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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Ten Bad Gig Decisions

1. The Smiths, Brixton Academy, 12.12.1986

I was in the lower sixth, and worked on Saturdays with a very beautiful girl from the girls' grammar school across the road (can’t remember her name for the life of me). Her younger brother Toby was the year below me and I was always nice to him, as I fancied his sister. He was a good guy and offered me a spare ticket to see The Smiths. I remember, with distressing clarity, turning down the ticket and saying I didn’t have any money, but I would go next time. If I had asked my old man, he would have leant me the cash I am sure (because he was lovely, not because he would have known who The Smiths were). There was no next time, and this was their last gig....As Frank said, regrets...I’ve had a few...

2. R.E.M, supported by The Blue Aeroplanes, Wembley Arena, 22 June 1989

I missed this gig to go to accountancy firm Arthur Young’s (as they were then) staff Sports Day and party with my girlfriend Helen Bunclark. I remember seeing people in R.E.M T-shirt’s on the tube home and knowing I had made a mistake. Compounded when she dumped me a few days later. Bugger.

3. Manic Street Preachers, The Lemon Grove, March 1992

My friends went to see the Manics, who I wasn’t that bothered by; I went to see the (not very good) film Frankie and Johnny with my relatively new girlfriend, Barbara. I remember walking Barbara back to her flat, and meeting Badger Boy, literally dripping with sweat and declaring it amazing....another woman over band bad decision from my youth...

4. Suede, The Lemon Grove, 25th March1993

The gig had sold out, but I walked past the door and saw the splendid Ents Manager Paul Cashere, who offered me free entry as I had sat on a University disciplinary panel as the student union representative that day. After much deliberation, we had sadly kicked out someone from University I knew that afternoon (a chap I had met on my very first day). He had been a very naughty boy and been involved with some credit card fraud - I still think it was just the kick of being clever rather than any malice. He was posh and clueless in a way that’s difficult to explain. But he had to go and it was hard as his dad was devastated and he just looked shellshocked. I was just sad and not in the mood, but by all accounts missed a stupendous show...

5. U2, Twickenham, 18th June 2005

It was the day after the my company's annual conference and exhibition in Birmingham. I had just become a director two weeks before so was trying very hard to be impressive and be involved in everything for the whole week - trying far too hard, and partying harder...I think I had consumed my own body weight in alcohol several times over and had shaken more hands than a socially distancing Boris the Friday I phoned my friend Nick and told him to sell my ticket, headed back to London and stayed at home for three days eating salad, drinking water and detoxing and de-stressing. It was the right call, but I wish I had gone!

6. The La’s, Lemon Grove, sometime in 1991

This is appalling. We had tickets, we just could not be arsed to walk back up to campus to see them. I would walk fucking miles to see them play There She Goes now. What an ungrateful lazy arse I was.

7. Fish, The Astoria, 2nd November 2004

Slightly different take here. I DID go to this, it was the first time I has seen him in 13 years and I had truly adored him in my youth. I decided I should go and check him out live - I had rediscovered Marillion 4 years before and they were fantastic - what could go wrong? I went to a prog rock festival called Progeny 2. On my own, as understandably, no one else would come. It was AWFUL. Fish’s voice was shot to pieces, he played one dreadful version of a Marillion song, and while waiting to see him, I had had to endure The Carl Palmer Band (drummer for ELP) playing his “drum epics”. Truly dire. I’ve seen Fish since and it’s been better, though his voice is nothing as good as its hey day. Some times you just can’t go back...

8. Blur, Exeter summer ball, June 1995

This was organised by my lovely friend Jon and again I WAS there. I know I had an amazing time, and even tried to get on stage at one point. However, I was SPECTACULARLY drunk, and can remember very little of the actual gig. This was the year after my sabbatical role at the student union and as is tradition, the previous year’s sabbatical officers were invited as VIPs and had access to a free friend Lozzer came as my guest and I seem to recall drinking a pint, 9 double vodka & cokes and an Archer’s Peach Schnapps in about 90 minutes...I have little flashes of being there and I know it was a fantastic night, but there are a lot of “blank spots”....I still remember walking home with Loz at 5.30 am and looking at myself in the mirror of my little rented room when we got back and thinking NEVER AGAIN....

9. Simply Red, Wembley Arena, March 1989

Again, one I went to (for which I am totally ashamed). My girlfriend, the aforementioned Helen Bunclark, liked them and wanted to go - I had dragged her to Duran Duran, so I felt obliged. The anti-Ginger, Hucknall, had decided in his infinite wisdom to do the show in two halves - an hour of ballads and an hour of “dancey” ones....this basically meant an interminable hour of his romantic drivel (how has such an ugly bloke slept with so many women????) followed by an hour of watching some of the worst audience dancing I have ever witnessed. It was comic relief day, so Mick “hilariously” stuck a Red Nose on the front of his pants - shit songs AND piss poor cock related hindsight, it was no bad thing Helen dumped me...

10. Jean Michel Jarre, Docklands, 8th October 1988

For some unknown reason, I thought this would be a good thing to do to, and along with Helen (again - despite her association with bad gig decisions, she was very nice by the way), and my 16 year old friend Dan, we traipsed along to what now is ExCel, but then was disused land in the docklands. It was a spectacle, but we, and the gig promoters, had not really thought about how 100,000 people get home from somewhere with no transportation or infrastructure. Wet and tired, we walked miles until we found a call box without a queue and Dan phoned his lovely father, Roger (who was always up late) and he kindly got in his car and set off to find us. It was a lot of hassle to basically see Oxygene Pt 4 played by computers while a French bloke gesticulated on stage...

And in honour of Spinal Tap...

11. Peter Gabriel, The Ram, Exeter University, 1991

I didn’t go, because this gig never happened. I joined Exeter University’s Amnesty International Society not because I had a strong social conscience but primarily to meet women. I immediately fell head over heels for the Society president, Helen MacPherson and she wanted us to hold a bands’ night to raise the profile of the society. As people talked about which bar we could hold it in and how we could borrow a PA, I piped up in full cocksure wanker mode that we should ask Peter Gabriel as he lived down the road. Helen was impressed (though my friend Stevey was with me and in my imagined memory is sat with his head in his hands as I talked utter bullshit).

Somehow by the end of the meeting, it was agreed I would invite Peter Gabriel. God knows how, but I managed to get his private office’s number and set out to phone him.

I rang from a call box on campus and asked to speak to Peter. His PA asked who was calling and I confidently said “it’s John”.....”John who?” she quite reasonably asked....I said in a slightly affronted tone that it was “a personal call”...she then very gently said “you don’t know Peter do you you what to tell me what this is about?”. Red faced and rumbled, I explained I was calling from Exeter’s Amnesty group and we wanted him to play our University band’s night...she was very nice, explained he was quite busy, but said she would send us something....not sure she did in the end, and I was very embarrassed.

Even worse, I had to go back and tell the lovely Helen I had reward for this effort and misplaced bravado? No date, but she resigned and I was asked to be the new president as she was impressed by my attitude to make things I was lumbered with a job I didn’t want and never saw Helen again....still, I have Peter’s number, must give him a call sometime and try again...


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