where the writers are
THE CLASH GIG THAT WASN'T (part 3)
FASHION

“Great idea, Jon. I mean it’s not as if anyone’s going to Barbs tonight to see The Clash is it. They’ll all need something to do.”

“No, come on. Fuck this. It’s us against the world, right?”

“Apparently.” Dik mumbles, but then he gets a sudden devilish look on his face. “Jon’s right. Us against the world. Come on lanky, shake a leg, we’ve got a gig to organize.

I’m standing with Miki at the back doors of the van. He’s just driven it over the pedestrian-only little humpback bridge outside the main entrance to The Canon Hill Arts Center. No trolls were harmed in the parking of the van.

“Barbs has changed a bit then.” Miki observes. B&H smoke swirls around him like Sherlockian fog.

“Very funny.”

“Yes,” he says, unraveling the electric cable that’s holding the back doors closed from around the handles, “it’s amazing what a dab of paint and turfing over Broad Street can do for a club’s ambiance.”

“We’ll be needing a fucking ambulance if you don’t shut it.”

“Oh yeah? You and who’s army sunshine?”

Mulligan bursts out of the arts center doors and hares towards the van.

“His.” I say.

“Oooh, you big butch cowboy, you know I love it when you talk dangerous.”

“Alright chaps?” Mulligan wants to know.
“Just fine and dandy.” I say with a face as long as the line currently winding its way round Barbarellas to see The Clash.

“How you are adjusting to life in the army Mulligan?” Miki asks him but Mulligan has already learned to disregard the more surreal of Miki’s questions. Which is most of them then.

“Let’s get in and get set up.” Mulligan says and then I need you to take me back to my place please Miki. With the van. To pick up a few things.

I stand and marvel at the stage, upon which sits a good deal of Mulligan’s flat. There’s the sculpture from the bog, the one that always confuses me as to where I’m supposed to piss. His biggest paintings are strung from invisible cables so that the minotaur on the black and white checkered floor looks as if he’s about to step over and adjust the stack of televisions. There are ten television stacked on a board that’s balanced on the backs of a couple of female shop window dummies posed down on their hands and knees. All very Korova milkbar, I’m sure.

Dik’s standing onstage wielding the mystic Premier drum key and doing mysterious things only drummers pretend to understand to the 3-D jigsaw puzzle of his kit. There are a couple of motorbikes parked either end of the stage. Center stage, a large white screen is silently showing one of those old black and white French films, all full of rotting dog carcasses, eyeballs being sliced by razor blades, and other things the French think of as art. Then those two thin white dukes in trench coats I met last week at Mulligans walk onstage, and start setting up a couple of amps and a keyboard. What were they called again?

“Duran Duran.” Mulligan says coming up behind me and making me jump.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

“They’re going to open the show for us. That’s their screen and projector.

“Very multi-media, I’m sure. Where’s Miki?”

“Up the village. In the pubs, trying to get a few punters down the hill.” He tugs a pocket watch from his jacket pocket, “He should be back in a minutes, then we’ll do sound checks. I’ve got a couple of phone calls to make” And he rushes off like a dreadlocked surreal white rabbit.

Afterwards, how did I feel about the show: Fashion and Duran Duran at The Cannon Hill Arts Center on that night in July of 1978? We’re helping hump Mulligan’s furniture and artwork back into his flat around about half past midnight? And I’m surprised to find I actually ended up having a great time. I managed to shake off the depression of losing what would have been at that time the most important gig I’d ever played.

I’d actually quite enjoyed Duran Duran – they were a bit synthy and drum machiney, but they had a few other good songs as well as that Girls On Film we’d heard on their demo tape. They were a bit funky in places, that John could play bass by slapping it with his thumb which is always impressive. Along with Nick’s synths meeps and warbles, their set had seemed a good enough soundtrack for the black and white arty Frog flicks.

And whereas it was true there were only about 35 people in the whole 200-seater theatre, but I actually managed to get into our songs. We played a tight set, twisting and dipping, roaring and whooshing, in all the right places, all the right notes in the right order sort of thing. I completely forgot where I was and why I was there, and those 35 punters must have picked up because they did a Dr Who Tardis number on the theater and somehow seemed to fill the place. It was only our eighth gig and despite the circumstances it felt like progress.

“Help me get the sculpture back in the bog.” Mulligan says.

“Okay.” I was dying for a piss.