johnny and the self abusers
"I think we had a vision then of what we are now but just didn't have the power technically, or even the suss to put it together."
- Jim Kerr
Typical early set-lists would feture
Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones, Pogo Dancing by Chris Speddings, Waiting by the
Doctors Of Madness, Baby's On Fire by Brian Eno and various covers by The Kinks and
The Sex Pistols.
John Milarky's fascination with
Lou Reed and John Cale, the band also covered
The Velvet Underground especially
White Light/White Heat. This became a Simple Minds favourite for many years.
Jim later stated that the band was like a human jukebox using punk to get up on stage and play.
Gigs are virtually undocumented and no bootlegs exist.
"It was called the Doune Castle back then. Now this high street bar/restaurant and the adjoining
structure in Shawlands, Glasgow, is called the James Tassie. Seemingly it has changed name and owners a
multitude of times, likewise it has changed style and policy. I believe that it gave up on presenting
live music a real longtime ago."
"For us nonetheless, as with many 'Southside kids' of our generation, it will always be known as "The Doune."
And for those who were there with us at the start of our still on going story - it is seen as the the venue
from where Simple Minds were born."
"Way before Simple Minds however, along with Charlie Burchill,
Brian McGee and
Tony Donald, all of us classmates from school, it was certainly
the first pub that I went to on a regular basis, doing so as soon as I had (almost) reached the legal age
to enter through those swing doors. The attraction with it then being that it was the only bar on our
side of town that allowed live bands to plug in and "belt it out.""
"Resultantly, we would all pile into the basement venue, a venue without a stage even, and look on
jealously at the various local cover bands as they smugly set up in with their expensive looking equipment,
inevitably surrounded by the prettiest girls."
"They might have been amateurs but their commitment was thorough, and thinking about it now, those
bands, mostly a handful of years older than us, were due a lot of respect for the effort they put into
their performances. They could play and sing admirably."
"Unfortunately for them however, there was this thing called 'Punk Rock' just about coming over the
horizon - bringing with it a thunderously, basic, rawer sound and attitude, one that had already captivated
us. We knew therefore which way the wind was blowing, and that it was only a matter of time before all
those kind of bar bands would be made redundant."
"What we didn't yet know though? Was that it would be kids just like ourselves who would seal their fate - and
distract some of their girlfriends in doing so. - Jim, 3rd April 2019
"New Wave Night" at Zhivagos was probably a riotous event. Joining The Abusers was
The Jolt (Glasgow's first punk band) and The Cuban Heels. The Heels
consisted of Laurie Cuffe (guitar/vocals), Paul Armour (bass) and
Davy Duncan (drums). John Milarky would later
join The Cuban Heels after the break-up of The Abusers.
Doune Castle, Glasgow, UK
11th April, 1977
The band's first gig at a city lounge-bar. They were booked under the
name of Argon - just so they could get the gig. It turned out to be
a "near riot".
They were also booked the next week, but scuppered their changes by calling the manager
a "stupid little greek bastard" after he turned the power off during their encore.
"It was on that evening some 35 years ago, during April ’77, that we, as then members of the infamous
Johnny And The Self Abusers started out as professional artists.
I am of course referring to Johnny And The Self Abusers very first gig,
which was also the first time that both Charlie Burchill
and myself set foot on a stage, it was on a night that will always be impossible for us to forget,
and on a night that paved the way for so many unbelievable things that have since come our way and indeed
continue to do so."
"Without exaggeration, had we never been invited by John Milarky
to join forces with Johnny And The Self Abusers for what we assumed was
most probably a one off gig in the Doune Castle pub on Easter Monday, in Shawlands, Glasgow. I remain completely
convinced that Simple Minds would more than probably have never come into being - as we eventually did some seven months later."
"Reason being is that it was John's then infectious self - belief that
as much as anything planted the seed of belief within us also. His lack of doubt or any sense of inferiority was as
breathtaking as it was charming. His view that we should stop talking about the punk music we loved and instead
invent some of our own and go out and play it, was really all the incentive needed to stop the endless
fantasizing and instead create something that would be real, and possibly lasting."
"And so for that valuable kickstart, we owe our careers as much to John Milarky
as anyone. I have never had the chance to thank him for this unfortunately. But on record, I do it now. I was only 18 when
we met, but thanks to him I knew instantly what I wanted to do with my life. I still do, I am still doing it, and something
tells me that there are a lot of good things still to come." - Jim, 5th April 2012
JK: Because we were lucky. When people talk about their first gig it's normally two men and a dog.
The first punk gig in Glasgow - people were just rabid for anything punk and...
JE: Didn't you support Generation X?
JK: We did eventually. But when we played our first gig there were queues around the block. So,
we thought we were the real deal before we'd done anything.
Interview with Jamie East
17th November 2019
Saints And Sinners, Glasgow, UK
Their second gig was a riot like the first. The venue leant its name to one of their first
songs Saints And Sinners, and was the title of their
single. The venue was later renamed King Tuts and Simple Minds
returned for an 'Intimate Gig' in 2005.
Zhivago's, Glasgow, UK
21st July 1977
They make one appearance at Zhivago's. It's the second time the venue
have a punk night - it's also the last.
Clouds, Edinburgh, UK (Cancelled)
The Pantile Hotel , East Linton, East Lothian, UK
August 19th, 1977
Supporting: Generation X
Two weeks after their first gig they support Generation X. (However,
this puts the spring date of the first gigs in doubt).
The gig was supposed to take place at Clouds, Edinburgh but was cancelled on the night of the gig due to fears of crowd trouble.
The promoters hurriedly found a new venue - The Pantile Hotel - and then arranged buses to transport the bands
and the growing number of angry fans who turned up at Clouds. (See boredteenagers.co.uk
for the full story).
The Abusers came on stage at 11:35PM and played an extremely curtailed set which lasted about half-an-hour.
No-one likes them, so they start to rehearse.
Crown Hotel, Wishaw, UK
Documented - but no other details known.
Terminal One, UK
Only a lone picture exists of Jim
and Charlie (below).
"Kerr and Co. first seized upon the idea of a panoramic, widescreen electronic dance
music that drew on early 70s prog and krautrock and the late 70s experiments by David Bowie and Brian Eno
in Berlin as well as New York funk and disco, after hearing Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's 1977 single "I Feel Love",
a record that merits that other much-maligned epithet, “seismic”."
"That was a pivotal moment," says Kerr. "We were still playing as
Johnny And The Self Abusers, and we were about to go on stage at this really violent discotheque called
The Terminal 1. And I was loaded on cheap wine and speed, terrified but full of Dutch courage, when the DJ put on this 12-inch record. I was transfixed.
I remember thinking, ‘Punk’s finished.’ And within a week we’d brought our first synthesiser." - Jim
"In 1977 we were playing a disco at Glasgow in the City Centre. There were always fights in this place. We spent the day doing fanzine
interviews and getting drunk, Dutch courage because we were terrified of playing this gig. And as we were about to go on that night,
the DJ said, you're on after me but you've got a good few minutes, you're OK, it's a 12" I'm playing. And we had no idea what a 12" was. Anyway,
it was Donna Summer's “I Feel Love”. And on a mixture of cheap wine and speed it sounded even more extraordinary. Her voice
sounded Arabic, that wail, not an R&B vocal at all. and the repetition – it felt on a par with the Velvets on “What Goes On”, or
(Kraftwerk's) Trans Europe Express. Couldn't wait till the next day to get that record." - Jim
That band's final 1977 gig was staged in what
Kerr remembers as a "really heavy disco" in Glasgow's city centre named
Terminal 1, where nutters would smuggle in ice skates to use as weapons. "Ice skates to a disco but there’s nae ice,"
Burchill rightly points out with a laugh. "We used to call it Terrible 1." That
night, the DJ spun a copy of Donna Summer’s just-released
I Feel Love. Burchill and
Kerr’s minds were blown. "We went, 'We need to get a synth... punk’s finished,'" says the singer.
Dourne Castle, Glasgow, UK
White Light-White Heat /
No Fun /
Beat On The Brat /
Pogo Dancing /
Saints And Sinners /
Toss Yourself Off /
Sweet Jane /
New Rose /
Waiting For The Man
"It's a Tuesday night in the downstairs bar of the Dourne Castle pub in Glasgow. There's still thirty minutes
before Johnny And The Self Abusers take to the stage and every seat is already taken. I've
never seen this bar so full - not even on a Saturday night and there's almost certainly going to be trouble, judging from the
bouncers. Anyway enough of this shit and onto the band.
White Light-White Heat (The Velvet Underground) and No Fun (Sex Pistols) are the first
two songs and to be honest I'm put off by the lead singer's "cool" black leather image and no movement. The band have a vocalist
drummer (Brian McGee),
bassist (Tony Donald),
three guitarists (count 'em - Charlie Burchill,
Alan McNeil) - one of whom doubles as a second lead singer. It's when the other singer
takes the mike for Beat On The Brat (The Ramones) that the band starts to take off. The 'cool' image is
finally broken when the vocalist leaps onto a table during a great version of Pogo Dancing. This band are really powerful and
tight with it.
Although they play a lot of other peoples' songs, two of their own -
Saints And Sinners and
Toss Yourself Off are the best of the night. The group build up during a tight
Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground) and finally explode into the final section belting out
Vicious/ (Lou Reed),
New Rose (The Damned),
Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones) (better than the Stooges or Hot Rods).
There's trouble brewing as the bouncers try to keep some of the punters in their seats but the
Self Abusers don't stop and belt into their closing number, Waiting For The Man (The Velvet Underground).
Halfway through, someone hits a bouncer or vise versa and the police alarm bell goes off. A table overturns and there's glasses everywhere.
The manager steps up and the band are forced to quit. A good gig - despite all this.
The group are worth taking note of and should be better once they include more of their own songs. Record company scouts take note.
Pretty Vacant Fanzine, 26/08/77
Maniqui, Falkirk, UK
17th August 1977
Supporting: The Rezillos
"However [they] came on about 12.30 am to a very small, unenthusiastic audience. This band I feel, are
potentially on a par with The Jolt, The Rezillos and
The Valves, and with a little streamiling, (and more rehearsals with the Vinylettes) their reputation will
just grow and grow." - Cripes #9
Art College Club, Glasgow, UK
26th October 1977
White Light-White Heat...
Saints And Sinners...
"The Abusers took to the stage at 12.30, if indeed two orange boxes can be called a stage. The
set opened with a cracking version of White Light/White Heat,
the audience of wilted flower children and drunk straights didn't appear to enjoy it. The Abusers
have some new songs in their set - I didn't catch their names - but the old favourites like
Saints And Sinners and
18-18 were still there. Surprisingly they didn't do
Dead Vandals. The number which seemed most apt for the place and which got the best reaction was
Pablo Picasso - "the girls think you're a fucking asshole."
The band never really got into the set, probably due to the actions of bigots at the front who threw beer cans at the band and were brave enough
to spit at Scott, the band's manager, when his back was turned.
The Abusers are shaping up to be the classiest band in Scotland, having all the style of early
Roxy Music and the power of The Clash. The only problem is that they are a band for '78 not '77. Still the acid test
is the gigs they do in London at the end of November. I skipped out of The Adverts' gig to see the
Self Abusers and I'm not disappointed. So now it's up to you. See them soon."
Hanging Around Fanzine, 7/11/77
Glasgow Art School, Glasgow, UK
The final gig of this line up, they were billed as Simple Minds.
Late November 1977
After the release of single, the band were booked to play
several dates in London. These were cancelled after the band split.