Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Remembering a time when the Festive Season was all about the annual fanzine gigs, The Chip Shop Boys and ‘the only band in the world to be named after a Third Division goalkeeper’...

Back in the day before football fanzines went digital and started winning awards for things like podcasts (well done Amber Nectar by the way!!) various means were explored in order to gain exposure beyond the club’s core support. One of the advantages we had with Hull, Hell & Happiness and From Hull To Eternity in the late-1980s/early-1990s was our local music content, which not only opened up another audience to us but also another avenue in which to get our name out there i.e. the live promotional gig. And so back in the day when most Hull City winters appeared full of discontent, a rare bright spot amid the darkness was the annual “Christmas football fanzine gig”. Held at the legendary Adelphi Club, this yuletide get-together allowed City fans with a liking for local bands to momentarily forget their team’s troubles and instead take in some of the finest talent the city had to offer... and The Chip Shop Boys.

Christmas 1989/90
The first such event took place in 1989 and is recounted in (the still-to-be-published) ‘Not All Ticket’

14 December 1989
Hull, Hell & Happiness Christmas Bash:
The Von Trapps | Pink Noise | Ian Beharrell | Sheldon Carmichael
The Adelphi Club – Ticket £2.50
Given our football-music crossover appeal, it was perhaps predictable that the idea of a ‘Hull, Hell & Happiness’ gig was first mooted. With plenty of local bands by now on board with what we were trying to do for the Hull Music Scene, we were never going to be short of takers to appear on the bill. And there was genuine talent out there. Although The Beautiful South were a touch out of our league, there was no shortage of bands from in and around the city who could and more importantly would be only too glad to oblige. Sadly, fanzine faves The Mighty Strike weren’t among them. They had recently split, with frontman Biz opting to pursue a solo route. Of the others, noise/punk outfit Milkfloat (formerly Death By Milkfloat) were high profile having already recorded a couple of John Peel Sessions. They were reportedly set to sign an album deal with Manchester record label Imaginary and had also recently received favourable Press when asked to stand in as last-minute support for The Wonder Stuff at the City Hall. Hull soulsters Smart Alix, “Blow Monkeys sound-alikes” The Hitchcocks and thrash-metal outfit Re-animator were other Hull bands attracting plenty of attention and were examples of the many differing sounds to be found on the city’s live scene.
Along with The Adelphi and The Welly, local bands had another two new venues made available to them in 1989: The Jailhouse (down Norfolk Street) and the “infamous” Tower Nightclub on Anlaby Road. The latter hosted the popular Soundtrack ‘89 competition in conjunction with the Hull Daily Mail. Winners Looking For Adam were rewarded with a headlining showcase gig at the venue on 14 November, supported by The Penny Candles and girl trio Cheap Day Return. I’d seen both support acts a couple of weeks earlier at the Adelphi (with The Rainy Days) and had been completely bowled over. I described it as “one of those infuriating evenings when you’re stood in the Adelphi with a hundred or so others and you just wish that the whole world’s population was with you”. Cheap Day Return in particular had me swooning. Combined with the aforementioned Tower show, it convinced me that Hull’s scene really was looking up. We hoped that our first fanzine gig would act as another showcase and help spread the word.
The inaugural HH&H Christmas Bash took place a month on from that Soundtrack showcase. It was plugged in the Hull Daily Mail as “A cracker of a gig” and (eventually) proved hugely popular, attracting a near full-house “although at one point early on we must admit we felt about as busy as City’s turnstile operators”[i]. Unfortunately The Penny Candles were forced to cancel at the last minute, meaning a step-up to headliners for east Hull’s finest The Von Trapps. They didn’t disappoint and neither did Pink Noise or Biz in his first post-TMS performance. However the surprise star of the show was our mate Sheldon. His appearance as Compere, which according to the HDM had “had tickets selling faster than Kylie albums” (!), wowed the crowd. In a taste of things to come, the big man, complete with oversized Santa outfit, kept a packed house thoroughly entertained. Despite the team’s travails on the pitch, nights like this made me feel it was a good time to be a Hull City fan.

Pre-Season 1990/91
By the following Christmas, I was no longer part of the HH&H team, Gary H and I having “branched out” over that Italia 90 summer to produce a brand new fanzine, From Hull To Eternity. We held an Adelphi launch gig in August, billed for some reason as a “Mad Duck Party”?! Headliners were Driffield band The Brontes, supported by Cheap Day Return who were late replacements for the absent Biz. However, for many of those among the hundred or so present that night, the gig will perhaps be remembered more for the debut performance of The Chip Shop Boys.
Yes, The Chip Shop Boys, The CSBs as local music mag Where? would label them. The origins of this small by-line in the history of the Hull music scene have long since been forgotten but probably involved alcohol. What we do know is that as a result of several conversations (and even some rehearsals) Thursday, 16 August saw Sheldon, Steve Fry, Jivin’ Jeff Pullen and I take to the stage as part of our very own fanzine “super group”. Er, sort of. If that’s hard enough to comprehend, it’s also worth recording here that within a year, this supposed "one-off" performance had led to several follow-ups and certain reviewers would mention The CSBs in the same breath as The Beautiful South and Kingmaker. I’ll leave that one there for now…

“Best night of 1990 so far!” was how my diary records the “Mad Duck Party”. The Chip Shop Boys’ live debut proved hugely successful (even if it did pass me by a touch thanks to too much steadying of the nerves beforehand). It should be added that Cheap Day Return played their part to the full and The Brontes were simply magnificent. There was also a special appearance (“due to popular demand”) from Hull’s World Cup rappers The England Posse, returning to the stage for one last time after their summer of “so near yet so far”.

Christmas 1990/91
With some welcome publicity courtesy of Angus Young in the Hull Daily Mail and Tim Maitland at Viking FM, the gig succeeded in getting the From Hull To Eternity name out there on the streets, which in turn did wonders for our sales. Tim would also prove a decent contact to have come December, when The Adelphi’s “What’s On” listings sheet carried another fanzine name on its Christmas Bash billing. On Tuesday, 11 December 1990, Sheldon was invited on to Viking FM to publicise his forthcoming “Gangshow”, at which The Chip Shop Boys would be joined by Ian Beharrell, The Scallywags Outing and headliners MG Greaves & The Lonesome Too. With a share of the proceeds going to the Viking FM Help Appeal, it was hoped such extra publicity would shift extra tickets. It did. The gig was scheduled for nine days later on the 20th.

Before then came a Saturday that just about summed up our experiences following The Tigers at this time. What should have been a routine away game at Notts County, instead turned into an all-dayer beset by incident. We set off early aboard Jivin’ Jeff’s minibus for a 10am kick-off for our fanzine team (The Hull City Coasters) against one representing Notts County’s The Pie fanzine. We weren’t known as “East Yorkshire’s worst football team” for nothing and a 5-1 reverse duly followed on a mud-bath of a Nottingham pitch. From there we progressed via The Pie’s local pub to Meadow Lane where City were duly dispatched 2-1 by a home side reduced to ten men. Could things get any worse? Oh yes. We returned to our vehicle to find every window had been put through. A long night in Nottingham and Stapleford ensued, resulting in an arrival for me back in Easington at gone three the following morning. Merry bloody Christmas!
Still, at least there was still the gig to look forward to. Not All Ticket again takes up the story…
20 December 1990
Sheldon’s Christmas Gangshow:
MG Greaves & the Lonesome Too | The Chip Shop Boys | Ian Beharrell | The Scallywags Outing
The Adelphi Club – Ticket £2.50
The Thursday before Christmas was chosen as the fanzine Christmas Bash date. Arranged in conjunction with Hull, Hell & Happiness, it featured our very own Chip Shop Boys again, on a bill topped by alternative-country act MG Greaves & The Lonesome Too, a band remembered in time for their wonderful “Withernsea Rain”. Also playing on the night were Biz (doing a solo slot) and Gargoyles members Eddie Smith and Ted Key, collectively known as The Scallywags Outing.
The Adelphi was somewhere I’d shamefully neglected since the summer’s Anti-Poll Tax gigs. Unfortunately, on the few occasions I had made it down De Grey Street I’d been disappointed: attending “average” gigs by Brilliant Corners and Cheap Day Return, while a show by The Guana Batz, The Juvies and Hull’s own Overriders had done nothing to lure me back to the psychobilly fold.
At least the fanzine bash lived up to expectations (well, from what I remember of it!). The usual alcoholic intake required ahead of a CSBs performance ensured much of the night became a blur. Fortunately, Dave Prescott had the foresight to video the damn thing, which allows me to relive every terrifying moment again as if live. The audience appeared to enjoy our ripped-off contributions – “If I Could Get The Spices” (from The Pet Shop Boys’ “Left To My Own Devices”) and a rugby league take on The Shangri La’s “Leader Of The Pack” featuring none other than Cheryl Parker from Cheap Day Return. Her role as the Hull KR maiden hopelessly besotted by Sheldon’s Tubby Lard of The Boulevard hero was musical theatre of the highest order...er, perhaps. Anyway, in short, everyone appeared to have a bloody good time and the £265 raised towards the Viking FM Help Appeal made it all very worthy.

Christmas 1991/92
Hard as it was to believe, The Chip Shop Boys were actually building a head of steam, with Paul Jackson at The Adelphi particularly keen to put us on again. To this end we began to compile our very own set list – well, five songs – and by the time the 1991 Xmas Bash came along we were primed to headline the bloody thing. Our egos really did know no bounds. But even we had to admit that the biggest draw this time round was an even newer band on the block, one that could not only play but had the added attraction of being named after Hull City’s new young Northern Irish goalkeeper…

11 December 1991
The Chip Shop Boys | The Mighty Strike | Fettis
The Adelphi Club – Ticket £2.00

According to the Hull Daily Mail, City keeper Alan Fettis “was surprised to learn that he was the inspiration behind” the band bearing his name. He was quoted as saying, “At first I thought it was all a big wind-up but I’ve since met the lads and I’m really chuffed about it”. Born out of the ashes of The Von Trapps, Fettis comprised vocalist Karl Vint, Sam Beasty (guitar), Dave Prescott (bass) and Jivin’ Jeff on drums. Their debut attracted a favourable response, with the Hull Daily Mail’s Scene column suggesting that “the only band in the world to be named after a Third Division goalkeeper...did enough to suggest more first-team appearances lie ahead”. Fettis (complete with a pint of the black stuff in his hand) joined his namesakes on stage “just long enough to remind everyone why he should stick to his day job”.
Biz was on top form, although a mooted TMS reunion didn’t materialise (save for Andrew Meadowcroft joining him for the second of two short sets). Chris Warkup summed things up perfectly when writing, “Again questions must be asked...when someone as dubious as Kenny Thomas is hyped as the Great White Soul Voice Of British Pop, why can’t Ian get what he deserves?” The surprise felt by The Temptations at Biz’s lack of recording contract was one shared by many of those in the Adelphi that night.

And so to the, erm, main event and this time we’d pulled out all the stops. Taking the KLF hit “Grim Up North”, we’d adapted it to pour scorn on the nearest seaside resort to my home village. A large banner hanging on the back of the stage told you all you needed to know. It read, “It’s Shit in With” and against a backdrop of Steve and me reciting countless weird and wonderful Holderness village names, Sheldon would interject at chorus time to inform the gathered punters just how bad Withernsea was. HH&H editor (and Withernsea resident) Andy Medcalf’s face on walking into the Adelphi that night to be confronted by the banner has lived with me to this day. Priceless. In total we did five songs (including “four subversive covers” according to Scene). Among these, “Leader Of The Pack” now featured our very own “Pattie-slappin’ Debs” on lead, whilst the finale “Bestiality” was a take on the Billy Bragg hit of a slightly different title. The HDM said we “romped through” our set and Warkup termed us “the biggest laugh at The Adelphi each year, if nothing else”. He described our act as “quite unique and bloody funny”. I’d take that.
More importantly, that Christmas gig was the first time when I felt we’d really tapped into the mood of the City support. There was a bond between everyone in the place that night, including our esteemed keeper. The following evening, The Face and In The City[ii] faves The Farm played Hull Uni. It was such a shame for them that the real cool folk had been out the previous night…

Pre-Season 1992/93
The ‘Tiger kit summer’ of 1992 brought two more Adelphi events, the first of which came in June and again featured Fettis, headlining the FHTE “Put A Tiger In Your Team” gig. The gig was the fanzine’s contribution to a concerted effort by City fans to raise enough funds to buy new players for the cash-strapped club. (It would eventually yield £11,000 and the signing of “Knees up” Linton Brown, a 24-year-old striker from Non-League Guiseley where he’d just netted 16 goals in 20 games.) The Brontes were also on the bill, alongside Young Amber & Black, a City-inspired "reggae/hip-hop offering" comprising Jivin’ Jeff, me and guest “toaster” Leon (and one that needs far more space than can be afforded here to explain).

It proved to be the last great soiree for From Hull To Eternity. By the time we next reconvened down De Grey Street it was to celebrate the new Blind Faith ‘92 movement, which was basically a rejoining of HH&H and FHTE into one again. Pooling resources to push a new fanzine (Look Back In Amber) we marked its launch in time-honoured fashion with a gig on Friday, 14 August – the eve of the new season. The Chip Shop Boys were restored to top slot, with another cameo appearance from Young, Amber & Black, along with upcoming Hull popsters Joyce Victoria and the completely zany Hubert The Tree.
In the event the Blind Faith gig proved something of a watershed for The CSBs. Described in Pulse magazine as “cabaret-comedy as much as a band and they really are very funny and very good”, on this particular occasion our pre-match alcohol consumption proved our downfall as reflected in Where?’s review...

After Young Amber ‘N’ Black came the highlight (!) of the night, the world famous, fat, bad, beered Chip Shop Boys. Flying into a stomping ‘Busterbeat’ (i.e. ‘Boxerbeat’), it rapidly became apparent too much beer had been consumed methinks!! Nevertheless, like old stage pros, they battled on with the crowd eating out of their fish slices. Old faves were mixed with a couple of new ones: ‘Don’t You Want My Gravy’ was a bit dodgy with Pattie-Slappin’ Debs struggling to be heard; ‘Leader Of The Pack’, ‘It’s Shit in With’, ‘Bestiality’ and ‘If I Could Get The Spices’ were all rolled out. The crowd went barmy and yelled for more, but from my high and mighty critic’s box I was a bit disappointed. I know it’s all for fun and that, but the CSBs have been a lot better and a lot funnier – definitely 10 pints less next time please!  
Despite the lukewarm review, the Chip Shop Boys still appeared a draw. Indeed, the September edition of Where? described them as “the band who (apart from Kingmaker) are the only local band guaranteed to pack out the Adelphi.” It went on: “It does seem a little strange to realise that Hull’s third biggest band is in fact…yes, The Chip Shop Boys!” As an aside it hinted that the reason The Adelphi’s Paul Jackson was smiling so much at the Blind Faith gig was because “your CSB supporter drinks around 6 times the amount consumed by your average Heavenly fan”. 

Christmas 1992/93
Surprisingly, the CSBs were nowhere to be found on the bill for Blind Faith’s “All I Want For Christmas Is A Hull City Home Shirt” Adelphi show, on Wednesday 16 December 1992. I don't think the last review had as much to do with our absence as much as a feeling on the part of some members (Steve? Jeff?) that the band had run its course. The "novelty" effect was lost forever. What I do know is that the effect on the attendance would be very, very noticeable; and this despite a decent line-up headed by The Brontes and also including upcoming Hull band Hub and a return for Hubert The Tree (or not as turned out!). Ian Farrow (of CityIndependent) reviewed it for Where?:..

Hubert The Tree was/is sick!
A disappointing turnout for this “Look Back In Amber” Christmas bash, but hardly surprising as there were among other attractions that night a “Where?” benefit… Apart from a tree named Hubert, numbers were all tonight lacked, but the poor turnout was particularly unfortunate for Hub, who I imagine are better when facing an audience response. With singer Fred Flintstone and guitarist Steve Hillage fronting 5 Happy Prole idiots on Pro Plus, disco biscuits and drip-fed liquid gold, strong reaction is inevitable. I like ‘em but they are one of those demonically entertaining groups like Bogshed, Stump, Foreheads In A Fishtank, and early James that loads claim to like but nobody buys.
Everyone always liked The Brontes, and most people still do. Now Elder Statespersons, their sound has hardened while remaining danceable, listenable and consumer-friendly. Even so, they have not garnered deserved wider attention as yet, and I fail to see how they will do so now. To change too much would rob them of being The Brontes. Perhaps they will have to settle for being a local institution, which is OK for me and those who cherish the group in the Adelphi’s confines, but surely bad news for them.
Well, we certainly couldn’t be accused of going out on a high! Little did we know it then but that Blind Faith bash of Christmas 1992 would prove our last. Not that it was quite the end of the fanzine; in fact things were looking up for Look Back In Amber and we'd just secured a two-page monthly piece in the Hull Daily Mail’s Sports Mail. But it was to signal the end of an era in terms of the football-music tie-up, as well as removing one of the few guaranteed ways to lift the gloom of another depressing Festive fixture list. Sadly, all evidence of The CSBs' live performances would appear to have, er, been mislaid but as a final reminder of those halcyon nights down De Grey Street, here's a snatch of Fettis at the 1992 Xmas Bash, complete with cameo appearance onstage of Ulster's Number One (at about the 4:27 mark). Merry Christmas everyone... 

[i] From Hull, Hell & Happiness
[ii] Hull’s “Bible of Unity and Style” edited by Swift Nick

Many thanks to Sam Beasty for the Fettis video.

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