DAVE BERRY

ENGLAND’S UNSUNG ‘GODFATHER OF PUNK’

Whilst the majority of UK acts borne out of the ’76 punk explosion cited stateside acts like MC5, New York Dolls and The Stooges as the reason they started out there’s also blame to be levelled much closer to home.

Sheffield’s staging of The Clash’s live debut is normally the only thing documented about the city’s contribution to the early punk scene but the city actually made a far greater contribution in a story that’s regularly overlooked.

If it wasn’t for the attitude, songs and stage show of former coke oven worker Dave Holgate Grundy punk rock history could have been very different.

Changing his name to Dave Berry (after his hero Chuck Berry), he had his first hit in October 1963 with ‘Memphis Tennessee’.

But often more striking than his music was his attitude and knack of trying to hide himself beside a prop.

Dressed all in black, he’d regularly hide behind the upturned collar of his leather jacket and was a big fan of wrapping himself around his microphone lead – a stage act totally at odds with bands like The Beatles, The Shadows and the Dave Clark Five with whom he was sharing the charts.

He had a string of top twenty hits between 1963 and 1966 – his most well known being ‘The Crying Game’ that reached the No 5 spot in July 1964.

But bizarrely, over 10 years later, it was the ‘b’ side, ‘Don’t Gimme No Lip Child’ that came to real world-wide prominence when it was covered by the Sex Pistols and appeared on The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle album.

His unconventional stage presence was years ahead of its time and the Pistols quickly acknowledged him as an inspiration.

And word soon spread.

The whole thing became a bit of a shock to Dave Berry who was, at that point, performing on the cabaret circuit.

He said: "One evening at a rock venue in London I was astonished to notice some very odd looking characters at the front of the stage. The punk era had arrived and although I was delighted to see some of them enjoying my show, I couldn’t quite work out what the attraction was for them. My road manager ushered them to my dressing room, saying they wanted to meet me, and my question to them was straight to the point: ‘What are you doing here?’"

They said they were Pistols fans and wanted to check out the man whose songs they were covering.

Adam Ant was that much in awe he invited Dave Berry to support him at key shows, including London’s Lyceum.

"The reviews I received were very special indeed and my daughter Tania couldn’t believe it when I took her along to meet Adam", he said.

You had to give him credit – even the gobbing didn’t bother him, he revelled in it.

"I received my punk badge of honour when the audience spat at me on stage!"

Siouxsie and the Banshees were also fans and The Monochrome Set were regularly performing another Berry hit – ‘Little Things’; the tabloid press regularly referred to him as the ‘godfather of punk’.

One thing many of the ’76 punk bands don’t have is Dave Berry’s staying power – he’s still gigging today and is about to set off on a 25 date UK tour.

His autobiography (Dave Berry – All There Is To Know) has also just been released by Heron Publications.

More info: www.cryinggame.co.uk

 

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