The Armoury Show: A fans view
[Written by Pete Trenholm 2013, for the Cherry Red's CD re-issue of Waiting For The Floods]
Seeing The Armoury Show perform Castles in Spain and Glory of Love on the long forgotten TV magazine programme Riverside, meant almost as much to me as the night in February 1979 when I turned on Top of The Pops and saw the Skids for the first time; the moment my obsession with music began. A performance that changed my life, for the better, forever
I was a fan of the Skids from that moment on and followed Richard Jobson’s career path through 1979 and the Skids’ LPs Scared to Dance and Days in Europa (for me the greatest LP ever), and into 1980 and ’81 with The Absolute Game and Joy.
I had an almost unhealthy obsession with The Ballad of Etiquette (Jobson’s solo poetry LP) too, and probably would’ve bought anything he released, but the news that he had formed/joined another band was, literally, music to my ears. The fact that this new band The Armoury Show also collected Russell Webb from Skids, and John McGeoch and John Doyle from another of my favourite bands, Magazine, excited me even more. What would they sound like? What would their image be? What would Jobbo’s dance be like? Then when I heard they would be appearing on the Riverside programme, I was feverish with anticipation. I sat with bated breath and an audio cassette recorder with my fingers impatiently hovering over record and play.
They did not disappoint; Castles in Spain was, for me, the perfect follow up to Circus Games, or A Song From Under the Floorboards: it was Skids and Magazine combined. That hissy audio recording of those two songs was played hundreds of times over the coming months, and I knew those songs inside out. I had only a vague memory of the visual performance until fairly recently when it became available again via YouTube, and seeing it again after almost 30 years took me back to that day, trying to make sure no one spoke a word while I made my recording.
It seemed to take forever for The Armoury Show to finally get round to releasing a single – it was probably only a few months – but at the time it felt like years. Castles finally arrived in August 1984 and although much more polished and refined than my recording from the TV, it was a masterpiece to my ears. In time honoured Skids tradition, the B sides Innocents Abroad, and Is It A Wonder, were as good as, if not better, than the A side. That 7” and 12” were played until they could be played no more – very little else made my turntable for months.
I finally got to see the band live the same month as the single was released, at a night club (all mirrors and flashing neon lights) called Clouds in Preston. Despite shouts of “Albert Tatlock” and “Into the Valley” (or In ‘t’Valleh as the locals shouted) the band stuck to their own material – I remember Jobbo fluffing the guitar intro to Castles – the stand out songs being 19 Hours, Glory of Love and Ring Those Bells, as well as the tracks from the single that I knew so well.
And then the wait for the album began. This wait, if anything, seemed longer than the one for Castles, though luckily it was interspersed by more TV appearances and the We Can Be Brave Again single which did not fail to fulfil my expectations.
The LP, Waiting For The Floods, finally arrived in the summer of 1985. After the excitement of the singles and the live gigs (I’d seen them again in Blackpool earlier that Summer), the LP was a slight let down at first. Castles was re-recorded, Glory of Love felt tame in comparison to the live version, and 19 Hours had morphed into A Sense of Freedom, which while being a good song was not the masterpiece its forbearer had been.
Never mind: the album was played to death and before long I came to love it. I got used to the new versions of the songs I loved, and loved the ones I’d not heard before.
I saw The Armoury Show one more time at the Riverside in Newcastle, and got to meet the band after the gig. It seemed that it was almost possible that they could hit the big time. There was another TV appearance on The Tube on Channel Four in December 1985, and then.........nothing.
The next I heard of them McGeoch and Doyley had left the band. Jobson and Webb, like in the Skids 4 years earlier, were going it alone. They produced two more singles; the sublime Love in Anger, and the more dancey New York City and then it was announced that The Armoury Show had split.
The proposed second album “Monkey Cry” was eventually released with an altered tracklist as a Jobson solo LP called Badman. And that was it. They could’ve been so much more. The songs not on this re-issue like Love in Anger and the unreleased Thomas the Everyman, Northern Light and When The River Runs Dry, were arguably their best yet, but it wasn’t to be. Hopefully these and other unreleased gems will see release in a future re-issue, but for now this reissue will hopefully make me feel as excited as that fateful day back in 1984 when I waited in anticipation, tape in hand, waiting for that first glimpse and sound of The Armoury Show on stage at the Riverside.
“Walk away, fist in the air, feet on the ground”
Pete Trenholm 2013