1984 Bootleg Audio Cassette The Damned

Record Fair Bootleg The Damned 1984

In my last post I talked about the bootleg audio cassette tapes available from record fairs in early ‘80s Britain. The photo depicted one of the cassettes, but not the case inlay I was describing…

So the pic in this post shows the way the inlays looked, inside the cases. This is a typical bootleg, bought in Birmingham in the latter part of 1984. It’s immediately clear that the standard of photocopying used for these inlays was pretty dire, and you may also be able to see evidence of how thin the inlays were. They weren’t cards – they were just folded paper, which would undulate or crumple over time. The display side of the paper in this case is flourescent-style green, but the reverse is plain white. Lots of different colours of paper were used by the bootleggers, and this made the cassettes, as grouped together on their stalls, very eyecatching at record fairs. The pictures of the bands would most probably be taken from magazines or the music papers.

I actually attended the gig this bootleg preserves, on 4th August 1984 – an unsettled summer’s day with some rain. It was a nine-hour open air ‘Save The GLC’ concert, held in Brockwell Park, Brixton, and featuring numerous ‘alternative’ or ‘indie’ bands of the moment. The GLC (Greater London Council) was under imminent threat at the time from the Conservative Thatcher government, who wanted to scrap it – officially on economic grounds. Unofficially, however, many believed that at least in part the Conservatives wanted rid of the GLC because it was a powerful left wing body able to score resonant political points over the right wing government. Despite great public support for the GLC, it was abolished in 1986.

The Damned, whose perfomance appears on this standard TDK D 90 cassette, headlined the bill at the gig. The word was that they were going to be introduced by GLC leader Ken Livingstone, but in the event this didn’t come to fruition and they were instead introduced by The Doctor – lead singer of Doctor and the Medics. Doctor and the Medics didn’t perform at this event, but they supported The Damned on their Phantasmagoria tour the following year.

Also on the bill at the GLC gig were: Benjamin Zephaniah (who famously rejected an OBE – Order of the British Empire – in November 2003. So cool), Spear of Destiny, The Fall, New Model Army, Strawberry Switchblade, Brilliant, The Opposition, Pleasure and the Beast, Hi Jinx and DJ Pete Fox. Strawberry Switchblade were at the time virtually unknown to me (and a lot of others judging by reactions). They looked to me very unlikely to make much progress and sounded pretty insignificant alongside some of the more edgy and boisterous acts. But just a few months on, in January ’85, they were high in the charts, on Top of the Pops, and in the moment at least, a lot more famous than most if not all of the other bands on the bill at Brockwell Park. That certainly showed how wrong first impressions can be… or maybe it just showed how attaining success in the music business isn’t necessarily anything to do with kicking ass on stage.