Our band was becoming more accomplished and we had settled on the name ‘Atlantis’. Somehow we were building a reputation and I am not sure whether it was for our music or our outrageous overconfidence. The answer lies somewhere in between. One big difference from most of the local groups was that we wrote and performed our own songs. We did do a couple of parody songs based on hits from the time. Who can forget “Get It Up!’ based on T-Rex’s ‘Get it On’? Well, probably almost everyone who ever heard it, but we liked it at the time. I cannot really remember how we ever got booked in those days, but we did. It was usually youth clubs or parties.
Somehow we were booked for a gig at the Methodist Hall at Chapel Allerton, which is just behind Harrogate Road and the main shopping street. The hall is a large imposing stone building and I knew it from when I had visited my Grandma’s house on Regent Terrace, as a child. I had never been in it and we felt that if we were booked for a concert then we ought to do a recce and see what the facilities, size and acoustics were like. A week or two before the concert, the band and accompanying friends, decided to visit the youth club that was held there for a sneak peek.
It was a dark night when we arrived at about eight in the evening and the club was not really bustling at the time. There were chairs along each side of the hall and a stage at the far end. Music was being played from a record deck and it was the usual fare of recent and perennial hits. The lights were dim, but I can’t remember any coloured lights. We had gained a new drummer by this time, a lad called Reg, and he was quite an accomplished musician. This was so much so that our friend Roger, still a friend and neighbour, told me that he was far too good for us. Reg did bring something that the band had missed and that was a regular beat and timing. It made my job as the bass player much easier and more enjoyable. The girls that were with us were mainly from Alwoodley at this time and the band, Pete, John, Reg and me, were accompanied by John L, David G, Roger C and others. I point this out as what happened during our visit concerned them rather than me.
The hall is about a hundred yards from the then police station, and you would have thought that the locality would have modified teenage behaviour. We stood around, some of the girls danced around their handbags in a circle and we just chilled and tried our best to look cool. At one point in the evening a large group of teenagers arrived and the calm atmosphere changed a little. An atmosphere descended on the place, but we were capable of handling ourselves and weren’t too intimidated. We definitely weren’t looking for trouble, but our dress and persona did stand out. Pete was probably the centre of this. He had a manner that made him the focus of attention and he was a couple of years older than me and considerably taller.
What happened next I was oblivious of until after it had happened. John L had gone to the toilet and was in the cubicle and Dave G was at the urinal. Some lads came into the toilet and, without warning, Dave turned around to see a chair descending onto his head. This was totally unprovoked and Dave was not an aggressive lad normally. He blocked the blow and at the same time Peter must have been made aware what was happening as he rushed in and a fight ensued. Peter and David proved successful and got the better of the altercation. John in the toilet heard all that was going on and ended up climbing out of the window to escape. This was clearly a shrewd move. Dave and Peter returned to the main hall and Dave had blood dripping from a cut above his nose. Luckily, his glasses hadn’t broken. Common sense prevailed amongst the group and we made a tactical retreat from the club as quickly as possible to avoid further aggression. We managed to disappear into the side streets of Chapel Allerton and nothing else happened.
Now, anyone sensible would have taken this as an omen, but not us. We were booked to play and we were not going to miss out on our, I believe, six pounds performance fee. The afternoon of the gig we arrived at the hall. The equipment was brought in a couple of cars that we had. I think Pete and John had cars at this time as they were older. Somehow we got our equipment there and somehow we got it home afterwards. We set up on the stage and we did our sound check. As usual we were far too loud, but that was the norm at the time. It was decided that we would do two forty minute sets and there was a DJ before us and then during the interval. The DJ’s gear was set up on the hall floor to the left at the back as you entered. This was a mistake, but no one knew it at the time. He had a decent rig, lights and a good range of music. After everything was checked we had a break and I think we went to the Nag’s Head. The Nag’s Head was my Grandad’s local, but he had long since passed away.
I must have been around fifteen at the time, but I had a face that always looked older and I don’t think I had ever been asked about my age or refused service. John and Pete were older and so they weren’t ever asked either. Some of our friends did not look as old and a few of the girls were a year or two younger still. On another occasion, at a different venue, two of them were charged with underage drinking in a pub in Leeds City Centre, but that was a very rare occurrence. There were no problems getting a drink there and at about seven-thirty we returned to the hall.
The venue was full and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The DJ was playing the music that the crowd liked and we went onto the stage, behind the curtains, and prepared to play our first set. A quick tune-up and a nod from the organiser and the music stopped, the curtains opened and we started our first number. It was probably the song, ‘Going’ which was always popular. We finished it and, much to our surprise and delight, there was quite an appreciative round of applause. Stunned from this reception we headed off in ‘Last Bus’ and again it was well received. The whole of the set went well, which came as a unique experience at the time. The curtains were closed and the DJ continued.
A song based on the evening gig at Chapel Allerton bMethodist Hall.
We were behind the curtains and congratulating one another, when we heard the record jump. We didn’t really take much notice and we were discussing the second set when the records started jumping regularly and there were cries of annoyance. I remember peering through the curtains and seeing a group of lads, some skin-heads and they had discovered that if they jumped up and down the wooden floor moved, causing the records to jump. They thought this was a great wheeze, but others did not. The poor DJ was beginning to look panic-stricken. Within minutes altercations were starting. Chests were being pushed into other chests in an aggressive manner and things were not looking good. Not only was the DJ in panic mode, the organiser was too. He rushed over to us to ask us to start our second set to help defuse the situation. We agreed, amps were turned on and the first chord was struck. The blast of sound was quite majestic as the curtains opened, but whereas before there was adulation from the crowd, this time there was mayhem before us. It was like something out of a John Wayne bar room brawl. Fists were flying, there was panic, screaming and records tossed about. We tried our best, but even we recognised things were already out of control. We may have got part way into the second number when we decided it wasn’t going to calm the hordes, and enough was enough. The anger was not directed towards us and in fact, we were totally ignored, but things could change in an instant so we pulled the curtains shut and started packing up quickly. It is funny how only a curtain separating you from a riot makes you feel safe, but it did. We packed up quickly and took our gear out through the back door. The night was frosty and there was a growing mist. With relief we got packed up, sent the gear off and the rest of the band and hangers-on disappeared out into the quiet streets leaving hell behind us. I must add that we had collected our payment prior to playing so that wasn’t a concern. I couldn’t believe how long it was taking for someone to contact the police, but they certainly hadn’t turned up whilst we were anywhere near.
Once we were all in the clear we reflected quite positively on the evening’s performance, but I think the DJ would have had a very different view. The joys of being a teenager!
Parts 1 to 5 For the audiobook Blaze. Free to listen to on Soundcloud. New part each week.