Historical context note:
1984 was a highly politicised time in Britain. The miners strike was on, polarising a nation and showing the Thatcher government's determination to sweep aside trade unionism, local democracy, anything that stood in the way of free-market capitalism. Irritated by the way urban voters always elected left-wing local government, they simply abolished a number of the councils, including the hugely popular Greater London Council, centralising power to national government. After this move was announced, the GLC put on a number of events to garner support, and this gig at Brixton's Brockwell Park was one of them. The gig was addressed by GLC leader Ken Livingstone.
Seventeen years later when a new mayoral system was introduced to London, Livingstone's Labour Party refused to have him as their candidate because he'd openly criticised the Labour government. He resigned from the party, stood as an independent and won by a landslide. He remains mayor of London.
11 August 1984
THE DAMNED / SPEAR OF DESTINY
The second annual Bottle And Beer Can Throwing Competitions were once again held at Brockwell Park - and what a lovely day it was for it too. At first, it was feared that play would be stopped due to bad weather, but by noon the rain had cleared and contestants filled the George Canning pub on the way to the Park, preparing themselves for the big play-off.
Proper diet is essential in a sport like bottle-throwing - insufficient alcohol and the brain will fail to see the point of the game at all, and the attacking arm will hang quietly at one's side.
The GLC [Greater London Council] had thoughtfully arranged for some musical accompaniment for today's match, which also provided competitors with some necessary moving targets. After all, there's not much of a challenge in pitching cans at a forty foot stage, is there? Many of them have spent hours each day training in their bedrooms - tossing full cans at their Damned bootlegs, hurling bricks at the TV, and hurling glass bottles straight up at the ceiling while lying in bed.
In fact, if any of today's athletes have not tried these simple training techniques, my advice to them is to begin immediately. It will make all the difference to their game.
But leaving sport for a moment, let's turn our attention to the targets - who have given their services today in support of the GLC.
The sun arrived at Brockwell Park at the same time as I did - just in time to hear The Opposition say 'thankyou, good afternoon'. I'm told they were very good, very poppy, rocky, young-Police sounding, and you should have seen them. Just my luck, then, to miss them and catch Pleasure and The Beast.
Carole Segal, already hard at work with her Pentax, was a veritable mine of information, telling me that singer Robert Pereno is famous for his bit parts in Minder. Had I not known this, I would have guessed his occupation to be Portobello Market Trader (antique end) - just shows how wrong you can be.
But the man is still a prat. He has a Meatloaf-type relationship (on stage anyway) with LA Richards, the singing blonde, which is rather putrid to watch so early in the day. When Pereno wasn't busy tossing glitter about, he was crawling all over her, and much to my disappointment she didn't beat him senseless with her mike-stand but actually encouraged him. A pity, because I quite liked their single 'God's Empty Chair'.
Whoever put Hi-Jinx on the bill did the all-girl band a serious disservice. Nobody really wanted to hear their self-conscious blend of calypso and socialism, and we scurried off to buy cigarettes just as they were introducing their second number. 'This one's about the manufacturing industry,' they said, and away we ran.
And so to Brilliant, earlier on the bill than they deserved, but at least it was the safe half of the afternoon - the first division bottle tossers were still in the pub. The worst they had to contend with was the shouts of 'Get on with it you long-haired bastard' directed at Youth, and a barrage of lewd suggestions from the girls at the front who got an unexpected eyeful of what Youths wear (or don't wear) under their Levi's.
In the too brief time allocated to them, they didn't have a chance to build the momentum that normally carries them through their second half - but theirs was still one of the brightest spots of the day. June was in effortlessly fine voice and their quirky percussion and combination basslines are one of the happier memories I took home with me.
I've long admired Joolz, and my opinion of her rocketed after her Performance Under Fire. Before she even began the first green missile clunked at her feet and she snapped into action. 'I tell you this, wanker, and I tell you this now,' she bellowed at the perpetrator, 'if you're such a coward you have to hide in a crowd and chuck cans, you ain't no man'.
An enormous roar of applause went up at this, the hail of beer cans slowed to an uncertain trickle and the moron quotient contented itself with trying to shout her down. Fat chance.
Her new single, 'The Kiss' is about Casuals, but you could change the words 'Pringle sweaters' to 'leather jackets' or 'Dr Martens' for an accurate description of gang mentality, loyalty and, incidentally, growing up, in any camp. 'The Tattooist' also gave the mob something to think about not too far removed from their favourite subject of their own sweet selves, but 'At Dawn' (about the miners) wasn't about them at all, and therefore 'boring'.
At the end of each piece, Joolz looked them in the eye and barked a single command: 'Clap!'. They clapped. They cheered. They lost. Joolz won. Every time.
That marked the end of the beginning. New Model Army greeted their audience with a sneer, and as the flashed into 'Christian Militia' the barricade that separated them from Brockwell Park en masse started to teeter. Throughout their set, the drama at the front line underscored their sentiments, as vast numbers of large bodies wearing August 4 T-shirts were dispensed to find extra scaffolding, as if in preparation for some natural disaster.
New Model Army are a genuine new voice. For a three-piece, they pack the muscle of an entire platoon and Stuart's bass is pure excitement. What's more, their message comes across without resorting to bubble-headed slogans. They don't simply rage against institutions and establishments, they advocate strength - taking responsibility for your own life and not simply ducking the issues or escaping reality by whichever means is fashionable this week.
But whether such an active message fell on fertile ground today is doubtful. A negative idea like 'Kill Thatcher' is acceptable enough because no-one intends to carry it out, but anything positive like 'Support The GLC', which involves doing something, scares these children off. Why lift a finger to help yourself when you can sit all day on your bum and get pissed while some conveniently remote organisation provides free entertainment.
That's the kind of attitude that keeps this government in power - thousands of people too lazy to go out and vote, too lethargic to form opinions beyond the easy option of 'anarchy' or 'Kill Thatcher'.
But enough of this, the arrival of The Fall seemed like the perfect opportunity to take in some atmosphere.
Out on the fringes, away from the sticky aroma of solvents, cider and vomit, it was possible to have a pleasant day. Boys with lipstick happily smeared over their shaved heads slept in the sun, legs were being tanned through fishnet tights… Leon's vegetarian food stall was doing huge business, scores of people wandered around weighed down by his monstrous salad plates, cheap at £1.80 a throw.
I kept walking till I found what I was looking for. Coffee 30p, it said - the sweetest lyrics I'd heard all day. I stayed for an encore and radioed my colleague Not-David Coleman, somewhere in the middle, for a report on The Fall.
Well, on an afternoon so typically British in climate, The Fall, probably the most British band in existence, proved to be quite surprising. The brutal rhythm section and Mark Smith's pummelling delivery are still unmistakably in evidence, but there is without a doubt a newfound positive note in their work.
Especially with their new single 'Creep' there are definite tunes floating around over the sub-rockabilly structures.
I find Brix Smith's obviously American persona to be a bit at odds with the rest of the band, but she's obviously a part of this winning combination as shown by the enthusiastic reaction they received today.
'The Livingstone Rap' was playing as I wandered back to the action, heralding the arrival of the man himself. What he had to say is of more significance than any of the day's other performances.
'Some of you may have read in the papers over the last couple of days that I have resigned as the leader of the GLC. That's true. We've said to this government we are going back to the people who put us here and ask them what they want us to do, and we say now to Thatcher - if you've got the guts stand and fight us at the election…
'We've seen what the Tories have already planned - they announced yesterday they intend to cut 15,000 jobs from London Transport and increase the fares and cut the services…
'This Government tries to abolish us because we represent an alternative, and that alternative isn't just a few people at the GLC - you are part of that alternative as well… what they fear about the GLC is that we have started to show that you don't have to operate in the way that politicians have operated before. That's why I'm here today, and that's why you're here and that's why we're going to be here after the by-elections on the 20th September and why we'll still be here when this government is just a bad dream.'
Think on that. Strawberry Switchblade had come down to do this gig because they thought it was a Death To Thatcher concert, but they had a difficult time of it.
The way they dressed inspired the gonzoid faction to sexist chanting of the most monosyllabic variety, but unlike Joolz they don't have the thick skins to brush it off.
Initial sound problems, and the fact that the two girls aren't the most accomplished of musicians, even with a mate helping out on bass, added to their ordeal. Personally, I can take them in small doses, but their pretty fumblings get irritating after a while. Nico, who they seem to idolise, had a rather a special voice, the Velvet Underground, and, of course, the added cachet of being there first. Strawberry Switchblade don't have any of these things - yet - but this is not time to be critical. Today, I just felt truly sorry for them.
But then, up went the PA, and the all blond Spear Of Destiny bounced on stage to the cheery strain of Match Of The Day. Unfortunately - that's precisely what it turned out to be. The marksmen in the crowd had, it seemed, merely been limbering up all afternoon, and now they scored their first direct hit. Kirk got a can in the face, a cut eyebrow, and from then on things got decidedly nasty.
Bodies that couldn't take any more were thrown over the barrier to safety every few minutes. When one of these bodies decided to land on my head I made a snap resolution never to stand near the front of anything ever again.
Not even a bus queue.
After all, if I'd wanted to be a war correspondent I'd be working for The Guardian, wouldn't I?
Spear didn't have this option. They had to stay put, and exercised Plan A - duck and swerve - as the flying objects became heavier and stranger.
So, while I'm nursing concussion, we'll cross once again to Not-David Coleman, somewhere in the middle.
Well, I can't really understand why Mr Brandon is so much maligned. Quite unabashed, he shadow-boxed his way through the awful sound that clogged the opening of The Wheel. An unashamed populist, he was built for this event - a mixture of Marlon Brando and Norman Wisdom.
From his temporary halting of the bottle-throwing to his genuine pleas for a general cease in worldwide bloodletting, the man was a winner.
At times, Spear sound like a big soul band. Commercial success may evade them, but live they have never failed. And their legions of followers are as far from the glue-bag skins waiting for the Sex Pistols… The Damned, I should say, as possible.
Spear and their audience are bright, cheerful and as likely to shut their mouths as Red Ken. The perfect band for the day.
Thankyou, Not-David. And I should add that this is a personal best for Spear - they've had the same line-up now for over six months.
With his cry of 'are you feelin' militant?', Benjamin Zephaniah pressed all the right buttons to get this crowd on his side, while behind him and under his feet the crew dismantled Spear.
His poem about being beaten up by the police was right up their street - even had the bastards chanting along. Likewise, his cute put-down of the liberal aristocracy, 'The Day I Met Lady Di'. His stuff is biting without being cruel - he's a grinner, not a ranter, and sees that his opponents have their human and funny sides as well.
Too bad Captain Sensible decided to upstage him by wandering on to fiddle with guitar leads when any of the crew could have done it. Up went the chant, 'Sensible's a wanker', and for the first time that day the hecklers got it right.
The best part of The Damned's appearance was their manic intro by Clive of Dr And The Medics. I duly noted Vanian's catlike appearance and realised that The Damned will probably always be with us. Will always do Neat Neat Neat and New Rose. Will probably always encore with Anarchy In The UK.
But glass was shattering all around and I headed for cover. I radioed frantically to Not-David Coleman, but he'd already gone home out of the rain.
'Just say they were brilliant' the boy on the bus told me later. 'One of the best gigs they've ever done'. Who was I to argue? As far as I'm concerned, all the bands who gave their time today are heroes.
Whether there'll be another Brockwell Park next year is largely up to you - whether you go out and vote to save the GLC on September 20th. And if you're still undecided, ask yourself this: would you have been able to get to Brixton on Saturday if Whitehall had been driving the trains?