A listener to BBC Radio 6 requested a track by The Stranglers, it being the fortieth anniversary of them having been at a Stranglers concert for the first time.
The Stranglers were on a UK tour that year, a fact remembered from having a ticket for the concert they had been scheduled to play at The Odeon in Taunton.
Somerset was an even more rural county forty years ago; distant from the cities where well-known bands typically played. A namesake friend and I had been at Pilton for the Glastonbury festival that summer of 1979, it had been the first festival there for eight years and our first opportunity to see major artists on our own doorstep, but the festival was an experience that would not have been comparable with seeing one of the best-known punk bands at an indoor venue.
It would have been hard to have imagined a contrast greater with than that between the the remnant of the hippies who gathered on the farmland at Pilton and the strident young people who had embraced punk culture. There would have been some among both groups who would have avoided the music and the culture of the other, and there were some, like ourselves, who would have been happy to pay for tickets for both events.
The tickets turned out to be the chief difference in the experience. The ticket for Glastonbury Fayre, as the festival was called then, had a full face value of £5, but for locals who bought tickets at Crispin Hall in Street, it was just £3. The ticket for The Stranglers concert was probably a comparable price, but we got our money back because the concert was cancelled.
Arriving at The Odeon in Taunton on an August evening we were greeted by notices telling us there would be no performance that evening. It seemed that the police had cancelled the concert on public order grounds; they suspected that there would have been elements among the audience who would have caused trouble.
Walking to a nearby pub, we found it very firmly shut. The landlord was watching us from an upstairs window. One of his regular customers was standing in the street and called up, “When are you opening?”
”When this lot have gone,” he answered, gesturing in the vague general direction of those of us who had tried to go to The Odeon.
Odd as it may have seemed to the landlord, but most punks would have been more peaceable than many other Saturday night customers. There might have been violence in the words and the music, but punk clothing would have made very vulnerable anyone inclined to start a fight. Punk fashion required a degree of self-confidence not usually associated with those expressing themselves in violent ways.
I never did get to see The Stranglers and, forty years later, still feel a sense of indignation towards Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Were they looking for villains, the audience at The Odeon that night would have been unlikely candidates.