Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Imports

It was late 1977 and I'd just turned 16 when I was first approached by the laddish pair of Martin Laity and Gary Taberer in the school library. They were in the Upper 6th form (the year above me) and they had started up a punk band called 'The Imports'. They had heard that I played electric guitar and wondered if I fancied coming along to a practice at the drummer's house one night.

So, off I went to Mike Rolling's house at the top of Lanner with my Jedson Les Paul copy (which to me looked pretty close to Mick Ronson's guitar from the Ziggy days) and WEM 20watt practice amp. After running through a dozen or more songs of their own and a few Pistols and Clash covers I was pronounced 'in'.

Their only other guitarist at that point was Chris 'Telephone' Booth and I only recall that one initial rehearsal with both of us present. The next time we rehearsed I found myself the only guitarist in the band. No questions asked...

The only 'musician' amongst us was Mike the drummer who could play the drums well, sing and play guitar. The rest of us managed to make a fairly decent sound on top and the Imports were born.

Martin Laity became 'Rat Poison' on lead vocals, Gary Taberer thumped along on bass as 'Charles Darwin', I became Captain Biffo on lead guitar and Mike 'Raphone' Rollings held it all tightly nailed down on drums. It was great fun...and dangerous! There will be blood as I was later to find out...

The Imports had many of their own songs but the only two titles I remember were "Dial-a-Dole Queue" and "Not To Be Taken Away". The latter was inspired by thieving a roll of stickers from the library which were meant to be applied to reference books that weren't allowed to be removed. Oh, the irony of it all. For the next few weeks, those with keen eyes could spot these stickers applied to any surface that came within reach...including the headmaster's car and a chimney stack outside the Redruth brewery. Genius.

Our first gig at the Tuckingmill Pavillions outside Camborne featured a small riot and Rat Poison was bottled on stage. I will never forget looking across at him to see a small trickle of blood rolling down his forehead as he shouted back at the audience..."WHOEVER THREW THAT I DON"T LIKE YOU VERY MUCH!!!!!" before we hurtled into a cover version of 'God Save The Queen'. We made the papers that week and had a visit from the Police as some bright sparks had thought it a good idea to drag an iron park bench across the bowling green outside after the gig. Several hundred pounds worth of damage apparently. Nothing to do with us.

The following week The West Briton carried the front page headline: "PUNK ROCK GETS THE BOOT FROM REDRUTH'. Ours was not an isolated incident it seemed and the town council had seen fit to ban any punk band from playing there. "Why would they want to anyway?", I asked myself.

Our next gig at the Penzance Winter Gardens "Demelza's", did not go off without incident either. The Sex Pistols had played there the previous year and I remember Sid's graffiti in the dressing room which we got ready in. We supported another band I forget the name of and all I can remember is having to turn my back at one point on stage as I was being heavily 'gobbed' on. Yuk.

The Sex Pistols at Penzance Winter Gardens, September 1st 1977 - Photo by Anthony

Having finished our set I got a drink and sat at a table to watch the next band. The next thing I knew was Anthony leading me to the dressing room as my nose pumped out blood after getting twatted from behind by a skinhead. Whilst we were in there he decided to come back with his skinhead mates and kick open the door, stand there frothing at the mouth whilst looking as HARD as he could before marching off. What a twat.

Another visit from the Police after that one as some other geniuses had stolen the night club's generator after the gig. Nothing to do with us.

We also found out that very night that The Sex Pistol's had split up. History in the making.


The final gig of The Imports took place at Carharrack Village Hall in late 1978 and must surely go down in history as being one of the finest battles ever fought on Cornish soil.

The evening began well. We had three or four bands lined up. We were headlining with a band called "The Diseased". We had just done our first set and I was enjoying The Diseased give a sterling performance of one of their own top songs "Big Cream Doughnuts" when I became aware of the sound of car and motorcycle engines rumbling outside in the car park. Moments later the doors burst open and in streamed hordes of greasy bikers and local yobbos. After a split second thought of "oh, the place is starting to fill up nicely" I immediately realised that they were not here to listen to "Big Cream Doughnuts" but they were here to beat the living crap out of us.


"Oh shit!" I thought as I battled my way to the exit, receiving a well aimed kick up my arse on the way out (bastard). Out of the corner of my eye as I exited I caught a glimpse of our very own Rat Poison back on stage, whirling a weighted microphone stand around his head shouting "COME ON YOU FUCKERS!"...

Caharrack yobs on the Rampage

It was total carnage. Those lucky enough to fight their way out spent the next two hours playing hide and seek with the greasers in and around the gardens and back alleyways of Carharrack. All the while a couple of Policemen sat in a car up the road waiting for it to all die down before they came to investigate. The small group I was with were taken in by an elderly couple who gave us cups of tea and digestive biscuits whilst we listened to motorcycles circling around the village looking for us. It must have been a bizarre sight having half a dozen punks sat in this old couple's sitting room waiting for the coast to clear.


After an hour or so we felt brave enough to return to the village hall where I discovered Mike Raphone clinging to his most expensive Zildjian cymbal. "Next time I'm going to throw this and take their fucking heads off!" he mumbled through a rather red and swollen fat lip.

The main casualty of the night had been The Diseased's guitarist on stage at the time. He carried on playing until the last moment apparently, the fool, and was pulled off the stage, had his guitar stamped in half and his arm broken as he was still playing it. He was carted off by ambulance to Truro (don't know what happened to his guitar). The remaining casualty list was just cuts and bruises (and my sore arse) fortunately.

I think we may have done a couple of 'Jam nights' at The William IV in Truro after that (I met Be Bop Deluxe's drummer at one of those - he said we were the best band of the night. We played a song I had written so I was well-chuffed).

The Imports became no more and the rest as they say is history, which became myth and in turn became legend before being totally forgotten about by everyone except me which is why I'm writing this. The end.

Posted by Steve

2 comments:

Droof Boys said...

Talking of gob, being in the front row at the Pistols gig was like driving at night in a blizzard, it was unbelievable, and in retrospect, gross. I don't know how the bands stood it. Someone gobbed straight in Sid Vicious's open mouth! Yuk! The Pistols rocked though.

Anthony

eastmeetswest said...

I was present at all three gigs - missed The Sex Pistols though...The Imports really rocked but what I remember about the Caharrack incident which was more disturbing was that the crowd of blokes that came in were basically all the adult males in the village, a lot of them the same age as our dads. They just said they hated punks!

Michael Goodfeet