The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker
The Andy Blade Chronicles by Andy Blade (Cherry Red Books)
Eater were arguably the archetypal first wave punkers: a bunch of school kids ignited into anarchic action by the appalling influence of the utterly irresponsible Sex Pistols. School kids by day, Punk Rock luminaries by night. Just a quick glance at Eater’s choice of cover versions tells you everything you need to know about Punk Rock’s Darwinian Evolution By Natural Selection.
My favourite Eater story is the one about when they met the Ramones for the first time – it goes a little something like this:
“Can you sign this flyer? Make it out to my group,” asks a star-struck Andy Blade.
“What’s the name of your group?” inquires an inquisitive Ramone.
“Eater”, replies Blade.
As the group walk home from the venue, the young Punkers eagerly check their signed flyer – dedicated to ‘Peter’.
The Secret Life Of A Teenage Punk Rocker is Andy Blade’s (Eater’s main man, singer & lead pig’s head abuser) take on the Punk Rock phenomenon - & what a corker it is too. Opening with an engaging foreword from Henry Rollins, Blade’s prose throughout is as sharp as it is self-depreciating. The pages turn with alarming regularity. Blade’s mischievous sense of humour slaughters ego after ego with casual aplomb & sardonic wit - very few escape lightly!
The Secret Life Of A Teenage Punk Rocker is simply un-put-down-able. It should be read in our schools as part of our National Punk Rock Curriculum - along side the Sex Pistols File by Fred & Judy Vermorel. After all, they’re both academically far closer to the truth than “England’s Dreaming” - & a million times more entertaining.
Blade builds us a Punk Rock path from Eater’s cradle to Eater’s grave - & beyond. Relive the epiphany, the explosion, the first wave, the disillusionment, the break up & the subsequent disappointment. All the strands that make up Punk’s rich tapestry are exposed here at their roots. Few have lifted the lid this high before - & Blade should be congratulated & admired in equal measure for exactly that reason.
As Rollins himself intuitively concludes:
“May History make us look more closely at the present.”
The following extract from “Secret Life Of A Teenage Punk Rocker: The Andy Blade Chronicles” has been liberated from the Cherry Red Books website without permission (sorry, dudes, only trying to help – Extracts Ed). Go buy a copy of this book today & forget all about the bullshitters of this world:
The Roundhouse was an amazing venue set in an old disused circular railway building in Chalk Farm. Far more prestigious than any of the punk clubs that would later spring up. For a start, to play there, a band would need to be able to sell a couple of thousand tickets. At a dive like the Vortex in Central London, a club that had sprung up on the heels of the Roxy’s success, it didn’t really matter whether a band had a following or not, there’d be a tailor-made audience of sorts to watch you anyway. The problem was, there’d be no atmosphere. People would just turn up and pose. At the Roundhouse, the audience were actually into the bands they’d paid to see and there’d be a real vibe going down. Hippies mingled with punks, teds, rockers and even the odd skinhead, but it was always cool.
Not long before the Ramones gig at the Roundhouse, I’d been to see the Runaways play there. The Runaways were a Californian all-girl group, mentored by Kim Fowley, a notorious West Coast producer with no real pedigree, but a great enthusiasm for all things young and female. I loved the Runaways, in particular, Cherie Curie, their bleach-blonde vocalist. It was more than love. I’d already been in love once before, in 1972, with the singer out of Middle Of The Road, so I knew what love was, but this was different. This was the real thing.
I was with Brian and our mates, Rob and Adrian. Brian’s favourite Runaway was the raven-haired guitarist Joan Jett. Rob fancied the cute drummer, Sandy. Because we’d had first choice, Adrian was left with either Jackie, the bass player or Lita, the lead guitarist to choose from; a gangly, flat chested plain Jane or a butch-looking tomboy. To humour us, he chose Lita, but I knew it was Cherie he was really after and avoided any discussion on the subject.
After the girls’ disappointingly lacklustre performance, we waited in vain near the backstage area for them to make an appearance. They didn’t show and we had to catch the last train home, our love unrequited. We decided there and then that, come hell or high water, we would get to meet our sweethearts before they returned to America. Their mini-tour was to last seven days, so we needed to get our skates on.
Adrian and I took on the job of phoning around, trying to locate them. Pretending to be music journalists, we called their label, the venues they were booked to play, even radio shows they were scheduled to appear on. All to no avail.
We got close one night, though, calling from our surrogate office, a payphone in Finchley. Somehow we managed to speak to their road manager, just before they were due onstage in Birmingham.
“… and we wondered if the girls would like to be interviewed, either over the phone or face to face? Whatever is easiest.”
Of course we wanted face to face really, but either would have been a result. To hear Cherie’s voice coming down the line would’ve been a treat beyond all imagination, and anyway, I was well aware I ran the risk of fainting were we to meet. That had almost happened to me with a girl at school I loved. She didn’t know I loved her, mind, I was only buying a poppy from her on veterans’ day, but it was a struggle to get back to my desk without my legs buckling beneath me.
“ No problem! I’ll pass the number on. Is this the best number to call you back on?”
What a friendly, helpful road manager.
“ Yes. It is. Thank you.”
“ Hey, no problem. Take it easy.”
I love Americans.
If only mobile phones had been invented back then. We waited. And waited. And waited. After a couple of hours stuck in the piss-stained kiosk, fending of other potential phone users and freezing to death, we finally gave up and disappointedly walked home.
Saturday night was to be their last evening in London before they flew back to California. We were certain they’d want to do some sightseeing on their night off so, after establishing that they were staying at a hotel in Bayswater, the four of us turned up in our finest threads. Our clothes, recently purchased from a fire-damaged goods sale at our local Cromwell’s Bazaar, were chosen specifically to make us look older. My lime green shirt, with little sailboats emblazoned all over it, added at least six months on to my officially accredited 14 years.
Our plan was to hang around outside the hotel until they appeared then, make our move. First we’d engage them in conversation, then perhaps suggest going to a Wimpy bar. They’d like that, being Yanks, we thought. If they’d already eaten, we could just go for a drink, maybe even get some cans from the off license and drink them back in their room. I could just picture it, supping and chatting, getting tipsy, moving a little closer, nearly fainting…and then, oh, who knows what?
It didn’t quite work out like that.
By nine o clock, they still hadn’t appeared. We knew they were in there, that was the first thing we’d checked. Brian and Rob, lightweights, the pair of them, decided to go home.
“ You can’t just go! What about our plan?” I protested.
“ Yeah, what about it?”
This was typical of Rob.
“ It’s not exactly working is it? Be honest!”
The last thing you need midway though an extremely fragile plan to get off with the Runaways, is for someone to start picking holes in it. Rob knew this full well, his change of attitude was inexcusable.
“ I think we’re wasting our time. It’s getting a bit cold and I’m bloody starving, so see you later!.”
“ Whatever! Your choice.”
What a tower of strength. I’d remember this. Brian wasn’t any better. His refusal to speak only added silent support to Rob’s flagrant breach of trust and comradeship.
“ Let them go if they want to. That’s fine by me, it leaves Joan Jett up for grabs!”
Adrian made what I thought to be a very good point. It was nice to hear someone talking sense.
“ Don’t make me laugh! You’re not going to so much as catch a glimpse of Joan Jett, or any of the others, let alone ‘grab’ any of them!”
“ You’ll see! Your loss, mate!”
“ Yeah, right! I’m going home to have a big slap-up dinner. Enjoy your cheeseburger!”
Brian and Rob walked off towards the tube station laughing. Adrian and I hadn’t gone to all this trouble for nothing. We were determined to meet the Runaways. We also had a plan B up our sleeves.
Around that time in the mid-70s, London had been in the grip of a wave of IRA bombings. Along with the real stuff there had also been a glut of hoax threats to various establishments, not least, our own school. That was nothing to do with us, mind. Of course. Our plan B was to call the hotel and issue a bomb threat from a nearby pay phone, then simply wait until the band, along with all the other hotel guests, filed out into the street. It would then just be a case of improvisation. Like shooting fish in a barrel;
“ Oh, hi…aren’t you the Runaways? Well I never, a bomb threat?! Fancy a Wimpy?”.
At the very worst, we’d get their autographs and we could make up all kinds of stories for the deserters’ club.
Adrian made the call, holding a handkerchief over the mouthpiece. He knew his stuff.
“ Good evening, Connaught Hotel.”
“ Listen carefully…there is a bomb hidden in the reception area. You have approximately 15 minutes to evacuate. This is no joke!”
He slammed the receiver down, looked serious for a minute, then laughed. I thought he sounded more Scottish than Irish, but I was impressed anyway.
We waited, adrenaline pumping furiously through our veins, for the Runaways to appear, possibly even in a state of undress.
Eventually, about ten minutes later, a fire engine pulled up outside the hotel it didn’t even have its siren going. Two men got out, disappeared inside and emerged five minutes later, laughing. Laughing! They got back in the cab and drove away.
“ I don’t think they’re taking this very seriously” whispered Adrian.
“ How did they know it was a hoax? What if there had been a bomb?”
“ They’d have been blown to bits!”
“ Fucking wish they had.”
“ Stuck-up slags.”
St Albans Handbag Job.
Roughly around the same period as my Runaways infatuation and just prior to the punk rock explosion, Bebop Deluxe had been another of my ‘special’ favourite bands. An integral part of my life changing package. Their post-glam posturing and guitar histrionics appealed to me immensely. They weren’t just a band I simply ‘liked’. I’d think nothing of travelling around the country to go and watch them play. Once I even waited for hours on end outside Abbey Road Studios to briefly catch them arrive in a car, then disappear inside its doors.
I got to see a lot of new bands that I wouldn’t have bothered with, playing support to Bebop. Some were dreadful, some were a real find. The Doctors of Madness were amazing, GT Moore and his Reggae Guitars weren’t. Bill Nelson, Bebop’s main man got to know me and my mates faces, hanging around before and after shows, clutching yet more merchandise for him to sign. We’d call him ‘Bill’, he’d puzzledly refer to us as;
‘ Oh, it’s you again’. I didn’t care what anybody said. At least he recognised us. In my mind, we were almost friends.
At 14, I had my first sexual encounter at a Bebop Deluxe gig in St Albans. I’d travelled to the venue one Friday afternoon, straight from school, on a green line coach with my friend, John Triteos. After killing some time, waiting for the doors to open, we, as usual, made our way down to the front of the stage, carefully guarding our territory, determined not to lose our position. If we needed to visit the toilet or get a drink from the bar, one of us would, sentry like, hold the fort. When the hall was full, it was quite a battle to find your way back to the same spot. On one trip to the loo, John had been approached by a hippy who’d asked him if he wanted to score, he animatedly told me. He hadn’t a clue what the guy was talking about and brazenly replied; “Yeah, 2-1!”, before scurrying away. How we laughed.
With the most devoted fans crammed together, wedged up to the stage, elbows resting on the backs of monitors, the band eventually appeared as the lights went down. The dry ice billowed and their intro music swirled around the venue. The girl next to me smiled as the band took position and struck up the opening bars of their first number. It was at exactly this point that I felt the unmistakable, yet hitherto, never before experienced, caress of my tender loin. At first I was startled and couldn’t believe what was happening. Me? Being intimately touched by a girl?! So this was how it worked, it just ‘happened’!
I snuck a sidelong glance at the girl, doing my utmost to maintain my composure, even though I’d turned as red as a beetroot and felt like someone had set me on fire. She looked so cool, so completely oblivious to how she was making me feel. I wanted to tell John, but I couldn’t move, I was rooted to the spot. I forgot all about Bebop, I wasn’t even trying to catch Bill Nelson’s eye any more. I’d been transported to heaven. Everything, apart from the girl and my body from the waist down, had melted away. The movements of her hand seemed to correspond with the velocity of the music. The faster it got, the more vigorous did she rub, all the time, slyly making it look like she was merely dancing. She’d obviously done this before. What was I to care? She was showing me bliss. I wondered if I should put my arm around her, perhaps even kiss her, show some sign of appreciation, after all, she didn’t have to pick me. I was the luckiest boy alive.
I opened my eyes for a second and felt a wave of ecstasy wash over me as my blood and every other fluid under my skin, rushed towards a momentous climax. Shuddering awkwardly, not knowing what to do with myself, I lowered my gaze and noticed, with abject horror, that it wasn’t the girl’s hand at all that was touching me but her handbag. It had somehow gotten all tangled up in my coat. No wonder she hadn’t so much as looked at me!
As we filtered out of the building, hoping we were in time for the last bus of the night and discussing the merits of the evening, I decided against telling John about my handbag job.
Andy Blade – tMx 21 – 09/05