Words: Sam F’kin Cooper
Images: Courtesy of the Donny punk scene and on-line.
The Donny punk family has been dealt a heartbreaking blow in recent weeks, as we lost two of our own. Pete Morgan and Jez Saxton were an integral part of our punk community. In 1977 I was only ten years old, so I’ve had help from some friends that were there…
THE Doncaster music scene was not overlooked by the explosive birth of the British punk movement in the late 1970s. The Outlook (later the Mainline) club on Trafford Way in Donny held regular live events, with bands such as Generation X, The Vibrators, Buzzcocks, The Damned, Stranglers, Sham 69 and many more headlining there. The notorious appearance of the Sex Pistols (billed as ‘The Tax Exiles’ in August 1977) captured the imagination of many young people, one of whom was a young Pete Morgan. Pete insisted that Morg, his older brother, listen to his amazing new ‘punk’ records, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Born and bred in Rossington, a small group of like-minded youths gravitated towards the startling new aesthetics and discordant sounds of ‘punk rock’; the appeal of the do-it-yourself punk ethos sealing their fate. Inspired to have a go themselves, the brothers, along with a few other brave souls, started their first band in the early 80s: Absit Invidia. They couldn’t play well, but learned quickly as they wrote their own songs, incredibly booking a support slot for the Subhumans at the Leadmill in Sheffield, although they had to play their set list twice as they had only written three tracks!
Around 1982, a few miles away in Tickhill, a young Jeremy Saxton had learned how to play guitar. He formed his first band with school friends from Edlo Comp, initially called TNT, which later became The Adulescents UK. Band mate and best friend for over 35 years Terry ‘Tez’ Dunn remembers their careers officer asking Jez what he wanted to be when he left school, Jez replied:
“A punk on the dole.”
Tez recalls that they wrote some great tunes together…
“Jez always had the musical knowledge to knit it all together. We made countless demo tapes sent them all over, played loads of local gigs. Some good, some not so good.”
They produced and self-financed their first EP, recorded at The Headroom basement studio in Wheatley, Doncaster, which was then mastered and pressed at the famous Abbey Road Studios, London. The band went there for a day out, typically getting unashamedly drunk in the Abbey Road bar. They went on to sell them at gigs, in the Vinyl Years record shop on Copley Road and in Europe, too. They even got a letter from Jello Biafra, lead singer of the Dead Kennedys who encouraged them to:
“…keep playing punk and making records.”
Pete went on to play drums for the Crow People, rising from the ashes of the ‘anarcho-crust’ scene. Tez remembers the band very well:
“They had vegetarian barbecues at their gigs. People took their dogs and the door money was shared equally between bands or given to charity. They did loads of benefit gigs: for women’s refuge, animal welfare, hunt sabs you name it. They not only played a style of music, they lived it too.”
Tez recalls that the Crow People:
“…were not just a ‘crust’ band, they had psychedelia, goth and space rock. They were bloody fascinating to listen to. As a guitarist, I loved the effects: chorus, flange, phaser and loads of delay.”
Dubbed Donny’s ‘secret band’ by the DoncasterFree Press’ rock columnist Paul Burton; Crow People were an obscure gem in Doncaster’s alternative music scene, their Cloud Songs EP a treasured possession of a lucky few.
I met my future husband in 1987. In the early 80s he had also been in a local punk band, Dangerous Rhythm [pictured above left]. Ian introduced me to his extensive punk and new wave record collection and we went to my first ever gig, New Model Army at Bradford City Hall. I fell in love… with everything. Countless gigs over the years, in Doncaster at the Toby Jug (gone, but not forgotten), the Leopard and all over Yorkshire. Getting to know other Donny punks, including meeting and making freinds with the UK Subs at the infamous Porterhouse in Retford.
Meanwhile, Pete Morgan had moved to Lincolnshire for work and other adventures, but eventually returned home with his partner Ady in 2001. Kevin Banks recalls Pete’s practical advice on his first foray to the world famous Rebellion Punk Music Festival. Arriving in Blackpool about 11am on Thursday, Kev asked Pete what the plan was. Pete replied:
“There are six pubs between here and the digs. We are having a pint in every one!”
Pete loved a beer, or three – but it was all about punk rock.
Punk gigs became scarce during the late 90s and by the turn of the millennium many of us had got married, had kids or moved away. Over a few beers Morg and Gary ‘Gozhawk’ Storey contemplated organising a Donny ‘punk reunion’. The Hallcross pub had a decent jukebox, so it was decided. The last Sunday night of the month local punks, old and new, would get together; play some punk, dance a bit, sing very loudly and bond!
For many years our ‘home’ was the Hallcross, with Tracy Brown, among others, on DJ duty. Regular gigs were put on there, at the Leopard and later at the Garage Bar on Silver Street (anywhere that would have us to be honest).
More recently Sine FM’s Shipwrecked DJ Chris Heald does the honours, playing requests from 3–8pm the last Sunday of the month at the Queen Crafthouse & Kitchen on Sunny Bar. All are welcome, as long as you like your punk loud!
As a solo artist, armed with his trusty guitar, portable drum machine and trade-mark spiky hair, ‘Bank Holiday’ Jez would more than likely be the opening act at any punk gig in Donny and further afield. His friend, and later band-mate, Keith Winson remarked that Jez had unbelievable amounts of talent and an incomparable stage presence (the infamous leg kick). Underneath the tom-foolery and colourful façade, Jez was a really talented musician; he could play piano, guitar, bass and drums. Tez commented that:
“Jez could have made a lot more money out of music if he’d wanted, but he was happy being in a punk band, playing original music.”
By 2011 Jez was asked to play bass for Sheffield’s ‘The Fuckwits’. Keith recalls the bands incredulity at the speed it took Jez to learn their set list. His début was a boozer in Burton on Trent, followed by a gig supporting the mighty Stiff Little Fingers in Sheffield. The band have since played all over England and Europe, including regular sets at Blackpool’s Rebellion Punk Festival. Jez generally liked to ‘dress to impress’ – usually a battered old biker leather, customised jeans and tee-shirt – but much to his band-mates horror he once insisted on just wearing long-johns on-stage in Norway. He acquiesced that time, but later he did take to the stage in Munich in a pair of ladies leopard print tights.
Meanwhile, in the Summer of 2012, after some persuasion from good mates Lee ‘Spyder’ Graham and Rick (the bus driver) Rigby, Inequality Street was formed. The self-confessed trio of:
“…three 40-odd-year-old punk’s from South Yorkshire who fancied the idea of starting a band of our own for a giggle one drunken evening, then promptly forgot about it until mid 2013!”
The lads worked hard-ish, writing songs and gigging, to publish their début album All In This Together in 2016 (with logo and artwork by yours truly). Later Chris ‘Shipwrecked’ Heald joined them on guitar, soon followed by Paul Holden (initially as Pete’s stand-in while he battled the big C) now the bands permanent drummer. Inequality Street are continuing to play live and still have plans to record a second album, including songs written by Pete.
If Pete and Ady weren’t at a gig they’d spend the weekend at a bike rally, where his moniker was ‘popular twat’. He was utterly astounded when so many travelled from all over the country to attend ‘Poorly Pete’s Pukey Punk Party’ at the Leopard in April. Four bands played at the packed-out fund-raiser – which gave us a chance to show Pete how much he was loved and respected. It was an incredible show of support and a night no one will ever forget.
Jez would have turned 50 years old on the 11th of June. His sudden loss was totally unexpected and has left close friends and family members reeling. We can take some solace that Jez spent his life doing what he loved the most, punk rock. He was a fun-loving guy, the eternal joker, always ready with a warm, welcoming grin. Jez’s humour was most evident in his lyricism, check out his youtube channel. He was renowned for his rhythmic strumming and sing-a-long folk-punk ditties. His whimsical songs parodied the everyday, morphing the mundane into the absurd:
“Have you seen my wheelie bin? It’s big. It’s black. It’s on wheee-eels!”
Watching Jez perform was guaranteed to bring a smile, if not outright hilarity.
Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that Pete and Jez will be the most awesome punk rock rhythm section in the afterlife. Let’s hope they have plenty of cider & Newcastle Brown up there. We will miss them both more than words can say, but are honoured and privileged to have called them family. See you on the other side lads…
Jez’ funeral will take place at 3pm on Friday 13th July at St Mary’s Church, Tickhill. Please email his brother Phil Saxton for numbers at the wake, to follow at the Tavern in Tickhill. All are welcome to pay their respects.
Pete was laid to rest at the Respect Green Burial site near Bawtry on 4th July.