him, me and Keith (Wear) trawled decent music shops in Newcastle surreptitiously measuring expensive guitar necks in the racks, holding them up to the eye checking for straightness, and then he bought a decent one that was a match.  It was a Ibanez neck.  Don’t ask me what model – I wasn’t that interested at the time!  I have no idea why we had to sneak around – he could’ve just asked, but I guess he didn’t want the sales hassle….

Magazines

At that time there was a boom in hobby electronics and a slew of magazines surfaced both supplying and creating this boom.  Things like:

The American Radio History website has many links to full scans of the magazines, month by month and it’s interesting to see the advertisers at the time from whom we bought bits!

This isn’t an exhaustive list……

Most have been lost but I found a few bits which I used a lot and have scanned.  These are the images.  You can now find them in their situation in ETI Circuits #2 on the American Radio History website

From memory, I think:

  • The studio & stage mixer is a low noise thing from ETI
  • Guitar and keyboard effects from PE as a guitar effects box circuit
  • VCA/VCO from PE
  • Phaser from Elektor
  • Bucket brigade flanger from Elektor
  • Various amps, small  mixers and power supplies from ETI
  • Ring modulator from PE
  • Very simple fuzz box used on bass guitar in “Mummy’s Tummy” – a tech tip in ETI!!

Most stuff was heavily customised by me (SP).

Floor Work – Bench Work

Sounds – it’s all about the sounds

For Rees especially (it’s me writing this, after all!) it was all about the sound coupled to the particular emotional aspect that a given piece of music endowed to the mind.  Jeff I’m sure had a similar mindset though at the root of it he’d always want to be Lou Reed… 😉
Thus it was that we’d find ways to copy sounds we’d discovered by other artistes and generally experiment with bits of tape, shortwave radio transmissions or plain electronic malfunctions  for something….interesting to the ears.

What We Did

I’d religiously trawl through the magazines every month – I had standing orders at the newsagents for the first two mags in particular in my list.

Some circuits we’d breadboard on the table or carpet and plug a guitar or mike in to see the effect, twiddling the potentiometers to see if anything good could be had.  Anything good was made up on proper circuit boards, some bought ready made and others made by me.  As far as I can remember Jeff bought ready made kits – I’d have a mix of ready made and others that I created, modified the circuitry and made custom circuit boards from PCB sheet, rosin (say), ferric chloride etching solution and meths…  It can be messy.

Almost everything was tested with a spider’s web of wires on the carpet to see if it was any good for us.  If it was, we’d box it up.  This went on through most of 76, 77 and a bit of 78.

Most of the designs that hadn’t been finalised I completed on my return to Stakeford from Wales at the end of 77.  I soldered away for weeks while Blyth Spartans progressed through the FA Cup up to West Ham, Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street was top of the charts and Metro Radio played endless adverts for the new BMW 7 series.

After that it was almost job done.

During this time I wrote to Holger Czukay and had a wonderful reply which I kept on my desk in front of me as I soldered away in this melange of Baker Street, BMWs and Blyth Spartans .  He’s now dead but I’ve just read a strangely poignant obituary on the Can website:

A true European, Holger salvaged wit, humour and artistic integrity out of a childhood that should have left him traumatised: uprooted as a toddler from Danzig at the outbreak of world war two, resettled in a bombed out Berlin. He was a laughing contrarian and artistic adventurer. More than the rest of his band mates, he retained a strong sense of theatre, goofing off like a dadaist. To some extent it was his trickster’s desire to push against the grain in Can’s later development that finally caused the group to finish as an active unit.

Maybe we’re all a bit like that.

Boxes

Some stuff had individual aluminium cases made from bent cut-out sheet, others had pre-made aluminium boxes, other circuitry was bundled into larger boxes and formed a music effects box with 1/4 inch jack sockets being used to give full flexibility to the various in-outs of each module so that they could be chained in various ways.

Jeff’s box was covered in red felt (mmm nice) and mine (Rees’s) I painted black and called it “the tube”.  I still have it!  They can both be seen in the various live and studio photos.

The Toota

I (Rees) also made an electronic organ, painted it green, and called it The Toota”  I gave it the serial number R1.  I made it while I was living in Mid-Wales in 1977 and Hubert, a builder cum undertaker made the case for me.
I used this through the effects chain of “the tube”.

The toota used circuits from Maplin Electronics just after they started up.  I had a 61-key keyboard and instead of having two manuals I had two switches under each key with each switch triggering a single tone but an octave apart.  Thus pressing a “A” key would give two tones, one at 220Hz and the other at 440Hz, say.

Each tone could give an almost pure sinewave (flute) output graded in 5 push-button steps up to a fizzy sawtooth/square (strings/reeds) type tone.  I had a balance potentiometer set up to give a feed between the two octave notes.

It was polyphonic and the whole lot played through the various effects in the tube was er… interesting and quite often very hard to control and predict.  I developed a technique of playing certain key combinations to give clearer sounds since some blanket chords just put white noise through everywhere and drowned out the rest of the band….

The key notes in the toota were derived from a Maplin board that had a high frequency oscillator (a few MHz – essentially the same as the clock generator in all digital computers – everything has a clock, mobile phones too…) that went through a custom chip (essentially the heart of everything) which produced a fair approximation to the 12 notes in the equal tempered scale and came out as square-waves.  These were almost at bat level of hearing.

Each of the 12 notes was then successively divided in two producing square waves of descending octaves all the way down to about 16Hz.  (Divide by two chips are really cheap and simple flip-flop based circuitry). The particular tonal sounds were then made destructively with filters on the square waves.  This is the opposite to constructing a tone through synthesis (check out Fourier…).

I thus had a 61-key manual that could play all the notes of a 73-key manual.

  • If required.
  • Which in the end wasn’t very often.
  • It was a pretty noisy device….

Amplifiers

Both Jeff and I initially incorporated pre-made 100W high quality amplifier boards in our boxes from Crimson Elektrik, who are still going.  The amps were great hi-fi amps with short circuit protection but with the power supplies being inside the boxes made everything a bit hummy.

So afterwards they were pulled from the boxes, individually powered and then the low voltage split & balanced power supply to each of our boxes and other effects was supplied through long heavy duty cable from one central power supply I made up and boxed using an old transformer I’d taken from a hi-fi amp I’d made 3 years earlier…..

Why low voltage supplies?

Much of our electronics used op-amps.  Check this link to find out what they are….  Most, but not all were 741s and I guess between us we had just under 200 in our cases.  Op-amps require split voltage power, most of them with a Vmax of 18V.  Most of the magazine circuits said 12V so I set the voltage rails at +15V and -15V to get a bit more headroom in the signal.

Steve (FAtty) Savage
Steve Savage testing the headphone amp in the drum booth

In those days there were no chopper power supplies so unless you used PP9 batteries your power had to come from the mains and get transformer-ed down.  This created hum and so I made the separate low voltage supply with long leads to take the transformers as far away as possible from the microphone and guitar input….

Headphone Amp

I used a circuit found in ETI to drive the studio headphones after some time.

Headphone amplifier circuit from ETI magazine
Headphone amplifier circuit from ETI magazine

It was cheap but very effective.  It’d drive several pairs of headphones in the drum booth and elsewhere.  The circuit is shown here.

Mixing Desk

A bit like Bill Gates’ supposed quote about 640k memory bing enough, Jeff and I thought 8 channels would be enough….. har bloody har as we rapidly found out.

I made an 8-channel stereo mixer based on an ETI design built around LM381AN chips.  These were very low noise for the time and could support balanced microphones.  I of course made some alterations to the circuits to give separate foldback and echo outputs as well as customised re-enter points for the signal chains.

After Holly’s arrival I joined his 6-channel mixer to it with similar electronic fudgery so we now had 14-channels to play with.

Tape Decks

As is well-known, we’d bounce sound from whatever tape recorders were to hand time after time.  While twiddling with an Akai reel-to-reel with GX heads borrowed from “Jim of Durrim” we discovered the power of echo…..echo…..echo……echo….

This discovery gave us a great deal of the CC sound.  I used two channels of the mixer to receive return feeds from the stereo tape deck, the time delay deriving from the record and playback heads being an inch or two apart.  So the chain went like this:

  • Instrument -> mixer channel 1
  • Mixer channel 1 echo out -> tape left input
  • Tape left output  -> mixer channel 7 input
  • Mixer channel 7 echo out -> tape right input
  • Tape right output -> mixer channel 8 input
  • Mixer channel 8 echo out -> tape left input

Mixer channels 7 & 8 were then fed into the mix providing “echo”.  The level of feedback was generally controlled with ch8 echo send.

Since all mixing level controls were independent any degree of echo could be achieved.  You can hear this a lot in our work.  Tangerine Dream used a similar technique I think, listening to this track, say….

Keyboard Sound

I particularly liked the sound of my keyboard, gently flanged at slow VCO speed set to be slightly different to the echo delay interval.  I used it a lot but not to the fore as really, it gets very boring to the listener.  Great to play though – just as you introduce the flanging into the echo – it’ like a drug rush….  only saying.  🙂

The Effects

Recent ads for Colorsound Fuzz Wah Pedal (2018)
Recent ads for Colorsound Fuzz Wah Pedal (2018)

Jeff had his old Colorsound wah-fuzz-swell pedal which go for stupid money nowadays considering they only have a few transistors inside as we found out when we had to fix it a few times…  BC107 I think, from memory.  Most fixes were to get out the old Servisol spray to de-grime the carbon track in the pot.  Servisol is still made and is made in Bridgwater where I lived for many years.  The mixer tracks benefited a lot from it too.

From memory, the rest of our stuff was similar in many ways with two particular circuits derived from Practical Electronics magazine – a fancy fuzz and a fancy wah.  One fuzzed in various ways and the other filtered in various ways.  Each circuit had their own VCO & VCA with each VCO having separate outputs and each VCA having separate inputs.

VCO & VCA are at the heart of old style analogue synthesisers such as used by Walter/Wendy Carlos.  These can be easily converted or used to control a VCF.  This is precisely what these circuits were – they were defined as guitar effects circuits but the reality is that they were synth parts in punk skirts.

Other effects were:

  • rubbish spring reverbs,
  • a fantastic ring modulator,
  • 12 and 3 comb phasing units,
  • three channel tone controls which I made and designed from scratch
  • graphic equaliser (pretty hummy)
  • mike and line level amp plus the above 3-channel tone control
  • separate 3 channel mixer with 3 channel tone control….again
  • outboard flanger using the new-fangled-at-the-time bucket brigade electronic chips – ours had the SAD1024 chip.

Tweeters, Power Amps and Things

I was much impressed reading about piezo tweeters when they first came out since I’d blown tons of standard coil ones and these things had an inbuilt high-pass filter so no funny crossover units needed to be made.  For main speakers I used ready made boxes from Wimslow Audio (still going) and Celestion drive units as I couldn’t afford the JBL’s that Can used…. 🙁  They had a similar specification to the JBL’s and a few dB more sound output cf other drive units at the time.

When the boxes were bought I ditched the 100W amps and I made a properly boxed stereo amp of 225W rms per channel using the circuit and parts from Maplin Electronics.  It was bloomin’ heavy because of the massive transformers yet was easily repairable since it used the readily available power transistors like the 2N3005 which again, are still available now….

This was our PA  – which we also used in the studio……

What’s The Fucking Point of All of This?

Good point.

It just demonstrates that it took ages for us to get off the ground.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere we didn’t have a real idea of what we’d do.  WE liked Can, Iggy, Bowie, Tomita, Walter Carlos and others and at that time the Maclaren’s creation the Sex Pistols had made an explosion in simple grit sounds of angst and wistful stupidity, so we more or less did the same but all stirred up. Chaotically if you like.  Crawling to an unknown end.

The electronics that we made undoubtedly moulded our sounds since anything created has to sit within a framework of available technology – e.g. you cannot hope to make phasing sounds from drums and a flute made from papyrus reeds, can you?

Likewise, the political and social environment moulded our compositions in their own way.  And yes, Margaret Thatcher was and still is a devil.

People like her are the cause of all social ills across the world.  I always said that I’d dance on her grave, but no need – the fact that for the last years of her life, every morning when she awoke she asked “where’s Dennis?” and had to be told that her beloved husband was dead, that’s good enough.  But her legacy rolls on and it is actually getting worse.

There’s a real nastiness in the world that far transcends the mere scheming greed of slavery and torture of previous centuries.  The nastiness is that the so-called educated and civilised peoples of the world have not learnt from earlier horrors and seek to descend back into the black pit.  It’s like The Enlightenment never happened sometimes.

Really, it’s harking to the subterranean primitives that HP Lovecraft often alluded to in some of his more darker racist meanderings….  WE should learn from this shite – not use it as a fucking template!

Punk Band Rap Free Concert Snub – a transcript

   Martin Blank from Gob on the Tyne has prompted me to transcribe an old cutting from Jeff about an earlier exploit of the band….  This is it!

Punk Band Rap Free Concert Snub

Punk rock band crawling chaos hit a wrong note when they made overtures to a Christian group.

For when the Tyneside-based musicians offered to play free in a church coffee bar they were turned down flat.

“We were amazed and shocked at being turned down” said band member Eddie Fenn last night.

“We thought we were doing them a good turn. We were surprised when they turned us down”.

“It is supposed to be a Christian organisation and they wouldn’t even let us play” said the 23 year old youth and community worker of Front Street, Tynemouth.

They were due to appear tonight at the Tynemouth Crossroads coffee bar in the centre of the town.

“They cancelled the show with no explanation other than ‘The coffee bar is run by a group of Christians to help young people in Tynemouth, and seeking to follow Christ’, and ‘only two people on the committee knew about it, and the rest of the committee are not happy’”, said Eddie.

Awaiting.

“One wonders at the reasoning behind such a bland statement when you consider the appalling lack of recreational facilities for teenagers, the fact the group were willing to play free of charge and that many youngsters were eagerly awaiting the performance. We have a medium sized following around here.”

The four man band, which has been formed for 11 months, is due to release a single next month called “Sex Machine”.

The line-up is Eddie on drums, taxi driver Martin Rees aged 24 of Front Street, Tynemouth on vocals and electric organ; guitarist Jeff Crowe, a 23 year old cataloguer of Tynemouth Road, Howden; and civil servant David Holland, aged 21 from Seaton Delaval, on bass.

One of the organisers of the coffee club said that they had apologised to the group for the mix-up.

David Armstrong, 32 year old painter and decorator from Tynemouth said; “More than a month ago the band came to me and asked if they could play at the Friday night coffee bar.

I told them I would ask the other members of the bar, but I forgot and when the group came back I said it would be alright.

When the other organisers found out they weren’t too happy. They said it hadn’t been discussed properly.

It was really an internal disagreement. I feel sorry for the group and I have apologised but I don’t want anyone blamed for it.!

Postscript

The band did eventually play the gig.  All went well and no-one was offended.  Pip pip!

 

Freak Electric

Ian from Freak Electric
Ian from Freak Electric – bog seat guitar

Ian of Freak Electric contacted us via the website recently and until he gets back, I can’t say what he’s been up to recently.

However, a quick perusal of the Ubertubes pulls out these two tracks from a compilation LP in 1985.  I hope he doesn’t mind….

Freak Electric
Freak Electric cassette sleeve

Actually, I have a full demo tape with reasonable quality that has some of my favourite Freak Electric tracks on it with the two drummers and Ian’s screeching guitar figuring highly!.  I’d love to clean it up a bit and get it out digitally for him.

 

Anecdotes

There’s no order or sense to all this. It’s as it comes. Some stuff may, or may already have been, moved into the greater narrative hopefully making a bit more sense. So this page is a repository of stupid things and remarkable feats – in other words, anecdotes, added to over time by anyone who has the need and information to do it.


The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle

Site of first gig. Quite a bit was recorded here at various times e.g “Berlin”. First gig sucked Curly Jhon into into the fold. Doomage was really confident, so much so that I was shocked by the looks on some audience faces. I (SP) wore a home-made steel Viking helmet, borrowed from a biker bloke that lived in the flat below the Attic. I hung sanitory towels from the cheek pieces, dyed up to look used. It lasted two tunes as it was so fucking heavy; each time I tried to play keyboards it slipped over my face, bonked my nose and almost broke my neck with the weight of it. A band called “Last Exit” played regularly there and thereabouts. One member was called Gordon Sumner…


Gosforth Hotel, Salters Road, Gosforth, Tyne & Wear

Site of early gigs on roster with The Noise Toys (TNT) etc. This is the pub where Chris Donald started his Viz mag. I’d often see him about, flogging his comic to all and sundry in Jesmond pubs and The Cumberland in Byker.


The Russel Club, Mosside, Manchester

Site of the Gratton “joke”. Joy Division didn’t play too bad (but it was their home patch by then). There were a lot of really scary black guys wearing floor length fur coats looking like they were packin’. I also remember “Echo Beach” being played a lot between bands. When Crawling Chaos found that Joy Division weren’t going to drink their post gig pile of “Pils”, we stepped in and drank the lot. This was when Curtis came up to me and said: “Well, I’ve tried to speak to you lot, but I just can’t get on with you…” in a very gay way… Curly Jhon gave him the ritual tirade of “Joyce! Joyce De Vision!” whence he walked off. Two weeks later he hung himself… I’ve since posted a bit more information on my recollections and thoughts about this here.


Spectro Arts Workshop, Newcastle

Spectro Arts Workshop
Spectro Arts Workshop

Played a few times there. Nice and clean and very, very, white inside.
This was the gig when Strangely realised that women didn’t hold all the sexual cards. As was normal at the time, Strangely would get his kit off down to his old man long johns. Whilst prancing around he became aware that all the women in the audience weren’t listening to the music, but just trying to get a glimpse of his willy if it popped out of the slot in the front (there were no fly buttons or other closure devices)… oo-er missus.


Guildhall, Newcastle

Proudly played as part of a big “Rock Against Racism” (RaR)/”Anti-Nazi League” event. Other bands included The Mekons and X-o-dus. The Crawling Chaos played and the next lot came on. After about 10 minutes, an infiltration of thuggish types charged through the crowd, poured onto the stage and backstage as well. Strangely was pushed backstage while trying to shut the doors and hid under a table. Dozens of police arrived.
A burly copper replied to me when I answered his question with “It’s a rock against racism event. It’s supposed to be peaceful.””That Peaceful!” It’s more like a bloody war zone here”. Fatso got hit on the head with a fire extinguisher although someone said they’d seen a speaker flying through the air in his direction. The legend continues. He got CIC money though.

More on “RaR” and a new book on it all in this Grauniad article here.


Durham

Crawling Chaos played a youth club in Durham and left the postering to other folks – fatal mistake, although they didn’t do anything we hadn’t done previously, fly-posting, that is. However, the local burgers of that city haven’t quite forgiven the Viking pillagers from the North yet and so took offence at having various green GPO connector boxes, lamp-posts and walls plastered with our advertising (which included contact details!! (twit). In Wallsend, the local coppers paid a visit to Fatso and Jeff and hauled them off to the nick where they gave their names as Doomage Khult and Errol Dynamic, amusing the desk sergeant greatly. He soon saw the ruse and we all ended up being charged, summonsed and then visiting Durham Magistrates Court where I was told to stand up straight and take my hands from my pockets by the Clerk of the Court. The “Post Office Installations” figured many times in the charge sheets which were read out completely to each of us, to which we all pleaded guilty and were each fined £1 for each offence and £5 costs. That was £11. It seemed to take about an hour. So that was that then… It kept us going for ages in bar-room anecdotes.


Penmaenmawr, North Wales

Fuckin mushrooms and beer. On the way to play at a nurses home in Wales, the hire van broke down just north of Tebay (where the services are now, more or less). While waiting for a replacement, a field of magic mushrooms was espied. Everyone started collecting “for later” but most put one in the pocket, one in the gob. By the time the new van arrived everyone was spaced out, possibly ‘cos we woz threatened by a big guy with a shotgun at the old Tebay services. I have a lasting vision of Clinka(Gazza) strutting round lane one on the M6 Southbound with a cardboard guitar, getting nearly killed by the traffic. After stopping for (more) beer in Runcorn (luxury), we arrived at the nurses home, carried the gear up loads of stairs, set it all up and then went into a dark room for 12 hours without playing because we couldn’t see anything as there was too much spurious visual input. The next day we were still spaced out. I was shivering like mad in a crap seaside cafe thinking I was going to die. I think I took about 1000 magic mushrooms of the good firm snot-like variety, about a large handful. It’s the only time I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed, that night. A severe excess? Really fucking bad actually…


Hamilton Hotel, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear

Contemperaneous view down South Parade
View down South Parade, Whitley Bay, late 70’s

This picture from this page shows a pic from an attic looking down South Parade. The Hamilton has changed names several times since Crawling Chaos got chucked out for being too loud. It was down on the left of South Parade heading towards the sea. The Rex Hotel is visible as the last hotel on the right before the sea. It’s still there.

Whitley Gay
Whitley Gay

A gig was arranged and I organised a magician old school friend called Dave Brown to do a spot in between our two sets. (I only bumped into him walking down the street – funny that.)

Unfortunately, the owner woman found the music too loud and offensive (she should have guessed by our name, doh!) and called the police as we refused to stop playing until we were paid.

South Parade 2006 - a similar view
South Parade 2006 – a similar view

A big burly sergeant turned up with a bit of backup ‘cos the place was pretty packed. I noticed Doomage and Fatso getting pretty fired up for an argument so I put on my diplomatic hat and arranged for us to finish with a couple of quiet numbers, then the magician to do his spot, and then we’d get paid and go. We must’ve looked like good punk-bad punk to her, poor red-lip-sticked woman. The big old sergeant asked her if this was okay, in a reasonable voice, and she acquiesced, so the agreed events passed by. And that’s what happened. Extra info here and here.

This was one of the three times to my recollection that we (or I) got paid not to play!!


Working Men’s Club, Manchester

On a ‘tour’ of various places in Manchester, one was this club (name now forgotten). However, we had two sets to play and all the way through the first some bloke kept shouting at us “got any Newman – got any Newman?”

I went “wah?” to which he replied, “Newman, y’know, Gary Newman. Friends are Electric, like?”

I said “nah, we don’t do that” and he was a bit huffed. In the break the club chairman or concert’s bloke came up to us with a bunch of his stewards for comfort and asked us not to do the second set. We said “No. We’re booked to do two, we’ll play two, and you’ll pay us for two.” Needless to say, he said, “Oh that’s alright, don’t worry, we’ll pay you. It’s just it’s not what the audience are used to here…”

Aye. Manchester. Second Pay-off.


Percy Arms, Tynemouth

Tynemouth King Edwards Bay
Tynemouth King Edwards Bay

Not strictly a band incident. But I was up in Tynemouth a week or so ago (see picture of King Edward’s Bay as the sun set) and as I went past the Percy Arms I recalled we all got chucked out of there because I was singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, by Tony Bennett.

Mr Symptom
Mr Symptom

Naturally, as it was a 30’s style pub I thought this would be appropriate but after one warning, the barman had had enough, gave us all the money (plus some) for the drinks we’d bought and nearly finished anyway, and chucked us oot!

So there you have it – paid three times NOT to play!

Incidentally, I popped in to see Holly (The Symptoms) during this trip and his steadfast refusal to pose properly or visit me in sunny Somerset is the reason for the photo on the right.


The Chalk & Cheese Brothers

Part I: Ashington Police Station

After playing in north Northumberland (probably Lynemouth Social Club or an afternoon anti-nuclear Power Station gig in the sand dunes of Druridge Bay, our drivers and roadies at the time, the Fabulous Chalk & Cheese Brothers got us stopped because they were drunk as well.

We and them all piled in the back of the van, all denying driving but not admitting either…

Unsurprisingly, the coppers didn’t take too kindly to this and hauled us all off to Ashington nick, for questioning.

Myself? I pretended to be completely blotto and on the verge of oblivion, which wasn’t too difficult as I was only about a pint of Stella off anyway…. After some time, we were all sent on our way and I’m still unsure of the precise outcome of all this. What I do remember is that the Fabulous Chalk & Cheese Brothers were a harbinger of the Gallaghers. “Oh we’re brothers we are – exactly alike – we’re like Chalk & Cheese”. That’s the derivation of their epithet.

Part II: Tynemouth

Possibly (although the memory is a bit hazy because of all the Stella), we got stopped again by the Chalk & Cheese Brother’s (C&CB) behaviour as driver/roadies. We got pulled with all the gear in the back of their van by the coppers, again! The copper, at the driver’s door said,

“Can you get out and give us a sample sir?”

One of the C&CB’s said,

“I can’t. The door’s welded shut!” – which it was. They had to get in and out by any door except the driver’s as it really was welded shut!

So the copper walked round to the passenger door on the Transit and tried to open it, much to the other C&CB’s protestation. The copper got a bit annoyed at this and yanked at the door – which the C&CB then let loose and it dropped to the ground, dropping right onto the copper’s foot! (This was the reason for the C&CB’s protestation, but he was so unintelligibly drunk that the copper couldn’t understand him!). The C&CB’s were then hauled off and we were left to walk home, which was only up the road anyway.

I think that was the last C&CB event. they’d actually helped quite a bit, like playing at the Swallow Hotel in Jesmond, for instance, which was a weird arty-farty toff’s type of gig in their ballroom. I remember it being very, very hot there, so was quite glad to strip to the long-johns, much to the flowery-clothes-clad ladies delight!


The Rock Garden, Covent Garden

The Rock Garden in Covent Garden…. This was a later gig. It was a long journey from the North-East. Very Long. By the time we arrived (Hippy Jeff, all bleezed-up, was the driver), we’d consumed about half to a whole cubic metre of beer, this being the quantity of empty beer cans that spewed out onto the pavement outside the colonnaded place when the back doors of the van were opened on our arrival.

We did our set, which included a specially rehearsed piss-take of the theme tune to “The Sweeney”. This was preceded by us shouting and calling all the audience “Cockney Wankers – we’ve got a tune specially for you cunts”. Around about this point, the drummer, Gazza, and myself, dropped a copious handful of Magic Mushrooms each, timed (so we cunningly thought), to turn on just as we left the stage….

Unfortunately, all the beer and empty stomachs meant they kicked in almost immediately. The end of the gig was a blur for me, literally, as I couldn’t focus on the keyboards any more and my mouth refused to make the correct sounds… I looked around and saw Gazza fall backward off his stool, and then vainly struggled to get back on.

That was sooo much excess and probably was turning point for myself (SP). It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but it was funny at the time. Bizarrely, the audience, which was pretty big, enjoyed it all…. Jasper, a sound/promoter type guy came over and said he wanted to do stuff for us, which was nice, but after his current project, which he said was an up-and-coming actress called Toyah! She ended up taking all his time so it never panned out. Life, “It’s a Myth-tery, It’s a Myth-tery”, init?

p.s. 13/9/11: Holly has recently told me that he did the whole gig with leg & arm in plaster (this’d be from the parachute jump at Sunderland Airport, what is now the Nissan car factory, aye?).  He said that when “people came up and asked me about where they could get some [plaster] like it, i told them the hospital!!!” – Like I said, too much excess.


The Moonlight Club

Moonlight Club Advert
Moonlight Club Advert

The gig at the Moonlight Club that led to the ridiculous slagging off by Adam Sweeting (can he play anything at all?)…. It was the one at which the live recording was made of Joy Division on that white LP. My (SP) recollection is of it being really dismal, apart from us and Joy Division, who did their usual jerky power stuff. We chose to do a lot of jams, which is probably the reason for Sweeting’s comment. It wasn’t one our best, Fatso kept going slow and then running into his power-punk drumming thing which becomes a bit tedious and hard to improvise. But it WAS live, and it WAS creative,and it WAS unique, and it WAS new. It WAS Crawling Chaos!


Electric Circus, Manchester:

Electric Circus Busy Outside
Electric Circus Busy Outside

During the soundchecks at Manchester’s Electric Circus, a clash of personalities erupted between guitarists (no beer spilt tho’)….

Jeff was on stage drinking a pint of beer (half full) when the band’s guitarist took offence at his presence and pushed him bodily, backwards off the stage.

Jeff fell backwards about four to five feet onto the hard floor – and then proceeded to do a perfect backward roll, all in one movement, popping up standing without losing any beer at all!

Electric Circus (Kevin Cummings)
Electric Circus (Kevin Cummings)

A split second later he’d placed the beer on a the floor and leapt onto the stage, straight-arm grabbed the other guy right round the trachea with his thin, strong fingers, and started squeezing until the other guy started passing out and a heap of folks pulled him off.

Buzzcocks at Electric Circus
The drop

Amazing! No beer spilt!

The drop can be seen clearly in this image taken from here.  You had to be there, I guess.

Pineapple, Manchester

On the Manchester tour there was one gig at the above pub where Fatso forgot his drums.

So we just miked up beer trays and mats for him as he had his sticks… A bit of a twiddle with the tone controls and actually, it wasn’t that bad! There were some pretty bemused folk in the audience though.


Electric Ballroom, London

There was another fight at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London (probably 18/04/80) when Macky got walloped by one of The Monochrome Set . “And quite right too” – said Holly in a recent email to me (2 Dec 2007). “There was blood, Macky’s nose I think” said Holly to me.

(Macky was always macho and demonstrating some new commando technique or another he’d just learned.)

Bid, from The Monochrome Set, confirmed the fight, but reckoned the fight was with “a vague friend of the band” in a email to me, so he’d know I suppose, being better placed.


Loofas:

A Nothin’ originated tune. The only significant difference is the addition of keyboards by Strangely, especially the start which is G major and G Dim alternating chords terminating with a Bflat major then B major chord.  Apparently, one day Holly and Shieldsy were going to put some flowers on his grandad’s grave. On the back seat of the bus they were travelling on was a bag containing a loofa. The bus was the 442*** (Ashington to North Shields via Deleval). They loofa and flowers were left on the grave as a gift together. Nice.

n.b. ***the 442 is no more since 2007. It’s now the 12 and doesn’t go as far. This means if the words are changed it’ll be crap.

n.n.b. 12/9/11: ***apparently the grave bit is wrong accordingly to Holly today in a cryptic message involving saki.  I’ll leave it in as I distinctly remember someone telling me the tale – must’ve been Paul.


Leigh Festival ( My Memory of it – SP).

This is the text of a posting I made here.

Angst in East Lancs Wasteland

This was the banner headline in Melody Maker, I think, for the gig at the Leigh Festival.  8th September 1979 it says on this paywalled site.

Angst In East Lancs Wasteland - Meloday Maker article by Jon Savage
Angst In East Lancs Wasteland – Meloday Maker article by Jon Savage
  1. Two things stick in my mind about the gig apart from it being freezing cold and there being no-one there.
    On the bus there were no toilets but there was lots of beer. So the empty tins were getting filled with piss (I think the bus only did one piss stop on the journey). Jeff had just filled one and Billy Connolly (Gordon) asked if he could have a drink because he was thirsty. So Jeff gave him the can and Gordon drank it remarking only, that it tasted warm.
  2. The second thing is the fact that Crawling Chaos had a song called “Merry Christmas, Prince Charles” which Jeff and me wrote in my bedroom in 10 minutes and embellished over time. The song started with a long monologue from me backed by mournful keyboard and guitar sounds and a few cymbal splashes. The gist of the “speech” was about a fictionalised personal meeting between Strangely Perfect and Prince Charles which I always made up on the spur of the moment. Leigh Festival had some toilets (I’d just been and they were to the right when viewed from the stage) and I fitted them into the monologue. An hour or so later, when we’d finished playing, this beautiful girl came up to me and started talking about the Prince Charles song (I thought I was in there as I naturally thought she was chatting me up…). She said “You know you mentioned the toilets where you saw Prince Charles?” “Yes?” I feverishly replied…. “Well can you tell me where they are ‘cos I’m bursting?” she deflatingly retorted with her question.

Apart from that, we didn’t stay to see Joyce Division but we saw OMD and their spinny tape deck (we had one similarly but kept it out of sight)


Glossop, Visit Tony Wilson:

This is the text of a posting I made here.

In this review of the 24 hour party people film, the author, Miranda Sawyer states

So, the Tony Wilson of the film is constantly saying, ‘I’m a Cambridge graduate, you know,’ which the real-life Wilson doesn’t.

..er. That’s not quite true from my recollection , you know. Before “Sex Machine” was released by Factory we made a surprise visit to Wilson’s house in Glossop, (not the one in Palatine Road, Didsbury – that was another time when we got scowled at by everyone there except Erasmus and Wilson).

Initially, Wilson wouldn’t let us in. But we knew he was in, by the car, smoke from chimney, etc. He popped his head through a chink in the curtains to see who was there, and when he saw it was a bunch of scruffs, let us in.

It was a nice little cottage on the side of a hill and was a lovely sunny day. He told us “sorry… but I’m a bit worried after the Louis Edwards expose I’ve done on “World in Action” “. He presented/investigated for the show corruption in Manchester United and he thought the big boys were coming round to do him in. We got the picture from his end, this is someone’s view from Man U Trust.

After that, we got chatting and smoking. He had a huge video collection with all the “So It Goes” tapes, which was nice. He was especially pleased to show us some old Tiswas stuff which he droned on about. During the stay, Jeff and him started comparing degrees e.g. “wot you get – oooh, a first! Where d’yu geddit – oooh Cambridge, oooh Newcastle” etc etc.

At this juncture, some of the lads got bored and went to play in the fields. Me, the bleeze was too much and I passed into neverland.

The point of all this; well he did go on about his degree and he was immensely proud of it.