On Tuesday, 18th October 1977, the sold out Stiff Live Tour hits Norwich and some lucky punters got to see five of the hottest acts from the coolest label in England, all in one place. Stiff Records was an independent label which was hugely important in the early days of punk. It was the label which The Damned used for their New Rose single and it saw Ian Dury grow from a pub rocker to a punk rocker. This New Musical Express cutting from 3-9-77 tells all really:
He’s standing behind the mic stand, singing tortuously. At the back of the stage a young pale black woman has a bass guitar, the cheapest range Fender, a Musicmaster maybe, and she plays soft lines on it with a little accomplishment. The singer has like a school blazer on, with corny badges all over the lapels. We’re, well, puzzled by the amazingly low-key start to this packed bill. Two things happen though to turn the crowd, the punks anyway, to key them into understanding and enjoying the performance, its nonchalant ineptitude.
First, a rumour goes round about the drummer - yeah there is one, just no-one had noticed. There are several kits on the stage for the multiple bill, but in front of all of them is a miscellany of unmatched drums, a tinny bass drum, a couple of cracked cymbals, hi-hats like can lids. The bloke playing them has a kind of square head and neck, a packed chest, wasted-looking legs. The drummer’s Ian Dury.
Second, the singer breaks into a familiar guitar riff - he is Wreckless Eric, and this is his classic unrequited love song, ‘Whole wide world.’ There’s only one girl in the world for you, and she probably lives in Tahiti, so his mum says. What an awesome start to a great night. Dury comes on again later with his carrier bags and cockney bonhomie, throws millions of button badges out, different colours, each with a word: &sex &drugs &rock &roll. Costello is blistering, does ‘Alison’ and ‘Watching the detectives’ to huge cheers. All the musicians from all the bands come on at the end for an extended encore of Dury’s ‘Sex & drugs & rock & roll,’ during which the power breaks down and the crowd keeps the chorus going for what seems like forever...................................................
George McKay wrote in his diary at the time: The first Stiff tour stopping off at UEA LCR is a great night for Norfolk punk, for most of us our first opportunity to see all on a terrific bill of Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric, and others whose newness we’re not quite so convinced by: Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Larry Wallis of all people. Twenty-minute bursts each, very punk. There’s a great curiosity in the hall about Ian Dury, who we’ve read so much about, punk’s Gene Vincent. We’re sure we’ll recognise him straight away. Even Stiff Records can’t have a whole load of crippled singers, can they?
I’m at the front with all the other punks, and the more restrained punters sit on the steps further back, or being cool, out in the student union foyer waiting till they hear something interesting. I can’t understand this strategy: everything is interesting to me, even the bad bits are good,
especially the bad bits. And anyway, punk’s a rejection of restraint and coolness. Remember, I’m sixteen years old, and totally caught up in the new music and politics of the time. No time for cool, we’re changing the world.
The best bad bit, the first of four or five different twenty-minute sets, features a dead ordinary, nervous, twitchy, grinning young bloke playing, of all things a, I’m immediately aware of a great punk touch, 'Top Twenty guitar', one you get from Woolworth’s for twelve quid or so, the cheapest guitar in Britain, so cheap I’ve never ever known anyone own up to having one, let alone see one played by a headlining musician. The bloke looks like he wants not to be there, like he’s been sent on for a dare and has frozen in front of all those faces.