‘Searching For The Young Joe Rebel’

Working title of the to be published (2012) book by Joe Swinford, when published it will include the below foreward by LTW boss John Robb.

JR: Rock ‘n’ Roll is more than just the bands; it’s about the characters, the individuals, and the slicked back gangsters in boring towns up and down the UK. Dreamers who grew up with punk, diving headlong into the maelstrom of violence and excitement that punk rock offered as the rest of the UK slumbered into boredom.

Rock ‘n’ Roll is a 24/7 lifestyle; Joe Swinford’s book reflects this. This is a ribald ill of carousing, getting pissed, fighting, fucking and falling out, all to the glorious soundtrack of Strummer and Jones. Living the dream whilst living in the Rock ‘n’ Roll outpost of Exeter.

It’s about having the music, the style, and the attitude in small town Britain. It’s about living the dream on desolate winter nights as the rain teams down. It’s about sticking up for your mates in battered boozers; it’s about taking the knocks for not dressing in the de rigueur style. It’s about escape from the humdrum. It’s about being a true believer. It’s about having the soul power when all the rest of the world wants you to do some fucked up job. It’s about having the edge; it’s about the quest. It’s about maintaining the purity of choice in face of relentless bombardment of dull boring corporate chain bar reality TV show Britain.

Joe Swinford knows this; he’s been living it since the punk rock days. Obsessed with The Clash he ends up becoming mates with Joe Strummer before the guttural poet of punk rock died. It’s about falling in love with the early Manic Street Preachers. It’s about a passion for music, a passion for rebel culture, a passion for life.

This book is a tale of rock ‘n’ roll from the real front-line, a million miles away from the phoney fashion wars of London. This is what it’s like to grow up in Exeter, create your own dream, and live your own life. It’s the tale of failed bands, bad drugs and shitty hangovers all sound-tracked by one of the best record collections a man could have.

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 student 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 ”“ 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 department of my local Exeter newspaper, The Express and Echo – packaging 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 warehouse. I was working permanent nights, and my social life was virtually 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 acceptable to loaf around on the dole, so he hassled me at every opportunity to get a job, any job. Even though the very thought of grafting 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 appeal 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
”˜CARRER OPPORTUNITIES THE ONE THAT NEVER KNOCKS / EVERY JOB THEY OFFER YOU IS TO KEEP YOU OUT THE DOCK.’
CARRER OPPORTUNITIES ”“ 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 ”“ 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 collection. 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 ”˜fun’ 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
”˜ARE YOU TAKING OVER OR ARE YOU TAKING ORDERS / ARE YOU GOING BACKWARDS OR ARE YOU GOING FORWARDS.’
WHITE RIOT ”“ 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 certain 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 conform and toe the accepted party line. Those who dismissed punk as ”˜tuneless 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 ”“ 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 weekend 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, marriage, work, and death. I wanted no part of that! I was in the minority 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 commitment 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, unfortunately); 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 university or college, featuring ‘new wave’ acts of the day). My father came bounding into the living room following yet another heavy drinking induced slumber, just as Joe Jackson was running through his inoffensive new wave pop. Without warning, my father lunged at the TV, shouting, “Get a proper job you bastard!” 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 transforming my image ”“ 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 ”“ and a pair of black Doc Marten boots from my mother’s mail order catalogue. Exeter ”˜straights’ were kitted out in hideous flared jeans and garish coloured high-waist trousers, but I binned all that and liberated 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 boiling 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 ”˜cause.’ A number of Exeter ”˜punks,’ 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 ”“ 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 owners, 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 encounter 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 wannabee, 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, Blondie, 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 ”˜nuts 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 ”˜their’ 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 Accident 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!

WE’RE A GARAGE BAND

In early ”˜78, I was on the return train journey home from Minehead, following an Exeter City FA Cup-tie, when I was introduced to a group of drunken Exeter punks, seeking a drummer for a punk band, that went by the dubious name of Spew X. They were enthusiastic – and as I could find my around a drum kit, I agreed to audition. Spew X’s chief mouthpiece was fast-talking punk, Shaun Pym. His reputation as a fighter preceded him, so initially, I was cautious, as I would be the first one on my toes if anything ‘kicked off.’I met with Shaun at his local boozer the following day, and we hit it off. Shaun possessed the right punk credentials and as an added bonus, he too, supported the mighty Arsenal FC. However, the majority of his mates were clueless ”˜yes-men.’ Roy Badcock was likeable enough, but his street cred took a nosedive when he stupidly attempted to spike his prematurely thinning hair with cold chip fat! Another of Shaun’s crew, Keith Tiso, was a good lad, but his dodgy seventies feather cut and fashionable beer-boy ”˜tache,’ made him resemble a dodgy Third Division footballer.

Following several canceled rehearsals, I sat in with Spew X at a squalid Exeter practice room. But it soon became clear, Shaun and his rabble didn’t have a clue and were oblivious to the effort required to attain a reasonable level of musical ability. Shaun looked great, but was completely tone deaf and incapable of holding a simple tune. However, Shaun’s minions naively believed he was the next Johnny Rotten and worshiped the ground he spat on. Nevertheless, I knew, this venture was doomed from the off. Aside from Shaun’s ”˜voice’ resembling someone in severe discomfort, Tiso, and bassist Tony Steer couldn’t even play a note. Compared to them, I was a musical genius, and easily handled anything they suggested. But it was useless. They turned up to rehearse without any preparation or plan, and soon the whole affair disintegrated into a drunken shambles. Punk was not about musical proficiency, but this lot, were as green as their underpants! I persevered, in the hope something worthwhile might emerge (more out of loyalty to Shaun than anything else). I even purchased a drum kit on HP, with Keith’s father, standing as guarantor. But STILL nothing happened. There was plenty of pub talk, but no one was writing songs or learning to play. Eventually, the idea of Spew X fizzled out. Surprisingly, about ten years ago, Spew X were mentioned in an online retrospective appraisal of Exeter punk bands.

Relations with my father came to a head following yet another argument, and he booted me out. I was potless, and couldn’t even afford a shitty bed-sit. But luckily, my half-brother Allan offered me his sofa to crash on until something more permanent came along. This was not ideal, as Allan had recently married and inherited a ready made family. But, anything was preferable than remaining under the same roof as my bastard father. Allan didn’t discriminate because of punk, he thought it was a phase I’d grow out of (which couldn’t have been further from the truth). Nonetheless, one advantage, was my local pub, The Crawford, was now on my doorstep (Allan eventually kicked me out after I pissed his sofa following a mammoth drinking session!).

Tiffany’s nightclub was the only local venue promoting punk shows in the early days. Locals The Brakes, and second-division punk bands, Chelsea and The Cortinas played there – but I missed both shows, as I was flat broke, and couldn’t afford a ticket (this was many years before I mastered the art of blagging into gigs for nowt). Apparently, the bands weren’t up to much, but it stirred up local interest in punk, and is still talked of today.

Plymouth Metro was another venue promoting punk gigs. One memorable show featured The Buzzcocks and The Slits. A number of short promo films were aired in between the bands, in place of the obligatory crap DJs and well-worn pre-gig tapes. It was brilliant! The Pistols God Save The Queen promo, and a three-track Clash film, featuring 1977, White Riot and London’s Burning made for compulsive viewing. The Buzzcocks played a great set, and I managed to obtain my first piece of punk memorabilia from the gig. Slits drummer Palmolive, kindly gave me her bass drum pedal – which remained in a drawer at my parent’s home for many years until my old man chucked it out!

More punks emerged in Exeter as the movement grew. I didn’t see Rob Avery, after I’d hooked up with Shaun’s crew. Rob’s lifestyle displeased his parents to such a degree, they offered him an ultimatum – he was told to sort his life out, forget punk, and get a job, or he would be thrown out the family home! Surprisingly, Rob followed his brother’s example and joined the Army. His decision, sent shock waves through Exeter’s punk community, because as Exeter’s first punk, it seemed implausible Rob would ”˜change sides’ and join up! In retrospect, I suppose he had no option. As far as I am aware, Rob worked his way up through the ranks, settled down, started a family and is still part of the Armed Forces today. Another one bites the dust! (I last saw Rob, in a backstreet Exeter pub in the early nineties. He looked uncannily like football legend Gazza. So, I jokingly took the piss. But he said, “You of all people should not take the Mickey out of the way people look.” He had a point).

Snew took an altogether different route and joined the National Front! So I washed my hands of him. Worryingly, several other ex-punks followed Snew’s example.

CLASH CITY ROCKERS

The Clash were my favourite band, and I finally got to see them live at Torquay Town Hall on July 10thth1978 as part of the Out On Parole Tour. It was life- changing. The three-pronged attack of Strummer, Jones, and Simonon blew me away. I loved their records with a passion, but live, The Clash were something else. They were road-testing material that eventually surfaced on second album Give ”˜Em Enough Rope. It was brilliant. It has been mentioned many times The Clash changed people’s lives – well, they certainly changed mine. From that day forward, no one has come close to the feeling I got from The Clash. I was also lucky to catch one of the badges Clash roadie Johnny Green threw into the crowd after the gig, which I still have.

AT THE NIGHTCLUB ”“ EARLY DOORS

In the summer of 1978, Exeter opened it’s first alternative venue, Routes, situated in the St.Thomas area of the city opposite the River Exe. Over time, manager Brian Highley successfully transformed the club from a chicken”“in-a-basket club into a credible venue that didn’t operate any ludicrous dress restrictions or obtuse music policy, which was commonplace in nightclubs before punk. Finally, Exeter punks had a base to call our own. Routes soon became a popular venue for touring punk and new wave acts of the day. Among the many bands I saw play Routes between 1978 and 1979, included, The Damned, 999, The Vibrators, The Ruts, UK Subs, Angelic Upstarts, Tom Robinson Band, Radio Stars, The Motors, Wire, Starjets, Albertos Y Los Paranoias, The Members, The Lurkers, The Vapors, The Motors, Wayne County and The Cockney Rejects.

DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME

Before The Police evolved into pompous stadium rockers, they played a secret gig at Routes for the measly sum of forty quid as warm-up for an imminent Reading Festival appearance. The gig was advertised on local radio and by word of mouth. But even with limited publicity, news quickly spread and the show swiftly sold out. However, those with a cast iron punk sensibility knew, Sting and his peroxide chums were blatant bandwagon jumpers achieving popularity hanging on the coat tails of punk. Before forming The Police, Sting was a teacher, playing in jazz bands. Drummer Stewart Copeland was a member of hippy bores Curved Air and guitarist Andy Summers was already a veteran on the club circuit, earning a crust in a version of 60s R&B beasts, The Animals, so, their punk credentials were dubious from the outset. Although The Police weren’t an authentic punk band, they did make an inoffensive row and I could see how kids unwilling to take the plunge and become fully-fledged punks warmed to them. The Police used punk as a springboard that eventually elevated them to global super stardom, and they are in all probability one of the bands the term ”˜new wave’ was coined for.

After the show, security was relatively low-key, so I slipped past the stage door monkeys and got backstage. Drummer Stewart Copeland was amicable, offering up his ”˜puff’ to those who fancied illumination! Guitarist Andy Summers kept to himself and didn’t say much, but was polite and friendly. However, Sting on the other hand was a total egomaniac. He was so far up his own backside, everything I asked was greeted with vitriolic sarcasm. After about half an hour of Sting’s rock star crap, I left him admiring his reflection in the dressing room mirror!

The Police returned to Routes a few months later following the chart success of their recently re-released single, Roxanne. After the gig, I went backstage again to speak to Sting. “I met you the last time you played here ”“ do you remember me? ” Sting was mauling a young punk girl perched on his lap, and looked at me as if I was something he had stepped in and replied sarcastically, “How could I forget?” I tried speaking to him further, but his arrogance typified everything punk rock was against (I have heard stories from others who have had similar encounters with old Stingo – guess what? I am not alone in thinking he is a wanker!). May I suggest the next time Sting decamps to the Rain Forest; he does us all a favour and stays there!

DANCING WITH MYSELF

Another memorable Routes show featured pop-punks Generation X -fronted by pretty boy punk pin-up Billy Idol. A number of punks I knew, hated Generation X ”“ believing they were ”˜too poppy.’ Personally, I thought they were excellent. Your Generation, Ready Steady Go, Wild Youth, King Rocker and Dancing With Myself were top quality tunes and I was eager to see them play. During the gig,, two inebriated skinheads took offence to the bands long-haired, leather clad roadie and shouted obscenities at him. Midway through their version of Gary Glitter’s glam stomper, Rock ”˜N’ Roll Part 1, Idol’s mic packed up, so the roadie rushed centre stage attempting to remedy the problem. As he fiddled with dodgy connections, the two skins yanked him off stage and battered the poor guy. Suddenly, Idol leapt from the stage and attacked the meatheads with his mic stand. After a scuffle, security pushed their way through the crowd and swiftly ejected the skins from the building. I met Idol after the show and mentioned I knew where the skinheads drank. The roadie looked up at me through blackened eyes and said, “Well that’s your next gig then innit?”

An annoying American punk girl, Jade was circling the dressing room hoping to add another punk star conquest to her studded belt. Jade moved to Exeter in 1977, befriending local punks, but she was an obnoxious peroxide star fucker, who bored everybody with tall tales of her supposed friendship with Debbie Harry and Sid’s obnoxious girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Bullshit, I suspect? Jade tried it on with Idol, but he was busy with another punk girl, so Jade had a crack at bassist Tony James. According to a reliable source (her ex-boyfriend), Jade and Tony returned to the band’s hotel for a spot of ”˜bedroom athletics’ – but before the pair could ”˜get it on’ as Marc Bolan once declared, Tony returned from the bog, only to be greeted by the sight of Jade, squatting over the washbasin taking a dump! Tony was disgusted, and threw Jade out. So, take heed kids, no doing the do-do in the porcelain!

AT THE NIGHTCLUB ”“ CLOSING TIME

Following my beloved Arsenal’s 3-2 1979 FA Cup Final victory over the scum that is Manchester United, I made my way to Routes to continue the celebrations. I arrived at the club, only to be informed by the doorman, I was barred for throwing glasses at American band The Dickies the previous week. These accusations were total bullshit, so I wrote to club manager Highley, explaining they had obviously got the wrong man, as I wasn’t in the habit of lobbing pint glasses at anyone, least of all The Dickies! Highley replied, stating, it was obvious I did not know what I was doing, and was adamant I was the culprit – and banned me from Routes for life! I was devastated. Not only was I not guilty of the glass throwing incident, but my friends were regular Routes goers, and despite initially closing ranks and blacklisting the club, they eventually trickled back. You could hardly blame them. Exeter’s dreary pubs were a poor alternative to the most happening place in town. (While banned, I missed a memorable show, featuring The Damned and The Ruts, at which Ruts front man Malcolm Owen split his head open on a cymbal following some on stage high-jinks. The following week, there was massive coverage in the music press).

Highley resurfaced several years later as a question compiler for
popular board game, Trivial Pursuits. One Sunday afternoon, I was watching a TV documentary featuring successful West Country residents – and there the bloated slob was sat on a yacht, sipping champers, rambling on about how he now worked for Trivial Pursuits. I don’t know who’s arse he kissed to secure that cushy little number, but he would have been better employed as a fit-up merchant for the Old Bill, because he stitched me up like a proverbial kipper!

A couple of months following my ban, I bumped into a club regular I knew in an Exeter pub. He mentioned Highley had quit the club amid accusations of allegedly fiddling the accounts. An early incarnation of Adam and the Ants were playing that night, so, I thought I’d see if I could worm my way back in. I could not believe it! I walked in unchallenged! The door staff even asked me where I had been for the last few months!

Routes not only promoted the top punk acts of the day, but also hosted an alternative club night every Saturday with resident DJ Tim Arnold at the controls. One Saturday, The Clash’s Complete Control came booming over the PA. As usual, I was up and jumping around the dancefloor like the possessed manifestation of Joe Strummer! Fellow punk, Steve Goodwin, grabbed the mic and shouted, “Get on there Joe.” That’s how I acquired the nickname ”˜Joe.’

As punk began to fizzle out in Exeter, Goodwin upped sticks and relocated to Leeds, and drummed for minor league indie merchants Cud. In the punk days, Goodwin often came to my house and played my drums. I thought at the time, he showed potential, and I wasn’t surprised when I heard he’d achieved minor success with Cud. Nevertheless, Goodwin told a mutual friend, several years ago, he had no desire to ever speak to me again!

Exeter troublemakers regularly showed up at Routes to intimidate the regulars with mindless spats of violence. One fateful night, Tim Arnold was winding down proceedings, when a renowned local thug approached me, and shouted, “FUCKING PUNK WANKER?” Before I had time to say, ”˜actually I’m researching the mating habits of the lesser spotted dickhead,’ I was punched hard in the face! As I staggered around the dance floor trying to stem the pain, I noticed a mate of mine on the receiving end of a pounding from said lunatic. Luckily, before things turned ugly, the bouncers dragged this idiot from the club. I could never fathom such pathetic behaviour. Fair enough, if somebody is trying to hit on your girlfriend or whatever, but lashing out for no other reason than a hatred of punk, was ridiculous (I assume that was his motive). Punks I knew never instigated violence because we were constantly under threat, so starting trouble was not on the agenda. Those thick local bumpkins who lived their lives by the fist and how many pints they guzzled, didn’t understand punk, so they dealt with it the only way ignorant people do in such situations, with violence.

Routes eventually shut, due to the increasing outbreaks of trouble. However, before closing its doors forever, Exeter thugs were kicking off on a regular basis, and even Plymouth and Torquay dick heads were turning up and joining in the ”˜fun.’ It reached the stage where the club was full of pissed, angry, and drugged up blokes and very few girls because of the escalating violence. However, in an attempt to defuse the aggro, a letter was handed out to club regulars – stating, ”˜unless the violence ceases, the club will close.’ The letter was ignored, the fighting continued, and Routes did indeed close . It reopened some months later, as The Riverside, but it was never the same. Punk acts were still booked, but the major players had moved on to bigger things or split, so, quality was poor. Eventually the club was sold and turned into another crummy mainstream nightclub.

THE LAST GANG IN TOWN

In late 1978, The Clash were down to play Exeter University Great Hall on Monday, November 27thH, as part of the Sort It Out Tour. I still didn’t have job (not that I wanted one), but due to grave financial straights, Shaun Pym’s father offered me a temporary laboring job on a building site in Exeter. The weekly wage, came in handy for buying records, getting pissed and attending gigs. So, when tickets for the Clash gig went on sale, I quickly snapped one up. To coincide with the tour, The Clash unleashed their long awaited second album, Give ”˜Em Enough Rope ”“ which I purchased on day of release. I even managed to ”˜liberate’ the album promo display from my local record shop! In the run up to the gig, Rope was ever present on my stereo.

The day of the gig arrived and finally, my favourite band was coming to my city. Luckily, by late ”˜78, a number of Exeter pubs had lapsed their anti-punk policy and allowed us entry. One such hostelry was the aptly named Oddfellows – located behind the ABC Cinema off Exeter High Street. It was a dump, and looked like it hadn’t seen a coat of paint since we went decimal back in 1971! The walls of the public bar were tainted with years of cigarette smoke, and undescribable ingrained filth. But at the rear of the pub, there was a small poolroom, sparsely furnished, with a number of dilapidated leather bench seats lining the walls. It also possessed one of the best-stocked jukeboxes in town, including, The Clash’s English Civil War, and Desmond Dekker’s reggae classic The Israelites. The Oddfellows was where pre-Clash-gig goers were congregating for a lunchtime snifter. By mid-day, the pub was packed with an assortment of punks and die hard Clash fans. A rumour began to circulate, that The Clash were booked into the, three star, Royal Clarence Hotel (there’s a clip of said hotel in Clash flick Rude Boy). Steve Goodwin, an old school friend and part-time punk Mark Saunders and I decided to visit the hotel to check out the rumour. At the time, The Royal Clarence was Exeter’s most exclusive hotel – situated in a prime spot opposite Exeter Cathedral. But it seemed a strange location for a bunch of rowdy punk rockers from London. We arrived at the hotel, and I noticed a white transit van parked outside, with a battered flight case in the back with a Sex Pistols sticker attached. Steve, Mark, and I had a look around to see if we could spot The Clash, but apart from a group of bored looking punks sat on a wall outside, there was no sign. We wandered into the deserted hotel café, sat down, and tried to look inconspicuous while nervously waiting for The Clash to appear. After a few minutes, a waitress, accompanied by a well-dressed middle-aged man approached our table. I thought, here we go, out on our ear! To my surprise, the waitress offered us tea, coffee, and unlimited access to the cake trolley! The guy introduced himself as the hotel manager and began asking us questions – ”˜Are you enjoying your stay? ”˜Where else are you playing?’ ”˜How’s the tour going?’ Suddenly the penny dropped – he thinks we are The Clash! Steve and Mark were decked out in the latest King’s Road punk threads and looked convincing. But as I was a poor boy punk, I was dressed in an old suit jacket, Clash T-shirt, faded Levi’s, and Dr. Martens – so my attire was conservative compared to their pricey garb. However, the hotel manager homed in on me, so I fed him bogus tour dates and info. If we were going to stick around, we had to at least appear convincing. Steve was clued up, but if Mark Saunders opened his mouth, we would be out the door. My bullshit did the trick and we were left alone to enjoy the freebies on offer. Suddenly, a small, slender man and a young blond girl bounded into the room. Fucking hell, I nearly choked on my fairy cake – it was Joe Strummer and his then girlfriend Gaby. I just about made out Joe’s familiar features, partially hidden by the upturned collar of his long black leather coat. Strummer glanced around the room, nodded a greeting in our direction, played an unrecognizable tune on the café piano (badly), turned on his heels, and was gone. The hotel manager reappeared, to inform us a music journalist was waiting to interview us??? We awkwardly followed the manager into the hotel foyer, to be greeted by a punky looking teenager, who took one look at us and growled, “But you aren’t The Clash! We didn’t hang around to argue.

I arrived at the Uni as the doors opened. After a couple of drinks, I eased my way through the crowd to take my place at the front amongst the seething mass. The Clash backdrop was a highly impressive collection of national flags with the words UNPROVOKED RETALIATION stenciled in one corner of the flags. The support, were something called The Innocents and longtime Clash associates, The Slits. They were OK, but I was here for the mighty Clash.

When The Clash took the stage, the place erupted! Strummer was centre-stage, resplendent in a canary yellow shirt, black jeans, and biker boots, thrashing at his trusty Telecaster. Flanking Joe was Mick Jones, looking every inch the archetypal guitar hero in leathers and Keef style hairdo. To Strummer’s left was the epitome of cool, bassist Paul Simonon – decked out in black shirt, white jeans, and Dr Martens. Holding it all together in the ”˜engine room’ was Topper Headon, perched behind a silver Pearl drum kit – clad in a garish yellow Kung-Fu style jumpsuit. The Clash kicked off with a rousing version of Safe European Home. It was like being pulverized by a sledgehammer! Bloody fantastic! As the set neared its conclusion, Strummer hoisted his microphone stand high above the heads of the first few rows and asked what songs we wanted to hear. Fuelled by lager, adrenaline, and unbridled excitement, there was a mad scramble for the mic. As it swung in my direction, I grabbed it, and bellowed out a request for my favourite Clash tune Complete Control. The obligatory cry for White Riot went up, so Strummer tried to retrieve his mic stand from the rabid crowd. Suddenly, pissed-up local punk, Andy Hawes, tried wrestling the stand from Strummer’s grasp. Joe yanked the stand with such force he whacked Hawes full in the face with the base of the stand (Hawes was last spotted crouched over a washbasin cleaning the blood from his face).

With my ears still ringing from The Clash’s brilliant performance I made my way out the hall, and bumped into, Pip, a fellow punk, who worked at the Uni. He asked if I would like to meet the band, and led me round the back of the stage, up several flights of stairs and into The Clash’s dressing room. As I entered the room, the booming dub reggae and pungent aroma of ganja clouding the air dazed me. The Clash were dotted round the dressing room, signing autographs, chatting to fans and a couple members of The Slits. I nervously approached Strummer and asked him to sign my Capital Radio record sleeve. As Joe autographed the record, I told him the details of that afternoon’s escapade at the Royal Clarence, which he found amusing. I asked Joe what he would have done if he had been challenged about our credentials, “I would’ve told ”˜em you were with us.” What a top geezer! Due to nervousness, I fired question after question at Joe before he could answer the previous one. However, Joe was unfazed by my excitable nature and politely answered all my questions. However, Paul Simonon wasn’t as sociable. When I asked him if he was him in the background of the picture on the Capital Radio sleeve, he said, “Fuck off you cunt, that’s some dickhead!” Charming!

THIS IS THE MODERN WORLD

In late 1979, The Jam played Exeter University, in support of their then current album All Mod Cons. Thanks to a couple of stupid music journalists, an invented mod v punk rivalry was brewing in the provinces. As expected, there was a large mod contingent in attendance, but personally, I didn’t buy into any petty rival gang bollocks. The Jam were a good band, not flag waving representatives of some dodgy movement. Surprisingly, Shaun Pym had switched allegiance from punk to mod. This was a shock, as Shaun was the last person I thought would have betrayed his staunch punk beliefs, in favour of following a new trend. I for one didn’t succumb to the beat surrender and follow the Mod sheep aping Jimmy, in Quadrophenia. This new breed of mod fell into two categories – there were those with suss, who looked great in two-tone suits, parkas, Ben Sherman’s and loafers, but the remainder, didn’t ”˜get it.’ You can dress someone in all the finery you like, but you cannot buy cool (Think Glen Matlock, original Clash drummer Terry Chimes, The Stranglers, Secret Affair etc). At the time, I had a couple of mates who said I’d make a great mod. I was six foot odd, skinny, with the build and figure for mod. But I wasn’t about to jump on that particular bandwagon.

After the gig, The Jam mingled with fans, signing autographs, so I asked Paul Weller if it was true what Joe Strummer had said about bands that appear on Top Of The Pops – that artists had to endure their record played at a low volume while they tamely mimed along. “How the fuck would he know. He’s never been on Top Of The Pops!” I probed Weller about his alleged altercation with Sid Vicious at the 100 Club in ’77. Unfortunately, Weller sidestepped the subject and was not forthcoming. Due to my line of questioning, Weller believed I was a music journalist, “Are you from the NME mate?” Weller cadged a cigarette and autographed the packet. Later, while cleaning my room, my mother found the packet on the floor, thinking it was a discarded cigarette packet she threw it out! Good job it wasn’t the old man I would’ve lynched the bastard.

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE RUDE BOY KNOWS

The Clash’s critically acclaimed double album London Calling, was universally revered as a masterpiece as 1979 slipped into 1980. Long awaited quasi-documentary Rude Boy was also released – doing the rounds of small cinemas and art houses. London Clash fans had been privy to screenings, but my local fleapit had never even heard of it when I rang to ask if there were any plans to screen it. I was desperate, and fortunately, a short while after release, I read in the local rag that the film was to be shown at nearby Totnes Art College. I rallied the Clash troops and we took the short train journey from Exeter. It was mind-blowing watching The Clash performing on the big screen. The acting and script was dismal, but compensated by the exceptional live footage. I was so overwhelmed by the live clips I was up from my seat, rocking in the aisles! In one particular scene, ”˜star’ of the film Ray Gange, receives a blowjob from a lusty punkette in a toilet cubicle (it beats crappy support bands!). After the film, my mates and I were having a beer, and got chatting to a guy and his woman who seemed offended by the tame sexual content. To be honest, I had seen worse on a Saturday night after the pubs kicked out. But this pair harped on about how it wasn’t necessary to show such ”˜filth.’ But it was hardly XXX Hardcore! Some people really do lead sheltered lives. Rude Boy made a tremendous impact on me and I have lost count of the number of times I have seen it. Film buffs often quote chunks of several revered movies over a few sherbets of a Saturday night. Never mind that! Rude Boy may not be a classic in cinematic terms, but its etched on my brain and I know the whole thing backwards. To this day, I still recite key parts of the film when drink has been taken!

THE STREET PARADE

With fervent attention to detail, I had worn Clash style zipper and stencil gear in the early days, but by the time of London Calling, I was greasing my hair with Brilliantine to resemble Joe’s style (which was akin to putting quick-drying cement on your hair). I spent a small fortune emulating The Clash rockabilly-gangster image, snapping up everything I could lay my hands on ”“ bootlace ties, coloured neckerchiefs, a sheriffs badge, black drainpipe jeans, a grey pegged suit, numerous pairs of pointed suede creepers, Dr Martens. Countless shirts were also customized Clash style (no sleeves). Other Exeter Clash fans tried copying the look, but I was the one who had it off pat (I know, I’ve got a big head!). I bought the majority of my clothes from Paradise Garage in Bristol, and Johnson’s and Robot in the King’s Road. Exeter’s shops were OK for ”˜club wear,’ and similar tat, but you couldn’t purchase the right stuff in any Exeter high street outlets that’s for sure. If I saw a picture of Strummer with his hair styled in a particular way, it wasn’t long before mine would be identical (shame I can’t do that now). I was dedicated – and dressing the same as the band was my way of nailing my colours to mast. I was part of something special and very proud of it. I didn’t care what other people thought (As Pete Wylie once said, ”˜dress like your heroes’). I loved the music with an unbridled passion and adored the clothes too. The Clash were the coolest of the cool and I did my best to imitate the style. I even bought a pair of spurs from a mail order company after I saw a picture of Topper wearing them! The hardest thing to find was the biker boots the band bought on their first US jaunt. It wasn’t until the late eighties I finally hunted down a pair from a ”˜head’ shop in Exeter (seventy notes no less). This may appear like shallow hero worship, and I suppose in some way it was. However, I wasn’t no drippy teenybopper. I knew my stuff. When I get into something I believe in, I jump in with both feet. But if you want to get psychological, you could say I was searching for a purpose and meaning in life – then again, I loved The Clash, plain and simple. Also, back in those heady days, if I met someone who didn’t like The Clash, I didn’t want to know, and rightly or wrongly, I’d judge people on their music taste. I am not as anal as that these days.

BOY ABOUT TOWN

For a short period in 1980, the hub for Exeter Clash fans was The Black Horse pub in the city centre. I was self-styled leader of Exeter Clash Clan – a committed bunch of Clasheads with a fondness for great tunes, dodgy women, and cheap beer. In recognition of Joe Strummer’s similarly worded Telecaster, I stenciled BOSS on the back of my leather. I also made a little extra cash painting band logos and slogans on leather jackets. However, I didn’t use gloss, emulsion, or any arty paint. Tippex was my weapon! The thing with Tippex is it dried quickly and after a short while it crackled and didn’t look ”˜new.’ Also, if you got bored with it, a scourer, and water whipped it off it no time. One guy, asked me to paint UK Subs logo on his leather. But as I was in dire need of the cash, it was a rush job, and as I didn’t take the time to space out the letters, his jacket read UK SUB! Not surprisingly, he was severely pissed off with the finished result, asked for his cash back, and made me remove it immediately! God bless Tippex! A struggling artist who drank in the Black Horse around this time, charged me the then extortionate sum of twenty quid to replicate Strummer’s Brigade Rosse T-shirt and a skull and crossbones motif on my Dr.Martens – which I had seen Strummer wearing in Rude Boy.

Adrian, a mild-mannered and likeable bloke was the landlord of The Black Horse, and he didn’t seem to mind Clash fans invading his boozer every weekend (his profits must have rocketed). London Calling was on repeat play on the jukebox and every weekend, we’d congregate in the pub. There was me, Scrich and his girlfriend Debbie, Roy King, Dave Lashbrook, Russ Grey, Kenny Marshall, Junior Kearey, Tom Taylor, One-Legged Andy, Filthy Al, and many more that floated in and out of the picture. The Black Horse was a great little pub and I have fond memories of drinking there. To miss a session wasn’t an option. My friends and fellow Clash fans showed up no matter how much we had consumed the night before. It was like a religion, and a great place to meet and drink. However, like every other decent pub, the brewery refurbished the place in an attempt to cater for a different crowd. So, our time ruling The Black Horse was short-lived. Eventually, we splintered, and moved in different circles. These days, Exeter’s student population, drink in The Black Horse, and it is geared towards students sporting pursuits – with Big Screen sports events etc. However, I avoid the place like the plague.

THE CITY OF THE DEAD

In the early eighties, a small Exeter city centre nightclub, Timepiece was another top hangout for the local movers and shakers. I was without any disposable cash, so I took a job working shifts at a aircraft components factory. The work was tedious and repetitive, but the pay was excellent. I spent the majority of my wages on records, clothes, Clash related items, and at the Timepiece, every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. I was a ”˜face,’ and had pretty much a free reign – and the odd drunken scuffle was largely ignored. Timepiece’s manager was a portly Kevin Keegan look-alike, Maurice Wannacott. He liked us, and tolerated our antics because we contributed a large amount to his revenue. Aside from a couple minor misdemeanour’s mentioned here, anything that went on then doesn’t come close to what happens in today’s nightclub. Maurice operated an exclusive interest free money-lending scheme – loaning the ”˜elite,’ a fiver or tenner when low on funds (which was often). Maurice knew full well, not only would he get back his initial loan but the money would go straight back behind the bar. Maurice was no fool – he knew which customers
were making him money and he did his best to accommodate us. The downstairs jukebox was the best in town – featuring a superlative selection of tunes. But, upstairs at the Timepiece was the place to be seen. It was small, with a bar, dancefloor, and a DJ booth tucked away in the corner. The walls were adorned with ceiling high mirrors and it was a great watching punters dance to the latest hip track while admiring their reflection in the mirror trying to look cool. The resident DJ was one Gordon Reid ”“ a veritable wizard on the decks.

The New Romantic movement was also on the ascendancy at the time, and Gordon augmented great guitar floor fillers with a selection that kept the New Romantics happy. An assortment of painted puppets in ruffled shirts and knickerbockers mixed peacefully with the punks, shaking their crushed velvet arses to the Human League’s Love Action, Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, Heaven 17’s We Don’t Need That Fascist Groove Thing, Comsat Angels and Simple Minds. However, if Gordon disliked a certain record, he would invariable hurl the offending piece of vinyl across the room! You had to have your wits about you to avoid being decapitated by some crappy Kajagoogoo single!

I loved grooving on the dance floor at Timepiece, getting down and funky to The Sugarhill Gang’s epic hip-hop classic, Rapper’s Delight, or leaping around to The Clash. I loved winding punters up posing in the mirror, which annoyed the fuck out of those who didn’t know me, but it was a great way to get noticed or threatened! Generation X’s Dancing With Myself was my dancefloor anthem and I loved Timepiece with a passion. Worryingly, a number of impressionable young lads saw me as some kind of role model, and would nervously ask where I bought my clothes or bleat on about how much they loved The Clash. One particular guy, Alan Wilkinson followed me around like a lovesick puppy, annoying me with his sycophantic behaviour and sad attempts at copying my Clash look (At least he tried; I will give him that). Alan tried fitting in, but didn’t cut it. You know instinctively if a person has or hasn’t ”˜got it’; unfortunately, Alan fell into the latter category. He attempted to ”˜get in’ with my friends and I, but this was never going to happen, as I wasn’t going to associate with some young kid because he wanted to know me for all the wrong reasons. I had my friends, and they knew the score. My mate, Russ Grey, nicknamed Alan ”˜Junior Joe,’ because I sold him my castoffs and he did indeed resemble a mini version of yours truly, but with more acne! I do not know what happened to Wilkinson, but I do hope he got a life.

I got away with a lot at the Timepiece, which Maurice would not have tolerated from lesser mortals. I did however receive a severe dressing down following a fracas with a bunch of rival punks from the nearby seaside town of Dawlish. These particular inbreds showed up at the Timepiece one night, and tried intimidating us with backhanded jibes and idle threats (it’s a territorial thing). This disharmony began a year or so earlier. I was at a birthday party on the outskirts of Exeter, when the Dawlish crowd turned up, pissed out their heads, laying claim to their turf and picking on young punk and skinhead kids. I intervened and received a beating for my trouble (The bastards ruined my new grey peg suit!). Following that incident, revenge had always been at the back of my mind. This particular Saturday, my chance came. The Dawlish crew came waltzing into the club, giving it the ”˜big one,’ strutting around and all that old macho bollocks. I asked Gordon to play White Riot and primed my mates. As the song began, we waded in, and before you could say ”˜yokel bastards,’ we finished them off and their battered and bruised bodies littered the dancefloor. Maurice read me the Riot Act, but no further action was taken (In late 1982 however, Maurice banned me after I was involved in a spot of bother in the downstairs bar. I couldn’t complain I’d had a good run).

FRIENDS OF MINE

In 1980, I met, Paul Alford, (AKA Alf), who soon became a trusted friend and key member of my crew. At the time, I worked shifts, and following the night shift, I’d spend most afternoons, hanging out at Pitt’s Records in Exeter, debating the merits of bands and new releases with the savvy members of staff. One Monday afternoon, I was grooving to London Calling on the shop headphones, when Alf walked in. I knew of him, as he was involved in the ruck with the Generation X roadie at Routes a couple years previously. I was guarded in his company, but we struck up a conversation, and Alf mentioned he had just been released from Haslar Detention Center after serving three months for ABH. Before his spell at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, Alf was a prominent member of Exeter’s skinhead faction ”“ but they were long gone, and he said he was on the lookout for something new on the music front (Here was an opportunity to spread the gospel of The Clash to the uninitiated). I persuaded Alf to purchase London Calling and we arranged to meet at The Black Horse for a drink. We soon became good mates and hung out on a regular basis.

DRUG STABBING TIME

Around this period, I experimented with drugs for the first time. I’d never hung around with drug takers or indulged in heavy drug taking (apart from the odd toke, or freebie courtesy of Stewart Copeland!) and avoided drugs – stupidly believing at the time that ganja was primarily a hippy drug. Speed too, was totally alien to me. I was a heavy smoker and drinker – they were my drugs of choice. One Saturday afternoon after the pub shut, Alf and I were invited to continue drinking (In 1980, pubs shut at 2.30 and re-opened at 5-5.30, so we were always on the lookout for somewhere to continue supping after the pub closed) at a guy called Gary Townsend’s house. I knew him vaguely, as his mate, Dick Shapcott, worked at the same factory as me. Gary planned to set up home with his girlfriend – but she ditched him before the ink was dry on the paperwork. So he had a house but no one to share it with, so to help him drown his sorrows, Alf, and I headed back to the house for a session. There was little furniture, apart from three battered armchairs left by the previous occupants. I used to carry a massive ghetto blaster around with me at the time, and was delegated ”˜DJ’ for the afternoon. I had a couple of Clash bootlegs with me so; we settled down, cranked up the volume and the cider flowed. As the sound of Clash City Rockers filled the room, Gary disappeared into the kitchen, to return with a carrier bag full of magic mushrooms. I had never even seen any before, and was wary, but I soon joined Alf and Gary necking ”˜em down. Magic mushrooms are foul tasting, but the effects can be mind-altering in a mild LSD sense. Anyway, after a short period, the mushrooms kicked in – and it seemed like The Clash were actually playing in the room. Also, Gary and Alf’s voices resembled a loud mumble, so for the remainder of the afternoon, I was on another planet! (I’ve only ever taken mushrooms a couple times since – one occasion sticks out. I was at a Back To The Planet gig at The Cavern in the mid 90s (I got in free). I was out my head on mushrooms and told one of the ‘Planet’ to do as their name implies and fuck off back to the sod.

OUT OF CONTROL

When a new Clash tour was announced, there were always plenty of Clash heads up for making a gig or two. Alf, one Andy Coleman, a couple of other Clash fans who’s names I’ve forgotten, accompanied me on one unforgettable jaunt to Poole Arts Centre in February 1980 to see The Clash on the 16 Tons Tour. Coleman borrowed his parent’s car and we stocked-up on a quantity of rough cider for the journey (it’s no secret, rough cider had such devastating qualities back then, it was nicknamed ”˜wife-beater’). Coleman was public school educated but his supposed superior schooling was no match for our unique brand of caustic working class rib tickling – and he had the piss ripped out of him for the duration of the trip. However, he was thick-skinned, and put up with constant ridicule without complaint! However, Coleman’s nervous laugh bore more than a passing resemblance to old Tory ”˜queen’ Ted Heath!

We arrived in Poole mid-afternoon ”“ but as pubs did not open until 5.30, we wandered around Poole shopping precinct, annoying shoppers with loud, drunken, out of tune, renditions of Clash songs. It wasn’t long before the law showed up and warned us to calm down or risk arrest. Suddenly, one eagle-eyed copper spotted the slogan on Alf’s homemade t-shirt – FUCK ART LET’S FUCK! Alf was immediately arrested on some jumped up charge of obscenity or something equally ridiculous and bundled into the back of a waiting cop car. As Alf disappeared into the distance, I couldn’t believe he’d had his collar felt over something inconsequential as a bloody slogan on a t-shirt! Surely, a bollocking would have sufficed – as Alf was hardly a sex case. Arresting the guy, was way over the top. We adjourned to a nearby pub and tried to figure out which police station was holding our man. We rang a few numbers, but drew a complete blank and it looked like the chances of Alf making the gig were slim.

Once inside the Arts Centre, I bought a round of drinks and waited in anticipation for The Clash to come on stage. All of a sudden, Alf came bounding up the steps! Apparently, the law had banged him up to teach him a lesson?????? This reeked of the attitude I’d encountered back in punk’s early days. Didn’t the police have real criminals to catch? Whatever happened to free speech and self-expression?

I pushed a beer into Alf’s hand and we made our way into the hall. Clash tour DJ Barry ”˜Scratchy’ Myers was priming the crowd with an exemplary selection of classic reggae, rare soul, and punk rock. His selection of the Pistols God Save The Queen, sent the crowd into overdrive – and the Arts Center’s suspended floor took a harsh pounding from the pogoing mass.

The Clash took the stage to the strains of Ennio Morricone’s 60 Seconds To What? and crashed straight into Clash City Rockers. They looked slick, with immaculately styled quiffs, biker boots, and coloured, sleeveless, bowling shirts. Their music was now taking on an even more cosmopolitan vibe. Reggae had been an integral part of their set since the early days, but now, tinges of jazz, ska and traditional fifties rock ‘n’ roll were tossed into the brew.

We met Strummer after the show, and told him about Alf’s run in with the law. Joe was astounded a slogan on a T-shirt warranted such extreme action – but this was Poole, not groovy London! Mick Jones was strutting around the dressing room, acting the ”˜Star.’ But Alf was keen to have a chat with Mick – but he needn’t have bothered. Alf asked Mick what the inspiration for his favourite Clash song Stay Free had been, Jones shrugged his shoulders dismissively, and said, “I dunno know I forgot.” Alf was shattered, but ultimately, such egotistical carry on would play a major part in Mick’s sacking from The Clash in 1983 (Following a Bristol Clash show in ’82. Mick was signing my Clash singles collection, and grunted to no one in particular, “I can think of better things to do with my hands.” I couldn’t imagine Strummer ever saying that!).

HITSVILLE UK

In October 1981, I organized a coach trip, to take the Timepiece crew to St. Austell Cornwall Coliseum to see The Clash. I didn’t have any trouble packing out the coach and could have easily sold the tickets several times over (Even Maurice and his cronies stumped up for tickets). We set up a makeshift bar at the rear of the coach and held an impromptu Clash Karaoke session on the journey down to deepest Cornwall. The Clash included highlights from recently released triple epic, Sandinista! which augmented well with past gems and crowd- pleasers (Maurice and his crew decided early on, The Clash weren’t in keeping with their music taste, and cleared off to the crappy disco next door)? The Clash opened with under-rated nugget Broadway, and wound up proceedings with a high-octane version of White Riot. During the encore, I tossed my blue neckerchief on stage ”“ and Strummer caught it. When The Clash returned for a second encore, my neckerchief was attached to the belt of Joe’s red pegged trousers. After the show, Joe was sporting a very expensive looking bootlace tie, so I cheekily asked, as he had my neckerchief, would he swap his bootlace for mine. Joe eyed my bootlace and said, “That’s a good one, but this belongs to my old lady.” While talking to Joe, one fan kept butting in and hassling Joe about Pete Townsend. Joe ignored the guy and he scurried away in a huff! (I read somewhere if Joe didn’t like someone he ignored them. This may have been the case with that geezer).

POLICE ON MY BACK

In 1982, after living in bed-sits and friends floors for a while, I temporarily returned home to live to keep an eye on my mother, as my father was lashing out when he was pissed. But he wasn’t keen to pick on my mother while I was around. However, that didn’t prevent him turning on me. I returned home from Timepiece early one Saturday morning – following a night on the sauce and stumbled upstairs to my room. Suddenly, I lost my balance, sending a speaker crashing to the floor. Within minutes, my father was up from his slumber, shouting the odds. I was drunk, and wanted to crash out and didn’t want any of his bollocks – so, I ignored him – but he carried on ranting and raving. A friend had brought me back a flick knife from Spain, so I reached inside my jacket and waved it in my father’s face. I wanted to scare him, but he said he was going to get me arrested! All the shit I’d endured since i was a kid, exploded and I lunged at my father – raining blows down on him. I wanted to hurt him – but fortunately, I put the knife down or the situation might have escalated. My father broke free and ran up the road to phone the police. Everything fell silent for a few minutes – but I knew I was in the shit! After a short while, a fleet of police cars and a Black Mariah came speeding round the corner. My father was sat in the back of a squad car shaking his fist, shouting the odds (over reacting as usual). A copper tried to cool the situation, but I was fuming. Suddenly, my father shouted out the car window, “Arrest him officer, he’s mental!” That was it! I ran towards the car, kicked the door, and tried to attack my father. The door was locked, so I couldn’t get to him, but I was immediately arrested – singing The Clash’s Police On My Back as I was carted away!

I arrived at the station, but was too drunk to be charged, so I was left to sleep it off in the cells. The following morning, I was charged, and released on bail. I couldn’t return home, but luckily, a mate agreed to put me up until the heat died down. I saw my mother later that day, and she said I’d busted my father’s ribs! I wasn’t bothered, he was long overdue a slap. However, I noticed to my horror on my charge sheet, that I was due in court the same day The Clash were playing Bristol Lacarno!

I appeared in court on the 22nd of August and fined £175 for possession of an offensive weapon. By the time of my court appearance, my father had calmed down and was apologetic about his actions. He even spoke up on my behalf and paid my fine. But he was such a fickle individual, one minute he was as nice as pie, but he could turn on a sixpence and become this ogre. This whole sorry situation wouldn’t have gone to court if he hadn’t been such an arsehole in the first place. It was OK to attack my mother, but when he was confronted by someone who fought back he went running to the law! (Following my court appearance, I went to Bristol to see The Clash, play two consecutive nights as part of the Know Your Rights Tour 1982. On the second night, some dickhead I was with thought it would be amusing to show Strummer a newspaper report of my court appearance – not surprisingly, Joe wasn’t impressed!)

OUTRO

I spent a lot of time, money, and effort following The Clash – and as mentioned, they changed my life. But, all great groups fuck up and The Clash was no exception. Following Mick and Topper’s departure, it was never the same. Firstly, Topper was kicked out in ’82 for ongoing drug problems and replaced by original Clash drummer Terry Chimes. I saw a couple shows with Chimes on the kit, but it just reinforced what everybody knew but was afraid to say, Topper may have been spiraling out of control with his heroin use, but he was irreplaceable, and sorely missed. I should have seen the writing on the wall then, but it’s like a relationship that means so much, you hang on in there in the hope that everything will turn out OK. Coupled with Mick’s sacking, I knew it was all over bar the shouting when I witnessed the post-Mick and Topper Clash in action at Brixton Academy in December ”˜84.

Guitarists, Vince White and Nick Sheppard had replaced Mick, but were not in the same ballpark. After Chimes left, following the ’82 tour, 23 year-old Pete Howard became The Clash’s third drummer in as many years. Following Mick’s dismissal, Strummer, Simonon, and Howard regrouped with White and Sheppard, under the guise of The Clash. But at Brixton, Strummer resembled Billy Joel with a red Mohawk, and the new songs, were an attempt to return the band to their original punk roots. The new firm made a passable effort; nevertheless, without Mick at the helm, an integral part of what made The Clash great was gone – and it was clear; The Clash were past their best and limping to their death.

Some things shouldn’t be tampered with, and The Clash without Jones and Headon were a pale imitation of the classic Clash. Listening to bootlegs from the Clash MK2 period, there is no doubting Strummer’s conviction and dedication, but, overall, the performances lack Jones’ invaluable dynamic (Strummer is rumored to have asked Johnny Green what he thought of the new line-up at the time. Green said, “Its rubbish.” To which Joe replied, “I know”). Clash MK2 cut one sketchy album, Cut The Crap. Even though it contains the last great Clash song, This Is England, it was savaged in the press. The Clash limped on for a year or so, and then, not with a bang, but with a whimper, they were gone.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Funny, I was talkin about The Clash MK2 today, and although I would agree that the album was shite, I thought live they were better than history would have us remember. Though having saw them also in 81 I would have to say that without Mick and Topper there was something missing.

    Sounds like a great book. Next year will be ten years since Joe was taken from us. Lets make it special.

  2. I do believe that those clash tickets are for the same gig that a young Christian Riou from the Claytown Troupe also attended though rather than having a ticket he hid in the cupboard of the dressing room to meet his heroes!

    Looking forward to reading Joe’s book in full.

  3. Was there for 78-80

    Rob Avery was a star. Last I heard he was made a corporal. Wonder if he ever saw the Falklands.

    Shame you didn’t mention Jane and Anita and the wonderful Gay Lamacraft. Or the Mint. Or the Acorn.

    I hope all is well for you.
    Julie

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