Sometimes you go to an event and beforehand you really are not sure what that evening’s events have to offer. Tonight was one of those occasions.
We were heading down to the intimate Latest Music Bar located at 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton for an evening with legendary Skids frontman and film director Richard Jobson, who was reading passages from his acclaimed new sci-fi novel ‘Speed Of Life’ . He would be accompanied by Filthy Tongues maestro Martin Metcalfe who would be providing a musical landscape.
We arrived nice and early to find the said gentlemen running through a soundcheck, if you could call this a soundcheck, more like a rehearsal. We snapped a few pre-show shots from this and then duly ordered our beers and made ourselves comfortable on the barbers style chairs. With all of the select punters arriving just in time, the scene was set for this enthralling performance to commence.
On the face of it, the performance was just 57 year old Jobson and Metcalfe together on the stage. Nothing fancy whatsoever. However as the evening started, we were all immediately drawn into Jobson’s mythical world via his reading of passages from his new book ‘Speed Of Life’, as well as being totally fascinated by the potted history of Jobson’s life. Our decision to attend had immediately been vindicated, tonight was going to be a very memorable night!
So his book ‘Speed Of Life’, what’s it all about? Well………………
Two beautiful time-travelling aliens arrive on Earth, drawn by a powerful need to search for the meaning of human creativity, to discover the truth behind the words, music and changing faces of David Bowie, whose music has reached their world and sparked something new in them. In their quest to understand Bowie’s work, they are exposed to a world of self-destruction and loneliness as they travel through time to key moments in his life. From Ziggy’s farewell Hammersmith gig in London, to the filming in Los Angeles of ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ and many other key points in the amazing life of David Bowie.
So just how exactly did Jobson get here to this point in time?
Well, like many key moments in people’s lives, there are certain important factors that happen at an early age and this is also true in the case of Jobson. You know those life defining moments or light-bulb moments.
I had the feeling from what Jobson was informing us that good had in fact come out of something rather sinister. When he was a child he was run over by a bike and that this led to him to having epileptic seizures. Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting 600,000 people in the UK and it is said that 50 million people worldwide are affected.
As a result of his seizures, Jobson felt isolated and alienated and when he first heard David Bowie’s music through his older brother (he name checks Bowie’s 1971 ‘Hunky Dory’ album here), Jobson became fixated by Bowie and as a ten year old boy he felt that he had a ‘new friend’ in Bowie and wanted to write to him. Thus Jobson’s identity was formed at this tender age. He dyed his hair black with a white stripe which obviously made him stand out from the crowd. He also had this feeling of impending doom as he believed that he wouldn’t live for very long, a byproduct of his neurological disorder. This along with the injustice of class installed into him by his left wing father made him feral and fearless. He described his family as being a medieval religious hardworking community. His father was a miner and his mum worked at the docks at Rosyth (Scotland) among other jobs.
During this special evening, Jobson and Metcalfe would perform a few selected unplugged songs. These were David Bowie numbers and some Skids tunes. At this point in proceedings we were treated to Metcalfe performing ‘Kooks’ (from the aforementioned ‘Hunky Dory’ Bowie album).
Another musical interlude of the evening being Metcalfe playing Jacques Brel’s ‘Amsterdam’ which Bowie recorded in 1973 and released as the b-side of ‘Sorrow’.
Metcalfe later performed ‘Starman’ from Bowie’s 1972 ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ album.
Jobson went on to read further passages from his book, referring to Bowie’s legendary killing off of Ziggy Stardust at Hammersmith Odeon, London on 3rd July 1973. He then discussed his own writing in Berlin and touched on his 2008 film ‘New Town Killers’.
He informed us that given the choice, he does prefer working alone as he doesn’t have to compromise. He wanted to find out when people are a fan of something and what effect it has on them. “Music has effect on you and you have a relationship with that artist” he told us .
Jobson moved to London and then, began chasing the ghost of Bowie in Berlin. The ghost of Bowie and a German girl he had met in London called Caroline.
Caroline was his first proper girlfriend. She was recovering from drug addiction and suffered from terrible depression. Their relationship ended tragically when she committed suicide in their apartment in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Steve Severin from Siouxsie & The Banshees was also living there at the time.
Jobson touched on the Skids ‘Top Of The Tops’ performances, recounting their first appearance with certain opportunities missed and these opportunities missed were rectified in future performances courtesy of Legs & Co. Name(s) were not divulged but at the time the members were Sue Menhenick, Patti Hammond, Lulu Cartwright, Gill Clark, Rosemary Hetherington and Pauline Peters.
Jobson went on to tell us that he had worked in Los Angeles for 10 years and that it was the most toxic place that he has ever been. “People only interested in themselves” he added.
He told us that he was ill when started a band after the Skids called The Armoury Show. They took their name after a 1913 New York modernist art exhibition. Jobson told the audience that guys in bands were taking cocaine but he couldn’t take it because of his own medication. The future wasn’t looking too bright, but he visited a holistic doctor and Jobson was on 300 mg a day of Phenytoin (an anti-seizure medication), so he had to totally forget about drink and other drugs. This German doctor told him what to do and then he realised that he had no other option other than to follow the path as instructed and he got better. It has eventually paid off as he now looks after himself. He personally told me that he goes rowing, when I highlighted the size of his arm muscles.
Jobson briefly touched on the dark troubled childhood and sad death of former Skids band-mate Stuart Adamson, who went onto form the successful Big Country. Adamson hung himself in the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2001, aged just 43.
Jobson informed us that Adamson had wanted a home and a family unit and that he wanted to go back to Scotland and not stay in Berlin.
U2’s The Edge (aka David Howell Evans) delivered the eulogy at Adamson’s funeral which was held at Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline. He told the mourners that Big Country wrote the songs that he wished U2 could write.
In 2006, as a result of the terrible effects of Hurricane Katrina, U2 and Green Day covered ‘The Saints Are Coming’ by Skids as a charity single. It peaked at No.1 in ten countries, including Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands and Spain. Way back in 1978, I had bought the Skids original four song 12” red vinyl edition, which I still proudly own today.
Jobson informed us that he had written ‘The Saints Are Coming’ in Dunfermline library when he was at the tender age of just 15 and that it has now been covered by artists all around the world. U2’s Bono gave him the option of keeping the millions of pounds to be made from the sale of the charity single version or rightfully giving it to the charity. He made the honest and correct decision and gave it away.
It seems that good deeds run in his family as his brother Michael donated 80,000 Euros to German FC St Pauli in Hamburg (from Bundesliga League 2). The team were founded in 1910 and they sing ‘The Saints Are Coming’ tune. While their footballers have enjoyed only modest success on the field, the club is widely recognised for its distinctive culture and has a large popular following as one of the country’s “Kult” clubs. FC St. Pauli supporters are highly identified with far-left politics and according to Jobson were the first club to use rainbow colours.
Also on the subject of Germany, that regular question raised its head yet again this evening regarding the choice of Aryan/Nazi cover artwork for the Skids second album ‘Days In Europa’ which is reminiscent of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Turns out that the album was originally to be called ‘The Olympian’ and so this would greatly explain the use of the imagery. The album changed cover was apparently as a result of a different producer on the second release version.
Tonight, Martin Metcalfe and Richard Jobson performed acoustic versions of Skids tunes ‘The Saints Are Coming’, ‘Kings Of The New World Order’ (from their successful 2018 UK Top 30 album ‘Burning Cities’) and of course finished with the classic ‘Into The Valley’.
One of the most interesting facts gained from the evening for me personally was the connection that Jobson had with the legendary singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis.
Jobson’s friend was Annik Honoré, who was Curtis’s love interest despite being married to Deborah Curtis. Honoré was also the co-founder of Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule Belgian record labels. Incidentally Jobson made several LPs for the Les Disques Du Crépuscule label, usually of poetry readings.
One night when out on tour Ian Curtis suffered an epileptic seizure, no doubt caused by the strobe lighting accidentally being turned on during Joy Division’s performance. Jobson was there as he was on vocal duty with The Stranglers who Joy Division were performing with. To assist Jobson administered Phenytoin to Curtis.
Last year in 2017, the Skids embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour, playing to sell-out crowds at venues the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland, including here in Brighton at the Concorde 2. They returned to the venue in June this year. At the Concorde 2 gig were some guys from Scotland that had come down to re-live a very special school lunchtime that they had witnessed nearly 40 years earlier, when the Skids came to their school to perform. Jobson met them after the Concorde 2 concert and together they walked along the Brighton seafront to the pier and Jobson listened to what those guys had been making of their lives since that great school-time performance. Jobson told us that he treasures that Brighton concert because of this.
We too will treasure this evening with Jobson for many, many years to come.