It’s a helluva lot quicker getting to London from Birkenhead than I once thought it was. It took us about three and a half hours to get there, but chatting away to my brother Peter all the way (mainly about music and err…..Killing Joke) certainly made the time fly. We called in at our aunt’s house in Cricklewood, the first time we’d been there since 1982 when myself and two of my other brother’s went along. I didn’t recognize any of Cricklewood really. I do remember going to see the Pope in his pope-mobile at Wembley back then. I didn’t really know what all the fuss was about and, not being the religious sort, I still don’t. I also only found out recently that Cricklewood was the place that serial-killer Denis Nielsen lived when he murdered all those (mostly) gay men and it was all going on when I was there! I think he was arrested in 1983. Bizarre.
Anyway, Killing Joke, one of my favourite bands. I first got into them when I was eleven years old back in 1981. I heard a song called Butcher and that was that. 27 years and a few line-up changes later, they were in London for two sold-out nights with the original line-up that gave them their first three albums: Killing Joke, What’s This For…! and Revelations. They hadn’t played live together since Feb 24th 1982 after singer Jaz Coleman ‘fucked off’ to Iceland having, were told, predicted the coming of the apocalypse. The line-up at that time was Jaz (singer/keyboards), Geordie (guitar), Youth (bass) and ‘Big’ Paul (drums). When Jaz (and Geordie, who joined him in Iceland) came back they reformed minus Youth. The main bassist since then was Raven who sadly died last year (god, it’s almost a year ago!). It was at his funeral that the old line-up met and buried the hatchet and got back together, much to the delight of Joke fans everywhere.
Killing Joke – 1981- Youth, Jaz, Big Paul & Geordie
I’d never seen this incarnation of Killing Joke before and was a bit miffed when Jaz ‘fucked off’. Pete never got to see them either. He had a ticket to see them before Jaz left. I wanted to get a ticket but my mum wouldn’t let me go, even though a year before I’d been to see The Dead Kennedy’s! I think she was just trying to protect me, god bless her. I wasn’t very happy about it but didn’t feel so bad once the tour was cancelled. They did a few tv appearances (Riverside & Top of the Pops) with a scarecrow dummy replacing Jaz on keyboards. It was all mimed so it worked ok, but they couldn’t pull it off live without him. Having said that, seeing them perform with a scarecrow added a kind of manic punchline to the whole business. A Killing Joke indeed.
So, back to the first gig. It was brilliant! Seeing the original members together was a special thing and the band seemed to enjoy themselves, particularly Youth who didn’t seem to stop smiling all night. You never know with Geordie though, he’s just the coolest guitarist you ever saw. He doesn’t seem to put in a ny effort at all but the sound he gets out of that guitar is majestic. having Big Paul back on drums with his unique tribal patterns has been long missed. And then, of course, there’s Jaz, mad as a hatter and looking like a cross betwwen Heath Ledger’s Joker and Michael Myers in Halloween. It’s been said that in the recent Batman film, The Joker was modelled on Johnny Rotten to some extent, though for me, he looks more like he’s been modelled on Jaz Coleman more than anyone else.
The band, coupled with marvellous apocolyptic graphics by ‘Colesy’ on the screens either side of the stage, played a blinder. It reminded me of all the reasons I fell in love with them in the first place. It’s weird, but they kinda feel like family in a way. You go through the pain of break-ups and the joys of re-union; the pleasure of success and the disappointment at the lack of success and recognition they so richly deserve. not that they probably give a damn. In an era where celebrity status is more important that genuine talent, it’s refreshing to see musicians who don’t play the game and keep their artistic integrity. I’m not the biggest of their last few albums ‘cos they edged more towards a ‘metal’ sound which doesn’t do a lot for me. But, being like family, you accept them all the same. I’ve hardly stopped playing their second album What’s this For…! since being in London. One of the best albums ever made. I know it won’t be everybody’s cup-of-tea but it certainly floats my boat. As ‘Unspeakable’ was my highlight of the night (from the above mentioned album), here’s the studio version on YouTube (even though it says it’s live). The video quality is pretty poor, but it’s priceless just to see Jaz’s performance (war-painted face and all). Enjoy (or laugh at your peril!).
Next up, my visit to see the grave of JW Waterhouse.
I’m outta here,