Bob Maltby - the original sound of Rebels...
Original Rebels DJ Bob Maltby was kind enough to contribute to forthcoming 'Signing On For The Devil - the Rise of Steel City Rock'. Here's a bit of a sneak preview (early pics courtesy of Shirley Freeman).
He was one of Sheffield’s earliest rock DJs. He started at the Penthouse and carved out a name for himself in the early years of Rebels as well as doing stints at KGB and the Saddle. He remembers:
“It all began way back in about 1977/1978, I was a customer in the Penthouse and became friends with the DJ who was called Dave May, his mother worked in the cloakroom and sold the ciggies (lovely woman), I'm not sure how it came about but Dave left and they were stuck for a DJ. The manager at the time was Alan Slingsby and I said I would do it. He asked if I'd done it before and I said yes. I hadn't of course but I went up on the stage and muddled my way through. I continued to spin the discs right up until the the Penthouse closed.
I twiddled my thumbs for sometime afterwards wondering what to do next, when I got a call from Dave May asking if I would stand in for him on the coming Sunday night at the Saddle on West Street, I agreed and for some reason Dave never came back, so I carried on starting with just the Sunday night which became very busy. As a result of that I ended up doing four nights a week.
At the same time there was a place called the KGB that was in the dance hall part of the Abbeydale Cinema that was doing rock discos on Friday and Saturday night. Anyway, after a while and some pressure from the punters they decided to give me a chance. They obviously thought I wouldn't be any good and, because there weren't that many people going in, they agreed to pay me 25p per head. They thought they were onto a good thing! However, on the first night the place was packed and they had to pay me a fortune. Then a lad I knew from the Penthouse helped persuade Steve Baxendale – who was about to open Rebels – that he should use me for the a Friday night. I played the first rock night at Rebels.
I continued to DJ at the club until 1990 when, after an argument about a particular track, I promptly turned the music off and walked out and that was my last night. The management, a chap called Ron, was into soul music and said I wasn’t allowed to play thrash metal. He came up on the stage and started telling me what I should be playing and that was it.
The early days of Rebels were amazing - the doors opened at 8pm and closed at 2am and at the weekend people queued all the way up the Haymarket and by 8.15 we were packed all night. Luckily the sound system at Rebels was amazing and very loud, you could hear the music as soon as you turned down the Haymarket.
A lot of very special friendships were made at Rebels and most people from those wonderful days meet up regularly. Most of them are on Facebook, just like me looking that bit older but perhaps not that much wiser - lol.
We had a few rock stars come in Rebels after playing the City Hall, mostly the support bands but occasionally some big names. One night Lemmy and Motörhead came in and caused quite a stir. Something occurred with the bouncers that night and Lemmy and crew left and smashed up their cars parked on Dixon Lane.
It would be difficult to say what my favourite song would be as I liked just about everything I played. Perhaps that was partly why Rebels was so good, I was enjoying myself so much that it fed into the crowd. I’d have to say that Magic Power by Triumph is a great favourite, thinking about it now, In the Still of the Night by Whitesnake is probably one of my favourite songs especially when played on the Rebels amazing sound system. I remember that the bass bins on the sound system were huge and we often found people asleep in them - I can't imagine what their head was like the next day, but I'm glad it wasn't mine. The sound system was a custom affair built by someone Steve Baxendale knew and I've never heard better since. Taxi drivers that liked rock music used sit on Haymarket and listen to the music in between fares.
To the best of my memory there were about 90 stairs up to Rebels, certainly there was nine flights of stairs and I think nine or 10 steps on each flight. The Rebels crowd thought they were steep, but try carrying thousands of records up to the top every night (in the early days) and just remember that all the beer and stuff was carried to the top. In fact at Christmas Rebels bought extra stocks of beer and lager etc and on top of carrying it up the Rebels stairs they then had to lift it onto the roof for storage.”