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Ray Morrissey: Britain's biggest gigaholic

Published: Wed December 03, 2008  News Feed

Ray has been going to gigs every week for the past 35 years...meet Britain's biggest gigaholic and find out the tales he's got to tell!

After more than 5,000 gigs over 35 years, rock fan Ray Morrissey can claim to be Britain's most prolific concert-goer. On piles of notebook pages in Mr Morrissey's front room, thousands of gigs are listed, one per line, all with a mark out of 10 circled at the end.

And stacks of diaries have more details of the shows, three or four a week - what they were like, what they played, who was there. It is a personal history of British music, documenting the hazy glory of rock 'n' roll superstars and long-forgotten bands alike in meticulous, matter-of-fact detail.

A few years ago, he spent six months putting most of the information onto his personal website. The 49-year-old started going to gigs in 1973, when he would sneak into his local venue, the Hammersmith Odeon, now the Apollo, without paying.

His first gig there was Mott the Hoople, supported by an up-and-coming Queen. "I remember Freddie Mercury's big teeth more than anything," Mr Morrissey says.

Ray's favourite band, The Sex Pistols...

But he was hooked when punk came along. In 1976, hearing that two older boys from his school had formed a band, he went to check them out. They were called The Sex Pistols.

"It wasn't a gig as such, it was a nightclub and the band came on at midnight," he says of the show at the Sundown club, now the Astoria 2 (he gave it nine out of 10.)

"There were 200 or 300 in the nightclub, but once the band came on they all went to the toilet and went for a drink, and 20 people watched the band.

"The single God Save the Queen came out on my 18th birthday," he continues.

"Every gig was about jumping around down the front of the stage, falling over, and if you didn't come out covered with sweat, it weren't a gig."

The verdicts on his website are peppered with wry observations into stage moments ranging from the momentous to the bizarre.

"The greatest day in live music ever," he declared about Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985 (10/10).

"Noel stopped Wonderwall after two lines because he did not want any fans singing along to it," he wrote after seeing Oasis in Brighton in 2002 (9.5/10).

There were "shuttlecocks down pants" for Wham at Hammersmith Odeon in 1983 (8.5/10).

"A woman walked on to the stage and smacked Howard full in the face," was the entry after a Howard Jones gig at Camden's Jazz Café in 1995 (9/10).

"One of the greatest gigs of all time," he declared after seeing The Sex Pistols again at the Notre Dame Club off Leicester Square in November 1976 (10/10).

Snapshots from the front of that gig were featured on a poster for The Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant single, which Mr Morrissey proudly displays.

In several of them, his sweaty, youthful face is frozen in time, mid-jump, mid-yelp. It was on Raysgigs.com that he broke the news of a Faces reunion after talking to Rod Stewart at a party ("he was really nice").

He has also met Mick Jagger and Madonna and was at AC/DC's second UK gig at the long-gone Nashville Rooms in Fulham in April 1976 (9.5/10) - the first of 36 times he has seen the band.

And the Australian rockers' return to the UK next April after eight years away is shaping up to be the highlight of 2009, he says.

"That's one ticket that I made sure I got tickets in advance," he says. "I've got my tickets for the O2 arena and I've already got my tickets to go to Paris for two shows. I will be seeing six shows, probably."

Getting into a gig without a ticket is rarely a problem, Mr Morrissey says, as he knows all of the touts and has honed the art of talking his way in.

"There's a fair amount of blagging goes on," he says. "There'll always be someone that I know. If you've got to get in you've got to get in. You've just got to get up there - you ain't going to get in if you're at home."

He made it into the hugely over-subscribed Led Zeppelin reunion at the O2 last year as a guest of one of the Sex Pistols, and is London correspondent for a Sex Pistols website. That role led him to fulfil one of his lifelong dreams in 2002, when he was asked to fill in for John Lydon on vocals when the rest of the band rehearsed for a reunion show.

"I think the band were just saying thanks for all the help. We just had an afternoon there and messed around on vocals for a couple songs. It was an amazing experience.

"When I think about the Sex Pistols, I feel like I'm a 17-year-old again. It's weird."

Mr Morrissey worked in security at the Hammersmith Odeon in the 1980s when the bouncers got fed up with him bunking in, but has always been a fan first and foremost.

As his 50th birthday approaches, Mr Morrissey still jumps around at gigs ("a little bit, not so much") and is keen to keep up his concert schedule.

"Live music's bigger than ever - there's more bands, more festivals, more gigs generally," he says. "So long as they've got quality gigs, I'll be making an effort. I don't like to miss out."


1. Sex Pistols
2. The Clash
3. Kiss
4. AC/DC
5. U2
6. David Bowie
7. The Rolling Stones
8. The Who
9. Thin Lizzy
10. Van Halen

[originally from the BBC website]

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