I can still recall the moment when I first saw New Model Army on 'Top of the Pops' performing ‘No Rest’in 1985. Front man Justin Sullivan was the opposite from many of the acts on that night. He wasn’t good looking, he didn’t have an image, his band weren’t in the same outfit and they were not singing about how good the future was going to be (Remember we were at the tail end of the new romantic era and the charts were saturated with sugary pop bands), Here was a band who had something to say about the world I lived in and how crap and corrupt it was it was. Justin sang with such conviction that you just knew he believed in every word he sang. I was transfixed. At last, I thought, a band that had all the best elements of punk, had a rock edge, intelligent lyrics and in which you could understand every word the front man was singing. Where had these guys been hiding ?

Soon after that performance I bought their album, ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, and when its follow-up, ‘Ghost of Cain’, came out about eighteen months later it just confirmed that this band could write great songs. They wrote about war, vengeance, retribution, assassinations and the explosions of computers, and love and romance wasn’t high on their list of priorities. By the time I had finished playing ‘Ghost Of Cain’ for the first time, I was a huge fan.

It would take me until 23rd December 1987 before I would see them live at Nottingham Rock City and they lived up to my expectations. They didn’t let me down by not being able to cut it live, and if anything they were even better in the flesh. Throughout the whole of the gig there was a mad bunch of fans who were moshing down the front and from where I stood it all looked pretty rough and fierce. What made them different, however, was not just the sheer size of this following but also that they had such a strong image with their Celtic tattoos, clogs, painted leather jackets and kit bags. What also struck me about these guys is that they had a strong bond with each other.
Each one looked out for the other.

As time went by and I went to more and more of their gigs (by now I was a mature student studying photo journalism and I could do tours rather than a handful of dates here and there), I started to chat to a few of the familiar faces who turned up on tour. Bit by bit I got to know a few more and then a couple more after that until eventually I knew a sizeable chunk of the following and I was regularly in the mosh pit as well. It always struck me that the following are sometimes a much more interesting bunch than the actual bands they follow. Too often there are unofficial books on the bands, autobiographies by musicians who had kicked a drug habit or the glossy photo books of boy bands, yet there has been almost nothing published on the following of groups or indeed the fans in general.

By early 1993 I had started to take my camera to gigs, not the small compact type but an SLR with a flash on the top, big, awkward, cumbersome and with a lens which had a habit of steaming up with the body heat from the mosh pit, but it was the only camera that would give me decent results. I began to photograph the crowds at gigs as a starting point. After all this is where all the fun took place and what the following were known for. Bit by bit I started to record the events leading up to a gig, the milling about beforehand, meeting of old friends in pubs. Then I went on my first European tour sharing a car with three other people. Driving from one gig to another had it moments of sheer boredom and it tested friendships spending hours together in the confined space of that car, but I never had so much fun as I did then travelling around Germany.

After about five years of taking photos I stopped as suddenly as I started. I just wanted to enjoy myself at gigs and not be tied down with a bulky camera that hindered my enjoyment. In hindsight I should of taken photos maybe on one gig per tour and built up a more comprehensive selection of photographs over a longer period, but there was some resistance from some of the following who were suspicious of my motives and who would question me at length about why I was doing this. There was also the problem of getting my equipment past the security. I just got to the point when I wanted to be a fan enjoying himself at gigs.

Looking back at these photos, some of which are now nearly fifteen years old, they have a historic, nostalgic quality to them which all photographs do given enough time. Band followings have since gone largely by the wayside. In the late 80’s and early 90’s every big indie or goth band, such as the Mission, the Fields Of The Nephilim, the Wonder Stuff, and All About Eve to name some of the main ones, had a following, but these days few groups have one that you can identify. For whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to happen on the same scale anymore which is something of a shame. I am glad that I took these photographs. I just wished I took a few more as there is almost no record of New Model Army or for that matter any other group's following. Judge for yourself if I have done the whole thing justice !


1. Crowd scene, Manchester Academy, May 1993.

2. Climbing up on shoulders, Liverpool Lomax, December 2004.

3. On shoulders, Liverpool Lomax, December 2004.

4. Crowd scene, Manchester Academy, May 1993.

5. Crowd scene, Cambridge Corn Exchange, April 1993.

6. Crowd scene, German venue, June 1995.

















Related Links:


http://www.newmodelarmy.org/
https://twitter.com/officialnma
https://www.facebook.com/NewModelArmyOfficial


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