The first gig I ever went to was Madness at the Apollo, which is pretty good as first gigs go. This was 1982 or '83. The place was half full of schoolkids and teenagers, which I imagine at the time must have pissed off Madness' older, skinhead following and I remember there being a large amount of threatening looking people there. We were up in the seats somewhere near the top; myself, two of my brothers (one of whom was a Madness obsessive, who can still list Madness singles chart entries and weeks on the chart), a friend and his Mum. It was exciting and in truth all a bit of a blur. Madness were introduced by Radio 1 dj Peter Powell, careered on stage and bounced for however long the gig was. It felt about ten minutes but must have been longer. Memory tells me they'd just had a number one single with House Of Fun but I don't know if this is right.
This also means though that Madness weren't the first band I saw play live- that honour falls to the support band, JoBoxers. We were entranced by them as well and their Dexys influenced, uptempo soul stomp. JoBoxers contained two former members of Subway Sect (I didn't know this until recently), an American singer called Dig Wayne (previously in a psychobilly band Buzz and The Flyers) and drummer Sean McClusky, who would go on to be a face and promoter on the London acid house scene. They looked great, played this uptempo punky-soul pop music and would have two hit singles, the debut 45 Boxerbeat (number 3 in the UK chart) and follow-up Just Got Lucky (number 6). At some level they must have made a deep impression on me-their look of boots, turn-ups, tanktops, donkey jackets and woollen coats, and flat caps not being a totally unknown look around Bagging Area Towers, although I've never worn braces over a tanktop. I'd forgotten about them until recently and rediscovering them has been fun. The early-to-mid 80s truly were a fertile time for pop music.
P.S. My good gig strike rate fell at the second hurdle. A friend could find no-one to go to Howard Jones with him, also at the Apollo. I went. That man did his chained up mime thing. Howard played his hits. Thanks Alex.
P.P.S. I've just found out (after writing this post) in a weird moment of synchronicity they've got a reissued and expanded album coming out in January 2012. More info here.