The First Time: Keith Hargreaves – The Specials, Madness etc. Camden Electric Ballroom – 21st July 1979

I was fifteen. I knew nothing… at all. Desperate to attend a gig in London my mate Maz persuaded his sister who lived in a commune in Kings Cross to get some tickets. Maz was a dyed-in-the-wool punk, I was a metal/punk dilettante. We were both unprepared. We were met off the train ( we had come from Bedford) Maz in full regalia – bondage trousers, bumflap, leather jacket, spiked hair the works. Me in a borrowed Parka (I had heard the Specials were Mods.) complete with Anti Nazi League yellow badge and lank long hair. In hindsight fuck me we were brave! His sister took us on the tube and we emerged into the blinking sunlight of Camden High St like newborn babes in a strange world. People everywhere and none of them looked like us. There was also a palpable air of tension – shouts and jeers, bottles being lobbed, laughter and lots of stares.

We joined the queue and slowly tried to sink into the background as touts and groups of skinheads scoured the lines for either tickets or trouble. Eventually we entered the doors and started to move down the stairs into the venue all the while it was getting tighter and tighter as people began to push and shove. Suddenly I felt a hand grab the back of my Parka and start dragging me back towards the door. In front of me a fight had started and as I was being pulled back, I saw a knife being used. The person pulling me was screaming at people to get out of the way as she dragged myself and Maz out of the door into the High Street as the sirens got closer. On the other side of the road we caught our breath as the police piled into the foyer and then it really kicked off as the NF skins tried to pour in too.

I looked at Maz and his sister. Him and I were 15 she was 19. She said she seen a knife and decided that it wasn’t happening and that we should go to the pub instead. The next day following a night in the commune I watched someone shooting up at the breakfast table. Went back to school a different person… and never wore a Parka again! How apt the title of this clip.

About Keith Hargreaves 375 Articles
Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



So you never got to see whatever passed as the proper gig? That was a hell of a line up and probably went down as a classic – like Bob Marley in London. But those Two-Tone gigs back then could be dangerous affairs. Not even the bands were safe onstage.


I went to that gig and was just. searching when it was as T Hall retrospective on BBC4. Looks like I was 19. I think I missed the big fight or just saw it as normal for the 1970s.