1983 had been a difficult year for Sheep Worrying but had ended up with peace breaking out across the whole scene. Crucially the rock wars had finished and as 1984 arrived the stage was set for the launch of the new ‘Rock Club’ which mixed the ideas of Sheep Worrying and it’s local bands ethos with the compromise to include a programme of semi name and touring bands as well.
On Jan 7th the rock club was launched with a heavy gig from Wolfen and Argonaut. It was a success with 170 tickets sold.
14 Jan saw Sheep Worrying Theatre continue with its tradition of a series of one act original plays. On this occaision it was ‘Splendid Rodney’ by Charles Mander, ‘Next Services Please’ by Brian Smedley and “Many Happy Returns” by Stuart Croskell all under the title “‘Tonight do something constructive” with a graphic of a man throwing a brick through a tv.
16 Jan-Automatic Dlamini appear on RPM
19 Jan –Second rock club gig, this time features the James Boys and the Sessions. Again a sizeable audience of 150.
2 Feb The third rock club gig flops as the Opposite Man, Big Outdoor Type and Sudan fail to bring an audience. Only 27 people attend and there is no money to share amongst the bands. Some of the band members and the PA hire get angry and fists fly.
7 Feb – Brian suggests a reform of the Dangerous Brothers but bringing in Stuart on vocals, the first rehearsal is on Feb 10
16 Feb –Rock Club gig no4 features Secret 7, India Falls and Double Standards. Steve Coram doesn’t turn up.
SW Issue 42 The magazine is now being put together by Brian, Adrian and Stuart. A more tabloid format is adopted.
Miners Strike changes everything
On 6 March the Coal Strike starts and Britain is plunged into a new phase of class war. Brian at the time is selling Socialist Worker on the town bridge. Glen, after having 13 miners at her house overnight, is busy persuading the local labour party to let striking miners sleep at Unity House while they picket Hinkley Point and Dunball Wharf.
8 March– Rock Club gig 5 features the Alkaloid and Spangles… The Alkaloids play well overtime and bring a large guest list. The Spangles feature former art centre assistant manager Roger Whybrow.
24 March the Dangerous Brothers idea collapses through lack of enthusiasm. Brian says “The plan was for the DBs to reform and support Talisman at the art centre, however in truth Kevin is much happier in his new band the Alkaloids and rarely turns up. At a final rehearsal at a studio we’d set up in Chandos street and where we’d persuaded Stuart to fill his hair full of talc to give the impression of a massively elderly person, Kevin just didn’t turn up at all so that was that”
22 Mar Rock Club gig features Renegade Flight, Newspeak and X Act
31 March A very successful rock club gig as a coach full from North Devon turns up to see Flux of Pink Indians, Cult Maniax, Shrapnel and Exit 22
6-8 April Sheep Worrying is invited to take part in the Alternative Press Conference in Leeds . Brian, Eugene and Stuart attend. Brian recalls “We brought out a paper called THE OTHER VOICE. Sheep Worrying was a bit out of line really as we were largely humorous and so was our politics, so our features ‘Plants are human too’ by Eugene and a very liberal piece about South Africa by Fred Williams didn’t go down too well”
Eugene says “By now my estrangement from Bridgwater was complete . Venue was a big city version of Sheep Worrying, with more people involved and a far bigger circulation. At it’s peak Venue was 20,000 – more successful than any mag outside of London.”
21 Apr Rock club continues with the long awaited Talisman gig, now supported by Automatic Dlamini
23 Apr Sheep Worrying Theatre have been working on test running a history play by Charles Mander in preparation for a major production in 1985-the 300th anniversary of the battle of Sedgemoor. Suddenly Lynne Cramer drops out and stage manager Lianne Bruce steps into the limelight to save the day.
April 27+28 Sheep Worrying performs “The Kings Justice” A massive cast play with key roles for Stuart Anne and Tim. Brian writes the music
On 7 May Sheep Worrying hold a crisis meeting as the magazine debt has crept up to £786- Ann Dixey recalls her introduction “I was on the fringes. More of a supportive watcher and then I got involved more. It was the typical dilemma of a reporter – how much to get involved “
8 May Brian is enrolled as a judge by the Musicians Union for a battle of the Bands competition in Taunton . The Vandals win Severed Head come second and Shades of Grey 3rd
11 May Rock club features the Vandals, Thatcher on acid and the Bla boiz
25 May Rock club features Excercise Yea! And Double Standrads
4 June the Sheep Worrying team resolve to pay off the debt by forming a band and the Sedgemorons are born. Brian(guitar) Stuart(bass) Gareth (guitar) Kevin (drums) plus Anne and Lianne (vocals)
5 June Automatic Dlamini win MU contest. Brian, Adrian ,Ann and Stuart are all judges . Adrian admits to voting for Taunton Mod band the Sessions.
John Parish remembers “We had signed a deal and got sent to studios to do things. But we didn’t progress, so needed some money. At this time we didn’t know how to make things work. In fact the mid 80s was the nadir of recorded music -all huge snare and gaited reverbs, so the wrong time for a band with 2 fast frenetic drummers. So we worked live but no one would record us or believed in what we were doing”
8 Jun Rock club featured the East river blues band plus Kim and the carpettes
9 June it’s the 1st rehearsal of the Sedgemorons . Brian says “The idea was to be a MOR cabaret band and just get money making gigs , pay off the debt quickly then stop. But actually we were too imaginative for that and just got into sending ourselves up. Also, we found we all got on really well together. So we ended up forming quite a good band and a new bunch of friends.”
Anne Dixey recalls “We formed a band to get rid of a debt. A cabaret band. I thought it might be interesting, I could just be a backing singer and could then move on. But I supported what Sheep Worrying was doing. I was very politically aware. Glen was around a lot and she was a feminist icon. Her role was pivotal. And there was not much going for young people so it was also some pay back into community. But I had absolutely no expectations.”
15 Jun Rock Club gig features Wolfen and the Unit
27 Jun former Out West writer and now stand up comic Dave Cohen invites Kim, Eugene and writer Neil Gaiman to work with him on a new humour mag called ‘Lies’
21 July Sheep Worrying organised a Miners Benefit gig and raised £85. Bands included Exit 22 and Normal Individual
9 Aug-Brian was finally co-opted onto the Art Centre board
14 Aug– The debt is a bit lower but Kampress the printers want £617 by end of sept or it’s county court time.
1 sept –Rock Club features the Alkaloids and Double standards
15 Sept and it’s the first Sedgemorons gig, supporting the East River Blues band at the Blake Arms.
14-15 sept Sheep Worrying theatre do a revue style show written by the cast called ‘In Search of Legends”
Eugene comes to help out “ It was rubbish, but enthusiastic rubbish- which is what counts but I did notice there was once again a good Sheep Worrying scene reviving.”
Anne Dixey “I wrote bits of it. My first attempt at playwriting . The process opened my eyes a bit-and I didn’t know what sheep worrying would mean initially but now I saw it was a good thing in a small town where not much happened. It was a community minded project so I thought I might as well go for it.And on a personal level I could get experiences that I didn’t expect.”
SW issue 46 came out at this time and was the most political ever with clear support for the Miners, attacks on the Tory press and adverts from Unions and the Morning Star
21 sep Rock Club gig featured Cult maniax, Shrapnel, Spyin for brian
22 sep– It’s only the second gig for the Sedgemorons but they decide to record it and sell the cassettes to help the debt as well. The gig is at the Pulsebeat Club at the Antelope on Sherborne supporting the Chesterfields
Simon Barber says “The Chesterfields were formed when I took a pile of records round to Dave Goldsworthy -Orange Juice, Go Betweens, the Smiths . “
Anne Dixey “The Sedgemorons was developing unexpectedly into something intriguing and original. This was the same time as bands like Half man half Biscuit – acts evolving all different influences from punk-indy-socialism . I was into melodic indie stuff, harmony, sophisticated melody. We were more original, alternative comedy punky, sometimes wet sometimes not, punchy guitar, an unexpected mix and the performance was quite major. Very alternative cabaret”
3 Oct-Debbie and Brian separate, but not before writing the classic Sedgemorons hit together ‘Drop Dead Darling’
8 October – There is a ‘Troops Out’ (of Northern Ireland) conference at Unity House. This starts the rumour mill running about IRA links started by Tim Jones at the Evening Post and picked up elsewhere.
6 Oct Rock Club Chesterfields,October evening , the Sessions
14 Oct the Sedgemorons go into the studio at Milborne Port to record a few additional tracks to the Sherborne gig and bring out a cassette album “We’re Bonkers
26 Oct Brian starts a relationship with Sedgemorons singer Lianne Bruce
27 Oct Rock Club Omega tribe , the Nightingales, Toxic shock
28 Oct-Sedgemorons play cabaret at Enmore and raise £30 – they’ve started chipping away at the debt.
9 Nov Rock Club East river blues , Legends
10 Nov-Wood street inn, Taunton the Sedgemorons play and everyone thinks it’s 1977 again Anne Dixey “The Sedgemorons sometimes went quite punk and ramped it up. We were big on performance and became louder thrashier and shoutier.
15 Nov-Sedgemorons play at the Smugglers bar, Weston Super Mare
Anne “I remember we got a guy from the audience to sing ‘Twist and shout and he was great as he actually fronted a band. It was like getting Bonjovi!”
16 Nov Rock Club the Alkaloids, Legends
Shit hits Fan
Nov 16-The press and the local tory establishment suddenly launch a major offensive against Sheep Worrying. The Western daily press screams “Maggie a valid bomb target’ says Sheep Worrying” Tory councillor and art centre board member Noreen Ellis-Jones says she will oppose any grant in future.
Brian recalls “For SWissue 47 nov 84…I wrote a ‘get out of ireland’ piece and Gareth did a PC Pig cartoon. Anne wrote an Amnesty piece and we carried Labour and SWP adverts We knew what we were doing and I guess we were on borrowed time-as indeed was the Labour and Trades Union movement if the Miners didn’t win the strike.”
Anne “It was a sign of the times. Everyone getting more politicised and more extreme. People dying to rise up at all sorts of levels especially young people and reflecting it in what they wrote and performed .-Bridgwater was just a microcosm. Sheep Worrying was an open forum for experimentation in writing and performing and for people to find out their future direction “
Nov 19-Sheep Worrying has entered ‘In Search of Legends’ for a play competition and are joined by now celebrity writers Kim Newman and Neil Gaiman who take acting roles in a sketch written by kim.
Kim recalls “I shambled through it. We shared out the Eugene roles. I Stayed a couple of days after show . Neil was just my mate at the time. Within a couple of years he was writing comic books.”
Nov 28-The Sedgemorons play the Thekla in Bristol. The Old Profanity showboat was owned by Bonzo Dogs frontman Viv Stanshall who had a plan to take it to New York with as many local bands as he could find. The gig raised £40
6 Dec-Bristol Bridge Inn, Highbridge gig played by Sedgemorons.
7 Dec-Sedgemorons play the Launceston White Horse
12 Dec-The Bridgwater Mercury ends its MUSIC BEAT column. The decision is almost definitely related to the IRA controversy
20 Dec The Sedgemorons play the Art Centre Christmas party and the Tory contingent walks out. The husband of Maggie Rees attempts to hit Smedley with champagne bottle before being escorted out of the theatre by art centre staff
21 Dec Rock Club Wolfen, Rianair
22 Dec Art Centre Sheep Worrying xmas show ‘A Cavalcade of Sheep’ including an awards ceremony presented by Martin Peters. A nutcase. The show features The Sedgemorons and Automatic Dlamini.
1984 saw the class war break out into the open in Britain and in Bridgwater Sheep Worrying clearly placed itself at the forefront taking the full force of the establishment as a result. Meanwhile, Rock music was in its strongest place ever at the art centre as the rock club concession meant there was a gig a fortnight. Sheep Worrying Theatre was producing a steady stream of original productions and by a wider range of writers and the gleaming hope on the horizon was the new band The Sedgemorons which was now writing its own material, going down a storm at gigs and paying off the sheep worrying debt at the same time. Yet again a year ended on a high..and next year it would be 1985 and the class war would be won!!
But who by?