February 13th, 1987 - Jim Norton vs. Peter Murphy ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY

February 13th, 1987 - Jim Norton vs. Peter Murphy ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY

The following is an excerpt from the book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico. Peter Murphy photo by Samantha Muccini.

February 13th, 1987 - Peter Murphy

Jim Norton (stage manager/security): Peter Murphy, formerly of Bauhaus, played a few times, and there is one episode I remember clearly. The crew was supposed to be there at nine or ten in the morning for load-in, which was not uncommon for the bigger shows, especially for English bands, who tended to bring more production equipment, more lights, and so on. City Gardens was on that “alternative music” circuit… bands that would get played on [MTV’s] 120 Minutes, and these bands were typically much more popular in Europe than they were in the U.S. As a result, they were playing much larger places in other parts of the world and were used to a certain level of production. The next thing they know they’re at City Gardens, this kind of weirdo, former Packard dealership in the middle of Nowhere, New Jersey. Peter Murphy had played in New York the night before and—as often would happen with bands who had played in New York the night before—their nine or ten in the morning load-in would blow by with no sign of, or word from, the band. This was before cell phones. As the crew, we sat around for the whole afternoon waiting, and at three o’clock Peter Murphy’s bus showed up. Not the equipment truck, mind you. That truck finally pulls up around four, and they proceed to load everything in and set up all the lighting. Typically, with a rock show, you do all your lighting stuff first. I don’t know why, but that’s how it is. They showed up five hours late and they then took five hours to do their lighting check, and the whole time I am there as the alleged stage manager trying to speed them up. The lighting looked really amazing. He had great effects. There was one light that was a super-tight beam across the stage, and they had this one cue where he would hit a mark and all the lights in the club would go out except this one beam that shot across the stage, and it would illuminate just his face between his nose and his forehead. It was an awesome effect, but it took him an hour and a half just to get that. It was insane how much time it took to set up the lights. The doors were supposed to open at eight o’clock or so. It was cold out, snowing or raining, not good weather for people standing in line for three hours, and that is what happened to people who showed up early to get tickets. At nine o’clock, which was when the first band was supposed to go on, they finished their lighting check, and everyone was pretty much at the end of their rope. 

Peter Murphy finally says, “Okay, lights are done… let’s start the soundcheck.” He was smack in the middle of the stage when I walked up and said, “No. There’s no time.” He said, “What?” and kind of harrumphs at me. “Well, we have to do a soundcheck.” I said, “You can’t. There’s no time. We’ve got to get people in the door and get this band on stage and get the show going.” And he said, “How do you expect us to put on a first-class show without a soundcheck?” I said, “Well, you could start by showing up on time.” He didn’t really like that. I continued, “But you didn’t do that. You showed up at three in the afternoon without any equipment. Then you took five hours for a lighting check. If you’re taking five hours for a lighting check, why am I supposed to think it’s not going to take you another five hours to do a soundcheck?” And he said, “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” I said, “I know who you are, but I don’t give a shit who you are. Get the fuck off my stage so we can get this opening band in!” He said, “I should cancel the show,” and I was like, “Okay, you go outside and tell everybody you cancelled the fucking show because you were up doing drugs up in New York and couldn’t get your fucking ass out of bed to get here on time. If you can’t do that—if you’re too much of a coward to say that—then get the fuck off my stage so I can get this band on and we can start the show already.” He stepped up to me. I’m not a big guy, but I am slightly bigger than Peter Murphy. He might be taller, but I definitely remember not feeling threatened. He stepped up to me, and I looked at him, like, “Really?” Real quietly I said to him, “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, get the fuck off my stage BEFORE I FUCKING KILL YOU!” and I yelled the last part real loud. He stormed off in a huff and that was it. He did the show. He had another effect where they shot a beam to a specific point in the crowd. I don’t know whether it was chance that it would land on a man or a woman, or if they just played the odds that it was always going to land on a woman, but they shot a beam to a spot on the top of the bleachers. At the time a very good friend of mine—a woman I had a huge crush on—stood in that exact spot. They shoot the beam to her, and all the lights go down, and it’s just her and Peter Murphy lit up, and they’re both sort of dancing together. That made her whole year. The next day when she was raving about how awesome it was, I had to explain to her what a fucking asshole he was. She was not happy with me.


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