Archive for the ‘Doctors of Madness’ Category

Doctors of Madness 1976

Doctors of Madness
February 27th 1976 Newcastle Mayfair (with Bop Deluxe)
The Doctors of Madness were a weird band. Hyped up as the next big thing, and fronted by super-ego Kid Strange, they played some pretty strong proto-punk music which drew heavily from The Velvet Underground and Bowie. Although misunderstood and much maligned at the time, they are now recognised as being influential in the birth of punk rock, and sowed the seeds for The Pistols, and a lot of what was to follow. I first saw them supporting Be Bop Deluxe at Newcastle Mayfair in 1976, and still have a programme from the gig which includes a silver flexi (see scans). The flexi Tracks are: Waiting; Afterglow; Billy Watch Out; Noises of the Evening. My recollection of the band are of Kid Strange being exactly that: strange on stage, but also compelling and charismatic. I also remember Urban Blitz as a manic violinist. I saw the band a few times at the Mayfair and other local gigs, and really regret not going to see them at Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt in 1976, where they were supported by none other than the Sex Pistols in their first foray “up north”. That pairing also played Northallerton Sayers club at the same time. From the programme: “The music of the Doctors of Madness is extremely different, played with great honesty and without the “Rock Rule Book”. Members: Kid Strange: singer; guitarist and composer. He rates only Dylan and Lennon alongside himself as the most talented living songwriters. Its an accident that Kid Strange is a star. Stoner: Bass. The mercury man, slow and deliberate. He carries a haunted look and few know him well. Urban Blitz: Electric violin, baritone vialectra, guitar and mandolin. Began illustrious carreer at Kindergarten age as in the wont of such viruosi. “There is no musician I respect”. Peter di Lemma: drums. The silver surfer.” Pretty awesome stuff; eh?

Be Bop Deluxe in concert 1974 – 1978

Be Bop Deluxe in concert 1974 – 1978
I was quite a fan of Be Bop Deluxe and Bill Nelson in the 70s and saw them just about every time they came to Newcastle or Sunderland. The first time I saw them was supporting Cockney Rebel on their first major tour. This great double bill came to Sunderland Locarno, and I got in early to catch Be Bop Deluxe as the talk was that they were an up and coming band. Thinking back this was a great bill. At that time Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were just starting out, with their first (and in my view best) single Sebastian and Be Bop Deluxe has just released their first lp Axe Victim. I next saw them at Sunderland Ploy Freshers Ball in Wearmouth Hall students union building (see great paper ticket above; easy to forge or what?!). They were on a high at the time. This was still before Ships in the Night. I would think Maid in Heaven was the single at the time, and the lp Futurama had just been released. The place was packed, not just with drunken students (although there were lots of them, including me) but also with people who had turned out to see Be Bop. The next ticket I have for a Be Bop gig is at Newcastle City Hall in 1976. This was as Ships in the Night entered the chart and they were reaching the height of their success, and filling concert halls up and down the country. I think I also saw them at Newcastle Mayfair and/or Sunderland Locarno in late 1975 or early 1976, but can’t be certain. Their show was faultness. Bill Nelson is a class guitarist; not flashy, but technically great, and with his own distinctive style. Bill looked an unassuming guy, not your typical rock star, and the band were difficult to categorize. They blended elements of Bowie, with Roxie, with jazz rock, and with a clear love of science fiction. Some songs were prog, some rock some pop. Some were great, others just OK, but overall they were always enjoyable in concert. On one tour they showed shots from Fritz Lang’s classic silent science fiction film Metropolis as a backdrop (or did they screen the actual film? My memory fails at this point). As a reader of Famous Monsters and other horror and scifi mags, I thought it was great! On the Modern Music tour they were all dressed in very conservative suits, and very much the men about town. As I say this was difficult to categorize, and in some ways, quite different and challenging stuff. But I guess this was all part of Bill’s vision and his way of blending his art with his music. Probably quite deep conceptual stuff, although I didn’t see that at the time. I just thought they were a pretty neat rock band with some cool songs, and some nice guitar. I saw them again at the City Hall in 1977 and 1978 and have all the programmes from those tours. Looking through the programmes, I noticed that support act on one of the tours was the equally challenging and plain weird Doctors of Madness, fronted by the even weirder Kid Strange. I must write something about them one day, as they were truly something else again….
I googled a set list for Be Bop and found one which included familiar songs such as: Life In The Air Age; Sister Seagull (which I remember as a favourite); Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape (harking to Bill’s homeland); Maid In Heaven and Ships In The Night (both very under rated singles and not often heard now) and Blazing Apostles (which I remember as a bit of a rocker, and usually the last song or the encore). I was sad when Bill Nelson decided to call a halt to Be Bop Deluxe, and I continued to follow him in Red Noise and as a solo act for a little. I’ll write something about that part of Bill Nelson’s career tomorrow.