In the spring of 1977 something magical happened. My friend, Michael Tasker, gave me a compilation tape of music he’d recorded from the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1. This was like nothing I’d ever heard before. It was very up tempo, the guitars were horribly distorted and nearly all these guys were singing, not in the usual mid-Atlantic drawl, but with genuine venom and mostly in Cockney accents. At first I was shocked by what I heard. “They can’t get away with this, can they?” It made adrenaline course through my veins. This was the music of The DamnedThe ClashThe Sex Pistols, The RamonesThe Jam, and others now lost to history (unless you’re a complete saddo, like me). It was my great privilege to have been at the right age to appreciate this howl of disaffected youth. I was hooked to punk rock (or “new wave”, as it became known when the masses jumped on the bandwagon) and I began to spend my nights tuned in to John Peel, perched over the “Record” button on the family music centre. Most nights I heard nothing of worth but on others there were gems which made the wait worthwhile.

Using my cassette machines and dad’s metronome as sole accompaniment, I began to write my own pseudo-Punk songs. I used two songs as templates for my own lyrics. These were ‘Naïve’ by The Killjoys and ‘Man of the Year’ by The Models – both very obscure, but great songs. An example of the kind of thing I came out with was (in a convincing Cockney accent, naturally):

“Zombies, morons, all of this and more, what do people take us for? 

Do they do the same to you or have you got a IQ? 
Or are you thick, thick, thick as a brick? Us stupid buggers get on your wick.

No one gives me a chance – treat me like dirty underpants.
Do they do the same to you or have you got a IQ?
Or are you thick, thick, thick as a brick, us stupid buggers make you sick.” 

I am less intelligent than a dog. I should be flushed down the bog.
I know my brain is hard to find; it is one of the small kind.
Because I’m thick, thick, thick as a brick. Thick, thick. THICK! “

I took my lyric sheets into school and sang the “songs” to anyone I could corner. They were warmly received, and this encouragement made me think about accompanying myself on the dusty old Spanish guitar my dad bought and promptly abandoned in the early ’70s. Armed with his ‘Play in a Day’ type book, I found that eventually, after weeks of trying, and with sore fingers, I could falteringly knock out some of the most basic chords – E, A, C, D and G. Simplicity was the very essence of punk rock so it was not long before I realised I could actually play poor imitations of some of the more basic songs that I loved. The guitar, though, was dreadful and, in the summer of 1977, I swapped, with Chris Adamson, (a Quarry Banker in the year below me) my bicycle for his Jedson electric guitar and practice amplifier. I named this dreadful guitar “the cheese grater” because its jagged frets shredded my finger tips, but it did give me that raw punk sound I craved. I wrote, in homage to Billy Idol of Generation X– ‘Billy was a Punk Rock Star’. I don’t recall any of the lyrics at all. They must have been truly moronic.

 My love of punk rock became all encompassing, but one band more than any other, captured my imagination – The Jam. With their smart suits and ’60s inspired music they stood apart from the ripped T-Shirts, bondage trousers, leather jackets and safety pins of the Sex Pistol impersonating opportunists who took a ride on the back of the punk movement. While The Pistols sang “Get pi**ed. Destroy!”, The Jam sang “What’s the point in saying destroy? We want a new life for everywhere.” The Pistols and their immitators offered only anarchy. The Jam dared to swim against the mainstream by offering hope. In December Mike Tasker and I went to see them on their This is the Modern World tour at the Liverpool Empire. I was surprised to find the place only half full. The Jam filled those empty spaces with their youthful angst – and all that energy was generated by just 3 members. Mike said that I had the same earnest look as their singer  / guitarist Paul Weller. I had no idea what “earnest” meant, but took it as a great compliment anyway. I thought I looked more like their bass player Bruce Foxton. Whatever, that comment contributed towards my enduring admiration of The Jam.

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