In Soho with Celia


There might have been a plague of wasps in Paris but in Wigan in 1977 we were dealing with bees. Bees in Goose Green!

WIGAN HOLIDAYS BEGAN, as a heat wave hits town. With it a storm of bees attacked a house in Goose Green.

Here, again, is what the Wigan Observer of the 8th July 1977 had to say:

“It was terrifying. A black mass of bees just swarmed up the street. I managed to grab the children indoors and slam the door shut.” The bees then swarmed up the driveway and gathered on the eaves of my neighbours dormer extension.”

“I thought I had got rid of them”, said the neighbour. “I called the police on Wednesday. When an officer came around he used a can of fly spray to try and disperse the bees and hosed them down. “This made them fly away but they soon came back. It seems the Queen bee could be under a slate in my dormer extension and this seems to be the attraction. “It’s fascinating to watch the bees but they frightened us to death. Even the postman has been dubious about coming up the path.”

Yesterday the resident was awaiting the arrival of a beekeeper to get rid of the offending insects.

Wigan was far too dangerous for us.We hit London for the day.The aim was for Paul and Andy to have a look at a couple of art colleges that they may be interested in enrolling at, after they completed their Art Foundation Course at Wigan Technical College this coming year, while I went along just for the trip. IfWigan was sweltering in a sort of Southport open-air baths type of way then London resembled a dip in the Amazon. But wasn’t London always like this? I had previously visited on a number of occasions with school and it could to all intents and purposes be in a different country to Wigan. I absolutely loved it.

We are aware that The Sex Pistols are releasing their new single ‘Pretty Vacant’ coupled with the Iggy Pop song ‘No Fun.’ It was being released just five weeks after ‘God Save the Queen’. So on arrival in London we headed straight for the Virgin Records shop on New Oxford Street. The shop was nothing like the Virgin megastores of recent times. It was simply a small basement shop and as we went down the steps we stumbled into an assortment of punks all listening to the Sex Pistols new single. It was an unbelievable song. It may not have been as controversial as ‘God Save the Queen’ but the riff; the hooks and the chorus make it the best Sex Pistols single thus far. I quickly purchased the single along with a new single by Celia & The Mutations called ‘Mony Mony’. I had absolutely no idea who Celia was but – in the picture sleeve – she looks delicious stood next to a drainpipe. The fact that the single was in the punk section was enough for me. A quick look at the back of the single shows a band in silhouette. It was The Stranglers masquerading under the name of The Mutations. It was on the same label as The Stranglers (United Artists) and I later learn that it features Celia Collin singing the old Tommy James & the Shondells hit ‘Mony Mony.’ She had appeared onstage with the band singing this song as an encore occasionally for some time now.The single was coupled with ‘Mean to Me’ (written by all the members of The Stranglers). I’ve got ‘Pretty Vacant’ in my head but I also can’t wait to get home and play the Celia And The Mutations record.

Any attempt to share my “Celia thoughts” with anybody at work are curtailed as big football news has hit the red nation and the vast number of Wigan Reds that work and live in Wigan. I hold no truck for Manchester United but even I had to chuckle as news came through that the club’s directors had sensationally sacked manager Tommy Docherty.

The directors’ announcement did not mention the 49-year old Scot’s controversial affair with the wife of the club’s physiotherapist, Laurie Brown yet this was surely the reason.

Rival fans began the season with a new song
‘Who’s up Mary Brown?’
(Traditional arrangement to the tune of ‘Who’s up Lindsay’s arse?’)
On Saturday there had been some talk at the Keller and in Bluto’s about a

new club that had opened it’s doors in London and a few were going down to catch some of the local bands that were appearing down there.The club was called TheVortex and was located in Crackers nightclub inWardour Street.We had been drinking around Soho that previous Friday but I can’t for the life of me remember any club called Crackers.Then again we did leave the area pretty hastily after stumbling into a gay pub. It was like the Whitesmiths but clad in leather and had slightly less moustaches on parade!

The Vortex club had a capacity some six hundred more than The Roxy Club with a higher stage and better view. Local heroes Buzzcocks,The Fall and John Cooper-Clarke were the opening acts. I was aware of The Roxy Club due to the ‘Live at the Roxy’ LP on Harvest Records. It’s a fascinating document that captures the dawn of the punk movement. The album was recorded between January and April 1977 and features Slaughter and the Dogs, The Adverts, Eater, Buzzcocks, Wire, Unwanted, X Ray Spex and Johnny Moped. The quality of the recording is just short of abysmal with people talking and the sound of glasses being broken in the background. It does, however, have some great pictures of the London punks dotted about the sleeve and I would study them for many hours when I first bought the album.

A week after our London trip I’m still listening to ‘Pretty Vacant’ by The Sex Pistols. It’s still sounding great as it does to this day. Which, of course, is more than can be said for ‘Mony Mony’ by Celia and The Mutations. It proved that not everything that was masquerading as “punk” was breathtakingly wonderful.There were many more “purchasing mistakes” to be made…


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