As 1982 arrived Sheep Worrying was on the up. A 1,500 circulation magazine, an office, a successful Theatre Company and a monthly showcase gig at the Bridgwater Arts Centre plus others in Bristol and around the county. 105 bands on their books 50+ actors and writers in the theatre group and another 20 or so contributors to the mag. No one was paid and any money that came in was collectivised. What could go wrong in this near perfect 20th century rural idyll….
January 9th saw the latest Theatre production. 3 one act plays by local authors -Charles Mander’s ‘The River’ ,Stuart Croskell’s ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ and Kim Newman’s ‘Deep South’ -the latter set in the hot and sweaty swamps of Carolina. Meanwhile outside of the art centre it was snowing. ‘The River’ directed by Tim Mander, was taken on a small tour of One Act play competitions.
Meanwhile there were ructions in the music franchise. Steve Coram had his own ideas how to run the rock gigs and slit away to form ‘Sounds Incorporated’. Steve remembers “I thought Sheep Worrying had gone as far as it could go and was losing direction. The plays and the gigs were staid and needed a change. The left leaning politics upset me and people were wanting name bands. People would ask for it and say they were sick of the same old local bands.”
Brian was not happy “What we were doing was quite radical and this could stop us in our tracks so we were opposed to it. It would be a disaster if there was a battle between us arguing local and amateur and another company arguing for National and professional, because we wouldn’t win the argument, so it became a battle to keep to our principles.”
At the same time Brian and Kim stepped up work with Club Whoopee and talked about a Sheep Worrying EP which would include them. This led to the divide spilling over into the theatre group with Steve arguing for less original works there too and a division also reared its head about the dominance of Kim’s material. At a meeting the majority came down on the side of Kim and a Smedley/Newman themed cabaret theatre and band was on the cards.
13 Jan was a meeting about bringing out a Sheep Worrying EP. 4 bands would be on it, Club Whoopee, the Headless Horsemen, Quasar and East Wall -2 Yeovil, 2 Bridgwater bands. Tim however wasn’t happy “I was unhappy at the theatre group being too Kim centric. We had good actors -Ed Grey, Dave Keighron etc but the material wasn’t challenging enough for them. Too much overacting.”
On 22 Jan there was concern expressed at a possible Sheep Worrying takeover of the Art Centre as Ian Hague came under pressure from the Board to resist it. This opened the door to a sporadic battle between the Board and Sheep Worrying which would get worse.
On Jan 28 Tim Mander organised a petition against the centralism of RPM and put Sheep Worrying back in the TV spotlight.
6 Feb was the next Showcase gig featuring Pure Motivation, 57 Men Overboard, Confined Spaces and the Floating Mozarts. SW Issue 25 came out and included a review of other West Country fanzines.
On 21 Feb SW introduced the popular ‘Tape Heading’ feature, where musicians and fans were invited round to someones house to listen to and comment on a selection of demo tapes sent in by local bands and the results written up in the magazine.
22 Feb and Club Whoopee went in the recording studio at Milborne Porte where they spent most of the day on ‘You’re Sort of OK’ (Newman/Smedley) for the EP and then quickly recorded several other tracks and made an album out of it to be called ‘Sheep Worrying at the Club Whoopee’
On March 4 with Tims petition reaching 1,000 signatures, BBC producer David Pritchard returns to Bridgwater to see what Sheep Worrying can do.
Sat 6 Mar and the BBC are back and at the Art Centre film a sketch written by Smedley called MPH – a satire of the RPM show and featuring Dave Keighron as Andy Batten Foster and Stuart Croskell as Huge Cornball (the Stranglers singer presenting his new song ‘Women are Inferior’) Tim is interviewed about his petition and Brian does a spontaneous weather forecast from the Sheep Worrying office of all the Somerset bands on a map with pins in it. Tim recalls “I got us the Queen street offices via Lalond Brothers and Parham. They gave us 12 months rent free”
On 8 March –SW issue 26 is out and to save money Brian hitch hikes around the county with it .It now includes a crossword by Alex Dunn, ‘The Terminus’ a short story by Kim Newman and on this occaision a letter and a poem from Seething Wells.
On 13 March the Showcase gig featuring the Mob, The Review and The Androids of Mu, ends in violence. The trouble had been caused by a gang from Weston Super Mare turning up. Sheep Worrying doorman Jon Lyon had stood up to them and Alan Gadd had been beaten up by them. However, the result was that the Art Centre board used it as a chance to get tough with Sheep Worrying, increasing the hire charges and demanding 10 bouncers per gig.
17 March and Sheep Worrying gains kudos as RPM is on TV featuring it’s contributions
On 19 March the EP test pressings are back and they’re not good. A dispute with the Kent based company doing the printing get’s nasty and court action is threatened.
Round about now Argentina invades the Falkland islands. Instead of heading back to Bridgwater, Stuart Croskell is despatched to the South Atlantic on his frigate HMS Broadsword.
5 April Brian does interview on radio Bristol talking about club whoopee
At least the Sheep Worrying film club is going strong. This season includes Blue Sunshine/Wild Angels/Catch us if you can/Muscle beach party/Night of the living dead/Whats up tiger lily/Dalek invasion earth/Animal crackers/To have and have not/Death race 2000 –all upstairs at the art centre with a crate of beer thrown in..Every Tuesday night starting on April 13
On April 10th SWTheatre does “Your Television Knows Best” a mix of sketches by various cast members and songs by Kim and Brian such as ‘Me and my clone’, ‘Rock n Roll lizard’ ‘Bustin out for Xmas’ and ‘youre sort of ok’ . But other features included ‘The death of john lennon’ and ‘Start Wreck’ by jon Lyon and ‘Your TV knows best’ itself largely by Brian.
April 11– Club Whoopee played at Kims annual Easter garden party at Aller . A new social scene was building up again around Club Whoopee and Sheep Worrying Theatre and the divisions appeared to be healing. Kims view is “The TV show was so poor that people turned back to me and whatever bad feeling there had now gone”
On April 14 Club Whoopee are reviewed favourably in Bristol listings mag Out West which also the ‘messianic Dangerous Brothers’
April 15 Club Whoopee play at the Tapps Club, Milborne Port
April 16 CW, Headless Horsemen and Quasar play Crispin Hall in Street.
April 19 CW play Bristol Stonehouse +Quasar+Headless Horsemen. Brian recalls “This was the moment our old chums Rod and Eugene decided to launch their mag ‘Brian’. No comment.”
Eugene clarified “ We made this magazine which we ran off 500 copies of and which had 6 or 7 editions. We sold it in pubs. I began realising how different Bristol was to Bridgwater. More politically sophisticated, terribly right on and of course we offended certain people. Full Marx bookshop refused to stock it. By the last edition we couldn’t be arsed’ although loads of strangers said keep doing it. Content was entirely humour-nothing serious. A high graphic content due to Greg and Rob. They put a lot of work in but it ended cos there was this big row between Rod and Greg- and it was not going anywhere. When it finished I decided to go back to Sheep Worrying. “ Eugene had now decided that he wanted a writing career in humour and was already getting involved in Venue magazine which had arisen from the previous Out West.
April 21-Club Whoopee played at the Brean leisure centre but there was no audience
April 22-Club Whoopee played at Yeovil Rainbow Club to a similar response
On April 24th Sheep Worrying launched its ‘Festival of Alternatives’ a full day of counter culture events at the art centre plus films, fanzines, food and theatre and then in the evening a gig featuring the Headless Horsemen, Quasor, Club Whoopee and Dancing Teeth.
April 30 another big party at Aller based around Club Whoopee. Kim, now dating Angela Berthiaume is therefore encouraged to come back to Somerset more often
On May 12- Brian introduces a new dimension in publicity and declares himself King of Wessex from the top of Burrow Mump. He recalls “No sooner had I done that and declared Kim as my successor than he pushed me down the slope. The idea was to expand from Somerset to the West Country, which we decided to call Wessex. Bit of a daft idea really and ended up with me getting offers from the nutjob Wessex Regionalist Party to stand for Parliament for them. I refused. Well, you wouldn’t expect a King to have to be elected would you….”
On May 13 Sheep Worrying received a £250 grant from Sedgemoor District Council . Brian, Tim and Kim sat through the committee and it was clear we were still seen as something useful to the community and here was some reward.
At the same time a feature appeared in a national music paper ‘Masterbag’ “Sheep worrying ‘the west and the rest” written by Dave Massey
On 20 May a Sheep Worrying meeting with Steve Coram ends angrily as no common ground can be found
SW issue 27 came out round about now and had a ‘special war edition’ theme to it. Brian recalls “We couldn’t imagine Thatcher’s task force would actually fight some crazy war and so it all seemed a bit funny at first – but then I heard from Stuart that when he received this mag in the post he was busy pulling the survivors of HMS Coventry from the sea. Not so funny.”
26 May-Sheep Worrying put on a gig at Highbridge Morlands Club featuring Cool Running, Flex, and The Screaming Dead,
29 May and Club Whoopee play 2 gigs in a day first at Langport Town Hall and then at Bridport Arts Centre.
While the Sheep Worrying social scene continues to recover other battles loom. The Art Centre, in an effort to divide and rule (and not for the first time) give Steve Coram 6 out of 12 of the Showcase gigs Steve attacks Somerset bands saying “Name bands won’t play with such rubbish” and calls them ‘second rate’ and says he’s “opposed to ‘collectivism’. Clear battle lines are drawn up.
On June 12 the first Sounds Incorporated gig takes place and features The Escape and the Terraplanes
Steve remembers “It was a good turn out and no problems. 80s indie music. I knew Dave Massey from the Trinity gigs in Bristol where there was a very vibrant scene and more professional/ bands like Animal Magic, Black Roots, the Electric guitars and also the Dug Out club in Park row was a regular place for people like Massive Attack. “
Then came another front. This time from Yeovil
Feeding the Fish, issue 1, came out in June 1982. Produced by Alf (Alan Flint) and Simon Barber it was printed professionally at a printers and for the Fish people Sheep Worrying was often the target. Simon Barber recalls “Sheep Worrying was now the establishment”
On 1st June Sheep Worrying left its Queen St Offices and the next edition of the magazine attempts to save money with Brian hitching and Andrew napthine – now advertising manager, cycling to deliver . At the same time SW members decided to try to get onto the Art Centre board of directors – sadly the first attempt failed when Andrew forgot to hand in Brians nomination papers, however, Tim Mander had managed to get himself elected and finally Sheep Worrying had a voice on that board.
Tim remembers “The art centre wanted a ’young person’, Sheep Worrying didn’t have a bad name so it was straight forward.”
10 July – Sheep Worrying chose to turn its now ‘bi-monthly’ gig into a benefit for the Somerset Peace Alliance and bands playing included Silent movies, Burning garden, the Worried men and Survivors
12 July– EMI reject Club Whoopee’s demo tape “some of vocals and playing a bit suspect”, ‘there’s a very small market for humorous songs about Somerset’, ’it isn’t commercial but its good fun’ (Bob Clifford)
12 Aug and Club Whoopee play at the Bell Inn, Bath
Aug 5-and Club Whoopee play Tapps Club Milborne Porte
Aug 8 Sheep Worrying rewrites its constitution as a defined membership collective in order to meet the new challenges head on. The members are listed as Brian Smedley, Dave Newton, Kim Newman, Andew Napthine, Angela Berthiaume, Catriona O Callaghan, Alex Luckes, Paul Toplis, Simon Tucker, Alan Gadd, Tim Mander, Mark Jones, Stewart Croskell, Kevin Freeman and Lynne Cramer.
11 Aug-Club Whoopee play the Bristol Bridge Eugene, now interested in working again with Sheep Worrying recalls “no one was paying any attention to the band – just to Liz Hickling -although Kim was funny and entertaining. “
21 Aug and Sheep Worrying stage an open air festival at the YMCA with several bands – the gift/burning garden/the screaming dead and club whoopee + an alternative world cup football tournament with teams from rock bands in all 4 Western counties -Somerset, Dorset,Devon and Gloucester.
John Parish, who took part in the football, was also pushing the Headless Horsemen “We approached record labels but none interested. This was just a stepping stone to Automatic Dlamini.Towards the end of the Headless Horsemen I wrote the song ‘Whose business is it anyway.’ I played roto toms and Rob and me drummed and we all sang with just a bass. Everyone said this was really good. It sounded like you couldn’t place it, so we should try to do more. So I wrote another ‘Elephant feet don’t make the grade’ “
On Sept 3rd the Art Centre opened its new bar and the artistic scene in town now had a destination to meet up with itself. Just in time for the next SWT show
10 & 11 Sept 82 saw “The Roaring 80s” -another Newman/Smedley musical . Rod Jones is back on board, now doing the lights and Lianne Bruce makes her first appearance as stage manager.
Kim “In fact the show took over £100 and made £50 profit so was our biggest money spinner so far. It was less shambolic than previous. It wasn’t as lively as Gold Diggers but probably I was being a bit pretentious. Then again I’d had a year of people telling me I was terrible.”
Tim “Liz did her ‘I can dance I can sing’ routine and from the audience Graham Whitney shouted ’shame you cant fucking act’. Butland and Ed Grey physically chucked him out”
17 Sept –Bristol reggae band Black Roots play a gig for Sounds Incorporated
The scene now faces another change as several of the College members move on to University including Peter Grieve and Liz Hickling. The latter to a career in modelling and the movies and the former to a teaching job in Denmark. Brian and Rod affect a reconciliation and the young Lynne Cramer is brought into the band. Brian and Rod even start writing a play about the Dangerous Brothers called ‘The Group’. Kim, now back in London where his writing career is taking off gradually, sends song lyrics through such as ‘Philadelphia Cheese’ and ‘Titanic’ . Club Whoopee brings in 2 drummers -Kevin Freeman and Alan Gadd and Neal Heckford on keyboards the DBs is almost back together again
The new Club Whoopee line up records several songs at the Milborne Port studios ‘Working in an Office’ , and ‘Me and my Clone’
October 1982 sees the third SW compilation cassette “MAGICAL MYSTERY SHEEP” this time it features Club Whoopee
Oct 8- and the Sheep Worrying showcase gig features —Go, Alice the Mongrel , Rita Bix and the Tauntones and Quazor
Oct 23 VICE SQUAD play the art centre and it’s a-sell out. Feeding the Fish issue 5 has an open attack on Sheep Worrying interviewing Steve Coram, carries a 2 page anti Sheep Worrying cartoon and refers to ‘Brian the dead sheep’
Battle lines were well and truly joined. But Sheep Worrying was to get a major boost as a newly arrived ball of socialist energy suddenly made an appearance in the town and at once threw in her lot with the Sheep Worrying team
Glen Burrows had been working in London at south thames college teaching English, met her partner John Smith and after a trek around South America together they sought pastures new and found them in Bridgwater where she got a job at Bridgwater College .Keen on music, theatre and the Labour Party she sought out kindred spirits. Glen recalls “Someone at college suggested I contact Brian Smedley-“–
On November 1st –Brian met Glen and she was at once set on helping Sheep Worrying, inviting them in to help her run a ‘History of Rock course at the College.
And then things started going wrong for Sounds Incorporated as their attempt to put on a punk event at the art centre on Nov 12 ended in a big punch up.
Steve remembers “It was Chaos uk, Disorder, Amebix, 3 Bristol bands. They had a nationwide reputation for trouble. They provoked it by shouting at audience. I had to use the art centre staff as bouncers”
On Nov 17– Sheep Worrying did its Rock lecture at college. Brian ,Kim, Alan, Andrew and Liz (Lee) took part and gave their own perspective on the evolution of different music forms
On Nov 18– Club Whoopee played the Venue Rock competiton at Trinity hall in Bristol
On Nov 19 the showcase event was called “Sheep Worrying night out and featured the newly revamped Headless Horseman, Now ‘Automatic Dlamini’ alongside Club Whoopee, Lunatic Fringe, Beki Barker, John,John and John, the Struggle, Cut the Control Lines and Continuum theatre. The gig is marred by a disagreement between Rod and Kim who believes he is being pushed out.
On Nov 20 Club Whoopee have a major argument as Rod refuses to be in the same band as Lynne Cramer after accusing her of two timing him with his friend . He won’t stay in the same group and so leaves. Lynne returns. Kim explains “She was a good singer, had a good personality and was easy to get on with”
Sheep Worrying revival is now well underway as on Nov 24-Brian meets up with Eugene and they agree to work together again to ‘get Sheep Worrying together properly’ . Rob Hackwill, from the ‘Brian’ project and now working at Radio West also gets involved as an artist. The target is to set Sheep Worrying up as a big west Country rival to Venue magazine.
3 Dec and the Sheep Worrying Showcase event sees bands Mind Tunnel, Quazor , Confined spaces and Mr Completely
Dec 10 and there’s a CND gig at the Boat and Anchor, Huntworth featuring Club Whoopee and Silent Movies. CW guitarist Andrew Napthine -now going out with Angela , launches a new range of Wessex Fudge which he sells at gigs and is eagerly lapped up by high energy pogoing punks
Dec 11 Club Whoopee play Roadwater Village Hall . An acoustic gig Kim describes it as “My favourite gig ever”
Dec 17-Following an ultimatum from live-in partner Debbie, Brian gets the first ‘proper job’ he comes across in the job centre. He becomes a Car Park Attendant.
Dec 21-The Sheep Worrying xmas showcase featured the Scarlet Downs, the Deckchairs, the Sessions and Beki Lee-
By December Sheep Worrying had weathered the storms of a difficult year but had come through fighting and stronger. Now they had a new boost. Glen Burrows found them a room in Labour HQ Unity House. Room 5 top floor. This became their base for the next few years and was used for rehearsals, magazine production, band practice, the theatre group and as an office where they could meet the public. The scene was set for a full recovery in 1983.