Ultravox UK Tours 1977 Part 1

Ultravox first UK Tour
22 March -19 April 1977

Revisiting these dates again now with all that I have learned of Ultravox movements suggests that the itinerary as we know it is incomplete. This is no surprise.
The archive was initially built around dates published in NME on 26 March 1977 as follows:

March 24: Red Deer, Croydon
March 25: Marquee, London
March 26: Electric Circus, Manchester
March 28: Toby Jug, Tolworth
March 29: Railway Hotel, Putney
March 30: The Affair, Swindon
April 01: 76 Club, Dudley
April 02: Eric’s, Liverpool
April 03: Top Rank, Sheffield
April 04: Tiffany’s, Edinburgh
April 09: Priory Hotel, Scunthorpe
April 12: Top Rank, Brighton
April 13: La Fayette, Wolverhampton
April 15: Marquee, London
April 16: Rock Gardens, Middlesbrough

According to this advert, the dates were arranged by Brian Epstein’s NEMS agency, the leading booking agents of the period.

I have researched this tour (and all others by the band) for years, but until now, I have never considered them from a geographical perspective, from the point of view of plotting the shows on a simple map:

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What is interesting is the order of the shows, which don’t seem to follow any geographical logic and so must presumably have been booked according to available dates rather than with any efficient itinerary in mind? For example, they played the Marquee in London on Friday 25 March and then drove 200 miles to Manchester for a show the following evening. While this might not seem exceptional, Ultravox were than back in London for a gig in Tolworth on Monday 28th, and played at Eric’s in Liverpool three days after that…
The next few dates do make more logical sense (Swindon, Dudley, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh) although the question arises – why is there a gig ‘missing’ on Wednesday  31 March between Swindon and Dudley (Burton-on-Trent)?

Then between Monday 4th (Edinburgh) and Saturday 9th (Scunthorpe) there is a ‘gap’ of five days without a gig booking. And to close the tour, did Ultravox really travel 260 miles back up the A1 for a show in Middlesbrough?
Certainly an exhausting schedule, even with the gaps.

Minding The Gaps
While the NME listing is a starting point, I have uncovered a handful of other dates and factors that might fit in with this first tour.
In June 1981, Chris Cross listed in Smash Hits magazine Ten Gigs I Never Want To Play Again. Some of these are still unsourced, and these include:

Vikings, Goole and The Top Hat, Spennymoor
Shrewsbury Rugby Club
The Dolphins, Morecambe
Country Club, Ashby de la Zouch

It does not seem entirely unreasonable to suggest that Ultravox might have played Spennymoor and Goole on their journey from Edinburgh to Scunthorpe, between 4th and 9th April 1977. Which provides a starting point for further research, although no evidence at all of either gig has yet come to light.

From the map – assuming some application of logical travelling arrangements of course – I feel comfortable suggesting that the gig in Ashby de la Zouch is the ‘missing’ one for 31st March 1977. Chris Cross recalls that they played to one person, and not even the bar staff attended! Assuming this to be a reliable account (and there is no reason to think otherwise), then I am inclined to think this anecdote refers to an early gig. The band got very popular very quickly, so such an exclusive audience seems unlikely to be very much later in the year. It may however be equally within reason to place the Shrewsbury Rugby Club gig into this vacant date, but with even less evidence! There’s not much history of this venue at all online, so it also could be very early.

One more piece of the puzzle came to light on reading Tony Hill’s excellent memoir The Palace & The Punks which describes the “occasionally sad, but always true” story of the Grey Topper in a Nottinghamshire pit village. He mentions an Ultravox gig in the text, and then kindly sent me a copy of a page from the club’s booking diary confirming they appeared there on Tuesday 22 March 1977. Another gig listed in Chris Cross’s list of those he would rather forget, when there were more people in the fish shop opposite than at the gig. Both Cross and Tony Hill confirm this unfortunate circumstance.
The date however would suggest it to be their VERY FIRST show outside London?
How does that feel…?

Knowing the band’s preference for playing an unlisted warm-up before a tour, this appearance in the middle of nowhere in Nottinghamshire sits nicely ahead of the main sequence of dates. It does though also open up the possibility of another gig on 23rd March before the listed show in Croydon… Ashby de la Zouch on the way back?

Finally, the gigs in Croydon, Tolworth and Putney are all advertised together in NME the same issue as a above, presented by Fox Leisure. They seem fairly ‘concrete’ but of course one can never guarantee ANY of these listed shows actually went ahead other than discovering personal anecdotes or memoirs.

A speculative conclusion would be to suggest this itinerary:

March 22: Grey Topper, Jacksdale (Notts)
March 23: Country Club, Ashby de la Zouch???
March 24: Red Deer, Croydon
March 25: Marquee, London
March 26: Electric Circus, Manchester
March 27: Sunday off???
March 28: Toby Jug, Tolworth
March 29: Railway Hotel, Putney
March 30: The Affair, Swindon
March 31: Shrewsbury Rugby Club???
April 01: 76 Club, Dudley
April 02: Eric’s, Liverpool
April 03: Top Rank, Sheffield
April 04: Tiffany’s, Edinburgh
April 5/6: Top Hat, Spennymoor
April 7/8: Vikings, Goole

April 09: Priory Hotel, Scunthorpe
April 10: Sunday off???

Do The Mutation
By the 9th April, there were full page adverts in the UK press listing dates for April under the Do the Mutation headline.

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April 11: Covent Garden, London (additional to the dates listed on 26 March)
April 12: Top Rank, Brighton
April 13: La Fayette, Wolverhampton
April 15: Marquee, London
April 16: Rock Gardens, Middlesbrough

Three days after the Middlesbrough gig Ultravox! played five consecutive nights in Paris and then appeared in Brussels and Holland

Can You Help?
I like to think that a lot of this speculation is educated guesswork based on known habits and parameters, but I am more than happy to be proved wrong at any point. Evidence is very hard to find. “Previous investigations shape the search for information…”
if you have read this far and can help with any of this, please do get in touch.

Thanks for reading

 

 

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