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Own a copy of Buzzcocks at Band on the Wall in 1976? You have Richard to thank - he made the original recording all those years ago. Aswell as attending many early punk gigs in Manchester (yes, he can say ‘I Swear I Was There), he knew some interesting people including Ian Curtis and a certain young man, always known as ‘Steven’, never Steve and certainly not Morrissey. Richard introduces himself below.


To quote from singer John Miles' 1976 smash hit single ‘Music’ - "It will be my first love and it will be my last" sort of just about sums the importance of music to me since I bought my first proper LP in 1973 at the relatively late age of 18. Roxy Music's ‘For Your Pleasure’ was soon followed by Iggy & The Stooges, David Bowie, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Cockney Rebel and Queen amongst others. Also the now celebrated ‘Nuggets’ double LP compilation of American mid to late 60's garage bands on which future Patti Smith Band guitarist Lenny Kaye first made mention of the term 'punk' in reference to a particular type of musician and style of music as exemplified by such artists as the wonderfully named Chocolate Watch Band, the Amboy Dukes, the Electric Prunes and the Count Five to name just a few.

The term punk would of course resurface in 1976 this side of the Atlantic with the advent of a new generation of would be musicians who embraced their new found freedom of expression to create a completely new vibrant and albeit at times ramshackle style of music which owed much to their do it yourself attitude of their American counterparts of just ten years earlier. It would inspire many individuals to take up the mantle in the hope of expressing their artistic leanings,
or in some cases just improving their chances with the 'local birds' and drinking to excess while indulging in their rock n roll fantasies. Unfortunately my own playing ambitions were never to be realised as a succession of various
individuals failed to either arrive at rehearsals or indeed proved to be totally unsuitable in relation to the glam punk ethos that was required.


My search did however bring me into contact with a pre Joy Division Ian Curtis which did result in some loose practice sessions as well as a never previously documented public 'performance' before he moved onto bigger things and an untimely end. Just prior to this episode I had been fortunate enough to attend the second Lesser Free Trade Hall gig in Manchester which featured the Sex Pistols as headliners and included the Howard Devoto fronted Buzzcocks who for my money stole the show.  For me this version of the band has remained a firm favourite to this day and culminated just recently when I managed to locate a CD copy of a recording I made of them in November 1976 on a portable cassette at the Band On The Wall club in Manchester.  Having been fortunate to witness the infamous 'Anarchy Tour' as well as many other memorable acts such as the Ramones, Blondie, Television etc  the lure of the punk scene started to fade in late 77 to early 78 as the whole movement turned into a cartoon parody of itself with the image becoming more important than the music itself.


My continuing admiration of the New York Dolls however, led me to contact a then regular contributor to the music magazines of the day who managed to extol their virtues at every possible opportunity and whose address being at 384 Kings Road in Stretford only lived about half a mile from my house. His name ..... Steven Morrissey, of course. How many other Dolls fans who lived in Stretford in 1979 did you know? A friendship developed and we kept in touch up until the release of the first Smiths LP when his star started to rise and I subsequently changed my job and moved to London. Since those heady days of the mid seventies I've followed the fortunes of a number of different bands and investigated many styles of different music but my fondest memories will always be from the time when I was fortunate enough to be involved with probably the two most iconic figure heads of the Manchester music scene as well as witnessing the original and in my opinion the best Buzzcocks line up on a number of occasions.


SG- Were you originally from Manchester?


RK- Yes, I’ve actually lived here all my life with the exception of a couple of years in London.


SG- Which band did you first witness live?


RK- It would’ve been David Bowie, the Aladdin Sane farewell tour at the Manchester Free Trade Hall 1973.


SG- What took you to the second Lesser Free Trade Hall gig (Pistols, Buzzcocks, Slaughter & The Dogs- July 20th 1976)?


RK- The term punk was being banded around. The only time I’d heard it was in relation to American garage bands of the mid 60’s. Obviously prior to what was taking off in this country there was the American scene that had been going  for maybe two or three years with the likes of Blondie or the Stilletos, I’d heard mention of Iggy & The Stooges who were classified as punk and various other New York bands. Even Kiss at that stage were classified as a punk type band. It was more an attitude really. That’s what I was attracted to; I had no pre-conceived ideas about what I was going to see there. I was hearing things about the Sex Pistols but not to any great extent at that stage, it was all fairly low-key. Even the glamorous exotic names of the bands interested me when I didn’t know too much about the music.


SG- Honest opinion of The Sex Pistols at that gig?


RK- I liked the stance and aggressive nature but Buzzcocks made more of an impression on me than any other thing that night. I wasn’t looking for perfect music or proficiency. I remember Slaughter & The Dogs with green hair and brown/ silver type boiler suit. The Buzzcocks for me were the reason I really got into that band & it happened that particular night.


SG- Please tell us a bit about Buzzcocks with Devoto singing. Any memorable stories?


RK- I wouldn’t normally be attracted to Howard Devoto’s vocal delivery alone but it was just the complete package of the band. Pete Shelley stood out particularly for me,  especially the sound he was getting from the guitar. I just love that driving rough buzz saw noise. The look of it too, it was a Starway wasn’t it? Half a guitar- I thought that was absolutely totally amazing. It was the sum of all four parts really. I was immediately converted. That’s the reason why I saw the number of gigs I did but unfortunately not as many as I could have done. I saw them with Eater who were completely heckled off the stage and was introduced to Ian Curtis there.


SG- I believe you only saw them once with Pete Shelley as front man, why was this?


RK- It didn’t appeal to me as much. I know I definitely went down to a gig at the Croydon Greyhound. That was fairly late on. I may have seen them once more at the Oaks pub in Chorlton, a good punk venue in Manchester at the time. For me it lacked the punch that the original Buzzcocks had. Nothing against anyone personally but I was moving away from punk/new wave and what it was becoming. Maybe I preferred something a little bit more aggressive. I’ve got very wide musical taste and have moved to virtually every spectrum possible. It didn’t have the hard edge of the original band, maybe a little bit too poppy for me at the time. I loved The Things with John Maher (Buzzcocks drummer) but only saw them once, I wish I’d seen them again- such a fantastic band. They were incredible.


SG- Did you follow Devoto’s band, Magazine?


RK- No I didn’t. I’d known the Magazine drummer, Martin Jackson for three or four years. I think we bumped into each other in Virgin Records on Lever Street Manchester, a very tiny store. We were into the same type of music at that time; Kiss, Rush, Angel and various American heavy rock/glam type bands. We’d have competitions to see who could get the first thing on import. I’d go round to his house and listen to music. He had two massive drum kits in his bedroom/practice area. We were in and out of touch. I knew he was going for a drummers position, but didn’t realise it was with Magazine until a little later. I love ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’, a fantastic track. It reminds me a bit of ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’.


SG- Have you seen the Brass Tacks documentary (about the Manchester scene filmed summer 1977)? It seems strange to think that punk caused such an outrage.


RK- If I have I don’t remember. I bought that Screen on the Green recording with a commentary from television about punk demonising society.


SG -Which clubs or places did you frequent?


RK- The Electric Circus in Collyhurst, a completely run down hovel, basically a shell with stage and bar, The Oaks pub near Chorlton where I saw The Heartbreakers, The Adverts, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Rafters on Oxford Road. There was The Beach Club where I saw The Things, a great place on two floors. Upstairs you could watch cult films like ‘Freaks’ while bands played downstairs. Also The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Belle Vue.



SG- How did you meet Ian Curtis?


RK- For some while I’d been trying to get a band together with anyone who’d be prepared to join in. A very frustrating experience as people would turn up, drummers with no kits or sticks and guitarists without instruments. I had a bass guitar and an amplifier. An ad was answered by Iain Gray a very good guitarist who’d had some success with a band called Wild Ram. He turned up with Ian Curtis at the Buzzcocks/Eater gig as a potential vocalist. I’m not quite sure how he found him. From that point on we needed somewhere to rehearse. We had a community hall on Shrewsbury Street, Moss Side. Ian Curtis was obviously married at the time; I think he had a Grandmother or some relative living on Henrietta Street near the rehearsal space. We had very loose sessions, they were fairly ramshackle- the will was there but not much musical ability. Iain Gray would take over the proceedings & basically say “Stepping Stone” or “New Rose”. We didn’t sit down & have discussions; they were more like jam sessions. We had maybe three or four rehearsals there, maybe three at the most to be honest.


We did venture out for a rough practice in a local pub on Alexandra Road, Moss side. We set up in The Little Western pub (although there was a Great Western pub too). I think Ian Curtis had a small orange amplifier. It wasn’t really a room with people sitting & drinking, it was set away from the main bar area. People would wander in, take a look & go out again. I will never forget when an elderly man came close and whispered to me in hushed tones that he thought we were OK but he didn’t think much of the vocalist! You couldn’t make it up if you tried. I just wish I’d taken my reel to reel recorder to the practices, or my camera at the very least. There was one other session at Martin Jackson’s house minus Iain Gray with one of my oldest friends who was a guitarist. We just blasted along there with Ian Curtis screaming his head off, just yelling anything that came into his mind.


SG- Did you have a drummer?


RK- We just couldn’t get one at-all. We kept advertising but couldn’t find anybody.


SG -What was the name of the band?


RK- There wasn’t one. We all had different ideas. I chose The Hollywood Stars but we weren’t from Hollywood or stars either (laughs). I really wanted a New York Dolls kind of band.


SG- Did you see Joy Division live?


RK- No, never…after that particular time there was no further contact. I would read the music press and see reviews of Warsaw or Joy Division. I didn’t really have any deep meaningful conversations with Ian Curtis; we spoke about the virtues of the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, Iggy Pop and music. He seemed to be an incredibly shy person. It was difficult in some ways to communicate with him. He was quite close with Iain Gray but kept to himself. 


SG- How did you get together with Morrissey? Did you think he’d become so well known?


RK- No, he’s obviously a very bright person. Morrissey loved the New York Dolls and his name would appear regularly in the music papers with his letters supporting the cause. I was a big fan so decided to call him. I got his number via directory enquiries. In the late 70’s people weren’t ex directory. I told him I’d like to meet up for a chat about the New York Dolls who I’d been into since 1973. He lived literally on the other side of the roundabout, invited me round and that’s basically how it started. We didn’t go out to pubs but would attend gigs together.

SG- Any memorable ones?

RK- The Cramps- we were both massive fans, The Motels, a Canadian band. Martha Davis is the lead vocalist, she’s still singing to this day. She has a very emotive voice. Morrissey was well into them.


L-R Tim McGovern, Martha Davis (Motels), Richard and Steven Morrisey 12/9/80


I still have a picture of us backstage with Martha and the guitarist from December 1980. I did have other photos taken in various places. He had a friend, James Maker, when he visited he’d be wearing court shoes & tight trousers.  I took a classic photo in a local shopping precinct of Morrissey sitting on one side, James Maker on the other and two old ladies clutching their shopping bags rising to get up in sheer horror. There were others of them swinging from lamp posts & standing on park benches. I wish I still had this fantastic evidence


SG - So he’s not painfully shy?


RK- No he wasn’t with me. He didn’t appear shy. From that first meeting we’d go to each others houses, listen and discuss music generally. He turned me very much on to 60’s beat music. His record collection contained Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Sandy Shaw, etc. We would crease up with laughter about anything. I think he’s one of the funniest people I’ve known. That really shows in interviews with people like Jonathan Ross and others. To me, he’s taking the mickey out of the interview without really doing it openly. He’s very much like a carry-on type of character.


SG - If you were shy you wouldn’t meet a total stranger who rings you up out of the blue (laughs). How did the friendship end?


RK- I saw the very first Smiths gig at the Ritz in Manchester. We simply drifted apart around the time of the Smiths debut LP. He was probably starting to write more songs which became important so the friendship fizzled out. I did get a postcard with Vivien Nicholson on the front saying “fame isn’t as great as it’s made out to be, yours Steven”. I took that to work and I’m sure somebody pinched it.


SG- Punk was all over for you by late 1977 & became cartoon-like?


RK- I think so because at this time there was the Mohican cut and bin liners. It wasn’t a fashion thing at-all for me at the beginning. You didn’t have to look like any particular person to be into punk in ’76, there was no uniform certainly not in the provinces or Manchester. We didn’t have a set of individuals like The Bromley contingent or whoever. I probably had long hair at the time. I’d have combinations like drainpipe jeans, big platform boots, an Andy Warhol top with a soup can on it and afro hair. I then moved onto shirts smeared with lipstick. I remember pinching my sister’s feather boa slightly later on. The punk scene wasn’t about image, it was about the music.


SG - Do you think there was snobbery around punk and did these 15/16 year old kids (like me) that started going to gigs become an annoyance? I think the answer’s probably “yes” isn’t it (laughs).


RK- People always like to be able to say they were into something at the beginning when it started whether it be rock ‘n’ roll or beat music (laughs). It’s only because more & more bands were forming and the quality wasn’t getting any better. For example, the likes of Sid Vicious joining the Sex Pistols- to me he was the most talentless buffoon that ever walked the planet. He had the image that some people wanted but I’d no time for that. I enjoyed it at the beginning but it wasn’t for me any more.


SG- What did you move onto afterwards?


RK- Steven Morrissey introduced me to Japan in 1978. He was corresponding with various people concerning the New York Dolls and would obtain cuttings about certain bands including some from Bravo magazine, a German publication. People were sending him pictures of a band called Japan. They had very long hair and were touted as the new NYD. He would pass on any cuttings or information from his contacts. I started watching them around late ‘78, travelling down to London. I first saw them at the music machine in Camden & other venues. My musical taste is diverse and at the same time I’d be watching Mungo Jerry and was into Donovan.


SG- How do you feel about bands like Buzzcocks performing to this day? Would you ever go to see them live?


RK- Having got into them again recently I’m toying with the idea that perhaps I should go.


SG- I think you should, although you might become addicted. Did you know them years ago?


RK- The main contact really was with John Maher- I can’t remember how it happened, I was talking to him about music in general after a gig. He came to my flat in Chorlton a couple of times.


SG- Do you still go to gigs or follow music now?


RK- I don’t really go to gigs any more. I just can’t summon up the energy, unlike you. When I first started seeing bands like Queen & Cockney Rebel everyone sat down and you’d still enjoy it. Even watching the punk gigs a few people may’ve jumped up and down but people did stand and watch. I’m not into moshpits, certainly not at my age anyway. I don’t really listen to much current day music. I still buy vinyl and am sitting here looking at a pile of 3,500 albums.


Thanks so much Richard. This is one of the most enjoyable chats I’ve had lately. Fascinating stuff!!  


Interview by Shelley Guild 23.12.08


Photo’s courtesy of Bernie Wilcox (Electric Circus), David Holmes (The Things) and Richard’s personal collection.

Thanks to the Manchester District Music Archive.


Mudkiss© 2009


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