Tag Archives: birmingham

Dave Wakeling of The Beat draws himself


Dave Wakeling of The Beat draws himself
80s popstar draws himself

I have a huge, towering stack of music papers from the 1980s in my study including the NME, Record Mirror, Sounds, Melody Maker, Smash Hits, Fab 208, etc, etc, etc. And in one edition of Fab 208, the editor had asked famous popstars of the day to draw themselves.

Most noteworthy for me was Dave Wakeling of The Beat who was the only pop star to depict himself in profile. The magazine noted that he feels strong about world problems.

The Beat were a very political combo and I had the honour of interviewing the late Ranking Roger for the biography I co-wrote of Neville Staple of The Specials.

Night clubs still operating a race bar in the 70s and 80s


In the two biographies I’ve had published – with Neville Staple (Original Rude Boy) and Errol Christie (No Place To Hide) – the same question came up of night clubs that operated a race bar back in the 1970s and early 1980s. That is, in breach of legislation, they refused or curtailed entry to people on grounds of skin colour. You wouldn’t believe this could have happened in England within living memory – but oh yes it did.

The proof? Well, in 1978 the Birmingham night club Pollyanna’s was ordered by the Commission for Racial Equality to stop restricting black and Chinese people from attending its functions. Unbelievably the club not only admitted what it did but tried to justify it. Their argument was that in the interests of “a happy situation”, racial quotas had to be imposed. This included telling a university lecturer not to bring in a group of Chinese students!

Errol Christie told me that several Coventry clubs as late as 1981 operated an effective colour bar making it almost impossible for black youth to enter the premises. Ironically, the aforementioned Pollyanna’s did become a meeting place for Brummie punks and skinheads including a certain Ranking Roger, later of The Beat….who was black.

Pollyanna's in trouble

Pollyanna’s in trouble

Birmingham in 1981 – postcard from a long lost world


BrumThe British city of Birmingham has been spruced up in recent years but thirty years ago, it was a mix of post-industrial destruction, 1960s flyovers and underpasses and sky high unemployment.

Let’s see what we can remember from Birmingham in 1981:

Spaghetti Junction – an interchange of eight roads layered one over the other where the Expressway leaves the M6 motorway to take drivers who could figure out where they were going in to the centre of the city.

Opposite Lock – centre of Brum’s pub rock circuit.

Holy City Zoo – the club that bravely put on new romantic nights in the middle of heavy metal country.

Rum Runner – similar to Holy City Zoo.  Owned by Paul Berrow in 1981 – Brum’s answer to Steve Strange.

Crown and Cushion – which hosted the ‘Sounds of the Future’ night.  The man behind this was John Tully who had been the driving force behind the legendary Barbarella’s – a punk venue that had launched The Beat and Ranking Roger on the world.

St Martin’s Rag Market – where new romantics went to buy their clobber.

Kahn and Bell boutique – another haunt for new romantics and futurists.

Bingley Hall – huge cavernous venue where the likes of Roxy Music entertained Brummies.

Frighted Horse – reputedly a pub where Handsworth rastas and local cops rubbed shoulders on friendly and distinctly unfriendly terms.  Or so the story goes.