Blondie at Deeside

The first full concert I went to (not counting the Julian Lennon gig) was to see Blondie at Deeside Leisure Centre in January 1980.

Deeside was a proper leisure centre with courts for playing any number of games, a swimming pool and best of all an ice rink. The Ice Rink formed a large part of our childhood. Ice-skating was in the blood because of my Dutch mother and her stories of how they used to skate along the iced up canals at the back of her house.

She took us there to keep us entertained one day during a school holiday and so we went through the ritual of checking in our shoes at a desk, revealing our shoe size and then have to squeeze my fat flat feet into the tight boot and then hobbling over to the ice. The first few minutes were spent desperately holding onto the wooden panel that ran round the side trying to find balance on the slippery ice. But after a while that balance was found and the first few tentative steps were made onto the ice. Of course I wasn’t supposed to be making steps but it was difficult to break the habit but as I stepped the blade of the skate slide over the ice and soon I found that if I shifted the angle of the step and used it to push myself forward I was able to slide over the ice and I was skating. Having worked out how to skate all there was to do was to spend the next hour or so following everyone else doing lap after lap round the vast oval shaped rink. There was the occasional mishap and fall at which point there was a fierce slippery struggle to get up again all balance lost and the lurking fear that if my hands were on the ice another skater would go over them and chop off my fingers.

And as we circled the rink we listened to music. Tucked away near a café off the ice there was a jukebox that played a continuous stream of music for us to listen to and to which the more ambitious could attempt to skate in time to.

Maybe it was listening to that jukebox that gave the idea to the councillors at Alyn and Deeside District Council that with the help of some thick carpet the ice rink could be converted into a concert venue. It would be one of the biggest in the North West and although thirty miles away sufficiently close to Liverpool to persuade any hesitating band or their manager that they were playing at the home of The Beatles rather than Deeside.

So it was for half a dozen years in the late 1970’s and early 80’s Deeside played host to a raft of unexpected bands. As well as Blondie I saw The Jam, The Who, The Police and somewhat bizarrely Genesis. The gig I regret not going to was Bob Marley shortly before he died.

At the time Blondie were one of the biggest bands in the world. Parallel Lines had come out a couple of years earlier and the singles from that were a permanent feature of Radio 1. Sunday Girl was one of the first singles I bought and listening to those songs now I am still caught short by them Debbie Harry’s nonchalant aloof voice cutting against the disco/rock chug of the music all anchored down by a persistent surf drum. I had her posters on the wall of my bedroom at home just over my bed her gaze forever over my most important teenage years. I also acquired a copy of the new album, Eat to the Beat, which I think might have been a birthday present back in the days when it was safe to give me a record with there being no danger I might have it already. I listened to it greedily never quite able to admit it was not as good as Parallel Lines and forever haunted by how hairy Chris Stein’s arm was draped over Debbie Harry’s shoulder.

I can’t remember whose idea it was that we should go and apart from my Dad who else went with us. Somehow my obsession with the band must have made it through to the family (probably the posters on the wall) and so tickets were bought and I went with my Dad.

I was 15 at the time and he was 40 – many years younger than I am now. For both of us it was our first proper concert and I think for me Dad it was his last. At or around the same time he and my Mum took my younger sister, Bridget, to see Boney M, also at the leisure centre, but that was sit down, so doesn’t count.

The joke with my Dad was that such was the allure of Debbie Harry he was keener than me to get closer to the front.

As for the gig itself I don’t remember much of that either. There would have been the crush of people, being too far from the front to get a proper look at the band and cold feet from the ice under the thick damp carpet that covered the rink. 

Scour the internet enough and there is a picture of the gig. Debbie Harry at the front of the stage mid song blonde hair bright against the dark panoply  of speakers, equipment and hangers on behind her. Just in front of the stage line of grim faced, bearded security guards keeping the crowd at bay and looking as perplexed as my Dad probably was with the noise and the waving arms and leather jackets of the crowded audience baying their appreciation.