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History Punk Rock

Proto Punk at The Rowing Club, MC5 in York, 1972

MC5, 1969

During the research for my series of articles about the near-mythical Pink Floyd gig at New Earswick Folk Hall, it came to my attention that Michigan Proto Punk legends, the MC5, performed at a venue in York which I had preciously not heard of.

As a fan of Punk, music & its various offshoots, I am a fan of the MC5. They are held as a foundation of the genre. A semi-militant, anti-Vietnam, furious live band, their debut album was recorded live at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom on October 30th & 31st 1968. You’ve probably heard Kick Out The Jams & it’s incendiary, profane intro, if nothing else. That perfect moment of rebellious Rock and Roll energy is seared into the history of Rock music.

So, my first inkling about this gig was a letter printed in the York Press, dated 24th July 2006, by Roy Hughes. You may remember he was the DJ & compere at the Tinned Chicken Club, the club night at the Folk Hall in New Earswick, which hosted ’60’s Psyche bands like Pink Floyd & Procol Harum. In the letter, which is titled Definitive Record, Roy confirms that MC5 did perform at The Rowing Club in 1972. He has some other interesting information in this letter:

The following day they appeared at Wembley Stadium with Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry.

The bass player was a member of York band Gideon’s Few, who joined MC5 in Germany and remained on tour with them throughout Europe and USA for nearly a year. He is, incidentally, my brother Derek!

So Roy’s brother was Derek Hughes, who replaced original bass player Michael Davis, who was practically forced out of the band for Heroin abuse. Derek Hughes played with them for the majority of 1972.

a poster for Syd Barrett’s band, Stars.

In other Pink Floyd related news, around this time MC5 played a gig in Cambridge with Syd Barrett’s band, Stars. Barrett had left Pink Floyd in 1968.

After reaching out to the same York Past & Present Facebook group that provided me with so much information about the Pink Floyd gig, I have received account from group member Mike Stewart.

He recalls that the gig was “Loud!” & that it was “quite a coup for the venue.” He thinks that the band added the York date at last minute to fill in a spare night while travelling up and down the country. The Rowing Club apparently held “progressive/heavy rock discos every Saturday night.” He remarked how “not many bands performed with such high-octane energy in those days.”

Edgar Broughton Band 

Mike also remembers seeing Psychedelic Rockers, the Edgar Broughton Band at The Rowing Club. I hadn’t heard of Edgar Broughton Band before, but I am listening to them now & their sound is a heavy, psyched up Blues Rock. Shades of Black Sabbath. I’m interested in listening further so expect a review in the near future.

The York gig is not listed in this fan managed gig guide on the Concerts Wiki, but it looks like the gig probably took place in the June of 1972. Other gigs in the local vicinity, Leeds & Scarborough, seem to bear this out.

Listed June gigs from 1972, Concerts Wiki

Another York Past & Present member, Brian Walker, recalls how he could not believe the MC5 gig was happening at the time. There was no advertising, as such, and the news of it was spread by word of mouth. He believes it may have been a warmup gig before they played a few other dates, so perhaps it could have taken place at the end of May, before the Leeds City Hall gig on June 1st.

As for the venue, I assume it was the same building as houses the York City Rowing Club today (pictured above). Though I am not sure. York Past & Present user says he took over DJ responsibilities in 1976 from predecessor, Paul Blitz. So the Saturday rock nights must have gone on for quite a while. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has more information about the venue, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you remember it.

For now, that is all I have been able to find out. If anything else significant comes up about either the gig or the venue, there may be a follow up to this blogpost.

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