Bands reunite to play Have Guitars...Will Travel show at Bradlaugh in Northampton

The Russians formed in 1979 and fused the energy of punk with giddying musicianship
The Russians formed in 1979 and fused the energy of punk with giddying musicianship
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Four bands from Northamptonshire’s 1980s alternative scene are playing The Charles Bradlaugh next week to celebrate volume three the book, Have Guitars...Will Travel and help kick off the town’s music festival which takes place next weekend.

The current instalment of the book by Derrick Thompson covers 1980 to 1987.

Headliners The Russians formed in 1979 and fused the energy of punk with giddying musicianship.

They released two albums on cassette, a 7” single and were championed by John Peel for who they recorded a BBC session before splitting in 1982.

Julie Woolmore from the band spoke to Peter Dennis ahead of the show.

“I'm really excited about it, she explains, “I love coming back to my hometown and have a great fondness for the place.

“I’ve great memories of Northampton and the gigs and it's good that many people who were involved at that time are still there.”

Have Guitars...Will Travel highlights many of the independent venues in the town at the time.

Woolmore says many were fantastic and should never have been ‘lost’ - each having its own atmosphere and feel.

“The Black Lion was a personal favourite” she explains.

“The gigs were always electric, a great atmosphere, large crowds and a great energy.

“It had a big stage and as a band we really liked to throw ourselves into the music.

“The stage gave us a lot of room to move around.

“It was an incredible honour to play The Nag's Head stage with John Peel connection.

“It was really hard getting equipment up the stairs but we always had a lot of fans waiting to help.

“It had a brilliant stage and an actual dressing room. It always had a good quality sound.”

In March 1980 the band ‘waged war’ on clothing shop Acme in Wellingborough Road, dousing it with custard pies, flour bombs and buckets of water.

“It got very out of hand very quickly,” explains Woolmore. “It stopped traffic and made the front page of the Chron.

“It was cold and wet and we got absolutely smothered from head to toe. It was a proper punk triumph.”

Speaking about her legacy to the town’s music scene, she said: “To encourage anybody to play music would be fantastic.

“If I thought I'd helped any females particularly into the industry I'd be thrilled.

“Also, if people still listen to and are inspired by our music that would be a bonus.”

In terms of her fondest memory, she said: “On a personal level, walking in to The Black Lion years after leaving Northampton, not for a moment expecting to be recognised, to be given a surprise standing ovation and hailed by the landlord as ‘Singer of the best band that ever played there’, and free drinks.”

Joining The Russians will be the recently reunited Cats Collide who were formed from the ashes of gothic rock band Where's Lisse? in 1983 by singer songwriter John Novakovic.

“I reformed Cats Collide to play at last years Have Guitars...Will Travel events,” explains Novakovic.

“I was persuaded by the enthusiasm of the other members to continue and play some more gigs. “However, the usual logistical problems of getting four people with very different lives together for rehearsals, let alone gigs, meant that we had to pass on a number of gig offers.

“Luckily we have managed to get our act together in time to appear this year.

Talking about his memories of gigging in Northampton in the early 1980s, Novakovic said the DIY ethos of punk meant people were promoting gigs at pubs and parties as well as venues including The Racecourse Pavilion and the Students’ Union at the then Nene College.

“On the whole, these days the venues are better,” he explains.

“The audiences more generous and the vibe less violent.

“The promoters are a lot busier, there seems to be something on in town on any given night, though the town has yet to acquire a proper venue that registers on national tour schedules.”

Novakovic explains music turned “a shy academic kid bound for a career in molecular chemistry” into a “poet and artist”.

“Opening the box of the first batch of Where's Lisse?'s first single Talk Takes Too Long, at the age of 20 - I had achieved my vision of immortality.”

Joining The Russians and Cats Collide will be Wellingborough’s Aliens - playing their first gig in 35 years - and The Bush Pigs whose line up includes former members of Northampton bands Great British Hope, Marabar Caves and Yellow Umbrella.

All play The Charles Bradlaugh on Friday, June 16.

Tickets cost £5. Music from 8pm.