It might have been hard being a cowboy in Rochdale, but it was a damn site harder being a punk, then a post punk, in Barnsley. Even worse at a shitty comprehensive, desperately clinging to its grammar school past, on the edge of the wild and windy Pennines. Being threatened by the psycho kids for wearing dayglo socks; being spat at by men in their 30’s; chased by skin heads after missing the last bus home; and worst of all – my Gran’s tears when I had my “lovely curly hair” hacked to a 1inch spike. Being a punk in a northern town in 1978 was like fighting a war.

Trying to perfect ‘the look’ wasn’t easy either. The high street was still all ‘soulie bags’ and acrylic jumpers. We had to be creative. We befriended old ladies to get ‘first dibs’ at jumble sales. A friend’s mum took all our jeans in. Red Doc Martins were dyed black. We customised t-shirts . My Dad’s old raincoat saw its first airing for 30 years ( and I still can’t understand why he hated me in it). When we had some money we skived school. Caught the train to Leeds and headed straight to X-Clothes. The coolest shop in our universe. Cavalry shirts, winkle picker creepers, bondage trousers and the hippest kids hanging out. A window into another world, big city life, London calling.

My Joy Division moment

January 30, 2009

It was a warm spring evening – why when you look back, does it alway seem to be spring. A six form party. The boys watch football – FA Cup final replay, Man City vs Spurs and that Ricky Villa goal- the girls dance. Later the boys (well some of them) dance too. Someone has the new Joy Division album. I borrow it, take it home. Head spinning a little from drink – still not quite used to it. Randomly pick a side. Heart and Soul -what will burn? 24 Hours and a baseline that makes we want to weep, (still makes me want to weep). The Eternal – which I skip, still do. Then Decades starts with a noise  like two metal bars being banged together in a distant universe. The song ends. I play it again. And again. And again. 

I’m still playing it.

the lead singer’s good

January 30, 2009

Me and my best mate Ed (used to have a great quiff – now bald and looks like Ray Wilkins) were always trying to outdo each other by getting into the most obscure bands. We’d usually go through NME or Sounds and pick a name from the gig list at the back and that would be the band we’d be into until we dropped them for the next one. One week Ed decided he was a Crispy Ambulance fan – a band with a name that bad had to be good. He even managed to find one of their records on a market stall. I decided that I’d like Joy Division. I asked another mate who went to loads of gigs if he’d heard of them. Amazingly, he’d not only heard of them he’d seen them supporting Buzzcocks. “Their music’s crap” he proclaimed, “but their lead singer’s good”.

Another light was turned on

This is how it started

January 30, 2009

New Order’s Peter Hook likened seeing the Sex Pistols for the first time to a light being turned on in a dark room. My awakening was a bit more prosaic, but no less life changing. Slouched on my sofa, aged 13, probably eating toast, probably wearing kung fu pyjamas, watching a new music programme called Revolver. An old comedian introduced a small man wearing a bright shirt. The band is Buzzcocks. The song is Noise Annoys. It blows me away. I didn’t know that it was the b-side of their latest single; that it wasn’t their best song; that Boredom and Breakdown had already blown others away. All that would follow. For now all I knew was that it was the most exiting thing I’d ever seen. Before that I’d been listening to Queen, 10cc and Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. I actually remember getting off the sofa and pogoing up and down in front of the tv in my pjs like the audience were doing on the tele.

Watching the clip now on YouTube   – and thank you Featherysunshine for posting this and letting me re-live my damascene moment again and again – I realise that what actually got my pre-teen hormones spinning was the audience. They were wild – crazy dancing, crazy hair, I wanted to be in their gang.