||TJs triumph in the Square
11th July 2010
It was a great heady unique triumph.
It's beyond me how a day long concert on this giant scale can be organised - especially when few, if any, of those gave up their Saturday to take part were paid. I was double-booked as always. There was an important birthday party for a close friend. They had arranged for a brilliant local chef to prepare a seven-course feast. It included a splendid final croquenbouche beloved of French birthday celebrations.
My role at TJ's in the Square was printed as 9.00pm in the programme and described to my horror as a 'speech.' At 9.20 I was to conclude my act by introducing the star act Goldie Looking Chain. I gently explained to the stage manager that a speech of 20 minutes from a politician towards the end of a pop concert might not be well received. The maximum time that a speaker can engage an audience in the open air on these occasions is about three minutes. Sentences must by short and ideas simple. I decided not to treat them to a 20 minute oration on my ideas on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Happily there are a few themes that appealed to the audience that packed the square. Yes, they wanted to remember John Sicolo the owner of TJs who died recently. The crowd obliged and chanted 'Big John. Big John." The legendary TJ's is now closed but was resurrected for a single day. The rock club gave Newport great music and the reputation as the 'New Seattle.' That was a popular theme that fired up the audience.
TJs is gone but a new vibrancy will be born in the city centre. The student population is being relocated from the outskirts to the heart of the city. That will stimulate a new night life.
(Thanks Andy Barding for adding this pic to Facebook)
Goldie Looking Chain is the unique Newport group that brought world attention to the City. Brash, gritty, witty and coarse they fascinated the news-hungry rock world. They are vastly popular and the excitement was palpable. They are as Newportonian as the Transporter Bridge, as Welsh baseball or as Rodney Parade. They puzzled the Japanese and other foreigners who pondered the brand of English that includes expressions such as ' You knows it, clart.' Again the crowd helped up by chanting 'G.L.C.', G.L.C.'
Altogether a great occasion. When my rant was done I hotfooted back to the joys of the croquenbouche. High up in Fields Road a mile from John Frost Square I could still hear GLC clearly. joy to my ears, but possibly not to a few others.
John Sicolo R.I.P.
Newport mourns the death of John Sicolo.
He was the owner and inspiration for the city's legendary 'TJs' The rock club gave Newport fame, excitement and musical chutzpah. It was TJs that won for Newport the title of New Seattle. A generation of Newportonians relished the buzz of hearing top World groups on their own doorstep. They fondly remember TJs at its thrilling best, robust, loud and bursting with talent.
After years of business and musical success, TJ's has recently been a sad shadow of its former self. I have spoken to John several times in the past few months. He was making strenuous efforts to restore TJs to its former glory. He also had strong views on planned new government legislation for the entertainment industry.
John was a former merchant navy seaman, where he served as a cook. He founded the club in 1971, first christening it El Sieco's before renaming it TJ's Disco.
Among Welsh bands who performed at the Clarence Place venue were Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Catatonia.
Joe Strummer, who was an art student called Woody in Newport before finding fame with The Clash, played at the club a number of times in the years before his death in 2005.
Another late rock star with a link to TJ's is Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, who is said to have watched his wife-to-be Courtney Love perform there with her band, Hole. A Facebook's site has attracted a large number of sympathy messages.
In the past few months John was troubled by the declining fortunes of TJs. He was making a supreme effort to restore its past success - even to the extent of investing his pension. I had several conversations with him. Many of the Facebook messages hope for a revival of TJs. Many of those who enjoyed TJs at its best are now in their thirties. Their tributes make touching reading.
The city will offer its sincere condolences to John's family. Rest in peace, Friend.