Geez! Of the last five shows I attended at First Avenue (or anywhere else, I’m sure) three were is see The Buzzcocks. I guess I really liked these guys. You will also notice that the numbers of shows I went to per year had greatly reduced. One or two a year was my pace.
If memory serves, this was the show at which the band had television sets dressing the stage. They were promoting their first new album in quite a while, Trade Test Transmission. I may be mistaken but I think the album title refers the test screen that used to be seen on the TV at the end of the broadcast day. I could be wrong. Anyway, I think that’s why they had the TV’s.
The televisions were plugged in and the screens were just showing snow. And, at the very end of their show, Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle each grabbed a microphone stand and smashed out the TV screens. It was a cool effect, however I don’t think the First Avenue staff appreciated the stunt. I saw the staff fellows sweeping up the mess rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. Anything to stay in show business, eh, boys?
So, the next day the band was at the downtown Minneapolis record store, Northern Lights, (No, it’s not there anymore.) doing an instore record signing appearance. I got my copy of their new album signed by the band. I forgot to ask them if the First Avenue people knew they’d be smashing televisions, but I did remember to gush all over Pete Shelley about seeing his fantastic solo show (First Avenue, 8/20/86) and going on about how great it was.
What a fanboy I am!
It had been more than six months since John and I had gone to a show at First Avenue, but we would still head down there fairly frequently for the Tuesday and/or Saturday dance nights. First Avenue’s usual practice in those days was to hand patrons as they walked in a few complimentary tickets for upcoming concerts and a couple dance nights. Usually, the concerts didn’t interest us much. So we didn’t make much use of them.
You might also get some comp tickets from the bartenders. John and I had gotten to know one bartender, Pete, pretty well. Ok, we didn’t hang out with him or anything, but he knew us and what we drank and thought we were pretty ok. Now and again he would flip us a couple comps. I’m certain we weren’t the only ones he’d do that for.
One Saturday night at the Disco (that’s what we called First Avenue), Pete grabbed a couple comp tickets for us. As he was picking them out, I said to John that it would be so cool if he gave us tickets to the upcoming Paul Weller show. We were planning on buying tickets, but we hadn’t yet. Well, Pete slapped two tickets to the Weller show in front of us. Thanks, Pete!
John and I were both big fans of The Jam and The Style Council, so we were pretty geared up to see Paul in concert. We had never seen him before.
He was promoting his self-titled solo album, which I had and knew very well. John wasn’t as familiar with his solo material and that was all that Paul played. No Jam tunes, no Style Council tunes. Paul had moved on.
I really enjoyed the show. John had a harder time with it not knowing any of the material. But he did perk up at the end of one of Paul’s tunes (Bull-Rush, I think) when he kicked into a few bars of The Who’s Magic Bus. He told me that he wished they had played more of it than they did.
This brings to mind the story about our discovery of The Jam, so I may as well relate it here. It was 1984, I was in art school and John was going to the University of Minnesota, poli/sci major. We were both getting into new music. The underground stuff. Stuff we weren’t hearing on the radio. We were looking for anything that was cool.
On one of my visits to the local record store one of the fellows working there asked if I’d ever heard of The Jam. The record store guys knew me to be a huge Who fan and figured that I might be interested, so Marty (one of the guys) put the band’s first album, In The City, on for me to hear. I liked what I heard, but I didn’t want to spend money on them just yet.
John had bought the second album by The Vapors – Magnets. (Yes, they had a second album. They put out two and they are both very good. Too bad they only had the one hit. The name escapes me… Turning… hmmm… Turning Burmese. Something like that.) Anyway. John had heard good things about a band called The Jam and wrote the name on the inside of the cassette cover of his copy of Magnets. By that time, The Jam had broken up and Weller was doing The Style Council thing, but John was intrigued by what he had heard.
He picked up the cassette of The Jam – Snap, a collection of their singles. He popped it in his car stereo and drove around listening to it. This was John’s favorite way to listen to new music. I was working at Wendy’s back then and John came through the drive-up. He pulled around and I leaned out the drive-up window to chat. He held up the cassette case and exclaimed, “These guys are great!”
He was plenty excited about them. John isn’t one to go into major displays of excitement, but he was pretty jazzed about The Jam.
And through John, I got jazzed about them, too.