The Skids / Spear of Destiny
Things were different when I went to university. There were no fees and you could get a grant. And you could end up sharing a room with a complete stranger.
So I ended up living, eating and no doubt snoring with Steve Pinch for my first year at York Uni. Steve was a very intelligent lad from Hull, whose gruff northern tones contrasted markedly with the see saw lilt I'd been used to in Swansea. Fortunately for us both, we shared an obsession with obscure and passionate guitar bands with something to say.
Theatre of Hate and their articulate, thoughtful, political and at times controversial frontman Kirk Brandon were an obsession of Steve's. When they disbanded, he transferred that obsession onto Brandon's new band, Spear of Destiny. Despite a year of non stop listening to all the recorded output of both bands, along with numerous bootlegs and sessions and more, all copied faithfully and probably illegally onto C90s, he was unable to infect me with his love, and I don't think I ever saw either band live.
Until tonight, 35 years later, when Spear of Destiny open for The Skids in Bedford. They are certainly passionate, enthusiastic and often ear catching along with the 'hits', I was especially taken with the material from the new album Tontine. However, in the 75 minute set, there wasn't enough to keep me interested throughout, and I remain to this day unconvinced. Sorry Steve I know you'd have loved it!
Another thing about Steve was that somehow he was always in the know about what was going on in the world of underground music. How he did this in the days before the internet, God only knows, but it was always him who informed me what my own hero, Richard Jobson, was up to. We even went to see The Armoury Show together. However I guess that nowadays I am perhaps more in the know where Jobson is concerned: today I even got to go to an intimate book reading in a tiny Bedford bar which entitled me to see The Skids soundcheck at the Corn Exchange where they would later take the stage after SOD (see Steve, I still remember the acronym).
So what to say about The Skids that I didn't say a year ago (here), after I finally got to see my childhood heroes, 40 years on? The book reading had proved Jobson's wizardly way with words and affable skills as a raconteur, and these are on show again at the gig. Tracks from the new album 'Burning Cities' are weaved in seamlessly with the classics, and receive an ecstatic reception. The incredibly pertinent 'Refugee' is used as an intro track and receives applause even at the soundcheck. The 90 minute set flies by (contrast this with Taylor Swift's twenty something mins at The Big Weekend in Swansea the same evening) and ends with an updated Tory baiting version of 'TV Stars'. For this the owner of Jobson's local cafe is hauled onstage; apparently it was only his persistence which persuaded the band to play the town. And yes I can excitingly reveal that Richard Jobson now lives both in Berlin and Beds!
The Skids prove themselves as powerful, melodic, energetic and mesmerising as ever, reminding me how they first made me fall in love with intelligent left field guitar music, and how they went on to influence the Manics, both sonically and lyrically. Without The Skids, there'd have been no R*E*P*E*A*T. And of course I'd not have had a wonderful bank holiday Sunday in Bedford.
Whereas without Steve Pinch..?