Village was Mecca for musical stars

Adam Ant
Adam Ant

AUTHOR Tony Hill is the first to admit that the village of Jacksdale takes some finding.

Delivery drivers often roll up late because it’s not on the map or their sat navs have sent them to a dale that isn’t Jack’s.

Yet back in the 1970s, the pit village was the Mecca for scores of bands bound for stardom, including Simple Minds, The Pretenders, The Bay City Rollers, The Stranglers and Adam and the Ants.

A former picture palace was the place to see bands before they hit the big time and many a household name nowadays has tales to tell of their experiences at the Grey Topper.

Tony Hill has recorded the highs and lows of the legendary venue in his book The Palace and the Punks.

He said: “I thought it was important – and sort of my duty being a writer from Jacksdale – to tell the story of the Grey Topper as it’s an amazing and unique true story.

“For all those world famous names in pop and rock history to turn up in a pit village is incredible.

“It was a labour of love to put the book together and great to get in touch with rock stars whose records I had as a kid as well as listening to people’s funny stories (sometimes in a pub over a pint).

“I sort of became friends with a few of the rock stars in the book – well, virtually via the web.

“Roddy Radiation of The Specials put me on the guest list for a Specials gig and sent me CDs of his music.

“Andy Scott of Sweet requested a signed copy of the book and told me how much he was enjoying it.

“It was brilliant to sit and talk and share a beer with UK Subs’ Charlie Harper backstage after the Grey Topper Punks Reunited gig I put on in 2007.”

Tony has meticulously charted who played at the venue and where they are now, interviewed fans and residents of Jacksdale and researched how news stories of the time impacted on the village.

He said: “I was too young to get in the Grey Topper but later came to know the small band of punks that started the movement there. They all live locally and often talk about the incredible year in their lives at the Grey Topper in 1979.”

n Do you have memories of bands playing at the Grey Topper, perhaps you saw Bill Haley and Comets, Shakin’ Stevens or Annie Lennox, who also played there.

Let us know your memories at news@eastwoodadvertiser.co.uk