Twelve miles east of Rhyl in Holywell in the late seventies rose a punk band called The Grids, featuring Andrew ‘Tunkie’ Tunnicliffe (guitar) (who later played in Vicious Circle, Mercenary Skank), Gaz ‘Top’ Jones (bass) (then known as Gary Gutter and later played in Tuphelo Torpedoes), Paul ‘Doggy’ Evans (vocals), Dave ‘Moggy’ Williams (vocals), Ian ‘Sten’ Stenhouse (rhythm guitar), Timmy ‘Bean’ Davies (drums). (pic courtesy of Steve LowDownKids)
(taken from This Patch of Land) – Blood and Lipstick promoter Steve Rastin was very nearly a member as he recalls, ‘In their [The Grids] formative stages I was invited to join them on guitar by Doggy, as his older brother John and I had been best buddies in school. He hadn’t heard me play; otherwise he’d have withdrawn the offer! But at that point I owned a PA as well as a very classy looking Yamaha SG35 guitar and as I was also a Sid Vicious clone I was in at that point. Unfortunately none of us had transport, they were based in Holywell while I was marooned in Ffynnongroyw, so it came to nothing and the world of popular music was a poorer place as a result – I don’t think!’
The Grids released New Anthems EP (on Kings Head Recs) at the arse end of 1980, and despite being very rudimentary it did show the DIY ethic of punk with catchy riffs, melodies and singalong stuff as Gaz explained, ‘We were pretty rubbish but were completely original, the first and perhaps only real punk band to come out of Holywell. And we did it all ourselves, so well done us I say!’
The track Hypocrite lyrically stomped over a well covered punk topic – ‘Don’t come near me just stay away, don’t come near me any time of day, don’t speak to me you hypocritical clown.’ It sounded very similar in riffage and vocal style to Blitz, even though the New Mills punk band were yet to release their debut for another nine months. There was no question of Blitz stealing The Grids’ sound, more so the fact that this genre was prevalent for the start of the decade.
Gaz Top’s bass playing portrayed a more accomplished musician than his counterparts and through him they had close links with Seventeen, as he was the latter’s roadie and also second cousin to The Grids’ drummer Tim. The band can also claim a fan in the Dead Kennedys’ vocalist Jello Biafra who can be seen on the cover of a DK video sporting a Grids badge given to him by the band in 1982. Another claim to fame was having a letter printed in the NME, which finished, “The Grids, the only punk band in North Wales.”
Rumour has it they made their debut in Pentre Halkyn, with Gaz being talk of the desolate village as Seventeen’s roadie who was wearing loads of bangles! Gaz wasn’t in the band at this time and joined as a favour when the original bassist left. He also quit before they finally split up as, ‘I had to go back on tour with Seventeen or The Alarm or perhaps it was when we moved to London, I forget the exact date now.’
Before they parted, Holywell’s finest supported the Cockney Rejects at The Dixieland Pier Showbar in Colwyn Bay after getting a last minute call from promoter Louis Parker. The scheduled support was Kidz Next Door but their singer was arrested after the previous night’s gig in Birmingham so The Grids were drafted in as replacements. It was a gig where a lot of people got in for free when a gang of skinheads kicked the main doors in. Steve Rastin was at the event, ‘The Cockney Rejects had a fanatical travelling support so the audience was a sea of claret and blue scarves [West Ham United fans] so that it was almost as if The Grids were the out-of-towners. In the end they went down OK, not least because Doggy was wearing a pair of leather strides that split PJ Proby-style down the arse seam so that every time he turned his back to the audience his bum was on display. He was also wearing a rather fetching electric blue Captain Sensible-style mohair sweater as well.
‘All seemed to have gone well, I blagged my way backstage to have a drink with the band in the dressing room when the door suddenly and literally crashed in under the combined weight of the Rejects’ road crew who unceremoniously turfed everybody out. I was incensed and also very drunk, and stomped off into the toilets yelling “The bastards” or something similar and suddenly became aware that most of the voices around me had a distinct East End accent and that I was very much the centre of attention.’ Rastin managed to escape alive, claiming “the bastards” was a referral to the bouncers and not the cockneys.
Trouble seemed to follow The Grids and the Telford date of their ‘Chaos In Clwyd Tour’ actually made the national press, but for the wrong reasons as Doggy explains, ‘The tour, if you can call it that, sort of took place! We did a few gigs spread over a few months so it was more of a series of one off gigs really! The Telford one was a matter of bad timing really as we played at a pub slap bang in the middle of a soul weekender! Pretty much everywhere else nearby had something on to do with that! Some black guys took exception to us singing what they thought was a racist song. Even though the song in question, [The Clash’s] White Riot, was basically saying why can’t white people stand up for themselves like black people do! It even made the pages of some of the national press with both the Mirror and The Sun branding us racist thugs! After the court cases they both had to print apologies which they tucked away in the corner of pages in the middle of the papers!’
The Grids also supported The Sceptres (who featured ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock) and Seventeen at Holywell Town Hall. On splitting they became two bands Grids2 and Interceptors. The Grids2 featured Doggy and Moggy from the original band and they were joined by Trefor Evans and Steve Dutton on guitar and drums respectively. They played a half dozen chaotic gigs and split after a truly awful show in Connah’s Quay and after a couple of abortive attempts at rehearsals without a drummer they found out Steve had been arrested and jailed and couldn’t find a replacement.
The Interceptors featured Tunkie on guitar, Neil on bass, Sten on guitar and Timmy Bean on drums. They played a series of gigs around North Wales in a style what would today be known as Britpop and were billed on the CND benefit festival at the Queens in Rhyl 21.2.1981. Tunkie left to join Mercenary Skank, and Sten moved with them to London to be their roadie and ended up being the one who got a record deal after joining a band called Lightning Strike.