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Return of the Macc

Well, as any shiftless, booze-guzzling deviant will know, the Macc Lads finally roared out of an unquiet sonic grave this year and played their first live gigs since 1997, on their The Usual Subjects tour. They are on tour round the UK right now, and I saw them in Edinburgh (their first Scottish gig since 1994) on Friday, 16/11/2018. But was it worthwhile? Has time been kind to them? Have they still got it? Were they any good?

Absofuckinglutely, on all counts.

I’ve been into the band since their first album came out in 1985, Beer & Sex & Chips n Gravy, so I’ve got a long history with listening to them. As their fans know, they reformed in a different version to perform punk covers as FILF last year. I drove down from Falkirk to Stockport to see them, excited to see them even potentially play one Macc Lads song alongside the other bands (The Clash, Magazine, etc) they covered. It was the day before my birthday, and they played Blackpool for me, got me a signed teeshirt, and got me a photo with the whole band. It was a superb night, arranged by Chris ‘Bammy’ Bamford, the FILF singer, a top guy, and made my year, which had been shitty up until that point, for various reasons.

Bammy was singing with the actual Macc Lads when they started playing a few months ago, but isn’t now, for reasons I am clueless aboot. I was excited to see what they would be like playing as the actual Macc Lads after all these years. I first saw them in Edinburgh in 1987 and 1988, and they were among the wildest and best gigs I had ever been to, all the beer and bottles thrown and fights and spit and chaos any 17-to-18-year-old could want. I was originally going to the Friday gig with my brother Tony (who was 15 when he went with me to the 1987 gig) and a friend, Kev, but in the event neither could make it and I just drove through myself from Falkirk to Edinburgh. It always puts a wee bit of a damper when you’re expecting to go through to an event with a few of you and then it falls through, but fuck it, I was up for it anyway. I wasn’t entirely certain aboot what the band would be like, and what we’d be seeing, but, I had the ticket, in for a penny, in for a pound, what the Hell.

When I got through to Edinburgh I tried briefly to sell the spare tickets outside, but there were several people selling spares as well, so I had no luck. One guy I approached reckoned, after I told him I had seen the band in the 80s at the now-closed Venue, that he recognised me from moshpits at gigs there! Aye right! Dream on! I handed my ticket over and went downstairs. Anybody who has ever been to the Liquid Room, where the gig was held, knows that the stairwell down to the stage area is poky, steep, vertiginous, and can barely accommodate two people coming up and down at the same time.

It was the second time I’ve been there, with the first time being to see Dead Kennedys last year and, being the cheery cunt I am, I thought, this place is a fucking death trap, if there’s a fire we’re gonnae fucking die, cos people will stampede and we’ll all get trampled to death on the stairs. Thankfully this did not happen. That would have put a bit of a dampener on the evening’s events. I walked into the room with the stage and, to my right, saw the teeshirt stand. A middle-aged guy with long blonde hair and glasses I thought I recognised from 80s Macc Lads videos was behind the stall. The place was aboot half full, but filled up. I saw Bammy on the stage and went up to say hiya. I asked him if he wanted a pint and he said he was driving. I tried to speak to him, but the music was too loud, so fuck it. I decided to see if I could see him afterwards just to shoot the shite.

The banner behind the band only said “THE MACC” cos the wall was too small. These things happen. We all waited for the band, though not for too long. The band came on at 8.30 p.m., which is early, but I saw the place was turning into some shitey fun pub disco or something after the event at 10.30 p.m., so no doubt they just wanted to get everycunt out, and the place cleaned up, as quick and early as possible. They came on to some piece of martial-sounding music that no doubt has some sort of weight and importance for the band, but I had no idea what it was.

And then they kicked off.

And it was 1987 again.

And my brain went fucking crash.

Now. I hadn’t put my jacket into the cloakroom, because I had decided I wasn’t going to jump around, just watch quietly. I say the same fucking thing at every gig I go to these days, and I always end up leaping aboot like a maddo, so I should save myself the trouble. I wrapped my jacket round my waist, tied the arms in a knot twice, and got stuck the fuck into the madness. It was crazy. I didn’t know what the fuck I was expecting, really, but from the minute it started I was in retro humour mad cunt heaven.

The band (in their original incarnation, no less), apart from the very occasional missed note, were tight as a sex change cock-chop-op with too many stitches put in after, and it was genuinely just like the old days. Except for our expanded waistlines, that is; they should call their next snake through this island Girth and Mirth. Muttley was just as funny and sarcastic and sick as he ever was, and it’s always a joy to see him and the Beater bouncing over to and off each other. They were having fun, and it showed. And the crowd went wild, were fucking loving it. They aged from around 17 to probably 60 or so, a real age (and belly) spread. It was crazy to see youngsters there (of both sexes! Women at a Macc Lads gig! This never happened in the gobby, violent 80s!) who weren’t even born when the band played their last gig, and they were fucking ecstatic to be there.

They were clearly genuinely really excited to be getting to see the band, after listening to them on record for years, and their energy and excitement was contagious. There were punks and skins and mods and all sorts of odds and sods and odd sods there, but there was no real trouble at all – the crowd were violent, but with the usual gig etiquette – help anybody up from the floor, grab a random person for a singsong round the neck then let them go – and I don’t think I have ever seen a crowd so damned fucking happy to be screaming and shouting and singing along to songs written by middle-aged men before half of them were even born. Songs aboot drinking, fighting, and fucking just never age, I suppose.

I jumped aboot in the pit here and there, laughing, pacing myself, pacing aboot here and there, and then stood back and watched the crowd in delight, laughing out loud, which is something I can’t say has ever happened to me at a gig before. It was just the joy, the happiness, the youthful energy, the beautiful bountiful bouncing big breasts, the sweaty grinning faces, the beer spraying, the singsonging, the plastic cups sailing through the air, the fallen getting righted again right away by the crowd, the pushers, the shovers, the to-and-fro tug-of-peaceful war, the old and young cunts loving it together…it was just totally…fucking…joyous.

As I watched everybody thoroughly enjoying themselves, it struck me, all the non-PC material aside, that this was what life should be all aboot: folk having a damned good laugh, and none of that fucking social justice shite for miserable humourless cunts with their gender-bender agendas, who want to tell everybody what to think and say and do. This gig was a real release and relief from all that nutty shite out in the real world, and tonight it could all just go fuck itself with a twirling lawnmower, cos this violent madness was the sane centre of the globe Right Fucking Now!

And the band were having a whale of a time, loving the reaction they were getting. You could see Muttley was enjoying being back in the slimelight again, and he even put on a tartan Jimmy tammy that somebody threw up onto the stage for a while. He booted aboot a bit of bootboy Scots-vs-English banter, but nobody was taking it seriously. He read a couple of ‘letters’ supposedly from fans leading into songs, one of them from a Scottish farmer. Of course, we all knew what that was leading into, and I genuinely don’t think I have ever seen a crowd go as FUCKING MENTAL as I saw them go over No Sheep ‘Til Buxton, howling, cheering, jumping, falling, skanking, smacking into each other, pushing each other aboot, dancing aroond like mad cunts. I mean, going totally fucking mental over a decades-old comedy song aboot shagging fucking sheep, for fucksake! Mad baahstirts! I just watched the heaving sea of heavy-duty mad fuck action with a huge smile on my face, and couldn’t get enough of it.

As I said, the whole thing was very good-natured. I saw one young woman in her 20s there, filming her boyfriend as he jumped around. She looked a bit confused and concerned by the whole thing, which made me chuckle. “I hope your boyfriend appreciates that you’re doing this for him,” I smiled at her. “Ay am feelming thees so he can remember it all better,” she said in a European accent I absolutely could not place, and I chuckled and bounced away. I couldn’t fathom what a young foreign woman could be making of a howling mad crowd going violently apeshit over songs aboot fucking sheep or fucking women or beating up gay people; she must have felt like she was on a different planet. Which, for that gig, she certainly was.

The only time I saw anything nearly kick off was when an old bald guy (he was 56; I talked to him briefly later) of around five foot tall in a red teeshirt somehow nearly got into a fight with a bald guy a foot taller – and a lot younger – than him. Then a bald guy a foot taller than the taller guy burst through the crowd and menaced the smaller guy too. It was a diminishing homunculus formation of bald guys of descending size, like those Russian Matryoshka dolls you get that fit into each other. After that all got smoothed over a drunk young tattooed woman wearing a short skirt in her mid-20s went up behind fight club Shortarse and hugged him. I wondered if that was her dad…until she started grinding her clit into his arse through a couple of songs. I thought fuck, if that’s her dad they’re a very close family. But a wee bit later on a long-haired guy her own age started kissing and cuddling with her, and she ignored the old sex dwarf cunt, so I have no fucking idea whatsoever what the Hell any of it was all aboot. You see the strange, multi-generational erotic feelings the band bring out in all ages and sexes! It’s a magical thing! Shortarse tried a pitch invasion, but was so small he couldn’t really get over the barrier, taking several tries just to get on top of it, with a bald black bouncer looking on in bemusement and just telling him no. Poor wee bastirt, all that puffing, straining, taxing, vexing effort for nothing! When he jumped back down I genuinely thought (I am laughing here) for a moment that he had had a heart attack, as he slumped down by the barrier for a minute…but then he was back up leaping aboot like a manic midget motherfucker with not a solitary care in his miniature unconcerned world.

The set was a really good one. It was taken basically from the first two albums, with the very odd song from the last three, and the whole of the Filthy, Fat & Flatulent EP played. As that whole thing is great (remember buying the green-cover cassette from Hectic House by mail when it came out in 1987), I was ecstatic. They played Blackpool (during it a skinhead, grinning, saw I was wearing a stripy top, like the one mentioned in the song, and grabbed me round the neck and we jumped aboot for a bit like maddos), Get Weaving, Lads From Macc, Twenty Pints, and Party, some of my absolute fave songs of theirs, but, disappointingly, they didn’t play Poof, despite a lot of the crowd shouting for it. Well, me and a couple of other people here and there, so it seemed like a vast Mexican wave of satiric-homophobia-song shouting to me. A free speech display like that could bring a tear to a glass eye in this censorious, gutless day and expression-cage age.

At points during the gig I just stood down the front with my eyes closed, transported, right back to my youth shouting lustily along to songs I have loved for decades. Magic! And then it was finished, after a few encores. They did Sweaty Betty as a closer, and the crowd went wild. I went up to the black bouncer and, laughing, told him it had been an easy gig for him, what with only one crap failed dwarf pitch invasion. The grumpy cunt gruffly briefly nodded, and told me to start heading towards the door. I saw Bammy manning the teeshirt stall, so waited until it cleared out to say hiya. I saw a guy from Falkirk called Alan I had not seen in decades and said hiya. “Well, they’ve not lost it,” he said to me, and I agreed. We briefly talked and he left. As I sat on a bench just along from the stall watching all the plastic glasses getting swept up, I saw a skinhead kick a plastic bag on the floor that moved oddly. Suspecting it was not a suspect device, I picked it up and found, as I had thought, a brand new teeshirt somebody had bought and lost. Oh well, nae luck! Wearing it right now as I write this.

Bammy eventually was finished and came out from behind the stall to say hiya. He told me the band would be in Musselburgh for a drink, at a pub next door to a Premier Inn, in half an hour, and that I should come along.

“Whaur the fuck’s Musselburgh?” I asked, having visions of it being miles away on the coast somewhere. Well, with a name like that, you can hardly blame me, can you?

“I dunno, it’s in fucking Scotland, it’s on Newcraighall…” He was a bit harried, hurried, so I said I would see him there, and left him to what he was doing. I went over to the Pubic Triangle (area of Edinburgh I lived in years ago where there are three stripclubs in the area in a triangle, hence the name) to my car and got in, looking up ‘Premier Inn, Musselburgh’ on my phone to put it into the satnav. But, oddly, there were two Premier Inns in close proximity to each other, one that said ‘Musselburgh’ and the other ‘Newcraighall,’ so I was a bit confused. I thought that Bammy must have made a mistake, and contemplated not going, in case I turned up at the wrong one. Then I thought ah, fuck it, they’re both close (1.7 miles from where I was sitting in the car) and close together, if I go to one and they’re not there I will just go to the other after it. Cos how could I miss a chance to have a drink with The Macc Lads? It was something I had thought aboot (although not too much in recent decades, to be honest) since I was a teenager obsessing over the first album. And if I didn’t see them at either place, well, fuck it, at least I had tried.

I arrived at the Premier Inn and saw a pub called The Cuddie Brae next to it. It hadn’t taken me very long to get there, so I didn’t think the band would be there yet, because they would have to load all their equipment. But just to make sure, I did a swift walk through the place and no, they weren’t there yet. I went and sat back in the car, still not sure I was in the right place. I thought I would give it a while and then leave if they hadn’t arrived. Ten or fifteen minutes later I went in again, and instantly saw Muttley sitting at the door with the rest of the band at a table covered in pints of beer in true Macc Lads style. I went across, noting that Bammy wasn’t there, and kind of stood slightly back from the table. I felt like a spare prick at a hoor’s wedding, cos I didn’t know if any of them would remember me from Stockport last year. Dim smiles from them as they noticed me that equated to: who the fuck is this weirdo standing around us? Is he armed?

Somebody (can’t remember who) sort-of recognised me, and they asked me how it had gone. I said I wasn’t sure aboot it going in, and then pretended I had thought it was shite…before telling them that it was absolutely fucking superb.

“You just wanted us to be total shite!” said Muttley.

“Naw, cos that would have meant ah paid twenty fucking quid to watch a shite band!”

Luckily Bammy came back and I asked him if he wanted a drink. He sent me to get two pints of San Miguel. I went to the bar and it was fucking closed! It had just gone eleven! I couldn’t believe it, and walked back to the table feeling stupid as I informed the band, who couldn’t believe it either. In Falkirk it would have been last orders round 12.45 p.m., so I couldn’t understand this disgusting near-Edinburgh foreign chicanery. Muttley poured three-fourths of a cold beer from a glass in front of him into another, and said to me “You can have that.” “And have a seat,” said Chorley, and I pulled up a chair.

Muttley had just bought me a beer! I had always thought it would be the other way round but, apparently, in this backwards world I was now somehow inhabiting, sitting drinking a beer with one of my absolute fave bands as a youngster, nothing was normal or the right way up. It truly was bizarre.  I almost felt like I was dreaming, to coin a cliche. The band was very friendly, and I tried not to say anything too stupid, almost succeeding (I hope). Being a slightly jaded middle-aged divorcee does help in that arena, though, I admit. To be honest, I had been slightly apprehensive going in. I wrote an in-depth article on the band in December last year for this very site, and I wasn’t sure if they had liked it or not; don’t think Bammy was much impressed by it. I took Muttley giving me that drink – and, Hell, the mere fact that I was there – to mean that they had liked the article, though I couldn’t even be sure that they had read it. But I never mentioned it, and neither did anybody else.

We compared notes on the gig. I said to Muttley “Youse looked like you were having fun, it really showed.”

“Oh, we were, it was great fun,” he said, grinning. “Compared to the boring fucking job I’ve just been doing for the last twenty-five years. “

I said, like a sad cunt, that at some moments “I just stood down the front and shut my eyes and I was just transported.” Fucking embarrassing drivel but, also, absolutely true. I told them aboot Shortarse. “That’s the guy who kept looking at me,” said Beater, pointing his fingers back and forth between he and I like the old guy had apparently done to him, trying to entice the Beater to fuck or fight him, you never can quite tell in Edinburgh. However, having seen the aphrodisiac effect his diminutive stature had had on that horny clitrubber woman half his age, it was probably a come-on. I said that at one point I thought he had had a heart attack. “I saw that too,” said Chorley, sitting to my left, “it would have given me a chance to use my CPR training!”

I said I thought I recognised the guy from the stall from old videos. “Aye, that’s Slippery Git,” said Muttley. He was apparently going to come over with a carry-out, driving over in a different van than the band. Bammy asked me if I wanted to stay overnight in a spare bed in a room with one of the crew, but I really felt slightly awkward (not that they were trying to make me feel that way, quite the contrary) and I said thanks but no thanks, I didn’t want to impose. They all grabbed their beers and we headed out into the car park, initially to go to the van to get some stuff out, then next door to the hotel. Bammy asked me what the pub name meant. “Well, cuddie means horse, and brae means hill, so it’s like The Horse Hill or something. Be a fucking thirsty horse, with closing hours like this,” I said. The band phoned Slippery Git and he said he had checked in already. There was some confusion aboot this, as they wondered why he hadn’t seen them, and vice versa. As they hung up from talking to him on the phone, I explained the confusion I had had with the two Premier Inns really close to each other, telling them what Bammy had said. They phoned him again and realised that they were at the wrong Premier Inn! “It’s all a bit Spinal Tap, this,” I said, chuckling.

I shook hands all round and everybody got in the van, except the Beater. I think my initial joke at the table aboot them not being good had slightly thrown him, and he asked me, truly, how they had been. I told him, truthfully, that they were totally fucking brilliant. I couldn’t believe he was actually interested in my opinion; I’m not arrogant enough to think it matters. He nodded, grinned, shook my hand, got into the black van, and off they headed to correct-hotel pastures unknown. I got into my car hardly believing what had just happened. I’m genuinely not one for nostalgia, really, but, even removing aside the age of the material, this had been one of the best gigs I had been to in many years. The only other band I saw live (twice) this year was Idles, the complete opposite of the Mad Macc bastirts, and they were great, but…missing something. Wild un-PC humour, maybe. The Macc Lads had that certain indefinable something; always have had, always will have. An extremely enjoyable experience.

I drove back home to Polmont, dumped the car, and went for a couple of round-last-orders pints. I sat drinking them in The Black Bull, shaking my head in disbelief at the whole experience. Drinking with the band had just been such a left-field surprise, down once again to Bammy. He’s a brilliant guy, and I hope they do gigs as FILF again so he can get a chance to sing. He brings a real enthusiasm and showmanship to a gig, and to relating to the fans, and I personally would like to see that happen again. I finished my drink and walked home, reading what fans had been saying on Facebook. Their opinions were all pretty much the same as mine. The band will be playing in Scotland again next year, and I will definitely be there. Only one last thing to add: when will youse have a new album out to tour, lads? I know I am not the only one who’d like to hear one. I mean, you have your classic band line-up, and the fans are still there ready and waiting…

Just a thought.

Thanks for a brilliant night from start to finish. See you next year.

 

About Graham Rae

Graham Rae has been writing about weird and wonderfueled cinematic oddities for nearly 30 years. He started off writing for the legendary Deep Red, and since then has been bounced around like a human pinball around such venues as Film Threat, American Cinematographer, Cinefantastique, and Realitystudio.org.. A selection of his genre writings are available at www.facebook.com/raewrites, and he runs a Mad Foxes page on Facebook too. You have been warned.

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