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A Relaxing Nite Out With Wire

Wire on stage in Middlesborough

October 27 1978

Left to right:
Graham Lewis
Bruce Gilbert
Colin Newman
Mike Thorne
Unidentified roadie 
dealing with some impromptu stage visit.

Photographer unknown
Thanks to Paul Rabjohn for the print

This Wire gig was at the Rock Garden, Middlesborough, in the industrial northeast of England.  The club was fairly isolated, one of a few buildings still standing in a desolate section of decaying and dead dockland. About 400 warm summer Saturday night celebrants were the audience. We did sound check and then cleared off to a convivial local pub in walking distance to consume in local style.

Even through struggles with chords and a collapsing keyboard, I remember clearly the flying gob and spraying beer.   Perhaps you forget those things when they’re coming at you if you’re grappling with the music.  The white spots you see on the print are not photographic faults. They were manufactured in people’s throats.

Colin is a singular character who can sometimes bumble happily and creatively around the world, often completely relaxed in his own dreams, having to be somewhere, and then getting on the bus going the wrong direction.  On stage, he was rather different: in control.  This Middlesborough crowd, exceptionally aggressive even for the industrial Britain of the 70s, immediately desisted when he pointed out that ‘we don’t like being spitted at.’  Playing my ancient RMI Electrapiano, whose pedal needed constant attention with sticky tape to prevent it disintegrating, had been even more challenging than usual, due to the smooth, slippery layer of beer over all the keys. (At last, I had an excuse for my wrong notes.)

The roadies had their work cut out trying to maintain a decent sound while courteously accepting helpful advice from the floor at the back.  Half way through our set, we noticed a sudden change in the stage sound.  One creative punter in an altered state had stumbled by the mixing desk and with one large hand pulled down all the carefully set graphic equalizer settings (carefully adjusted to help the room sound) to zero.  One of the roadies took the piece of lead pipe that lived defensively under the console, and went off to discuss further business.  The blood on the floor at the back of the club that shone when the lights came up wasn’t the roadie’s new business partner’s.  But it might have been our colleague’s, without due precaution.

Yes, that was a rough crowd, just down the road from where I grew up. It included my brother Anthony. I drove back to his Sunderland home afterwards, where I crashed. For some reason, it seemed appropriate to drive round the roundabouts (traffic circles) on the right rather than following local leftie rules. Terribly sorry, officer, I thought I was back home (didn’t come to that, thankfully).

We didn’t feel inclined to do many encores; perhaps we did one.  Good Northern beer helps the soul but not the memory.  The audience wanted more than the Wire corporate board was inclined to dispense after being spitted at.  The dressing room door was at the back of the stage, better that way we thought as the pint beer glasses (empty) smashed against it while we waited out the mood of the diminishing crowd.

– MT June 2001