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In the audience at the first show was art student and Ramones devotee Philip Adrian Wright (pictured right, born 30th June 1956), who lived in the building in which the group rehearsed and worked in an ice cream van around nearby Wakefield.
Philip: "We accidentally picked up Adrian" (as he became known) "after about the third show, 'cause we were totally boring on stage. We didn't do anything." Although at the first show, the League were able to use video equipment which an acquaintance had happened to bring along, they were without visual accompaniment at their second and third shows.
Adrian: "They said 'We hear you've got this slide collection... we're pretty boring on stage - why don't you come and project your slides behind us and liven us up?'"
Adrian agreed to this and was appointed Director Of Visuals in the group, making his debut at a show at Sheffield's The Limit. His slideshows immediately made a huge difference to the group's live appearances.
Philip Adrian Wright
Using up to four screens at a time, Adrian initially mixed up images at random, but later began using them more strategically to complement the songs. His slide collection included hundreds of photographs taken from television, such as Star Trek, Batman, Captain Scarlet and Doctor Who, and it would later expand to include many other images from popular culture, including films and other musicians, such as Gary Glitter, Iggy Pop and the Bay City Rollers.
Philip: "As soon as we started doing shows with him, with pictures of people's heads blowing up, or Jesus crying from an early woodcut, the gigs started to go well!"
The group's first London show took place at the Music Machine on August 17th 1978, two months after the release of Being Boiled. There they supported The Rezillos, who were managed by Bob Last and whose guitarist, Jo Callis, would join a future incarnation of The Human League in 1981. Concerned by stories of the violent receptions afforded other bands that dared to use instruments other than guitars and drums before a London punk audience, the League originally planned to perform in motorcycle helmets, but decided against this at the last minute.
The following month, at a free show at Sheffield's Limit Club, they shared the bill with Graph, featuring Ian Burden, who would also later join the group in late 1980. Also on what was clearly an eclectic bill that night were future stadium rockers Def Leppard...! Martyn: "I remember turning round to Ian and saying, 'This is unbelievable, it's so bad. They've got no f---ing chance of selling anything... ever.' They had just the worst songs imaginable."
For this show, the League dressed in white boiler suits emblazoned with the group's initials, HL. Martyn: "I wanted to start the gig off with a lecture and slideshow.... saying 'This is the kind of music we are going to play. Now, we'd like you to move in these certain sections here', you know, with, like, a pointer and everything, before we started playing."
The group returned to London in November for a show at The Nashville, which was attended by one of the League's biggest musical heroes, David Bowie, who was greatly impressed. Adrian: "He was very complimentary, and very nice. When he saw our visuals, he said something like, 'Oh bugger, I was going to do something like that on my next tour!'."
Following a support slot with Pere Ubu, the group were then asked by Siouxsie & The Banshees (vocalist Siouxsie Sioux pictured right) to support them on a December tour of Britain, along with new wave band Spizz Oil. The League, although slightly apprehensive, accepted the offer, fearing that the punk element of the Banshees' audience would shower them with spit and beer bottles.
Prepared for the worst, they constructed special fibreglass 'riot-shields' to protect themselves on stage, and after the first few shows dropped many of the unpopular instrumental tracks in favour of crowd-pleasing material, such as a cover of Gary Glitter's Rock 'N' Roll.
Siouxsie Sioux
advertisement for Banshees show at Tiffany's, Purley As it happened, the riot-shields proved unnecessary; the tour was a great success for the League and brought them many new admirers from the Banshees' audience. However, many of the League's new fans were to be disappointed by their next Fast Product release, The Dignity Of Labour, which was purely instrumental and not at all in the pop vein their new fans had come to expect.
This EP's release was preceded by a short headlining tour in February 1979, supported by Fast Product band The Scars on certain dates. However, their planned concert together with The Transmitters at London's Notre Dame Hall was cancelled just two hours before the show was scheduled to begin, "on moral grounds". The hall's vicar had apparently demanded the show's cancellation, refusing to "allow any of these punk rockers in my hall".
Another London appearance was also cancelled two months later; the League were scheduled to support one of their old heroes, Lou Reed, but the former Velvet Underground leader decided shortly before the show that he didn't want a support band after all...
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