Throughout this blog I will endeavour to be as truthful as I can, mainly because I don’t see the point of exaggeration and also because I’m particularly rubbish at fibbing. So with that in mind, this entry begins with a confession of sorts, namely that it is fair to say that I didn’t exactly fall crop over boots for The Redskins straight away! It was not quite the case of adulation at first sight, and so to explain this please indulge me while I dig way down into the deeper seams and recesses of my memory.
Christmas Day 1981, while scoffing an unnecessary amount of peanuts straight after a giant dinner, whilst lougning in front of the festive afternoon James Bond movie, (ask your grandparents if you don’t believe me – it was TRADITION!), I inadvertently got one of the little blighters stuck in my appendix. Boxing Day was spent in agony on the sofa watching “Paint Your Wagon” while my folks went down the road to my Nan’s for another festive feast, they certainly weren’t cancelling that because I had bad guts, and because well, y’know TRADITION!
27th December, a local doctor came out to the house early doors, asked my Mum if she had any margarine while snapping on a rubber glove, and well, he doesn’t write anymore but I went to Watford General for an emergency operation. There I duly caught a bug off the coffin-dodger in the next bed to me on the ward and was moved into isolation for a week. And so I spent all my time watching a portable black and white TV and listening to “Wunderful Radio Wun” a lot. Thus it was that I, admittedly a captive as such, heard “A Town Called Malice” many times over. Now naturally I was aware of The Jam, my Uncle Brian had pointed at them when they were guesting on Marc Bolan’s afternoon TV show back in 1977. He said, “these are going to be fucking huge” as he passed me his can of Long Life – “shhh, he’s got to learn sometime” was his mantra/excuse. I think I preferred the illicit beer (for want of a better word to describe Long Life) than the music to be honest, but hey I was only 11.
Long Life in all it’s …ahem…glory.
Over the next four years I tapped a young foot along to “David Watts”, “The Eton Rifles” and “Going Underground”, but then who didn’t. But I never brought into a particular scene or culture, I was just a very shy, very “normal” kid. My Dad had been a Teddy Boy in the early 60’s….
[A word to the wise here, we were country dwellers despite being only 24 miles as the crow does its stuff from the West End of London, but it was very rural where I grew up in Hertfordshire. Bona fide carrot crunchers the lot of us. So, whatever was THE trend, or THE swinging scene in the foreboding Metropolis, that didn’t get to us until at least a year or three after. Hence dear old Crun* (my Dad) was a Ted when Elvis was in the Army as rock and roll, like all edge-cutters was mutating into something other.]
We had a small collection of vinyl that had survived from Ma and Pa’s formative years, the covers held together by years of yellowing and dried-out sellotape. From the Bovingdon boy were a few Elvis albums, “Golden Records” being my favourite, I’d never seen a record label so intensely orange/red as that and a scratchy “Hound Dog” was the first track; plus we had some Little Richard; Fats Domino; Jerry Lee Lewis; a Bill Haley double album that he played every Sunday! From the young Chipperfield lass, “With The Beatles” and “The Most of The Animals” – to give her due, Mum used to say how she had seen Little Richard and The Everley Brothers live in Watford, only decades later did I find out that the support act that night was an unknown bunch of herberts doing blues covers – The Rolling Stones, kudos to Shirley.
“Crunny – the short one with the tie – along with some of the Bovingdon Teds
* Pa ‘s nickname, or at least one of them, Village life I tells ya, we all had nicknames, usually bestowed on us by the “elder gentlemen” of the local boozers, was Crun or Crunny, and sorry no, I don’t know why? But he’s live band story was that Joe Brown and The Bruvvers had dedicated a song to him on his birthday at a gig in Adeyfield Hall, Hemel Hempstead with the immortal words “Appie Berfdee to Crunny. Crunny!! What sort of name is that?!!” Like I said, kudos to Mum as far as gig tales go!
So then, getting back to the main story, by January 1982, I owned one 45 single, “Tom Hark” by The Piranhas; both Specials albums on tape and one lonely vinyl album, “East Side Story” by Squeeze. Crun had had a win on the horses and brought us all something, and that’s what I chose, although I had to ask another lad at school, who I didn’t like or had much in common with, but he knew all the words to Adam & The Ant and Madness songs, and so I reasoned that he should know what would be worth listening to, and he said Squeeze. Up until then my favourite song of all time was “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors!
Three weeks after being released from hospital I got the legendary 352 bus from Chipperfield, (no wonder they put the timetables for each direction on the wrong side of the road, it turned up when it wanted to) and heading down to WHSmiths and brought, yes brought, with my own funds “A Town Called Malice” on 45. I took it home, and devoured it, the opening bass notes, the drum fill in the middle, the lyrics, the organ in the background, and most importantly the message. I spent hours picking over the sleeve, where was that? What did that mean? And quite frankly, WHY the hell hadn’t I listened to my mates who frothed at the mouth over Weller?
“Struggle after struggle, year after year”
To cut this long-winded story relatively shorter, between the release of “Malice” (29th Jan 1982 – according to Wikipedia) and the import single of “Just Who Is The Five O’Clock Hero” (Wiki-do-dah has this as 21 June 1982) I brought EVERYTHING! All the albums up to that point, all the singles, the hair-style (four times a day I back-combed and blasted that bloody mop with a hair-dryer), the clothes (Melanndi’s – not sure of the spelling- in Carnaby Street took a lot of my wages), the attitude, EVERYTHING. I was a Jam fanatic, I was MOD!
And hence two years and one traumatic split later, that first sighting of The Redskins was not quite the Earth-moving experience I was searching, nay aching to find. In all honestly, Billy Bragg was my reason for being at Watford Trade Hall that night, and he was really good, it was early days, his voice was as bad as mine, the guitar went out of tune at a drop of a woolly hat, and his between song banter was hilarious. “Just have to use this as Paul Weller don’t need it anymore”, he said as he tried almost in vain to tune up using one of those bulky battery operated tuners of yester-year. When he asked if anyone had any requests, someone shouted for “Gold” to which he replied “Spandau Ballet? You cunt!”
Bragg – a brilliant stand up…erm…sitting down.
The Redskins on the other hand did not do songs about “space hardware” and who “belongs to Jane”. They were deadly earnest, the acoustics in that hall were awful for a full on band (was the horn section there? – can’t recall) and I couldn’t make out the lyrics, not with those Yorkshire accents on my under-developed Southern ears…”Use Your Eyes”?? What the hell is that about. By the time they announced that a bucket was going around for “t’one fookin group in t’country that can bring down t’ fookin’ government, t’ fookin’ miners”, Bogey had had enough, so off we went. Besides the local skins were getting restless and as I heard later from Dave The Milk (more of whom later) who was at the front that night, “a Mod got a right kickin’, I thought it was you”. Not me I admitted. He who runs away lives to run away another day!
HOWEVER! One song from The Redskins set did intrigue me. “Take No Heroes”. Because, and this will be familiar to anyone who has lived through an obsession with any group, it reminded me of The Jam – and so, that was the link I needed, tenuous, mistaken even, but it was enough. Enough to spur me on, enough for me to seek out what recordings I could find in my own half-arsed fashion.
A tiny link in a chain, all I needed.
And that, will be the next blog. A flood of lyric melody in the prose style on a track from a compilation tape that was issued by a now-defunct fanzine, and one of the best 12 inch singles ever!
Next time on this channel. A New Optimism – indeed it was.
Thanks for reading. Keep On Keepin’ On.