The Harp Bar incident (as I recall it)
I never think about it, but I've been asked about it since the "Spit" book came out, simply because it's highlighted and, furthermore, Guy and Sean suggest that it was instigated by another band jealous of us.
I'm not convinced. It seemed to me, then, that a culture of violence around punk was growing in general
. These were the days when it had grown fairly big, remember and was front page news. Rotten got a hiding, simply for looking like he did, as I remember, and The Clash Ulster Hall (cancelled) gig had kind of turned it into a more obviously violent thing.
Seems that the polemic of the terminally stupid can always make itself heard, eh?
Back to the Harp...
I learnt much of what I know on a bass guitar from MacCartney, including that E fifth fret 'A' to A twelfth fret 'A' thing he does all over the mid-sixties stuff. 'Rain', for example. I was still sticking it on tracks we recorded in 1980, with Wings guitarist Laurence Juber producing. In fact, dammit, I still
use the same trick even now...not that I play or care much for bass guitar much. Anyway...I did this run when there was an almight "ba doing!" noise off the fretboard. Nigel gave me this "what the fuck are you playing at?" looks, at which point I realised that a pint glass (the type with the handle) had shattered off the fretboard just where my hand had been. I still own that bass and it still bears the scars. Forunately, I don't.
From there, all hell kicked off. It's all a blur for a while. More glasses might have been thrown, but it was obvious that we'd have to stop and get the gear out. It was getting dangerous. For ourselves, obviously, but also for anyone caught in the crossfire. Anyone who was there will remember the stage was in the far corner of the Harp, and getting gear out meant running the gauntlet and getting it down the stairs.
On one of my trips out to the van I spotted a UDR foot patrol at the end of Hill Street, told them what was kicking off inside and asked if they could call the cops. They did, and I went back in to get more gear out. Things were really
ugly by this point. My first concern was to get our hard-earned gear out safely, which meant not getting into a full scale fight too quickly. But by the time I went back in Paul Mac, Paul Maxwell and Brian appeared to have abandoned that in favour of getting stuck in. So I joined them.
What's recorded is that Paul Mac received a "hand wound". What's not been previously recorded is that he got that lamping some gangly tit who went down like a sack of potatoes squealing "you split my lip!". Maxwell, who also needed stitches, was whacked with a glass from behind by some hero lacking the balls to challenge him face on.
The cavalry arrived into the middle of this wild west scene, truncheons drawn and giving no quarter. We got the rest of the gear out and headed for the City Hospital, where both Pauls were patched up. Then back to Maxwell's flat...I think. Someone's house, anyway, where a discussion on the evening's events began.
true is that we never played Belfast again. We played the Harp in March 79, I think. I'm guessing, but we did the Good Vibrations Tour at Easter 79, so the Harp had to be before that, and we'd only started gigging in February. So we hadn't been going long by the time the Harp rolled around. This is why I'd be a little sceptical about the "jealousy" theory. I don't reckon we'd been going long enough for anyone to get jealous of our 'success'. What success? We'd recorded a single for Good Vibes, but it still hadn't been released at that point. But mere weeks after the Harp we played The Pound on the Good Vibes Easter Tour. And we played the university a couple of times.
So, no, I don't really think another band instigated the Harp incident. It was the spirit of the times, more. Stupid, of course, whatever the motivation. If they'd disapproved there was booing, slow hand-clapping or whatever. With some forethought it would be possible to see that as a possibly much more humiliating experience. But if it was planned, it wasn't planned by anyone particularly bright. In that respect there's a couple of names spring to mind...
Posted by bluerhythmaudio
at 3:05 PM GMT
Updated: Friday, 23 January 2004 12:07 PM GMT