Friday, February 15, 2008

Brothers in arms

The 1980's were not a good time for rock'n'roll.

Actually thinking about it they weren't a particularly good time for anything really- clothes were bad, hairstyles were worse and the government redefined the word 'evil' on an almost daily basis. Musically there were some good bands and artists around- The Redskins, Billy Bragg, U2 before Bono decided that he was Jesus- but if you liked (and I use the term loosely) rock'n'roll you didn't have a lot to go on. Then there appeared a band that were so out of step with what was going on around them that they literally seemed to be from another time and another place- ladies and gentlemen I give you, The Godfathers. 5 dangerous looking (and even more dangerous sounding) men who wrote songs with titles like 'This Damn Nation' and 'I'm Unsatisfied' and who played music that sounded like a bomb going off in your head. For a while it seemed to me as though only they could save us from a world of floppy-fringed shoegazers moaning and droning about not having a girlfriend. With the Coyne brothers (Peter on vocals, Chris on bass) at the helm, the twin guitars of Mike Gibson and Kris Dollimore combined with George Mazur's powerhouse drumming to produce what for me still stands as some of the best rock music of the mid-'80's. They've just re-issued 'Hit By Hit', a compilation album of their first few singles (if you don't already have it, get it!) and have re-united (as Peter Coyne puts it, there's 'unfinished business') for a currently undefined period of time. I've just got home after seeing their first U.K. show this century...

I met up with Dave (a.k.a. Snaggletooth) at Uxbridge station at 6.30; by 8 o'clock we were in the Bull & Gate with Tom from Shepherd's Bush, Andy Knight and others, and by 8.30 we were in the Forum watching The Bishops, with 'watching' being the operative word as they were nowhere near loud enough. 'They're a beat combo!' roared Tom which just about sums it up, and that's no bad thing in my book. At the end of their show I'm approached by the legend that is Brian Kotz ('Brian from Barnet', 'Brian from Back To Zero' etc.) who I haven't seen for several years; after saying hello to each other he asks if I saw The Bishops and before I can answer tells me he's seen them 71 times- by the look on his face the 100th sighting isn't that far away.

Suddenly the AC/DC track playing over the P.A. doubles in volume and is replaced by the theme from 'The Godfather'- and there they are at last, a sight that a lot of people have waited a long time to see again, playing 'I Want Everything' and sounding pretty much the same as they used too, and even if Dollimore's solo is not quite as acrobatic as it used to be it's still one of my favourite bits of guitar playing ever. Coyne's not saying much but somehow doesn't have to, it's all in the songs- ''Cause I Said So', 'She Gives Me Love', 'Obsession', 'When Am I coming Down?'- somehow they all sound even better than I remember them and they sounded amazing then. During the instrumental 'John Barry' some lads down the front wave a Liverpool F.C. flag (good boys!) as the mosh pit grows in size; the set ends with 'This Damn Nation', 'Birth School Work Death' and scenes of near hysteria. They return for what Coyne calls 'a folk song played on guitar and drums'- 'Anarchy in the U.K.' sees Dollimore putting his precious Zemaitis down and jumping into the audience to confront the guy throwing beer over him- before 'Public Enemy No. 1' and 'Blitzkrieg Bop' close the show. But not just any old show; it was a brilliant show, an astonishing show, a show good enough to get me typing this at nearly 2 o'clock in the morning. Welcome back lads- and please don't leave it quite so long next time eh?

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