Whilst the post punk history of Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield are well known the story of Leeds is relatively in the shadows. In this brilliant in depth article, which we at LTW demand should be made into a book, Jane Hector Jones finally tells the story of how punk shook up Leeds and its cast of characters and created its own post punk narrative.

 


“It’s always a coat colder in Leeds,” was the saying in West Yorkshire.  Wrap up warm, because in the winter the nights are black, and the wind would cut through you.  It was an unforgiving place. Built from northern industrial heritage, the ability to weather the harshness of life is part of the local currency. Don’t take any shit, don’t show you’re vulnerable. It’s a hard life. It’s a man’s world.

The cold, dark Leeds of 1977 boasted very little for the young.  One or two music venues that were habitable, mainly playing Pub Rock, a failing LUFC, the spectre of the Yorkshire Ripper on the streets, present enough that young women like Claire Shearsby would ensure  they “wore their flat boots” just in case they needed to run. Women banded together to walk home, marched together to claim their safety on the streets.

From the F club to Go4 to proto Goth : Post punk Leeds : and in depth look at how punk impacted on the city

Just like 2020 politics had factionalised. The National Front were abroad in the town and in the clubs, emboldened by local interest, selling their magazines, chasing and beating young black and Asian kids like Choque Hosein. Choque was later to find infamy with bands like Salvation, and Black Star liner and is currently keeping the F spirit alive in his Farsley club, the Constitutional. “You watched who you spoke to” said Choque, “you never knew if they were one of them- I ran the gauntlet every single day”

Yet because nothing was possible, suddenly everything was possible. In October 1976 The  pre-Anarchy Sex Pistols  landed on the Fforde Green in Leeds, a traditional boozer crouched up near Roundhay park . “There was about 14 people in the audience” said Claire Shearsby. Probably fourteen more than the previous undocumented outing in Northallerton in 76, but somehow exploding the same firework of potential that it did in Manchester, in Birmingham, in London earlier that autumn. “I had tickets to see Bowie at Milton Keynes,” continues Claire- but I ended up not going. You had this feeling that you couldn’t see your heroes.  The tickets were expensive, and he would have been miles away, a dot in the distance. Suddenly they were right in front of you, you were two feet from the stage.” 

One chord two chords. Do something.

John Keenan was already doing something. Indeed, he had already been promoting music for a decade by the time the filth and the fury hit Roundhay, putting on John Mayalls blues breakers age 16 at Southport College. His first professional foray into promoting was an attempt to book Lou Reed into Leeds Grand theatre, who he couldn’t get, being a first-time promoter. Booking Alan Price instead as a “baptism of Fire”, John chose The Leeds Grand Theatre as a premier, also booking Price’s cousins band Limelight, and his mate Tymon Dogg, who lived with Strummer, and taught him to play guitar.

Tymon played with the 101 ers, and was friends with Nora, John Lydon’s (later) partner, and her fourteen-year-old daughter Ari Up.  This was a way in, and when Punk started to happen, it was about the style and the art as well as the music, which appealed to John.

 John started to book bands in Wakefield Unity Hall just pre the Poly. Alongside his interest in Americana, and a bit of prog, and  energised by a frustration with the paucity of good bands coming to Leeds, he brought bands like Thunders and Nolan’s Heartbreakers, the tattered remnants of the New York dolls, over to The Unity Hall. Following with bands like The Vibrators to the Poly in Leeds. He  subsequently launched the embryonic F club,  The Stars of Today, in the downtime at the Poly when the students vacated for the summer ( alongside his partner, the recently sadly passed Graham Cardy). The club hosted new punk bands such Wayne County, and The  Buzzcocks, (who ended up having a rather eventful evening after their bass player Garth goaded the local LUFC fans just enough to get the bus windows put out, and the gig cut short), and other, more esoteric, interesting bands teetering on the brink of huge. XTC played, and an early Police, for the fee of £70 quid, in return for which they brought in around 70 punters. A fair percentage of whom decided to cut the evening short in objection to Stings voice. The band were booked into a dreadful hotel in the down at heel Harehills after the gig, all three into one thirty watt bulbed shabby room with four beds. Keenan took pity on them, invited them out to “The Rendezvous” the legendary Leeds after hours haunt where they stayed until 4am, Sting electing to stay in for a bit of a lie down on the grotty single bed.

Violent evenings weren’t a rarity in Leeds, but John, ten years older than the kids who started to frequent the poly, was a gym regular, and therefore unafraid of some of the conflict that came with being a promoter. In fact, he began to realise that the group of teenagers drawn to what Claire Shearsby called “just ahead of the curve, and sometimes right on the curve “ bands that he was booking, were something special. “I thought of them as like my children” said John,” I began to realise that they were intelligent, bright  and inventive, and we were getting a few regular characters that were really interesting.”

John Cavell was the DJ at Stars of Today , and sometimes his good friend Claire Shearsby would accompany him.” I used to go and help him,” said Claire, “ I just would go and stand next to him. Before too long he went off to London to live, and I just took a step sideways.”

“John just said “why not?” to me being the DJ- I had good records, not a huge collection. Every punk single that came out I would buy it, there just weren’t that many, so you could keep up. “

 Claire quickly became a hugely recognisable face in Leeds music the “Talisman of the club, really iconic,” according to Choque. “If you had to pick the person that that whole scene rotated around, it was Claire. 

Similarly to the bands being booked by John-It wasn’t just the new wave of British punk in Claire’s two shopping bags full of records, transported to the Poly in a Honda SS50 moped top box. “At the lending library in town by the town hall you could hire out records, and they had some really rare stuff, American bands like early Alice Cooper and the Stooges which was a great resource.” It’s nice to think that the club that kick started the enduring Stooges obsession in Leeds was helped to fruition by an anonymous Detroit loving council librarian.

 However in the September of that year, just ahead of The Sex Pistols return with one of the only Anarchy tour dates still to happen- a gig which The Mekons’ Kevin Lycett described in Dave Simpson’s excellent Guardian article (Pubs, disco and fighting Nazis: how Leeds nurtured British post-punk)  as  being “fucking awful, but they had an amazing attitude. I came away thinking: ‘We can do this.’ I’d never felt that way about anything before” Stars of Today was forced to leave the Poly. The union wanted the room back when the students returned, and they were out.

“I realized that I couldn’t let the group that we had gathered down- I wanted  to keep everyone together, and couldn’t just let it go;  so  I decided the solution was to form a club- a real club, with a membership card  with discounts for regular members.”

 The F-Club was born. “It basically stood for ‘F*** the Poly; we’ll go somewhere else!’ On the membership application on the last night at the Poly I wrote ‘Let’s get the ‘F’ out of here!”

The Newly named F club kicked off as a weekly at The Ace of Clubs, a faded 50s ballroom up the road in Woodhouse previously the home to cabaret acts like Frank Carson and PJ Proby. Graham didn’t move with the club, but John and Claire continued. The whole vibe of the place was energetic, arty, kinetic.

 

From the F club to Go4 to proto Goth : Post punk Leeds : and in depth look at how punk impacted on the city

Around this time bands like The Mekons and The Gang of Four, Scritti Politti and The Delta Five began to find their feet, emblematic of the local landscape, politicised, left wing, sharp, unafraid of conflict, even sometimes violence. Directly in opposition to the local fascists.  

“In, 76/77 it did seem very DIY,” recalls Claire. “You would get clothes from Oxfam and put pins in them to try to shock people. Before crazy colour I used to dye my hair at the front with food colouring and people were so shocked that they would steer their children out of our way.”

Keenan was quick to give this new burst of Leeds DIY energy a chance, giving  The Mekons a support slot with The Rezillos   resulting in them getting a record deal with Fast Product. Even lending them a guitar for their first single “Where were you”. Their close allies, and sometime band mates The Gang of Four followed up with a gig in December of that year.

After the New Year, and a suspicious fire at the Ace of Clubs, John had moved the club to Roots, a West Indian club owned by a West Indian friend of his, Carl Young, in Francis Street, Chapeltown.  

“The thing about the F club at this point says Choque, is that it was incredibly liberating. I don’t think I had felt at home, a young Asian Kid in any club until that point but if you had something about you, John would let you in, and I always had the chat. Having said that, I would be cagey, I’d keep myself to myself until you knew who the person was you were talking to. There were NF in there- I’m not sure why John would let them in, but they were definitely present, and you just didn’t know who was who until you knew your way around.”

Indeed, the political landscape in Leeds was becoming oppressive.  “There was a presence there of the NF “ says Keenan, and the British Movement, or “The Bowel movement” as we used to call them. But we always said that the F club was just about fun”

Eddy Morrison, the Leeds NF District organiser had developed a taste for Punk music,  according to the Leeds Libraries Heritage blog, and realised that Punk, and its DIY aesthetic and energy could be used politically, launching the prosaically titled fanzine “Punk Front” featuring an NF logo with a safety pin through it. 

He claimed that by 1978 the NF were so prevalent in the F club that the “red bands” wouldn’t play. Certainly, some of the young kids were being swayed by belonging to the NF, but as John maintains – a lot of them were teenagers being groomed by extremists on both sides of the political divide.” “Most of the customers were still in their teens without fully formed opinions,” he continues “and I believed that more can be gained by talking to people than by turning them away.”

There were certainly incidents at Roots around that time. A Mekons gig (where a Nazi member of the audience repeatedly instructed the audience to Goosestep-  to be told “ No Chance” by the band, but whereby other members of the NF goosestepped and Nazi saluted in response. A Rock against racism takeover night in the same venue bafflingly, or perhaps in an attempt to be inflammatory, booked a band called The Dentists, right wing extremists whose presence caused a lot of tension, and the threat of violence.

 

From the F club to Go4 to proto Goth : Post punk Leeds : and in depth look at how punk impacted on the city

Recalled Claire – a lot of the time when I wasn’t Djing I would just sit in the booth and watch the bands so didn’t really socialise that much. There were a few NF people, and I always despised that kind of thing.   Hardly anyone would dance at first, they would dance to Electricity by OMD and Soldier Soldier by Spizz Energy, but a lot of the time no one would dance. One time one of the Nazis got on the dance floor and started seig heiling and goose-stepping. I just pulled the faders down and waited for him to stop. I just sort of stared at him- everyone looked around as there was no music on, and he just sort of petered out, and skulked back to his seat. I was really shaking when I did it, but I just wasn’t prepared to have anybody do that to records that I was playing. It seemed quite effective. They didn’t do it again. 

John had taken to getting up at the clubs and talking on the mic ( John was always talking, talking recalls Claire – sometimes I would just go and stand next to him and listen when I wasn’t Djing) , a fact which really interested Choque Hosein. “He would just get up between the bands, and talk about music mainly, sometimes politics, not really, largely what was going on in the world. It just really made me think- there’s something interesting going on here.

While the F promoter was vocal publicly regarding the club being about music, there were still a few confrontations, which resulted in John banning the distribution of any propaganda within the club. 

Despite all this, a local left wing fanzine called The Leveller suggested the ‘F’ in F club  stood for ‘Fascist”- and in an effort to kill any such association John changed the name to The Fan Club and moved to a basement club, Brannigans on Call Lane (underneath The Top Rank and opposite The New Penny, Leeds’ first openly gay pub) in October 1978.

 

From the F club to Go4 to proto Goth : Post punk Leeds : and in depth look at how punk impacted on the city

Gary Marx guitarist with The Sisters of Mercy- then known as Mark Pearman, moved over from Hull a little after this.

“Hull was just a dead end, he recalls. No scene at all, so I’d come to Leeds a few times, because I had a mate at university there. I’d come stay a weekend and go to a gig. The Gang of Four and the Mekons were around, and they were brilliant. It was amazing: they were great, and a Leeds outfit!  So, you would come over and go- Right! I’m in the punk scene!”

“ I was super excited, and it gave me the energy to throw myself into it. All the punk kids would hang out at Virgin, and round the corn exchange, and when I went to buy Inflammable materials by Stiff Little Fingers the weekend I moved over, there were flyers around for the club. I went and bought a clash shirt from Xclothes,  ( Leeds punk rock Clothing mecca) – there was a kid called “Gay Craig” ( there were a few Craigs, all with their own descriptive: Craig Adams was “hippy Craig”)  a big striking Billy Idol lookalike, who was the main guy at the time at X clothes. He went-and I might have heard about the F club there. If you wanted to be part of the scene, that was where you had to go.  I saw The Cure early on, and within weeks of moving, I was there every night. “

The relative vibrancy after moving from Hull spurred the young Mark Pearman into action “I would go up and hassle John Keenan. because he was the guy on the door. Saying “I’m trying to get a band together” and he would get on the mic tell people that I wanted to meet people who wanted to do the same. A variety of people would come up. I’d go and stand by the side of Claire, looking gormless. Claire was the DJ at that period. It was all built around her. She was the central point. She’s a much tougher and shrewder character than has ever been portrayed. Her record selection was incredible. She just seemed to have everything you could possibly ask for, long before USB sticks. It was really wide ranging, not just punk.”

Indeed, by this point a torrent of incredible bands were coming to Leeds to play. The scene was moving so quickly in the UK, bands would be booked, and then by the time they had come to play the small capacity venue, have far outgrown it.

 

From the F club to Go4 to proto Goth : Post punk Leeds : and in depth look at how punk impacted on the city

Marx recalls: “I do remember the bands coming to stage from the back of the venue, like the best bands that played there.  The Cramps walking through the crowd to the stage, which was like wow, Bryan Gregory, what the hell?  and Ivy walking past you. I also remember the B52s being brilliant, The Specials. The Bunnymen, I recall seeing once, and them being sort of green, with a little tape machine. Will Sergent and Mcullough huddled together not knowing what to do. Six months later they were this incredible thing- with the camouflage netting, Apocalypse Now and all that. Whatever extra PA they brought in, just blew the pace apart, mega loud and brilliant. You would think, hmmm… I think something had happened to this band. I think someone has made some money or something. You would see bands that shot up- The Teardrop Explodes still playing there despite having had hit records.”

People had incredible experiences watching music at Brannigans: Killing Joke stood out – for Claire- “they would come on with their own backdrops and supplementary PA which sounded awesome. U2 played there, (in fact Keenan booked U2 twice) I remember seeing Bono standing on the monitors at the front to have a look around. The stage was very low. He was quite small. 

 “My favourite band we actually were given the opportunity to support. I was 15 years old, and had a band called The Mess,” says Choque. The Specials were this phenomenal thing for me, multi-cultural, just really new with incredible energy. Even then, with everything that they were doing on stage, you still had fascists seig heiling right in front of your face when you played. It was just such an intense time”

This excitement and access served to create a sort of Wizard of Oz style step into technicolour for the young audience.” I went to see Jayne County there- recounts Richard Todd, later to play in bands like Salvation, and The Dead Vaynes, I was thirteen, and I could have sworn it was a warm summer night. That how I remember the whole experience, but I’ve been back through the dates, and it was October in Leeds. It must have been bloody freezing, but it wasn’t like that for me. Crass were also amazing -using film and other effects to create an overwhelming experience, stuff flying down the walls past you” 

For John, choosing a favourite show is near impossible. “it’s like choosing your favourite child – everyone had a different aspect. Adam Ant was memorable, Madness and The Specials was memorable, The B52s, Killing Joke and The Cramps. There was a Price Far I gig that was really memorable, as only him and a drummer turned up. The bass player, the band and the support band had all deserted them on the tour, and they turned up without any instruments. I had to rustle up a drum kit, a bass amp and all that. I said, are you sure? You’ve got to hold this crowd for two hours. Ahh he said, we’ll do more than that. He was like a gangster, a yardie, with a scarred face, pretty tough looking character, and he went on stage, did two and a half hours with just drum and bass, years before that became popular, toasting over the top, and everybody loved it.”

“I think one of the reasons that we lasted so long was that if bands turned up without gear, as they often did, I knew lots of musicians, and always knew where to get hold of it.”

 

From the F club to Go4 to proto Goth : Post punk Leeds : and in depth look at how punk impacted on the city

Despite the halcyon nature of the club, as Choque described, at this point the Spector of Fascism still hung over the city.

Gary Marx recalls :  There was a lot of Nazi skinheads in Leeds at that time. It was a very real thing.  I’d been to a Rock against Racism thig in Hull, but i It was really a theoretical exercise, you really couldn’t find many Nazis to fight in Hull. But in Leeds you were constantly aware of the different factions- who was going to get their head kicked in by who. So when we were just looking for gigs, I went to this place and asked to play. I’d just had a skinhead haircut, just basically cut it all off, and it was one of the skinhead NF strongholds. It was called gladrags,- I think that was just the name of the night,  I think it was a pub called The Precinct and the gig  was just  above it. It was a sort of creepy place. There was a sex thing going on- it was like a sort of sadistic gay vibe to it, and a lot of the skinheads went there. I don’t know whether to beat guys up or just had got into it. But it was sinister. I didn’t know any of this until we played, and I got wound up, started to say things over the mic, as I was playing to a load of seig heiling Nazis. Graham (Marks friend and band mate) got really scared, and wanted to cut the set and get off, as I was doing little ad libs, and making comments that were likely to get my head kicked in. 

 Those people did creep into the F club. I think Keenan knew a few. Enough to know that they wouldn’t kick off in the venue- he certainly didn’t let big groups of them in: there would just be two or three guys, nasty kids.  Thing is that the whole of the city seemed to be fighting. It wasn’t just Nazis.  A lot of punk kids would wear teddy boy gear and go out and get into fights with actual teddy boys who would take offence at snotty punk kids pretending they were Teds. Leeds was a violent place then. It was like a badge of honour to come in to the F  battered and bruised and say you had a fight with some Teddy boys. Some kids that were into that dynamic- as a sort of punk thing.”

Around this time, Claire had started a relationship with a student, Andy Taylor, soon to shed his skin and become Andrew Eldritch.  Andrew would, as Claire did before back at the poly, come and stand with her as she was Djing.

Marx continues: “Everybody knew Claire as she played the records, and she was a very noticeable figure, she had her hair all back combed up and to punk kids she was just sort of super glamorous  .I guess as a way of putting your stamp on the evening you would go up and ask for a record, whatever you thought would make you look cool, and you would go and dance around, and  as Andy was always stood with Claire, at this point, looking like one of the Ramones, and was friendly enough, you would chat about what he was into. 

I remember he was really into Patti Smith and bit by bit I started taking to him. It was mainly because I really didn’t know who and it was became clear that you really had to, as there were quite a few little flare ups with fascists and Andy always seemed to be involved. Not really in the fisticuffs, but he was sort of at the centre of being anti that.

One night there was some kind of threat made to The Mekons. They were probably slagging the NF off in the NME. Delta five were playing or someone associated, and it was assumed that The Mekons would usually go and watch, so this was like this showdown, big news. Would The Mekons dare to come down to the F club, as there were these skinhead kids there waiting to beat them up….

“Eventually Kevin Lycett turned up dressed a bit like Hilda Ogden, I assume to further wind people up. He was wearing like a tea cosy hat. It certainly wasn’t a disguise.  These kids were there, and it was a bit of a Mexican standoff, as they didn’t know how many people would side with Kevin.

Eventually a lad I knew that worked for the band asked me to go along to the toilet as a sort of protector for Kevin, because I’m tall I suppose. Nothing happened, but as I think Kevin wanted to bring it to a head he went back, and Andy came along as well. So, I guess that Eldritch and I first met properly as sort of toilet bouncers, protecting Kevin Lycett, who was dressed as Hilda Ogden.”

The Sisters were the most important band to come out of Leeds, at that time. Arguably ever. Distilling the violence and aggression of the times into something cold and hard and reptilian, but with a love and fervour for music that was absolutely born out of the club’s arty anarchistic DIY. Eldritch talked recently in the Quietus about how seeing The Psychedelic Furs, all lined up in Black, wearing shades, and Bauhaus’ Pete Murphy using one spotlight to create on stage drama, as formative in the creation of The Sisters intense craft.

Choque maintains, “There’s a lot of people who think that the F club was the birthplace of goth, but I think that’s absolute bollocks. That was The Warehouse. The F club was punk Rock, DIY, it was a place that gave you a sense of possibility. The Sisters were much more about that.”

  Marx corroborates: “It just wasn’t goth in any way. When the clubs came up like The Batcave, we genuinely hated that, like, why does this have to be that? We were playing Dolly Parton songs! It didn’t have to be so limiting. We were more like Killing Joke or The Banshees. Our roots were in aggression. The rest of it seemed like posture. It came out from us like aggression, because we were a bit that way. It was who we were.”

Marx’s band ( “We were called Vicious Circle or something awful” he laughs ”- I remember Keenan trying to get us to change our name to St Vicious, as there were so many Vicious clones at the F club”) had played a disastrous gig in 79 , the bottom of the bill at an F club Xmas show  where one band member imbibed so much of the company party alcohol in the afternoon that he turned up absolutely leathered, and fell down the stairs hurting himself really badly. Not the greatest start, especially as viewed by an amused Craig, then the keyboard player in the F Club year zero band, The Expelairs.

 Marx had, however bought a guitar. As no one owned any equipment at that point, that was enough to attend a rehearsal with Andy’s then band, who were looking for a lead player.

“Claire ( Shearsby) picked me up, a guy called Jonny Plumb was playing bass, and Keith Fuller was the frontman . Keith was the best looking of the sort of Dave Vanian looking people who went to the F club, stick thin, black hair, handsome looking kid, who couldn’t sing, but had been picked as the singer. Jonny was the only musical one really, and was sort of bossy, trying to organise everything. Basically, wanted to be Jah Wobble, and everybody else had to fit in as best they could. Andy ( Eldritch) on drums, Claire on the keyboard and all we did was try and play a Jonny Plumb song and argue.

“Jonny Plumb would argue and argue and argue about every little detail. Not music, just life, anything. And Andy loved to argue. So whatever Jonny wanted to argue about he would put down his drumsticks and just argue with him- it was like a debating society”

Jonny Plumb hated it, as Andy and Claire were a couple, there was this sort of block vote against him. So, we lasted this one rehearsal, and jibbed it. He came round and ranted and raved, and showed us the lyrics to his new Public Image alike song, and Andy and I were, like, no mate, forget it.  All these things happening together meant that I really liked Andy. He was such a contrarian, really skilled at it. He was so swashbuckling in his ability to get stuck into an argument I’d never actually met anyone like it. He just seemed to absolutely buzz about falling out with people. It was astonishing.”

The Sisters early line up soon came together, Mark, by then Gary Marx, Andy who had become Andrew Eldritch, Craig Adams, having ditched his Expelairs keyboard, and gotten over Marks disastrous first outing, on bass, and the drum machine, the good Doktor Avalanche.

 The gigs were, probably thank fully at first, over in York.

“Andy used to work over in York at a firm called Preistley’s that did T shirt printing. He would go over, go to Red Rhino records and meet some people in there. We had next to nothing in terms of gear. Craig had borrowed a bass. Most of us didn’t seem to own anything at all. Craig’s clothing was like, a donkey jacket, really ill-fitting clothes, like he had put on someone else’s school uniform. For the gig, he borrowed a leather jacket with UK Subs on the back, and Kim who went on to be in the Pink Peg Slacks had done his hair into a rockabilly quiff. I (Marx) was still a skinhead, and I had got a grey Trutex skirt. I wanted to be like the Fall, anti-rock. But I was a spotty kid with a Trutex shirt. Andy was in a version of what he ever was, looking like Lenny Kaye or Joey Ramone. If you’re going to be in a band you may as well make a connection between what you all look like, but we just hadn’t got there.

Claire continues: , The Sisters would rehearse downstairs from the flat that Andy and I lived in,  and the noise would  come up through the floorboards. At gigs I would stand next to the sound engineer and tell them that you need more space echo on this, and that the bass had a fuzz pedal, and should actually sound fuzzy. That was the start of me wanted to get involved and do something, it gave me my career as a sound engineer that I’ve been grateful to enjoy for nearly forty years. I didn’t want to be on stage, in fact during the only rehearsal I did on keyboards with The Sisters my amp set on fire, and I was secretly relieved. I wanted to stay involved but knew it would be in a dark corner somewhere.”

Still, Keenan and the F Club were supportive and encouraging of the young band: Says Marx

“John was very god at nurturing people, he would really try and give people a helping hand. I don’t know what his motivation was, if he was from a hippy type background, and wanted to help the kids type thing, or if he had an eye on making money. But certainly for me and Andy ( Eldritch) he couldn’t have done more for us to help us- giving us the gigs etc,  I mean the sisters had played two maybe three gigs, one supporting Altered Images at the F club before he gave us the first futurama. 

This supportiveness extended to the crowd:  We had T shirts first, said Marx, and would be out, flogging them in the F club. People would buy them really to be supportive I think, and certainly we always had the feeling that if we played at the F club people wanted us to be good. It was just that, at first, we weren’t.”

“The first gig we put The Sisters on was Altered Images” continues Keenan. I didn’t remember much; they had a drum machine. It was Andy Taylor, Claire’s boyfriend, and they weren’t very good. I couldn’t see the potential. It was Andy trying to sound like Heroes era Bowie, or Iggy, Craig on bass, a bit of a shambles. I put them on at one or two other gigs locally, and they started coming together. There was something starting to emerge. By the time they got to Damage Done they were a good band. I remember touting their tapes around London, and all the companies saying- it’s just too left field, it will never catch on. I put them on at Futurama in the September of 81, and there was something there. Futurama was a way to get exposure for local bands. Expelairs opened the first one, and they were Craig Adams who went on to The Sisters, David Wolfenden (later of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry), and Grape, who went on to be in 3000 revs- so it kickstarted a lot of what would become known as Goth.

The Sisters rise in Leeds really signified the last months of the F. The Altered Images gig being one of the last at Brannigans. 

John was still working at his day job, at Yorkshire television, ( which used to attract  well known TV faces to  the F- Emmerdale actors such a Frazier Hines, and British actor Patrick Newell- mother in The Avengers) He was running the Futurama and the F Club, a record / 30s pottery stall on Saturdays, and also venues further afield. All of that at once was starting to get hard to manage.

The forward thinking Top Rank manager that allowed the F its home  in the basement under Belindas ( the gay disco upstairs)  moved on and John eventually decided to concentrate on the bigger volume gigs,  like The Stranglers, or Squeeze at Tiffanys, a larger venue down the road.

But the F keeps its resonance even now. A Facebook group keeps the regular characters in touch, and periodically John, still the father figure, will book nights at venues like The Brudenell, the spiritual heir of the F club (or arguably Johns later legendary Duchess Of York).

Even at short notice 70 or so regulars will come down, keep in touch and listen to music. It’s still fun.  “If you can enjoy what you are doing”, says John, “you will never work a day in your life”

Branningans, is still there, under the dark arches, periodically popping up as  an important place, The home to Nick Toczeks punk nights, Back to Basics  twenty something years of hedonism, and on through time, while venues like Roots ( The Phoenix ), and The Ace of Clubs are lost now, gone to the past, vivid only in memories.

For a time in the late seventies, and early eighties, under the patronage of John, Claire, and at its inception, Graham, the F club put the spirit of independence firmly in Leeds.  Crossing over, simultaneous and shoulder to shoulder with The Factory in Manchester, and Erics in Liverpool, but with something else possible only pre internet. Its own crowd, its own culture, its own bands, its own character. Bringing the spirit of DIY and artistic independence to Northern youth.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent. I was at a lot of those gigs (and worked at X Clothes). I remember seeing The Cure at Brannigan’s and trying to smoke some black wax I had foolishly purchased on my way to see The Rezillos in Chapletown.

  2. Even into the late 80’s early 90’s there was still some great stuff going on … the phono at the merrion centre, scrumpy’s for the metal heads and the duchess still had some good gigs

  3. Great article – I knew, and STILL know, many of the people you mention in it! Just one thing. The gig you mention when Rock Against Racism booked The Dentists to play at the F Club is sooooo wrong. I started RAR in Leeds, and we had our own club, first in the Poly and then at Cosmos’s (Roots, or The Phoenix) in Chapletown; there were just 2 Punk clubs in Leeds at the time, the F Club and ours – Delta 5, the Mekons and Gang of 4 were very much in our camp. The Dentists were a National Front band and part of an organisation called Rock Against Communism. They were playing with a lot of bands in a big gig at the F Club that day, including some RAR supporting bands with black musicians in them. We took over the F Club that night and prevented them The Dentists from playing, giving the rest of the bands RAR badges to wear on stage, which they did for the rest of the night. It was the only time we ever dragged The Dentists off stage, bur anti-racists were getting beaten up by their supporters and we were not prepared to stand by. Given that we had to find a call box in those days, the fact that we managed to get people down from all over Leeds to stop these racists from organising was remarkable. So, no, we did NOT promote The Dentists at all – quite the opposite!

    • As I remember it, Paul, I gave one of my nights at Brannigans to Rock Against Racism for a fundraiser. Maybe The Dentists managed to wangle themselves on the bill, but I didn’t book them, I had already banned them at a previous gig. Can’t add anything else as I wasn’t there. It wasn’t my show. Can you remember what date it was? It’s not on any of my flyers. — A lot of the NF v SWP shenanigans have been exaggerated and mythologised, especially by Eddie Morrisson and his crew. In mentioning The Dentists you are giving them some credence, when in fact they were just a small amateur local band who weren’t very good. In fact I wasn’t going to respond to your post for similar reasons. — I would prefer the club to be remembered as a place where cutting-edge acts started off, a place where our regulars and like-minded people could come down every week to enjoy themselves. It was an alternative night with very few punk bands, punk had been and gone by then. I tried to keep extreme factions and their politics out of the club. If you recall I usually had large, black bouncers at the club with me, Wendell and Eustace to mention just two… they weren’t going to tolerate much from racists. Yes, there were a few incidents, but things were not as bad as they are made out to be, 97% of the shows were free from aggression. It’s a shame that it all comes down to, “What did you do in the punk wars, Grandad?”.

      • Punk rock wars, brilliant John, enjoyed reading that, i don’t live in the past but the memories of that time are still with me, we all owe you a lot, top man in my eyes x

  4. Brilliant piece. Brings back a lot of memories. We were usually stood in a corner trying not to get beat up! Never had an issue as it turned out. Didn’t it move to somewhere near Lillywhites after Brannigans?

  5. The Ace Of Clubs is *sort of* still there – currently trading as TJ’s Bar & Grill, after a lengthy period as Woodhouse Liberal Club. It was still having bands on up until fairly recently; I was last there in 2011, to see Michael Monroe.

  6. Really good article. Brings back lots of memories of all of it. The Ace of Clubs was almost on my doorstep. The first band I saw was Chelsea at the Poly, then I was hooked. I fictionalised the F Club as the FK Club in my novel ‘Blood Relatives’ (4th Estate). No apologies for the shameless plug.

  7. Sorry, Ratbag. The Ace of Clubs was demolished about 10 years ago, having been empty for over 30 years. TJ’s/ex-Woodhouse Liberal Cub is opposite and a bit further up the road.

  8. A Google algorithm just pushed this article into my newsfeed, well done Jane, a great piece about a club which never got the accolades it deserved outside of Leeds. I agree with LTW, I demand this be expanded into a book, never mind Courtney in Liverpool, what about Johnny Thunders in Headingley. Excellent!!!

  9. Great days. So many great bands. Week after week. And the fanzine ( Martin / Jayne) I remember Ian Curtis on stage, seeming pretty unwell.

  10. What a great piece of writing, about a whole scene that nurtured itself in Leeds- far from London but connected to scenes in Manchester and Liverpool, and gave a sense of big city excitement. A Petri dish of talent, supporting and supportive of local and visiting bands. A place that felt creative and everything was possible. This article makes me wish I’d been there as part of its excitement and optimism and sense of family.
    Thank you

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