One of the proudest moments of my teenage years was in 1979 when I had a letter published in Smash Hits (I also had a letter in Iron Man comic a few years before but that just isn’t as cool). I wrote to them in response to a letter they’d printed from some idiot attacking Chrissie Hynde with the bizarre claim that she was nothing but a Debbie Harry copycat. Now I was a big Pretenders fan and I wasn’t going to let such stupid bollocks pass so I took pen to paper and stated in no uncertain terms that the only thing the two had in common was that they were both American women who were in a band and bitchily added that at least Chrissie could play guitar and write her own songs and didn’t have to rely on a pretty face and wear short skirts to sell records. I signed the letter “A Tattooed Love Boy, London” and was amazed that they actually published it, the first letter on the page too!
Sadly I don’t have a copy of that issue anymore, though if I read it today I’d probably be embarrassed by my teenage prose style and cringe at how annoyingly opinionated I was — but aren’t we all at that age, especially when it comes to music? Like most 17-year-olds I was ready to start a fight with anyone who didn’t think the new Jam single wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, and this was particularly true in the late 70s when a 45rpm record could (and did) start a revolution in our young lives. This was life and death stuff. Which might explain why, of all the burning issues of the day that got me worked up, the one time I was moved to write a Mr. Angry letter to the editor was over two pop singers while my tirades against the far greater evils of Maggie Thatcher, unemployment, and the National Front were confined to the Sixth Form Common Room and sitting on the sofa yelling at the television.
I’m sure in the great Chrissie vs. Debbie debate most boys would come down in favour of Debbie (at least as eye candy) but regular readers of this blog know that my vote always goes to the brunette. It wasn’t just the Sandie Shaw hairdo and pouty lips, but she also had that voice which one minute could sound like she was tenderly stroking your hair and the next like she was angrily stubbing a cigarette out on your hand and throwing all your clothes out into the street.
Big fan though I was I must have been one of the few who was disappointed in The Pretenders’ debut album. I’d bought their first three singles and eagerly awaited the album but when it appeared I was pissed off to find that not only did it contain all the singles I had already bought, but most of the b-sides too. Bands just weren’t supposed to do things like that back then — I was almost moved to write an angry letter to Smash Hits about it.
“The Wait” is from the b-side of “Stop Your Sobbing”, they re-recorded it for the album but I think this version is much better. Their cover of The Small Faces’ “What You Gonna Do About It” is from a flexidisc that came free with Flexipop magazine, it’s available on this box set now but that probably doesn’t have all the lovely crackles you get from recording something off of flimsy orange plastic.
I’m sure we’ve all been to concerts that have been a little spoiled by overly-enthusiastic and aggressive people jumping around elbows flying like crazed loons knocking into everyone near them. Then there’s those twats who push in front of you right before the band come on, spoiling the nice view of the stage you got there early to secure. I hate those bastards.
This photo reminded me of the time I saw The Clash at The Lyceum in 1980 and I was surrounded by these skinheads who kept shouting “DO WHITE RIOT! DO WHITE RIOT!” and I’m thinking to myself “Please, don’t do ‘White Riot’” because I didn’t fancy being caught in the middle of a group of blokes wearing steel-toed Doc Marten’s all going berserk. I’d gone to that concert with my sister who insisted on standing right at the front centre stage so she could be near Joe Strummer (her latest object of desire at the time) though I told her not to because it would get crazy down front the minute the band kicked off. But you know what sisters are, don’t want to take advice from their younger brothers. Well, two songs in (“Clash City Rockers” and “Safe European Home”), I could see her from my nice spot at the side and she looked like she was drowning in a violent sea of bodies crushing her and knocking her all over the place and had this look on her face that said “Help!” so I had to wade into the heaving throng and pull her out. I didn’t like to say I told her so but I did. She’d been to a Bay City Rollers concert so you think she’d be used to an out of control crowd, those girls could be more aggressive than any punk or skinhead.
I’ve had a few hairy moments at concerts myself (being knocked to the floor and trampled on at a Banshees gig comes to mind) but nothing compared to standing on the terraces at a football match when a goal is scored and the crowd surges forward, literally sweeping you off your feet into a body-crushing mass of people. Though I must admit that could be as thrilling as it was scary.
Anyway, I’m not going to play “White Riot” either, here’s the b-side of “Complete Control” instead.
I can’t remember how and when I found out how babies were made but I distinctly remember not knowing. When I was very young there was a rumour going around my Primary School that the older sister of a friend of mine was on something called “the Pill” and while I had no idea what “the Pill” was I gathered it was something a bit scandalous and to do with having a baby. So my innocent mind put 2 and 2 together and came up with 3: for a while I actually thought a girl got pregnant by taking a pill. But back then the thought of just kissing a girl scared me out of my short trousers – I’d run a mile when they started playing kiss chase – so God knows how I’d have reacted to the idea that grown ups did, you know, that.
While I knew nothing of the intimate details of love I did actually have my first official “girlfriend” at the age of 10, though to be honest she was the one who asked me out. Her name was Simone Palmley (Simone sounds so exotic now, but we pronounced it See-mon because we were a bit common), a girl at my school who I was told fancied me rotten and one day she came up to me in the playground and asked me out. Now Simone was a nice-looking girl who also happened to be famous among the boys at school for being rather, um….well-developed for her age (“Blimey, she’s got bigger ones than me!” my mum said after she met her), so you’d think my reply would have been “Phwooooaar yes!” but instead I think I turned bright red and was so tongue-tied I had to be bullied into saying yes by her mates.
But at that age girls are scary creatures, they mature faster than us boys and are into things like clothes and make-up and kissing (yuck!) while we’re still snotty oiks with pea shooters who’d rather be playing football. Simone was especially scary to a nervous Nellie like me, she looked so damn womanly, the dark-haired, curvy siren of the school playground who seemed 10 going on 26. I never knew what to do with myself (or her) when she was around, during that summer when we were officially “going out” (which mostly involved going swimming at the local baths together) I could barely work up the courage to hold her hand and think I only kissed her twice, both times a hurried peck on the lips. Is 10 too young for furtive gropings or snogging sessions on the back row of the pictures? It was for me, but kids these days are probably indulging in three-ways at that age.
A few years later I found out that quite a few others had gone where I feared to tread and my Simone had seemingly been out with half the boys in my year at Secondary School. Little was I to know then but this was to become the defining characteristic of my future experience with the ladies: kicking myself over golden opportunities missed because I was such a pathetic twerp and wistful thoughts of “if I knew then what I know now”.
These days one doesn’t usually associate Fleetwood Mac with mopey existential angst but way back when they were led by troubled acid casualty/genius guitarist Peter Green they produced this achingly sad and lonely gem which it isn’t too difficult to imagine Morrissey singing (I have a lot of songs like that here), especially the line: “there’s no one I’d rather be, but I just wish that I’d never been born”
My wife just sent me a link to this and for some reason I’d never seen it before. Always loved the song of course but with the video it almost made me cry. Either I’m just a soppy old git or work stress has turned me into an emotional wreck – or it really is that lovely.