In the 80s a lot was happening musically. The effects of punk were widespread and mutated into many different new genres and also had an effect on the heavy metal scene.
Bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden from the late 70s and the new thrash scene were influenced partly by punk attitudes. The NWOBHM continued in all its different guises, mixing with the old guard and other influences, leading to different sub-genres of heavy metal developing, including the sub-genre that spawned other sub-genres, metal. After I moved to Reading I saw several bands in a venue there including Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts, Hawkwind, The Queerboys (before they changed their name to The Quireboys) and Bernie Torme. From then, the British heavy metal seemed to lose its way for a few years, an outstanding performance by Judas Priest in the Powerhouse in Birmingham being an exception. I did see some good bands from other countries, Candlemass at Edwards (they recorded it live) and Helloween at the Powerhouse stick out.
My favourite heavy metal band, Status Quo, called it a day in 1984, then reformed with lineup changes in 1986 (after opening the Live Aid show in 1985). They performed a fairly lacklustre set supporting Queen at Knebworth and weren’t much better on tour shortly afterwards. They headlined the 1987 Reading Festival, changing things so much by playing one of the best sets I have seen by any band. After that they seemed to lose the plot a bit: at Wembley Arena a bland single received a silent reception from a usually enthusiastic audience. I saw them in 1991 and decided that they had moved too far in one direction and I in another so I didn’t see them again for years. The previous night I had seen Hawkwind as a three piece playing an awesome set and decided I’d keep following them.
Prog had a resurgence too, of which I played a small part. King Crimson reformed, Genesis added pop and funk to make themselves less boring, and Pink Floyd released some interesting albums. New bands, Marillion being the biggest, sprung up and included IQ, Pendragon and a little known band called Sleepwalker, of which I was the bass player for a while. Sleepwalker was Clive Nolan’s band and he went on to greater success later on.
Outside of heavy rock the electronic scene also developed sub-genres, some allied with punk, bands such as Depeche Mode, OMD and Human League. The New Romantics sprouted colourfully – Midge Ure era Ultravox, Spandau Ballet and others. The Goths came along and I embraced some of their imagery, eye-liner, red jeans with a black leather jacket and a white dress fronted shirt, whilst hearing the change in some of the punk bands I had been into – Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, The Damned – and later the newer goth bands like All About Eve, The Cult and Balaam and the Angel. Also emerging from post punk were bands like Killing Joke, New Model Army and Joy Division.
Ska bounced back into life again with bands like The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter building on their launches in the 70s. Inner Circle, Aswad and UB40 headed the Reggae scene. Rap came into its own with Grandmaster Flash and other offshoots of the Sugarhill Gang in the early part of the decade before popularisation and formualic hits started to deaden the scene until Tone-loc, Public Enemy and NWA brought it back to life at the end of the decade.
Towards the end of the decade a new scene, the indie scene, was appearing, leading to some great performances from a new set of bands like The Primitives, Icicle Works and The Wonderstuff.
I saw quite a few different bands at Coventry Poly, often being paid to do so as I was on the crew there. Ones that stick out are New Model Army (I had to ask them to leave as they were still talking to fans when we were trying to lock up the building at 2a.m.), Wilko Johnson (one of the best gigs I have been to), Dudu Pukwana’s Zila (another one of the best), The Damned, Aswad (the week that they got to number one in the charts), Fields of the Nephilim, Ghost Dance, The Wonderstuff, The Soupdragons (the loudest gig I have ever been to as it was moved from the Students’ Union Main Hall to the smaller Biko Bar), Dr and the Medics, Roachford, Ruby Turner, Texas, Transvision Vamp (serious attitude problems) and Napalm Death with Bolthrower as support (both bands were awful).
I mustn’t forget folk either. I went to a few events, including Bracknell Folk Festival which had The Oysterband in their more acoustic days and Kathryn Tickell who I remember burbling to at some point. Clannad did the music for one of my favourite TV series, Robin of Sherwood.
I moved to France for a year and saw fewer bands whilst I was there but managed to see Marillion, The Sundays and some small bands. And then we were in the 90s.