Killing Joke:  The Concert File

Click here for some early pics of a Killing Joke roadie, a certain Dr. Alex Paterson.
(special thanks to B.F. Jenkinson)

The Beginning: 1979-1982

'Want to be part of the Killing Joke? We mean it man. Total exploitation, total publicity, total anonymity.  Bass and lead wanted'

So ran the ad in the music weekly Melody Maker that brought Geordie Walker and Youth together with Jaz Coleman and Paul Ferguson.  Twenty-two years later, much of the music sounds as fresh and exciting as it did then, expressing the frustrations and struggle of dealing with modern life.  The following chronicle is probably not as comprehensive as one would like, but presents a live history of a band that have greatly influenced several genres often lumped together under the heading 'alternative' rock, yet have never quite gained the recognition they deserve.

The precise chain of events seems to vary a bit depending on whom you ask on any given day, but it's generally agreed that the band self-financed their first EP, Turn To Red, and it was played on the John Peel radio show in 1979.  From there, Killing Joke got their first single released on Island Records (using the cash advance to set up their own label, Malicious Damage).  Live bookings and more radio sessions followed.


17 October: John Peel Radio Session

Peel's enthusiastic support of the band at this early stage was no doubt helpful in getting the band a following.  Wardance and Pssyche are played. Apparently  Peel was so impressed with the group's sound on the Turn To Red EP that he was initially convinced they were a well-known act performing under a pseudonym. 

The Unperverted Pantomime

The first live recording of Killing Joke in circulation.  The exact date (possibly 1 November 1979) and venue (somewhere in London) are unknown, and it appears to have been recorded from the mixing desk.  Forty minutes of pure energy.

Setlist: Pssyche/Nervous System/Animal/Change/Nuclear Boy/Turn To Red/Malicious Boogie
Wardance/Are You Receiving/You're Being Followed/Bodies

"This is an amazing gig! The sound is perfect and the set list is stuffed with rarities. Pssyche cuts in halfway through, Geordie teases the audience with the opening Riff from Pretty Vacant before charging into Wardance and Alex Patterson sings Bodies!" -- Tim Bucknall


26 November: London, Covent Garden (supporting Money)

9 December: London, Islington Hope & Anchor

10 December: London, Camden Music Machine (with Hardware)

18 December: London, West Hampstead Moonlight Club (with Hardware)


30 January: Capital Radio Session

Released on The Bum's Rush bootleg, the band's raw but potent sound shines through.  It was at this stage that Killing Joke began to attract the attention of the press ... for better or worse!  Noted then-manager Brian Taylor: 'they already have a big following for a band who has only been going round for a few months', which must have sparked interest for the music papers. 

2 February:  London, University of London Student Union

8 February: London, University College

10 February: London, Victoria Theatre

Free tickets were advertised in the music papers for the gig, resulting in a large attendance - 'almost too many' according to Brian Taylor.  Good job someone brought along the tape recorder!  The band sound strong and the crowd enthusiasm seems to be part of the reason. 

Selist: Pssyche/Tomorrow's World/Nervous System/Malicious Boogie/Turn To Red/Nuclear Boy
Change/Complications/Wardance/Are You Receiving/What's The Matter

Singer/sometime actress Honey Bane makes a guest appearance on What's The Matter.

A bootleg recording of the gig is  " fairly average sounding audience recording of a great gig, the set list is still full of early rarities that would soon vanish forever from the live set." --TB

20 February: High Wycombe, Town Hall

29 February: London, Lyceum

Setlist: Turn To Red/ Tomorrow's World/ Psyche/ Nuclear Boy/ Change/ Complications/ Wardance/ Are You Receiving/ Nervous System

17 March: John Peel Radio Session

Another excellent appearance on the show of one of the band's better-known champions.  Also made available on The Bum's Rush bootleg, this time featuring Complications, Tomorrow's World and Change.


31 March: London, Music Machine (Camden)

29 May: London, Clarendon Hotel (Hammersmith)

4 June: Dortmund, Diagonal

6 June: Dusseldorf, Ratinger Hof

6 June: Braunschweig, Kunsthochschule

10 June: Berlin, SO 36 Club

13 June: Herford, Hellepark

14 June: Bonn, Rheinterrassen

16 June: Hamburg, Osramhaus

20 June: Neuss, Okie Dokie

21 June: Krefeld, Haus Blumenthal

22 June: Oberhausen, Stratosphäre

23 June: Muenster, Jovel Cinema

25 June:  Paris, Les Baines Douches

28 July: London, Music Machine (Camden)

30 September: London, Acklam Hall

Setlist included SO36, unfortunately the only recorded song in circulation.

5 October: London, Lyceum

9 October: Newcastle, Polytechnic

11 October: Blackpool, Norbreck Castle

13 October: Birmingham, Digbeth Hall

14 October: Hull University

18 October: Derby, Ajanta Club

19 October: Leeds, Fan Club

21 October: Exeter, St. Georges Hall

22 October: Bradford, Rios Club

23 October: Brighton, Jenkinson's

26 October, London, Trafalgar Square

A benefit concert/rally for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).  Killing Joke were among the bands on the bill; their appearance seems to be best remembered by Jaz telling the crowd, 'You can't change anything'.

Youth recalls: "When we came on, our fans started dancing in the fountains at sunset, so there were all these silhouettes of mohican punks dancing in the fountains under a blood sky.  Killing Joke live can be very effective in getting people out of that audience and performer dichotomy/dilemma. Boundaries dissolve, and it's one massive release of energy for everybody."

25 November: Nottingham, Boat Club

26 November: Maidstone Arts College

28 November: Liverpool, Brady's

29 November: Leeds University

30 November: London, Lyceum

Setlist: Pssyche/Bloodsport/SO36/Tomorrow's World/Requiem/Change/Wardance/Primitive/
The Wait/Tension/Complications

2 December: Bristol, Berkeley Suite

3 December: Colchester University

4 December: Exeter, St. George's Hall

5 December: Birmingham, Cedar Ballroom

6 December: Aylesbury, Friars Club

9 December: Sheffield, Limit Club

11 December: Aberdeen, Ruffles Club

12 December: Edinburgh, Nite Club

Setlist: included SO36 and Tension, again the only portion of the recorded gig in circulation.

A Glasgow gig scheduled for around this time was abruptly cancelled after the band put up concert posters featuring an image of a Catholic priest -- widely believed to be Pope Pius XI but actually German abbot Albanus Schachleiter, photographed at the annual Nazi Party Convention in Nuremberg in September 1934 -- appearing to return the salute of Nazi brownshirts.  It is an acutal photograph, but clearly the band's penchant for black humour was not shared in some circles.

31 December:  New York, Rock Lounge

Little information is available for this show, though there is this recollection from Jaz:

"We did that one on New Year's Eve, and it was the most memorable one for me. There were all these dumb, disco-type Americans standing in front of us with their mouths open. They were out looking for a nice boogie to celebrate New Year's Eve. And we were pretty extreme for them. But it was really funny - one minute they were all just like standing there, and the next minute they were all dancing like puppets. It was really pathetic. And there was that spastic Johnny Thunders. He asked to jam on stage with us. Spastic!"



The band returned to the UK and spent the first few months of the year recording What's THIS For....!

14 April: John Peel Radio Session

Just in time for the release of the second album, featuring Butcher, The Fall Of Because and Tension.

26 April:  Leeds, Tiffany's

27 April:  Reading, Top Rank Suite

28 April:  London, Kilburn National Ballroom

Gig review from Mick Wall, writing in Sounds magazine:

"Are you receiving? Well, are you?

A disgusting admission of guilt: receiving the news that I was the unlikely candidate with the job of reviewing this latest concert by Killing Joke did not make my day significantly happier.  Drafted in as a last minute replacement, I dolefully arrived at Kilburn's National Ballroom, my face longer than Sandy Robertson's legs and my cranium jammed full of all sorts of evil precognitive fantasies of the 'dour' evening that lay in store, my fate in the hands of Killing Joke, whom I expected to dutifully attempt to 'provoke me into thinking' blahblahbloodyblah . . . or somesuch.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It took Killing Joke approximately three minutes to change all that, putting paid to the nonsense in my head.

Lo! They are exciting, unequivocal musical dramatists, enjoying the sounds that they make as strong as they, indeed, subscribe willfully to the fine notion that intelligently performed and conceived music is also allowed to be lots of fun too, at best, essentially a participant sport maximising on a fearfully intense interaction between those on stage and those off. You are receiving.

Behold! Killing Joke, within their own scope and on certain terms, put on a show. Lights, back-drops, on-stage theatre. Jaz, the singer, projects every gesture and body movement in a surprisingly experienced, unexpectedly entertaining, subtley humourous fashion. The guitarist and Youth the bassman remain stock still much of the time, providing a striking contrast to Jaz's exuberance, lip-synching on one number, pulling down invisible walls with his bare hands for another, frog-hopping like the proverbial neanderthal man throughout.

The sounds are powerful, tense waves of terse rhythmic tail-chasing, relentless and hypnotic, embracing numbers like 'Change', 'Primitive', 'Requiem', 'Complications', and the brutal 'War Dance', all from their Malicious Damage album. The music is tribal and maniacally repetitive, a complete aural missive from some twilight world. Killing Joke are an experience you might like to try. They might just end up trying you.

Are you receiving?"

29 April:  Liverpool, Royal Court

30 April:  Birmingham, Tower Ballroom

29 May: Richard Skinner Radio Session

This appearance is also available on The Bum's Rush bootleg. 

19 June: Northampton, Roadmenders

20 June:  Manchester, Polytechnic

25 June:  Aylesbury, Friars Club

27 June:  Stroud, Leisure Centre

28 June:  Brighton, Jenkinson's

3 July:  St. Albans, City Hall

5 July:  Den Haag, Parkpop Festival

Setlist: includes Wardance/Change/Exit/Requiem/Bloodsport/The Fall Of Because/The Wait/Psyche/Turn To Red

6 July:  Amsterdam, Paradiso

Setlist: includes Wardance/FollowThe Leaders/Change/Exit/Requiem/Unspeakable/Fall Of Because/Primitive/Bloodsport/The Wait/Pssyche/Turn To Red/Tension

8 July:  Kortrijk (Belgium), Limelight

23 July:  Blackburn, Windsor Hall

25 July: Aylesbury, Friars

26 July:  London, Lyceum

Setlist: includes Wardance/Follow The Leaders/Change/Exit/Reqiuem/Bloodsport/Unspeakable/The Fall Of Because/ Primitive/The Wait/Pssyche/Turn To Red/Tension

"a great soundboard recording of a great gig, the Vocals are a bit overdriven in places but   nothing to spoil the enjoyment." --TB

28 July:  Bath, Pavilion

8 August:  Detroit (venue unknown)

Setlist: The Hum/The Fall Of Because/ Chop Chop/The Pandys Are Coming/Take Take Take/Sun Goes Down/We Have Joy
Empire Song/Change/Bloodsport/Complications/Wardance

17 August: Philadelphia, East Side Club

20 August: Washington DC, 9:30 Club

23 August: Oakville (Canada), The Grove

Killing Joke are booked at an event known as the "Police Picnic Festival" (so named because The Police [the band] were the headliners). Youth recalls: "I got into loads of trouble that day. I wore these bright pink pantaloons, like Bowie's trousers.  I stole the head of security's golf cart and was hiding behind this bush.  He was on his walkie-talkie yelling, 'Go find that guy in the pink trousers and let me at him first!'  I circled him, covered him in dust, and drove off.  Great!"

26 August: Minneapolis, Duffy's

28 August: Los Angeles, Whiskey A G-Go

1 September: Berkeley, Keystone

2 September: Los Angeles, Roxy Theater

9 October: Brussels, L'Ancienne Belgique

10 October: Den Haag, Paard

11 October: Antwerp, Cultureel Centrum

(above) Killing Joke live at the Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp, Belgium. Click picture to enlarge.

(right) Concert flyer announcing upcoming acts at Duffy's in Minneapolis.



13 October: Berlin, Fabrik Club

14 October: Hamburg

Setlist: Wardance/Unspeakable/Change/Exit/Requiem/Bloodsport/We Have Joy/Primitive/The Fall Of Because/Pssyche/Turn To Red/Tension

"Fairly distant and bassy sound on this one, notable for a very late Turn to Red & and an embryonic We Have Joy" -- TB

19 October: Rome, Much More

21 October: Milan

22 October: Florence

23 October: Bologna, Odeon 2000

7 November: Norwich University

8 November: Leeds, Tiffany's

16 December: John Peel Radio Session



20 February: Leicester, Polytechnic

21 February: Manchester, Rotters Club

22 February: York University

23 February: London, Hammersmith Palais

Setlist: The Hum/ The Fall Of Because/ Wardance/ We Have Joy/ Empire Song/ Have A Nice Day/ Tension/ Chapter III/ Pssyche/ Chop Chop/ Exit/ Land Of Milk And Honey/ Change/ The
Wait/ Unspeakable

"A good sounding concert pro recorded for TV" -- TB

24 February: Brighton, Top Rank

This was meant to be Jaz's last appearance with Killing Joke, according to the man himself. As he recalls in An Irrational Domain: "It had seemed apt to set the date of departure as the evening of Friday 25th so that I would wake up in Reykjavik on the date that four years earlier Big Paul and I had ritually commenced Killing Joke -and more - it was the day I was born." During this time, he also begins work on his first symphonic composition, which is eventually released as Idavoll.

26 February: BBC Riverside Programme

Jaz is replaced by a mannequin wearing a bee-keeper's mask in an unsuccessful attempt by the rest of the band to keep his departure for Iceland quiet. About two weeks later, the news is out that not only has Jaz apparently left the band, but Geordie has also left for Iceland. 

Eventually both return to the UK, but Youth has subsequently left the group to form a dance/ambient group called Brilliant. A search to find a replacement ensues (left); the replacement arrives in the form of Paul Raven.

17 July: Berkeley, Keystone

18 July: Palo  Alto, Keystone

6 August: Chicago, Stages Club

8 August: Detroit, Clutch Cargo

9 August: Toronto, Larry's Hideaway

10 August: Toronto, Larry's Hideaway

The Toronto gigs formed the basis of the HA! album, the first official release with Raven on bass.  Additional tracks from the gig eventually surface on bootleg tapes.

15 October: Madrid

21 October: Bradford, Caesars Club

23 October: Norwich, University of East Anglia

24 October: London, Lyceum

with support from Actified and Danse Society.

26 October: Glasgow, Tiffany's

27 October: Manchester, Polytechnic

Setlist: The Hum/The Fall Of Because/Pssyche/Sun Goes Down/The Pandys Are Coming/ We Have Joy/The Gathering/Take Take Take/Empire Song/Change/ Chop Chop/ Lust Almighty/ Tension/ Bloodsport/Wardance/ Birds Of A Feather

Thanks Martin McCrae

28 October: Preston, Polytechnic

Setlist: The Hum/The Fall Of Because/Pssyche/Sun Goes Down/The Pandys Are Coming
We Have Joy/The Gathering/Take Take Take/Empire Song/Change/Chop Chop
Lust Almighty/Tension/Bloodsport/Wardance/ Birds Of A Feather

4 November: London, Brixton Ace

The brief UK tour in December was, according to the press, "specially planned at smaller venues in order to restrict admission price to a maximum of £2.50, and the band will be previewing new material for their next album to be recorded in January for spring release."

12 December: Manchester, Fagins

13 December: Liverpool, Warehouse

Setlist: The Fall Of Because/ Sun Goes Down/ Frenzy/ Wardance/ We Have Joy/ The Gathering/ Lust Almighty/ The Hive/ Feast Of Blaze/ Psyche/ Empire Song/ Change/ The Pandys Are Coming

14 December: London, Klub Foot, Clarendon Hotel

Setlist: The Fall Of Because/ Sun Goes Down/ Frenzy/ Wardance/ We Have Joy/ The Gathering/ Lust Almighty/ The Hive/ The Vision/ Psyche/ Empire Song/ Change/ The Pandys Are Coming/ Tension.

with support from Satellites. 'The Vision' may have been an alternate version of 'Feast of Blaze'.

15 December: Brighton, New Regent

16 December: Leeds, Warehouse