Home > Chapters > 5 – The King Is Dead, Long Live The..Er..Anarchist?

5 – The King Is Dead, Long Live The..Er..Anarchist?

1977. My last year in pop purgatory. Like a condemned man about to be cast out from the society that had nurtured and protected him, I was allowed a few last months to cherish all that I was giving up and leaving behind. So I got into what all red blooded young lads of my age did – I became a fan of the Rock Follies on TV. This was a comedy musical drama about three girls in a band called ‘Little Ladies’ and all about their trials and tribulations as they tried to make it big in the music world. Perhaps one of the most ironic things about this situation was the cast, in particular the character Anna Wynd. This was played by Charlotte Cornwell. A surname shared with the lead singer of the Stranglers, namely Hugh Cornwell, who would also figure greatly in my life of musical appreciation. Julie Covington, another of the lead actresses, released a single from the show, the very powerful Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and later turned down the role in the stage show that featured that song, Evita.

The year produced some of the best music I would eventually listen to, but I was oblivious to this as I sucked up such dross as David Soul’s Don’t Give Up On Us, The Floaters asking us to Float On with them, more ABBA and even the Brotherhood of Man bouncing back for more after their previous years victory in Eurovison with a new hit, Angelo. We even had a touch of country from Kenny Rogers getting on his knees for Lucille. Baccara told us Yes Sir I Can Boogie, the Jacksons Showed You The Way To Go and the year culminated in the awesomely gruesome Mull of Kintyre from Paul McCartney’s Wings.

While all of this was going on, other forces were at work, trying to attract my attention. My sister introduced a boyfriend who was somewhat older than her, and me for that matter. Soon I was listening to Genesis, but only when he visited, and to this day I still prefer their older stuff. The only two albums I recall him bringing and playing were Nursery Crymes and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which was the last to feature Peter Gabriel and may also explain my preference for their older work.

Somewhere along the way I attended a party/disco to which a whole load of lads from school went. Two things stick in my mind from that night. The first was ‘doing the cave’ being the dance motion one makes in time to music by Status Quo.. hands on hips, bend down to the left twice, straighten up an swing shoulders twice then bend down to the right twice, straighten up and repeat ad infinitum. The mighty Quo did not unfortunately make a musical impact on me that night, that would come soon, it was just the incredibly energetic dancing that engaged me. The other moment from that night was Brown Sugar. My first introduction to the Rolling Stones, and the only thing of theirs I have ever liked. I have never bought a single Stones record, and never will. I just never somehow connected with them, but Brown Sugar was just…loud and brilliant. You can’t please all the people all the time eh?

It was about this time that I also discovered the joys of classical music. Well, not ALL classical music obviously but from that time three remain firmly entrenched in my mind as ‘must have’ music. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 Land of Hope and Glory and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathusa. I could play all these just as loud as my most raucous punk or metal and enjoy them for their rousing qualities just as much. Over the years I have added such delights as Holst’s Planet Suite, Katchaturian’s Sabre Dance and Verdi’s Four Seasons. There are others no doubt, but none will move me the same way as these have done.

To top it all, punk music finally got a grip of bored teenagers everywhere. Although beaten to the release by the Buzzcocks, the Clash and the Damned, in mid April the Stranglers, fronted by the aforementioned Hugh Cornwell, released Rattus Norvegicus, an act that although significant to the extreme passed me by until friends started talking about it. The song Peaches in particular. Apparently it was so lewd that it was banned by the BBC and an edited version had to be made before it was aired. I was desperate to hear it. Of course, what made the Stranglers even more popular, for us at any rate, was the fact they came from Guildford. I could have rubbed shoulders with them in the street, not that I would have known. But we felt kind of special to be associated with them, albeit in such a small insignificant way. It wasn’t until years later that I learnt they were only based there, not actually from there. It just so happened the drummer, Jet Black, ran an off-license which the band used as a base in their early days

But what all this boiled down to was that I was being bombarded with music, of all genres and styles, from all directions. Without realizing it, I was becoming the most musically eclectic teenager on the planet and I was in dire need of definition, identity and direction!

Perhaps the catalyst came in the summer. On August 16th Elvis Presley was found dead at his home, Graceland in Memphis. To say it was the end of an era would be an understatement, but the king of rock ‘n roll was dead and the world of music was going to change irrevocably for ever. I remember hearing the news but not feeling anything particularly emotional.

The penny finally dropped for me in September. I’d turned 15 in the June and was now in the 5th form, 5M, at Woking Grammar. I had also started a Saturday job working in a bookshop in Guildford town centre for which I was paid the princely sum of £5 for a days work, but to add injury to insult I was paid monthly into a bank account! Still, it helped me buy a fair few records in the following months.

On September 23rd the Stranglers released their second studio album, No More Heroes. I was captivated the minute I heard the opening riff of the title track and by the end of the month I’d been to Woolworth’s and coughed up the two and half quid and bought my first real record. Hugh, JJ, Dave and Jet were the posse that pulled me from the depths of pop purgatory although I was going to have to wait until the following May for their next album

My outlook on life and music changed dramatically. I began buying the weekly music newspaper Sounds, a paper I much preferred over the more established NME (New Musical Express) and I started feeling the urge to rebel against the conformist life I had been brought up in. I wasn’t a very convincing rebel though… I think I was about 42 when I finally got a Mohican, and there was no way I was going to get away with wearing plastic bin liners, chains, ripped t-shirts and safety pins trough various parts of my anatomy. I recall visibly wincing while watching a friend having his ear pierced with a safety pin, by his girl friend at the youth club one Friday night. Hmm.. no thank you.

And so punk music woke me up to what lay beyond pop. It wasn’t to become a way of life but it gave a meaning and direction. I whiled away the rest of the year listening to and buying albums by such greats as Eddie And The Hot Rods Life On The Line, Ian Dury New Boots And Panties,  and the self titled The Boomtown Rats to name a few. Highlight of the late year releases was of course the Sex Pistols, under their latest and final label signing of Virgin, with their absolutely legendary Never Mind The Bollocks..

After that, for me, punk was dead. It evolved. It had to because it could not surpass an album like that. It was the ultimate in crass and I began to seek new satisfaction and found it in many places, as a new wave of punk rolled in, and also as I began to realise there was other musical talent out there that was tickling my ears. My appreciation really started to diversify.

1978 was going to be a loud year.

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Categories: Chapters
  1. midaevalmaiden
    May 21, 2011 at 15:56

    Finaly someone else in the world besides myself who doesnt care for the Rolling Stones. I never could figure out what all the fuss was over them. But (speaking as an american) isnt it unpatriotic for a Brit?

    • May 23, 2011 at 20:58

      Haha..I hope my patriotism will never be judged by the bands I like, or don’t like 🙂
      The Stones were just not my scene, man… like The Who and the Beatles they were more representative of what I perceived to be more my parents generation so as a result they were a no go.
      These days I appreciate their contribution and can easily listen to some of their stuff, but I still wouldn’t buy any or play it by choice.
      🙂

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