(above) Poncho Carl in Germany, Martin Baker, left – note jump leads! – and Craig Cooper, right.
17 Nov 1989
The band are packed and ready for our first European tour, with an official invite from Poland we head towards Eastern Europe less than a week after the first section of the Berlin Wall has fallen.
We haven’t booked our ferry from Dover and find ourselves stuck ashore for three and a half hours due to a French seamen’s strike. Customs decide we are freight and so have to wait the longest. We plead our cause. If we miss the first gig, the whole tour collapses! We can’t afford to spend five days hanging around before the Berlin show. We consider returning to Leeds before the petty pencil pushers have Steve, and Craig (Dancer Cavedigger Susan) list the entire contents of our van for a carnet and let us through.
And here is that carnet, for those of you interested in what top-of-the-range gear CUD used in 89…
Marburg KFZ, West Germany
We make the first gig two hours late, bleary-eyed and knackered.
We rush through a soundcheck and the bass amp fails to work! The tour seems to be cursed!
Will has to play without an amp, hearing his bass solely through the monitors.
We’re completely unknown here. We carry a pile of records to hand out as they’re not even on sale outside the UK. But, we get a fine reception, with a few wild pushes and a second encore (‘You sexy thing’). There are unlimited beer and cheese sandwiches available and an invite to an impromptu party at Dr Wolf the Dentist’s home. Dr Wolf promises to arrange a gig for us on our return journey. With a few albums sold an extra gig and more than enough to drink, things are looking positive again.
Our lodgings are just across the road from the venue, but chilly (Heck! It’s the middle of winter!) It turns out we have to stay here for three nights when the van fails to start in this weather. Uh-oh…
Feel free to email your translation of the various German and Dutch articles on this page!
We’re back at the KFZ the following night for a talent show (We don’t enter) and the nearby Distiller bar. Will gets into an argument with Martin when he claims the band are supporting a stripper in Frankfurt. What are we? The Beatles?
Marburg is beautiful, a university town with a hilltop castle, tall wooden-beamed houses and many German tourists.
For £60 the van is towed around a corner to get it started. Meanwhile, we join Dr Wolf again to destroy several crates of beer in his plush home. He prepares a delicious yet simple German peasant dish of leek and potatoes in cream and white wine for us while we shower. Then the night rocks to the volume from his giant home-made speakers. No one worries about work tomorrow. It’s a national holiday! After a trip to Ollie’s Laubach bar for further supplies, we drink till four. Steve collapses blitzed on a table, Carl breaks the stereo and the party falls apart.
SOUNDTRACK TO TOUR:
Happy Mondays ‘Hallelujah’
Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 ‘Chove Chuva’, ‘Look Around’
We arrive unhealthy at the Berlin KOB Club as it stops serving.
We’re lodging in dorms above the venue tonight, comfy bunk beds, our own kitchen and shower. The place appears to be an anarcho-commune and our hosts aren’t very sociable. Steve, egged on by Craig irritates William for the whole journey, shouting in his ear and drinking. The drummer and dancer head straight for the bar to leave Mike and Will to unload the van. Most of the group head out till 7am to walk along the Wall with a bottle of brandy, then breakfast with falafel at sunrise.
Panoramic view of first break in Berlin Wall.
You can hear the constant chipping as you approach Dier Mauer, with souvenir-hungry Americans and old Germans after a fast buck selling pieces of broken concrete. The first section fell on the ninth. Rattling Wartburgs cross the new border, past the tourists, westwards. You can already buy ‘I was there 9/11/89’ T-shirts from stalls hastily set up nearby.
Tonight we’re fully armed with a mallet and spike. We head to the wall at 3am in the rain to chop away our own commemorative concrete. The disturbance does not go down well with the East German guards who swear at us in Deutsch and shine their searchlights at us.
The K.O.B. Club. Look closely and you’ll see a CUD poster in the doorway!
Berlin KOB Club
Finally, it’s the night of the gig.
The tour isn’t very compact and we’re already near penniless, living on packet soup and potatoes. Our rider isn’t fulfilled and grumpily we shun the audience, standing still in their stitched leather strides.
The bass amp has suddenly started working at least.
With our payment in our hands, we head to a futurist club to celebrate with more booze, etc.
The van refuses to start again and Martin has to spend a further £50 garage fee. We trudge off though the wintry slush to the Brandenburg Gate for dolmadas.
Five hours later, the van is ready to go. It’s 9pm. It takes hours to leave the city. Checkpoint Charlie denies us entry and send us to Bravo Gate.
East Germany to Poland
We’re driving through the night. Now we are in tractor land. Endless factories pump out black smoke into the fog even at 7am. Queues form outside half-empty stores. William stays awake navigating while Martin drives. We pull into a place for coffee but they won’t accept our western deutschmarks. We have some zloties so we drive on to Poland.
At the borders we have to keep the dodgy van’s engine running despite the protests of border guards. The stern East German guard is contrasted by the amiable Polish guard in the hut next-door, who hop out to chat. We give him a copy of ‘When in Rome, Kill Me’.
Eventually, in some small village we find a grey cafe. We don’t understand the Polish menu at all, not even the words for coffee or tea. After sketching our requirements on a napkin we are served bowls off fish pieces and peas in aspic blocks with boiled egg and potato soup.
In Torun we meet our Polish guide, Wojceck, a Mark E Smith lookalike in a Johnnie Walker satin jacket. The exchange rate means we can buy a whole meal for 18p and beer for 20p, but so far we only get paid £50 for this section of the tour, so we fail to live in luxury, especially after a detour to a Pewex shop for Bison vodka (Wojceck introduces us to this addictive local vodka flavoured with the herb grass grazed by local buffalo.)
Wojceck leads us to a University disco at the Od Nova Club where we’re playing in a day’s time. It’s a sweet, homely, unselfconscious event.
Anthony, a fan from Wolverhampton flies over to join us and build up his collection of international Monopoly sets. He bails us out by lending us £100. For this he is awarded lifetime guest-list privileges.
Back at tonight’s hotel, we leak battery acid on the carpet. Steve’s cassette player blares out for a party while William and Martin try to catch up on lost sleep.
Torun Studencki Klubpracy Twoczej, Poland
We feel guilty buying up most of a shop’s supply of bread and cheese for the next leg. The Poles are extremely friendly to us, gabbling on in Polish we don’t understand and shaking our hands when we reveal we’re British.
Tonight’s gig is sparsely attended but the few that do show up dance. A damper is put on the event when our biggest fan is beaten bloody by a biker.
We’re offstage by 8pm and everyone goes home politely.
More money has been spent on the van. We have an expensive extra battery waiting for us in Warsawa thanks to Wojceck who must be pissed off with the extra hassle this causes. Who’d have thought a British band would arrive in a vehicle less reliable than a Polish japopy?!
Wojceck has an uncanny knack of leading us out onto main roads, drinking vodka then falling asleep till we reach the outskirts of our next destination then knowing exactly where we are.
Lomsa is a richer town than Torun with fine houses and better-stocked shops, green bananas and cinemas showing ‘Rambo’ and ‘Wall Street’. Our hotel here lacks hot water but is comfortable enough. Our van battery is definitely kaput now. Two men jump in to the driver’s seat to tow and swing it around icy corners to restart it. And then it’s gone. With our gear.
We’re beyond despair and indulge in a snowball fight with the local kids. William donates the badges on his jacket to them and shivers. We’re stuck without our gear, without our transport, without funds, in wintry weather in central Poland. Could the tour be more of a farce. Well, yes. But that’s to come…
The van does turn up, parked in town with a snapped tow rope. We taxi the gear to the venue where we’re due on at 7pm.
Mike’s Orange amp blows a fuse during the first song. The audience are seated and it’s difficult to start again and create a vibe, but three blokes dance. We sign their posters and have our photos taken.
Bialystok, Oseidlowy dom Kultury w Lowzy
Then more bad news. Our next gig, in Bialystok has been cancelled.
Apparently an important professor is visiting this university venue and all students have to be indoors revising for exams meanwhile. Now we’ll really be skint!
So we face an extra day lounging in Warsaw prior to Stalowa Wola. Here in the capital are traffic jams, heavy bouncers, drunks, graffiti, street gangs and beautiful churches. Wojceck leads us to his mother’s apartment where we have to stay rent-free for a while till we can play a gig again. We sleep on the floor beneath tables and behind sofas.
The van religiously fails to start and we get bored to Polish TV (finance conferences and fat, ugly men findling bare breasts in the early evening).
The local Pewex shop has a power cut and won’t sell anything but fags. They do offer us Xmas decoration chocolate though.
Stalowa Wola, Hot Klub
Here beside the Russian (now Georgian) border is our least comfortable accommodation, the Hotel Robotniczu, a workers’ hostel akin to a prison, all metal greys and greens. Towel-wrapped hairy men stamp out of the shared showers. Dorm doors slam shut. Cockroachs skitter across the cold tiles.
We meet Stalowa Wola drunk football hooligans on the street who are convinced Carl is a footballer. Tonight the cheese mixed with potatoes and salad is off the menu, so vegetarian William makes do with potatoes, bread and butter. He admits to feeling weak from the lack of fresh veg.
Tonight’s gig was the best so far, 11pm, an enthusiastic audience,18 songs. The football fans were mad for it at the front of the stage and crept backstage to flog theeir team strip. They may have been responsible for the destruction of the venue’s toilets.
After tonight the van is pointing west again. We are heading home.
A Polish joke:
What is the fastest living animal in the world?
A rabbit that runs over the Romanian border without being eaten.
The price of a bottle of Pepsi Cola is one and a half times that of a bottle of Polish vodka. We smell of diesel.
This morning we were served breakfast by a woman with a moustache and a large plaster on her chin. It was mostly pickled salad. The suet potato and cheese parcels were indigestible.
Steve gets drunk and argues most of the way back to Warsawa. the van is almost hit by a tram when Martin drives over a junction and pauses.
The British Embassy is surrounded by Poles after visas. We never get our carnet stamped. We head to the street market instead. Spread across the pavements near the subway are old ladies selling fake Adidas, hairdryers and furry boots. We eat in a cold restaurant. In the evening Steve and Anthony leave for dates with dubious women.
Warsawa’s Old Town has been recreated in detail since its destruction in the war. In the brightly painted square horse and carts park in the snow. Icicles crash onto the pavements in the side streets. Shops and hawkers sell tin and wooden toys and corduroy teddy bears much imported from the USSR.
An impressive skyscraper encircled by crows towers above the centre. This is the cultural centre built under Stalin’s instructions. It is reminiscemt of the mutated tower in the film ‘Ghostbusters’. For locals it offers the best view of Warsawa, as this communist tower cannot be seen once you are looking out from it.
Back at Wojceck’s, Steve and Anthony have failed to return from their night out.
No one knows exactly where they’ve gone.
Anthony shows up at 6am in a panic, hungover and worried that Steve has been captured by drug mafia. When Steve does show up again, hours later, he’s acting a twat again, blaming Anthony for being paranoid and dismissing our fears.
We should be heading back to Berlin now. The Wedding Present are playing there tonight. We could borrow money off them! But the van’s electrics have failed. We can’t travel in the dark. One of Wojceck’s mates has a look at it. We ‘borrow’ some distilled water from a university to fuel our new second battery.
When the van finally starts going again we are faced with a numbing 23-hour non-stop drive to Cologne, through three countries, keeping the engine running at border crossing. We take turns driving, navigating and eating (which one of us keep a foot on the accelerator pedal). We have just a Snickers bar, an apple and some distilled water to sustain the eight of us till we reach West Germany.
Cologne Underground, Germany
When we do reach Cologne we pounce on the Gouda sandwiches.
Tonight is the least attended gig (only just double figures!), but probably our best performance. The organisers enjoyed the show despite being out of pocket.
Frankfurt EXK 17. West Germany
Possibly our weirdest gig yet. We’re in the red-light district of Frankfurt, on past midnight in a low-ceilinged transvestite bar supported by the extrovert barman on his congas.
Dr Wolf and his pals turn up and invite us back to Marberg where they’ve booked us into their local bar tomorrow, as promised.
Now we can relax, enjoy another wild party at the dentist’s and play a set amongst friends. Steve and Craig manage to sneak into Dr Wolf’s surgery and knock a tooth out of a skull (not their own, alas!).
A Christmas market is open outside the bar with brass band and mulled wine. With snow covering the wooden stalls it’s a romantic seasonal scene.
It’s with some sadness and relief when we set sail back to the UK.
Martin Baker returns to Marburg months later with the mistaken impression he can make a small fortune exporting Doc Marten boots. We never hear from the generous Dr Wolf again.
South Elmsall Minsthorpe School Xmas gig, UK. Those jammy schoolkids get another dose of CUD.
Leeds Sam Miguels, CUD’s Xmas gig
Martin had arranged for Xmas posters to be designed and flyposted via fax while on tour. In a badly-organised raffle, William donates his first bass and gets to sign the smashed-up fragments afterwards.
Wakefield Rooftop Gardens
Last gig of the year and events come to a head when Martin refuses to sort out a hire van (the merry-go-round truck being kaput again.) It’s up to William and Mike to get the band and gear to Wakefield on time. It’s the last straw. Rev M Baker has to go.