Those of you who were around Manchester in the early to mid-80s may recall a little place on Oxford Road called Pandemonium Records. Up a rickety wooden staircase was a trove of second hand rarities presided over by the eccentric George.
I may have spent too much time (not to mention money) there. In the end I found myself helping out and being paid mostly in stock. The discoveries I made… The Good Rats anyone? Diane Davidson? I wasn’t the only student doing this.
George also struck deals with local cinemas and venues to display posters in exchange for free tickets. I could probably have taken more advantage of this than I did.
But in June of 1984 there was a gig I fancied at Band on the Wall. Normally our pair of freebies for BotW each month specified a number of exceptions, gigs certain to sell out. Like The Enid who I suddenly realised were playing that very evening.
George was nothing if not a chancer though. Ring up and see what they say, he encouraged me. So I phoned from the shop. Eventually I got through to someone.
I explained the situation and what was the chance of tickets.
‘I don’t know. There’s not really anyone here to ask. I’m the drummer. Let me see if Robert knows.’
Checking Wikipedia I think it must have been Chris North I was speaking to, but I don’t have to look up the next person. The Enid founder Robert Godfrey came on the line. I explained the situation again.
‘So you are a second-hand record store? Have you got a copy of my solo album?’
As it happened I’d filed a copy away that morning. That might have been my prompt about the gig.
‘Fall of Hyperion? Yes we do.’
So Robert got directions and found his way to the shop to buy a copy of his own record. And offered to put me on his guest list for the gig. ‘Is there anyone you want to bring?’
‘What about Pippa?’ George said. Pippa also helped out in the shop, and lived near me in the toblerones, as our halls were nicknamed. ‘Take my car and pick her up.’ Robert agreed to wait.
So a rush down Oxford Road, a knock on the door, an invite, a quick change, and drive back to the shop later, Pippa and I joined Robert in a taxi to the venue.
‘They’re with me’ he told the doorman.
‘Right, but no more, ok?’
The Enid were one of those bands I knew as much by reputation as a great live act, as by their actual records. I’d maybe heard Tommy Vance play the odd session but not really absorbed it. Somehow I knew I should see them onstage though.
I was right. Their classical influenced prog was sometimes a bit thin for a NWOBHM kid like me in scruffy denim, but live it filled with bombast and majesty and epic. In a packed small venue it was strong stuff. Packed, hence the doorman’s concern about letting more in.
I don’t know what time I’d picked Pippa up, but it was late by the time The Enid came on and they played a long set. So it was around midnight when Robert Godfrey announced ‘I think it’s just into D Day now so we should play this.’ And they performed Elgar’s Nimrod to an ecstatic crowd.
Eventually it was over. Time to get home. A two mile walk, Pippa and I buzzing from the gig. I walked her to her flat. It was close to 2 a.m.
‘Do you want to come in for coffee?’ She asked. Pippa was tallish, slim, dark hair, attractive and chatty.
‘I don’t drink coffee’ I said. I was naive, inexperienced and awkward.
‘I’ve got orange juice I think.’ So she drank her coffee and I sipped my orange juice and time passed. It was getting late now… so I said goodnight and went home to my flat a block away.
It was getting into exam time and I was struggling with my course. I failed and had to resit. By the time I dealt with that life had moved on. I occasionally went to Pandemonium Records the next year, but I don’t think I saw Pippa again.
It was long afterwards that I realised that a coffee might have been more than a coffee. Might have been.
June 5/6 1984. 35 years ago today. I wonder what might have been if I drank coffee?