In this article David Brammer a current Hull University Union External Trustee, and a 1979 English and History graduate, visits the archives to read through old issues of HullFire and recollect the bands that played Hull between 1976 and 1980. We are grateful to Hull University Archives for sharing images from some of those copies of HullFire in this article.
At the end of January 2019, some 40 years after I graduated, I revisited Hull to attend an interview for a position as an external trustee at Hull University Union Limited. This was an interesting experience in itself, with a trip to the University campus and the opportunity to revisit old haunts, but I had also prearranged a visit to the archive at the Hull History Centre in town. My research project was to read and review ‘HullFire’, the student newspaper and in particular, editions published between the years of 1976 to 1979. I made an appointment, was issued with a reader’s card that gets me into all sorts of similar facilities all over the country and set about the task in the Reading Room. I also added the editions up to 1980 to my list at the request of Gerry McMahon, who lived with me for two years in a student house in Auckland Avenue, in close proximity to the Union Bar.
My original plan was simply to jot down the bands I had seen in the mid-to-late 70s. As I read through the archived editions of the newspaper, I found much more wider social interest issues emerging as a result of the articles in Hullfire.
The following is a summary of my research, bearing in mind that I mainly attended concerts in the main Union Hall and also at the Round folk club, with the occasional foray to City Hall and other venues. I went away to University in October 1976, wearing flared trousers and platform heels, with a predilection for Bob Dylan, but was fortunate to be at University when punk exploded and changed music and attitudes forever. I also made many friends who accompanied me to gigs and introduced me to their own ‘record collections’, because this era was still strictly vinyl and the concept of music downloads was science fiction to us. The university computer at the time was said to inhabit a vast basement in the Physics Department and the concept of virtual lectures was unheard of.
Immediately before my arrival in October ‘76, there had been a major prison riot at Hull prison which took up some space in the journal. To put this into context as well, the Humber Bridge was not yet open and Hull was, frankly, even more remote than it is now. The city had a fairly grim aspect, but we visited and explored regularly to discover the magnificent old pubs many of which still survive. So, in roughly chronological order and with my probably misremembered musings….
• Graham Parker And The Rumour.
• Split Enz.
• Shaking Stevens And The Sunsets.
• Roger McGough and Brian Patten performed (but I think I missed this one).
• Clive James.
• Deaf School.
• Kokomo – Christmas ball.
• String Driven Thing.
• Lone Star – ? Can’t remember this one.
There is an interesting – now very dated – article in Hullfire in 1976 – “Is Your Room Mate a Male Homosexual?’ In my case, he wasn’t.
One random article, after one of the writers bumped into the punk legend on a train: ‘Johnny Rotten isn’t hard to recognise – if there is an uglier person in the world he’s probably in the Sex Pistols anyway’ (!)
• Silly Wizard.
• John Peel disco at the Lawns (- missed this one).
• John Stevens Away (- Jazz! Nice!!).
• Procol Harum at City Hall – distinguished by the fact that the Hall messed up the encores, lights went on at 10.30pm sharp to comply with their licence and we didn’t get to hear more than the opening bars of ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ – this is recorded in the review of the article.
• Gordon Giltrap, in the upstairs bar.
• Street Walker with Roger Chapman.
Insights into other activities – ‘Friday night’s alright in Beverley’ – Hullfire reporting the general anarchy which took place in the market town and on the train when students visited.
It was recorded that the student accommodation was struggling to cope with the intake of 5770 students.
Union ball ‘77 – Suzi Quattro – Supercharge – Silly Wizard.
The occupation of the Arts Block and other buildings was recorded in Hullfire on March ‘77, with Rashpal Singh from the Socialist Revolutionary Party (or was it the Revolutionary Socialist Party?) and others at the fore. I think I popped in for about 20 minutes, but even this personal sacrifice failed to persuade the University to disinvest in South Africa.
The bands continue,
• Alberto y Los Trios Paranoias.
• Kevin Ayers, May 4th 1977.
12th May 1977 –‘soccer sex scandal’ – the Football Club Old Boys visited and caused havoc.
• Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers at the Queens Gardens in Hull.
• Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson at the Round – 30 May 1977 – this was 50p to get in but is mainly memorable for Tech Coms incompetence and Martin Carthy’s general grumpiness.
• Ian Maclagan and the Small Faces were due to turn up but never came – replaced by the Kursaal Flyers on 17 July 1977. It is recorded that Small Faces originally asked £3000 reduced to £1500, but that the Flyers were happy to take a reduced rate of £900. This does not seem a lot of money, even in those days.
‘Staggering booze problems’ and similar – the subject of several articles.
• Five Hand Reel performed at the Lawns.
• The Clash – I think that this was the coach trip ‘Ents’ organised to Leeds which I missed out on, due to my usual apathy, thereby providing me with an anecdote for life: ‘the concert that I most regret missing’, although I’m not sure they would have let me on the bus in my flared denim jeans, with all the part time punks.
• Deaf School (again).
• Caravan- 22nd of October 1972.
• Phil Manzanera,ex of Roxy Music as a solo act.
• No Dice / the Rods, 13th of October 1977.
• Chris Spedding.
• The Damned, 19th November 1977.
• Battlefield Band.
• Bill Caddick.
• Van de Graaf Generator – almost certainly gave this one a miss, too hippy and progressive for me.
• The Adverts – they were looking through Gary Gilmour’s eyes.
• Split Enz – again.
• Steeleye Span (sold out in the town).
• Wreckless Eric was on at Tiffany’s (bizarrely, although I have been reliably informed that he was a student at the adjoining teacher training college and wrote his biggest hit ‘Whole Wide World’ sitting on a bench on Cottingham Road).
• Nic Jones.
• May 16th, Lindisfarne (reformed).
• Graham Parker – much better reviews this time around.
• Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers for £1.50.
• The Pirates at Tiffany’s – veterans of the 60s and adopted by the punk scenes, but they ‘would not play there again because of the violence’.
• The Fabulous Poodles
The comedian Charlie Williams was on at the New Theatre for ticket prices between 80p and £1.50 – completely off my radar though.
• 23rd of October 1978 Steele Pulse for £1.40.
• The 2nd Stiff Tour, November 20th: for £1.50 you got Wreckless Eric, Mickey Judd, Jonah Lewie, Lena Lovich, Rachel Sweet – all arriving on their special train.
• 9 November 1978 Dire Straits – ‘highly rated R&B New Wave’ 90p or £1 on the door. Another one I missed due to apathy, although I was aware of their recently released first single, ‘Sultans of Swing’.
• The Pirates, 9th October 2078.
• November 3 – Dick Gaughan and Five Hand Reel.
• 28th of October 1978, Budgie and Strife.
Rock discos on Sunday nights were a regular. You could recite the track list and it always ended with Freebird.
The new editor of Hullfire was reported to be Dave Hopps ‘a third year English student, who was the first editor to be born north of Birmingham.’ Redvers Williams was the sports editor of similar vintage. Both went on to successful careers in sports journalism and were enthusiastic intra mural footballers (‘Athletico Vatican’ / ‘Borussia Munchen Cranbrook ’ / ‘Ajax Auckland’).
Only 550 of the student body bothered to vote in the elections in November – less than one eighth of the student body and returns show that Dave Hansen – Broad Left – won the presidency with 263 votes followed by Rob Oliver (FCS), 263 Vince Feiner (Broad Left), 232 Dave Belmont 210 (FCS). (Yes, I know those numbers do not stack up). What becomes really obvious in reading Hullfire is that the photographs and the articles are completely dominated by the so called ‘hacks’ and their articles. In fairness, this was probably split 50-50 with the sports reports but shows how apathetic and uninvolved most students were, leaving ‘the hacks to run the show’, although our generation frequently assert that we were much more politically aware than modern students and were living through significant political turmoil.
There are numerous articles about boozing and various booze related incidents. The Rugby Union Club was suspended and their annual dinner resulted in a bill for £583 being sent to them. There are regular reports of visiting sports – mainly rugby and football – teams and old students returning to cause chaos and disruption.
• Dire Straits – the reviewer was struggling a bit : ‘really indefinable but something like new wave…”.
• 16th of November 1978 – the Albion Band.
• 23rd of November 1978 – Frankie Miller’.
‘Reclaim the Night’ – an article and campaign, with reports of girls being molested in Auckland and Cranbrook Avenues. In Auckland Avenue there were frequent incidents and ‘prowlers’ reported in early evening.
16th January 1979 edition – the resignation of the president Ian Jackson for ‘bringing and consuming a small amount of cannabis in the Union’. Follow-up article: ‘I was stupid’.
The Pirates return again – ‘do the students here want live bands?’ Very few of recent live concerts were sold out, although all of the discos have record attendances. There was also an ongoing debate about whether to admit ‘townies’ to gigs and whether students were prepared to sign them in. Approximately 3-400 people attended the Pirates concerts and the band were paid £500.
And yet another article about the unruly element – “A renegade bunch of hooligans and disgusting Neanderthals are relentlessly pursuing the aim of rendering student house parties a thing of the past”.
• 10th of December ‘Radio Stars’ (?).
• 24th February ’79, Eddie & the Hot Rods.
• One Eyed Jack – folk club on the Friday night.
• Roger McGough performed in the Haworth Arms and I definitely attended this – it was very crowded.
One saga surrounding a student devours pages of column inches over many editions- he clearly got the politicos going – the student in question was a politics student, arrested under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act, following a student demonstration brought about his release, but it was then alleged to be a UDA member – he was quoted as saying that he was so scared that he had to be moved to a cell in the police station with a toilet. There is also a letter from another contemporary, on the 8th February 1979, complaining about the Irish racist jokes in the Rag Mag and pointing out how proud he was to be Irish. The Peace Process in Northern Ireland was still a long way off at this point and these extracts from Hullfire show that the political discussion was very polarised.
22nd February 1979 this edition of Hullfire begins with the headline ‘Behave!’
• Radio Stars – ‘the bar extension until 11.30 was an unexpected bonus’.
• 8th March 1979 edition – the student loyalist, Tony McRoy, then claimed that he was being blackmailed by the police and 170 students signed a motion to expel him, once it became known he was also [alleged to be ] a National Front member– ‘if he stays here that I don’t see why Adolf Hitler isn’t allowed in’ said an SWSA spokesman. (Err, I think you’ll find that Adolf was – even in 1979, probably already – dead.).
• 10th March ’79 – the Only Ones.
• 9th March 1979 Magazine (at the Queens Gardens)?
• 16th of March 1979 The Skids – also at the Queens Gardens.
15 March 1979 edition – Fury over McRoy case gathers – he was expelled from the University union.
A Politics lecturer at the time, Martin Shaw, is quoted in Hullfire as saying ‘it is not possible to carry on proper academic activity knowing that they could be a police informer sitting at the back of a lecture theatre’.
• 3 May 1979 – the Undertones – (Hurrah) – £1.25.
Auckland Avenue Aggravation’ – student parties are one cause of annoyance – loud music goes on until 2:30 AM – Mark Perryman.
• No Dice.
16th of October 1979 – the Rambling Club (HUFRC) coach crash was reported. I remember this tragic event very well although I had left the University by then – ‘the press were heartless’ – 3 students died and 28 were injured, sadly the dead included people I knew. What is remarkable to me is how little reporting there was of this disaster in Hullfire.
• 18th October 1979 – the Adverts.
• 25th October 1979 – Ted Hughes was at the Middleton Hall.
Gay life in Hull was in an embryonic state: ‘believe it or not, Hull does have a few places were gays can meet in a social context without having to hide their true preferences’ – the Earl Grey, the Wellington Club and the Silhouette were commented on in this article. In comparison, Chas and Dave performed at the Fresher’s Ball and the Hullfire review said the concert was met with indifference – 100 drunken revellers at the front, but most students were appalled by their ‘crude and blatantly sexist material’.
• 10th October 1979, Madness at the Union Ball.
• Siouxsie and the Banshees.
• The Cure? – ‘mechanistic music but with soul’.
• 27th November 1979 – Dr Feelgood at the City Hall.
• Richard and Linda Thompson.
• Psychedelic Furs at the Wellington Club.
• 12th November 1979 – Generation X, also at the Wellington Club.
• 22nd November 1979 – John Cooper Clarke at the Wellington Club.
Unfortunately for me, the Wellington Club didn’t really get into its stride until late 1979 or 1980 and the Nightclubs in the town were not generally inviting to students. There were even more bar brawls in the Union commented on and a ‘gang dressed in white boiler suits with water pistols’ – after my time, of course, but more evidence of the booze culture that dominated. ‘Nudes in bar room’ caused complaints from the Women’s Action Group: these were fairly unreconstructed times.
• Chrissy Hynde and the Pretenders.
• Squeeze and Wreckless Eric and the City Hall.
• The Thin Men at the Wellington.
• 4th March 1980 – Dexy’s Midnight Runners – they only cost £1.50 and, famously, they were late, having been booted off the train to Hull at Doncaster for not having tickets.
‘Hull student assaults National front leader’ – Mark Radford.
• John Le Carre gives a talk at the University.
• Slade performed at the Union Ball.
• Mud were at the New Theatre on 5 March 1980.
More vandalism at yet another football club reunion
• The Cure, 1st May 1980.
• 24th April 1980, Steve Gibbons at the HCHE.
• 26th May 1980, A Teardrop Explodes at the Wellington.
• 5th June 1980, Psychedelic Furs at the Wellington.
• The Human League performed at the City Hall.
Finally, famously, and most regrettably, although we all knew all the words to his hits, Gary Glitter headlined the Rag Ball on 26 June 1980. I saw him at least once during my time and heard many stories of how welcoming he was to fans after his gigs(!).
It all now makes fascinating reading. The University has grown to probably three times the size it was then and the business of providing student entertainment is vastly more sophisticated, as indeed are the students who are the consumers.
If another conclusion can be drawn, it is how rough and ready the world was in those days and the ‘sophistication’ of new wave punk really only started to have an impact in 1979 and 1980. Much of the entertainment on offer was middle-of-the-road and at best raucous – probably quite badly performed on terrible sound systems – rhythm and blues.
Lots of strident memories remain, even through the general alcoholic haze which prevailed and still prevails for me and my generation (still hoping we die before we get old).
For myself, I have enjoyed revisiting the city and the University in my new role as a Non Executive Director of the University Union, although we have been plunged into a new era by Covid 19 presenting numerous challenges for the future. The City of Culture process in and around 2017 was transformative and has brought new and vibrant influences to Hull. If any former alumni are interested there are vacancies for trustees at present and the University would love to hear from anyone with relevant skills and commitment to offer. We might also find the time to swap stories about bands and gigs – I am very aware from recent social media posts that each generation of students has a different tale to tell.