Sham 69 Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall November ? 1978

Sham 69 Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall November ? 1978
imageThis was one awesome gig, for many reasons. It was the first time that Sham 69 had played in the North East, and musically, and in terms of popularity, they were riding high. They had hit the UK singles charts three times in 1978 with their brilliant terrace punk anthems “Angels With Dirty Faces”, “If the Kids Are United” and “Hurry Up Harry”. Sham 69 were the only band to rival the Pistols and The Clash in terms of raw punk power, and you didn’t get any more authentic than Jimmy Pursey who wore his punk credentials and his political views well and truly on his sleeve. Unfortunately, Sham had also gained a reputation for violence at their gigs, which often descended into fighting and riots. They attracted a group of right wing skins, although Jimmy’s politics were very much towards the left. And their followers were fanatical, the Sham Army followed them everywhere, up and down the country. Add to this the fact that this was a students only gig, and you just knew that there was going to be trouble.
When we arrived we ran the gauntlet of a group of punks and skins who couldn’t get in, were pretty unhappy and ready for a fight. Inside; the hall was far from full, the audience consisting of a mix of students, local rock fans, a few punks and skins who had somehow managed to blag their way in, and a heavy travelling contingent from the Sham Army.
“Now they were travelling to Sunderland Polytechnic and were introduced to the cockney Sham Army for the first time. One lad… took no crap and when a student tried to stamp their hands [this was common practice at Poly gigs in the 70s, the stamp was a pass out] he just grabbed him and stamped on the startled boy’s forehead. …. had brought more of the boys up from Sheffield and they were lucky to get in because the students were only allowing members into the venue. Jimmy went mad because their were hundreds locked outside. No wonder the students got a hard time from the rest of the population; their self-serving attitude resulted in them getting a few slaps after the gig….. Trouble broke out wherever the band played – of the huge skinhead following that joined the Sham cause, a small minority always thought it would be fun to bash the punks.” (From Wednesday, Rucks and Rock ‘n’Roll by Anthony Cronshaw, 2012).
Jimmy and Sham were brilliant, but there were fights throughout the night both inside and outside the hall. Lots of singalongs with skins jumping on stage and Jimmy sharing the mike with them. Great songs like “What Have We Got” (F**k All!) and “Borstal Breakout”. Everyone belted out “If Kids Are United”. Loads of beer flying about. Jimmy pleading with people to stop fighting, almost in tears. Electricity in the air; generated by the raw power of the punk music, and the danger and tension of the event. Amazing, happy days.
“What have we got? (Jimmy)
F**k All (Audience)
What have we got? (Jimmy)
F**k All (Audience)
They’ve taken everything
There’ll soon be nothing left
Soon we’ll be walking the street
With nothing on our feet
What have we got
What have we got
I’d like to buy a shotgun
Shooting MPs conservatives, communists
They’re all the bleeding same”
(What have we got, Sham 69, 1978)

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