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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.

Given Jim's, Charlie's and 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. Jim, in conversation with Mark Millar on the 30th January 2022, mentioned that they probably only played 20 gigs.

"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
Virgin Radio
17th November 2019

JK: And I have to say, usually when people start a band, and usually when they talk about their first gig, it's terrible because there's two men and a dog there. And it all goes badly. And nobody cares. And you find out the reality and your dreams are shattered - and that's the first gig.
JK: However, in the case of Johnny And The Self Abusers, you'll remember this, again the hand of fate came in - there was a technicality at the time in Glasgow where there'd been a bit of a riot at The Stranglers gig...
BS: At the City Halls, yeah.
JK: And the city fathers had taken it upon themselves - it was a technicality where visiting punk bands had been banned. Well, we weren't visiting. [Laughs] We were from there. And so this Johnny And The Self Abusers - we put our posters up all over the record shops and all that - had our first gig and I thought 'There'll be two men with a dog and some of their pals.' And we turned up - I just wanted to get in the van, it was McGee's van, and drive away, because there was a queue around the block. Because every punk in Glasgow who'd been starved of that kind of vibe, had turned up. From the very first chord, the place went mental - it just went mental as an expression: 'Here it was, punk, local punks.' To say we were bad is an understatement but that didn't' matter.
JK: I maintain that within that moment - Charlie and I knew the band was a bit of a joke - that wouldn't go anywhere. But there was something in that first minute - we maintain that we looked at each other and went 'Hang on a minute. Imagine you could do this for real.' And so I maintain that the summer, for then on in, was a bit of a learning curve to what would be the real thing - which was Simple Minds coming six months later.

Billy Sloan Show
BBC Radio Scotland
22nd January 2022

Saints And Sinners, Glasgow, UK
April, 1977
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.

Dreamland Cinema, Charing Cross, Glasgow
August 4th, 1977
Supporting: The Jolt
With: The Exile, The Cuban Heels and Rev-Volting's Back-Stabbers
Posters of this planned concert were pinned up in various record shops througout Glasgow. However, the concert was cancelled by the Glasgow City Council.

Many thanks to Stuart for the scan.

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 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
April-October 1977
Documented - but no other details known.

Terminal One, UK
April-October 1977
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.

Local Heroes
Q Magazine
April 2018

Dourne Castle, Glasgow, UK
August 1977
Main Set: White Light-White Heat / No Fun / Beat On The Brat / Pogo Dancing / Saints And Sinners / Toss Yourself Off / Sweet Jane / Vicious / New Rose / Satisfaction / 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 (Jim Kerr), drummer (Brian McGee), bassist (Tony Donald), three guitarists (count 'em - Charlie Burchill, John Milarky, 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. "

Iain McNeil
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
Main Set: White Light-White Heat... Saints And Sinners... 18-18... Pablo Picasso
"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."

Peter Campbell
Hanging Around Fanzine, 7/11/77

Glasgow Art School, Glasgow, UK
November 1977
The final gig of this line up, they were billed as Simple Minds.

London, UK
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.

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