"Nuit De Punk" screamed the billboards from every street corner in the French capital - an apt description of the night when five new wave bands took a rock-starved city by storm.
A near-capacity crowd streamed into the Palais des Glaces to savour a five-hour extravaganza of international rock'n'roll unlike anything Paris had experienced since the '60s. OK, so there were the usual hassles and balls-up... an hour before the show was due to strat not one of the five groups had turned up(!), and the whole affair was plagued by dodgy mike connections and a crap PA. But when the gig finally got underway, nobody really grudged the long wait.
First off were local "punques" Stinky Toys. This outfit featured an eye-catching, raunchy chick as vocalist, but the back up - a rather too conventional four piece band - seemed unimaginative. They thundered through a 40-minute set, for the most part straight rock'n'roll a Leetle Bob Story. The highpoint was a convincing rendering of The Who's 'Substitute' - almost up to Sex Pistols standard.
Next - and best - were The Jam. These guys were determined to make it a night to remember, despite a gruelling 14-hour slog from Woking the same day. By the second number the crowd were already on their feet, surging to the front and boppin' about like mad. 'Sweet Soul Music' and 'Route 66' brought the house down. By the end of the set, frantic local punters were rippin' it up onstage with the band, and two encores later the kids were still screaming for more.
Follow that - if you can.
You gotta hand it to 'em - The Police tried hard. But I'm afraid I was no more impressed with this outfit than I was on the night they backed Cherry Vanilla at the Nashville. They had a slight advantage in being able to exchange banter with the fans in the local lingo (the lead guitarist is French), and their visuals were undeniably impressive. But all this couldn't make up for a bum sound and incomprehensible lyrics. The audience did allow them the courtesy of one encore.
First reaction to the Wayne County phenomenon was one of stunned belief. Then catcalls of derision. But after the initial shockwave had subsided it didn't take the punters long to suss that Wayne's more than just a pretty face. The band generated a tidal wave of raw, undiluted energy.
Wayne minced around the stage, rousing the fans to fever-pitch with the subtlety of such engaging lyrics as, "If ya don't wanna fuck me baby, just fuck off!" As County launched into the delicate strains of 'You Make Me Cream In My Jeans', a shapely Parisian punquette danced topless in front of the stage. An unexpected guest, Patti Smith's lead guitarist Lenny Kaye, participated in the final number of the set - The Rolling Stones standard 'The Last Time'.
It was almost 1am when Generation X came on to face an understandably wilting audience. This energetic, enthusiastic band played a power-packed set. Singer and ultra-poseur Billy Idol (instantly dubbed "Le Bebe" by the locals) was always the focal point of the group. A few new numbers were mixed with the not-so-new, and the crowd loved it all from beginning to end.
Half past one on a Tuesday, and 800 tired but thoroughly satisfied punters filed out into the frosty night. Most of 'em had missed the last tain home home - but who cared? The first Parisian Punk Spectacular had been, er formidable.
© New Musical Express by Walt Davidson (thank also to Dietmar)