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Eyewitness: John Phillips

Musician John Philips remembers a show in the early days:
“… ahh, yes !!! Bingley Hall Stafford !! When was that again ?? I think it was 1981, and I was actually on the bill, under the stage persona of “Rok Star”, performing a song or two and playing some synthesisers and a drum machie live between the main stages when an act wasn’t ready to perform…”


There were two stages, side by side, and the theory was that while one band was playing, the other one could be setting up. Of course, the next band never was ready, so I got to to a bit ! It was a pretty good line-up I thought, what with Bow Wow Wow, The Virgin Prunes, and Simple Minds headlining.
Bow Wow Wow were pretty good (it was when Boy George was with them), but not as good as when I saw them with the original members on their very first C30 C60 C90 Go! tour in Leeds. I think I played a song or two after they had performed, and then the Prunes came on. I didn’t really know much about them at the time, but I was blown away………their stage show and sound just blended perfectly, and their set seemed all-too short.
I remember a drummer with hardly any kit, and a guitarist who lay on the floor in a foetal position next to a tea trolley, working his effects while the guitar wailed away. The sound and rhythm they generated was awesome; not to mention the amazing theatricals they seemed to blend in seamlessly !! As I remember it, at the end of their set they went off stage, and the audience was just going berserk for them.
Unfortunately, as is the way with these things, the whole day’s schedule was running late, and Simple Minds wanted to come on stage right away !! …………in fact, they threatened to leave the venue if they had to wait any longer !! By this time, the Prunes were back on stage, but the PA had been turned off. When the audience realised this, they started sounding ugly, and so someone back stage relented, and the Prunes played another number. After that Simple Minds decided they weren’t ready to go on after all, and the Prunes had become a really hard act to follow !
I had to go on and play another song or two. When they did come on, Simple Minds played out of their heads and were tremendous………..I don’t think any other band at the time could have turned the audience around after the Prunes set.
I remember the Prunes, manager I think it must have been, sweeping the stage after their performance so that it was clean for the next act and this struck me as a singularly courteous and professional thing to do !! I didn’t get to meet the Prunes unfortunately, as I had to go on stage, but I went out the next day and bought anything I could get hold of. I was doing a bit of “New Romantics” dj’ing at the time, and played “The Beast” 12″ as much as I could.
They were great days with many innovative bands around… I saw Depeche Mode, with Daniel Miller on mixer, on the first ever tour ; Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft on their “illegal” gig; all at the Warehouse in Leeds, where Marc Almond was dj’ing. Maybe it’s me, but that innovatory kind of performance just doesn’t seem to be around any more.
You may be interested to check out the web site of John Keenan who promoted the Futurama events . You can find him at www.liveinleeds.com. He has been promoting a gig nearly every day since the seventies, and the list of bands who have played for him is awesome !!
I cannot possibly be the only person who longs to see the Virgin Prunes play live again, so I hope one day my dream will come true.
All the best to all you fans out there; and my condolences to those who missed one of THE musical events ever staged !!
Rok Star……………. www.rokstar.info