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Seven shades of red

Submitted by on November 11, 2014 – 10:00 pmNo Comment

While passing the line of teenagers like ourselves we couldn’t but help notice that some of them were wearing black bin liners. We stood and stared. “What ya looking at?” “Why the bin liners?” “‘Cause we don’t wanna look like you”. Fair enough, I didn’t want to look like me and I certainly didn’t want to look like the rest of our motley crew. “Let’s go in here”. We did. A pub in the middle of nowhere surrounded by Hackney marshes, football pitches as far as the eye could see. To get here you had to get the 277 to Hackney Wick and walk from there. We were on our way to the dogs, not for the racing but on a Thursday they had what we used to call a night club. Our aim was to get paralytic and pull, hopefully a female, but due to our first aim that was not always the case.

Upstairs in the bin liners’ club it was mad, dark, most of the lights had been smashed, piss and beer all over the floor and an unimaginable noise, so loud it hurt and we were young then.

This girl was screaming at the top of her voice “Bondage up yours” over and over. Black messy hair sticking up all over the place, big black rings around her eyes. Behind her jumping about was these two lads, one had a guitar and was whirling it around, the other was hitting the strings with his hand. This is what came to be known as punk. At the time before the media even knew about it, before the Sex Pistols’ Bill Grundy interview, we called ourselves New Wave. The papers and TV tried to ridicule us with the label Punk. We embraced it and made it our own.

We went back next week, this time we were going to play. I thought I could do a better job than whirling a guitar around. My sister’s boyfriend had an old guitar he lent me, my mate’s brother had an amp and guitar and Russell nicked a banjo thing from school. It was round, had a drum skin on one side and a drum skin on the other but with a few wirey things. “It must be a banjo with the arm bit missing” we concluded. It was a snare drum. He didn’t have drum sticks so he stole his mum’s wooden spoon. Running from his flat with his little sister shouting “Mum, Russ has put the wooden spoon down is undies”. Which he had.

At the bin liner club a girl asked my mate if he was the singer. He obviously said yes, thinking she’d snog him if he was and he was right, she did. So we had a singer too. “What you gonna sing?” I asked. “I don’t know”. I’d read that the Beatles sang about things that happened to them. “Me Dad took ten quid off me the other day and won’t give it back”. Sing that I suggested.

Russell the banjo, wooden spoon playing drummer was up beating the fuck out of the banjo drum. Ivor our snogging singer began thrashing the guitar. The notion that the guitar playing and the drum hitting were in the same rhythm hadn’t occurred to us. I thought I’d better start to thrash about with my guitar too, I mean I could get a snog. However my debut performance ran into a small problem. I didn’t have a guitar lead.

“Me Dad nicked me tenner, the tosser, the tosser, the tosser”. Blasted out over and over for a good three minutes. “I’m off for a piss”, I tell Russ. “Ok” without stopping a beat. I went and the tosser song ended. I came back to our second song “Chris went for a piss, went for a piss, went for a piss”. Luckily no one wanted a shit ‘cause that would have been our third song.

 

Make a record, urged Russ who had now stolen a drum stick from school too so he now had his Mum’s wooden spoon and a drum stick, which didn’t help matters because his left hand seemed to be in total conflict with his right and so they refused to do anything that was remotely like coordinated.

We did, for two reasons: firstly, no self-respecting record company were going to sign us, I still did not have a guitar lead and our drummer still used a wooden spoon for a drum stick. And secondly, we thought wrongly that if we had a record it would impress female punks.

Someone’s sister was going out with a student, which was very strange in itself because you didn’t get students from Hackney, it’s a law. And even more strange, he was a music student and his college had a recording studio. You could use the recording studio for free once all the students had finished using it and that was about two o’clock in the morning.

We arrived at this place full of dials and knobs and leads and wires and tape machines and microphones and everything. This hippy bloke, who was obviously bored shitless, told us what to do. ‘I can put some reverb on your vox, if you want”. I didn’t like the sound of that, my Mum had told me to stay well away from “reverb on your vox”, no good will come of it. But Russ was up for it. Russell’s voice sounded amazing, like he was in a big hall. “It sounds like he is in a big hall” we said excitedly. “I can do it for the guitars too if you want?” The studio had a guitar lead. We had reverb on everything. “It sounds like we are in a fish bowl”. So we took off the reverb, put it back on the “went for a piss, went for a piss, went for a piss”. We left the studio with a reel of tape. The hippy told us to take it to get a “lacquer’ done. Which we did and from that the vinyl records can be pressed. The lacquer and record cutting thingy was delivered to this tiny record printing place in Leytonstone. The manager person insisted that we look around the record printing plant. The plant had lots of women that looked like our mums working on various things to do with records. “What type of music is it?” asked one of the women. “Is it rock and roll?” said another. “Can ya jive to it?”, grabbing my hands and shaking me about a bit. “Aaar no”. “It’s punk”, said the manager. They all laughed. We slid out embarrassed.

We used all our money on the printing of the record, we didn’t have a cover. They came in white covers so we spent days drawing on them. They looked shit but it didn’t matter because we did it all ourselves. Nobody bought a single one. I still have fifty copies of the record, the rest we binned. We made no money, we didn’t get snogged other than by the women in the record printing plant. But that wasn’t the point, we loved every single minute of it. It was fun, exciting, creative, revolutionary and exhilarating.

It all ended once the big record companies realised they could make money out of it, it became commercial, fashionable and boring. Our heroes sold out and signed for record labels, they became just another rock band. And we returned to being passive consumers of their creativity. Their creativity became a product to be bought and sold. The revolution ended, the fun was extinguished, the excitement obliterated, order was restored, money was made.

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