Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #4

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#4: The Levellers 

Brighton Centre – 21st December 1992
Support: Back To The Planet
Also in attendance: Wayne, Martin

The two or three year period at the start of the 90s was utterly crazy for me. All sorts of shit happened that I wish hadn’t and I found myself getting more and more immersed in my music obsession, perhaps as a way of shutting everything else out. By the end of 1992, I had stuck my middle finger up to the world, hollered a very seriously intended “fuck you all” and rebelled. I had lost my mum the year before and I was troubled by the way I had behaved during her illness. I had fallen in love with someone I shouldn’t have fallen in love with1 and ended up bitter and hurt as a result. I got fed up of working for a living, especially as I felt continually under-valued and under-paid, so I jacked my job in at Our Price and lived off the money my mum left me in her will. I bought guitars, records and concert tickets.  Life was about to become one big party.

I saw more gigs in 1992 than any other time before or since. I attended my first festivals (Glastonbury and Reading), started smoking dope, practically lived in the pub2, bought a VW camper, grew my hair really long and got my clothes from army surplus shops. I also became fascinated by ‘alternative lifestyles’ – travellers, new age stuff, that sort of thing. I was, what I call, a semi-crusty; I didn’t have dreads or a dog, or live in my camper, but I wore the clothes, mixed with the people and loved the music.

The Levellers were, of course, the biggest band in the crusty world. Their blend of punk and folk drew all kinds of sneering criticisms from the music press snobs, but the truth is they were a bloody good band, and amazing live. I saw them at least three times (maybe four – understandably my memory of this period is a little, erm, hazy). The last of these was in the band’s home town of Brighton. Wayne and I travelled east by train, checked in at a B&B and went in search of a pre-gig pint. Bizarrely, in spite of being at the complete opposite side of the country to home, we came across a fella we knew from Barnstaple.

Martin Bradbury was your typical crusty-looking guy, dreads and all. He could be seen at all the local gigs in North Devon and was one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He was well spoken, intelligent and rather unassuming, although he was also a good laugh. While we didn’t know him terribly well at that stage, we knew him well enough to invite him to the pub with us3.

Wayne, Martin and I left the pub together and made our way to the venue where Martin split. Wayne and I had only managed to obtain ‘restricted view’ tickets, that odd thing where despite not being able to see everything clearly, you’re still charged full price regardless. Our seats were on the balcony to the far side of the stage. This meant we couldn’t see the extreme left of the stage. But at least we were there.

At some point though (and I can’t remember exactly when, but I’m pretty sure it was before the support band came on), we decided we wanted to be in the thick of it. Immediately below where we were seated was a raised area for wheelchairs. It wasn’t occupied. We watched as two blokes slowly eased themselves over the edge of the balcony and let themselves drop onto the platform below before legging it into the swelling crowd at the front of the stage. Wayne and I sized up the drop. We looked at each other.

“What do you reckon?” one of us said to the other. “Want to give it a go?”

It looked a long way down and I’m not great with heights, but with little thought as to the potential consequences (getting thrown out by security, broken bones, death) I went for it. I landed with a thud as my para boots hit the floor. Wayne followed. I also recall helping to catch a slightly scared girl who decided to do the same thing before we ran towards the crowd. Wayne told me later that one of the security staff had clocked me and gave chase, but I had disappeared into the pit before he caught me and he decided against following me in. I delighted in that knowledge. That to me was in the true spirit of anarchy and rebellion. Fuck you, ticket-selling scumbags – you can take your overpriced restricted view tickets and shove ‘em where the sun don’t shine. Catch me in the mosh pit if you dare, motherfuckers!

No band had played a note yet, but I was already having the time of my life. This was living, not working insufferably in a 9-5 job for a large record chain, trying to identify some terrible song by some moronic customer’s vague attempt at humming it, the sort of person who only bought a couple of records a decade but had the audacity to get shirty with you when you failed to recognise their out-of-tune singing.

“There’s only one way of life and that’s your own.” – ‘One Way’ by the Levellers

So the bands played. Back to the Planet were regulars on the smaller festival circuit and regularly supported bands like the Levellers, Chumbawamba et al. They were soon to have a couple of hit singles and briefly become music press darlings and bonafide headliners. Sadly, their music hasn't dated terribly well...

The Levellers, as you would expect from a band with their reputation, especially at a homecoming show, blew the roof off. I moshed with the large sweaty crowd, happy that I had turned my back on the mundanities of day-to-day life in favour of day-to-day partying. I even considered travelling myself for a while. Like many things I consider, it came to nothing in the end. Within 18 months, I was back in a job, working as a junior reporter for the local paper. The money had run out, the bank wouldn’t lend me any more, the bailiffs came a-knocking and I had bills to pay and food to buy. Reintegration into society was a necessary evil. Besides, the Levellers had turned crap by then, becoming little more than U2 with a fiddle player. I never saw them again, but still fondly remember those shows.


[1] With thanks to the Buzzcocks.
[2] The West of England in Torrington, managed by Ian Kevern and Tracy Elworthy. It had the best jukebox in town and was a haven for punks, crusties, rockers and all the other ‘outcasts’. I was a member of the pub’s darts, pool and football teams, and used this as an excuse to spend as much time there as I could. I drank a lot of beer and tequila in that place and don’t regret a moment.
[3] Martin and I became good friends longer term.  He even became my lodger for a while.


  1. Great story! You have a great memory. I forget half of the gigs I've ever been too!! Old age I guess!! Roll on Franz Ferdinand Sunday week for fresh new memories!!

    1. LOL! I can remember things like this as if it were yesterday. Ask me what happened yesterday and I struggle. THAT'S old age! Enjoy FF, my next show looks like being Shonen Knife.

  2. Got myself some Brian Jonestown Massacre tickets the other day of which I'm very pleased about .