Exclusive interview with The Adverts iconic bass player Gaye Advert

Gaye Advert was the bass player of The Adverts from 1976 until 1979 and she spoke exclusively with the Brighton & Hove News on 8th August 2019 about her career and life.

Gaye is rightly considered one of the first female rock stars of the punk rock movement, whom ‘The Virgin Encyclopedia of 70’s Music’ called the “first female punk star”. She was “one of punk’s first female icons” wrote Dave Thompson (author of more than 100 books) adding that her “photogenic” looks, “panda-eye make-up and omnipresent leather jacket defined the face of female punkdom until well into the next decade”. Gaye is now a successful artist. What follows is a skimming stone across Gaye’s career in her own words.

Brighton & Hove News: What prompted you to move to London from Devon in 1976?

Gaye Black (aka Gaye Advert): I wanted to go to all of the gigs that were advertised, and they were nearly all in London. It was a bit isolating being down in North Devon. Also as I’d finished college and qualified as a graphic designer. There weren’t really any jobs in Devon to apply for, so the plan was always to move to London as soon as possible.

B&HN: Were you actually playing music before you left Devon?

G: I’d started playing bass in my room to pass the time. Playing bass in isolation is a bit limiting, but it was my favourite instrument so I just wanted to start learning it.

Gaye Advert back in the day and Gaye Black exhibiting her artwork (top centre pic courtesy Gaye Black)

B&HN: How quickly after your arrival in London were The Adverts formed?

G: Pretty quickly. Myself and the singer (TV Smith) were there at the beginning of course. We were looking for a guitarist and we got Howard (Pickup). He was in West London as we were, and worked at a rehearsal studio which was quite handy! It took ages to find a drummer, and in the end we had one who hadn’t played drums before, who offered to do it.

B&HN: You played at The Roxy nine times, and The Adverts appeared on the live album ‘The Roxy, London WC2’. What do you remember about the venue and those times?

G: The Roxy was great, and as soon as Andrew (Czezowski) and Susan (Carrington) started putting on gigs there, we were going along there all the time. So it was just a natural progression to do our first gig there. It was almost like playing to friends. It was like a living room, it wasn’t much bigger than that. We just went there as often as possible. We couldn’t get enough of it!

B&HN: Your debut single was ‘One Chord Wonders’. Am I right in thinking that you were described as such in the press?

G: I can’t remember the actual quote. It went out on Stiff Records, and they sent us out on tour with The Damned. The byline for the tour advert was “The Damned can play three chords, The Adverts can play one. Hear all four at…..”

B&HN: You had a fairly big hit with ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’. That song was considered quite controversial at the time wasn’t it?

G: It was, but it wasn’t really being sensational. I suppose it was a bit of an odd story, and it caught the singer’s imagination. Gary Gilmore (the first criminal in the USA to face the death penalty in almost ten years) donated his eyes to science, and the singer wondered whether the person who woke up with them would know who their new eyes had come from!!!

B&HN: Why did The Adverts split up in 1979? It seemed that you were on an upward trajectory at the time?

G: Well, the record deal was coming to its end, and Howard, the guitarist had left. He just disappeared and didn’t turn up one day. The first drummer was sacked, as was the second one. There was just myself and TV Smith left, and also the keyboard player Tim Cross, who joined for the second album. We got a couple of brothers in to play guitar and drums (Paul Martinez and Rick Martinez). I don’t think our keyboard player got on with them. Anyway it kind of just ground to a halt, and it didn’t carry on again.

B&HN: You weren’t tempted to carry on in music yourself?

G: No. I think I was a bit disillusioned and worn out. I did get picked on quite a lot by the press, and that really bugged me as well.

B&HN: I got the impression that you were objectified at the time.

G: Yes, very much so. It wasn’t what I wanted, and it caused friction in the band as well. Certain members didn’t like me getting my picture published more often than theirs, but I hated it as well.

B&HN: You were described at one point as a punk icon.

B&HN: After The Adverts finished, you commenced a career in Social Services, which isn’t the softest or easiest career option to choose. Which branch of Social Services did you work in?

G: It’s better than selling things. I hate material things and the idea of having to sell products. I was a Homecare Manager. I did that for seventeen years and then they privatised homecare so there was a lot of us made redundant. We got early retirement, and I just went back to doing art.

Gaye’s artwork ‘Hidden Destiny’ (a new canvas) and the cover of Alvin Gibbs’ solo single ‘Ghost Train’ (pics courtesy Gaye Black)

B&HN: When did you actually start producing artwork, or was it something that you’d always done?

G: Yeah. In my foundation year I could have specialised in stained glass. I didn’t do any there though so I started doing stained glass at evening classes while I was still working. I would make little panels and things, and I made jewellery out of it as well. I suppose I first started exhibiting in 2008, and I’ve just been doing it ever since.

B&HN: I understand that some of your artwork is influenced by black metal music. How did that come about?

G: (laughs) I don’t know! I just unwittingly got led into the more and more extreme things!!! It is pretty good imagery. It does spark off some dark designs!!!

B&HN: What other influences do you have in your artwork?

G: Well, all sorts really! The new one I’ve just done is inspired by the people who are trying to sue Tate Modern. They spend millions of pounds on a flat that’s just like a goldfish bowl with glass walls and complain when people look in. I find that quite amusing!!! I’ve just done another one about technology. I never actually plan my work particularly, it just kind of evolves. I might go into the studio with one kind of work in mind, and then come out having done something completely different!

B&HN: I notice that there are a lot of death-related images in your work. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and also ‘Dust to Dust’ feature photographs of yourself as a young woman surrounded by skulls. Does this represent you coming to terms with your own mortality, or with mortality in general?

G: I’ve always been drawn to skulls. I try to get away from them and they always seem to come back again!!! I’ve been doing this electronic photo-layering. Obviously I didn’t take the photographs of myself. That was a kind chap called Jeremy who took them at a live gig at The Nashville in 1977 or 1978. He doesn’t mind me using them. The background photographs I took in the Czech Republic. I like layering photographs electronically and then eating away at bits, making whole new artworks. It’s a nice thing to do in winter when it’s dark and gloomy and you can’t really see what you’re doing. You can carry on working on a laptop into the night. That’s how they came about, and the same with my other more recent ones, like the Poly Styrene ones. They’re really old school. I got a YouTube video of X Ray Spex and took screen shots from it. I quite like doing that because you’re never quite sure what’s going to come out. Also I like doing paint effects as well. On the recent ones I’ve been working away with paints. I like the contrast with the crispness of collage, as that’s my main thing. I do like the unexpected juxtapositions of one thing taken out of context, and then put up against another thing.

B&HN: I was particularly taken with your ‘Memorabilia’ series of works.

G: I did them actually for the Rebellion Festival, for the anniversary year, 2016. I did a series of ten of those. They’re still on sale on my website. I’ve got a limited amount of stuff that I’ve kept and that people haven’t seen over the years. Again I’ve taken photos of them and layered them. A lot of the photos I’ve used are photos I was given around ’77, and that I had stuck up on my wall in my attic room. You can see the yellow sellotape marks on them still.

B&HN: It’s a very affectionate tribute to that era isn’t it? Does that seem a long time ago to you now? A lot of the music from the time, when you play it now, it still sounds really fresh. And it seems relevant to today, I think.

G: Absolutely, yeah. Some things don’t change!!! There’s loads of current punk bands carrying it on like The Cyanide Pills. You listen to Buzzcocks today and it could be current.

B&HN: I had a look at some of your other work and I particularly like ‘Evil Squirrel’ and ‘Don’t Play With Mummy’s Things’. The baby’s legs sticking out of the necklaces make playing with Mummy’s things look like a particularly dangerous thing to do! Was that intentional?

G: Absolutely, yeah! They are actually my late mother’s old necklaces in there that the baby’s drowned in!!! It’s actually been sold but it’s still here because the guy’s in San Francisco, so it has to be shipped over there at some point.

‘Evil Squirrel’s’ a bit of an icon. There’s bottle top brooches in there and all sorts. The actual squirrel, before I painted him up, I found on the ground after the main flea market in Rome one night. I couldn’t leave him there so I picked him up and brought him home!

G: Yeah. I’ve just got back from the Rebellion Festival. That was quite a big one.

G: Yeah, OK. Apart from my own stuff I’ve done the cover art work for Alvin Gibbs’ (from the UK Subs) solo single. We had prints of that on sale which we’d both signed. He’s asked me to do the next one as well.

B&HN: I understand that you described the Rebellion Festival as being “like a school reunion”.

G: Yeah it is!!! Loads of friends that we’ve known since the seventies – all in one place!!!

G: Oooo gosh! Pauline Murray three times! She played with Penetration, solo, and also with The Invisible Girls. I’d never seen her with The Invisible Girls so that was great. Alvin Gibbs also appeared three times: with The UK Subs, his own new solo project The Disobedient Servants, and he did a spot with Wayne Barrett as well. Lots of people were doing multiple shows, which was great. Also The Ramonas. On the first night they did Ramones songs. The second day they did their own songs instead of Ramones covers.

I saw The Svetlanas. They’re Russian. The singer, Olga, is absolutely mad! That was really fun. I was right down against the barrier filming that! I also saw The Professionals of course. They’re mates of mine. It got a bit wild at the end!!! Saw The Damned too. Various other bands too – it’s all turning into a bit of a blur!!! The Stranglers! Saw them! I was just listening to ‘Black and White’ in the front room. I was admiring Jean Jacques Burnel’s bass playing. I used to be down there nearly every week at The Nashville just staring at his hands.

G: Actually I’m meeting somebody on Sunday about an exhibition in The Netherlands. I’ve got the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. There’s been a show there later this month I believe. There’s a book called ‘Cash Is King’. They did the book last year and asked me to be in the next one. Again they had a launch and exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. The Saatchis have asked them to do it again this year. With the second book ‘Cash Is King 2’ they asked me to curate a punk section. So I’ve got people like Pauline Murray and Charlie Harper in it. So that’s just out, and I’ll be exhibiting at the Saatchi Gallery later this month. There’ll be The Underdog Show in a couple of months in Crucifix Lane in London. I’m also in a little one at the Acton Open, in West London.

For future work I want to get some more electronic stuff done, and mix up the styles as well. Some of the memorabilia ones I’ve done painted backgrounds with the photographs and memorabilia on top. There’s lots of possibilities and permutations. I’m just looking forward to getting cracking on some more stuff, and maybe some bigger 3D stuff while I’ve still got the space.

And so endeth my chat with Gaye Black nee Advert. Gaye is exhibiting at the Cash Is King 2 exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in August and September; The Punk Rock and Roll Art Show at the Underdog Gallery in Crucifix Lane, London SE1 from 8th to 10th November. Gaye’s work can also currently be seen at the Waterloo Square Gallery in Alfriston, East Sussex. Check out Gaye’s website

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Gaye Advert With The Damned

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Gaye Advert With The Damned

Interview with Gaye Advert / Preview: “Beyond Punk” @ Signal Gallery

Two of our cultural loves come together this week in an artistic punk rock mash-up. “Beyond Punk” is a group art exhibition curated by femme punk icon Gaye Advert, the former bass guitarist of The Adverts. The show features a selection of musicians from the punk era who were either artists prior to being engulfed in the music scene or have turned to art as their form of expression. Several artists featured in the show are non-musicians, but have been long time followers of the punk movement.

The line up consists of Adam Ant (Adam & the Ants), Charlie Harper (UK Subs), Chris Brief (The Briefs), Dale Grimshaw, Dee Generate (Eater), Gaye Black (Adverts), Gee Vaucher (Crass), Guy Denning, Jamie Reid (Sex Pistols cover artist), Knox (Vibrators), Nick Taggart (Zkrr Zkretna), Philip Barker (Buzzcocks), Poly Styrene (X Ray Spex), Shanne Bradley (Nipple Erectors), Shepard Fairey, Spizz (Spizzenergi), Steve Ignorant (Crass), Viv Albertine (The Slits) and Youth (Killing Joke).

The private view will be attended by various members of the lineup this Thursday night (12th August), and it sounds as though have been so overwhelmed by requests to attend the opening, that they’ve had to close the list of attendees. Don’t worry if you can’t get to the opening though – the exhibition runs all week until 21st August, and various artists will be spending time at the gallery during the run of the show.

AM caught some time with the exhibition’s curator, Gaye Advert earlier this week. Read on for our interview with Gaye and some preview images after the jump.

Gaye Advert (GA): I’ve been planning the show since January. The guys at Signal suggested that I curate a show there, and it occurred to me that no one had put on a show of people who were in punk bands who now make art. I knew of a few of them, and the more I looked into it the more it evolved. Incorporating the non-musicians creates an interesting balance and range of styles.

GA: This is the first time I have curated. It has been interesting finding out what work people are doing and a good experience working with everyone. I guess it would have been easier to have just one or two artists, but I think the end result is worth it!

GA: I study the London listings and go to an average of six or seven shows a week, generally around East London. I was familiar with some of the artists’ work and others were recommended to me. There were only a couple of people that I approached who were not available.

GA: I did. I love Pure Evil’s work so was really pleased that he had done the paintings of me.

GA: I met Tim whilst in my third year of a graphic design course, which I completed and got my diploma before moving to London and turning to playing music.

GA: I hated being singled out because I was female, I just wanted to get on with playing. The more positive side, these days, is when I meet musicians who say they were inspired to play because of me.

GA: I am surprised at how many fans there are around still, especially those who were too young to have seen us. Both of our albums have had a lot of positive feedback in the press recently as well. Rather better than they had originally, especially the second album!

GA: I loved the sound of basses at live gigs, the sound would go right through you. I have never been a fan of wibbly guitar solos, so I had more of an urge to play bass.

GA: I’m in touch with quite a few of them. The Rebellion festival is a bit like a school reunion!

GA: I am putting in a piece called ‘Christening’ which contains my christening dress and a photo of me wearing it, along with other old photos and my first ‘bone vases’. They are hollowed ancient bones that I find on the shore of the Thames, with old fake flowers in. The piece is enclosed in a glazed box that I had made. I am also including Evil Squirrel as he has quite a fan club! He has ‘corpse painted’ eyes and is surrounded by bones and remains, and lives in a bell jar. I also have a piece called Don’t Play with Mummy’s things’ – a baby drowned in jewelry. I also have some small resin coated collages that I have just completed. They feature the eyes of black metal musicians, who I photographed in Norway, put into skulls.

GA: Certainly the internet has made it easier for me to check out a wide range of both art and music, and people from all over the world have given me positive feedback on the images of my work that I have put on myspace (myspace/gayeblack).

GA: I think the East London art scene, particularly street art, has the punk DIY attitude as inspiration. The DIY ethic runs through both art and music and cross pollinates both. I have to listen to music when I’m making art.

GA: Definitely. Complacency allows the establishment to have free rein to walk all over us for financial gain.

GA: I have just met up with Youth again after about 33 years! The last time we met he was the 15 year old bass player in The Rage, who were support on an Adverts tour.

GA: I am due to be in an art show in Nottingham in a few months, but for the moment I am going to have a nice rest for a few weeks, then start on a few new pieces. I’m not particularly proactive in getting involved in projects, they just come along and find me!

Interview with Gaye Advert / Preview: “Beyond Punk” @ Signal Gallery

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Punk icon, Gaye Black (a.k.a. Gaye Advert) talks to Punktuation! about the Sid glassing incident, how the Stranglers gave her her stage name and how today art is her life! 

She was there at the Sex Pistols’ Screen on the Green gig which also saw the first Clash gig. Was a regular at the 1976 residency at the Nashville Arms in Hammersmith and has the badge to prove it! And was at both nights of the beyond-legendary 100 Club Punk Rock Festival in 1976, where on 21 September while the Damned were playing, Sid Vicious was caught up in the infamous glassing incident. (He threw a beer glass and it blinded a young woman in one eye.).

Gaye Black’s punk experiences are second-to-none. If only she could remember half of these amazing events! 

“The other day I was asked in an interview if I went to both nights of the 100 Club festival and I had to admit I couldn’t remember,” she laughs. 

“So I called a friend who said yes I was. I didn’t know you then but you were definitely there. We didn’t have cameras or social media to record everything back then, so I’m still piecing together some memories from those amazing days.” 

Born Gaye Black in August 1956, she was dubbed Advert by The Stranglers during that Nashville residency, when she would get on the guest list as she was on the scene, seeing them every week. ‘I said my name was Gaye and they wrote down my name and said it was an advert for identification purposes’). 

She left home in Bideford, Devon at 20 with her boyfriend and now ex-husband  (The Adverts lead singer) and now calls London her home – and Punktuation! speaks to her at her home ‘or in my studio if you like.’ 

Art has taken over her life, where playing music has taken a back seat. She can no longer play the bass for which she was famous for on such hits as No Time to Be 21, and One Chord Wonders due to osteoarthritis of her thumbs. 

“The pain comes and goes. At the moment it’s ok,” she says. 

But lung disease has had her well and truly locked down. 

“I’ve not been on public transport since March. I’m in the Government’s vulnerable category so have to be careful,” she says. 

“Other than daily walks outside and trips to the shops I’ve had to stay in.” 

And being a gig addict like in the late 70s heyday, she’s missed her gigs and is itching to get going to one again. 

“I’m always going to shows and supporting my friends in bands. I saw UK Subs at the 100 Club recently. I always put up Alvin (Gibbs), the bass player, as he comes from France. When it’s sold out these days, it’s not as rammed in the 100 Club as it was in 76, I suppose for health and safety reasons. I didn’t see the Sid incident as it was so rammed. 

“The last gigs I saw was The Phobics at the Pelton Arms in Greenwich on 8 February and the Luminous Bodies and the Casual Nun at the Lexington in King’s Cross on 21 February. 

“Then lockdown came and that was it. Thank God a friend was able to set me up with Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

“I was in two art shows when Lockdown came and the pieces are still there – but you just can’t get to them. One of them is moving to Amsterdam so people might be able to see that. I showed a cross-section of painted canvas, collages and a couple of things in bell jars 

“I love horror movies and they inspire my art. How do I describe my art? It’s dark, a bit creepy, grotesque in places but with contrasts -it has an unlikely mix of things. I try to grow old gracefully but I tend to fail when I start on my art. 

“I have vivid dreams but not so many lately as some people are through lockdown. That’s just me being different as I usually am! 

“How do I describe my art? It’s dark, a bit creepy, grotesque in places but with contrasts -it has an unlikely mix of things.” Gaye Advert.

“I have a habit of not throwing things away. I have a memorabilia section on my website, but still have lots that I’d never part with. Like my collection of Stranglers badges. I’ve got one which says ‘I Was A Victim of the Stranglers at the Nashville December 1976’. I’ve kept a couple of trayfuls of badges from back in the day. Probably worth a small fortune. 

“I’ve got a thing about saving things when most people throw them away. I collect bones when I’m out on the river shore, so sometimes you might see me there, finding things to put to good use in my art. I don’t live far from the River Thames but it’s not the best part for finds.” 

Gaye had done three years at art college and was reading about punk in the music papers when she decided in 1976 to go and see for herself. 

Within weeks The Adverts were formed and catapulted to being among the punk pioneers – but what is their legacy? 

“We didn’t necessarily get the credit we deserved. We were lucky that the conditions were favourable when we started,” she recalls. 

“But people are still praising our music and talking about it even now. At the time we got some bad reviews which said we couldn’t play and even now I prefer listening to more basic music. And the second album (Cast of Thousands) was a bit of a departure for us but now everyone is raving about that one. 

“Our tastes change as we get older, and to my horror I discovered a couple of colours I like now, which I never used to. I wouldn’t’ have looked twice at them some years ago. Now I like them. I’m getting less narrow-minded I guess.” 

Apart from gigs in London, Gaye is a regular at the Rebellion punk festival, held each August in Blackpool. She gets involved with the art exhibition which runs alongside the multitude of live acts of a hot and sweaty weekend. 

She tells Punktuation: “We’re chatting on what would have been the end of Rebellion, and thousands of punks would have packed into their cars like sardines and headed off home. It’s a seven-hour journey for me, Imagine that during this heatwave?” 

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She is now a reknowned ceramic artist who exhibits around the world.

A regular exhibitor at the Rebellion Festival art show, Blackpool Winter Gardens in August, Gaye has confirmed she will have a range of new works on display, in addition some of her work will be exhibited in Pennsylvania at the same time.

Gaye featured in the recent BBC4 Punk Brittania series discussing the origins of The Adverts – we took the opportunity to ask her about her own musical influences. In a twist from the normal format Gaye has provided individual tracks and in chronological order.

“This is not a list of my current favourite songs, that would involve hours of agonising and then would need constant updating. These are songs that changed my life. In chronological order then…

I instantly loved the opening track on the band’s first album, with its ominous opening chords and Ozzy Osbourne’s amazing voice. Brilliant cover too. I played it to death, read all the Dennis Wheatley occult novels, and started looking for similar bands, but just ended up with the rather corny Black Widow!

The opening track on Hot Rats was the soundtrack to the summer of 1971 for me. I even liked Zappa’s wah wah pedal guitar solos (I’ve never been a fan of solos). His music ranged from comedy to classical via pop (I did draw the line at the jazzier bits mind you) and I acquired a range of other associated music ”“ Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Wild Man Fischer, the GTOs, and David Peel and the Lower East Side. Cal Schenkel’s cover design for Hot Rats was really striking, a magenta toned photograph of one of the GTOs peering out of a big grave, and his graphics were a big part of Mothers of Invention albums for me.

The Adverts Punk T-Shirt – Gaye Advert British Punk Queen – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes

Adverts – Gaye Advert – Bored Teenagers shirt

The Adverts Gaye Advert badge : Stiff Records / Punk Rock / 1977 / Roxy club / the Damned / T V Smith / Gary Gilmores eyes / KBD / garage

Gaye Advert/The Adverts portrait print

Reproduction Alternate The Adverts „Gaye Advert“ Poster, Home Wall Art. Size A2

The Adverts – Punk Sweater – Gaye Advert – British Punk – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes Sweatshirt – Small – XL – unisex

The Adverts Gaye Advert 2.25″ pin back Punk Rock Buttons

Gaye Advert Print Crop Top

Gaye Advert

Gaye Advert Shirt

Gaye Advert ‚Gary Gilmores Eyes“ Punk Black Metal Earrings with Sterling Silver Hooks

Vintage Gaye Advert The Adverts White Cotton T Shirt

The Adverts Punk T-Shirt – Gaye Advert British Punk Queen – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes

Adverts – Gaye Advert – Bored Teenagers shirt

The Adverts Gaye Advert badge : Stiff Records / Punk Rock / 1977 / Roxy club / the Damned / T V Smith / Gary Gilmores eyes / KBD / garage

Gaye Advert/The Adverts portrait print

Reproduction Alternate The Adverts „Gaye Advert“ Poster, Home Wall Art. Size A2

The Adverts – Punk Sweater – Gaye Advert – British Punk – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes Sweatshirt – Small – XL – unisex

The Adverts Gaye Advert 2.25″ pin back Punk Rock Buttons

Gaye Advert Print Crop Top

Gaye Advert

Gaye Advert Shirt

Gaye Advert ‚Gary Gilmores Eyes“ Punk Black Metal Earrings with Sterling Silver Hooks

Vintage Gaye Advert The Adverts White Cotton T Shirt

4 COMMENTS

Gaye mentions the original punk bands …The Damned, Buzzcocks, Stranglers, Clash and of course the Adverts. Strange again though how the Stranglers have been completely written out of this documentary. It is good that sham 69 and generation X get a mention but odd that such a huge band at the time the stranglers continually get omitted from these ‘histories’. They even have gene october of chelsea on there ffs.

The punk at the BBC showed a clip of them playing ‘no more heroes’, and its good to see the vibrators, xray-spex, uk subs, the ruts and the Lurkers been shown.

the 1st BBC4 doc re: pub rock was great as featured dr feelgood and eddie and the hot rods, 2 crucial links.

wonder will episode 3 feature killing joke, theatre of hate?? and late comers like uk decay, the exploited, chron gen, discharge etc … will it all be post-punk stuff like joy division, gang of 4….

The stranglers, seriously huge band at the time, huge following, rattus norvegicus sold by the shed load.

Am just ranting about BBC4 punk doc Gaye, not your top ten !

oh i dunno, Hugh Cornwell appeared for about 5 seconds in one of the shows

Patrick…. Do not underestimate Gene October… He is one of THE most important people in punks history, for without him, the Roxy Club might never have happened. It was a originally a gay club frequented by Gene October, who suggested to the owners to open it as a club for all the new bands to play.