Archive for the ‘Rockbrat Road Story:’ Category

Nikki

Sixx at the Marquee 1991 – pic: Ross Halfin

Just finished re-reading ‘The Dirt’ – the Mötley Crüe bio from some years back – so sharing a road tale involving Vince, his buddy Sixx, Mick and Tom seems appropriate. I was living in a tiny bedsit in South London back in 1991 – working was obviously not a priority – but rock n roll sure as hell was. Part of the weekly schedule was perusing Kerrang! Magazine – which from memory hit the streets each Wednesday. So as per usual, in early August, I headed to the Noizeagant and purchased the Big K, scanning the gig guide over a pint or two. In one of the news columns there was a blurb which stated something like ‘Livewire rockers The Foreskins play a one-off show at the Marquee August 14’.
Duh – I really shoulda put two and two together – cos I knew that in previous years – around the time of the Monsters Of Rock show, bands on the bill had done undercover Marquee gigs – Kiss in 1988, Poison and also Aerosmith (with a guest appearance from Jimmy Page) the year before. There was also the ‘livewire’ reference. Oh well, this was the pre-internet era so information was where you read it – or in my case, if you mis-read it ! Anyway – I think that the following Wednesday’s issue of Kerrang! – in the week leading up to Donington – they broke the newz and announced the ‘unannounced’ secret gig. Oh shit ! It was that very night ! I downed my pint, screamed ‘take me to the heights tonight’ – then jumped a train which would take me to the top – well, Tottenham Court Road station at least. The legendary Marquee was at that time situated at 105 Charing Cross Road, and I quickly made my way to the venue. Thinking back, I saw a slew of bands there during that summer – and although Cobain and his flannelette were about to sit hard rock and metal on it’s ass – there was still some great rock to be had at that time (the fact that Kerrang! ran a two page article on Nirvana in the aforementioned issue – was telling – and a sign of things to come – eg, the death of 80’s metal).

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Motley ‘Four Skins’ Crue play a rare club date –

Obviously, with the show sold-out I had to scalp a ticket – and when I got to the venue at around lunchtime there was already a queue to get inside. Motley never played clubs anymore so to see them in a dive with a few hundred capacity was a thrill. Ticket or no ticket, I joined the queue and started chatting to a couple of young kids who’d travelled by bus the night before to get to this secret Crue show. Think they hailed from Nottingham way. I looked through my cash and remember thinking that 50 quid was my absolute top bargaining price – and haggled with a few scalpers over the next couple of hours – before begrudgingly shelling out a whopping 70 pounds for a ticket in. What’s that worth in today’s money ? $300 or $400 maybe ? For some time later, one of my pommie mates would give me shit about it, so it must’ve been a lot of money ! Whatever – life is short, and it was the Crue in a club for f**k sake – their second club gig in ten years –  and now I had a ticket ! Rock n roll mission accomplished.

There was an Oi! punk outfit who hailed from London’s East End called The 4-Skins – working class punkers who were around in the early 80’s, and recall hearing a press rumour of legal action against the Crue for using their name. The spelling was obviously different – and the Crue had so many lawsuits against them, I doubt they cared. Many old punks would’ve bought tickets for this mid-August gig, thinking there was a 4-Skins re-union occurring. They of course were unaware they were nabbing tickets to the hottest gig in town – and some no doubt made a hefty profit from hungry Crue-heads. Well, on with the show, going on with the show.

Mr Rockbrat at the Marquee 1991

Mr Rockbrat at the Marquee 1991

The wait for the doors to open was made easier by swilling warm Tennent’s and chatting with other rock disciples. At some stage I recall a camera crew filed past – interviewing fans as they walked along. The accents were American so I presume they were Crue crew – and someone told me they were filming for a documentary. I think that some of this Charing Cross Road fan footage – along with the Marquee gig itself – was including in the ‘Anarchy In The UK’ video. Once the doors swung open, a horde of punters headed for the stage area, yet I headed upstairs and got a front row view from up there on the balcony – directly in line with Sixx. This was a memorable gig – one which stands out in a lifetime of loud, sweaty rock shows. There was no opening band – and from memory, after a short intro tape, the band just sauntered on stage and belted into their set – a set which was to be savoured: Wild Side, Shout at the Devil, a thumping Primal Scream, Looks That Kill, Red Hot,…. and to hear early Crue cuts like Live Wire and the encore Piece Of Your Action churned out in a small club was very very cool. A take on the Pistols Anarchy in the U.K.was also aired to maximum response. Personally, apart from Motorhead and The Runaways, I am yet to hear anyone do true justice to a Sex Pistols song – though the Crue’s effort on this night was sizzling. At one point in the show, Sixx, sporting black overalls, stage dived into the crowd – and later I recall he gave me the thumbs up during the set. Say what you want about Tommy Lee, the guy is an incredible drummer – the engine room behind this legendary outfit, and he is always great to watch. Every punter in the club that night was drenched in sweat – and it was pure rock n roll energy. This was a warm-up show but the Crue gave their all, and the evening was one of my rock highlights. I did the bus ride to Donington Park three days later and although the Crue rocked – they were not as potent as they were at the mid-week Marquee gig. The smaller stage of a small, sweaty club was where the Motley magic lay for me. With my ears ringing from Mick Mars’ Marshalls, I walked towards the Tube – ending the motley_crue_marquee_ticketevening a short while later with a Doner and chips. A decade earlier, Motley Crue had reigned supreme on the Sunset Strip club scene – and it was mind-blowing to see them back in a club after conquering the rock world !

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birch_hill_gig_adThe town of Old Bridge is located in New Jersey, not too far from Staten Island, around 40km from Manhattan. It was also home to a live venue called Birch Hill – which me and the Cowboy made tracks for back in 1996. The reason ? Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. 40km doesn’t sound far – at least not for an Australian, who thinks nothing of driving a few hundred kilometres to get to the shops and back – well, you get my meaning. This gig stands out for a couple of reasons. See, me and the Cowboy were holed up in a flea-infested hostel around Chelsea, swilling cats piss one humid afternoon – whilst listening to local rock radio.  We hear the end of an advert for a Blackhearts show at ‘Albridge’, or was it ‘Aldridge’, ‘Old Ridge’ maybe ? No mention of the gig in the Village Voice either – hmmm. Anyway, we head to the Port Authority Bus Terminal on gig day and manage to annoy the ticket lady officer big time – by not actually knowing our destination. Fucking tourists. ‘Ohhh you mean, Old Bridge’ she whines in a Queens accent. ‘Uh huh, yeah’ we nod – like Beavis and Butthead and board the Jersey-bound bus excitedly.  From memory the Old Bridge bus stop was at a nearby mall – which meant a long walk back to the venue – a venue which first reminded me of Bob’s Country Bunker – chicken wire ? Unlike many Australian or British venue’s where you can hit the venue bar pre-show, this place seemed isolated and had the doors locked until like 8.00pm. The only thing to keep us entertained were the ‘Joan Clones’ who sat in their cars – cranking Jett/Runaways tunage, whiling the hours away. One geeky fan came up to us and even texta’d a number on our hands ! WTF ? (don’t want any queue-jumping at a Blackhearts show or Mr Laguna may wanna see you after school). Odd. It was humid in New Jersey that afternoon – so when the doors finally opened we darted to the bar – a man’s not a camel. Birch Hill was apparently a ground-breaking venue which had hosted up-and-coming acts like Marilyn Manson, Korn and the Goo Goo Dolls.  Others such as Eddie Money, Anthrax, Sepultura, Scorpions, Dokken, Cheap Trick, Dio, Motorhead, Dream Theatre, UFO, Vince Neil, Yngwie, Misfits, Great White, Cinderella and even  Iron Maiden (with Blaze) also played here – amongst countless other acts. Thrashers Overkill – who appear on this gig ad – hail from Old Bridge I believe. Anyway, back to the Jett show.

Boston’s two girl-one guy ‘Chelsea on Fire’ opened many Joan Jett shows in the late 90’s and did so on this occasion. They were unoriginal and unmemorable – and I instead made better use of my time by hitting on a couple of local chicks – big-haired Stevie Nicks-clones. and the booze kept flowing. Local outfit Mars Needs Women were next up – I think they gave me a demo tape – or did they hand em out (?) – and were capital A average. At some stage I recall ligging with Blackhearts Tony Bruno and Sean Koos – the bassist was far more impressed with my 1995 Aussie tour tee than his (ex-Saraya/Danger Danger) band mate (Bruno would later find greener pastures working as guitarist, music director for Enrique Iglesias). Eventually Joanie jumps the stage with shortly-cropped bright orange hair. Not one of her better looks. As usual – Miss Larkin and band fired on all cylinders – and her set was soon over – but not, as you’d expect – was our Old Bridge adventure.

There were no taxis anywhere – and a promised lift by some local Jett-head proved to be bullshit. Anyway, me and the Cowboy start walking alongside the freeway – when we stumble upon a local cop sitting in his car. ‘Any chance of a lift’ ? I ask – and after ID’s are confirmed – we jump in the back of the squad car. ‘I heard Joan Jett now has orange hair’ the officer mumbled. Sheesh – even the local law enforcement were up on recent Jett happenings ! Some minutes later – the kindly cop drops us at a 24 hour diner and says ‘hey when you get back to Australia, you tell Aussie cops that Jersey cops are cool’ ! Absoloutely, 10-4, that’ll be the first thing I do when we land at Mascot. With a hang-over starting to kick in – I slumped wearily into a booth at the diner – ordering coffee and spying the ‘texta-girl’ from the gig sitting nearby. We rolled back into the Port Authority terminal a little under the weather – but drenched in Joan Jett rock n roll. I am attaching the advert for this show in question. Man, I love looking over past gig ads – the names of bands who vanshed – or also conquered – lay before you. This one shows Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould appearing, the afore-mentioned Overkill, and Northern Irish outfit Ash can be seen on a bill supporting Stabbing Westward – no doubt trying to sink their teeth into the vast North American market. Looking back – Merciful Fate – out on the road in support of their then released ‘Into The Unknown’ record with Voivod woulda been cool – hmm, nah, on second thought – I think I’d take the Marshall Tucker Band over the lot of em. The venue closed its doors back in 2003 – making way for some housing community. Often, just making your way to a show is half the fun – and this tale, from Old Bridge NJ in 1996, is just one of many I have tucked away. More road stories later…till then – respect the rock.