Sunday, 7 February 2010

Crispy Ambulance In North Hykeham


I have been involved in many a strange gig during my "youth" but helping organise and subsequently support Crispy Ambulance as a drummer in a left-wing political power pop trio called Total Strangers at The Memorial Hall, North Hykeham has to be top 5, if not 3.
Mark Collins. An old schoolfriend called Mark Collins got me in to it. At school there were two people who liked "punk" (we are in 1977) and that was myself and Mark Collins. Mark was the first to form a punk band, called The Exitz. He played guitar. Vocalist was Radio Lincolnshire DJ and personality Shaun Peel - but he doesn't like to talk about it. Mark and The Exitz got a gig in 1979, Morton Hall near Swinderby in Lincolnshire. Morton Hall used to be a POW camp during the War but by 1979 was housing Vietnamese refugees and they were to be entertained by the Exitz. So important was this gig that Mark sold me his pink Woolworths buzzsaw guitar and amp for £25 and bought a big white Gibson thing that used to belong to Rob Smith of The Cigarettes. Shortly after the gig The Exitz split and I (with my Woolworths buzzsaw) formed my own band. E.S.P. Disk-rd. That's history.
Bandless but still wanting to be part of showbusiness Mark thought about being the Harvey Goldsmith of Lincoln and duly put on Crass, DIRT and Annie Anxiety at The Regency Ballroom. (we had seen 999 there in 1978). Mark lost money on the gig due to punks wrecking the toilets and smashing windows...but undeterred Mark wanted to do another show. A low key event to raise funds. Back then he really had his heart set on bringing The Fall to Lincoln, but back then The Fall were £250. I was there at Mark's house when he 'phoned Rough Trade Agency to see who he could get at a decent price - he was shouting names at me when all of a sudden he said "Crispy Ambulance Seventy Quid". YES!! We had The Crispies booked. £70 was a lot of money in 1981 - it was a months dole. Mark skimped on the venue and booked The Memorial Hall in North Hykeham - 5 miles south of Lincoln, but the town in which we both lived.
Parallel to this my ex-brother-in-law John was forming a band with ex-Pseudo Existors bass player John Loonam. They held auditions for a drummer and the drummer of E.S.P. Disk-rd passed the audition. Dave Uden. There were gigs lined up including Newark with Metamorphosis and headlining on a Sunday night at the Pyewipe Inn in Saxilby! It was because John had a 4K P.A. that Mark and I added his band "Total Strangers" to the bill. Also billed were a synth / new romantic band called "Sixth Sense". A few days after passing the audition Dave decided he did not want to drum anymore and sold me his drumkit for £100 (paid in monthly installments). I (by default) was the new Total Strangers drummer until they could find a permanent fixture.

It is now the day of the gig. 18th November 1981. I am 19 years old. I am the drummer in a band supporting Crispy Ambulance. At this point all they had released was the "Cradle To the Grave" 7", the "Live On A Hot August Night" 12" on Factory Benelux and the "Deaf" 10". No LP as yet, still Mark and I are #1 Crispy Ambulance fans. We'd seen them a couple of times at Retford Porterhouse - supporting New Order and Section 25. The Peel Session was to die for!!
John turned up at around 5pm to set up the PA and backline, then The Crispies turned up. 5 of them in a battered white Transit van. They had beards they had moustaches and flares and the drummer had an Adidas bag with the "YES" logo drawn on it in blue biro. Bizarre. Doors at 7:30, so while Mark manned the doors John and I took Crispy Ambulance for a pint in The Fox & Hounds. Alan (the singer) found it very hard to believe that he was playing a place where a: there was no record shop and b: the nearest City - Lincoln - had no shop that stocked Crispy Ambulance records.... It was a fun pint I can tell you. There I was bedecked in TG/SPK/23 Skidoo button badges and he said "Have you ever heard of Throbbing Gristle"? "Duh"!
We strolled the 50 yards back to the Memorial Hall to find an audience of about 10.
Sixth Sense never played - their singer (Simon) had a migraine. Total Strangers were OK I suppose, I haven't a cassette recording, but Crispy Ambulance were absolutely blinding. Last week I received a CDR of their set. Sat at the mixing desk at the time was arch bootlegger Tim Bayes, and he has dug out the tape - cleaned it up and mailed me a copy on CDR. It's beauty. At the time I was not that impressed and I think that was because (looking at the set list) they were experimenting with new (Plateau Phase) material. Sat at the back watching Total Strangers play in front of 10 people they thought what the fuck - let's try out some new stuff. The gig was unique.
Mark and I lost £ on the night and paid Crispy Ambulance £35. They didn't grumble - or at least not to us. Probably spotted we were fans (?).
I went to see Crispy Ambulance at The Band On The Wall, Manchester in 1998. their first gig in 17 years. I stood at the bar next to Alan the singer...I should've asked him about North Hykeham and his recollections but I was too scared.
I have not seen or know about the whereabouts of Mark Collins since 1983.

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