Monday, 21 July 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #26

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

#26: Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
The Great Hall, Exeter University - 17th October 1991
Also in attendance: Midget + others

My third gig in Exeter in a week (following the Levellers on the Monday night and James on the Wednesday), I had already acquired a sizeable bruise on my sternum thanks to being pushed against the barrier at the front of each of the previous two outings. I was down the front again at this one, so that bruise grew even larger.

There are two significant reasons this gig has remained so memorable. Firstly, pre-show, I was at the bar with Midget when, to my left appeared a very large man. ‘Twas none other than Jon Beast, the charismatic manager of Carter USM. Beast was, to many, Carter’s third member although he was a non-playing member. Among his numerous duties was his warm-up act. Strolling onstage just prior to showtime as if to check everything was in order, Beast would immediately be subjected to the crowd hurling the chant “You fat bastard!” as one in his general direction. Of course, a mic would be turned on for Beast to address his public in response. “You fat WHAT?” he retorted before lifting his t-shirt to reveal his plentiful belly to the world!

John Beast
during Carter reunion
shows in 2010. He's
still got it...?!
So, there he was, patiently waiting his turn at the bar. I turned to Midget, about to whisper “psst, look, it’s Jon Beast,” but Midge had already clocked him.

“Alright there Jon?” Midget said, turning to the man himself.

“Bloody ‘ell, ‘allo Midget mate, long time no see!” They knew each other! Unbeknownst to me, Mr Beast had been involved with the punk scene in Devon many years before, which is how he and Midget became acquainted. He chatted to us briefly before ordering drinks and going back to work. That in itself was a moment to remember.

The other thing that sticks in my mind about that show was my near-death experience. OK, I’m milking it a bit, but I can quite understand how serious a crush can be. That Carter show was the one and only time I ever contemplated climbing out of the crowd as a life-saving measure. I’d been in some rough pits before, and the bruises I took into that show were testament to how rammed it got at the front of a crowd, but this show remains the roughest gig of all for me.

I survived it though, fighting off the temptation to climb over the barrier and make my way to the sides. I’m glad because Carter were brilliant. Two blokes, two guitars and a tape machine – kind of sounds like the sort of thing you’d get at your Great Auntie Doris’ 75th birthday or something, but I tell you, if Jimbob and Fruitbat turned up at Great Auntie Doris’ birthday party, we’d be booking Great Auntie Doris’ funeral the next day! Loud? You betcha. Fast? Very. Raucous? Oh yes. And bear in mind that this was Carter at their peak – everything they did afterwards never quite hit the mark in the way those first two albums did. Sheriff Fatman almost caused a riot, while Rubbish, Shoppers' Paradise and Surfin’ USM were all greeted by equally enthusiastic moshing and crowdsurfing.

When a track from ‘30 Something’ comes on nowadays, I get a kind of psychological pain in my sternum, like a reminder of that wild, wild night in Exeter in 1991. Yet this doesn’t put me off. On the contrary, I imagine I’m back in that mosh pit, grinning like an idiot, forcing myself to live with the pain. If I was going to die that night, I was damn well going out with a smile on my face!


Surfin' USM – Carter USM (from ‘30 Something’)

Rubbish [live in Kilburn] – Carter USM (from ‘Wham Bam!’)

Shoppers' Paradise [live in Kilburn] – Carter USM (from ‘Wham Bam!’)

Sheriff Fatman [live in Brixton] - Carter USM (from ‘In Bed With Carter’ VHS)


  1. Great post Robster. Excellent the way you described the concert. I saw them in Stuttgart this year as well. And yes it was loud, fast and weired. I'm happy that I can remember this concert without thinking of pain.

  2. Replies
    1. Yep, 'tis a sad day. At least he'll have plenty of good company.