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Skids: ‘After Bloody Sunday, there was no chance in hell that Mum would allow me to join the Army’

Belfast-bound Skids frontman on how city played a pivotal role in punk band’s history

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Skids members Jamie Watson, Bill Simpson, Bruce Watson and Richard Jobson

Skids members Jamie Watson, Bill Simpson, Bruce Watson and Richard Jobson

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Bono

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Green Day

Richard Jobson

Richard Jobson

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Skids members Jamie Watson, Bill Simpson, Bruce Watson and Richard Jobson

Punk rocker Richard Jobson believes Belfast had a vital role in the history of his band Skids.

The Scottish frontman fell in love with the city in the late 1970s when the local scene was in its pomp.

He came over to mix it up with the likes of Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones and The Outcasts.

He has now revealed that the inspiration for one of the band’s biggest hits, Into the Valley, came from the Troubles.

Richard (61) told Sunday Life: “I was a young Catholic guy in a Protestant community in Scotland.

“For a lot of my mates, the mines were closing, the docks were closing and there were no jobs, so a lot of them thought they would join the British Army and would get to become car mechanics and engineers.

“My mother was from Cork, and after Bloody Sunday she had a very low opinion of the British Army, so there was no chance in hell she would ever allow me to join the Army.

“A lot of my mates did go, and after 10 weeks of training they ended up in Belfast.

“They had a pretty f*****g terrible time because they hadn’t a clue what they were letting themselves in for. They were just kids who wanted to become engineers and mechanics, and they ended up getting a false promise from the Army.

“Anyway, they went there. When they came back, they were really different. They were much more bigoted and prejudiced than they would have been. They really changed.

“When I wrote Into the Valley, it’s kind of about those guys.

“The song was originally called Depersonalised because I felt they had come back and were completely numb. These were decent guys with a great sense of humour. They hadn’t a sectarian bone in their bodies. And they came back just f*****g riddled with it, just full of a kind of blanket hatred, and it was horrible.

“So, that’s what I wrote the song about — how people become depersonalised in these situations.

“The song was essentially written about these guys coming to Belfast and then being changed — and not for the better.

“The kind of people they were when they came back was not good. It was f*****g horrible. That’s what I wrote the song about. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody that, but there you go.”

Skids are enjoying a second flush of fame, not least because another of their hits, The Saints Are Coming, was covered by Green Day and U2.

Richard said: “I got to hang out with both bands and watch a song I wrote when I was 15 being reinterpreted by two of the biggest groups on the planet. It was quite something. It was surreal.

“They were very kind and generous to me, and they treated it with a lot of care because Into the Valley and The Saints Are Coming were both written based on my friends’ experiences in Belfast.”

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Richard Jobson

Richard Jobson

Richard Jobson

Richard said it would be a welcome return to Belfast when his band plays the Limelight next Saturday.

He added: “We came over early on. We were one of the first bands to play.

“Skids came from both sides of the sectarian divide. I’m Catholic and the other guys were all Protestants. We never let that get in the way, and I think when we arrived in Belfast a lot of the young people responded to that.

“They knew we were a mixture of both religions and, obviously, the Scottish thing was never far away from what was going on in Northern Ireland.

“People responded to us in a very positive way because of that, and we always said music transcended all that bulls***.

“That really worked for us and Belfast became one of the most important cities in my heart. The response we got there was mind-blowing.

“It was because so many bands were afraid to come and we weren’t. We really wanted to come and loved it.

“I’ve got some wonderful friends still in the city.

“I’m really looking forward to the gig next week. Most people go on about Dublin, but I go on about Belfast.”

- Skids play the Limelight in Belfast on May 28


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