Shy Talk – Story Of A Punk Fanzine

I started the Shy Talk (say it quicky) fanzine as the punk scene in Manchester was growing in 1977 and the cover price was 20p. UWS sellers sometimes get a backlash off pissed off reds when United have played shite or had a bad result. This reaction isn’t exclusive to football crowds. One of the editions of Shy Talk had a piece in it which was slagging The Stranglers off. I had the mag on sale at the Electric Circus when they next played there in June 1977 and Stranglers lead singer, Hugh Cornwell, bought a copy off me. Half an hour later, he was all over the place looking for me and wanting a fight after reading what had been written. The following night, The Drones were supporting The Stranglers in Sheffield and Cornwell saw me and came walking over. I thought, “here we go”, but he just said “sorry about that last night. It annoyed me. I thought we were all supposed to be on the same side”. I said “maybe, but you’re not on the same side as the lad who wrote that fucking piece”.

A still of Steve at his typewriter from the Brass tacks documentary of 1977

Shy Talk was done by me and a lad called Graham Leonard, but Graham never went to gigs. He was more a Pips (a very popular nightclub close to Victoria station) person than anything else. Graham worked for a printer on Wilbraham Road in Chorlton and when his gaffer wasn’t looking, he’d print off a load of them. He also designed the cover, but it was mostly written by me and it was a classic type of late seventies fanzine. Stencils and spelling mistakes on a typewriter that you’d just end up thinking ‘fuck it’ rather than correcting. Not only because we were all punks, but because we didn’t have the luxury of spell check and I couldn’t face the thought of typing it all out again for the sake of a daft mistake. Like nearly everything in punk, it was short lived. We went into the Virgin record shop on Lever St, asking them if they could stock it for us. They said yes and I asked how many did they want, thinking they’d say fifty or something like it. They asked me for 2,000. This was a nightmare as I knew I would then have to get them done professionally rather than mates printing copies off here and there at a printing shop when the boss wasn’t around.

I was originally a soul boy and working as a Glazier for William Pointer’s, who were based on Ayres Road in Old Trafford. Wayne Barrett, a lad I knew from work, he was an apprentice, only about 16. I was 18 and I didn’t get on with the other lads at work, they were knobheads, but me and Wayne became good pals. We would be given a list of the jobs to do around Town, drop the panes of glass off and then I’d put them in. Wayne shadowed me as a painter, he’d tosh the paint on soon after I’d finished with the putty. The job was a doddle and we used to get away with murder on the skive and the occasional little fiddle.

Front cover of the third issue of Shy Talk

It was through Wayne that I got into the punk scene. He used to go into The Ranch on Dale St, which was owned by Frank Lamarr and it was next door to his main club, Foo Foo’s Palace. It was rather strange, I met these two girls and they said “come to The Ranch”, so I went down and I was tripping and all of a sudden, I saw that much colour in there. It was all Bowie and Roxy and I just sort of moved in with it all. Wayne said “Steve, buy a ticket”, so I bought one for me and one for Kim, who is my cousin. The tickets were for the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. I’ve got to emphasise, not the first one, the one that had as many people claiming they were at than saw City on a hillside at Blackburn in 2000, I didn’t even know who they were then. The vast majority of people, even on the ‘scene’ didn’t, this occasion was when Buzzcocks opened, Slaughter and The Dogs, who had and still have Wayne as lead singer, were waiting by in a satin jumpsuit and they were doing Mick Ronson and Bowie covers, stuff like that. But I wasn’t all that keen on Roxy Music, I could take Bowie, but at that time, I was still bang into soul music. All the girls in there were all in fishnet stockings and the like and I used to go to a party every week and when you’re young, like I was, you have the time of your life doing it.

Front cover of the second issue of Shy Talk

The second Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall was six weeks after the now fabled one in June 1976. There was about 300 there that night and the crowd was a mix of the people who’d been to the first one, who’d then told their mates, all the punk rockers who went out watching bands and then the Bowie/Roxy lot. It was going off left, right and centre between these factions. Everybody was getting stuck in, the lads from The Ranch were mostly like Slaughter and the Dogs, Wythenshawe lads and there were pint pots being thrown around and crashing against the wall. They were smashing and coming down on everybody. It kicked off between all the Wythenshawe boys and all the punk rockers who were there. The Pistols also had a firm that had come up from London with them, but after having a look, they wisely kept their heads down. It was an evil atmosphere, just like being at a football match in those days. Looking back, I can see that it’s because of nights like that everybody gets served their beer in plastic glasses on a club night nowadays.

A photo of Steve from 2018

On first were Buzzcocks. As soon as they come on, I got what they were doing. It worked in my head, if you know what I mean. I thought, “this is fuckin’ brilliant this”. Slaughter and the Dogs were next and they were all right, but then the Pistols come on and John Lydon had an amazing presence. He seemed to be glaring at everybody in the room. It didn’t matter where he was looking, or who he was looking at, you felt that he was staring at you. It sent shivers down your back. He saw it going off all over the place and he was laughing his head off on stage while everybody was scrapping. He had the sarcasm that I find a lot of gay people have. It didn’t bother him if you got beat up. Steve Jones and Paul Cook, they were belting lads, they were mostly interested in what they could nick from the place and Glen Matlock was just an arsehole.

Three months after that gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, in October 1976 and with a backpack full of mags, we went to Lafayette in Wolverhampton, which was a Greasers club. Greasers were generally motorcycle enthusiasts who weren’t hard enough to be Hell’s Angels, it was kicking off there too. You couldn’t see most of it. By this time, the Pistols were touring and being advertised as S.P.O.Ts, which stood for Sex Pistols On Tour. They had to do it that way as if they tried booking a venue under their own name, the management would refuse to book them because of all the bad press they were getting at the time. In those pre internet days, you could get away with a stunt like that.  If it wasn’t the venue management, then it would be the local odd lot or council trying to make a name for themselves by banning the Pistols from playing. That night, a Brummie band called The Prefects (who are still touring and are known as The Nightingales) were supporting the Pistols and they were brilliant. In the crowd, there was about 50 from London, over dressed and trying too hard, like they always were and being a lot braver than they were at the Lesser Free Trade Hall earlier in the year. As usual we were there in pairs of jeans, cords, basketball boots and t-shirts. Pretty much what I and my mates wore all the time. What most of the London lot didn’t seem to get was the Punk was a mindset, not a phase of fashion.  

 Soon after this gig, Sid Vicious replaced Glen Matlock on the bass guitar. Sid was a pretty erratic fella, always hyped up on the billy and he could and often did go off at any second. I next saw The Pistols at Ivanhoes in Huddersfield on Christmas Day 1977, which was a benefit show for the kids of the Firemen, who were halfway through a nine week strike at the time. This show happened to be the Pistols last UK gig until they reformed in 1996 for the Filthy Lucre tour. This show was a matinee, an afternoon show for all the kids, there was a Christmas party for them and all that, Sid Vicious was play fighting with all the kids, that kind of thing. Knowing how Pistols gigs could be like, this was a surreal day and a brilliant way for them to bring their UK touring days behind them, being as unpredictable as ever.

I played bass in a short lived band called The Negatives. It was me, Paul Morley on Guitar, Kevin Cummins on Drums and Dave Bentley as the singer, Dave was manager of a band called The Drones. We did it for a laugh. Paul Morley was writing for the NME at the time he was doing reviews of them of how bad they were, “perfect punk” and all this, stuff like “they released in EP but deleted it immediately” and some people would be scrambling around like mad trying to find a copy of a none existent EP by a band that not only couldn’t really play, but they’d never even heard play. Our party trick was basically a 15 minute version of “Louis Louis”, which as anybody who could play a guitar would tell you, a learner could pick up in no time. It was a piss take really. But great fun.

Steve Shy passed away on the 17th of July 2022. A man well known and well loved throughout many facets of Mancunian society, he will be much missed and while he may be no longer with us in body, he will be with us for many years in our thoughts of kindness, happiness and laughter.

This piece was first published in the December 2020 edition of the United We Stand fanzine. Published here with the kind permission of the magazine.