If you'd pulled me aside thirty years back and told me that this year I'd be watching the The Buzzcocks in Bangkok, likely I'd be inclined to verbally slap you a bit to bring some sense back into the conversation. Of course I wouldn't have as I'm not a violent person by nature ( the last person I hit was Nicky Hager in the 4th Form, and I've felt guilt since).
But tonight there I was, in the rather agreeable but still fairly rockn'roll surroundings of Club Culture near Victory Monument (which wasn't actually a victory at all) grooving along to The Buzzcocks. The fucking Buzzcocks....
We used to laugh at the 60s acts in the 1980s touring their handful of hits around the workingman's clubs of the UK and periodically making it to NZ. The likes of The Searchers and The Hollies. And I'm still one to sneer at the poor old Human League and ABC, or for that matter most acts from the '77 batch doing the traps three decades on. The only Class of '77 acts I'd cross the road to see would be Paul Weller or Elvis Costello.
And the fucking Buzzcocks.
I mean, they had the tunes, and if the 2009 reissues of the first three albums gave us anything, it was that those are likely the best pop records of their generation, bar none. Tell me a pop anthem from the last half of that decade that tops Ever Fallen In Love or Promises. And they came, they flared, and they burnt out in a fairly gracious way. And, of course Pete Shelley gave us Homosapien which, in it's 12" dub, was both a dancefloor monster and, forgivably, the prototype for everything electroclash, twenty plus years on. Tune indeed (and the album is no slouch).
It was a mixed crowd of 1000 or so, about 50% UK expats, 30% Thai and the rest mixed. I loved the anonymity of it all, that being something I've enjoyed in Bali too. The nature of my history means that it's hard to do these sorts of gigs in Auckland without some, admittedly often pleasant, closing in.
We had drinks downstairs in the open air bar before we went it. It was as much a show as the band was later one. Faded punks thirty years on are an interesting bunch.
And as Brigid said, being surrounded by the English on holiday does wonders for one's physical self esteem.
There was a Thai Elvis impersonator playing to half a dozen people in the restaurant. We gave him a 20B tip and went in.
The support act, I have no idea what they were called, looked like Harry Potter and band but were actually really bloody good in a tight pop punk way. They looked like they had the legs to travel, and I mused that if they were anywhere in the Western world they'd likely be doing MTV & commercially rather well. They had the looks and the tunes.
A brief break, with some quite tastefully informed between band tunes (smatterings of 60's punk, Big Star etc, plus a few 70's and early '80s tunes..there is something quite special hearing 500 increasingly drunken Englishmen, as they mostly seemed to be by that stage, singing Love Will Tear Us Apart as if they were straight off the benches at Old Trafford) and the arrival of the Thai punks and the confused blonde Swedish hairdressers, who, like about 30% of the crowd, would not have been born much before the band's 1989 reunion. Some of the younger crew had their spiffing brand new Singles Going Steady or Sex Pistols shirts on (unlike a few of the more ancient folks who, despite the fact they'd doubled in size, had inadvisably decided to ignore any remaining style instincts left after all those Special Brews had done their work, and squeeze into that Adverts shirt one last time. Cheers for that..)
Then came the headliners. No fuss, no great announcement, they just wandered on stage, tuned up a bit, like the band at the local pub, and then blatted into Boredom which segued effortlessly, hardly surprising after all these years I guess, into the mighty Fast Cars.
I last saw the band in, I think, about 1990, and my first impression this time was that Shelley looked like a happy off duty bus driver (he seems to have shrunk vertically and grown horizontally..haven't we all) and Steve Diggle, in spotted shirt, had something of the Bruce Forsythe about him. Who would've thought that in 1979?
And Brigid and I wondered too, what the very fat guys with cheap striped polo shirts tucked into their walk shorts would've looked like in 1979?
But, y'know, it was The Buzzcocks.....the fucking Buzzcocks, one more time.
And then the first Englishman crashed the stage and knocked over Pete & his amps and staggered up to a victorious meathead arms in the air yeah, before being politely, this being Thailand where even the punks say sorry, tossed off the stage by the bouncers. He deserved something firmer as the rest of the band hobbled vocals-less through the last half of Autonomy, and Shelley had to borrow an amp and swap guitars.
And the scouse wanker who had the poor Thai girl by the throat outside the toilets (people were intervening rather quickly, thank god) needed, and likely was, given the anger of the approaching staff, a swift explanation as to why his behavior was utterly unacceptable, which if he couldn't understand, led to something sterner from the two cops standing outside.
Some people should not travel, or for that matter, leave their shitty council flat.
But, it rolled into What Do I Get and onwards, then Steve Diggle's moment, a longish Harmony In My Head, where he had the same Man U fans singing the chorus en mass. It was well cool. I smiled and sang a lot.
We wandered out after the encore of Oh Shit, Ever Fallen in Love (in which the Swedish girls seemed to finally find a song to know..must be the Shrek effect) and Orgasm Addict, to get a taxi before the masses swamped them.
So, yes, it was nostalgia (which, sadly they didn't play..and no Love Battery...no Love Battery), and it was a bunch of old folks mostly singing along with the tunes one more time.
But It was The Buzzcocks...the fucking Buzzcocks.
Those promises..ohhhh...are made for us..ohhh....