Recording Rabid Relationships

John and Tosh Ryan at Tosh's and Bruce Mitchell's joint  70th Birthday Bash

These days when almost everyone, under 90 has a mobile phone that can capture video images, it's hard to imagine that 30 years ago finding inexpensive video equipment to hire was virtually impossible

Consequently a place like the Film & Video Workshop, with its cheap to hire B&W cameras became a magnet for all sorts of weird and wonderful artists and artistes looking for scarce A/V resource.

One such was musician and musical entrepreneur Tosh Ryan. He'd been a mainstay, alongside Martin Hannett and Bruce Mitchell, of Music Force, a collective committed to 'Keeping Music Live' (and ensuring that musos got paid in the process.)

Always cutting edge, he was in on 'the ground floor' when the Punk Rock scene was about to explode on the Manchester scene in 1976. He was also a pioneer in seeing how important the visual side would be to the movement.

He instinctively knew it would be the history future and he wanted to 'get it down on tape'.

To this end video would be a vital ingredient. Unfortunately, until the coffers of his newly created Rabid Records were sufficiently overflowing and he could invest in his own gear, he would call into the Workshop to hire crew and equipment to record gigs featuring his new roster of acts including John Cooper Clarke, Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, Slaughter and the Dogs and the label's only hit-maker Jilted John.

Graham Fellows, then a drama student in Manchester was the creator of the angst-ridden Jilted John, whose rivalry for Julie's affections put him in direct conflict with Gordon the Moron, a character created and performed by Bernard Kelly.

By 1979, a year after 'Going Steady' had been in the 'top ten' and the Rabid/Punk phenomenon had passed by, Bernard was thinking about re-launching his career as a solo artist.

Steve Hopkins levitates whilst Bernard Kelly tries to work out how its done

Factor into the equation my good friend and creative collaborator over many years and many projects, Steve Hopkins who had written a couple of songs that might just serve the purpose of catapulting Bernard/Gordon back into the charts and after we three got together the concept of a promotional video was born.

At the time pop videos were still a relative rarity with MTV only a glint in Bob Pittman's eye and they didn't start broadcasting in the USA until August 1981. However, the whole Punk do-it-yourself/all things are possible ethos was still in the air and there were a few Saturday morning kids TV programmes that might well feature our efforts if they were good enough.

So we worked on a story board. to illustrate the song, put together a crew of performers and technicians, with Martin Lightening once again on 16mm camera and filmed for a long day in a gym at Manchester University. It was hard work but great fun.

Bernard/Gordon played the misanthropic Sergeant Major fitness coach determined to instill some discipline into his wayward charges. Roy Newton cut together this series of comic sight gags together and it had a good few laughs in it.

Unfortunately the single 'bombed' and the video, although professionally made didn't receive the desired screenings. Funnily enough three years later a number of the visual gags turned up, copied virtually frame for frame in the Olivia Newton-John's video 'Let's Get Physical'. 

Spooky or what?  

You can see the original on youtube (When I find it and upload it)

Probably the most important thing that came out of the venture was that some of key personnel who went on to hrlp make the Tea Machine a few months later had been assembled, proved up to the task and had worked well together.

The association with Rabid proved fruitful in other ways, not least in the production of the video The Rise & Fall of Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds and the making of the John Cooper-Clarke parody single 'I Married a cult Figure from Salford'