Memoirs of a Blue Snorkel Coated Punk Rocker part1
So there we were outside Wakefield Unity Hall. Me & Steve & loads of punk rockers. The punk rockers with their dyed and spiked and mohican hair and their leather jackets. Us in our school coats - mine been that eighties design classic the blue snorkel parka.
(note this picture is not modeled by the author!)
Of course you could argue that me and Steve were truer to the punk spirit with our non-conformist clothing. Still I don't think either of us were going to argue with the big lads surrounding us.
So what the hell were we doing there? Well do you want the short answer or the long one? The short boring answer was that we were there to see legendary punk band, the Damned. If you'd known the Yorkshire Windbag in those days though you may have wondered what the heck he was doing there. I wasn't a particularly rebellious or outgoing sort of person. My clothes were those of the typical introverted teenager and consisted of whatever my mum got for me on the market. I scarcely said boo to a goose and was happiest hid away listening to my limited tape collection with my nose stuck in a marvel comic.
The catalyst for my conversion to the most unlikely punk rocker in West Yorkshire (if not the whole of the UK) was John Travolta & Olivia Newton John. Yes you heard that right neither Joe Strummer nor Johnny Rotten nor any other punk icon was involved.
So anyway come back with me through the mists of time (in fact with my memory its not so much a mist but a pea souper fog) back to the seventies.
To be honest punk rock was not something that ever really impinged on my mind at the time it actually occurred. I was only 10 year old in the summer of 1976 when the first bands were starting up. When I started secondary school in September 1977 one of the lads in my form, Andrew Mulroy (Muller), was a punk rocker. Or so he told us. He was an outgoing lad, very rebellious but popular. Not really somebody I ever mixed with. I guess I would have known about punk rock via my parent's Daily Express and news reports on the telly. I have a vague memory of watching Top of the Pops with my dad. He was unimpressed with one band in particular (it may have been the Buzzcocks but I couldn't swear to it) and asked my opinion. I think I just agreed with him but I remember thinking that it sounded ok to me.
In 1978 the film Grease was popular throughout the country and we made a rare family trip to see it. Off we went to Dewsbury to the Classic cinema. There was a big queue outside for the film. If you don't know me I'm the oldest of nine kids although in those days there was probably only about 7 of us (with the last two mere twinkles in my parents eyes). So there was nine of us in the queue (including parents). Unbelievably we were the last nine to be allowed into the cinema and even more amazing there were nine seats together on the front row. It was quite an enjoyable film and my sisters & parents in particular loved it.
Back at School in September another lad in our form Johnny Hemsley had also taken a shine to the film Grease. Johnny was another outgoing, rebellious & popular lad. I knew him a bit better than I knew Muller. We used to chat about subbuteo and other such things from time to time. Anyway Johnny started modelling himself on the Fonz (from the Happy Days telly program) and the characters in Grease. Him and a couple of the lads had a little gang and called themselves the T boys (in reference to the T birds gang in Grease and the fact that our form was called 2T). All I remember was Johnny constantly posing about combing his hair (which I believe is something the Fonz used to do).
So the next day during the art lesson Muller and another lad Stephen Fitzpatrick (Fitzy) decided that they were going to have a rival punk rock gang. Muller and Fitzy approached me & Andy Harris and asked us if we wanted to be punk rockers. Weirdly given that I was more friendly with Johnny I said yes and so did Harris so we were in.
I remember when I got home I announced to the family that I was a punk over tea. Nobody reacted very much. The only effect it really had on my life was that watching Top of the Pops was no longer a happy family consensus with us all agreed on what we liked and disliked. My new heroes were the Boomtown Rats with their new single 'Rat Trap'. Looking back its pretty laughable to think of that piece of Springsteenesque epic rock as my big rebellion. I loved it when Bob Geldof ripped up posters of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John to celebrate bumping them from the number one spot on Top of the Pops.
Anyway the rival gangs never came to blows - it was more of an opportunity for each gang to engage in verbal sparring and in any case Fitzy, Muller and Johnny were all mates really. After a couple of weeks the only evidence that anything had changed was that I was now taking more of an interest in pop music. All talk of me been a punk rocker was forgotten. However for better or worse I was now a music fan.
To be continued...