Killing joke are my favourite band and have been my favourite band ever since I first saw them on The Tube in 1983. I particularly remember Eighties from that performance, and although with it being nearly 40 years ago, a quick search on YouTube, and viewing it now for the first time since I first watched it on a Friday evening after school on our little CRT TV, the whole three track set is exactly as I remember, and has brought back instant lost memories of the little house we lived in.
And here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zETNFX-s6Q4
When it was broadcast, I had just turned 14, and although by that age I was very much into Punk, mostly Siouxsie and the Banshees,the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Damned, along with Exploited, UK Subs, Chron Gen and Crass etc. this was a whole new sound and image for me. Prior to this, my music taste had been formulated from my disjointed childhood, the archetypal, council estate, single parent family, mostly just me and my mum, my sister being 12 years older than I had more or less flown the nest at that point. My punk aspirations go back to 1979, I can remember watching a feature on Nationwide on the telly about the death of Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols, I would have been 9 or 10 at the time and that would be the first fuel on my lifelong journey into the very best of musical genres. It would be a couple of years yet, to my last year at middle school, for the metamorphosis to become complete.
At that time, at 12 years old, my best friend was Duncan Rivett, we were firm friends, the friendship being born of our similar situation of it being just us and our mums, and us both being into the same noise. Together we would discover Exploited, UK Subs, Charged GBH and other iconic eighties punk bands of the time. There was also another kid at school, Jonathan Read (a.k.a Grubby, I’ve no idea where the nickname came from, you’ll have to ask him). My memory of Grubby is him being more of a metalhead, into AC/DC and Saxon, but it was he that introduced me to the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle. I remember taking the album to one of our school discos, and Mr Watt, the teacher/DJ point blankly refusing to play anything from it until we badgered him into playing Who Killed Bambi.
Anyway, enough of the rambling, there’s another blog post waiting to be written about those last two paragraphs.
Back to Killing Joke. I had just turned 14 when I saw that performance on the telly and I was mesmerised by it. The energy of Big Paul’s drums, the power emanating from Geordies vintage Gibson ES-295, Raven’s thumping bass and the image of Jaz Colman in that make-up and stomping around hit me straight in my chest.
I remember buying the first album in Robin’s Records in Norwich the following Saturday on our weekly trip to the City, desperately wanting to get home to play it. And playing it constantly when I did, my mum yelling up the stairs to me in my room, to turn down that appalling noise, I couldn’t hear her of course, the music was too loud, she scared the shit out of me, as she often did, storming through the door and bellowing at me to turn it off. I remember taking it in to school on the Monday to show my friends, having already taped a few copies to give away (I know home taping was killing music, the record sleeves told me that, but we all did it anyway, in all honesty, without home taping I wouldn’t have discovered many of the bands that defined my youth and are still with me today).
By the time I first got to see them live at the UEA in Norwich, the following February of ’84, I had the full discography, and they were my favourite band (those of you that know me, this was a good 18 months before I turned into Robert Smith). This wasn’t my first live gig, I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts about my sister’s then boyfriend, Chris, who took me to so many gigs in the early eighties, and who had a massive influence on me musically, introducing me to all sorts from Tom Newman, The Grateful Dead and Joy Division, and a boat load of other stuff along the way.
This though, was the loudest I had ever been to. It was amazing, every track they performed, thumped through me, most of the night is lost in my memory, but I do remember Eighties and Requiem as well as Wardance with complete clarity. My ears rang for days after the gig.
I’ve seen Killing Joke a few times since. The Night Time tour at the UEA in ’85. 1994 at The Waterfront on the Pandemonium tour, the UEA again in 1995. I didn’t see them again until nearly ten years later when I went to the Astoria in London in 2003, two gigs over two nights at that venue. And what an amazing couple of nights they were. I’d been playing the new album, 2003’s Killing Joke, constantly since its release, and when the tour was announced there was no way I was going to miss it, and no way I wasn’t going to both. Back to Norwich and The Waterfront in 2006 and 2012, and again at the UEA in 2018, which was the first concert I went to with my punk gigs buddy Paul. Since that first gig in 1984 I have never missed one in my hometown.
The last time I saw them was last night, as I write this, at Hammersmith Apollo for the last gig of the current, short, tour. Travelling down with Paul for yet another gig, we’ve been to a few together now, over the last few years, despite COVID and lockdown keeping us away for two years.
They were awesome, and I spent the whole night bouncing around in the mosh pit at the front, lost completely in the moment, at one with the music and the atmosphere of The Gathering, revelling in the amazing sound of the music emanating from the stage. It was a great weekend, meeting up with so many fellow fans before and after the gig. And, I have to admit, soppy old me with my emotions always plain to see, I shed a tear or two during, at the end of, and after the gig.
My journey with Killing Joke, may not have started when the band first started, but they have been in my life, and constantly in my ears, for nearly forty years. I love each and every Album (not Outside the Gate, it wasn’t really a Killing Joke album anyway, just a Jaz Coleman opus, which having caused the loss of Big Paul led me to resent the recording and I haven’t listened to it since its release). I love the not so popular Night Time and Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, Rubicon and Love of the Masses are two songs from the latter that got me through some tricky times. Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions thumped, Pandemonium is my favourite, a powerful album that also reminds me what a great year for me 1994 was as I headed into my mid-twenties. Democracy with its mellower acoustic sound, Medicine Wheel being my favourite from that one. The power and brute force of 2003’s Killing Joke, a return to form that continued with Hosanna’s from the Basements of Hell, that album is ear bleedingly brilliant. Then the return of Big Paul Ferguson and Youth, the original line up back together for the first time since 1982, for Absolute Dissent in 2010. 2012’s MMXII, ready for the end of the world as predicted by the Mayans. Another head-splitting powerhouse outing with 2015’s Pylon, the track I Am The Virus an eerily scary and accurate prediction of what would hit the world a few years later in 2020. The latest release, the Lord Of Chaos EP, an awesome track, which got dropped from the setlist mid tour for an unknown reason. It’s great, I urge you to listen to it. Indeed, I urge you to listen and immerse yourself in all that is Killing Joke.
Honour the fire!