Category Archives: london

DISCOVERING JOHN PEEL 

In a previous posting i mentioned my introduction to John Peels night time radio 1 show, It was Christmas time and I was up late just playing a few records and flicking through the dial on our newly acquired state of the art music centre, Xmas 1977 I was 13 and i came across this glorious shambolic speeding punk blasting out in fine crystal clear glorious FM Stereo from the speakers, I sat and listened waiting for the end of the song for the DJ to say who it was, the short sharp and extremely good tune came to an end and the dulcet tones of John Peel came across the airwaves announcing I had just listened to Johnny Moped’s”Incendiary Device” and it held some position in a record chart that the 13 year old me had never heard of and certainly would never see either being performed by the band, or Pans People throwing a few shapes whilst dressed in pocket handkerchiefs,high heels and bad timing on good old TOTP. It was followed by more Fabulous tunes, again bands I’d never heard of, they just kept coming and coming, it was Punk tapas, a never ending line of small plates being served up, I was the junkie searching around for a lost stash of drugs, as i frantically looked  for cassettes to record what was cartwheeling out of the speakers, The Lurkers “Shadow ” Sex Pistols “Holidays in the Sun” The Clash “Complete Control” John Cooper Clarke “Suspended Sentence ” The Rezillos  “I can’t stand my baby ” The Motors “Dancing the Night Away ” it was a Thunderbolt of Biblical proportions,  at midnight he announced it would be repeated later in the week, I just couldn’t wait. I went to bed that night buzzing, sleep didn’t come easy, I was making plans for the following night just hoping there was more of the same, that evening 40 years ago had started with my parents watching some Christmas time variety show full of flares and horrendous haircuts, by choosing not to sit with them and watch this “Adult Entertainment ” I had put the radio on by chance and found John Peel, all these years I’ve always believed in chance meetings or spur of the moment decisions can change your life as this certainly did.

Early next morning I was in that limbo state of not asleep but not quite awake, that time lapse of “who, what, where ” am I, that blank period, then the exocet missile hit me between the eyes as my mind slowly coughed farted and crunched into 1st gear, the previous night came kicking the doors down of my teenage memory bank, I reached for the cassette I’d used last night and stuck it in my small “hand me down ” Tape Recorder pressed play and laid back listening to my new found music. Later that morning I was sprinting round to my mates house, cassette squeezed into my jeans pocket as I hopped skipped and jumped over, around and through the puddles on the pavement as I headed for my mates house. 
My mates mother answered the door and I shot up to his  room, I burst in on a slumbering comatose adolescent vampire, blinking and holding his hands to his eyes as I pulled open the curtains to let in this grey damp Christmas 1977 morning “listen to this” I spat out as my shaking hands rammed the cassette into the tape deck laid on the floor, I pressed play and turned the volume up as high as possible, “fucking hell what’s this” he muttered as the morbid monotone voice of John Cooper Clarke reciting the joys of “bring back the rope for everyone ” slowly brought him out of his Xmas slumber, I told him how I found it and what was played the previous evening and it was on again tonight, we grabbed some toast and ventured out into the Xmas gloom, catching a bus to town we bought some cassettes to record that night and then made our way through the Christmas shoppers to Virgin Records at the bottom of the Moor, this was the hang out for all the young punks and rockers and most Tribes back in 77, at times it got tasty with various Tribes slugging it out with each other, we made our way to the punk records and looked for some of the band’s I had recorded the previous night, we came across Cooper Clarke, The Lurkers, a band called the Boys who we hadn’t heard of before who looked pretty punky and The Motors who didn’t look punk but where featured a couple of times in the festive 50, I spied Johnny Moped’s”Incendiary Device” and i just had to have it, I picked it out and paid at the counter and just wanted to get home to play it.


We arrived back at my mates house and put my new single on, now this was bloody class, what a record! the B side “No one” was just as good as the A side, so we played it again and again, we  fiddled with my mates radio to tune it to radio 1 so he could listen later, I floated of home in the gloom of Christmas and stuck my new single on the hifi, my mum was making tea and kept giving me funny looks as I sat in the dining room headphones on rocking backwards and forwards to the sound of the mopeds, I grabbed my tea and shot of to my bedroom amid protests from my parents that I should be sat at the table eating and not laid on my bed, that night I must have checked the clock a thousand times, at one point I swear it was going backwards, just before 10 I made my way towards the kitchen, switched the radio on and sat back and waited, major panic as the intro music was not what I had expected, my fears were eased as the sombre dulcet tones of (my future all time hero) John Peel cut across the airwaves and into my (sweet) suburbia. I was completely mesmerised for the next 2 hours, punk, reggae, and new wave, but also other genres all totally obscure to this 13 year old, I listened every night after that and the following days I would play my ever increasing collection of tapes all filled with his shows.

I also had a well earned “brucey bonus” as 1978 brought along The old Grey Whistle Test into my life, so one night a week I would record peely and sit and watch TOGWT patiently waiting for a punk band to make an appearance in between the rock operas of meat loaf and various other long haired, flared trouser American MOR FM radio rock band, some weeks it was a waste of time, but as punk and new wave took 1978 by the scruff of the neck more and more bands made there racket heard presumably to the displeasure of whispering Bob Harris, that however is another story to tell.

Over the next few years I accumulated hundreds of tape recordings from these shows, my collection of tapes probably documented the changing musical landscape of the late 70s and early 80s, from punk to new wave, post punk, ska revival and 2tone to the burgeoning small label indie scene to the coming of the smiths and early dance such as New Order etc. 

I sort of lost interest around 1983, mainly due to my favourite bands either splitting (The Clash, The Jam) or just going past there sell by date, I still occasionally listened in mostly when I was working nights, I went a long period in the 80s of not buying music or going to concerts, only now have I found music from that period that I missed which If I had carried on with peely I would have had! Live and learn eh! My tapes all ended up being thrown away by my parents around the late 80s along with various other musical gems I had collected over that fantastic period of my life,  when the Internet came along it brought all this great music back, I found loads of John Peel sessions readily available to download and listen to all over again, I went one step further and actually put a lot of what I had downloaded back on cassettes, I went full circle! Thank you Internet!!

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LONDON CALLING, CARNAGE ON CARNABY

As a kid I never went far at all,probably the farthest I went was wales on some  ill  fated holiday which lasted for all of 3 days,it probably took us the same amount of time to get there in my dad’s Morris Minor,laden down with 4 people,food and clothing it was never going to be troubling speed cameras or achieving maximum speed limits, in fact I’m sure we got overtaken by a car pulling a caravan,there was always a rather large tailback of traffic whenever my parents ventured out in this slow moving embarassing excuse for a car, oh and it rained,and rained and rained, and we came home and went to good old Chapel St Leonard’s, where it also rained. So March 1980 and again the head of the school youth club organized a day trip to London,  at the age of 16 this was going to be the furthest I had ever been without my parents,and there was always an ulterior motive with howard,he was a big united fan, with them playing at southend this was his plan,2+2  did make 4 and his plan was to drop this various assortment of punks,teds,mods rockers and skinheads in the centre of London for a day of sight seeing, museums, art galleries and culture,whilst he shot off to  Sunny Southend, it turned out to be More like getting chased around London by skinheads,getting ripped off on the kings road,spending most of our money peeping thru letterboxes at rough as fuck slappers showing a bit of tit and getting chased out of various ‘adult themed’ shops in Soho,getting lost on the underground, crap beer and coming home with nowt apart from a dodgy Carnaby Street sticker.
The day started out full of expectations, destinations where going to be carnaby street and the kings road,we all agreed we where coming home laden down with Ben Sherman’s, Fred Perry’s, proper sta prest, hard to find  records, back in Sheffield we where going to be the ‘Ace Faces’ but the skinheads of London had other ideas,  we stuck out like a sore thumb,  just there for the taking, or so our baldheaded cockney cousins thought.

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Saturday morning,We all piled into this dodgy looking Comma mini bus,the type with no front end as such, with the engine between the front seats,a noisy uncomfortable bus obviously built to induce all types of back and leg pains on even the shortest journeys, a suspension that every time it hit a bump everyone left there seats and hit there heads on the ceiling, in time you could anticipate it,and just like joining a skipping rope you got into the rhythm before making your move, “right lads,pick you back up here at 6” as we spilled out on to the streets of London “carnaby street is just down there” says Howard pointing across to a narrow street as he pulled out in front of an oncoming bus ,and with a wave and a wanker sign to us, and a reply of a mass “fuck off holmesy ” he was gone, A former resident of  London, H had taught in a couple of schools and had given our chosen leader for the day Craig, various scribbled information on bits of paper, Chosen as Craig was a year older then us, street wise and could handle himself, Howards info was only used when we got lost ,or landed ourselves in shit,which was most of the day as it turned out.

In 1980 this part of London was quite different from how it is now, Soho was even more so, parts of London that are extremely desirable now,back then they where very dodgy, Carnaby street was way past its swinging hip sixties place to be, little alley’s and courts away from the main street where very  lonely and  frightening places, it wasn’t the place it is now,  we make our way to Carnaby and we have been in a couple of shops and a young kid about 12/13 asks the time and once he gets an answer he floats off,the  next shop we are in, the same kid walks in with 2 older kids, looks at us and walks out, “that’s  3rd shop he’s followed us into” says Craig, whilst we have been floating about, Craig has had one eye on what’s happening around us,whilst we are all fucking around and being as loud as possible,next shop 4/5  older lads come in, all Skinheads, the leader/main man picks out Craig ” we will leave you alone if you give us £5″ (lot of dough back then ) ” have a think about it” and they walk out, there’s 8 of us, Craig ain’t having none of it ” they can fuck off, if we give him money,they will all want money ” now Craigs a teddy boy,leather jacket,quiff the lot, and the skins have him as our “leader” so potentially he’s on a kicking, the plan, if we had one as such was we all leg it out on to regents street, and whatever we do we all stick together and head in the same direction, there might be 5/6 skinheads outside,then again there might be 15/20, we walk out and the skins are on the opposite side of Carnaby,  On your marks go!  On our toes and we are off! I’m that quick I overtake Linford Christie, well if he was there i would have,we are hammering it down carnaby with shoppers moving out of our way as quick as they can with a bunch of skinheads chasing, who ever was at the back launches a bin at there front man and smack in the face he’s down, we are catapulted out on to a busy street and manage to disappear rather quick into a wimpy and a quick head count and all present and correct.
We sit there and get our breath back, there’s a tube station across the road we brave it and venture out and down into subterranean London, somehow after studing a map of the underground,and none of us knowing which is north,and which is south,we ask someone to point us in the right direction for the kings road,only for us to get on the wrong train!

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we finally make it to the Kings Road,which at the time was the fashionable place to shop for clothes, No skinheads, No marauding ‘Gore blimey guv’ cockenees this time,  as we where about to find out it was the shop assistants who where after robbing us this time,Johnsons was the shop for all things mod at the time and they had some really great button down shirts, myself and john picked out some great checked shirts and asked the price “£4 son” wow bargain to a 16 year old mad on clothes! So I picked 3 shirts out and went to the counter with a rather grubby ten pound note and a load of silver,guy checked them in “£36 please”  “what? You mean £12 they are £4 each?” ” no Sonny £12 each” so we have jumped from £4 to £12 on a shirt that clearly has a £4 price tag on, “wrong price on them” is the answer we get back, so I ain’t paying it and neither is john,so Craig wades in  explaining that the guy has said £4, he replies he can charge what he wants so “either take it our leave it” so my answer is “fuck off”.
An argument ensued and I’m sure someone kicked something over in the shop, hence the assistant chasing us out of the shop. We have been in London 2 hours and have spent most of that time getting chased,this is fastly turning into the day Kirk Douglas was having in the film ” Falling Down” only it’s London town rather then Los Angeles,I’m sure there was some washed up film director sat in the last chance saloon desperate for an idea and he spies us lot charging round London looking like a collective of Frank Spencer’s trying to find the Frank Spencer Convention, anyway i can also remember we went in  a huge second hand clothing shop it was full of 50s/60s  american clothing, really great college jackets and vintage Levis,it may have been Flip or Acme Attractions,there was some really great clothes shops around the kings road at that time, we decide to find the nearest pub,in we walk  and with it still being early we have it to ourselves, none of us are legally old enough to drink,so the oldest lads who obviously have the most experience of “getting served” go to the bar, lager’s all round and we settle in, we are just about to have another and the landlord comes across, ” supp up lads,none of you are old enough to drink”  Craig has a go back at him telling him that  he is,and again a few choice words are exchanged but the landlord stuck his brakes on and was having none of it, ‘out you fucking go’.
Now where? We end up in Trafalgar square sat on the lions after we have messed about in some cheap gift shop,another visit to a wimpy, there’s no chippys whatsoever, London Calling?  You can fucking have it! we end up back in Soho, sex shops all over the place, and we dare each other to go in one, finally we all go in and there’s a scruffy bloke behind the counter who just looks up at us and Carries on whatever he was doing, there’s a few older men flicking thru mags, I’m totally gobsmacked,lost for words, I’m used to spending Saturdays in record shops or Harringtons,or at my mates house playing records, I’m surrounded by shelves full of magazines displaying naked women,fat women, thin women, women in leather, women tied up, old women, young  women, blokes in leather touching each other up, I’m that fucking Nieve, that I’m wondering why The Village People seem quite popular in a certain  section of this shop, I just thought they where in fancy dress, now I know! we all dare each other to flick thru a mag,not sure who picked one up but suddenly we all pushing each other out the way to have a look and we are giggling and making out we have seen it all before.

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” OK lads, you are either buying or if you’re not its £10 to look ” that shuts us up and we make our excuses quicker then when we left Carnaby street 5 hours earlier, we end up in another shop, this time it shows films!  There’s small cubicles and the idea is you go in and sit down shut the door and start feeding money into a coin slot and the porno film starts up and its projected over your head and on to the door, of course me and john get it completely wrong and we stand with our backs to the door whilst the film is projected onto our chests!  Huge grumbles of ” it’s fucking crap this” and various obscenities and then we realise what we are doing wrong,only by this time we have shovelled loads of coins into the slot, once the film gets to a good part it starts shutting down so you have to shovel more money in,  seasoned regulars skilled in the art of using one hand whilst the other hand is engaged elsewhere in the trouser department area would have a little stack of coins at the ready to be fed in so as not to be fumbling about and finding the film shutting down just as they reach the “point of no return” and it all goes “Tits up ” to coin a phrase.
So after a while we get bored of this and end up in  another shop, this time with what’s called a “peep show” again more feeding money into a box, we are in a room with a hexagonal box in the middle and as far as I can remember there was a revolving floor inside it with a woman on it and you viewed it through a slot the size of a letterbox which opened and closed depending on how much money you put in, we are all looking thru these slots and someone gets brave and shouts ” show us your muff” so she teases us by pulling her trolley’s to one side, then a shout of “let’s see your tits” and the bra comes off,  then it all goes downhill rather fast when someone shouts ” that dirty fuckers having a wank” which is aimed at a bloke over the other side who’s facial expressions can clearly be seen through the viewing slot, he’s now the centre of attention and realises all eyes are on him, he shouts something and the slot closes and he’s gone, 30 seconds later there’s banging on the doors and we are being ejected rather quickly from yet another Establishment.
We are now wondering where to go as pick up time is fast approaching, we are wandering around Soho slowly but surely drawing attention to ourselves, we need to make our way back to our pick up point,which isn’t far away, every time ive watched the film Warriors it always reminds me off this day out!  “Let’s go back to carnaby street”  is suggested and on viewing our map its just around the corner, surely the gang from earlier can’t be there now,so we go for it and its safe! Its early evening and its quite full and looks safe so we end our day passing thru and settle in a pub and wait for holmesy, we get served with no trouble and relax for the first time that day and eventually the mini bus pulls up across the road, as we leave the pub the unluckiest skinhead in London happens to come round a corner and walks straight into us, his face is a picture as a fist lands bang in the middle of his nose and he wobbles and drops to the pavement ,to this day i don’t know who’s fist it was but a cracking punch! We all run down the centre of the road dodging traffic and dive in the bus just as half a dozen skinheads appear to help there fallen comrade.” Come on Howard let’s go” we are all shouting and laughing as we slip into the evening London traffic, all up at the windows giving the pursuing skinheads the rods and various obscenities, poor Howard he’s not got a clue what’s going off, we escape London town and head slowly north back to Sheffield empty handed,skint,knackered, and with mixed feelings about London
I’ve been to London loads of times since and I always remember this first trip,as at 16 I was crossing that line from school to work, boy to man and entering into the real world, I went again in 1985 with a girlfriend and the London I had been chased around was very different or was it just that I was older and making my way in the world?
One thing I did learn from this outing, and I got it from Craig,was that even to this day I’m always aware of what’s happening around me watching my back ,so to speak I’m always taking note and observing where I am and what others  are doing its come in handy over the years!
I love Soho, its the place to head for every time we go, Bar Italia, Princi’s on wardour street, Ronnie Scotts, loads of bars,restaurants, theatre Land, Covent garden,and Chinatown all within walking distance!!! Go and have a long weekend there!