Tamworth Bands History : 1988
Well, well, well!! 75,000 of Sam Holliday's delightful words and 3 months later and here we are with the history of the Tamworth music scene in 1988.
This was the year of the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; Tom, Dick and Harry; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas; Best, Law and Charlton and above all - Wolfsbane, Catch 23 and The DHSS.
What a year my mateys!!! What a f*%"!+g year!!!!
The year began with victory for that other mega-band Dance Stance - winners of the 1987 Musicbox Poll but the first major Musicbox feature of 1988 was of the latest incarnation of The DHSS. That band originally formed in 1979 by two drunk punks Rikk Quay and Edward ian Armchair had returned. The two original members were joined by John Reeman, widely (and rightfully) regarded as one of the best songwriters in the area and Anice Byfield (ex-Orange, Sitting Pretty, XPD etc.), delighted to have been reawakened by the ambitious trio of males who were her fellow members of ‘the Department’. And what a year the band were to have in 1988.
Early February saw a change to the usual Battle of the Bands competition with the all-new ‘Most Promising Band of the Year’ contest judged by members of the more established local bands.
The almighty Wolfsbane started the year as they were to continue making their Radio One debut on February 19th. The Sexmetalists travelled down to London to record a four-track session for the popular Tommy Vance Friday Rockshow.
The third member of the Holy Trinity, Catch 23 also made 1988 their year winning through to the final of the TSB National Rock School contest - more news later!!
Early March saw the exciting final of the Battle of the Bands with The Conspiracy, New Age Gypsies, Kraze and the DELIGHTED SCREAM Dream who won the 1988 Tamworth Battle of the Bands title on Friday 4th after a thrilling final. Just a week later on Friday 11th March a unique concert took place at the Assembly Rooms - Scream Dream were joined at the Scum Ball by Spiral Eye, Mr Cyn and New Age Gypsies and The Detroit Sinners.
Early April saw Sam Holliday write: "I have another unforgettable occasion to lock away into my musical memory – the final of the superbly-organised and prestigious competition (the TSB Rock School)... Catch 23 came in third in the Rockschool final following an exciting, energetic performance." The band as a result appeared on Saturday morning national TV.
Metal Mixed With Machines
And then on April 10th 1988 - what was to prove to be one of the gigs of the year: Wolfsbane, Kraze and The DHSS (making their debut) at Tamworth Arts Centre. The gig itself was a wonderful evening of "metal mixed with machines" but it was the hype that was to follow that keeps it clear in the memory for all those who attended. With headlines such as "Punk hurls ashes over pop fans", "Punk scatters Father's ashes at pop crowd", "Punk's ashes shocker", "Ashes hurled over fans by punk" - people to this day talk about being covered in human remains. Of course it was all a complete fabrication and gained The DHSS the notoriety they craved.
The band showing their true, caring side played a benefit gig at the Tavern in the Town later in the month with George the Roadie being suitably impressed.
And then...finally...in the Musicbox column of May 5th 1988 we read the news we had all been waiting for..under the headline: "Rock Kings Crowned" - we read how the almighty Wolfsbane had finally broken into the big time. The band had been snapped up by Def Jam Records, the home of the Beastie Boys, for an eight album deal.
Scream Dream got to play with Sex Gang Children, Rape in Yellow, The Searching and The Conspiracy regularly played top-notch venues in and around Birmingham, Fetch Eddie released their debut single "He'll Love You 'til You're Pregnant", The Liberty Caps made the national press and Dance Stance supported Hazel O'Connor.
Wolfsbane's monster year continued throughout the summer with a front page of Sounds, and full centre-spread feature - and as Sam Holliday stated - Musicbox's features seemed understated compared to the national coverage the band received.
July saw the unique Tamworth Rock Festival Album, completely funded by the bands themselves, 18 tracks of local talent proved what a fantastic scene the town now possessed. From the opening chords of TAMAID with it's Band Aid-esque vocal efforts to the final 'shocking' words of Sweet Sixteen by The DHSS - the £2.50 cassette tape had everything - and still to this day, more than 20 years later, sounds fresh and exciting.
For the first time, the Tamworth Rock Fetsival took place in July, no longer over the rain-sodden August Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday it now happened on a rain-sodden Saturday and Sunday in the middle of July instead.
The Festival had its traditional Arts Centre party night on the Friday featuring four very contrasting bands – The Jim Crows Blues Company, The Magnets, The Green Swings and The Parade. And then under the headline "Tamworth Rock Kings Set to Dazzle" the Herald listed the line-up for the two-day musical extravaganza:
Saturday July 16 – Tamworth Castle Grounds admission free 11am-7pm – Torn in Two, Shellshock, The Searching, DHSS, Wolfsbane, The Conspiracy, Never Say Die, Kubla Khan.
Sunday July 17 – Tamworth Castle Grounds admission fee 11am-7pm – Cuddly Spiders, Rape in Yellow, Future Field, Fetch Eddie, Catch 23, Kraze, Scream Dream, Breaking Point and A5.
T-shirts, badges, posters, programmes and cassette tapes were on sale and snapped up by everyone.
And then at the end of July, almost as monumental as the Festival itself, were the two Wolfsbane farewell gigs - sending them off on their way to LA and their new life as Def-Jam recording artists.
There was another successful Scum Ball in August - again at the Assembly Rooms featuring Spiral Eye, Scream Dream and with The First and The Macoys. Dance Stance had a successful end to August playing a series of concerts in Jersey, in September and October they played a series of University concerts but then a very, very sad november saw the untimely death of manager and sinpirational figure - Ray Sheasby. R.I.P.
September saw the beginning of a new phenomena in the town, the Sonic Noise Happening, inspired by the success of Emma Gibbs Loves Badges and 'radically' standing up to the established local music scene, the line-up included: Emma Gibbs Loves Badges, Ruby Blaze, The Outside, Flowers in the Attic, The Eppies and the Ferocious Apaches.
Other bands who saw success in the year were Spiral Eye, The Macoys, The Space Seeds, Kraze (later to change their name to Lyve) The Conspiracy (later to change their name to The First Conspiracy). New bands who appeared included Stench, Psychedelicatessen and King Woderick and the Yogots.
And finally, to December 1988. This turned out to be one band's month and one band only - The DHSS. The month started with the release of their new demo "Film Stars and Credit Cards" - described by Sam Holliday as 'magical', 'a three-track masterpiece', 'three glorious songs in seven minutes'.
On 16th December, thanks to a ‘friend’ of the band who sent a tape to Sigue Sigue Sputnik suggesting that DHSS would make an ideal support band for them, the band responded and lo and behold, DHSS supported Sigue Sigue Sputnik at Stourbridge Town Hall. The gig was a huge success and for those fans who couldn't make it the band played Tamworth Arts Centre just two days later supported by King Woderick and the Yogots and The Soil Brothers (sadly Stench were banned).
And then in the last Musicbox of the year under the headline "DHSS Claim Their Benefit" we read how The DHSS had won the Musicbox Poll for 1988. Top local band, six different songs chosen as top song, three different gigs in top 20 concerts – one amazing year!