Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Skids - Part 1: Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos from 1865 Club Southampton + The Skids at The Roundhouse Review

The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
I know there is a school of thought that believes "Punk died when the Roxy closed down" but for me it only really began in 1978 when as an impressionable 13 year old I sat open mouthed in front of Top of The Pops and got smacked round the face by what I thought was Punk Rock. Little did I know that many purists would be sneeringly calling this "New Wave" but to me it was unbelievably exciting to be watching bands such as The Jam and The Stranglers strut their angry and energetic stuff on this mainstream Pop show. The next couple of years got even better and for me this was the golden age of the 7" single - bands such as the UK Subs, Generation X, The Ruts, The Specials, The Beat, Buzzcocks and The Undertones were producing stone cold classics that still sound as fresh and vital today as they ever did. Of course one of these bands were The Skids and I still have my copies of "Into The Valley" and the brilliant "Masquerade", my name written in biro on the back cover to make sure I got it back when we all swapped records in the classroom. Once a week after lessons there was a record club and we would often end up with bruised shins and toes from accidentally kicking chairs and desks trying to copy The Skids vocalist Richard Jobson's idiosyncratic dance moves. It would seem kids all over the country were doing the same thing as before tonight's Roundhouse show I was chatting to a pal who told me he had once broken his glasses during a strenuous "Jobson" routine. So, yes indeed there was a fair sense of nostalgia whizzing around the packed venue.

Richard Jobson of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
The Skids disbanded in 1982 after which Richard Jobson formed the short-lived but excellent Armoury Show and Stuart Adamson went on to huge commercial success with Big Country. Adamson sadly committed suicide in 2001 and as his guitar work and songwriting abilities were such an integral part of The Skids it seemed unlikely that the band could ever consider re-forming. It wasn't until 2007 that a new line-up of The Skids appeared to commemorate the untimely death of Stuart Adamson and to celebrate their 30th anniversary. However, they never played outside Scotland, and no UK tours and no new material in 35 years meant that the existing loyal fan-base hadn’t really been augmented by that many younger fans over the years as has happened with Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Undertones and The Stranglers with their constant touring, new releases and subsequent promotional activity. In addition there has always been the frustrating and downright annoying fact that The Skids rarely get a mention in the numerous music press retrospectives or documentaries looking back on Punk Rock. In fact I always felt that they have been unfairly air-brushed out of music history. I don’t know why. After all they were always innovative and often challenging musically, stretching the boundaries of Punk in the same way that their more critically acclaimed contemporaries such as Wire or Magazine did. Stuart Adamson deserves to be placed alongside Bruce Gilbert from Wire, John McGeogh from Magazine, Keith Levene from PiL and Paul Fox of The Ruts as one of the truly great individual and inspirational guitarists to have come out of Punk. So I must admit to being a bit unsure of what to expect as I headed off to The Roundhouse, but I soon realised I needn't have had any concerns at all...

Jamie & Bruce Watson of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
The choice of Bruce Watson to replace Stuart Adamson was inspired, after all Bruce did play in Big Country alongside Stuart so not only was there a personal connection but their guitar sounds were always so closely entwined that he was the perfect fit. The addition of Bruce’s son Jamie on second guitar was also a coup as they made a great double act on stage, trading licks and poses together. Jamie, the “Ed Sheeran lookalike” as Richard introduced him, also added some impressive backing vocals and it was nice to see he was very much part of the line-up, not just stuck at the back like a session musician. Richard Jobson led us in a round of applause for Stuart and the situation was perfectly handled, it wasn’t overly sentimental or maudlin and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about Bruce or Jamie’s roles. In fact, truth be told, the band sounded amazing, bursting with a seething energy that proved they were up for this as much as the adoring Roundhouse crowd. Richard Jobson looked remarkably fit and muscular, he didn’t stop moving throughout the whole show and the familiar high kicks and shadow boxing are all present or as he jokingly comments "moving from leg to another". He laughs that he is flattered when someone calls it dancing, but then adds “I don’t care, the music is joyous and takes over” and you just have to admire him. His voice is fantastically rich and powerful too and you realise that he is an extremely underrated singer that certainly deserves a hell of lot more credit than he currently gets.

Richard Jobson of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
We are treated to a near perfect set-list featuring all those classic hits that I once saw on Top Of The Pops as a teenager and a great selection of album tracks too. I say ‘near perfect’ as for some reason they omit one of my favourite tracks “Sweet Suburbia” which I still remember hearing for the first time on the brilliant compilation album “Twenty of Another Kind” but I guess you can't have everything. From the debut album “Scared To Dance” the vicious “Melancholy Soldiers” is a fist pumping singalong classic and “Of One Skin” is so good it gets played twice. Debut single “Charles” with its nightmarish vision of a factory worker slowly merging into his machine was a sinister delight and of course we get the truly anthemic “The Saints Are Coming” which sees Jobson paying tribute to the firefighters and emergency services who battled so courageously with the Grenfell Tower tragedy. He chats about the band’s early days “the thing about being one of the first Scottish Punk bands was that we got to support all the big names like Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, The Damned and we were better than all of them! Nah, I’m lying, that was just fake news!” 

The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
Original Bassist Bill Simpson looked cool in his shades and his iconic, thunderous intro to “Into The Valley” sent a shiver down the spine, inciting a huge joyous roar from the crowd. Richard tells the story of his audition for The Skids back in 1977 and confesses that afterwards Bill had told Stuart “he can’t sing, he can’t dance” and Stuart replied “that's fantastic!” The tracks from "Days In Europa" are stunning and there's a real thrill when those instantly recognisable bubbling sequencers and synth motifs that herald “Working For The Yankee Dollar” and “Animation” fizz out of the speakers. “Masquerade”, “Charade” there's so many great songs and such depth of material. More stunning tracks from the album such as “Thanatos”, “'Dulce et Decorum Est” and “The Olympian” prove that they could have easily extended their impressive run of hit singles if they had been chosen. Talking of strength of material, “Out of Town” one of my personal favourites on the night was originally just a B-side to the stand-alone release “Masquerade” and I thought most bands would kill to have a single as good as “Out of Town” let alone a B-side!

Mike Baillie of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
I couldn’t see much of drummer Mike Baillie as he was hidden behind his cymbals but his drumming was mightily impressive. Mike joined the band in time to play on their most commercially successful album “The Absolute Game” and from that we got a scorching “Circus Games” which was one of the highlights of the night. I wasn’t so keen on this album when it originally came out, particularly the singles “Hurry On Boys” and “Woman In Winter”, but tonight they were outstanding as Richard turned them both into huge emotionally charged singalongs, encouraging everyone to join in on backing vocals. He thanks us for being the only crowd on the tour so far who haven’t shouted out for “TV Stars”, the “worst song we ever wrote”, but of course they play it anyway…after all the chance to scream “Albert Tatlock!” at the top of your voice was never going to be passed up. The good news is that the future looks bright for The Skids too as for the final encore they played a promising new song from their forthcoming album “Burning Skies” and I sincerely hope that this will be successful in enticing another generation of music fans to check out The Skids.

The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
Eagle-eyed Skids fans might notice that although my review is from The Roundhouse in London, Paul Slattery’s photos are from the gig in Southampton. It’s rare that we attend different shows but I’m sure you would much rather see Paul’s excellent pictures than mine! Anyway I can recommend those of you who were at Southampton to check out Ged Babey’s superb review in “Louder Than War” if you want your photos and feature in sync. The forthcoming Skids album “Burning Skies” is available to pre-order via a Pledgemusic campaign here and you can also order a live CD of the Roundhouse show here. Paul Slattery has a book of his early Skids photos entitled "Scared To Dance: The Skids 1979-80" published by Hanging Around Books which is run by the music journalist, and long-time Skids supporter, Ronnie Gurr. You can see some videos of The Skids and support act The Vapors at The Roundhouse over at our YouTube channel here. For up-to-date news and details of future tour dates please check out the official Skids web-site here.

Richard Jobson photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
With thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent pictures. All photos copyright Paul Slattery 2017.

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