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The Rock Years
By Al Read 

Published by Broadcast Books

A Review and Interview with Al Read by Rotten

The Granary Club

Bristol, in the West Coast of England was Punk Rock's third home,
a wealth of bands sprang up from 1977 onwards.
From those early days came bands like The Cortinas, featuring future Clash guitarist
Nick Shephard
. But it was in 1979 when Vice Squad burst onto the scene with their Last Rockers e.p,
on their own Riot City label, based out of Bristol's Fishponds area. 

Many other groups signed to the label, like nearby Portishead band Chaos uk - part of the cider and
glue crop of punks, and hardcore noise merchants Disorder...
even Vice Squad's roadies (and a few VS members themselves) had
a very incestuous time with Dead Katz, Sex Aids, Sweet Revenge
and the hilariously funny bad joke that was the great Chaotic Dischord, who had tricked Riot City boss
Simon Edwards
 (with whom Vice Squad had set up the label) into thinking they were a band from
Swindon, when in fact it was Dave Bateman and Shane Baldwin of Vice Squad with friends,
who knocked out the Hardcore parody Glue Accident in under 10 minutes during
a VS recording session break!!! 

So much is my love for this band, that i regurlarly take trips to the scenes of their crimes,
and a while ago while revelling in a Bristol pub, i noticed that a book had been written
about the famous Bristol Granary club, THE rock club in the area, where so many
legendary bands had played since the clubs 1969 opening to its closing
in 1988, and where many soon to be legends appeared early on. 

Written by former resident dj Al Read, the book, titled
The Granary Club - The Rock Years
is an excellent reference guide of all the remembered shows
from this hallowed venue, now sadly a fish resturant and apartments
 (the way many uk venues of yesteryear are going). 

What i love about the book, is it's a no bullshit read, starting out with Al's fascinating story
of how he came to be involved with the club via his various bands as a youngster
and the story of Plastic Dog promotions, who handled many of the bookings.
From here on in it becomes a handy guide to all those gigs at the Granary,
including where possible, the fees payed to bands, support acts,
and small info sections on the bands and some anecdotes
and remeberances from local musicians of the time,
including VS's Shane Baldwin. 

The venue itself was built in 1869, and stands 100ft high, with ten levels. It has been
a listed building for a long time and was, after being a vacant lot, originally a jazz club,
ran by Acker Bilk, a legendary uk Jazzman and co-owner of A+M Records.
Monday nights were a slow night for the club, and it was because of this,
 and his friends became Plastic Dog promotions and hired the club to put on acts,
and the monday rock night was born. This quickly spread to other nights
and as the Seventies wore on, the venue became packed. 

The Sex Pistols had a gig booked at the venue on their 1977 secret tour (see interview for the story),
and one group of regulars showing their disgust of punk, took a cigarette lighter to dj Al Read's
copy of "God Save The Queen." .......that copy was unfortunately a very rare A+M pressing,
currently worth ?6.500 upwards in the uk!!!! 

Another interesting point of the club's punk history, is when a band named The Vultures
played the venue, on Saturday 18th August 1973.......the young guitarist was none other than John Mellor,
who changed his name that night to Joe Strummer after a comment on his guitar playing.
The band were paid 40 bounds for their performance.
(This fact is confirmed in the Clash's biography as to be at the Granary club,) 

This book is definatly a worthwhile read for any self respecting rock fan / archivist,
and i found immense pleasure reading through what went on at the place
i so regularly stand outside of and ask why do all these venues close.
The club regulars from back in the day still hold meetings and get togethers at
Bristols Golden Lion pub, on the Gloucester Road, with the original dj's
playing the sounds you would have heard back then, so if you're ever in the Bristol area
on one of the Granary Reunited nights, get yourselves in for a top quality night of rock and punk. 

Here, Author and Granary Club dj Al Read gives us an interview
on why the club is still held in high regard today. 

Punk Globe: You got involved with the venue when Plastic Dog decided to hire it on a Monday night
to put on bands. What made you choose The Old Granary and not another venue?

Al: We were already underway in the late Sixties performing our particular brand of far our
and cosmic rock but the venue we used on Monday nights was proving to be too small for our
increasing following of students and hippie types (incidentally this was at the cellar club known
as the Dugout (now gone) which it is claimed was the birth place of British black DJ mixing/rap/etc
(big Jamaican area just down the hill in St. Pauls). Anyway. a newly refurbished Victorian grain store,
The "old Granary" had just been opened bt British jazz legend Acker Bilk and they had Mondays free.
It held 500 in unusual but pleasant surroundings and, despite Acker's misgivings
over music that "made his ears bleed" we were given the night because
of the big crowd we drew in.

The Granary Club

Punk Globe: Can you remember how the first night went, and did you think it would get as big as it did? 

Al: The first night was much the same as the last night at the Dugout club. A couple of local bands one a bit blues based and the other a mix of prog rock and R & B with an audience o a couple of hundred. We carried on in this was for a few months but because of the size of the venue and its upper balcony we found that far out light shows worked well. The crowd grew, we had the cash then to start booking national bands. Somehow we got it right and found that (sometimes within weeks) the bands had charted and had hit singles and albums. The club's reputation grew and before long the club was part of the national club rock circuit and we were included in most club tours. We didn't plan it but like one of the original team Terry Brace used to say "We were just lucky bastards!" Actually we weren't bastards at all, we used to put the bands up in our flats, invite them to after club parties, always paid them and treated them well. That made bands want to come back to the club and also got us a reputation that London agents respected which led to us moving on to organising major concerts. 

Punk Globe: Who was the best and worst acts that played there in your eyes, both musically and audience wise? 

Al: The best is an impossible question to answer as every week (especially in the early years 69-75) new amazing music came from the likes of Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, etc. , but this was just our own kind of genre. Fans of folk, blue, jazz rock, roots country and then later new wave and punk all got to see the new bands and no doubt they considered them to be the best. The best for me was Dire Straits and the worst was dear old Alex Harvey, just a few weeks before he died, as he was pretty out of it and really only stood on stage conducting the
audience as they sang the songs for him. 

Punk Globe: Are there any bands you regret not having at the club? 

Al: There were many booked bands that failed to turn up for one reason or another including Black Sabbath and AC/DC, but the biggest disappointment was the cancelled gig of SPOTS (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly). They accepted the booking for the Granary on the understanding that we would only use
the pseudonym and not reveal to the general public who the band really were.
Only the club members were in the know. However, a dim club doorman rang the
local newspaper and let the cat out of the bag and the Pistols cancelled. Shame.
We also stupidly turned down a few acts like David Bowie (early days for him
and we thought he was too folky and girlie) and Roxy Music
(didn't like their clothes and haircuts). 

Punk Globe: What did you think when punk and punk bands came along? 

Al: We had always naturally kept up to date with the music that was happening at the time. Accepting the advice of the London agents on their new bands. I had already planned to devote one night a week to the emerging "edgy" bands and with local outfit The Cortinas leading the pack. Along with the failed Sex Pistols gig, I had booked Boomtown Rats and several other possible contenders for the a "punky label" like Tonight and Radio Stars. However the club's directors, who usually left us alone when booking the entertainment, stepped in and put a stop to the plans scared by the nation publicity surrounding the punks. Of course they couldn't hold back the tide and before long punk. oi, and thrash metal
appeared alongside the run of the mill rock bands. 

Punk Globe: There are regular Granary reunited nights in Bristol, How are these being
received and what has the responses been like? 

Al: After the club closed in 1988 the place lay empty for many years. It was refurbished and turned into luxury apartments in 2002. The cellar of the Granary was turned into a wine bar "Cyranos" and in 2005 it was decided to have an invite only reunion there of the "Granary Inner Circle" - DJs, media types, local musicians,
record company guys and selected former club members. It was such a success that we now meet up on a fairly regular basis (usually the Sunday evening before a
Monday bank holiday ) at a local pub and
music venue. Four of the original Granary DJs that spanned the 20 years of the club's existence are on stage playing non-stop classic rock to and audience of several hundred former Granary club members all reliving those faded memories of the glory days. Bit sad, but then there's nothing wrong with reminiscing,
after all the past has been most of your life. Memorabilia is plastered all over the walls
and everyone has a good time and wish they had a venue like the Granary nowadays. 

Punk Globe: If people want to learn more about the venues rich musical history, where can
they find info on the club and your excellently written book?

Al: There is a Granary web site "thegranaryclub.co.uk" (still working but under reconstruction and
modernizing at the moment). Masses of information about the club, bands and personalities plus a
look inside to book about the club and how to purchase it. You can even buy the T-shirt with with
the list of famous bands that played the club incorporated into the design. 

Thanks Al for the interview, and good luck with the re-union nights. The Granary will never be forgotten. 

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