Monday, 27 February 2012

Kevin Sampson exclusive;- The End of The Futurama

I’d assume most of you know who Kevin Sampson is…In fact I’d assume most of you actually know Kevin better than I do.

For those that might not know about him, Kevin is an author of fine books. Books that should appeal to most fans of The End, books, mostly set on Merseyside that include such follies as following footie, fighting, drinking, relationships, drug wars, fashion, music etc..sound familiar? My favourite book of his Stars are Stars centred on a young Liverpool lad discovering women and politics set around the uni’s and pubs of Liverpool in the 80's that echoed a period of my life that I’d forgotten all about (not all good memories either). But from his other books like, Powder, Leisure, Freshers, Outlaws and his first (probably most famous) book Awaydays, there is something there for every discernable End reader.

Kevin first came to my attention as a letter writer to the End (check the book, they should all be there). He befriended Peter and Mick and suddenly he became part of the team.
Apart from his obvious writing skills, what I remember most about Kevin was his unbridled enthusiasm. We were a right lazy gang of bastards at the best of times. Our staff meetings (in the Post Office pub on school lane) had dwindled to twice a year. But when Kevin joined us, he steered us to the dizzy heights of 3 or 4 a year. We became that bit more driven. I just remember him laughing his head off and loving every minute of what was going on and pushing us to get it written and out on the streets.
I also remember Kevin, after he moved on from The End and had started writing for the likes The Face, loaded and the NME, hitting the headlines for having a gig review printed in The NME of the Stranglers in Brady’s or somewhere. Then The Stranglers contacting the NME to announce that the gig never happened, it was pure fiction. I just thought, Genius! How very End like. Those NME types always were a bunch of dopey fuckers. I hope he was paid well. It certainly didn’t do his future career any harm.

After Peter Hooton recently did an interview recalling his favourite End articles, (featured here on this web page) I contacted Kevin to ask if he would contribute his own favourite End memories. We are dead proud to be able to publish the following exclusive tale.

The End of The Futurama

17th September 1983 - I was coltishly excited, setting off down the M62, destination Leeds. In my own tiny head (and it is, physically, not much bigger than a sixpence) I was proving a point. Myself and Mick Potter had the week before taken two carrier bags-full of End magazines up to Liverpool University’s Mountford Hall where Bronski Beat were playing. Mick didn’t think students would be much interested in The End but I’d said we should give it a go and, to his amazement and my own mild surprise, we sold the lot, very easily, very quickly. Mick thought it only right and proper that we should treat ourselves to a small drink with a percentage of the proceeds.

If you’ll indulge me for a second and place yourselves back in world where people didn’t really go to festivals, habitually, in droves, several times a summer, you might be able to appreciate what a rare and special opportunity it was to have, almost on your doorstep, an annual celebration of Indie Music. The first one, at Queens Hall in Leeds in 1979, featured Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, Teardrop Explodes, Simple Minds, U2, Altered Images, Soft Cell, The Associates, The Fall, Public Image Ltd….it was great. The festival moved around a bit, landing at Deeside Leisure Centre in 1982, but for the 83 edition it was back in Leeds - and it was an out and out Goth Fest. The line-up was mostly the likes of Killing Joke, Southern Death Cult, Danielle Dax, New Model Army, etc, but The Smiths were playing, and that made it worth the aggro. Just how much aggro, we were yet to see.

Mick, Peter, Phil and The End Select Committee were off up to Edinburgh to see John Peel. Signing on at the time and unable to afford the meagre entrance fee to Futurama, I convinced them to let me take 4 boxes - 200 copies - to Leeds. The first 30 sales would cover my trip, the rest would be profit. Out of a combination of amusement and the sheer weirdness of the idea of Flesh For Lulu fans pouring over the musings of Joe Wagg and The Goats, Operation Futurama was given the green light.

It was a doddle at first. I quickly settled into a winning routine of approaching couples outside Queen’s Hall - preferably bespectacled couples in long tweed overcoats - and putting the following proposition to them:

“Buy The End, studenty types?”

The male in the couple would always back away, but the female of the species, not wishing to be rude, would say:

“What is it, exactly?”
“It’s a satirical magazine”, I’d quip. “With cartoons and indispensable lists and everything. Only thirty new pence.”

I sold loads. Enough to get inside. Where it was a little trickier. There were literally dozens of fanzines being hawked around the cavernous indoor festival. Everyone who looked like a possible End convert already had a clutch of mags in their mitts, sticking out of their pockets, stuck down the back of their (black, loads of chains and zips) kecks. Occasionally people would offer the remainder of their pint, or offer me 17p - but I was determined I was going back to Liverpool with at least £40 in takings… I decided to head back outside, where the pickings had been richer.

Two hours later I only had a handful left. Could easily have sold twice as many - particularly to the weirder species of goth. It seemed to go that the more eyeliner the lad was wearing, the more eagerly they’d snap it up, paying with ten-bob pieces and saying “keep the change, all for a good cause” and things like this. I felt genuinely guilty that they’d go inside, buy a plastic pint pot, three quarters’ full of cider, sit back against the wall and read Tony McClelland or Peter Hooton ripping their lifestyles to shreds with their rapier quills. Maybe they got some perverse kind of kick out of being the subject of such mirth, or maybe they were just a brand new breed of laugh-a-minute lovable Goths - the Lesser-Spotted Humorous Chuckle-Loving Gothicus, much given to outbursts of spontaneous laughter before turning up the Bauhaus to full volume and staring mournfully into the distance. And the kids today think they invented Bi-Polar…

As I crossed the road to the chippie, pockets weighed down with slummy, little did I know I was mere moments away from one of the strangest culinary requests I would hear, ever, anywhere, with no exception. Ahead of me in the queue was a little rascal with tousled hair and bad troos made of the type of material that crackles when you walk past metal. He stood and his tiptoes and asked the following question:

“How much are your sausages, love?”

The woman serving us was 60. The lad was about 10. She told him how much. He narrowed his eyes, jangled his money in his palm, studied the menu again before making up his mind.

“Pint of sausages please, love.”

“Love” duly obliged without so much as batting an eyelid. Patted the jumbo bangers tightly and neatly into a pint pot, took the lad’s money and bade him adieu. To quote The Rutles, I found myself shocked and stunned. Very stunned.

Sat on the wall outside the Queen‘s Hall munching my oh-so-cosmopolitan chips and gravy, I was approached by two young dandies who you just knew, in the blink of an eye, were Service Crew. From foot to throat, they were clobbered up; Korsika, needle cords, navy blue lambswool crew necks, short, golf-style Burberry jackets and lots of Tom - gold necklaces, sovs, one of them had a bit of wrist chain going on. It wasn’t what we’d wear ourselves, but they looked alright, I thought. They looked good. They greeted me thus:

“Now then, Scouse. What brings you to town?”

I was mildly excited at being addressed as “Scouse”. I’m a nice, laid-back lad from over the water, more than accustomed to the ribbing of my rough Liverpudlian pals over my mellow accent. But to these two kiddas, I was Scouse. I told them I was selling The End.

“What’s it about?”
“Well, among other things, it celebrates the bastion of fashion that is Leeds…”
“You taking the piss?”
“Got to admit it, boys - yes.”

They laughed. I’d have been disappointed - and hospitalised - if they hadn’t. In these situations, up and down the country, over the years, being an ardent pacifist/coward I’ve always felt confident enough that if you’re on your own, no-one is seriously going to do you in so long as you keep your end up, so to speak. It’s better to give them a bit of lip than go into some spiel about how much you love Leeds and Johnny Giles is your secret hero… fuck that. Give them a bit of stick. They love it.

We got into talking about clothes; they were intrigued to hear that no-one in Liverpool really wore labels any more. I told them that some of the younger lads were into their Fila and Kappa, but the nearest a lot of the 42 games a season boys came to logos was a big Head overnight bag. I asked them why they hadn’t gone the game - Leeds were away at Birmingham that day, one of their big grudge games. They said they both had banning orders and Leeds had a dedicated Jack who would shadow them around on match days, making sure they didn’t slip inside the ground or onto the train. They were killing time now until the train got back from Birmingham.

The Smiths were due on so I shook hands with the lads, told them to give me two minute head start before they started reading The End and headed back inside Queens Hall. I remember being made up when the fella on the concessions stall gave me notes for all the smash that had been weighing me down, but don’t recall ANYTHING about the gig. A load of students, Goths and earnest young people in long Macintoshes came out for a breather and a proper pint after The Smiths went off, streaming out down the road and into the nearest empty-ish boozer. Games of pool started, money was poured into the jukebox (which wasn’t bad - tracks like Ashes To Ashes and Town Called Malice were on it; I kept putting Precious on), general excitable chatter bubbling around the place and lots of good-humoured arguments about the merits of the oddity that was Ligature, then…silence, followed by a tangible air of terror. You could feel it before you had chance to compute it. From the other side of the pub, a load of punks, Goths and students came diving into the pool room, sheer horror on their faces. For many of them, it may well have been the first time they’d seen real, nasty, physical violence close up, but what unfolded was carnage. The Service Crew came in through one door while half a dozen of them ran round the back and piled into the Pool Room and systematically started attacking the gig goers. There were pool balls whizzing through the air, glasses smashing, girls screaming. It was over in seconds. The pub’s manager had been warned there was 30 lads on their way up to his alehouse, but called the police before he had chance to lock the doors. Old Bill duly arrived, and the Service Crew vapourised as quickly as they’d arrived.

The incident wouldn’t even have registered on the radar of the Futurama’s organisers, yet in some ways the pub mismatch was symbolic of the way the festival had been going. For a few years in the aftermath of Punk, kids seemed to be pretty open-minded. You could be into Secret Affair and The Jam, but you’d go and watch Culture, or Echo & The Bunnymen, too. Everyone I knew listened to John Peel - everyone - and he’d turn you onto strange bands you might not have given a chance if you’d seen their photo in Sounds or NME. But within a few years of that golden age, the nation was once again dividing itself into subcultures, as Britain’s youth have always done. There were Psychobillies and Buffalo Girls; Funkateers and Squatpunks. The final straw for me was Londoners ripping their jeans to shreds, sticking a funny little hat on and calling the look Hard Times Chic. 1983 turned out to be Futurama’s last rites. But The End was on the up. From being a mainly Scouse concern it was making its way, now, to all sorts of nooks and crannies around the U.K and beyond and was about to enjoy its own golden years. As for myself, I left the city of Leeds with £41.50 and a lifelong yen for a pint of sausages.

* The author has never been much of a one for research, let alone checking his facts. He freely admits he has written this account straight from the well of his addled memory bank. Something completely different may have happened. You’ll have to buy The Best Of The End to find out

You can still buy The END BOOK and read Kevin’s letters. There is a limited amount of signed copies in Waterstones on Bold Street and in the Liverpool 1 shop. and of course you can still get it on line here.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    I'm keen to get in touch with Kevin with a view to him contributing to a new book I'm editing about films shot/set in Liverpool. I can't spot him on FB so I wondered if you might know an email address for him. If you do you can contact me at