Before Killing Joke, Youth tells us about his whole adventure in punk rock

[caption id="attachment_24746" align="alignright" width="300"]portrait of the artist as a young Big Youth fan portrait of the artist as a young Big Youth fan[/caption]


In 1977 I had just left school. I wasn't going to be 16 till the end of the year, so I was still 15 and had just returned from a summer job in the South of France where I had been working as a general worker on a British run campsite.

Just prior to this time I was what was known as a "Soul boy", going to disco's in London like Countdown and the Global village...listening to disco ...the look was very proto punk- Bowie pegs or tight jeans, winkle pickers or jelly sandals- later it got more eccentric with army uniforms and soon black bin liners and safety pins. I heard a lot of people talk about the Roxy but I never went but although not well documented, soul boys in London were the precursor to punk.

The Holiday job was an amazing adventure, only slightly eclipsed by the fact that punk rock was exploding in London and I was missing my chance and I couldn't wait to get stuck in. I had caught a bit of the fever before I left and it tasted fresh. Prior to this I thought there was no point in doing music as a career choice as I thought it had all been done, how were you going to top the Stones and the Zep or the Beatles, Marley, Heatwave? It was futile trying, although I was writing songs by then I thought it was all over and my best bet was my other love, "Art" so, art school it was.

I had been accepted to Wimbledon art school 2 years early due to a great letter from my art teacher and a great portfolio and A+ O 'levels.However as soon as I returned to London I got a bedsit in Earls Court with my mate from France Billy Daley who soon moved out to be with his girlfriend and Alex Paterson (later on we formed The Orb). Alex was my old school mate and moved in fresh from Croyden art school. He left school a year before and had caught the first wave of punk, going to the Roxy and had even been photographed there and was in a Sunday Times supplement spread on it!
Punk taught us the future had only just begun.

Alex and me started going to lots of gigs. We would take speed, blues up to 4 or 5, sometimes more and pints of snakebite and we would walk all over London to gigs getting free entry at the Camden music machine and see a few bands on every night at the Marquee or the Nashville, and even Croydon Greyhound. Croydon was tricky as I had an unusual look at the time - my top half was pure Elvis slicked back hair with side burns and leather but my bottom half was bondage trousers and a bib. If i was in Croydon at a gig and you couldn't see my legs I looked like a rocker ted and there was some bad blood blood between punks and rockers in Croydon.

A teen punk had been murdered by teddy boys, Hells angels were kicking friends out of squats (including Alex) who were punk. So I took my life in my hands sometimes and got some deadly vibes but mainly incredulous looks of 'he must be crazy' luckily Alex knew them and kept them cool.

I remember Shane McGowen hanging around that Croydon crew with his band The Nipple Erectors. It was at this time I also started to audition for bands, well I only went to one and it was in a Fulham rehearsal studio which had something to do with the Lurkers.

I answered an ad in Sounds music paper. The ad was for a band with management looking for a bass player. I hadn't actually ever played a bass guitar in my life but I could play guitar a bit and knew what they did vaguely.

Luck was on my side as there were about 8 guys queuing up outside this room and they were all a lot older than me- mid twenties at least they seemed ancient to me and none of them were punks.

They were all pub rockers with mullets. The manager, who didn't look much older than my 16 told me to wait until last. Years later he picked me up driving a black cab and told me that he was in fact 17, a year older than me!

I got my chance and feebly explained how my bass had been stolen at a party the week before, fortunately the guitarist, "Riff ", had a spare Rickenbaker copy ...a beautiful sunburst finish on her. I kept my eyes on his hands and followed his strumming. For some unbeknown reason they immediately said "you're in the band" and then "we start rehearsing Monday for our tour supporting the Adverts.....do you want to move into our flat in Tulse hill?" without blinking I said "yes ! I'll move in tomorrow!"

Ten days later The Rage were on tour supporting the Adverts and the Saints on a 32 date UK tour...Wow, and I was still a virgin.

Gary Gilmore's eyes was on the ascendancy and the shows were packed and I very soon developed a huge crush on Gaye Advert, although she was friendly and I would get the odd shy smile she was firmly attached to TV Smith and they were always together. This ended abruptly when I realised I was totally out of her league and didn't want to get it in it when I caught sight of her and tim doing some, what i though then was, "heavy "drugs in a toilet but was speed, everyone was usually on speed, except us Proto "straight edge" Rage guys and the dark narcotics are usually done behind closed locked doors but I remember a few experiences where people were doing it openly at that time and it almost became hip.

I'm told that smack came into the punk scene from NYC with the Heartbreakers and Nancy Stundegn. The Adverts were much older, They were in their twenties and they were going through a classic coping not very well with fame and success story. So its inspiring that Tim has carved out an uncompromising story on his own terms with his solo career and that Gaye is very active in the art world.

The Adverts were a great band. TV smith had a lot to say and he really meant it. Gaye was icy cool beautiful and indifferent on stage but her bass playing was great and worked well against Howard's razor buzz guitars.

The Saints were an amazing band. They still had long hair and looked liked junkies in old raincoats but they sounded amazing, not unlike the Ramones but with more chords. They were Australian and ripped the place apart every night. The Adverts were riding high on a hit single and most of the shows were full if not sold out.

The venues were from large clubs to theatres holding a couple of thousand kids. The weird thing I remember was their sound guy would mix in the sound of applause at the end of their set to get the crowd clapping I presume, although totally unnecessary as the crowd went berserk every night .....I have never seen or heard that since.

The band I was in was called The Rage and they had a strict no drugs. no pot policy- 'hippy stuff" they sneered when we came across it. I was too young to really question it but it didn't bother me I was having the time of my life on half a shandy in a club! The band was formed by John Towe, who's claim to fame was that he was the original drummer in Generation X. He had known the Adverts personally from the Roxy and was a determined, ambitious and driven man and a nice guy. Later he replaced Laurie Driver in the Adverts who he had taught how to play. Laurie only had one beat but he played it really well, when John Joined I think the Adverts were at their happiest.

Unfortunately our guitarist wasn't a nice guy and very soon upped sticks to form the first punk super group called the White Cats with Rat Scabies from the Damned. This split the band up. We had first begun with an american singer called "Skip" who was like a innocent Iggy Pop. I can't remember what happened to him, I think his visa ran out and he returned to the USA but he was soon replaced by Chris Gent who was another pub rocker gone new wave and played a sax and not a bad singer. We didn't let him play his sax though.

Chris later went on to form the Stukkas and had a hit with "Too Late To Be 21" which was the Rage's best song and as I remember we all wrote it. However the Stukkas version, which was a minor hit was without our song writing credits. Strange, delicate, synchronistic forces were at work. Weird, my manager now, and for the last 25 years, is Jaz Summers who managed the Stukkas briefly around that time. They were his first band after Richard Digence had got them a publishing deal on that song and so indirectly was working on my music then from the beginning for both of us.

By the time the tour got to Liverpool we were hitting our stride and sounding pretty good. The manager of Erics in Liverpool offered us a regular support slot at the club- 3rd on the bill, 5 nights a week for 2 weeks....Bingo!

We moved into a road full of squats in Liverpool, our manager Dave and I were put up by Budgie, then in the Spitfire boys (who also included another member who would be my manager and great mentor Bill Drummond of KLF fame) and later Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Budgie was a very affable gent who always had a smile on his face. We supported the Stranglers, the Pretenders- everyone who was anyone that played at Erics. It was two doors up from the original Cavern and had a magic and aura of legend and promise. One night we all ended up after the gig in a party at another squat in our road which was Jayne Casey's, who was then in Big in Japan and later on went on to run Cream the legendary super club of dance in the mid 1990's.

"I lost my virginity to a girl from the DHSS, in Jayne Casey's squat in Liverpool......"
It sounds strange like a Buzzcock's song title but nevertheless it's true and kind of sums up my 1977 experience. It would make a good movie....
That night I copped off with a girl who worked at the DHSS ( the dole office ), I lost my virginity that night. It was strange experience. I had been waiting to lose it for what seemed like an eternity, and here I was with this older, more experienced civil servant with liquorice glasses. We got stuck in on a mattress on the floor in a quieter room while the party raged next door. What I remember was all I could think about was what Peter Parker had told me at school when he had claimed he had lost his virginity- "Feels like sticking your finger into a pot of jam" he had said and it did too, but before I had even got it in, I had thought it was in and had started thrashing around when she exclaimed "Eee its not even in yet ! "

She then grabbed my wannabe manhood and guided me in, when after 6 strokes I blew my load and rolled over, she wasn't happy. Later on we tried again but her scent and the whole thing was making me think that maybe I was gay and didn't know it or something was wrong with me, I got out of there super fast in the morning.

Riff had had a flirtation with my stepsister Nicole who was drop dead gorgeous, they had a snog at the Slough gig but a week later we were playing the Vortex and he couldn't remember her name. Her face collapsed and I stifled a laugh but also felt for her and immediately realised he wasn't a good guy, a bit of gigolo. He would always turn up in a Range Rover separate from the band driven by a much older attractive women, who was married to a well known pop producer/composer.

The times were such that I shared a large room with Riff in Tulse hill, he had the large double bed and I had a small single tucked away in the corner. When Riff got bored with a girl he was seeing he nodded her on to me, Debbie was lovely she didn't say much but looked gorgeous and her scent was sweet to my hormone receptors.

One night I was laying in bed and then there she was, naked and next to me, no words spoken but her eye's made it all understood. We stayed together a few nights.

This all happened before my next band the all girl, all lesbian, Stilleto's- whose lead singer, I kid you not was called Fanny! I was the token hetrosexual punk. The band were fun but awful but that got me spotted by Punk Svengali Jock McDonold at a gig at the Aklam hall and invited to join John Lydon's younger brothers band, the 4 be 2's and got me on my first record, One of the Lads, produced by John Lydon and released on Island which grazed the top 40.

This was all before Killing Joke, which was the end of my innocence.... Killing Joke had started to happen at around the same time and very soon eclipsed it, although there were some interesting connections.

John Lydon came down to a Fatal Microbes recording that we all ended up playing on, I played bass on an Annie Anxiety record, although that was part of the Adrian Sherwood, Crass posse. There was a lot of hanging out at P.I.L mansions on Gunter Grove and an inter pollination was happening.

Labroke Grove was a very exciting place to be at that time, the birth of Post Punk. The next band I supported was Joy Division on their last tour with Killing Joke which was an amazing experience and
still just the beginning....I feel very privileged to bear witness .and survive to tell the tale.

6 thoughts on “Before Killing Joke, Youth tells us about his whole adventure in punk rock

  1. Bone White

    Really interesting to read that – Youth has never been one of the regular “Talking Heads” that turn up on TV talking about Punk so its good to get a fresh and different perspective on things.

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  3. Fantastic article. I would love to read the next installment… The first thing I learnt to play was the Wardance bass line, but I never knew anything about what Youth did before Killing Joke before now.

  4. Pingback: Youth tells us about life before Killing Joke | GODS & ALCOVES

  5. capitol Tremendous account, super-erb; luv ya Martin “Peace Man!” ya punK

  6. linda

    good old days we were 2 punk scouse sisters who met killing joke at erics then went to stay with them in london to watch a few gigs great band

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