“In the still of the night I walk with the Beast,
In the heat of the night I sleep with the Beast…”
On November 13, 1984, The Gun Club were shot live onstage in Madrid for the legendary Spanish television series La Edad de Oro. The set featured stellar performances of “Sex Beat,” “The Lie,” “Bad America,” “Death Party,” “Walking With the Beast,” a cover of CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle” and several other Gun Club classics. That entire show is embedded at the end of this post in a YouTube playlist.
I saw them play at The Electric Ballroom in London just three weeks before it was shot and I’ve always thought of this gig as one of the very best shows I’ve ever attended: It was actually my 19th birthday. There was only one person in the joint that night more fucked up than I was, and that honor would have to go to Mr. Jeffrey Lee Pierce hisself who managed to get completely shit-faced at the bar while the opening act, The Scientists, played their set. During the show JLP fell off the stage and landed on me. Neither of us felt any pain, I can assure you of that.
Watching this Madrid show today, it jibes pretty well with my memory of the London show. Jeffrey Lee is even wearing the same outfit. Holy shit were they amazing during this line-up. Who can deny that they were one of the greatest rock and roll outfits, ever? I mean, if you don’t like The Gun Club, you’re just… stupid.
In “The Blonde Ambition, Blind Drunk Visions & Beautiful Soul Of Jeffrey Lee Pierce,” British music journalist Kris Needs writes in tribute to the man he asked to be his son’s godfather (although I can’t much think of a worse choice for that role than JLP!)
There was something prime ally soul-grabbing about Jeffrey, their leader, singer, guitarist and songwriter. When you listened to Howlin’ Wolf, John Coltrane or Robert Johnson, you knew dark forces are at play. Jeffrey certainly did. He’d managed to plug into the dark main artery of the blues itself - riddled with demons but one of the ultimate examples of the kind of brilliant artist who could annoy people intensely with his over-the-top behaviour while also being one of the most endearing people you could wish to encounter. It’s so frustrating that he basically drank and drugged himself to death and, thanks to his erratic behaviour, managed to make a mess of everything from relationships [inter-band, record company and personal] to sometimes the music itself, although that was often the better for it.
Sometime in the mid-90s, at the Spaceland club in Silverlake—I think it was during the epic Destroy All Monsters reunion show there—I saw Pierce in the crowd. He was dressed neatly, sporting glasses, a waistcoat and a bolo tie and didn’t appear to be fucked up at all. He did however seem somehow very timid to me. I don’t really know how to explain it, but being such a huge fan of his, you know I kind of kept an eye on what he was up to. He didn’t say much to anyone, but he wore a look of apprehension on his face, like someone who wanted to kick his ass might be showing up, that kind of expression. In any case, considering how bloated the guy was by his mid 20s, and that Pierce was HIV positive, had cirrhosis of the liver and chronic hepatitis, he looked almost healthy. Nevertheless he was dead a few months later at the age of 37.
Aside from homegrown Spanish performers (including Pedro Almodóvar’s glam-rock parody group Almodóvar & McNamara) La Edad de Oro broadcast some incredible (sometimes complete) live concerts from Lou Reed, The Smiths, John Cale, Culture Club, Marc Almond, Violent Femmes, Grupo Sportivo, Psychedelic Furs, Nick Cave, Dream Syndicate, Aztec Camera, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Durutti Column, Tom Verlaine, Elliott Murphy, Alan Vega, Cabaret Voltaire, John Foxx, Echo & The Bunnymen, Killing Joke, Divine, Spear of Destiny, Johnny Thunders, Tuxedomoon (twice!), The Residents, China Crisis, Lords Of The New Church and Mari Wilson. The series was cancelled abruptly after a quite incredible 90-minute show with Psychic TV that was seen as an outrageous affront to the sensibilities of a Catholic country (and was).
Eventually many of these shows escaped from the vaults (in perfect digital quality, struck from the master tapes) and ended up on various torrent trackers as “The Stolen Files.” They are totally worth looking for!
Here’s the entire Gun Club set from La Edad de Oro in a YouTube playlist: