Swansea, Cinderella’s nightclub on 2 October 1989, 17 year-old me is sitting with a girl who is not-quite my girlfriend yet watching my second ever gig. I’m definitely wearing jeans that are far too tight for me, even given the fact I was a slender thing at the time, white Hi-Tec boots, some of my mum’s bangles and a silk scarf on my wrists, my hair is down to my shoulders and I’m either wearing my Faster Pussycat ‘The Itch You Can’t Scratch T-shirt’, or the one with ‘100% Pure Pussycat’ on the back. Halcyon days.
The murky dive that was Cinderella’s, usually a surfer’s night club*, was a far cry from the cavernous Wembley Arena where I’d gone to see AC/DC some 19 months earlier, I’m about 1/2 a mile closer to the music for a start. We’re sitting about halfway up the room, I’m drinking cider and black and we’re chatting flirtatious nonsense to each other. The band are called Dawn After Dark, they’re a new-ish English rock group that are supposed to sound a bit like the headliners of my first gig and the Cult, they get written about in Kerrang! and they’re the first hard rock metal band to play within 30 miles of where we live in ages.
In truth I can’t remember very much about the gig compared to what I remember about myself (typical!), the place and my companion. At a push I can remember the singer was tall and skinny and possibly wore shades, which didn’t strike me as an unusual thing to do indoors in a dark nightclub, in October. I also remember that Dawn After Dark played a cracking cover of ‘Sin City’, during which I turned to my friend and said ‘I’m just going to go and head bang for a bit down the front’, which I duly did. This seemed perfectly normal to me at the time. Dawn After Dark did sound a bit like a cross between AC/DC and the Cult and that’s it, all I can remember about the gig.
A few months later on an open day for Leeds University I picked up their 12″ Maximum Overdrive. They could have done with a bit of a cooler logo but everything else is in place, Dawn After Dark are leather-trousered to a man, three out of five of them are wearing bandanas although they lose marks for only having one member smoking on the cover. the back cover handily lets us know that this is A ROCK INJECTION, in capital letters and is strewn with cool rock and roll debris, like guitars, bottles of cheap wine, drumsticks and a leather jacket. But there’s music here too.
Like all true independent hard rock / metal releases the problem is the production, this is a genre that needs expensive production, a decent sounding room and a good deep drum sound, unfortunately because of totally understandable financial restraints, Dawn After Dark don’t have that luxury. This, unfortunately, limits the quality of the sound which in turn means that when I listen to this track I tend to find myself hearing all the flaws instead of the really quite decent tune underneath. ‘Maximum Overdrive’ is big over-driven Cult-style nonsense, there’s no other way to describe it; ‘Maximum overdrive / Your electricity keeps me alive’. The singer Howard Johnson** is a slightly more booming Astbury-a-like, it has to be said. Having said all that, this is a really enjoyable track for me, although that may be some sepia-tinted nostalgia on my part too.
The B-sides are competent, as they should be but not a great deal more – whoever had the idea to speed up ‘Dreamstress’ towards the end was badly, badly wrong it totally spoils another, you guessed it, Cult-flavoured offering.
A bit of internet searching reveals that Dawn After Dark were a bit of a goth rock band who dropped the goth bits and got rockier around the time I saw them and then petered out and split up. No matter, this is a bit of my own musical/personal history and I treasure it as such – the fact there’s a half decent track here makes it even better.
498 Down (After Dark)
Here’s some finds from THE MIGHTY SCRAPBOOKS OF ROCK for you, which if nothing else shows you that I was this obsessive before I had computers to help me:
*yup we had surfers in Mumbles (the bit of Swansea where we were).
**actually a Kerrang journalist too, can’t have hurt him in the review front, can it?