Get In Touch,
Publishing Inquiries

It was 40 years ago today: my first concert is Dead Or Alive 

Do you remember your first concert? Chances are it’s ingrained on your musical memory in the same way your first singles and albums are.

My first gig took place 40 years ago today, though if I’d had my way I should have seen Adam And The Ants’ Prince Charming Revue at the Birmingham Odeon in January 1982. I’d seen a ticket and coach package deal advertised on the bus in Milton Keynes and should have been more insistent when I asked my parents if I could go. 

Alas, this twelve year-old was told ‘no’ in no uncertain terms, which still rankles today, especially as the band imploded just days later, bringing an end to the act that awakened my interest in pop fandom. I’m also certain that the oldies’ firm refusal played a part in their relenting and letting me go on a school trip to France just four months later. From that very same country where I’ve been a resident since 2017, this is Dead Or Alive.

It’s the late afternoon of Sunday 15 April, 1984, and I’m walking through sheep-stuffed countryside from our village near Willen Lake to a bus stop near John Lewis at Central Milton Keynes shopping centre. It may well even be the same stop I should have waited at to board the coach to the Ants gig I was so cruelly denied, I don’t know.

What I do know is that a coterie of back-combed freak friends from wildly varying areas of Milton Keynes have bonded on the dance floor at a Blitz-style poseur’s club called The Joint — and tonight we’re all due to reconvene at a show by up and coming disco sleaze merchants Dead Or Alive, for my first pop gig, finally. I’d do anything to get there, and how.

I know I had seen Toyah Willcox perform in the Trafford Tanzi wrestling play at the Mermaid Theatre but that was a school organised affair, and mercifully, she didn’t sing. Or if she did I’ve completely blocked it out.

Although Dunstable is down the A5 in Bedfordshire, we Buckinghamshire posse consider it a de facto local show. Giddy with excitement, the two Alisons — Ward and McDermott — and I got the National Express from CMK in full make-up and androgynous get-up. 

Famous for her pencilled Joan Crawford-esque eyebrows, only days before Alison Ward had just served the Sisters Of Mercy at the Newport Pagnell motorway cafe where she waitressed. The timing was curious — Wayne Hussey joined Andrew Eldritch’s goth combo after Pete Burns relieved him of guitar duties in DOA.  

Now, Dead Or Alive were everything Burns had longed for, since his days of fanboying on the dance floor to Sylvester and Donna Summer. 

Pete Burns and his colourful cohorts were a much-needed bridge between growing out of Adam Ant and discovering David Bowie, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have interviewed PB back in 2003 when the band’s greatest hits album, Evolution, was in the offing.

DOA had made their Top Of The Pops debut with their economic disco cover of That’s The Way (I Like It) just three days before, but I’d been buying their records since the previous year, ever since school chum Paul Day suggested I check them out. 

The coach makes a scheduled stop in Bletchley, where we had lived in the 1970s — and on pile Andrew Murray and assembled ‘weird’ pals.

Over the previous six months, Andrew — five years my senior — had introduced me to many things, socially and sexually, but a lack of social graces I hoped wasn’t one of them. 

If I wasn’t sure if Andrew knew Alison McDermott or not, then that query was settled in a matter of seconds as he made a beeline for us, with the two Alisons seated together on my immediate left on the other side of the gangway.

“Can I sit next to Alison, please,” he demanded of McDermott, who then came and sat next to me. It was a moment of gauchenes that still baffles me four decades later.

By the time we arrive at the Dunstable Queensway Hall, a steady but not huge queue had formed. The clocks had already leapt forward an hour into British Summer Time, so I do remember it was still light, and for April, unseasonably mild and dry. As we trundle slowly, with Andrew offering “hearing The Locomotion on the radio forced me to dig out my old OMD singles.” 

Built in 1964, the Queensway Hall looked to me, like your regular municipal council-run building but with a distinctly Star Trek-ish space age vibe. It had an 800 seat auditorium but was not a venue for intimate plays. However, when it was known as the Civic Centre in the ’60s and ’70s back, the venue attracted some notable names such as Pink Floyd and, in 1972, David Bowie for one of his early Ziggy Stardust shows. 

Curiously, and even though bought my first Bowie record in the very same month, April 1984, I wouldn’t have known it at the time of the DOA gig, or much about Bowie full stop, other than he was the deity all the musicians I was interested in looked up to.

My androgynous pals were all older than me so I was the only one conscious of getting the last coach back to avoid I being grounded for the summer (Tony Stacey tried in vain to stick his tongue down my throat to persuade me to stay on, but to no avail).

Other than it wasn’t very long, and that the guitarist in the indie-ish support band kept glancing in my direction — had he never seen a 14 year old boy in full make-up and John Lennon style granny specs before? — I can’t remember too much about the specifics of the show. But it was just the most exhilarating thing, to hear the music you were playing on crappy stereos in a live setting, with the scantily clad Burns bulge inches away, thrusting in time with the disco beat.

I’d got what I want.

Steve Pafford

“Sylvester Stallone’s Masturbating”: Pete Burns eyes up Bette Davis is here

It’s only words: my first gig was 40 years ago. But I’m only 39.

Liked it? Take a second to support Steve Pafford on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

We use cookies to give you the best experience. Cookie Policy