As 1977 arrived Britain was about to feel the full revolutionary force of the Punk movement. And so was Bridgwater. It was the year when the Dangerous Brothers started doing gigs at the Art Centre and when they brought out the first Sheep Worrying Magazine. It was also the year when controversy and the DBs went hand in hand and when big decisions had to be made about their future…..
In January 1977 the DBs were being driven to gigs in a black London taxi courtesy of Jock Lewis father of fans Jeanette and Stuart. Splodge stopped managing the DBs and the Bridgwater Youth theatre found itself in hot water as College Principal JC Miles decided to ban their play ‘The Scandalous History of the Reverend Henry Prince’ written especially for them by Charles Mander. The censorial atmosphere swept right across the youth scene, music, theatre ad college.
KIM NEWMAN “ Charlie Mander went to see him and said he’d ‘acted like a self appointed lord chamberlain’. During course of discussion he pulled out his son Tim’s report and pointed at it saying ‘hes doing quite well at the moment’. Tim’s dad saw it as obvious threat.I tried to get the student guild to impeach Miles. Al Proctor (DBs lead singer) was Chair of the Guild but was bit weak .We were pushing him to take action, to take stand against Miles but he was just nervous. Miles banned the play so Tony Collins did a play on Totalitariansm as a response.”
EUGENE BYRNE “There was a BYT meeting one Monday and Tony comes in with Miles who explains hes banning the play. There was a lot in the play which would upset Daily Mail readers even today-simulatin sex, girls doing the can can, of course some girls were 14-15-16..so to an extent I understood Miles worries. Could be seen as innapropriate. But in the context of the times, the wider attitude in society was very permissive. Radio 1 DJs groping fans and so on so it was hard to understand this at the time. For instance PIE (the paedophile information exchange)was very open and Denmark had briefly decriminalised sex with kids. So we were cross. We all had a go at Miles.”
ROD JONES “Basically , or we’re a bunch of kids trying to put on a play and he was stopping us.”
KIM NEWMAN –“We’d started rehearsing the play and I expected the lead role .Tony Collins turned up and said ‘Mr Miles is here to tell you why we cant do the play’ . I remember Tony obviously furious. it was original, local ,promotable and the BYT wasn’t part of college but used college facilities. Tony could have found another rehearsal space and gone ahead,but press coverage made it worse”
ROD JONES “I said don’t shout abuse lets try to save it. then a delegation,Eugene, Kim, Jeremy Winspear, Nigel Harris, went to see JC. Miles tried to kick it into touch by saying he’d have another look and see if possible to do in future and Kim said ‘we don’t believe you’ Miles replied ‘is that ok? Do you trust me’ then we said ‘no we don’t’. Then he had a phone call from Jack Hall (Haygrov e Head) cos a delegation of BYT kids had gone to Jack to protest at the same time -the ring leader was Nikky Broderick.Miles was quite rattled-didn’t want to be seen as a censor. The brightest kids at college and Haygrove were saying ‘were not gonna put up with this’. However, it climaxes in the Evening Post front page headline “Porn play gets axed’ “
The row dominated everybodies lives for the next month or so. Kim responded by re-writing lyrics to popular songs. Rod drew cartoons. The call and response song ‘What are your objections mr Miles?’ chorus ’’im not saying anything at this point’..
On the 18 Jan 1977 ,TV cameras were at college. The gang of counter culture hippies who had regularly dropped in and out of the Common room ,were being chucked out as Miles stamped his authority.
BRIAN SMEDLEY “This was a critical period and a crucial attitude changer. It radicalised a lot of the members. To a person everyone was aggrieved that we were being dictated to by this self appointed guardian of our morals’. Tony Collins and his assistant Kieth Wise were very affected by this and came in one evening and did a wind up-really bossy and ill tempered…started up making us be trees but then picking on people and being unpleasasnt. After an hour of us all getting angry and about to walk out he stopped and said ‘I’m pushing you to a state of rebellion because this is the play we’re gonna do’. “
EUGENE BYRNE “Then I was full of admiration and would follow him to the jaws of hell.Tony put his job on the line for it”
Meanwhile that rebellion was making it’s mark in the field of punk rock – but was it getting through in Bridgwater? To some no and others yes.
EUGENE BYRNE “I hated punk. no time for it. Bullshit punk on the ground in Bridgwater in 77 was all the worse little assholes in school writing punx in spray on walls. I didn’t like any punk. It was for young assholes. Younger dumber kids. The big cliché was ‘I heard sex pistols god save queen and it changed my life!!! It .changed nothing”
DAVE NEWTON “ I just loved the music. it was really in tune with what kids in London were getting into, a natural progression and picked up thru NME, John Peel on the radio. Bob Harris on Whistle Test hated punk so Peelie was crucial .”
KIM NEWMAN “ There was a point when me,Sash, mum and dad all watched top of pops. At some point I stopped being interested in what was in the charts and suddenly realised it was rubbish. So I got into classical-Straus and Bach.So I was aggressively not into popular music. So punk as a music didn’t affect me, but I was aware of the controversy. The fuss about the Sex Pistols. I remember Will Hatchet turned up with the anarchy in uk single..saying ‘listen its just a really good rock n roll record’ and I thought it probably was. Later at Sussex uni, the anarchist libertarian socialist group which I supported played it over and over like the Deguello at the Alamo… So I never wanted to hear it again! I also remember being at a BYT disco and Lucy and a friend came as punks in bin liners with punk written on it and a safety pin. They were aged 14 and looked adorable and cuddly…but 14 –like a little princess and I just wanted to pat her on head. Later in Brighton I met actual punks who’d been to sex pistols gigs- girls with scarlet hair-but well spoken..what we had in somerset wasn’t punk it was people who’d read articles or saw tv and then tried to copy it”
ROD JONES “I didn’t rate it musically. I came from London in ‘75 and what was in the air that created punk was in my personal lungs and others. It was the socio political aspect of punk that interested me more. A social idea -ie in the sense reject whats going on and occupy squats – the need to deconstruct aspect was most interesting to me. Musically? Well, I thought someones got to do something about Rick Wakeman. “
DAVID NEWTON “I’d already got all earliest ones-anarchy etc before xmas, The Damned ‘New Rose’. Not much was filtering thru until mainly spring to summer 77 as the record labels got cynical and pumped it out and then old hippies started cutting their hair and being punk.”
BRIAN SMEDLEY “In fact the punk scene started in Bridgwater because of Dave Newton’s well advanced interest in what was happening in musical trends. He was ingesting all this stuff and introducing music to us that was important”
ROD JONES “Bridgwater had a hippy thing running 5 years behind and so we were slightly behind on punk and so both sloppily collided. A kind of hippy punk mix.”
TIM MANDER “ I got into punk early. I got a compilation of US new wave albums -new york dolls, Richard Hell and the voidoids. I saw Hell in Taunton with Dave Butland and Dave Newton. Butland drank cough mixture in the toilets and was out of his head. It was all blazers and badges-Rik Mayall style. I often went to Avenue Record getting cheap singles.”
Thur 24 March-DBs play at Mikes Derewicz’s party at Newmarket Hotel. Everyone dressed up as punks, although drummer Kevin Freeman decided to be a Fonz like character called ‘The Freemz’ –
Bill Hatchet spontaneously pinned the buffet to himself and thereafter became Cold Buffet Bill.
Fri 15 April-Jeremy Winspears gig at west india house—Rod/Kim/Eugene decide to be the DBs backin group. Rod persuad eugene as he was dressed as a vicar wearing a one hand glove and so Eugene his parishioner wearing dress and thereafter became Ma Dangerous.
17 april- Brian made a punk jacket, buying a coat from Oxfam ,ripping and painting it and then digging it in and out of the garden.
DAVE NEWTON “In fact punk was about taking the piss and not with any sincerity.We saw ourselves as above fashion..not followers of everything or anything. Then the media goes on an anti punk crusade and at same time promoting it as a fashion!! Shops with expensive prefab punk trousers etc
My punk tee shirt was an old purple tee shirt with cilla beatles fab gear lulu on it. We just dressed up stupid with slogans out of newspapers glued to ourselves, or tampons and jonnies or safety pins. All made as a piss take but others thought it was really cool.”
BRIAN SMEDLEY “Round about now we decided to write a punk rock opera. Rod was now in the band as a backing singer and wanted a bigger role. Proctor had left the band to do his exams and later sadly died in a car crash while hitch hiking. Kim wrote a punk Magnificent 7. Then on 17 May-Dave Butland joined the band as lead singer.”
DAVE NEWTON “ Butland was a genuine teenage punk tearaway. I envied him. Confident, arrogant energetic, boisterous, good looking, successful with girls, huge cock, good singer..reckless. That’s the frontman you want”
Fri 20 May–Hamp community centre, playing with Emral for a poultry packers workers social evening.
BRIAN SMEDLEY “It was Butlands first gig with us and he introduced himself to the audience saying ‘I hear you lot fuck chickens’. It wasn’t long before the Police turned up following complaints from the old folks home next door and closed down the gig. “
Sun 29 May- 6 june. It was Jubilee week
TIM MANDER “On Jubilee day itself I played God Save the Queen as loud as I could at home all day”–
Sat 18 June-Chard DBs turn up for a gig but just 3 people are there
In June 1977 everybody took their exams and left College – what to do next?? For many it was a year of 18th birthdays
Wed 29 June-Bridgwater’s first real punk gig. There was a College disco at the town hall. Sunburnt Spinach were meant to play with the DBs supporting plus the Splodge disco roadshow. But they cancelled. So the DBs headlined. It was 60p to get in and the group decided to smash their gear up.
BRIAN SMEDLEY “Well the evening started by Jeff Reed punching Kevin in the face for a reason only known to drummers. Then when the gig ended kevin lifted his drum kit above his head and brought it down on mine. A ‘kind of ‘ instrument smashing.”
7 July-Brian and Rod go to the Bridgwater Mercury and are interviewed by Dave Wilson about ‘the Brotherhood’ and then on to Glastonbury to try to find a festival.
BRIAN SMEDLEY “We popped into a café and found a ‘no hippies sign’ in the window, so we nicked it but the lady chased after us demanding her sign back. We explained we had taken offense as we were in fact hippies. In those days you had to search for the Glastonbury festivals and we found one on a hill near Street.”
Tues 12 July-Kim’s 18th birthday Party was devised as a gala performance “The All talking All singing all dancing no talent show” –
KIM NEWMAN “We did a parody of the bridge café scene. Proctor sang a folk song and Butland cycled across stage and poured water on him. Rodney played winnie the pooh. Brian played the piano while I sang Tom Lehrer songs . In fact so this was the first time we’d booked the art centre. We found it was really cheap, like £10. They got their money from the bar. We had to do the tickets at a price…so we did but in fact we wrote ‘complimentary’ on all tickets. “
What we did next…
Kim went off to Sussex University but Brian and David decided to stay in Bridgwater for a year and work on the band. Eugene took a year off to go to Yeovil to work in a bank.
Mon July 18-Rod phones Charles Shaar Murray of the NME. There’s suddenly talk of the DBs being offered a spot on the Johnny Thunders tour.
Wed 3 Aug– One of our early incarnation bass players Kevin Morley was killed in bike accident at cellophane.
Fri 5 Aug– It’s ‘Dangerous day’ so we do a gig at the Limekiln pub skittle alley. Lots of punks turned up and every one now has a Dangerous tee-shirt.
17 Aug The DBs finally see Tony Collins about their punk rock opera – by now it’s a pantomime based on Robin Hood called Rabid Hood’ written by Kim with songs by Brian. ‘
KIM NEWMAN “the idea was basically to do a dbs punk rock opera and I ended up having to do it. The idea was to do a byt show with the dbs in it. The first idea was the magnificent 7 – “the apocalypse shuffle”-very elaborate..’prologiue the dawn of man’ an allegory of the creation of dbs…We took apocalypse shuffle to Tony…but he said no we want to do a pantomime. So I got depressed…..then it hit me that Robin Hood was a panto but also a film and about revolutionaries. Rod liked it because he could use his Wizzard of Id ideas and it’s a ‘putting the band together’ story”
21 Aug-Will Hatchet leaves the group and we get Andy Burbidge in on bass as ‘Mango Dangerous’ (after he misreads the Hawkwind album ‘Magno’)
On September 5th the band come up with the idea for a DBs mag called Sheep Worrying. The name is credited to Jeremy Winspear during a brainstorming session in the Bridge café.
Fri 9 Sep–Huish Episcopi ‘Germans’ gig .
BRIAN SMEDLEY “This gig sees the first involvement of jeff the fire eater, who offers to manage the band and somehow persuades us not to play in Bridgwater until September 16th when he’ll put us on as support to The Jam. The gig is a great success with 100s of dancing students. Afterwards however there’s a confrontation with a local bonehead who bursts into the dressing room to threaten the band because he ‘hates punks’ only to be stopped by his girlfriend going “leave them julian they’re not worth it” -whereafter everyone breaks down in hysterics and we eventually write a song called ‘Bonehead’ “
16 Sept- There is of course no big Jam gig as Jeff the Fire-eater is one of a long line of bullshitters. However, on this day Marc Bolan dies leaving drummer Nervo distraught and clutching a tape recorder full of his songs all day.
28 Sept-Brian, Rod and Kim went to Tony Collins house to confirm the panto would go ahead, but Kim and Eugene wouldn’t be around for it.
KIM NEWMAN “I recall THIS PERIOD – the move away to university – being like the scene in American Graffiti with the Richard Dreyfus character having to leave his old friends and ends up going to uni and crying. The film then shows what happened to all friends—carcrash/ missing in action in Vietnam etc so I realised this was now my life. We went to Tony Collins, had a meal, talked over play. Tony had to show it to JC Miles. Then Brian drove kim home and Rodney being the drag racing guy from american grafiti- ie the guy whose staying behind- says‘go have a good time in Sussex’ , but realising he was quite sad ,because he wasn’t going or because things were changing and we’re all breaking up. So I did the Richard Dreyfus thing and went off to Sussex”
Wed 5 Oct– gig at the Art Centre with Racoon – This was the 1st issue of Sheep Worrying mag and the first gig with Neal Heckford on keyboards. The gig cost 70p. Dave Wilson from the Mercury turned up to review it
And then things went badly wrong…
8 oct- at a Youth Theatres residential at Kilve Court where many of the DBs were, there was a Police raid and a drug bust which led to some sentences which had a sit up and take notice effect on the band and the music scene.
TIM MANDER “I was in a room of 5. There was so much dope around it was unbelievable. Every evening, every break people were smoking dope and picking mushrooms. The Police burst into our room -which was the epicentre, but Butland straight away pointed at me and said ‘hes alright hes straight’. One member amongst us was a stool pigeon but only 15. The Police put pressure on her to give evidence even tho she was in fact as bad as rest. Winspear, Rod and the people from Chard were arrested, hand cuffed and put in the vans. In fact people cheered them off. Dealers were basically coming to the Hood Arms and made a special run because they’d smoked so much dope they’d run out. “
ROD JONES “We were there to do a week load of rehearsals. I was Thomas Cromwell in a Man for all Seasons. What happened was late one night a Teacher saw a spliff being rolled and so they were aware. The Police arrived and I ended up taking the rap for a lot of the possession. There was hash on Winspear and also on Pat Church. Then ‘supply’ (but that just meant we’d just passed a spliff) and then I got ‘premises’ . So I got done . I was furious. I got done the night of the performance and I went back to perform and to be professional-but Kilve wouldn’t let me.”
31 Oct– The Drug Bust at Kilve has repercussions at BYT as Tony Collins has a purge, taking everyone in for questioning. The play is cancelled
Dec 5– JC Miles bans the student ragmag citing ‘material offensive to students and public’
Fri 10 Dec Trull gig + DBs are developing a following of bikers . Butland has been pulled out of the band by his mum so Rod is on lead vocals. Simon Wills is brought in on lead guitar and Brian moves to bass. Neal is on keyboards and Shaz Collins sings backing
Thur 22 Dec-Xmas gig at the Art Centre – Bands include the Dangerous Brothers, the Skillet Lickers, the MID band and the Bob Ormrod band .
ROD JONES “This gig included one supreme moment of punk. No incident is more punk rock than Tonys leg. Some people walked out of the gig in absolute horror – it was awesomely cool. Dbs were punk pathetique – we didn’t know we were but we were.”
BRIAN SMEDLEY “Basically we knew a drummer called Tony Longman who had false legs and who worked at Poultry Packers, so Rod got him to fill his stumps with chicken giblets while he hacked them off with an axe.It was quite shocking. Rod even tried to eat them…..”
1977 started with controversy and ended with controversy so what would 1978 bring….