Part of the Fewtrell family chain of venues in Birmingham, it was initially a disco type venue that quickly turned into a live rock venue hosting bands such as AC/DC and Queen. It’s legendary status however came with the onslaught of Punk in 75/76. Tales are numerous of the small but noticeable punk crowd who would turn up at Barbarella’s to see The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshee’s, The ramones, The Buzzcocks and local punks, The Killjoys, Suburban Punks and The Prefects, Sussed, Dansette Damage and others who would play as support. In between acts, the punks would pass over their own reggae records for Kevin the DJ to play. Like Punk, Barbarella’s was a fairly short term venue (although Dire Straights did record a live album there on the 4th July 1978 titled Birmingham at Barbarellas).
As with other venues, I’d love to get more memories, gig listings, photos and so on, but to kick us off, here is a mega rare photo of the Sex Pistols playing Barbarellas accompanied by a live recording on from the gig on 14th August 1976 of Flowers of Romance and I Wanna Be Me, sent in by Andy Marshall from the Sex Pistol Archives http://www.youtube.com/user/SexPistolsArchives
This is some incredible audio, of the Pistols in Brum. Were you there?
Just two weeks before the Pistols played Barbarellas, on the 31st July 1976, one of the all time greats of the heavy rock scene played here, the mighty AC/DC. What an amazing couple of gigs in the space of two weeks and so different! Where you there?
This is a rare recording of Rock N’ Roll Singer, made even rarer for being recorded live in Barbarellas in Birmingham! Enjoy.
Second Hand Band (SHB) were formed in Birmingham during October 1974 and comprised of ex members from the bands Eclipse, Etelka and Che. The original line up was Bob Ensor (drums) John Patchett (guitar) Clive Hunt (Bass guitar) and Gary Wookey (vocals). Most of the material they played, about 99%, was self penned.
The band’s first gig was in June 1975 at the Jug Birmingham, but more work soon followed that year including several gigs at Bogarts, Barbarellas, Cloud 9 in Redditch and the Greyhound, Fulham Palace Rd in London.
During 1976 the band was taken under the wing of Ricci Dee, the Bogarts resident DJ and The promo’ agency West Coast Promotions.
The workload of the band now suddenly became more intense and the band started playing gigs outside of the Brum area and more around the UK as a whole. This included, South Wales, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Wiltshire, Norfolk and the North East and Scotland as well as a date at Upstairs at Ronnie Scotts and Hatchetts in London. However, the band did return home and played many gigs at Bogarts, Barbarellas and Rebbecas. During early 1976, however, Clive the Bass player, quit the band to get married. He was quickly replaced by another ex Che member, Dick Czepiel.
Also around this time, with the gig diary looking to be very busy, the band secured a bank loan and re equipped with a state of the art 600Watt PA system and Soundcraft mixing desk (including stage foldback monitors). The band also purchased extensive lighting equipment mounted on two side of stage placed towers, to enhance their dynamic stage performance, that also included a pyrotechnic display at the end of the show.
The band were now able to play larger venues such as Universities and larger halls, although they still somehow managed to fit most of this new’ kit’ into the smaller pub and club venues that were still their ‘bread and butter’.
The band were now also being offered support roles which would include City Boy, Motorhead, Colosseum 2, Claire Hamill and Hinkley’s Heroes. Record companies also started to show an interest in the band. Remember there was no internet or computers on which to produce and promote your work in those days.
However, the bubble of success was about to burst and in 1977 the Punk movement undercurrent ’exploded’ on to the scene. All of a sudden Rock Bands and all they stood for, were deemed to be ‘uncool’. As a result, the gigs and record company interest began to evaporate. On Sunday the 6th of November, after a gig at Barbarellas, guitarist John announced his intention to quit the band and with the rest of the band not seeming interested in finding a replacement, SHB played its final gig at the Dunlop Social Club, Erdington, on November 11th 1977.
John from the band sent these fantastic pictures into the archive of the Second Hand Band from a gig at Barbarella’s in 1976. Strange to think that punk was just about to hit the UK and Barbarellas would become the punk club in the city.
In the early 1970’s a group of musicians were rehearsing in the function room of the Queen’s Head pub in Erdington, Birmingham playing mainly blues based rock music. The band consisted of Tim Holmes (bass), Terry Drew (rhythm guitar), Charlie (drums), and Gbeam (lead guitar) known for his habit of calling everyone he met ‘gbeam’ or ‘smackbeam’.
The band had been looking for a vocalist for some time and someone suggested to Dave Kirby that he auditioned for the position. Dave turned up at the next rehearsal and was duly appointed as lead singer of the band.
At this point the band’s name was Ion Mistress. They were playing around the pub circuits of Birmingham at venues such as Henry’s Blues House. Following musical differences Gbeam left the band to be replaced by Tim Holmes’ cousin Julian Price (lead guitar) and Charlie left to be replaced by Eric (drums). With the loss of Gbeam the band moved away from the blues based style to a more Birmingham style of rock and began writing their own music with a Deep Purple/Black Sabbath feel resulting in the band moving to more mainstream venues such as The Eagle, Barrel Organ and Bogart’s.
In the mid to late 70’s once again musical differences forced changes to the band and Julian and Eric left to be replaced by Pete Butler (lead guitar) and Ray Richmond (drums). Terry Drew also left to follow a spiritual path. This left Ion Mistress as a four piece band with Tim Holmes’ fluid bass riffs complementing Pete Butler’s Richie Blackmore/Jimmy Page style riffs, with Ray Richmond keeping the rhythm section tight and Dave Kirby’s power vocals leading from the front. The band was now set for a new phase and it was felt that a new name was also needed. Bandanna was born.
Bandanna (mk1) 1975-1978 was Dave Kirby, lead vocal, Tim Holmes, bass, Ray Richman, drums and Pete Butler, guitar and vocal
Biog Pete Butler
After the obligatory school bands, in the summer of 1975 I answered an audition and went to the Queens head in Erdington to meet the remaining members of local band Ion Mistress, Dave Kirby and Tim Holmes. I remember it was quite daunting as I had to go to the other end of Erdington High St! ….unknown territory
After beating off the likes of Ozzy Osborne’s younger brother (also called Ozzy) and along with drummer Ray Richman we formed Bandanna (mk1)
We were, of course, very serious and rehearsed 3 nights per week in a room above the station hotel in Sutton Coldfield. We quickly wrote a set of new original material along with 2 covers (Blue Oyster Cult and BTO..let’s rock!!!)
We bought a van and a very nice Cerwin Vega P.A. from Pete Oliver. We had 3 roadies, Steve, Ada and Tony, who loved Jackson Browne (I ribbed him mercilessly about his taste in music as I called it “soft” …one of my favorite songs is now a Jackson Browne!)
Soon we were on the local rock cct, Bogart’s Sat Lunch, then the night club circuit (Barbarella’s, etc), the University cct, Working Mens clubs cct (mostly, not sure why, in the North on England, the M6 was our constant companion / route. We would schlepp all our gear up rickety fire escapes to be told „no one in tonight boys, footballs on”
Tim was very handy in the workshop and we soon had the obligatory drum riser and lighting gantries and our manager, one Pete Wetton, bought some pyro equipment (Pyro Pete as he was from then on referred…The problem was that most of these places couldn’t accommodate this “kit” We would play on tiny stages with drum riser, smoke machines and pyros, many times the drums took up the entire stage.
One night at the infamous Tonypandy Naval Club we nearly killed a headbanger with the pyros, the poor chap had is head directly over it when it went off, obviously had his eyes tight shut, luckily for us. Insurance was something older folks had!
We played London pubs, e.g. the rock garden, Covent Garden with the ex Nice bass and drummer. It was sad to see that Jackson and Davison were in the tiny rock garden and Emerson had gone global by then.
We played support slots for Motorhead at Marquee (5 pound fee) and Strife.
Motorhead anecdote….The band, who were all rather nice, had a group of Hells Angels in tow for “security”; now we were old school and wanted to change into our “stage clothes”…I had seen queen (supporting Mott the Hoople) ! at the town hall that year and my girlfriend at the time (now happily married ), created me a rather fetching Silk Bat-Winged top a la Brian May (see pictures) which I had to wear for the Marquee
The dressing room at the marque is very small and in there were 2 of the aforementioned “security” guys. The head angel was a veritable mountain of a man called Levi and one of his “team” had upset him….when I got into the room I wedged myself in the opposite corner to these 2 and tried to tune my guitar , which I then leaned into the corner while I changed my clothes, I heard the most awful sound and it was Levi beating his friend viciously and then timing how long it took for the little guy to come around, if it was too fast , he got hit again..nice. Then a glass came flying across the room and hit my guitar,,, the indentation is still there, I picked up the guitar and ran onto the stage for cover.
Earlier in the evening Lemmy had asked me if he could borrow my amp as his had blown up the previous evening. He was a very nice chap so I agreed; also Phil Taylor borrowed some drum stuff from Ray. When the gig was over I noticed that all of the lent gear was missing, now I had not long before witnessed the dressing room ultravilolence but, I plucked up the courage to approach the roadie who was loading their van and just said “I think you have some of our stuff” “oh sorry” he said and promptly handed it all back, phew!! I didn’t fancy hospital food; I just wanted to get home.
We did support gigs for Budgie who were quite unfriendly, Sassafras, who’s lead singer Terry Bennett was a real gentleman and helped us a lot, Trapeze, Max Boyce the comedian and many more.
The high water mark was undoubtedly our support slot for Budgie at Newcastle City Hall. It was the jewel in the crown of the town hall cct which at the time was THE cct to play. All the big bands did it and it was fantastic to hear our music echoing around these venerable galleries. We had a great reception from the crowd.
In 1978 we supported The Damned at Northampton Cricket Club. By then punk had taken a hold on the agents that we worked with. After this gig we thought decided that this punk was not for us and decided to have a hiatus.
Bandanna Mk2 1980 to 84 was Dave Kirby, lead vocal, Mark Whitehouse lead guitar, Mick Hackett, Bass and synth then Mick Walker, then Paul Prior, bass, Brett Lane then Paul Thurlow, drums , and Pete Butler, guitar and vocal, Kevin Hunt lead guitar and synth.
During the pause I tried out for Working Mens Club band and met Mark Whitehouse; he was quite a character, he had beautiful Les Paul artisan but couldn’t connect his pedals! I Immediately thought “now here’s a chap I could work with” so I asked him to be my co guitar in the reformed Bandanna mk2
I asked Dave Kirby and my old chum Mick Hackett, an ex-colleague in BT , Mick knew a drummer called Brett Lane so that was the 1st line up sorted.
We decided not to use any of the material from Mk1 and so, as we did back then, wrote a whole new set based around the twin guitars and opted for a more pop rock feel. More like Thin Lizzy, Toto, Boston, Journey etc etc
We started Monday nights at the railway, in Curzon St, the Landlord was Bernard and his wife Winnie. We quickly moved to Thursday eve, then to Friday (ever closer to the coveted Saturday night top spot. That was occupied for a long time by Bernie’s favorites, the Dealers, but as soon as they had a break we were in like a shot.
Things had moved up a gear or two when we recruited Paul Thurlow. He brought a tightness that we had lacked before and he was, and still is, one of the best drummers around.
The Railway was then sold to Fred Waite, the father of some of the Musical Youth group. He invested a lot into the pub, new stage, in house PA etc and we continued to get good crowds.
Mick Hackett decided to move to Nottingham so had to leave the band….how parochial is that!! Paul knew Mick Walker who promptly filled Mick Hackett’s shoes and bought some fresh blood.
Towards the end Kevin Hunt and Paul Prior ably filled others shoes. Kevin moved to Australia and formed a very successful Pink Floyd Tribute Band.
Eventually, Paul T decided he needed a break from music. At the time we were disappointed that we hadn’t been more successful. In hindsight it was the correct thing to do as we had gone as far as we could.
Since then I worked with a singer and drummer called John Hopcroft .
We formed a band playing West Coast American covers with Phil Brittle on Drums, Mick Walker on Bass, Pat Geddes Smith on Sax and keyboards and Paul Davis on guitar an vocals We recorded a version of Chaka Khans (Michael Sembello) Eye to Eye which I am rather proud of which may be uploaded.
I also played with a 7 piece Rock on Roll band called the red river rock and roll show featuring Ted “Big Daddy” Lee and “Rockin Roddy” on vocals. It was great fun and have too many stories about them to go into here. Pat the Sax was there too.
I also played with a social club band called Midnight Express who were fab, with Phil Brittle drums, Andy Abbot on bass (From 60s band Muscles), and Mike Munslow on piano (mike is a fab piano player and we were bloody good.
Since then I moved to Bavaria in south Germany and have a little rock covers trio called Francis Collection.
Mick Hackett started in covers bands while still at school in Halesowen, moving to original rock bands at 18 and cutting his teeth with Snakeshead before joining Bandanna after meeting Pete Butler at work. He left when he moved to Nottingham in ’83 where he played with a few original bands but it ain’t Brum and he soon shelved it for a few years. After a couple of bouts of life threatening illness he decided that life is indeed too short and returned to the scene with 3 Above The Shark, a powerful covers band who were an integral part of a thriving East Midlands pub circuit. Forming Not Now Kato, an ‘original covers’ good time band, both bands ran side by side for several years. This was followed by a dabble in rock theatre as Nigel Tufnel with acclaimed tribute show The Spinal Taps, before hitting the pub scene again with The Incredible Skank Brothers, a very successful high energy Ska show, who are currently ruling the roost in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
So here it is, 657 gigs that took place in Brum from 77-79. Compiled by Neil from gigs he attended, gigs he saw advertised in the Sunday Mercury, evening Mail and Melody Maker. It is an incredible picture of the bands who played and played together and the venues they played. I’m really interested in the history of Barbarellas and the bands who played there over that period is a who’s who of punk.
I want to thank Neil for providing such an amazing list of gigs and throw it open to BPMA community to add other gigs, amend line ups, and share memories of the gigs. What were the bands like, who did you go with, what was the best gig?