Live review from the NME, 7 April, 1979.
Ever fallen in love with a drummer you shouldn’t have?
Da-di, it’s the weekend. Dum-dum, I’ve got the ‘flu. Saturday night and I wish I was home in bed but instead I’m at the Odeon having my toes trampled by pogoing punkettes. Ah, but this is rock’n’roll; this is the romance of pop.
But who are the strange group that open the gig?
“We’re Ludas and this is our last song,” says Linder to ironic cheers. Ludas don’t go down very well. I thought them impressive in a tight, heavy, doomy, boring kind of way. Imagine Siouxsie Sioux backed by the Voidoids (they do ‘Love Comes In Spurts’). I didn’t enjoy them, but I’m sure they’ll be successful… later.
Next on was Patrik Fitzgerald in baggy red trousers, stripet T-shirt and grey trilby. He read a story, chatted to the audience, recited a poem, failed to find a few others and strummed his way through a dozen songs.
His bumbling was irritating, his habit of repeating a phrase at the end of every song annoying, and he didn’t sing very well. But somehow he carried it off.
Highlights were a beautifully timed ‘But Not Any More’ and a poem ‘God On Polydor’, which told the sad tale of how the Almighty failed to make commercial songs and was dropped by the label. He ended with ‘Hammersmith Odeons’, presumably an irony. I thought it was a cop-out he was there at all after recording that song. I guess Pat’s just a boy who can’t say no.
And so, smoothly and efficiently, to Buzzcocks.
I smiled and bopped at the beginning when they played ‘I Don’t Mind’, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ and ‘Sixteen Again’; I managed a grin and a jerk at their final slick thrash through ‘Promises’, ‘Orgasm Addict’ and ‘What Do I Get’. But in the middle I frowned, shuffled my feet and got a headache.
Their trouble is that Buzzcock’s solo method of ‘experimenting’ of opening their songs – is to throw in a lot of quick-fire guitar chords and mucho heavy drumming by John Maher, who is not exactly a subtle player. He got through 20 sticks and a snare drum and on one of his interminable thump-thump interludes, his ‘solo’ consisted of the very same riff he’d been hammering throughout the rest of the song. A lot of the time he sounded like he was playing with clubs.
Even at the close, when the group took the easy option of exiting on a string of hit singles, they just seemed to be banging it out and the tunes got lost. At the very end, Maher trashed his drums and Steve Garvey knocked over the mike-stands.
Was this a statement or what? To me it just seemed silly.
Most Buzzcocks’ singles are superb pop: catchy little riffs you find yourself humming on railways stations and at bus stops, while the lyrics have that knack of appearing to provide an obliquely humorous commentary on whatever romantic tangle your life is in at the time – a backdrop to the love and times.
But I wonder if they can maintain it, I can’t see where they can go.
At the Hammersmith Odeon they were a very professional, one-dimensional pop group with an HM drummer. A perfect fun machine? Well I didn’t get any.