Seaside Rock !
The story of the 1983 Summer Tour (as recollected directly after the tour)
by Karl Allison
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The tour programme announced the aims of Blood and Fire’s first tour: "To use rock music as a means of attracting, contacting and communicating with young people about the Gospel, to win people for God’s Kingdom and to encourage, develop and challenge Salvationists and other Christians in their Spiritual lives and in their outreach."
The length of the tour was ten days. The account of that time which follows is a personal account from the members of the group themselves. It, hopefully, contains more than just the facts but also the feelings of the group as the tour progressed.
TUESDAY 16th - Woking
No concert on this first day yet a vital and challenging start to the tour nevertheless.
The agenda stated that the ‘team’ must meet and prepare.
It took most of the day for the group to assemble. Alvin and Karl from Woking, brand-new bass player Simon Herbert from Teddington, brand-new lighting technician Janet Tulloch from Bexleyheath, drummer Simon Barnett from Poole, guitarist Marc Harry from Felixstowe and, finally, brand-new van driver peter Blair from Colchester.
Once assembled the preparation could begin. Preparation includes practice, packing and prayer, although not necessarily in that order !
The 4 hour practice was, obviously, important with all the new B&F members - but it was a little overdue - the first practice for over a year !
Corps folk were invited to a prayer meeting in the evening and this most vital aspect of the tour lasted about an hour. Once on the tour, prayer was to be continued each morning before travelling and each evening before the gig. This first prayer session was interrupted by some young men running into the hall and making a lot of noise. They were spoken to and were still in hearing range when the group played "I Surrender All", whilst praying especially for them.
We hadn’t really started the tour and yet the Holy Spirit was already guiding us and bringing people to us to be challenged. Suddenly, we realised that we were in for a great tour !
WEDNESDAY 17th - Bognor Regis
The calling point for the first full day of the tour was Bognor Regis Salvation Army.
Arriving about lunchtime, workshops were held which explained to the local folk the techniques of our open air work (which did not include standing in a ring or clichés). The props included stilts, skipping ropes, a tug-of-war rope, a loud hailer, Rufus the lion and lots of Gospel tracts and stickers.
Basically the team walk along the roads and esplanades, stopping people and involving them in a series of games, or a cuddle from Rufus and then invite them to the evening’s show or concert or confront them with the message there and then. Rarely does the team stop to hold a conventional ‘open air meeting’ but an acoustic guitar is carried as people request that songs be sung - and they always are.
The reaction to this kind of brash evangelism differs from town to town and the people of Bognor (whether holiday makers or not) seemed very willing to accept whatever we threw at them !
Highlights of the day’s outdoor work included a policeman cuddling Rufus, and engine full of firemen being invited to the gig and Alvin and Janet taking off their shoes and socks to invite some youngsters playing in a paddling pool !
Prayers were held at the hall while the audience entered and bought their B&F badges and lyric sheets. The Commanding Officer, Cpt Willmott presented each member of the group with a stick of rock - "rock for rock" as she put it ! The gig went well. About ninety young people plus a number of older ones were a little reluctant to join in at first but, after a bit of gentle persuasion (pulling them out of their seats !) A good time was had by all.
Simon Herbert’s debut on bass was a definite success and the song "Fighter" was performed by the group for the first time.
Following a ten minute appeal and prayer meeting the usual party-atmosphere prevailed with all barriers between the group and audience broken down in a large dose of fun !
"We’ve all got a lot to celebrate," said Karl. So everybody celebrated their joyous Christian experience. A keyboard solo, a drum solo, a final song and the gig was over. The youngsters had been invited to talk to the group afterwards and for the next 20 minutes or so some, usually shy, young people talked openly about their experiences.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the evening was that the first two dancers were the CO and Corps Sergeant Major ! And so to bed.
"How many nights left ?" Someone asked
Memories recounted the next morning were Karl and Marc disappearing into the audience during "Everybody Sing", a young lady called Sandra jumping onto the stage during "Happy Man" and singing an impromptu duet with Karl.
THURSDAY 18th - Poole
And so to Poole, home of Simon Barnett. We are to play at St John’s Church with a support band called "The Reaction" - a four piece 60s style group from a local church.
First, the workshops. Two local SA youngsters who attended the workshops brought with them a member of the Church of Latterday Saints - we call them Mormons. He seemed interested in what we were saying but was obviously anxious not to become personally involved.
The people of Poole were a little more restrained in their reaction to the open air activities and so some of the local youngsters travelled by car to the sea front to continue the evangelism while the band set up the speakers, amps etc. With youth as keen as that, we thought, the church has to have a healthy future !
A basic crowd of about 60 (in a very small hall !) including several invited in the afternoon (and the Mormon !) was frequently amplified by the many young people who ‘popped in’ while passing during the show. As non-Christians left they were challenged by young Christians in the doorways who spoke to them about the good news of Jesus.
"The Reaction" played well for about half an hour although they contributed little to communicating with the audience. B&F were not quite as musically ‘tight’ as they had been the previous night but, as usual, the sweat, personalities and the guidance of the Holy Spirit pulled us through.
It is time to introduce you to the B&F stage opening :
The house lights go off, smoke rises from the stage and Alvin walks on and starts making strange, low noises on the synthesiser. He then introduces the group with a portion of scripture from Joel Ch. 2, verse 30 (look it up in the NIV!)
The band then run on stage and go straight into a song called "Headbangers For Heaven" - about converting Heavy Metal fans !
In the gig the prayer time followed the song "All that you Need" and the audience nearly raised the roof singing "He Is Lord". Once again, although there were no visible signs of people seeking the Lord were seen we all knew that this did not mean people were not being challenged. Our expectations for the tour could have left us feeling slightly disappointed. However, God was making it clear to us that this tour was HIS not ours ! We had no difficulty in continuing to trust Him.
You see, for the 2nd night running, God had provided the expenses which the small Corps could not have met, in the form of anonymous donations. Bognor had been charged just £40 to host us - the CO received a cheque on the day of the gig for £38 - to be used for outreach.
FRIDAY 19th - Launceston
The day is to be spent at Launceston (Cornwall). It’s a long drive but, at least after this, the long drives are over for a few days. Launceston is a small town (population 5-6000) nestled in a picturesque valley and is, excepting Woking, the only inland stop on the tour.
Lt Jacobs had certainly done us proud on publicity ! The local press, radio, Christian newspapers had all advertised our coming and posters seemed to be in every shop window !
As it was to be confirmed later in the tour it is not too difficult to fill an Army hall, no matter how small the number of soldiers at the Corps concerned. It just needs a little thinking and a few people willing to really work for an audience.
Indeed, the Corps at Launceston is a typical small Corps. The Lt told us that the few soldiers there had served faithfully for many years and things were "just starting to take off again".
The assessment of the local attitudes and situations was important and, after discussing the character of the town with the CO, the gimmicks and props were dispensed with for the open air work. Leaflets were simply handed out to youngsters inviting them to the gig in the evening, although we did a bit of close harmony singing in the town centre ! Also, the lack of any youngsters in the local Corps meant there were no workshops. It also resulted in a slightly older average age for the audience that night !
Support act for the evening was supposed to have been the "Open Door" drama group but they failed to turn up ! So, without hesitation, the group walked on stage and performed their own support act !
Having nothing planned for such an eventuality Marc played a premiere performance of Haydn’s teapot concerto and Peter took photos of the audience. The whole performance lasted about 10 minutes and most people seemed to genuinely find it all amusing !
Five minutes later the band came on stage to perform their usual show ! It was somewhat difficult to get the older members of the audience to dance to our brand of rock and roll - at some point in the gig every member of the band left the stage to try to persuade them !
In "What would you Do ?" Marc played his best trombone solo of the tour so far - fast, jazzy and with a full range !"
Karl then asked the audience how many of them were Christians. When every person present raised their hands he became angry saying that he wanted to play to NON Christians and that it was THEIR fault that their non Christian friends were not present. This was followed by the song "Action", announced as "A song which says the church is not just the pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and your Corps Officer or vicar, but its all of you and you are all responsible for its future."
Another theme of the evening was that God needs His soldiers to be bold in their witnessing but, unfortunately, the devil was successfully using inhibition as his greatest weapon within the church today. So the appeal centred around finding one’s own spiritual ministry and then fulfilling it to the best of one’s ability.
During the last few celebratory songs - including the old Joystrings number "Long Lost Cause" the audience finally found their feet ! The songs got longer and longer as, once again, band and audience merged into indistinguishability ! During this activity several youngsters came out of the pub next door to listen to the "noise next door"
They obviously enjoyed what they’d heard and, afterwards, told the group that they were starting a group of their own. They asked if they could "have a go" on the gear. This request was granted but the noise was so bad that, all in good humour, B&F splatted their pretenders with custard pies. After a few more minutes of fun the guests realised that they were enjoying themselves with Christians ! It was the first time they had ever realised that Christians did not have to be just old fuddy duddies who sit in churches reading 17th century English !
We shared some scripture with them, gave them tracts which were keenly accepted. Yet again we knew that God was using the tour to bring people into contact with His message.
There are two more important points about Launceston :
The Lt had prayed that we would be able to visit on the 19th - his only free date. When we contacted us our only free date was the 19th. Even the most devout sceptic must have been able to see that what was happening on the tour could not have been a long list of coincidences ! Alvin, the groups leader (supposedly !) said "There’s only one person in charge of this tour - and its certainly not me !"
Secondly, during the afternoon sound check much of the group’s gear refused to work and Karl’s voice (a subject of constant prayer) had completely gone. It was clearly another attempt by Satan to ‘have a go’ but God just wiped Satan away. When it mattered most - in the gig - both equipment and voice were fine.
By now we realised that God was so much in charge that all we had to do was trust His Holy Spirit and He would use the tour to do great things for His Kingdom.
What could await us in Falmouth, we wondered !
SATURDAY 20th - Falmouth
What should have been a very simple drive to Falmouth turned into rather a major effort due to holiday traffic. However, the day’s activities were well worth waiting for.
Falmouth had had the original inspiration for the tour ("We haven’t got any Christian rock bands down here"). They had also agreed to bear quite a heavy part of the financial burden for the whole tour - so Alvin asked for a very special effort from all of us for Falmouth.
The town’s main shopping streets were full to the point of being uncomfortable. Most people seemed to have the holiday spirit and contacting was made fairly easy.
Marc and Simon B struck up a conversation with two young lads concerning a recent TV documentary about the Army’s social work. Trying to convince these people that their souls need saving can sometimes be very difficult. Many punks and skinheads were personally challenged with the Gospel message. Also spoken to were rather drunken members of a harboured Navy ship ! After the nearly assaulted Rufus and carried Jan off down the road they promised to bring the entire crew to the night’s gig ! Perhaps it was fortunate they didn’t come in the end !
Indeed, everyone and anyone was contacted; in shops, in cars, it mattered not ! Driver/roadie/photographer extraordinaire Peter Blair once again became Rufus and this proved, again, to be a great crowd puller. The group felt that this was one of the most exciting pieces of evangelism they had ever been involved in.
Arriving back at the hall to prepare for the gig we were met by a drunkard, drunk to the point of being virtually senseless. He stayed at the hall for a while and was told by the CO to come to the gig that night. He did so, and so did many others, providing us with, by far, our largest audience of the tour yet. An extra dimension had to be added to the show as we were also booked to lead the Sunday services at the Corps. Yet in no way did this restrain the energy put into the performance or the urgency of the appeal.
Changes to the set from the previous night included "I Surrender All" and a new, haunting melody written by Marc called "Hello Stranger". During the appeal our drunken friend, called Charlie, was very noisy and had to be taken to another room, where he was told that Jesus is the answer to his problems. After the gig he was given a portion of scripture and we told him to read that the next morning rather than have a drink.
After the appeal, four of the punks we had talked to in the street came in and joined in the dancing and (yes) more custard pie throwing. Afterwards they were, of course, challenged with the Gospel. The audience had been on their feet earlier in the evening but had not thrown off all their inhibitions so during the last few numbers Karl jumped into the audience and started a conga-line. This got longer and longer until it broke and everyone in the hall was dancing !
One young boy jumped up on the stage and was lifted onto Karl’s shoulders for the last song. After the boy said, "I wish my church was like this. I think I’ll come here in future !" Someone in the group replied, "Don’t do that ! Go back to your own church and liven it up a bit !" Peter took a series of photos of one of the punks totally enraptured and captivated by Marc’s guitar playing - the pair dancing together off the stage. The sequence became known as The Art Of Communication.
Some of the older Salvationists present were a little stunned by what they’d seen and must have been wondering what on earth they were in for the next day ! Funnily enough, we were wondering that as well !
SUNDAY 21st - Falmouth
Physically speaking, a day of comparative rest. Spiritually speaking - perhaps the most demanding yet.
The morning (Holiness) meeting was led by Simon H with the address being given by Marc. It proved to be a preparatory meeting for the rest of the day. It also served to calm the fears of the older comrades who had feared another rock concert !
After lunch Charlie returned to the hall. Simon B, Marc and Capt. Taylor spent the whole of the afternoon talking to him. During a prayer that he would sober up a miracle occurred and he instantly did so. He admitted that he needed Jesus in his life and not alcohol. He then left the hall, sober, to try to reach London. Part of the evening meeting was a prayer meeting for Charlie.
Whilst all this was happening the rest of the group and the Falmouth Salvationists held a beach meeting. Our "new" methods of evangelism combined with more traditional approaches resulted in a large crowd listening to the message and joining in the fun. Several people accepted Gospel tracts and some of the children promised to come to Sunday School.
The evening meeting was led by Simon B and the address was given by Karl. The Lord once again answered prayer and the congregation was far bigger than usual. Two young ladies who’d been at the gig the previous evening attended their very first Army meeting. They were not attracted by the visiting speakers or section but attended because they were INVITED to the meetings by their Salvationist friend. Here lies a spiritual ministry for that friend and here lies the future for the Army !
At the end of the meeting the appeal was made and a seeker came forward to what we, in the Army, call the Mercy Seat. Following this outpouring of the Spirit the group celebrated with a wind-up which included some more close harmony singing and one song where Alvin, Simon B and Marc all swapped instruments !
The teenagers from the Corps all stayed behind and held an impromptu Youth Fellowship with the group. This took the form of a discussion on youth’s role in the Corps. The discussion was sometimes brutally honest. The youngsters were asked questions like :
" Do you really try to relate to the older Salvationists ?"
"Why don’t you attend the prayer and Bible study meetings ?" and
"Why don’t you bring more of your friends ?"
When Alvin closed in prayer one girl showed her need to be counselled. She was taken outside and counselled until 10.20pm !
We had prayed for the Corps of Falmouth throughout the tour. God had certainly answered prayer in the way in which the young people of the Corps were challenged and encouraged.
We were glad some progress had been made - but God had not yet finished with those young people........
MONDAY 22nd - Penzance
Something amazing happened today. Something so amazing that nothing else really seems worth mentioning. The amazing thing was that the Holy Spirit anointed the group’s gig by convicting around 75 people to make decisions for Christ.
Firstly, though, the open air work went well again. Rufus bought lion chews in pet shops and colas in Wimpy bars. Many of the young people spoken to attended the concert in the evening. Lots of them already knew about the gig because they’d heard about it on Radio Cornwall.
Penzance Hall is an old fashioned Army hall - quite similar in structure to Regent Hall, just slightly smaller. For our gig the downstairs section was completely full - something not seen in that building for decades ! It was a very mixed audience - from the very young to the very old. As usual, some of the youngsters who came from the streets could not handle the Christian message and left early but, following the appeal, a young lady came to the Mercy Seat. Then a young man. Then, for the next ¾ hour they came and came. Young and old, either rededicating their lives to Christ or, hallelujah, finding Him for the very first time.
The first young lady was the same girl we had counselled in Falmouth the night before. The first young man had come with a load of his friends. When he returned to his seat, newly saved, his mates took the mickey something rotten ! It was surely something he would face a lot more of in the future yet he stood his ground and told his friends what he’d done and why!
Many of the younger seekers gathered with Simon B in the corner of the hall. "What do you want to talk about ?" he asked. "Tell us more about Jesus," they replied. And so - he did !
The minutes ticked by and still the seekers came. Those who remained in their seats and occasionally mocked what was happening were also spoken to by members of the group and some of these even came and knelt in prayer.
We had all felt that the youngsters in Falmouth the night before were so close to making real commitments and this was confirmed when almost every young person who had made the trip down from Falmouth to see another rock concert knelt at the mercy Seat. One of these was the young lady who had attended her very first meeting the day before.
When the last seeker had been counselled everyone in the hall made a circle and held hands to sing "What a Friend we have in Jesus" and "Praise God - I’m Saved !" Praise God - they all were !
The feelings of the group were of total exhilaration and total humility all at once. A great feeling I can assure you.
TUESDAY 23rd - Penzance
With the exception of Janet, we had all billeted at major Brewer’s quarters and so, the morning talkback was held over breakfast. Not unnaturally, the Major was "rather pleased" with the previous night’s events and he confirmed the number of seekers at 75.
Praise and thanks were given to the Lord and it was then decided that the evening’s gig was to be a celebration of what had happened the night before - a praise meeting to God for His goodness in making it happen.
Simon H spent the day in bed suffering from the food poisoning which had earlier affected Marc.
At 3pm in the hall the group were responsible for the meeting of the Home League. This is a meeting for ladies and was usually attended by, generally, older ladies. It proved to be a mixture of fun, drama, poetry humour and music which climaxed with our close harmony singing of "When I Survey." The ladies were also taught some "OddlesFoddle". That was the name given to Blood and Fire’s own nonsense language (which we all seemed, strangely enough, to be able to understand !). It was used each night from the stage and served to completely bamboozle the audience. It’s impossible to describe, really - I think you had to be there !
Following yet more open air work it was time for a quick sound check (with Simon H now feeling sufficiently recovered to take part) and then, at 7pm, the gig.
Many youngsters returned from the previous night as well as many more coming in for the first time. A celebration was planned - and a celebration there was ! As the rest of the band struck up the beginning of "Headbangers" a single spotlight picked out Karl sitting 20 feet up astride the balcony rail !
The previous night, Karl and Janet jumped into the audience and covered them with custard pie foam - tonight the crowd got its own back ! A young lady jumped up onto the stage and covered the entire group with ‘silly string’ and foam. Such seemed to be the spirit of the evening.
Several songs had been quickly rehearsed to avoid repeating the entire show. One such song was "I Surrender All" during which a local Salvationist leader knelt in rededication.
Karl announced, "I’ve seen people come to the Lord amidst utter pandemonium !" - and utter pandemonium there was ! I t was more difficult than ever to tell who were the band and who the audience as everyone celebrated together.
Then came "Hello Stranger" and an appeal was made. The emphasis was placed on those who had missed out the night before and also on the local Christians who, we reminded them, should use the previous evening’s happenings as the launchpad for revival.
The point was made that they could not just sit around and wait for a revival to happen but they would have to work and pray for it ! Again many people came to the Mercy Seat and others counselled where they sat. There were about ten this time and we praise God for every one !
The evening finished amidst more custard pies and two songs, "Action" and "Take this Message" which summed up the necessary future for a reborn Corps. We ended back in the circle singing the benedictions again. God’s work for us in Penzance was over.
WEDNESDAY 24th - Poole
The long drive back to Poole came after saying goodbye to our favourite Major and also Simon H who had to go back to London by train to attend his brother’s divisional farewell prior to entry to the Training College for officers (ministers).
The rest of the band (except the drivers, of course) slept most of the way. Jason Griffiths, the group’s original bassist, was joining us for the evening, which pleased us all greatly.
Anything, after our blessings at Penzance, was likely to seem like an anticlimax and this, coupled with the band’s near exhaustion, made for a fairly lazy day, without much open air work being carried out. The feelings of anticlimax were, however, happily unjustified. The small church hall (not the same one as before) was comfortably full - and uncomfortably hot!
Once again "The Reaction" supported us and did us proud. The crowd were enthusiastic from the start and the group played fairly well. Playing with Jason made it seem like old times again. The crowd danced from the first few numbers and Simon B pulled out his best drum solo of the tour for his home crowd !
The appeal was given and a small group of people immediately left. Alvin "caught" them outside and challenged their reasons for leaving. They told him that they were Christians but had been offended by the way the Gospel had been presented. Following some discussion, one member of the group apologised. Once again, at least, Christians had been made to think.
The evening was capped by the group receiving a huge "welcome back" card from two young ladies who described themselves as "Blood and Fire’s Poole Fan Club". The group were then introduced to a reporter from Radio Solent who had recorded our new song "Sceptics" for broadcast. An interview was also recorded with Simon B, Marc and Karl. Questions concerned the group and the events of the tour. You can be sure he got some straight answers !
The interview and performance was broadcast on Radio Solent on Sept. 5th in a feature on Greenbelt.
THURSDAY 25th - Woking
The return to Woking...from whence it all began.
Arriving at the hall we were reunited with Simon H, as well as by excited fiancees, mothers, sisters etc. Not surprisingly, our biggest crowd of the tour awaited us for the workshops. We were also greeted by a big "Welcome Home" cake (which was later shared with the whole audience at the gig). We also discovered that the evening’s gig had been well advertised on local radio (County Sound).
As if in farewell to any remaining energy, the open air tricks and props came out in full. Experienced Roadshow person Nigel Gilder was volunteered to play Rufus, so that Peter could actually take some photos of the outdoor work !
As always, plenty of punks and headbangers were invited to the gig. Usually, we expect a fairly low success rate from these but tonight was to be very different. Alvin had an animated discussion with a group of headbangers about why there would be no alcohol allowed in the gig. After 10 days experience of handling hostile discussions on the street Alvin almost had them agreeing that alcohol was pretty disgusting stuff !
Karl invited some punks to the gig. They said they "couldn’t make it" and refused to take any tracts. He told them they were ‘chicken’ and they immediately took them !
The gig venue was not the Army hall but the better suited and better situated Christchurch hall. The support band for the night were a local church band who went by the astounding name of "Mervyn Sprocket and the Crankshaft Assembly."
Special guest for the night was Karen Taylor from Regent Hall. She sang two songs "It Is A Thing Most Wonderful" and her song from "Breakthrough" - Candle of the Lord with sympathetic accompaniment from the band. Her voice was good enough to silence the headbangers’ initial scepticism.
That difference in success rate of attendance must now be mentioned. So many youngsters came in from being contacted in town that afternoon that extra seats had to be brought in to the venue and the number of non-Christians actually outweighed the number of Christians present !
Alvin’s chat that afternoon must have had some effect because, as they entered the hall, the youngsters were happy to hand over their alcohol. The collection of it in the kitchen was quite impressive !
As usual a few left as soon as the message became clear to them but each one was challenged personally with the Gospel as they left. Great work in this field was done by ex-B&F drummer Ian Mayhew who had come up to join us for the night of celebration !
To avoid the message being blunted by familiarity, Simon B gave the appeal following a quiet song. It took along time for the Holy Spirit to break through into people who were undoubtedly wrestling with Him, but eventually 8 people acknowledged their need to be spoken to. They were counselled, some kneeling by their chairs and some in other rooms by members of the group, Karen and any other Christians present.
Once again, the planned climax to the evening and, this time, to the tour could not take place and the tour finished on a serious note.
We’d made it ! Or had we ?
No, not quite. Twelve Corps were represented as the group and friends slept the night in Woking SA Hall before travelling to the Greenbelt Festival. Was that dedication, obsession or just sheer madness ?
Probably all three.
We are all very tired
We hope and pray the follow-up work by local folk is performed adequately
We thank all the officers who were brave enough to have us at their Corps.
We hope they feel that bravery has been justified
We hope we can get a report in the Army papers !
Why aren’t there more Army rock bands ?
Who’s going to do all the washing ?
We must pray for all those who made decisions for Christ
When’s the next tour ?
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