“Too lazy to crow for day.”
Saturday night and we`re racing down the Streatham High Road in Dave’s battered purple Ford Escort. Dressed as smartly as we can manage. Shirts with tie-pinned collars and our school shoes. Escaping from empty Norbury pubs to West End clubs. Dances full of arabic men and unsuspecting female foreign students. We were only young. But the girls were younger. We’d picked them up at a sixth form disco. Where we’d mimed to some Wham song. Pranced around on a makeshift stage in day-glo T-shirts and shorts. Then performed a well-worn, favourite trick. Rounding up girls for a group photo. Taking it in turns to be the one who held the camera, while the other would dive into shot. Embrace a chosen victim and drop her down in mock cinematic snog. It never failed. No-one took us seriously enough to find offence.
At weekends we’d collect our dates from their homes. Parents voices that said, “Have her back by 10.” Stares that said, “Don`t go practising on my daughter.” We’d rattle along to Box Hill, or to the coast, to Hastings. Boys in the front, competing to be both the silliest and smartest arse. Girls in the back soaked in Poison and Opium. Kohl-ed eyes. Foundation hiding their acned chins. Dave would argue constantly with mine and completely ignore his. He’d goof about not to impress them but to impress me, and to keep himself amused. To see what would and wouldn’t work. Funny faces, prat falls, word games. To see what could be used again. We’d go for a drink but only as a source of new props. Deliberately crashing into signposts in the car park. Shuffling to the bar on our knees. Ordering Guinness and dipping our chins in the head to do impressions of white-bearded old men. They didn’t want to laugh but in the end they had no choice. Before going home we’d drive to a deserted industrial estate and swap seats. Dave would push his luck in the front. I`d fumble apologetically in the back. Tiny underwear discarded. Windows fogged and beads of hot breath running their own race down the glass. The Stones` Little Red Rooster coming from the stereo. Slow, steady. Near midnight. Curfews forgotten. “Too lazy to crow for day.” Practice. It wasn’t like I was in love or anything.
In his youth my old man had been a Beatles and Stones fanatic. He`d bought all their singles, but sold everything, out of lack of funds and necessity, when I came along. He would frequently remind me of this, and make it clear that records were a luxury we couldn`t afford. So we had none in the house. Save a shoebox of 45s my mum had secreted away. Plus a handful of 78s that my Grandad had given me. The Goons` The Ying Tong Song. Doris Day`s Whip-Crack-Away! These I would use as a “Turntable of Death”. Sentencing toy soldiers to a spinning doom on a battered portable Dansette. Music was the radio, Top Of The Pops, and a cupboard draw of cassette copies that friends had made for my Dad. “Best of”s The Beatles and Stones. Bread, Charles Aznavour, Nana Mouskouri, and Simon & Garfunkel. My parents only played these tapes when they had people over for dinner. I only heard them, muffled and hauntological, from behind my bedroom door. This changed when I got a part-time job. I had to give some money to Mum for my upkeep, but what I had left was mine, and it`d all go on clothes, music and girls. The ban on records meant that I`d been making my own tapes for years. Vinyl on loan from mates. Pause button selections of Funk, Disco, Electro and Hip Hop edited from pirate radio. But it now became a much bigger deal, and I had to have something new for each date. So around the new music, me and Dave raided Croydon`s discount bins, Dave`s older siblings` collections, and Mum`s shoebox. I`d also mike record songs and dialogue from rented films. We`d missed The Pistols by a few years, but I`d video TV documentaries and again record the audio of the bits I liked. There was a South Bank Show on The Velvet Underground. A special on Factory Records, Anthony H. Wilson and So It Goes. Clips of Lou Reed and John Cale performing Temptation. Iggy doing The Passenger. Penetration`s Don`t Dictate. Joy Division`s Interzone. The Buzzcocks.
“Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn`t have fallen in love with?”
Dave brought The Kink`s L-O-L-A Lola and Bowie`s Starman. He`d sometimes sit in the dark and listen to his sister`s copy of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars from beginning to end.
“Oh no, you`re not alone.”
We`d both sit there drinking whiskey and imitating the Rod Stewart version of The First Cut Is The Deepest. Singing it over and over. Looped like a mantra.
Dave brought The Beatles. We would scream and shake our hair on cue to I Saw Her Standing There. He brought The Sonics, and those inspired by them, like The Prisoners.
I`d been reading Wired, Bob Woodward`s posthumous assassination of John Belushi. Planting the seed of my curiosity about drugs and prompting the rental and ritual viewings of Animal House. Someone else`s comedy we quoted verbatim. From the soundtrack I lifted Otis Day & The Knights` cover of Shout. We`d do the dance. Knees limboed double for “little bit softer now”. Jumping when they sang “a little bit louder”. I found The Contours amongst my Mum`s 7″s. “Watch me now” they demanded, as we launched into another daft routine. Discovered The Kingsmen`s Louie Louie on an “Old Gold” 45 in Beano`s, Croydon`s legendary second-hand record store. The Blues Brothers set us on a search for R&B from the `50s and `60s. Solomon Burke, Sam & Dave, Elmore James, Frankie Ford, The Chips. Roy C`s Shotgun Wedding.
“`Cos your father got the gun and there ain`t no place to run.”
John Lee Hooker.
“I`m mad at ya.”
Curtis Mayfield`s inspirational Move On Up.
“Your folks might understand you by and by.”
“Bite your lip and take the trip.”
Most of it cherry-picked from said “Old Gold” reissues and Ace and Kent compilations.
The compilations also yielded Northern Soul oddities. The Rocky Fellers` Killer Joe. Young Holt Unlimited`s Wack Wack. And while I was looking for sing-a-long novelty, these fed into Anna`s “Modern-ism”. Fuelled further by cheap Motown samplers. Martha & The Vandellas` Heatwave. Their I`m Ready For Love. The Isley`s This Old Heart Of Mine.
“Lonely nights that come, memories that go bringing you back again.”
Mum`s treasure held gems by switchblade-welding, smack-snorting Doo-Woppers, in Dion`s Runaround Sue. The oddball Swing of Mel Torme`s Right Now. Alan Price turning Jay Hawkins I Put A Spell On You into an obsession of harpsichord spirals. And of course, Elvis. Mum adored Elvis.
“They call me poor boy, but I ain`t lonesome and I ain`t blue, `cos I could never be a poor boy as long as I`ve got a dolly like you.”
Her 45s of It`s All Over Now and The Last Time sparked my own love of The Stones. Their over-driven, Punk-tuned, arrogant racket. And led to me buying their debut LP. The rotation of I Just Want To Make Love To You. Then Rolled Gold, and the rotation of pretty much everything on it. I Wanna Be Your Man, Not Fade Away, Ruby Tuesday, Paint It Black, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby?, and She`s A Rainbow.
“Coming colours in the air.”