An unforgettable early gig going experience !!
Not an album....but 30 or so memorable minutes from an early gig I went to.......
The gig in question was Motorhead's first headlining gig at Hammersmith Odeon on 5th November 1978.....Yup......Fireworks Night !!....somehow appropriate....I'd not been to too many gigs up to this point.....The Runaways twice, AC/DC, Blondie, UFO and a few others......but had been playing Motorhead's debut 12" single "Motorhead" to death since it came out, having first heard it at the local Heavy Rock disco I had been going to every week since '76. The band had played The Odeon before, supporting Blue Oyster Cult.....as you can imagine they didn't go down very well with that audience and apparently not helped by some very unco-operative sound engineers on BOC's crew. A friend who went to see BOC said Motorhead were without doubt the worst band he'd ever seen....this encouraged me to want to go and see them even more !!
My ticket cost the princely sum of £2.50 and was for row G in the stalls. The audience was made up of ordinary looking rock fans like myself....quite a lot of punks (Motorhead have always had cross over appeal to punks) and a lot of very large mean looking leather jacketed gentleman who had obviously arrived by motorbike. I spoke to a group of punks who were sort of hiding in a corridor as apparently some of the bikers were after any punks they could lay their hands on !!...and not just to say "hello" and buy them a drink either !!
The support bands were The Business....a fairly nondescript affair....and Motorhead's Chiswick Records stable mates Johnny Moped....to say they went down badly would be an understatement. They weren't given a chance.... I think they only lasted about 15 minutes and it all ended up as just a slagging match between the band and large parts of the audience.
After their early departure anticipation levels began to rise and finally the lights went down and we were then subjected to about 10 minutes of World War 2 noises....tanks, gunfire of all sorts, aircraft diving and bombs exploding etc.....the volume of the PA had been seriously cranked up since the support bands so it seemed that tanks were indeed rumbling down the aisles !! When the band finally took to the stage the aisle down to the front immediately filled up with those keen to get to the front regardless of what or who was in the way...amongst them a considerable number of the large bikers I mentioned earlier. Well... the 4 or 5 blue tracksuit topped security guys attempted to form a barrier about level with the row I was in....this failed miserably as they were literally knocked out of the way in the rush....the weight of people surging down the centre aisle hit around row C at full force and there was a loud cracking noise as the row was lifted out of the floor and collapsed flat on the ground...similar treatment was meted out to the first 2 rows...the area at stage front was now a seething mass jumping up and down on the wrecked seats....the security people had by now retreated and given up trying to restore order....they had met their match and retired to join their colleagues in less dangerous parts of the auditorium.
I was glad my seat was slightly off to the side so I could witness what had occurred without getting flattened myself. The sheer noise of the band was incredible....not the cleanest of mixes !!!...more the sort of gig you feel through your ribcage rather than hear through your ears !! At some point, probably just before the band started although I can't be certain, a large scale model WW2 plane slid down a wire from the balcony towards one of the huge speaker stacks where it was presumably meant to crash....it never made it...getting stuck over the front stalls...but fortunately out of reach from those below......an early precursor to the legendary Bomber lighting rig perhaps ?
So, all in all a fine evenings entertainment and I went home happy....if not a little hard of hearing...with the poster illustrated here,
which I got for £1 after the gig, clutched under my arm. This was the first of many Motorhead gigs I would witness over the years....the next one was equally memorable....at The Lyceum Ballroom in The Strand, London in April 1979 on the Overkill tour......notable for the ridiculously large PA system which took up such a great proportion of the stage that the band appeared to be squashed inbetween the stacks as an afterthought !
Written by Doug