Personal recollections by Jeff Ball


Over the years, many of my friends have asked me what's the best show I've ever seen. I answer them with two simple words, "The Professionals". I saw them perform at the Marble Bar in Baltimore on October 25th, 1981. The next question is inevitable, "Who were they?" After telling them who they were, they say, "never heard of them!" Their loss! I feel very lucky to have seen The Professionals, not once, but twice! But it's the Marble Bar show of which I have the fondest memories.

Being a Sex Pistols fan in 1977, living in the States wasn't a picnic. My friends thought they were horrible. They just couldn't see through all the press hype. I, along with my twin brother Jason, were the only fans they had at my school. When the Pistols arrived, my musical tastes were pretty mainstream rock & roll. Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Rolling Stones ....anything British. I first saw the Sex Pistols on a late night news show during the summer of '77 & was thinking "this stuff is pretty wild". I really enjoyed the energy they showed. The next day I stumbled upon an import single of "God Save The Queen"and bought it mainly out of curiosity, (and to play it to my brother). I mistakenly played the b-side first, "Did You No Wrong". We enjoyed it, but it wasn't the song I heard during the television report. Flipping the single over, I played "God Save The Queen". It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I was totally taken in. We played the single all night long, over and over. My life had changed in three minutes. I became a punk right then.

In the following months I bought all the Pistols' singles, plus the album, the day it came out in the States. When I heard reports of an upcoming US tour, I could only wish they would come close to Baltimore. Well, that didn't happen. The group broke up, Sid died...Public Image ....Swindle...I bought it all. Within the group, Steve Jones & Paul Cook were my faves. These guys could really deliver a sound like no others. Then The Professionals came!

"Just Another Dream" knocked me out. The b-side "Action Man" even more so. "123", fantastic! "Join The Professionals" was incredible. Really powerful stuff. These guys should be huge. Then the day came when it was announced that a show was happening at the Marble Bar in downtown Baltimore city. My dream of seeing these guys live was finally going to happen. Now graduated from school, I frequented the Marble Bar often. It was Baltimore's answer to CBGB's. Located in the basement of an old dilapidated hotel built in the 1920's, the Marble Bar was a HOLE! It served as a speakeasy during prohibition and big bands would play there during the 30's and 40's. And yes, the bar was made of marble. Real cool place to see bands play.


The day of the show, an ugly rainy day, we started drinking early. Maybe too early. My twin brother and I met up with our older brother at a neighborhood bar and proceeded to ingest quite a few pitchers of beer. We went home, ate dinner, (don't ask how with all the beer we had just downed), then headed to the city for the show. We arrived early, paid our $5, and resumed drinking. By the time the opening band went on, Zehn Archer, my twin brother had passed out on top of a table. The sparse crowd, maybe 20 tops, had a laugh over him. I had stopped drinking before him, I wanted to remember this show.

It seemed like hours went by before The Professionals took the stage. Enough time for my brother to come around. Jason and I  were standing right in front of the stage, dead centre. Steve hit a couple of strings to get the volume checked and announced, "this is our first number".  "Little Boys" came crashing in. Really loud! I was in heaven. I had never heard the song before, the LP "I Didn't See It Coming" didn't arrive at my favorite import shop 'til two weeks after the show.  The rest of the set featured the new LP, plus the singles. No Pistols material. They Smoked! A funny thing happened during one song. Steve's pick had left his hand and landed on my drunken, soaked with beer, twin brother. Jason just handed it right back to Steve without missing a note. During breaks in the show Steve would be talking to us, "any birds about?". While the crowd begged to hear "Anarchy", we asked for "Black Leather". Steve told us they didn't rehearse it but should. At the close of the show, Steve announced to the crowd of then maybe 10, that for their last number he would like to dedicate it to "you guys in front". We were the only two. "Join The Professionals" was fast and furious. That was it. No encore. Go home.


Luckily enough I had gotten tickets to the next night's show at the University Of Maryland's Grand Ballroom. They were opening for Siouxsie and the Banshees. This time out I was with my ex-girlfriend who attended school there. I was pretty tired from the night before, but made a go for the front anyway. This time though the crowd was much larger, probably a few hundred, and really drunk to boot. The slamming started as soon as they started to play. Too much for me and the ex, we stepped to the back of the hall and watched the rest of  The Professionals set. The sound was terrible. All bass, drowning out Steve's guitar and vocal. The crowd liked them at first, but soon the hecklers were at it. "Get off! We want Siouxsie! Anarchy! God Save The Queen!" It was a quick set, 30 minutes tops. Siouxsie came on and we left after a few numbers.

I loved the album, but just wished it had the singles on it. Then news of the crash in Rolling Stone magazine. No US release of the album. They were gone. So much potential had gone down the drain. Three years later I visited my relatives in England. The biggest thrill of my time abroad was flying home with Paul Cook on board. But that's another story. I asked him if he ever remembered playing the Marble, his reply, "nah mate!"

As a postscript, the Marble Bar closed down nearly 10 years ago, along with the hotel, and now sits in decay. What a shame. The Grand Ballroom burned down in the late 80's.

Jeff Ball
Maryland, USA,  May '99

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