Em’s post about A Certain Ratio reminded me of the above show, a double-billed Psychic TV and ACR gig held at the Hammersmith Town in 1984. I was in attendance, age 18. I still have that flyer as well (note ticket price). In the days before the Internet, you had to truck on down to the Rough Trade Store to buy tickets for a show like this and that’s where I bought mine. I doubt even the biggest ticket sales offices in London were computerized back then.
This was an extremely intense show. I’ve been to some pretty crazy gigs (Einstürzende Neubauten trying to burn The Palladium down and Julian Cope slicing his stomach open onstage at the Hammersmith Palais for two notable examples from that same era), but this show was so insane that (not kidding here) had demons materialized on the stage—or something even weirder happened—I would not have been the least bit surprised.
Let me try to describe the atmosphere to you: First off, I don’t think I have ever, before or since, seen such a degenerate fucking crowd. A fair percentage of the punters looked mentally ill and an equal number looked criminally inclined or overtly sleazy. Diseased in both body and mind, or at least people who cultivated such qualities in the way they presented themselves to the world. I will never forget one lost soul, with her Thorazine-slacked features and one tit hanging out wandering around on her own. She had the blankest look that I have ever seen on a human face, a bottomless pit of psychotic misery in human form. I mean to tell you there were some right fucking weirdos there, and I’m someone who has made a career out of dealing with odd people. The single time I’ve ever been in a weirder scenario was a visit to NYC’s notorious Hellfire Club a few years later, but that’s another story…
There was a seriously dark vibe going on even before Psychic TV started due to the dozen or so television monitors flickering their spinning logo and candles lighting the stage. Then it started to ramp up. The imagery flashing across the monitors was intended to shock and shock it did. Much of it was footage from the First Transmissions and Cerith Wyn Evans’ (amazing) “Unclean” video (with Leigh Bowery), but there was some stuff that made even that level of an assault to the senses seem tame, like a gay S&M porn-style clip with Peter Christopherson having someone stretch his eyelids out as someone else jerked off and ejaculated right into his eyeball. Cheerful, eh?
When the band walked onstage—and this was when Psychic TV were coming off their evil masterpiece Dreams Less Sweet—the “spirits” that were swirling through the hall that night felt so malevolent that my friend and I both opted to back away from where we were standing at the front of the stage. The back of the hall just seemed “safer” in case something, well, something infernal happened.
It’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. It completely blew me away. It was actually scary. Have you ever been to a scary concert? I recommend it!
But what of A Certain Ratio? Well… they came on second. It was utterly preposterous to think that anyone could have followed what Psychic TV had done. Most of the dazed and confused audience just got up and left and the ones who stayed on for ACR sat on the floor. I seem to recall that the house lights went up after PTV finished and just stayed up.
When I emailed Em to tell him that I’d seen ACR in London in 1984, and Em, consummate rock snob that he is, sniffed “1984 was also post-Simon Topping for ACR, a very different band.”
Yeah, but I saw Psychic TV, too, motherfucker!
Below, a 1984 Earsay report that shows you just a few fleeting moments from the Hammersmith Town Hall gig. You’ll note that they couldn’t show what was on the monitors and so placed their cameras accordingly. They even say so in the piece.