The First Time: Guy Lincoln – The Pink Fairies, The Marquee Club, London, 3rd August 1976

Memory and the memories that are associated with it is a strange and wonderful thing right? This ‘First Time’ series is all about memory and memories and in it we have shared in of some our writers’ earliest experiences of live music. These features have expressed, in a variety of ways, the means by which gig going and the live music experience can be instantly affective and also have long lasting impacts on our attitudes and, not to put too fine a point on it, our entire lives. Our writers have related their experiences as vitally formative, shaping their intervening and ongoing engagement with live music and by extension their cultural and social being. Memories of seeing the Beatles or the Who at the beginning of their ascents or being gripped by the early Clash and Jam have engrossed and even moved us. I am in awe of the details that can be recalled, sometimes 50 years later – songs that opened sets, pre show announcements, stage outfits and all.

More than their ability to stir our emotions though, these recollections have confirmed to me the idea that our memories (of music) are central to the way we experience our (musical) lives currently. Or as psychologist and colleague, Steven D Brown suggests “memories are vital to a sense of self in the present”.  This idea is beautifully encapsulated in these stories of first gigs, surfacing some of the excitement and joy felt at the time and placing us at the centre of an event which we certainly did not attend and one which we may not even have been born in time for. Such a thought finally brings me to my ‘first time’ and I’m afraid I must confess that the Pink Fairies at Soho’s celebrated Marquee Club in the summer of 1976 raises none of these pivotal emotions for me to recount. There are no feelings of excitement or joy… or disappointment, from the time for me to recount.

I don’t really remember why my first ever gig ended up being an underground rock band with yet another new incarnation. Now led by Larry Wallis and sporting newly honed punky edge, the band had originally emerged in 1969, formed by members of (or from the ashes of, depending who is believed) Mick Farren’s Deviants. They were part of the shambolic yet vaguely notorious Ladbroke Grove, UK underground scene* that also had passing (or sometimes more ‘fixed’) associations with such as Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Soft Machine and The Pretty Things among others. A scene that was chronicled at the time by underground publications such as the International Times. Somehow it did happen though, on August 3 1976 I went along to see this noisy band from a West London “enclave of freaks, immigrants and bohemians” at a cheap West End nightclub with a music insider reputation and a wantonly lax door policy; granting entry to a naïve and significantly ‘plump’ 15 year old from 200 miles away.

But the questions still remains why? Why this band? Why a grotty club in London (Lemmy loved it because “it was scruffy and a hellhole, and your feet stuck to the floor”) when I lived in Cleckheaton? Why with ‘Tiny’ Page (I think) who was at best a mildly friendly acquaintance and at worst a vaguely unmannerly borderline pest with fewer mates than me? And why not AC/DC who played the Marquee the night before and on four other occasions in that month alone? Perhaps the answer lies in the serendipitous convergence of two distinct incidences. First was the opportunity to stay for a week with my super-cool uncle, a funny, jazz tromboning session musician, Highbury dwelling gooner, and terrible cook. So, me and Tiny are in London for a week, freed from the shackles of school and boredom of home chores but what to do? Buy some records and see an actual real live, in the flesh concert (gig was not part of our RnR vocabulary yet). But who?

The second incidence was our noting that the Marquee was in the NME every week so its bona-fides were evident to us. The Pink Fairies were on at the Marquee so they must be ok too. Decision made. Even at this age, the NME was our holy book. It set out the precepts of our burgeoning teenage geekdom, carefully delineating the cool from the not and providing the cultural and social guidance we so desperately needed to navigate the uncharted waters of all that stuff out there. This ‘venue rather than act’ as key decision criteria is a theory supported by the fact that we went to see a shockingly predictable heavy metal band called Dirty Tricks there two nights later. I do remember something of this and I was properly bored!

Reflecting now, perhaps I was wrong earlier. Perhaps my first gig did have that formative impact on me and perhaps the emotional resonances of these memories remain vital to my sense of self right now. The Pink Fairies were a rock band for sure, but not just a heavy one. That punk edge we noted worked for me at the time, and can be seen by the run of shows in the 12 months after that first gig – a run of shows never bettered in my 45 years since I venture to offer! Which included the last gig of the Anarchy tour before it got pulled (not cool to admit it I know but The Heartbreakers ruled that show for sure), The Ramones, The Hot Rods, The Clash, Dr Feelgood and TRB. There was some ‘rawk’ in there for a time – Ian Gillan, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and SAHB all figuring but by the end of 77 this had gone for good and the only thing tempering the punk attitude were the first shoots of a rootsy awakening (Graham Parker, Tom Petty, Mink Deville, Southside Johhny), that would take me another 20 years to come out and acknowledge as such in public.

A massive part of who I am now is tied up with music and live music in particular. I still use it to fix myself in and represent myself to the world. To borrow almost directly from another of my incredibly perceptive associates, Emma Wood says it is not what we actually experience but how we remember the experience that crafts us, our thoughts and our behaviours. Our memories of our musical experiences are half formed or blemished, they become ever more indistinct over time. The emotions these experiences surface may linger awhile longer but they too shift and become entwined with our telling of the stories of gigs past and bands great (and not so great). In sharing these memories of what are unquestionably emotional events we are creating new and shared emotional memories and if that’s not the perfect testimony to everyone’s first gig, to every gig we’ve been to since and to the next gigs we are going to (Mike Viola, Dream Syndicate and Robert Forster if anyone’s asking) then I damn sure don’t know what is.

About Guy Lincoln 73 Articles
Americana, New Country, Alt-country, No Depression, Twangcore, Cow-punk, Neo-traditionalists, Countrypolitan... whatever.
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