Monday, February 18, 2013

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Love, Peace and Bananas!

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Love, Peace and Bananas!

In summer 1984, David Catlin-Birch and I were looking for places where our new band could play. Treatment had split up a year or so previously and the psychedelic madness had temporarily abated. Dave and I had heard about this new psychedelic nightclub in Soho called Alice In Wonderland so we went down to check it out. I vaguely knew the DJ down there from an earlier attempt at a psychedelic nightclub called The Clinic where Treatment had played alongside the likes of Mood Six and Miles Over Matter. The DJ called himself The Doctor (real name Clive) and he also had a band called Dr And The Medics who were a bit of a joke, albeit a good one. Anyway, this new club looked very retro - they were just playing 60s garage music along with The Doors etc - and there weren't many people there. It seemed like an attempt at a retro fashion thing, rather than a genuinely psychedelic experience. But we left our tape and collected a contact phone number and left. 

Fast-forward about three months and Treatment got together again to play a one-off gig at The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead. It was packed to the rafters with all the people who had been missing us while we were gone. Amongst the people I invited were Clive/Doctor and Christian who ran the club Alice In Wonderland. They turned up with their partners Wendi and Alex and seemed to be very impressed at how many people we had pulled and immediately offered Treatment a gig at Alice In Wonderland. I wanted to do it but the Treatment re-union was supposed to have been a one-time thing and so I had to convince the others it was worthwhile. Thus I went down the following week to have a look at the club again. What a transformation! It was packed with young people dressed up to the nines. The music was louder and more exciting and it was obvious that something was really happening here. It was a mixture of retro styles combining to make something new. 60s garage music, 60s psychedelia, 70s Glamrock, bubblegum pop mixed in with Punk and the dreaded Goth (which I always refused to take seriously). It was DRESSING UP time! It was fun. It felt like a party. What's more, and very gratifying, I was being treated like visiting royalty as a member and representative of a bona-fide psychedelic band with a bona-fide following. The Alice In Wonderland crowd was friendly and cool - a hard combination to pull off but they managed it. The look was part-hippie, part-Goth: lots of make up – for boys as well as girls, big hair (lots of back-combing), tight trousers, short skirts, brocade jackets, crushed purple velvet, pointy boots, black jade beads, silver trinkets. It was a definite style, and in the 80s - the decade that taste forgot - it was truly glamorous. Properly smitten, I reported back to the rest of the band who were rather more skeptical. (Actually, looking back, I think they were jealous that I had found this thing and not them). Dave was off touring with The Bootleg Beatles so he was out of the picture. I cajoled and persuaded and we did the gig and it was really good. Doctor/Clive gave us the hard sell to what had become a very identifiable Alice In Wonderland crowd; the gig was recorded on a portable 4-track machine and released as a live album on a small edition cassette that was sold at the club. Christian did a beautiful green art deco cover for it (him being an Art School kind of guy) that effectively cemented us as an "Alice band". I was pleased by this. I could see that this was a real happening thing and that we had lucked out by stumbling into the dead centre of it. I had no problems with Treatment being attached to the mast of Alice's. I liked Christian and Alex, I liked Clive and Wendi, they were smart and funny. 

Thus my partner Catherine and I became Alice regulars. Every Monday night around 10pm we would turn up and hang out. There were many things that made Alice’s special. Hanging strips of white toilet paper from the ceiling was a masterstroke – so simple but so memorable. There was Lemmy leaning on the bar, spinning yarns to anyone who wanted to listen. Or maybe it was Charlie Harper. Or Captain Sensible. Christian had an obsession for “The Magic Roundabout” and this would be regularly screened on the back wall of the club, along with old episodes of “The Monkees” and “Batman”. Every week there would be a different live band that would do a set around midnight. The bands were unlike any of the acts doing the rounds in the clubs at the time. There was The Herbs, led by Parsley, a tall ungainly fellow with a graveyard stare. He was obsessed with 60s TV, and children’s 60s TV in particular, and the band would play songs like “The Trumpton Rap” and versions of Gerry Anderson theme tunes alongside Parsley’s original songs. The feeling of childhood lost seemed to permeate all Parsley’s music, he was a real talent but it was hard to imagine him fitting in anywhere but at Alice’s – where he fit in perfectly.

There was Ring Of Roses, who everyone thought would be huge but who managed to piss away one the biggest UK record company advances of the 80s without releasing anything. They were built around the twin talents of singer James Vane and saxophonist Dan Carpenter, or Dan Spanner as he called himself – in honour of the eternal spanner in the works. James Vane had it all down: tall, thin, good-looking, perfect clothes, stage presence to burn and a voice to sing with. Unfortunately, he had a Jim Morrison complex and no one had managed to get through to him that Morrison had made it rich and famous BEFORE he started acting like a drunken arsehole. His finest moment came when Christian’s younger brother Julian, a classically trained musician, wrote out a series of arrangements of classic pop tunes for string quartet and lead vocal. Leading off with “Somehow I Know It’s My Fault” - Florence’s epic song of self-reproach from “Dougal And The Blue Cat” (that cinematic masterpiece from The Magic Roundabout team) - James found his voice and presence and talent all in one place and continued on through majestic versions of Arthur Brown’s “Fire”, David Bowie’s “When I Live My Dream” and, best of all, The Doors “Light My Fire”. That was about as good as it got. Meanwhile, Dan Spanner played the psychedelic ragamuffin. Apparently permanently spaced on LSD, he would play here, there and everywhere on his magical saxophone (so expertly he caused Christian to give up the instrument!) He was part of a duo with synthesizer player Paul Chousmer in a musical installation named after Brian Eno’s Another Green World which would later osmose into a band called Webcore that played the festival circuit for a couple of years. He also had a band called Spannerman. He spent many years touring with Archaos, the anarchic circus troupe. Dan always looked and acted like an extra from a Fellini movie. Eventually he went on to front his own jazz big band. I saw him for the first time in over 20 years last year. He's mellowed some. He's survived. He’s not tripping anymore.

There was The Perfect Disaster who sounded more like the Velvet Underground than any other band I’ve ever heard. I remember them once ending their set at Alice’s with a version of the Velvets’ “Run Run Run” that just ran and ran and ran. When I complimented their guitarist afterwards he just smiled and said he could have played it all night long and I believed him too.

There was The Surfin’ Lungs who I don’t remember anything about.

There was the execrable Jesus And Mary Chain - noisy obnoxious scagheads who went on to become huge for reasons I have never been able to understand. They only played once at Alice’s, after ten minutes or so Christian pulled the plug on them for being so useless.

Jayne County played a couple of times. I saw her terrify a gang of Goth girls with deadly hauteur alone. She seemed a little out of place but Christian loved her.

Nico tried to get a gig too, but she was too messed up. Instead, she took to harassing Christian to get drugs for her.

Later on, there was Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction who started out as a joke and managed to convince a gullible music press that they were the start of a new movement (grebo) when they were just a bunch of dumb ass rock’n’rollers whose greatest talents were dressing up as cartoon bikers and getting fucked (in all senses of the word). Truth was, in that benighted time of Flock Of Seagulls and Haircut 100 anything that showed any rock’n’roll attitude was going to stick out a mile. (It should be noted that during their brief moment of fame they did make one of the best music videos of the era – “Prime Mover”.)

But primarily, there was Doctor And The Medics, the Alice In Wonderland house band, who went from being a good natured joke to being a No.1 chart topping pop group in less than two years. Whenever they appeared at the club there would be a minor riot as everyone jostled for position to watch THEIR band do the honours. The Medics, as they were universally known, would do their songs like “The Goats Are Trying To Kill Me”, “The Smallness Of The Mustard Pot”, “The Druids Are Here”, “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone With You Tonight”, “Ride The Beetle” (which involved a dance routine that demanded that the audience throw themselves on the floor and wriggle upside down on their hands) and my favourite: “Love, Peace and Bananas”. In addition to Clive cajoling the audience on vocals, there were The Anadin Brothers on backing vocals and dance routines – who were actually two girls, Wendi (Clive’s partner) and Sue (later replaced by Collette). Wendi was responsible for the wigs and costumes, which grew more and more outrageous (and unwearable). The music was basic meat and potatoes fast rock but The Medics were fun and they worked very hard, touring and promoting themselves as loveable freaks. They were wonderfully irreverent. For example, they put out a hand pressed EP called “Live At Alice In Wonderland”, which was NOT live at Alice In Wonderland (or anywhere else) and for which the audience noise was lifted off a U2 record. By the time they finally made it to No.1 on the singles charts (with their cover of “Spirit In The Sky”) they had created a real groundswell of goodwill and a loyal fan base that saw them through the inevitable anti-climax and the jeers of the mainstream music media. It was great to see The Medics get to No.1 but really their finest moment had come with their previous single, the original song “The Miracle Of The Age”, produced by XTC’s Andy Partridge. Everything that was good about The Medics came together in one place with this record, including the brilliant cover design Christian produced for it that harked back to the lavish sleeve productions of the early 70s. It wasn’t cheap. Nothing was done on the cheap (except the toilet rolls). The bands all got £100 for a performance, regardless of how many people they had or hadn’t pulled, and that was good money in those days.   

Doctor And The Medics had an alter ego named Bad Acid And The Spooks that I managed to blag my way into on one memorable night. This spectacle would usually include Roman Jugg, the guitarist from The Damned, and Christian and his brother Julian on saxophones. Bad Acid And The Spooks would play on special occasions (like when the band that had been booked failed to turn up) or, like on the night I played with them, on New Year’s Eve. I remember December 31st 1984 turning into January 1st 1985 as I played the opening chords of Van Morrison’s “Gloria” and thinking that this just had to be a good omen for the year (it was). We also played The Rolling Stones “Get Off Of My Cloud”, Motorhead’s “Motorhead”, The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For My Man” and then they called a song I didn’t know: Hawkwind’s “Quark, Strangeness And Charm”. “I don’t know it!” I cried in panic. “It goes D, C and G,” said Roman, patiently. And so it did (and does).  

Just as memorable as the bands were the characters. There were Emma and Louise, two under age girls who had to be sneaked into the club every week and to whom Christian would give pocket money (he really did). They would be dressed to the nines in what was perceived to be 60s paraphernalia, with flowers painted on their faces. I remember once complimenting Louise on her Flower Child look. “I’m more of a fucking flower child than you’ll ever fucking be, sunshine”, she replied, and this comment, more than anything else, sums up the club. There was Nidge - tall, red haired, Shakespeare spouting speed freak who became my dear friend and who was full of love and life until he unforgivably died of a heroin overdose. There was Izzy, the son of a Tory peer, fastidious and easily offended, trying not to let his roots show too much, who had fallen out with Nidge over Liz. There was James Flea, known as Fleabag, there was Jonee Elwood with his long straight ginger hair and round glasses who played the drums with virtually all the Alice bands at one time or another. There was the formidable Anna, who introduced lust into the Garden of Eden, and her friends glamorous Richard and traitorous Ollie. There was androgynous Glen with his perfect explosion of blond hair. There was Ron, who had the misfortune to be actually gay in a gaggle of straights that liked to camp themselves stupid. And there was Alex, the literary academic, Christian’s partner and the undisputed Queen of the Scene, meticulously arranging the pecking order of coolness even as she read Victorian Gothic novels through her false eyelashes under the admission desk (I would sign in on the guest list as Renfield, or Richard III, and bring Galaxy chocolate bars to stay in her good graces). She ended up an English professor at London University. There was Ian Astbury, who was officially a rock star, even if he was a bit dim. There was Joe, Christian’s elder brother, perpetually lurking by the entrance, always in the same leather jacket, cackling like Sid James at the shenanigans of the punters.

I could go on, but perhaps at this point I should refer interested parties to Christian’s excellent book “A Pretty Smart Way To Catch a Lobster” which details the history of what happened and when far more accurately than I can.

In fact, Christian turned out to be a major entrepreneur. Despite being almost permanently drunk and tripping – and in addition to running the club, DJ-ing every week, co-managing the Medics and designing all the flyers and promo material - Christian realized that he had found himself at the helm of a genuine grassroots movement which was rapidly outgrowing the confines of a Soho nightclub. He and Alex began staging "Magical Mystery Trips" where they would hire buses to take loads of overdressed, tripping people to mystery locations (like Chislehurst caves, or a disused warehouse in Battersea, or a crumbling disused holiday camp in Clacton-On-Sea). There, bands would play (Treatment usually included), DJ's would spin records, light shows would illuminate and everybody would stagger about until the next day when, somehow, we would try to get home. Christian would organize ‘all-night psychedelic film festivals’, selling out The Scala cinema two nights in a row, where Treatment would play a live set, or The Medics, or Another Green World in between showings of beaten-up prints of “Performance”, or “Blue Sunshine”. There would be Alice In Wonderland picnics in Kew Gardens. Then there was a shop, a 70s style boutique called Planet Alice, in Portobello Road, which codified the Alice look into a brand. Finally, Christian over-reached himself by trying to start a sister Planet Alice shop in Los Angeles with Ringo Starr’s daughter Lee. Christian made the classic mistake of imagining that the children of rich rock stars were familiar with any kind of work ethic.

But that was much later. Back in the heyday of the club, I was having great fun. Christian was my buddy (and he still is), he knew and understood rock'n'roll even better than I, he was as cool as I am fundamentally uncool and we enjoyed hanging out. Treatment were regular performers at the club and, while our audience baiting tactics were sometimes a little misplaced for the occasion, we usually went down well, at least as long as Clive/The Doctor was there to gee up the audience on our behalf. All through 1985 and most of '86 I would dress up and go clubbing on a Monday night. I was always treated with friendship and I never once had to pay to get in. But, oh! The intrigues, the pecking orders, the jostling for position, the whose boyfriend fucked whose girlfriend (I was safely ensconced with Catherine so I could watch and chuckle at all of this from a safe distance)...

It was a time for dressing up and staying out late: one’s mid-20s. The heyday was probably the end of ‘84/ beginning of ’85. After that it just started to get too damn crowded. The fashion media had caught on and it became fashionable. Thus the club was deluged with rich and famous wasters. Hey-ho… It was a time for drinking too much and ingesting too much and being irresponsible. Central to it all, as always with me, was the music. I always longed to DJ at Alice’s and, on one quietish night, Christian did deign to allot me an early slot. I guess I must have blown it as I never got asked again but, oh what fun it was to play things like Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” next to Curved Air’s “Back Street Luv”, Syd’s Floyd back to back with T.Rex. Christian had found and made explicit a connection between 60s psychedelia and 70s Glamrock (his first and most abiding love), between 60s garage rock and 70s punk and this, when saddled with appropriate noises from the 80s (Siouxsie and The Banshees “Christine”, The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary”) proved to be the defining flavour of the club, what made it different to everything else around at the time. But it sparked changes too. I vividly remember one night Christian put on Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days”, and the floor filled up with dancers. I wandered over to the DJ booth. “You realize what you’re doing, don’t you?” I asked. “Yep!” said Christian, with a grin. Zeppelin had been total outcasts to hip society since the days of Punk. It was strictly not done to admit to liking them. In one move, the DJ booth at Alice In Wonderland had erased all that and suddenly you heard them everywhere, bands copied them, they became cool again virtually overnight.

In time, the ugly 80s found out what it was that we were doing and put a stop to it but for a couple of years there, we partied and acted like there was no Thatcher, no bad haircuts or bad pop. There were copycat clubs that grew up, inevitably, when the original got so crowded. The Sugar Lump was more a gossip and bitching cellar, a place for those cast out of the Alice’s inner circle to bemoan their fate. The Crypt was for the pot heads (ironically run by two ex-policemen), Club Dog more for the performers (which grew into the hugely successful Megadog), The Pigeon Toed Orange Peel failed to live up to its wonderful name. None of the copycats had the flavour of the original. At its best, Alice In Wonderland was a real family celebration and a celebration that I am very glad to have been part of. So to all the old Alicians left standing, with our beautiful back-combed hair thinning and falling out and our satin and tat threads that no longer fit our bulging bodies, I raise a toast and say: “Love, Peace and Bananas! Because I’m more of a fucking flower child than you’ll ever fucking be, sunshine!”


Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, these are some of the records I definitely remember hearing being played at Alice In Wonderland. The list is very 60s-centric because those were my favourites, and many of them I was hearing for the first time. There were three or four regular DJ’s, Doctor/Clive and Christian among them. The other three just played the records but when Clive got on the decks he would do a whole routine through a primitive echo box, complete with cartoon American accent - like the Wolfman Jack of Plumstead…

Highway 61 – Bob Dylan
Surfing On Heroin – The Hollywood Killers
She’s A Rainbow – The Rolling Stones
Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones
L A Woman – The Doors
Break On Through – The Doors
20th Century Boy – T.Rex
Venus – Shocking Blue
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman
Back Street Luv – Curved Air
I Must Be Mad – The Craig
Are You Gonna Be There? (At The Love In) – The Chocolate Watch Band
Let’s Take A Trip – Kim Fowley
Lucifer Sam – Pink Floyd
Sugar Sugar – The Archies
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
I Can Only Give You Everything – MC5
Devil Gate Drive – Suzi Quatro
All The Way From Memphis – Mott The Hoople
Loose – The Stooges
I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges
Raw Power – The Stooges
Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
Motorhead – Motorhead
Silver Machine – Hawkwind
Quark, Strangeness And Charm – Hawkwind
Virginia Plain – Roxy Music
Waiting For The Man – The Velvet Underground
Foggy Notion – The Velvet Underground
Reputation – Shy Limbs
This Wheels On Fire – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity
Security – Thane Russell + Three
Floatin’ – The Vamp
You’re Too Much – The Eyes
Grounded – The Syn
Reflections Of Charles Brown – Rupert’s People
I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night – The Electric Prunes
You’re Gonna Miss Me – 13th Floor Elevators
99th Floor - ??
Fire – Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Christine – Siouxsie and The Banshees
She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult
Dancing Days – Led Zeppelin
Blockbuster – The Sweet
Hush – Deep Purple
Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix
All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
Day Tripper – The Beatles
Doncha Know – Treatment
Diddy Wah Diddy – Captain Beefheart

Any more for any more?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

THE PRETENDERS: Chrissie Hynde and the Mystery Achievement

What did you do when you were eighteen? Me, I played in a rock’n’roll band. As I type that, I’m aware of what an arch cliché it is - but I’m proud of it, nonetheless. Far sadder, in both senses of the word, would be NOT to have been in a rock’n’roll band when I was eighteen. If you didn’t do it, you really missed out. If you ARE eighteen, or even younger, and you DON’T play in a band (these days, it doesn’t have to be rock’n’roll), then what are you waiting for? Go out and join one immediately. Get out from behind that computer and find some like-minded souls, get some instruments and amps together, rehearse up some songs, even write some of your own, get some gigs, have some FUN! Build some memories…

Yes, that’s how easy it was when I was a kid in the late 70s. In autumn 1978, I was already on my second band – I considered myself a professional - and I was eighteen and I thought I was one hotshot guitar player. Punk had just changed everything so that people like me could get in there and PARTICIPATE and we had a singer with a small but plausible profile amongst the In-Crowd of the day and who could therefore get us some reasonable gigs. Thus it was that one day I finished my day’s work at the off-license (liquor store sounds so much more rock’n’roll but I can’t quite bring myself to type it), went home, got changed, picked up my recently acquired blond Gibson SG Standard and put it in its case and headed off to the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead where I was to meet the van carrying all our amps and drums and help unload it before setting up and doing a sound check for the evening’s gig. We were to be the supporting act for a new band called The Pretenders. They were already there when we arrived. They’d been there all afternoon apparently driving the engineers crazy by playing the same song over and over (“Up The Neck”) and NOT being happy with the house PA. Still, they were gracious enough when they saw that we were ready, and relinquished the stage fairly promptly (a lot more promptly than many other bands would have done -“sound check etiquette” remains a much under-discussed area of rock’n’roll folklore). As we had been unloading they had played a version of Sandie Shaw’s “Girl Don’t Come” which immediately made me like them, being the 60s trivia buff that I was (and still am). Their singer was a tough looking American woman named Chrissie Hynde. I knew who she was because I remembered reading her pieces in the New Musical Express and thinking she was a good writer. In those days, the NME was still a very good paper with a very high standard of journalism and I would still read it every week with a close to religious devotion. Chrissie Hynde wrote from the perspective of the bemused American, and it was very effective: even amongst the very best writers in the genre (Nick Kent, Ian MacDonald etc), her voice stood out and her pieces were very memorable. What no one could have guessed was how true that would prove to be of her work as a singer and songwriter. Then, she was just a writer wannabe who had somehow got sidelined by punk, despite having been right in the thick of it from the very beginning. She watched me as I got out my Gibson from its case.

“That’s a nice guitar!” she said, in a loud and friendly voice. She had a blond SG as well. We exchanged guitar talk; it turned out that, while she liked the SG, she liked her blond Telecaster better. The Pretenders lead guitarist joined in the conversation and motioned me over to a large flight case containing several smaller flight cases. He pulled out an Ice Blue Gibson Firebird and handed it to me with a reverential air. I accepted the complimentary camaraderie this gesture represented with some surprise: there was none of the usual petty one-upmanship that bands, and particularly guitarists, are prone to. These people were not trying to be cool, which usually translated as rude and standoffish, they just WERE cool. I handed back the beautiful blue guitar and went up to do the sound check. I reached in my pocket and realized I had forgotten to bring any picks with me. Disaster! I proclaimed the problem to the air. “D’you wanna borrow my pick?” rang out Chrissie’s voice. I gratefully accepted her offer and used the pick until it got lost and went to wherever it is that all lost plectrums go.

“She FAN-cies you”, said my objectionable fourteen year old sister in a blazingly audible and witheringly scornful stage whisper. My sister had only just loaned us £90 to buy a van so we had to put up with her. Still, I chose to ignore this painful intrusion. It was too frightening a prospect to consider. Chrissie Hynde wasn’t like any of the girls I knew. She was older and smarter and infinitely more worldly. Her manner – although very friendly – was frankly intimidating. You knew instinctively at first glance that this was NOT a lady to be trifled with.

We did our set of Chuck Berry and Larry Williams covers to what I thought was an appreciative audience (the place was packed to the rafters with hip cats and trendy’s and NME groupies who had come to see Chrissie Hynde’s debut). I waited eagerly for the glowing review to appear in the next issue. And lo! There it was, written by Nick Kent himself, but he didn’t mention us at all. Life is full of small betrayals. Bastard… “No pretence about this lot”, he wrote, and I remember it to this day.

Back at The Moonlight Club, I watched The Pretenders set from a high vantage point. I was alone, my sister had taken the 159 bus home and the rest of the band had packed up and returned to somewhere called South London. The friendly guitarist was playing lots of loud solos. This seems unremarkable now but at the time it was tantamount to heresy. The bass and drums thumped and rumbled rather than clattered, it was a powerful sound. Not like the neurotic trebly noise of Punk at all. Out front, Chrissie was having problems with the monitors but you could hear this strange vibrato in her voice, this keening sound. It was something old and new. It bruised, and once heard, it stayed with you.

Sometime in the next few days I went down to the Rock On stall in Soho market and bought their single off Shane from The Nips who worked there. In those days Shane McGowan (for it was he) was a friendly jug-eared Irish speed freak that liked to talk records but that day he was a bit subdued. Seems he wasn’t interested in The Pretenders. The single was a cover of an obscure Kinks song – “Stop Your Sobbing”. On the other side was an original called “The Wait”. As a die-hard Kinks fan I knew “Stop Your Sobbing” well; it was one of Ray Davies’s first published songs and was an entirely generic exercise in 1964 Pop filler. Myself, I love things like that but I am always surprised when other people do. Meanwhile The Pretenders, with producer Nick Lowe, had inflated it to epic proportions. The arrangement had been thoroughly re-jigged: Davies’s original throwaway bridge was now a passport to longing. It sounded superficially like Blondie but with a vulnerable catch in the voice that Debbie Harry could never muster. The guitars chimed like lonely Byrds, the thump and rumble was present and correct, and Chrissie – Chrissie would like to break your heart. Nick Lowe had had the brilliant notion of double-tracking her over the long fade, thus she duets with herself until both voices join together in a long cry of joy and pain. I was totally sold. This was Pop music I could dream to. But “The Wait” on the other side was something else entirely. Almost punk, almost heavy rock, unintelligible lyrics, Chrissie doing the tough rock chick routine. It was OK. The guitar solo was a guilty pleasure but it was strictly a ‘B’ side.

Then: nothing. Didn’t hear from The Pretenders again for months and months, which is an eternity when you’re eighteen. Before you know it, you become nineteen. They did a gig at The Lyceum that I couldn’t go to for some reason (probably had a gig myself) that apparently did NOT go well. Badly promoted, poorly attended, bad reviews spoke of the dreadful sound, Chrissie having tantrums. Despite considerable airplay, “Stop Your Sobbing” had only been a very minor hit and it looked like maybe it was all over before it started. But then the second single came out, “Kid”, and I loved it and played it over and over. This was an original song with a tune in the bass strings of the guitar like a love struck Duane Eddy while Chrissie sang a bittersweet song of sympathy to a heartbroken child. Meanwhile, over on the ‘B’ side, Chrissie sang a story song called “Tattoo’d Love Boys” about being the subject of a Hell’s Angels gangbang (“I shot my mouth off and you showed me what that hole was for”) – all in 7-4 time. Captivating, you might say. Then, a month long weekly residency at the Marquee was announced for November 1979.

I can’t remember what night of the week it was but I went to every gig. They would open their set with an instrumental, “Space Invaders”, and then follow it up with “Precious”. They would play a long reggae flavoured track called “Private Life” (that Grace Jones covered and made her own) and of course they would play “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Kid” and “Tattoo’d Love Boys” and “The Wait”. I was sad that “Girl Don't Come” seemed to have disappeared from their set but another song called “Cuban Slide” was a real compensation. They usually encored with a song with a Spencer Davis Group bass line that I later learned was called “Mystery Achievement”. They were growing into something really special before my eyes and ears. It was such a joy to have something so exciting to look forward to every week. Being the teenage ligger that I was, I would go early and look for them in “The Ship” – the pub in Wardour Street – just a few doors along from the Marquee. I caught up with Chrissie there, asked her if she remembered me. She looked flustered. “No”, she said, “but I’m such an acid casualty I can't remember anything.” She was friendly and funny and kind. The guitar player, James Honeyman-Scott, was there too. He seemed changed, more aloof, but he was friendly enough to me. I didn’t bother him. It was just a buzz to see him there.

The residency ended and I was in mourning. I wanted so much to join in, to be part of their journey but couldn't find a way. I wrote a gushing fan letter to Chrissie, telling her how much I had enjoyed the shows, and wondering if there was any chance that my band might ever get to support them again. Their third single, “Brass In Pocket”, was due out any day. I thought if I went along to the record company office in Covent Garden I might be able to buy a copy before it was officially released. I pressed the bell marked Real Records at 39 Floral Street. A window opened above me and there was Chrissie herself poking her head out and looking down. She saw me and nodded. Her head disappeared and a moment later the door buzzed and I was inside. With butterflies in my stomach I climbed the stairs, wondering what I was going to say. When I got to the top I was greeted by Dave Hill, The Pretenders manager. He asked what I wanted. I could see the four members of the band in the next room watching our exchange. I had obviously interrupted a meeting. I stammered with embarrassment. “I am so sorry to bother you”, I said, “I was just hoping to get a copy of the new single”. I could see boxes of them all around the office. “What? Are we supposed to just GIVE you one”, manager man asked with some irritation. “No, no, of course not, I’ll pay for it. Here…” I proffered a pound note. Somewhat mollified, Manager Dave took the money, pulled a single out of an open box and handed it to me. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out 10p (singles were 90p at the time) and gave it to me. I thanked him, nodded in the direction of the band who were still watching and left quickly, feeling like an unwelcome intruder, like a pushy third former being thrown out of the sixth form common room.

Still, I had the record, and I played it and played it when I got home. I recognized it from their set, “Brass In Pocket”, it wasn’t one of my favourites but it was a grower. It was a song about confidence, about convincing yourself that you were special. But I didn't feel special. I had overstepped the mark. I was uncool. I was cast out.

But then something marvelous happened…

A couple of days later I awoke with the outro of “Kid” in my head. I remember it distinctly. I went to the kitchen and made some breakfast and then there was a ring at the doorbell. It was the postman. He had a package addressed to me. Inside were copies of the three Pretenders singles. On the copy of “Brass In Pocket” were scrawled the words “90p to you pal” and there was also a letter, hand written on Real Records notepaper that is worth quoting in full:

Nov 22. ‘79

Dear Adam

Wow – your letter makes me want to stay in this completely fucked up business. (I only realized it was you after Dave (manager) sold you a copy of the single.) I felt like a prick.

Your fab.

Love Chrissie

Do you want to support us at The Marquee 22 or 23? Let Dave Hill or myself know. Hope you do.

To say this made me happy would be something of an understatement. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I phoned and was told that we could support The Pretenders on both nights.

I called the singer of the band I was in to tell him the news. Strangely enough, he wasn’t as ecstatic as I was. He was much more excited about the weeklong residency he had booked for us to play in a nightclub in Paris. We were due to leave on the 23rd to take the overnight ferry in time to play the first gig on Christmas Eve and doing a gig on the night of the 23rd was going to be cutting it fine. I couldn’t believe it. Surely nothing could be more important than playing at The Marquee with The Pretenders? Could it? Somehow, the logistics were worked out. On the first night I brought my newly acquired 1966 Fireglow Rickenbacker 360-12 to show to James Honeyman-Scott – a belated quid pro quo for the blue Firebird. But when I got to the gig, The Pretenders were nowhere to be seen. I left the guitar in the dressing room. We did our sound check and I returned to the dressing room to find Honeyman-Scott playing my guitar and enthusing about a film he had just seen of The Beatles on their first American tour where George Harrison was playing the very same model. “Is this yours?” he asked me loudly. I admitted that it was. “Would you like to borrow it?” I offered, with as much nonchalance as I could muster. “Naaah, thanks mate”, he demurred, smiling. “I’ve got a couple of chorus pedals hooked up to get me that sound if I need it”. At the time I didn’t even know what a chorus pedal was but I nodded with infinite understanding. Suddenly the room was full of Pretenders. “Has anyone seen my fucking gloves?” called out Chrissie. “They were a present from my mother.” She looked at me: “It’s kinda depressing, you know.” I nodded as if I too knew the pain of losing a pair of fingerless black lace gloves that had been a present from my mother.

She must have found them because she was wearing them when she appeared on stage later for The Pretenders set. Our set had gone over well with the audience. We had managed to gather together what fan base we had and had done as good a set as we were capable of. But I was impatient for it to end so that I could watch The Pretenders. It turned out that Chrissie was coming down with the flu so her performance was a bit subdued. By this time, they had outgrown the Marquee and the place was too full for comfort. “It’s just jukebox music!” the voice of our bass player boomed loudly in my ear, full of disdain. I just smiled. Yes, yes, it was, beautiful jukebox music.

After the gig, packing up, the atmosphere in the dressing room was getting a little rowdy. Chrissie had gone home to nurse her flu. Steve Peregrine-Took, the original bongo player from Tyrannosaurus Rex, appeared and warmly greeted Pete Farndon, the Pretenders bassist, and then immediately fell down on the floor in a dead faint. He was a big fellow and he fell heavily and this became the subject of much hilarity. Alarm bells were ringing in my head. It was time to leave.

The next night was an anti-climax. We had virtually none of our people in and our set failed completely to make an impression on The Pretenders audience. We didn’t play so good and Chrissie’s flu was like a pall over The Pretenders set. I never saw them again.

Our week in Paris is another story. When I got back I slept for eighteen hours straight and woke to find that “Brass In Pocket” was number one. Allegedly, this was the result of a frenzied hype campaign on the part of the record company but whatever, it worked. The Pretenders were on their way.

But the rock superstardom that had seemed so inevitable never happened. James Honeyman-Scott died of a heart attack brought on by cocaine abuse in June of 1982, and heroin took out Pete Farndon less than a year later. Prior to this, though, they had continued to knock out some truly great singles. “Talk Of The Town” hadn’t managed to repeat the success of “Brass In Pocket” but I loved it so. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday…”, sang Chrissie, and I knew exactly what she meant. And on the ‘B’ side there was “Cuban Slide” which remains the closest to how I remember the way they sounded back then, featuring, as it does, perhaps their best ever recorded ensemble performance with poor doomed Jimmy playing his little heart out through his pair of doubled-up chorus pedals. “Message Of Love” married up a classic one-up one-down punk guitar riff with a mysterious bridge and chorus that seemed to come from somewhere else completely, full of chords sprung from a vintage Brian Wilson fantasy. And then there was “I Go To Sleep”.

Chrissie always talked up her love for Ray Davies in interviews and so it came to pass that they eventually met, fell in love, had a child together, and parted. “How’s your relationship with Ray Davies these days?” asked a rude journalist for the gutter press. “Who the fuck wants to know?” Chrissie snarled straight back – and I fell in love with her all over again. But the journalist only had to listen to the version of Davies’s “I Go To Sleep” that The Pretenders released as a single in 1981 to have his question answered. It’s surely their best ever record. A masterpiece of heartbreak, Davies wrote it when he returned from a tour to find his wife had left him. He never recorded it with The Kinks, preferring to give it to Peggy Lee (of all people).

“I go to sleep, and imagine that you’re there with me…”

In The Pretenders version the line assumes proportions of tragedy rarely hinted at in the Pop charts. But this is what Pop music is for: to express emotions this deep. Isn’t it? With the guitars reined in, a lone horn takes the melody at the beginning and end. The arrangement is as delicate as the mood. Coming when it did, in 1981, it was almost unbearably good.

After Honeyman-Scott died, Chrissie found a temporary replacement and released a song called “Back On The Chain Gang” – not a version of the Sam Cooke song, though it referenced the sound of the men grunting from that record, but a paean to her lost friend.

“Those were the happiest days of my life”, she sang, and once again, I knew exactly what she was talking about.


As I write it is February 2013. I am 52, I have a daughter older than I was when all this was going on. She is so much more sensible and adult than I was then. Is it just a boy thing? I realise I am eulogizing trivial events that happened 33 years ago. Romanticizing throwaway pop music – “Jukebox music” - from as long ago as that. That would have been like a 52 year old in 1980 remembering the hits of 1947 – unthinkably irrelevant! The modern age of instant information has done strange things to our measurement of time, which is, after all, only a human construct. Noel Coward’s quote: “how potent cheap music is”, is surely his best known because it is an absolute truth. Nothing brings back my youth and invokes nostalgia like the early records of The Pretenders. It all seemed so important then. Rock’n’roll, Pop - whatever you want to call it – it was the most important thing in the world. Everything was done or left undone to its soundtrack. It was the heartbeat of my whole life, and I know I was far from alone. Maybe it’s that monstrously disproportionate emotional investment that my generation made to the music that makes it so hard to forget. Oh, I know, many people do. They get proper jobs, they take on adult responsibilities, they become…indentured. They lose sight of the confused and entranced teenagers they once were. This is as it should be. People who spend their lives constantly refusing to grow up can be tiresome and often, ultimately, pathetic. But I know, as sure as I am alive, that there will be music from that time that would take the sternest adult straight back to when things were strange and confusing, exciting and frightening.

With hindsight, (Hyndesight, hah!) the end of the 70s marked the end of the great experiment of the mid-20th century – the great cultural and artistic renaissance that flowered in the 60s, withered in the 70s and died in the 80s. Thatcher and Reagan were about to unleash their cruel visions. Nothing would ever be the same again. So maybe it’s not just me, not just my fond nostalgia. There was something special about that end time and the music that was its soundtrack. At the time, many people were absolutely messianic about “the death of rock’n’roll” and all that that meant – the posturing of groups like Public Image Ltd and the whole ‘Industrial’ thing of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle etc which all seems so silly now – but the empty rhetoric was tailor made for dramatic teenagers. Add drugs to the mix and stir vigorously. Ultimately though, the commodity of Rock’n’roll proved to be far too durable, too lucrative to be finished off by a bunch of spotty scag heads. The Rolling Stones approach their seventies and play vast stadiums where tickets for admission have a face value of over £400. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey regularly front a gang of session musicians and have the unmitigated effrontery to call it The Who – and are believed by huge audiences unwilling to admit that they missed out on being there when it mattered. And on and on and on…

“To a place in the past we’ve been cast out of” – Chrissie Hynde, “Back On The Chain Gang”

I would like to thank Chrissie Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott, Pete Farndon and Martin Chambers for all these memories, for providing me with such a dependable soundtrack at such a turbulent time of my life. It was a good choice I made, The Pretenders. The records still sound good. They never depreciated. They have never embarrassed me and I don’t think they ever will. So thank you.

Monday, February 11, 2013


When I was born in July 1960 my Godmother, Kristine Howarth, gave me a copy of “Rocking Goose” by Johnny and The Hurricanes. I didn’t see much of her after that – she and my parents went their separate ways – but to all intents and purposes her work was done. Charged with overseeing my spiritual wellbeing, she could surely not have picked a better place to start. “Rocking Goose” is a fantastic record, and I still have it and play it and cherish it.

By the time I was eighteen months old my parents were showing off to their friends my ability to operate their gramophone. My earliest memories are all connected with records and record players: watching the records go round, making sure the needle didn’t overshoot the playout groove and scratch the label. This last was called “going onto the side” and was the worst thing that could possibly happen when playing records and had to be guarded against at all times. It was especially critical when it came to 78s, as it could all happen so fast. When I was two, another friend of my parents, Derek Hunt, gave me my very own old wind up mechanical gramophone and a bunch of 78s to go with it. Changing the steel needles, keeping the crank handle up to pressure, memorizing every detail of the record labels (and making sure they never went onto the side) all became part of my everyday pre-school routine.
My father worked at the BBC and was friendly with a fellow named Neville Workman who worked on “Top Of The Pops” when it first started in 1964. Having told Neville about his four-year-old son’s obsession with records, Neville invited my father into his office and motioned him towards a filing cabinet that was full of demo 45s.
“Help yourself”, he said. “Give ‘em to your son.”
That was when my collection really began. There must have been close on a hundred 45s – all with ‘Demonstration Disc – Not For Sale’ on the labels – and I would pore over them and absorb their every detail as I played them all one after another. (To my great shame and sadness, I stupidly swapped them all for a Beatles LP when I was eleven.)

At this stage I wasn’t all that bothered about the quality of the music but by the time I was six I cared enough to cajole my parents into buying me a copy of “Happy Jack” by The Who. I had seen them perform this on television and, apart from getting hooked on the chorus, I had been most impressed by the talcum powder on Keith Moon’s drums. When I got the record, I was excited by the fact that it was on a label I hadn’t seen before (Reaction) and that the groups name was above and bigger than the name of the songs. A year or so later I begged for “Hole In My Shoe” by Traffic. This cost a princely 7/6 and came in a beautiful pink sleeve with Island printed on it to match the beautiful pink Island label. When I wasn’t playing it I would gaze at it, overflowing with joy and pride of ownership. Another year or so later I remember accompanying my mother on a shopping trip to Church Street market off the Edgware Road where she bought a copy of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles as a present for my father. This was the most exciting record yet: a shiny black sleeve with Apple written on it in little green letters, and the record itself? Breathtaking: on one side a green apple and on the other the same apple cut in half. Everything about this record was extraordinary. The ‘A’ side went on at least twice as long as any other record in our home (of course I was intimately acquainted with all the details of my parents records as well as my own) and some of the details printed on the ‘B’ side were typed in black over black so you couldn’t read them unless you held the label up to the light at a certain angle. I was eight by this time and very impressed.

Then, I am ashamed to say, football took over for a couple of years. I never lost interest in records but they definitely took a back seat to football. But then, when I was ten, records regained their supremacy in my life and again, it was a shopping trip to Church Street market with my mum that did it. There was a little stall there that sold records. We stopped to look. They were selling ‘ex-jukebox’ and returned stock 45s for 30 new pence each (six shillings). My mum bought a couple for herself and my dad and for me she bought “Let It Be” by The Beatles – knowing how much I liked The Beatles and of course the beautiful Apple label (although this one had been spoiled somewhat by having had the centre pushed out). Shortly after that, I went out and bought “Hot Love” by T.Rex. New. With my own money. It had a picture of a fly on the label. It cost me 50p. That was the turning point. After that and to this day, virtually every bit of spare cash I’ve had has gone on records.

That stall in Church Street market was a godsend. Every week I would turn up with my pocket money of 30p and buy a 45. In addition to the 30p singles they had a big stash of albums for £1.25 – mono editions that were unwanted as the world turned stereo – and sometimes I would save up and buy one, each week praying that it wouldn’t have been sold before I had enough money (I have a recurring time machine fantasy to go back there with grown up money and buy the lot.) I got a Rolling Stones album called “Between The Buttons” for £1.00 because the cover was creased. It was a strange record (it still is), it didn’t sound much like the 45 of “Brown Sugar” I had recently purchased, but still I absorbed its every detail. I would wander up and down Church Street market, in and out of all the junk shops, and peruse every stack of records I could find.  One time I was sorting through a pile of 78s when the proprietor asked me if I was really interested in old records. When I confirmed that I was VERY interested in old records he gave me a pile of jazz 78s as a present. I was overwhelmed. I could barely carry them home. In that pile was Clara Smith, Louis Armstrong, Muggsy Spanier and a record that changed my life: “Down The Road Apiece” by the Will Bradley Trio. (My father was very jealous.)

As I hit my teens, Pop was my official religion but shortly after that, like many a grammar school smartarse, I got bitten by wanting to appear cool and knowledgeable and I fell into the open arms of Prog Rock. In some ways, this was a regression to childhood as the sleeves and designs of these records were so elaborate they were an entertainment in themselves. Roger Dean’s covers for Yes, Jethro Tull’s fold-outs, the spinning wheel of “Led Zeppelin III”, Martin Sharp’s acid fantasies for Cream, the optical illusion of “In And Out Of Focus” – all these became like totems to me and by the time I was fifteen I had more or less stopped buying singles. Then, I got a Saturday job handing out leaflets in Portobello Road. When I would finish the job, I would look in on a record stall in a clothes shop (in those days, many clothes shops - boutiques, as they were known - would have a stall that sold records). This stall sold bootlegs. These fascinated me (they still do), illicit records, illegal records, things you weren’t supposed to be able to hear. They were expensive but I would sometimes scrape enough money to buy one. The proprietor was a friendly soul who wouldn’t mind playing things for me even when it was obvious I couldn’t afford them. One week in 1976 I went in and he was playing a 45 – an EP to be precise. He was chuckling and when it got the to the end he played it again. It was the first time I had ever seen him playing a 45, and the EP format (two songs a side) was completely out of circulation at the time. But just like an old EP from the 60s (I owned a few) this had a laminated picture sleeve. “Speedball”, it was called, by a group called The Count Bishops. It stopped me in my tracks. The songs were short and very fast and all cover versions. They sounded like the early Rolling Stones but brought up to date. “Speedball” changed everything. I started buying 45s again. Punks began appearing on the streets. The rules changed virtually overnight. “I could do this”, I thought to myself. But that’s another story…

Then, in the 80s, as we all know, the record industry did something snide and underhand to us record buyers: compact disc. It was the greatest marketing coup in the history of the industry: get millions of people to buy something they already have at a higher price in a different format. I never fell for it. I held out against CD’s as long as possible. Who cares if they sound good? Since when did the odd scratch or crackle matter when compared to the joys of labels and sleeves and big pictures and fat shiny grooves which change colour in the loud bits? Particularly offensive to me was what the CD revolution did to the Pop single. Suddenly there were no more ‘B’sides! The ‘B’ side was such an important part of the ritual of the 45. You bought the record because you liked (loved) the ‘A’ side. Some records were SO GREAT you never even played the ‘B’ side. But it was there, waiting for you. It was a completely unknown quantity (unless it was a track off an album you already knew). The ‘B’ side was a place for an artist to put something for fans, something that maybe wasn’t on the album, maybe something special like a live track or a cover version. Sometimes the ‘B’ side was even better than the ‘A’ side! (Cue at least half a dozen Beatles singles) But with CD’s, not only could you not turn them over but more often than not, the ‘B’ side was just a crummy re-mix of the ‘A’ side. This contradicted every instinct I ever had about the Pop single: THE WHOLE POINT ABOUT A POP SINGLE IS THAT IT IS A SONG WHICH IS SO IMPORTANT IT HAS TO HAVE A WHOLE RECORD ALL TO ITSELF! Inferior re-mixes undermined this concept. A scam was being perpetrated on the public. (Nowadays, of course, the public have voted with their wallets and the CD single is dead, and the album format hanging on by its fingernails. The individual track is once again king but a digital download, be it legal or illegal, is not a record. You can’t hold it in your hand, you certainly can’t turn it over or watch it go round to make sure it doesn’t go onto the side. More often than not, it doesn’t even sound that good.)

So I rebelled. When I hit my late 30s I decided to stop being coy about it and just celebrate my collecting of old singles. I don’t care about being an anorak, in fact I am rather proud of it. The hell with it. I like singles. Specifically, I like singles from the mid 50s to the late 70s – the golden age of pop and rock’n’roll (or at least, my take on it). I like to get the original pressings whenever possible because that’s what you would have got if you’d been there at the time. If it’s an American record, I like the American pressing, if British then British (strangely enough, a survivor from my Prog days, my copy of “Focus 3” is Dutch but I swear that was a happy accident.) The 45 is the format in which the music was originally meant to be heard. And of course, the graphics are wonderful, magical, signposts from another age (whatever happened to Fran The Fan? Did The Frantics ever get a record deal? These are very real questions that need addressing) when the world was younger and I was young and everything was possible – even apples on record labels.

So why am I obsessed with records? I haven’t a clue. Not an earthly. These days I have even gone back to the 78s where I started 50 odd years ago. I would like to hear from anyone else similarly afflicted, hear their tales, but for myself it has gone all my life, since before I could read or write. I still cannot pass a record shop without going in – it’s a Pavlovian response. More than once now, I have been pleased to find a record, buy it, get it home, only to find I already have a copy. Obviously the music is most of it, but only most of it. The labels, the sleeves, the smell of records, the feel of them, it’s a complete experience. And I can’t see it ever ending.  


Once upon a time I was at a nightclub in Soho called Alice In Wonderland and I was drunk and on my own. It was late, around 3am, and maybe the people I’d been talking to had gone, or maybe I’d just staggered off – I can’t remember. I was wobbling a little so I leaned against a speaker column for support. The volume of the music was loud, very loud, but it passed me by, it meant nothing. I watched the little goth-ettes and the Japanese tourists in their bondage gear and I carried on drinking.
Then something unforeseeable occurred. Behind my head someone belched loudly and I was immediately assailed by the sound of electric guitars. Piling in after them, hot in pursuit and dangerous with it, were bass, drums and some weird high-pitched percussion. I nearly fell down, but I gathered what I could of my faculties and realised that I knew this noise. It was Iggy And The Stooges, “Raw Power”, and sure enough there was Iggy suggesting that I:
   “Dance to the beat of the living dead, lose sleep baby and stay away from bed”
I didn’t dance of course; I was transfixed, motionless. The noise filled my ears and the man sang straight at me:
   “Raw power is sure to come a-runnin’ to you”
My eyes widened. I had heard the record many times but never before had I understood that:
   “Raw power got a healing hand, raw power can destroy a man”
As if that were not enough, the beat kept lurching like an engine backfiring, keeping the guitars locked in and furiously hammering for escape. It stopped and started so fast, like an unmanned piston. Enraged beyond all reason, the man called Pop complained bitterly:
   “Ev’rybody always tryin’ to tell me what to do”
Before issuing a warning:
   “doncha try, doncha try to tell me what to do”

By this time, the high-pitched percussion thing had lodged itself between my ears and I began to lose focus. Manfully I struggled to clear my head. I took another pull on my bottle and lit a cigarette. I looked at the swaying array of girls and through the mist I heard another suggestion:
   “Look in the eye of the savage girl, fall deep in love in the underworld”
And again the assurance:
  “Raw power is sure to come a-runnin’ to you”
I took a few steps, tottered, and retreated feeling foolish.
   “Raw power, honey, it don’t want to know”
No indeed. In fact:
   “Raw power is a-laughin’ at you and me”
I felt glad that I wasn’t alone and as, relief swelled in my heart, I heard the question: 
   “Can ya feee-eel it? Uh, can ya feee-eel it?”
Gulping in assent, I felt the pit of my stomach fall through the floor and I stood rigid as a lead guitar appeared from nowhere and pinned me to the wall. The bayonet twisted again and again, it was evil and savage and it killed mercilessly and without remorse.
The record finished. Another record came on and I didn’t hear it. I shambled over to the DJ booth – I had to see the sleeve. Bemused and detached as always, Christian passed me a record cover with no writing on the front, just a picture of a young man, stripped to the waist, who looked damned and defiant. He looked unreachable. I knew the sleeve of course, but this was an original issue, without the tacky lettering that CBS had seen fit to add to the sleeve of the re-issue that I possessed. I handed it back, said something like goodbye and made my way to the exit. I collected my coat and smiled at Queen Alex who smiled back, quizzically penetrating me from the corners of her false eyelashes. I left quickly, and walked home.
All the way back I heard it: that broken rhythm, that non-tune.
   “Raw power got a magic touch, raw power is a much too much”
The song stayed with me for weeks, I had to have it at least once a day, pure compulsion. Even now, years later, I have to have a re-charge before too long. It’s the truth: there are no lies in that song, nothing about it is false, and its desperation at its forbidden knowledge creates a kind of wanton celebration virtually unique in white rock music – indeed, virtually unique outside the work of Iggy And The Stooges. This Raw Power is eternal.
   “Can ya fee-eeel it?”