Legendary Sheffield live music club that took it to The Limit

The Limit reigned supreme on West Street, Sheffield city centre, from 1978 to 1991. The Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1980s Sheffield – The Limit Edition, celebrates its life.

Monday, 18th May 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Thursday, 21st May 2020, 12:31 am
The Cramps caused some amusement at The Limit
The Cramps caused some amusement at The Limit

Former manager and DJ Paul Unwin remembers here...

The late Seventies and Eighties were a period of high unemployment and political turmoil in Sheffield – but in The Limit you could leave it behind.

We provided excitement, escapism and amazing music. The memories will be with thousands of punters for a lifetime – it is an amazing feeling to have been a part of that.

Siouxsie and the Banshees playing The Limit

The two directors – George Webster and Kevan Johnson – were a Jekyll and Hyde combination.

George loved the music – it had been his life up until then. Kevan was an ex-policeman and businessman with support from his wife, who helped manage the purse strings.

Relations could be toxic and it wouldn’t be uncommon for there to be a state of disagreement.

But, for all its faults, The Limit was a formidable success for much of its lifetime.

Vice Versa (later to become ABC) at The Limit

There was also some other key people on the Limit payroll at the start, Ged Doherty, now head of the BPI, British Phonographic Industry, being one of them.

He was in charge of booking bands and was successful in bringing Siouxsie & the Banshees, the B-52’s and other key acts in the early days of the club.

Instead of dressing up to go clubbing, The Limit offered an alternative - dressing down. Jeans and T-shirts became acceptable, although we had to convince Kevan that trainers were an acceptable form of dress.

We were lucky enough to witness music history happening here in Sheffield with the rise of the likes of Human League, Def Leppard and others.

Wilko Johnson at The Limit - years before Game of Thrones

On occasions, I had the pleasure of helping influence the industry people who were prepared to come and listen to what was happening

However, it was definitely not all my doing. The music industry was extremely buoyant during this period and record sales were at an all-time high.

This meant that behind the scenes record companies were extremely proactive when it came to promotion.

Some Sheffield DJs from the earlier days of the Buccaneer/Wapentake had moved into different jobs within the music industry but remained in contact.

Kevin Johnson (left) with George Webster

Former Wapentake DJ Dave Bates went on to work for Virgin Records and then Phonogram where he became head of A&R, and signed acts including Def Leppard and Tears for Fears.

Thanks to Dave, I got records well ahead of their release and would often leave Phonogram’s head office on New Bond Street, London, carrying armfuls of vinyl.

Ged also left The Limit to work for Richard Branson at the Victoria Palace in London, promoting bands, and then went on to manage Sniff & the Tears, Paul Young and Alison Moyet, before becoming head of Arista Records and Sony Music.

So when The Limit opened it became a magnet for rock ’n’ roll. The West Street crawl would usually end up at our place.

Was there any fun while working at the Limit? Well, the simple answer is yes.

If you were a people watcher and were sober and stood where I was during the night, you would see things that would make you smile and on occasion nearly wet yourself laughing.

The Limit club on West Street

For instance, the night The Cramps played for the first time, their lead singer Erick Lee Purkhiser, alias Lux Interior, caused great amusement to the audience.

He counted the band in by banging the microphone four times on the false roof above the Limit stage. On the fourth attempt he succeeded in removing the complete roof panel.

The club’s owners weren’t impressed, I overheard one of the directors say ‘they'll have to pay for that’.

There were amusing moments, missed opportunities, scary times, total insanity, which after 10 years of being the best or worst DJ, according whichever director or manager you would talk to, it was time to leave. Therefore, in May 1988 I left The Limit for the last time.

Was the decision to leave a difficult one to make? Well, the simple answer was no.

*The book is available from dirtystopouts.com and Amazon for £13.95

'Deaf Leppard' support the Human League!