INTERVIEW WITH LEGENDARY CROYDON PUNK DISC JOCKEY PETER FOX
What made you want to become a disc jockey in the first place?
One of my earliest childhood memories is of sticking bare wires from my parent’s record player into the plug socket to make it work as we couldn’t afford a plug and I wanted to play music. I then progressed to making my own pirate radio station in my dad’s garden shed by procuring one of the first FM transmitting microphones and increased the aerial on it by running a copper wire down the washing line and transmitting to the whole street. As I got older I built my own disco decks and speaker cabinets, which I then loaded onto a wheelbarrow and took to Broomhill Road youth club once a month to play at their disco. I remember being stopped outside the club one week by an old lady who, after looking at the contents of my wheelbarrow asked if there was a jumble sale happening that day! The rest as they say is history.
How did you end up being the resident punk rock DJ at the late great Croydon venue, The Greyhound?
I was doing the rounds DJ’ing at weddings, parties, pubs etc. but wanted more. I approached a local successful rock J called Del Stevens for advice and he recommended I join an agency. I submitted a demo tape (made in the garden shed!) which they liked and came straight back to me with an offer of work at The Red Deer in Croydon which I took on. After my first night there I got the Wed and Sat night residency, initially playing rock, supporting Little Nicki Horne a Capital Radio rock DJ (who hated punk). The agency sent me on the circuit playing at all their other clubs up and down the country. Someone from the agency really liked the ‘different’ stuff I was playing such as Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and The Tubes and offered me the job at The Greyhound to develop this type of music.
How did Howard Bossick, the former owner of the Greyhound manage to book such amazing punk acts to appear (I hear he wasn’t a fan of the whole punk scene) ?
In 1977 The Greyhound was a major venue in South London so everybody wanted to play there. After playing one night there for a fiver a previously low key support act such as Generation X would then find themselves headlining there two weeks later to a massive crowd. It was the time when punk really took off and people wanted to hear all the new bands. It was definitely a time when history was being made night after night and I was very lucky to be involved in such an exciting time as The Greyhound was a breeding ground for many new iconic bands.
Was it true he cancelled a gig by The Sex Pistols?
I’m not sure about that but I do recall someone from the agency allegedly sending a telegram to the landlord of the Red Deer on the night that Siouxsie and the Banshees were due to play, saying that Johnny Rotten was going to be there too. This had the desired effect of freaking out the landlord who, on hearing this, hired a lot of extra security staff to avert any trouble!
What gigs can you recall in detail and which ones were your favourites?
I can recall most of them, too many to list here. One amusing one was when The Stranglers played at The Greyhound and asked for the stage to be temporarily extended and made bigger which was done with plywood. This proved to be a recipe for disaster as Hugh Cornwall invited the fans to join the band on stage for the final number. This resulted in hundreds of frantically pogoing fans crashing right through the floor in a sweaty heap! The Stranglers were not amused and thought the promotors had deliberately stiched them up.
Do you remember the memorable Dammed gig in 1978?
At the time The Dammed were Croydon’s local idols. Captain initially told me they couldn’t play The Greyhound because they would then be contractually obliged to play all the other clubs on the circuit and which would not have been possible due to the size of their following. However this situation was overcome and they did later play at The Greyhound. On one occasion, billed as The Doomed, I distinctly remember Captain playing the final encore dressed in nothing but his guitar and strap, lifting the instrument repeatedly over his head to the promotor’s absolute horror!
Please tell us about you and Spizz hanging out in the DJ booth at the Zig Zag club, Westbourne Park, London circa 1982.
Spizz and I go back a long way, to The Music Machine at Camden (now KoKo). The Zig Zag club was formerly a cinema and the DJ booth was the old projectionist room at the very top of the cinema. A lot of people used to come and visit me in that room, including Billie Duffy (guitarist with The Cult) and Spizz. Anybody who visited bringing a video was very welcome and Spizz with his Soldier Soldier video would have definitely been played on the big screen.
What are you up to these days?
I am still gigging - I recently DJ’d at the Sensor/Weird Things/Drowned Out gig in Croydon, thank you Martin Parrott, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had to do some research prior to this gig, going to see Sensor at The 100 Club as I was not familiar with their style of music. I am an enthusiastic bass player and practice whenever I can to play with other like-minded fanatics rockers at local jam and open mike nights. I recently asked Glen Matlock for advice for someone his age who had recently started playing the bass guitar. His reply to me was “get a time machine and a nice shirt”!
Thanks for allowing me to reminisce like this, let me know if you want any other stories.