Tamworth Bands History : 1979
|January - March||April - June|
|Arts Centre Bar...||Tamworth's first Rock Festival...|
|July - September||October - December|
|Punks leave trail of blood...||The DHSS...|
On the national music scene, punk had now had its day and was well and truly replaced by new wave. Punk was however still clinging on in leafy Tamworth. In May, the one and only gig took place by version two of Tamworth’s original punk band, The Reliants. Once again, a Reliants gig was to be remembered for mayhem rather than music; the local Police being called to St. John’s Guildhall only to find chairs, toilets and broken guitars littering the dance floor, as the last few bars of “This is Rock ‘n’ Roll” rang out at the end of the night. Punks also appeared in the Herald in July under the headline: “Punk Gang Left ‘Trail of Blood’, where we read how “...a gang of “punks” left a trail of blood after smashing council office windows in Tamworth.”
Busiest local bands in ’79 were Ice, Brewster, the Ramblin’ Band and Paradox. The Ramblin’ Band Tamworth’s newest country and western group found themselves a regular nightspot at the Tavern-in-the-Town. In mid-June Ice released their first album called “The Saga of the Ice King” telling the story of a time when the earth was ruled by the Nordic Kings. They also revealed plans later in the year for a tour of the low-countries. Brewster had a big following in Lichfield and Burntwood but also found a regular spot at the Chequers at Hopwas. We also read how ex-Paradox member Charles Harrison was now seeing success in the US with top band POCO and Paradox themselves won the “Vitavox Live Sound” trophy.
But…the biggest local band news of the year was on Easter Monday 1979. On this day, as part of the Spring Arts Festival, Tamworth saw it’s first Open-air Rock Concert. More than 300 people turned out to see Ice who performed a selection of tracks from their debut album release, the country-and-western “Ramblin’ Band”, “Brewster”, “Flash Harry” and “Asylum” all of whom were warmly received. This event was a part of the star-studded festival where stars of screen, stage and concert hall appeared throughout Tamworth. Names included David Kossoff, George Melly, Donald Houston and Cy Grant.
Other new local bands appearing in 1979 included Amber Lights, Chico and Rits - who released a single of disco numbers and also the band tipped as top local band of the ‘80s – The DHSS - described in the Herald as “UNUSUAL” …the only way to describe one of Tamworth’s newest bands – the Department of Happiness and Self-Satisfaction”. This band featured ex-Reliants members Edward ian Armchair, Vince Watts and Sam Norchi and ex-local DJ Rikk Quay. They became the first local band to sell a demo-cassette, namely ‘Packaged Pleasure’.
The second local musical highlight of the year appeared later in the year in the Tamworth Herald of December 21st 1979. Under the headline: “Schoolboy band set for stardom” we read how “Local schoolboy band the Fretz played their first official concert at Tamworth’s St. John’s Youth Club to an enthusiastic audience.” This review in Musicbox was written by none other than the youthful Sam Holliday – his first review for the Herald. The Fretz themselves of course included among their ranks one Mark Mortimer on bass guitar – later to appear in many Tamworth bands.
In the news locally was the new bar at Tamworth Arts Centre and, on the subject of alcohol, the refusal of planning permission for an extension at Hamlets Wine Bar. Also opened in 1979 was St. John’s Youth Club, now housed in the old St. John’s School in Ludgate. The Guildhall was no longer used after The Reliants ‘massacre’ earlier in the year. The club was very popular with local youngsters but not with the neighbours. Local councillors told youth club leaders to ‘tighten discipline’ which caused a furore and strong debate in the Herald. However, we read in June how “a Tamworth youth club, defending itself against allegations of rowdyism and bad management has won a vote of confidence from town planners.” The Club was now free to open seven nights a week and was to be a regular venue for several local bands.
Big name acts were thin on the ground in and around Tamworth in ’79 – Marmalade, Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders and The Searchers played as did George Melly and ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton. The Assembly Rooms no longer saw top names tread it’s boards – there were however several double-header discos with Nij Redfern and Paul Neil and also a “triple disco” at the Assembly Rooms on Saturday February 10 organised by Grahame Wood – also known as Kippa. Another Graham Wood could be seen spinning discs locally – none other than Buttercup.
At the end of the year in Musicbox in the Tamworth Herald of 28th December 1979, the then Editor, Annette Witheridge wrote her summary of the previous decade under the headline “Slade, Stewart and the Stranglers – the faces of the “strange” Seventies.” In her highlights of 1979 for December she said “DECEMBER – Wings and the Police play at sell-out Birmingham concerts. Tamworth new wave band the Department of Happiness and Self Satisfaction topped as the local band of the ‘80s.”
The DHSS in fact split up on December 28th 1979!!