Growing up punk- part 1 of a Clash fan’s memoirs
ALL THE YOUNG DUDES
I was born in the late 50s, and grew up in a pretty dysfunctional working class family in Exeter, Devon. A middling and muddling stu-dent at school, and very shy. Under the cosh from my father from pretty much day one, music was my escape. By the time i was 10, The Monkees, were my dons, closely followed in my affections by The Small Faces, Love Affair and The Move.
By 1972, not only was i worshipping at the altar of messers Radford, George and Kennedy of the mighty Arsenal FC, But also Glam was making a platformed boot impression on my teenage self. Gary Glitter, The Glitter Band, Sweet, Mott, Bowie and Slade were on heavy rotation on my parents stereogram.
As like a lot of teenagers, i learnt to play an instrument, in my case, the drums. Many hours were spent trying to master the drumming chops of The Glitterband’s twin sticksmen, Tony Leonard and Peter Phipps. How the neighbours must have loved my asmilation of the glitter beat shaking their best crockery. I played in a piss poor school band, Buddy & The Bliz, playing covers of the hits of the day ”â Glitter, Mud, Hawkwind and Smokie, but that went nowhere fast.
Also a stint playing in cabaret band, was uninspiring but the money was good.
I left school in the mid-seventies without qualifications, and my first taste of gainful employment was working in the publishing de-partment of my local Exeter newspaper, The Express and Echo – packag-ing and labeling papers. It was tedious and mundane, but I stuck it for a year, before I left to work the night shift at WH Smith’s ware-house. I was working permanent nights, and my social life was virtu-ally non-existent, so after eleven months, I jacked in and signed on the dole. I lived at home at the time, and my father’s generation lived and died by the accepted work ethic. In his book, it wasn’t ac-ceptable to loaf around on the dole, so he hassled me at every oppor-tunity to get a job, any job. Even though the very thought of graft-ing for shit wages wasn’t on my agenda. I fell in love with music in the late sixties, and the idea of ‘working’ for a living didn’t ap-peal to me. It’s was football or music, or i was destined for the assembly line. But in 1976 /77 something was brewing that would change our lives forever.
ALL THE YOUNG PUNKS
”ËCARRER OPPORTUNITIES THE ONE THAT NEVER KNOCKS / EVERY JOB THEY OF-FER YOU IS TO KEEP YOU OUT THE DOCK.’
CARRER OPPORTUNITIES ”â THE CLASH
My father and I were always at loggerheads. Whatever I did – if it did not fit with his idea of how he thought I should behave, he made my life a misery. His outdated family values caused endless friction and arguments were frequent. To avoid conflict at home ”â I hung out with two local punks who lived nearby. Rob Avery was a gangling six-footer with a contagious personality and a fantastic record collec-tion. On the other hand, Snew, was an unstable character, who’d been brought up by his mother and never knew his father. His idea of ”Ëfun’ was to heap minor cruelty on his pet dog. Snew really was a fucked up, horrible piece of work. All of us were on the dole, and virtually penniless so to swerve the old man’s aggro I spent the majority of time at Rob’s digesting the new punk sounds, that Rob had snapped up with the remainder of his meagre giro.
Rob was Exeter’s first bona-fide punk, and he received a lot of stick from the locals for his efforts. In the late 70s, Exeter was a very backward thinking place to live, so when Rob braved the city streets, he often recieved a beating because he was a punk.
Exeter youth were slow in grasping punk, and it didn’t fully filter through until, summer, 1977. I wasn’t one of the first punks on my block, but I soon realized, prog, disco, and tepid pop music of the day, said NOTHING about my life, and punk was the only way forward. The Clash’s Career Opportunities, White Riot and 1977 – the Pistols Pretty Vacant, and the Buzzcocks Boredom, echoed my very existence. Very soon, i offloaded my Bad Company and Eagles albums and my prized glam collection.
PUNK ROCKERS IN THE UK
”ËARE YOU TAKING OVER OR ARE YOU TAKING ORDERS / ARE YOU GOING BACK-WARDS OR ARE YOU GOING FORWARDS.’
WHITE RIOT ”â THE CLASH
Apart from Rob, Snew, and a couple of others, my friends loathed punk rock. So they were swiftly left with their bell bottoms flapping in the wind! (It’s strange how something so seemingly trivial as music can divide those who were once close friends).
Very soon, my punk allegiance had me tagged as a social leper in cer-tain quarters. Regulars at my local boozer were disgusted by punk and made their thoughts known after a few beers. However, petty ill-informed remarks made me even more determined to persevere with my punk rock quest – as there was absolutely no way I was going to con-form and toe the accepted party line. Those who dismissed punk as ”Ëtuneless rubbish played by degenerates’ were blinkered fools, stuck in the past. Punk wasn’t about note perfect guitar solos or odes to unrequited love – it dealt in the here and now. This country was crumbling beneath our feet, with mass employment, the three day week, strikes, power cuts, police oppression, and the disturbing rise of the scummy far right NF goons. It was a grim time to come of age in the sepia seventies. But punk was the antidote to the drabness of england’s dreaming.
I needed cash ”â but there was little prospect of any work. The only option that faced me was working in a factory or worse. But that was a non-starter. Punk dragged me by the boot straps and showed me the way forward, and I quickly decided I wasn’t going to take any more shit that was thrown at me on a daily basis by my father and his peers. I didn’t relish accepting my lot, and exsisting for the week-end piss-up, a drippy girlfriend hanging on my arm, and an impending life of repetition, boredom, and working for THE MAN until retirement beckoned. This was Year Zero maaaaaaaaaan!
My escapism was music. Also, I could see people I worked with in the past, had resigned themselves to a sorry routine of, mortgage, mar-riage, work, and death. I wanted no part of that! I was in the minor-ity and that suited me fine. Those fortunate enough to have a trade were better placed on the job front. But I didn’t want that commit-ment either.
In spite of endless pressure from my father, I refused to play the game. I wasn’t cut out for menial tasks and even to this day, (apart from periods of severe financial desperation, which is often, unfor-tunately); I will not entertain the idea of a ‘career.’
I dodged the frequent verbal bullets at home, and barely survived on the pittance that was dole money. Due to cash flow problems, my punk grab was home made and DIY. Predictably, my old man went crazy when he saw my get-up. Anything less than a conformist style of dress had me down as a degenerate in his book! I endured years of my father’s shit, but he was losing his grip, as punk became a way of life. But he would still explode with anger when the mood took him. Things came to a head one evening while I was watching the TV show,’Rock Goes To College'(a weekly ‘in concert’ style programme, broadcast from a uni-versity or college, featuring ‘new wave’ acts of the day). My father came bounding into the living room following yet another heavy drink-ing induced slumber, just as Joe Jackson was running through his in-offensive new wave pop. Without warning, my father lunged at the TV, shouting, “Get a proper job you bastard!”Â I tried to reason with him, but he wasn’t having it. A row erupted, blows were exchanged and I fled the house with the old man clad in white ‘wifebeater’ vest in hot pursuit. However, incidents like these were commonplace, and we never ever saw eye to eye. I hated my father, and spent many nights kipping at friends houses avoiding the bastard.
Due to lack of employment, I was always skint, and had to make the best of my dismal financial situation. So, when it came to transform-ing my image ”â I cut my hair in a punk style myself! Those unable to master the art resembled John Mills’ character in Ryan’s Daughter! To complete ‘the look,’ I purchased a pair of sturdy, hard-wearing, green army fatigues from Endicotts, the local Army & Navy store ”â and a pair of black Doc Marten boots from my mother’s mail order cata-logue. Exeter ”Ëstraights’ were kitted out in hideous flared jeans and garish coloured high-waist trousers, but I binned all that and liber-ated my old school blazer from the back of my wardrobe (now two sizes too small) which I customized with strategically placed rips and punk badges. But the clock was ticking, as the old man was close to boil-ing point and near to issuing me the order of the boot! I completed my punk overhaul with a collection of safety pins (purloined from my mothers sewing box), and emblazoned one yellow T-shirt with every punk band doing the rounds, I ended up resembling the NME gig guide!
New punk converts began sprouting up in Exeter in the wake of punk’s escalating popularity – however, ridicule and abuse wasn’t far away. A lot of part-time punks too. But after the novelty wore off, they quickly returned to their Oxford bags, wing collared shirts, stack-heeled boots, and high street fashions. Even though I wasn’t decked out in McLarens costly creations, it didn’t mean I wasn’t dedicated to the ”Ëcause.’ A number of Exeter ”Ëpunks,’ claiming to be part of the movement, were in effect, glorified clotheshorses who saw punk a fashion statement as opposed to a bona-fide way of life. The part-timers would parade up and down Exeter High Street at weekends, clad in their costly threads extracting disbelieving glances from the city shoppers. However, they weren’t in it for the right reasons ”â as it takes guts to be a social outcast! Ha.
It may seem hard to believe in these so called liberated times, but back in the early punk days it was a dangerous time to be associated with the movement. I often received abuse from – straights, shop own-ers, bouncers, publicans, bus drivers, and squaddies, because I was a punk! Pathetic eh? However, it was exciting, and beat the norm.
The negative press coverage following the Sex Pistols swear fest on Bill Grundy’s Tonight Show, resulted in publicans and club owners up and down the country, issuing complete blanket bans on anybody, or anything remotely connected to punk. Exeter was no exception – and getting served in pubs and clubs was a full-time headache. Those who believed all that anti-punk crap that filled the tabloids, written under the guise of sensationalized journalism wrongly assumed we were all anarchic, unruly psychopaths – well, some were, but the majority, weren’t as evil as portrayed in the press. Exeter’s brain-dead yokels took an instantaneous dislike to punk, and it wasn’t uncommon to en-counter some knuckle-dragger, whose sole aim seemed to be to batter senseless any punk they encountered.
WHAT WE WEAR IS DANGEROUS GEAR
One hovel that did serve punks, was seedy city centre pub, The London Inn, just off Exeter High Street. Every Friday night, there was a disco in the upstairs bar. The resident DJ was a Tony Blackburn wan-nabee, churning out sickly Top 30 dross, piss weak soul and disco garbage on heavy rotation. Harder, more credible punk was strictly off limits. However, with a little prompting, Elvis Costello, Blon-die, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ian Dury and Mink Deville tracks, made the night bearable amid the commercial garbage on offer.
The London Inn wasn’t perfect for Exeter’s punk rock crew to hang out, but it was that or nothing. Because I for one did not want to run the risk of a hiding from the local beer monsters who populated Exeter’s ”Ënuts and sluts’ venues. A group of local small-time, small-minded criminal fraternity also drank in the London Inn bottom bar. Fortunately, our paths rarely crossed. However, I was taking a leak one night, when suddenly, two burly thugs surrounded me, and I was informed in no uncertain terms, that ‘scum’ like me were not welcome in ”Ëtheir’ pub and if my punk mates and I didn’t vacant the boozer, we were liable to be spending the remainder of the night admiring the paintwork on the ceiling of the recovery room at the hospital Acci-dent and Emergency department! I hurriedly returned to the top bar and told my friends of the imminent kicking that awaited us if we didn’t vacate the premises pronto. Drinks were swiftly downed – and we attempted a swift getaway. Unfortunately, the two goons who had acousted me in the khazi, were now joined by several others and were waiting at the exit. Following a brief scuffle, we were chased to a nearby park, but we avoided any grief by hiding on the roof of the park keeper’s hut. Phew! Lucky escape number 292!