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Ray Morrissey
Andy Parsons

This Londoner has been to more than 6,500 gigs

Written by
Time Out London contributor

Since his teenage years in west London, Ray Morrissey has been to more than 6,500 gigs, including some of the capital’s most historic concerts…

‘When I was young I lived in Shepherd’s Bush, with the Hammersmith Odeon (now the Apollo) just round the corner. In September 1973, I saw my first gig – Wizzard at Hammersmith Palais – and in December, I saw Mott The Hoople at the Odeon with Queen supporting. I was hooked. After that, I was at the Odeon every week.

At first I bunked in because I had no money. Then I got a job doing security so I didn’t have to pay. Security then wasn’t like it is now: they gave you a T-shirt and you just turned up when you could. You only had to do proper work when the rowdier bands came along, like The Stranglers or The Pogues – though the most security we ever had was for Shakin’ Stevens, who was incredibly popular at the time.

I’ve kept a diary since I was 12, recording all the gigs I go to and scoring them out of ten. The diaries have got much bigger over the years, and these days I have a website too. I have this rule that if I see a band’s name three times in the gig listings then I have to go and see them. There are so many bands around, I don’t know how they break through to the next level. There’s always a new band, someone that’s sticking out. I like that band The Sherlocks, and Starcrawler: the ball’s rolling for them.

My favourite band of all time is the Sex Pistols. Steve Jones and Paul Cook went to my school in Shepherd’s Bush – I was impressed that they were playing gigs up the West End – and “God Save the Queen” was released on my eighteenth birthday. I saw the Pistols three times in 1976, including the famous 100 Club Punk Festival. A million people say they were there, but there’s a photo taken during that gig and I’m right there at the front.

Live Aid is still my number one gig. I was standing with a friend on the pitch, around a third of the way back, with minimal food and drink to avoid toilet visits! U2 were a big highlight, and Queen were magical, of course. I also remember Paul McCartney’s microphone cutting out, which was a bit awkward.

I’ve since seen McCartney at the 100 Club and The Rolling Stones at Brixton Academy. I got in to see Foo Fighters at the Camden Underworld, and the Led Zeppelin reunion gig at The O2. There are so many “I was there” shows. Back in the day, if I didn’t jump around down the front and get all sweaty, it wasn’t a proper gig. I still jump around, but now I’m a bit more conservative about people talking or standing on my toes.

I try to avoid bad gigs but I’ve seen some random acts over the years, like the crooner Charles Aznavour at the Royal Albert Hall. At the end of one song he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his brow and threw it into the crowd. I’ve been to see the Sex Pistols, Motörhead, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, but I’ve never seen anything like the fight that broke out over that hankie.

Back in the ’80s, I even played drums in a band myself. We were called Gun Control and we played mainly in west London, though we did three gigs on the trot once – Tooting, Shepherd’s Bush and Acton – and it felt like a world tour. We’re going to play some small gigs in the summer, our first in 35 years. Midlife crisis? What midlife crisis?’

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