Mean Fiddler, London
September 13, 2003
WORDS AND PICTURES: STEVE HOLLAND
It had been 25 long years since rock rebels Radio Birdman had performed in London. Last time round it had been a case of diabolical timing.
They had arrived
on these shores in 1978 at the height of the punk explosion led by Johnny Rotten
and they had alienated the music press right away - simply by being themselves.
Radio Birdman had dared to be something other than one-two-three-four-crash-bang-wallop
hardcore punks. They had six members instead of four, they had long hair instead
of spiky and they had a keyboard player. All were cardinal sins in those days.
But you know Radio Birdman. Compromise is not a word in their vocabulary. And quite right, too. In 1978, sections of the British music press slated Radio Birdman for no other reason than the band didn't even attempt to fit the mould of the flavour-of-the-month. Most of the shallow, egotistical, pretentious fashion victims working for the New Musical Express and Sounds had no interest whatsoever in hard rock - however brilliantly it was played, however fantastic the songs were written, and however exciting the performances were. These so-called journalists believed that if it wasn't punk, it stunk. And you can't argue with that sort of logic.
I personally saw Radio Birdman perform six or seven times in London in '78. I was in the audience at the Hope and Anchor - a tiny basement bar in Islington, North London, on both dates that Radio Birdman played there. A representative of the music press was at one of those shows - well, for a small part of it, anyway - and he wrote a foul "review" claiming that the band were absolute rubbish and that they went down like a proverbial lead balloon. This article was later used by hostile elements within the band's record company to justify the company's failure to support or promote the band. Let me put the record straight. I don't know what substances this alleged journalist had been abusing, but from where I was standing (rather, leaping about) it was an incredible show - superb high-voltage rock'n'roll which went down great with a very appreciative audience. I remember having a struggle to gain possession of one of Ron's drumsticks when he threw it into the crowd. The band went on to play THREE encores - the only time in their history when they have done more than two. A bad show? I don't think so.
And so to Saturday. The boys were back in town. It was the fourth time I had seen them on the current tour. And it was another incendiary performance! Other reviewers have detailed the set list and song highlights, so I won't go over old ground. All of the band were on great form. I found out later from Ron that tour virus and travel problems meant that most of the guys had not eaten for 24 hours and none of them had had more than three hours' sleep the night before! Who would have guessed? The show was absolutely Pure Essence of Rock'n'Roll. It was electrifying. To be in the audience was like mainlining on adrenaline. Exhilaration overload.
At the end of this sensational gig, I looked at the faces of the audience as they turned to make their way away from the stage. Almost without exception, they had beaming smiles. It was obvious that they had all had a fantastic time. After all, they had been lucky enough to witness one of the all-time best rock shows London has ever seen. Radio Birdman knock spots off the new generation of guitar bands. Many of today's young pretenders have been influenced by them, but they are pale imitations. Radio Birdman have not yet relinquished the crown that they so richly deserve. And rightly so. Long may they reign.
This tour has been my greatest rock'n'roll experience for 25 years. A heartfelt thank you, Radio Birdman. Keep on rocking. - Steve Holland
Photographs © Steve Holland
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