The 70’s were over and the ‘80s were upon us. As indeed was Margaret Thatcher. Who would have known at that time that the term ‘Thatcherism’ would define the incoming decade. In Bridgwater the radical beat combo The Dangerous Brothers, had decided to make a go of it in the music industry, but more and more they found obstacles in their way.
On January 4th the DBs launched their year with a Jelly Party. The audience turned up with jelly and threw it at each other. Innocent enough, but as a result they were banned from the Art Centre. After the threat of a mass boycott the ban was lifted 7 days later. SW Issue 10 was brought out to coincide ‘Hello and welcome the 1980s..the year of the jelly “
Jan 15 –a photo of the DBs appeared in the Mercury with ‘a positive review from their number one fan Robin Stacey. The DBs were now sending their demo tape to the big record companies…and getting knocked back.
On 29 Jan – A&M Records were the first to reject the band
The DBs stepped up their gigging including Trull Memorial hall as a benefit for the Animal Liberation Front , then a particularly odd gig at Fenny Castle country club supported by Dave Butland’s new band “False Pretences”
9 Feb the Town Hall saw another DBs gig , this time premiering a new song ‘False Nose’ which the band felt could maybe be put out as a single – and maybe DIY style if the big companies weren’t going to do it for them.
15 Feb –DBs play Musgrove social club Taunton.
19 Feb – Brian buys a Shergold 6 string bass from Scheerers at the Merrion centre in Leeds giving the band yet another innovative dimension to the sound.
22 Feb DBs play Shepton Mallet youth centre . Interesting side note here, the DBs had now made a total of £750 from gigs since they first started.
15 March. The DBs play at Enmore village hall to raise money for ‘Big Scouses’ Drug Bust’ and around the same time play Herman’s gig at the Pawlett Manor .
21 Mar- DBs play at the Otterhampton Village Hall in Combwich.
A DIY SINGLE and the DB’s go Indie
By April the band had resolved to bring out their own single. It would be ‘False Nose’ backed by ‘County Councillor’ .Both Smedlo songs. Recorded at the White Hart on Sunday 20th April between 1045 and 7.30 by Brian Comer. The next day the band turned up at Brian Comers house on the Bridge Estate to mix the tracks. The cost was £438 for 500 copies. Brian recalls “Rod hadn’t been happy with the sound as he felt we’d recorded the songs too fast, and then he didn’t turn up to the mixing. Me, Kev and Neal agreed it was fine and did what we could. I left it in the hands of Neal to do any further mix down then I caught a midnight train back to Leeds. My next step would be to get a tour organised to promote the single when it came out and that’s what I set myself to do. The single came out on the DBs own ‘Sheep Worrying’ label and promptly Rough Trade-that really important backer of Indie bands, agreed to buy up 100 and distribute them for us. However, round about now things aren’t rosy with Rodney who has decided he wants to leave the band. This was a dilemma after all the work to get to this stage.”
To make things worse Rod had now come down with Chicken Pox. On April 29th Brian went round to see him dressed in trench coat, military hat and gas mask to try to talk him round. But still caught it
Rod says “ I quit the band over the issue of the single. In our excitement the recording wasn’t how we’d done it in rehearsals. I Offered to pay for additional recording time personally to re-do it and was over ruled .”
But Rod wasn’t coming back. He had decided to make a stand and he didn’t agree with the rest of the band so he left and stayed left despite Brian’s attempts to win him back.
Brian recalls “We had to act quickly as we were about to put out a single with a performer on it who wasn’t with us any more. We decided to record the vocals again. On 27 May I did County Councillor and we brought in Tonto to do False Nose. That sorted I went ahead and formed Sheep Worrying as an official company and carried on planning the tour.”
Then on May 30th Simon Gibb left the band. He decided the band hadn’t achieved anything and he’d concentrate instead on his proper job as an anaesthetist at Musgrove Hospital. A day later we brought in Alan Gadd on guitar.
Brian recalls “Things were not going well. At the point where they should have been. It was 2 steps forward 2 steps back. Now that the singles were coming back from the presses it transpired that Neal had decided to keep Rod’s vocals on County Councillor , so we had half a disc with our former singer on it and the other half with our new singer, Tonto. And now the tour was about to start with new musicians.”
The DBs ‘False Nose’ tour kicked off on June 4th at Weymouth’s Cellar Vino . Smed, who drove the transit, remembers “We took our audience with us, and overloaded the van. Sadly on the way back we were stopped by a Police roadblock and our favourite badge-happy cop PC Dyer was there to open the door. We were searched but nobody had anything (they hadn’t already smoked).”
And then another pause. Smedlo was hospitalised in Leeds and cheered up only by the rest of the band sending him a signed (by them) copy of ‘the sayings of Ayatollah Khomeni’. Things were put back to July.
On 3rd July the tour restarted, and the band now brought other groups along to play with them. Fractured Entertainment from Chard and the Pompeii Stiffs, an all girl band from Spaxton, this time at Bristol Stonehouse. But the turnout was poor . Then on 11 July-the Town Hall Glastonbury but the turnout was again poor
On July 16th the single was officially launched. The band practised now at Flo’s Pit – the underground section of the garage complex owned by the father of Lyndon Moore (Flo) the band’s ‘roadie’. July 17th the band played ‘The Centre’ Shepton Mallet and on July 18th it was the Bridgwater Art Centre featuring the Pompeii Stiffs, Jan McDonald, Fractured Entertainment and Das Kapital.
Re-Enter the Butland
And then things crumbled even further when at a gig on 25 July at Bath’s Walcott Village Hall, Tonto decided he was going to leave the band. Smed remembers “Tonto’s contribution had been a bit minimal in fact and on this night we lost him altogether only to find we’d packed up the equipment in the band on top of him while asleep. When we asked if he might like to help us with the gear he said something like ‘oh no heavy heavy stop hassling me I’m leaving the band. At which point our old mate Dave Butland decided he’d rejoin . So swings and roundabouts really.”
It was summer and the Uni people were back in town. Kim had finished at Brighton, as he hadn’t taken that year off that some people had and has a 21st had a birthday party in the attic at his house in Aller
1 August sees Butland’s first gig back with the band at Taunton Bishops Hull
Aug 2 and the band are booked at the Hexagon Theatre for the Reading Beer festival. However, its a joke as the festival goers really wanted a jazz band.
All Change at the Art Centre
Back in Bridgwater and there’s been some ructions at the Art Centre. Pushed over the top, Bob Ormrod had resigned and so when the Dangerous Brothers drop in to organise the next gig they are met by a new face , John Ridley. Brian remembers “But this turned out to be a positive thing. We wnt in to see about setting up a new Youth theatre in the light of the cutbacks that had destroyed the BYT and Ridley had welcomed it. So we set up Sheep Worrying Theatre and did our first show ‘Another England’ in September 1980. Then we asked him if we could run the rock programme -and he said yes. So we were in. We got the bands that had been supporting us to play the gigs and put out a plea for more bands, upped the circulation of our magazine and made it less self indulgent and then suddenly we had recreated a whole new scene. And that’s thanks to John Ridley.
The tour continued . On 12 August the DBs played at Bournemouth Woodman and on 13 Aug– Exeter New Vic then on 15 Aug –the Centre Shepton Mallet
In August 1980—issue 14 of Sheep Worrying became the first big size one. Still it was a DBs promotion vehicle but now it also included a round up of all the bands and venues everywhere in region Issue 15 carried the headline “Somerset gripped by rock fever”
Bob Ormrod remembers the changing times well “ Sedgemoor put John Ridley in charge. I had to get out after an incident where they were trying to fit up a young offender they thought was nicking stuff. I refused . They had a meeting in the library – and gave me an ultimatum to fit up this bloke and I just said ‘Fuck you I’m not going to’. The next day I basically collapsed and was crawling around on the floor. I went home and never went back again. I got no support. Not even from the well intentioned.”
On 14 August the Art Centre agreed to sponsor ‘Another England’ and also agreed the regular Sheep Worrying rock gigs
AUG 22 1980 was the official founding of SHEEP WORRYING ENTERPRISES as a company. Brian Smedley was General Secretary, Debbie Kane Treasurer, Tim Mander publicity, Kim Newman Theatre and there were 32 ‘associate members’. Registration number was 2572969 with B Smedley and Neal Heckford identified as ‘agents for alternative music and entertainment in somerset’
Sat 20th Sept ‘Another England’ was premiered. –
Kim recalls “The Fascists were a bit cartoon villains- no nuances- which is what I should have done. Thatcher had only just got in. V for Vendetta did the same. For me we’d finally put on one of my plays so it was an an achievement. My subsequent books like Anno Dracula were similar to Another England, ‘Pulp Fiction’ forms, radical political discourse And it was the one we had the least trouble getting it together. It involved new people not in BYT and it was the first original and independent play locally written and it was possible because Ridley had given us this amazing deal.”
Meanwhile, Kim was not likely to stay in Somerset forever and London clearly beckoned in his search of a writing career . He’d graduated in 1980 and his next step had to be to make a name for himself and look for work. “While I was writing Another England my parents asked what I was going to do and I think they thought I’d sit round doing nothing for ever. We couldn’t make a living at Club Whoopee, in Aller it was deceptively easy to sign on , money would come, I was living at home so no expenses. I got a gig at Strode writing production notes which was paid but then I decided to move to London and look for work there . In October 1980 I moved from house to house in London, sofa surfing, saw CAB , a housing co-op and did this for 3 weeks-no job no house so I came home.”
18 Oct– The first ‘Sheep Worrying Showcase’ gig at the Art Centre featured the DBs, Bristol band Recorded Delivery, Taunton’s Picassos Optician, and the Pompeii Stiffs .
Kim remained divided. He’d come home after 3 weeks in London but now with the help of old Bridgwater buddy Dean Skilton he got a place in East Molesey. “So I moved into this freezing cold room in a cold spell. Dad countersigns the rent book £11 a week. But it was a Flop house. I got supplementary benefit, I signed on in Kingston and spent my time writing to film mags and companies, distributors, sent Strode booklets, wrote programme notes for £1 a time.”
However, now he had a London address he still came back to Somerset to do Sheep Worrying
Meanwhile, Sheep Worrying Theatre had decided to revive that banned Charles Mander play as their next show and Kim was required to be the Reverend Prince in it. DBs singer Dave Butland would direct. The show was to be a sell out
On 9 November the DBs travelled up to the South Wales valleys and played Pontypridd Polytechnic ‘the Quiet Lounge’.
Then on 14 November the DBs played a gig at Bristol Architects Department staying at the Clifton flat of Tim Mander before driving up north the next day for a 15 November gig at Leeds University On 20 November the DBs played an anti apartheid benefit gig in Taunton then on 21 Nov at the White Horse Inn at Launceston in Cornwall taking Bridgy band Barbed Wire along with them. 22 November saw a gig at Nynehead village hall near Wellington
The band was at it’s tightest ever. Each musician was on top of their show and the sound blended well.
The Sheep Worrying Showcase gigs continued and on 28 Nov the Art Centre was home to Recorded Delivery, Fractured Entertainment, Good Grief, Rotfabrik and Ain’t in Sprain. Bands from all across the county and who were reciprocating back in their own towns by inviting other bands from around Somerset to share their gigs. The Sheep Worrying ethos was working..
On 5 Dec the Showcase gig featured Das Kapital, Picassos Optician and the Rimshots. Brian recalls “This was, to my knowledge, the first time an inverted crucifix was attached to the back wall of the art centre…stage show for Paul ‘Cos’ Curran of Das Kapital.”
On 6 Dec the DBs played Taunton Youth and Community Centre for a CND benefit gig + Picassos opticians
On Dec 8th John Lennon was murdered. Dave Newton, working at a hospital in Leeds, remembers “People were despondent and speechless looking at this black and white telly. This was when I decided to move back to Somerset . I thought it was the final straw . I thought if they can murder John Lennon what’s the point of anything. So I decided to pack my job in and move back to Somerset and lick my wounds.”
R.P.M TAKES AN INTEREST
On 18 December persistent pressure from loyal fan and press officer Tim Mander had drawn the attention of the BBC and they sent a crew down to film . RPM (the Rectangular Picture Machine) an early evening alternative arts and music show fronted by Andy Batten Foster and produced by David Pritchard featured Sheep Worrying. Filmed at the Art Centre it created a storm of interest when it went out.
Steve Coram , involved in Youth Theatre and now the music gigs, recalls “ We were sat round a table and they were saying ‘guys be natural ,talk about what you’re doing- if one speaks hold back, don’t speak over them’”
Smed remembers “The aim of our spot was to shame them out of just focusing on Bristol and to instead pay attention to the rest of Somerset – and us in particular. And that worked. We set up a rock committee meeting and they filmed it. In fact we knew very little about Bristol. I tried to make a joke saying they should get out of Bristol city centre more and try maybe going to say Clifton. A cameraman had to have a quiet word with me that Clifton was pretty much the trendy bit of Bristol and where they were based and what they usually focused on all the time anyway-so suggested I should rather say Hartcliffe. I’d never even heard of Hartcliffe.”
At the end of 1980 things were looking up. Sheep Worrying had been created as a multimedia arts collective with a mission, it was popular, attracting media attention and things could clearly only get better…….so would they in 1981???