CELL - Cosmo Club
[Dream target date November 1980]
between dark terraced streets and once affluent victorian
houses, the Leeds Cosmo Club provided a haven for
the alternative music scene. Russ Fisher and I settled
at a table near the front of the stage, drinking pints
of cheap cider as the DJ played a strange mix of rhythm
and blues, vintage reggae and tamla-motown.
Cell were regular performers at the club and this
was our first opportunity to watch them play. The
band comprised of three ex-students; keyboard player
Dave Ball, film-maker Steve Griffiths and performance
artist Marc Almond.
both had some prior knowledge of the antics of Marc
and his band back in our native Nottingham. Russ,
being heavily into the 'indie' music scene, and myself,
through contact with Ex-Mansfield Fashion student
Paul Booth who was responsible for some of Marc's
Polytechnic Fine Art students, Dave Ball, Marc
Almond and Steve Griffiths as Soft Cell, on
the reverse of their 'Mutant Moments' EP. The
collage also incorporates movie scenes from
'10 Rillington Place' and 'Eraserhead'.
Punkette, Pat Smith,
[another Ex-Mansfield art student] occupied a table
next to the dance floor along with Sophie Parkin [daughter
of racy novelist Mollie Parkin] who looked almost
regal in her new romantic attire. Sophie as ever,
was surrounded by a court of elite art students who
were sometimes refered to as the 'Poison People'.
the Poison People included Charles Waterton, Duncan
Shroud, Mark Eason and Ian Hamson'. I later discovered
that they refered to me as 'the Vicar' because of
the little black notebooks that accompanied me everywhere.
Heaven knows what they called my friend Russ with
his shock of red hair and psychotic Russell Mael [Sparks]
stare? Leeds Fine Art was full of these cliquey sub-groups.
Soft Cell could always
guarantee a good turn-out from the fine art students.
The audience was also bolstered by those lingering
ex-students who couldn't quite break away from our
state-sponsored lunatic asylum.
Before the show, Almond
mingled with his audience dressed in a black dinner
jacket. The Poison People were laughing loudly, already
high on narcotics as Russ and I downed our glasses
of foul orange liquid. Other fine art musso's propped
up the bar and we sniggered to ourselves as Marc snubbed
the socialites desperate attempts to engage him in
At that time, Soft
Cell were very much an avant garde cabaret act. It
was inconceivable that they would ever break into
mainstream pop music and have the biggest selling
single of 1981.
Frank Sinatra's 'Mac
the knife' set the scene for an evening of camp posturing.
The light show was really professional. They had a
neon sign at the front of the stage that had been
made by Nottingham stage-set designer, Huw Feather.
This bore the legend 'Soft Cell' and was flanked by
two large projection screens. The screens hosted Griffith's
8mm movies of Marc prancing outside the Merrion Shopping
Centre in women's clothes and make-up. The colour
was really garish and in stark contrast to the group's
Dave Ball's discordant
basslines, car-horn chords and Blackpool pier melodies
were the perfect backdrop for the dwarfish front-man.
Charged with nervous energy, Marc was like one of
those seaside laughing sailors, rolling around in
a glass box, limbs flailing all over the place. His
echo-machine gave up just as he was launching into
'Girl with a patent leather face'. Russ was red-faced
with laughter as vitriolic lyrics cut through the
mix, Dalek fashion, sharp as a knife.
girl with the patent leather face
a psychopathic mental case
A target for the freaks
a reject of the human
Next, one of
the cine projectors failed, leaving half the set in
darkness whilst Griffiths tugged away at various live
cables. It was pure theatre, but Marc and his four-track
reel-to-reel just kept on turning until the set was
three o'clock in the morning, the club finally turned
out its mawkish clientelle into the heart of Leeds'
red light district. Russ and I then had the prospect
of a five mile hike to the Halls of Residence in Beckett
Park. By the time we got back, my feet were on fire
and my head hit the pillow like
a lump of lead.
Brancussi lecture was definitely off!