05: Black Uhuru – Shine Eye Gal

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

In this extract from my autobiography (see BUY THE BOOK link on the top menu bar) you join us at Leeds University in 1981, where I am booking all the top bands of the day, and running all the concerts, at what was a major venue – while I was supposed to be doing a Politics degree. Some hopes… 

“Sadly, reggae concerts were always likely to be troublesome. A proportion of the city’s population seemed to think it was their birthright to storm through the front doors without tickets and racist of my stewards to suggest they might care to pay for admission like everyone else.

“Black Uhuru’s concert – the bits of it I caught – was one of the finest performances I saw in the Refec. But it was a nightmare of a gig to run. There were break-ins all over the building. I spent the evening racing, through blood and broken glass, from one emergency to another, all to the menacing muezzin wail of Michael Rose and the live serpent rhythms of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

“At one point, I was rushing across the Student Union bar, in the building next door to the Refec. There, sitting at a table, enjoying a pint with a few old buddies, was my dear friend Big John Bisbrowne. To call him Big John was, and still is, to diminish him. But at 24 stones, John looked anorexic alongside his pal, Jon Silsby. The pair had been students, and Ents stalwarts, back in the era of The Who and the Stones. Neither had fully detached himself from the old firm.

“Hugely likeable, with a plummy, booming voice and a thick black beard, Silsby was still living in Leeds and he had an open invitation to be my guest at all the gigs. Big John had moved to Burton on Trent but frequently came up to his old patch for the weekend. He was dating Our Elizabeth and often stayed with us, especially if I was putting on a band of his liking. Black Uhuru was one of them. John is one of the most naturally funny men I have ever met. And one of the sourest.

“Nursing their Tetley’s, and no doubt reflecting that Ents wasn’t what it used to be, the two veterans were on the point of having just one more pint before catching a bit of the band. When I ran in.

“’Ah, great! Boys,’ I said, ‘bit of trouble at the front door. Could do with your help, if you don’t mind.’”

“Big John raised one eyebrow at Silsby. They put down their beers and, as I hared off to the next crisis, they plodded out of the bar.

“About 10 minutes later, I was again tearing through the Refec foyer. In the war zone of the front doors, I spotted Big John in the thick of things. He was holding, in one hand, a wriggling invader fully off the ground. Hurling the guy clean over the barrier, as you and I might fling a bin bag into a skip, he turned to me, inflating with indignation.

“’When you invited me up for the weekend,” he said, “I was expecting an agreeable couple of days with old friends. And a Black Uhuru concert. Not a re-enactment of Rorke’s Drift.'”

Please share this, if you like it. Thanks. A x


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