Steve Drayton

Drayton: Anvil Springstein isn’t dead

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Anvil Springstein isn’t dead. He’s going to Australia.

I’ve known and worked with Anvil from the very early days of North East comedy, so I consider it apposite that I recount some Anvil-related stories. He helped make the comedy scene what it is today.

We may never see the like of him again, unless he comes back – and then we will.

One of his early guises was as The Human Anvil. Together with his brother Billy he contrived to demonstrate the collective power of the workers against capitalism. He did this by shouting at the audience, laying on the floor, having a full-sized paving slab placed on his chest, then his brother Billy hit it with a sledgehammer. This act was banned by the Tyneside and District Ex-Servicemen’s Club. Quite often the shrapnel from the slab would bloody his handsome visage. The ladies loved it. His first nickname was Bed Post Notch Anvil, as his derring-do made him a babe magnet.

On deciding that as a grown man he should retire from having his ribs cracked he staged the death of the Human Anvil. By this time Graeme had taken the reigns, who, to be honest, wasn’t as accurate with a Sledgehammer as Billy. Anvil copped a great deal of concrete to the face, he was bleeding profusely, attempting to raise himself as not to choke on his own blood. Graeme’s foot was firmly placed on Anvils chest whilst reading his death notice and under his breath telling Anvil to keep still as he was spoiling the illusion. It was at this point that the act developed its first popular catch phrase – ‘Fer Fucks Sake Graeme’. Happily he survived.

Despite stories to the contrary, I believe I suggested the name Springstein. He was looking for something to pin on to Anvil, as it had a nice ring to it. I suggested taking the Bruce moniker, as he was the biggest act in the world at the time – it was either that or Anvil Jackson, Anvil Madonna or Pepsi and Anvil. He chose the right name.

Pulling together the region’s comedy talent, Anvil was the lynch pin of Near the Knuckle, a comedians co-operative (how quaint, how 1970s – a comedy co-op). He urged us to have a ‘pan-European set’ – comedy that could be taken around Europe. How we all laughed. How wrong we were. We had an old ambulance, we had gigs in Hartlepool, surely shows in Hull and Rotterdam were just a blink away?

His front room in Granville Gardens, Jesmond. If ever there was a location for a Blue Plaque it’s here. It’s rooted in comedy history. Anyone could pitch up here and be welcomed with a tab and a cup of stewed tea. Any one, any time. His heart was, and is, like a wheel, and he’ll unselfishly roll it your way whenever it’s needed. He saved me from myself a couple of times through just being him. A very kind man.

His comedy gets better and better. I’ve seen much of his act in its various guises over the years, it’s like listening to a well loved album. I can do several of his routines word for word (note to self – now he’s gone, not a bad idea). He does however have the devil in him. Last year we gigged together in South Shields. A lovely friendly family audience, all showing the Racism The Red Card. He was rolling along, showing just how it should be done, and then….’So I was fucking this Nun’. Kaboom. Anvil went one way, the audience the other. He loved it. Bless him and all who sail in him.

In Sunderland he once suggested that we chin a fifteen year old and cocky Ross Noble, just for the hell of it.

He called me and my mate Rob ‘the oldest pair of cunts in the world’ at The Stand in Newcastle. Fair dos.

He squealed like a baby when, on driving back across Lake District, I turned off the car head lights, guessing which way the road was heading.

As I said, he’s not dead, just away for a while. I’ll miss him.