It was a Friday night 1977, maybe June or July, I had an invite to a party in Sutton Coldfield, for a girl called Delney, who worked in the office at work. I was with my mate, the drummer, drinking at the George IV pub. Our usual Friday Fayre, drinking beer and him drumming the metal tables with the pair of drumsticks he carried everywhere. I smoked my cigarettes, sang along to the jukebox, and dreamed of fame and fortune. I told the drummer that we had a party to go to, and he was happy as a pig in shit.
Problem with drinking in the backwaters of Lichfield, there were very few women on show. Would-be Rock stars need an audience and we, as half of a band, recently disbanded, found the lack of an audience, dispiriting. We had sat there in the pub for months, licking our wounds, whilst the two guitarists moved on to pastures new… Namely Cannock, and long-haired heavy metal stardom awaited them. Good riddance! We, the drummer and me, would not stoop so low! We were punks. Two things stopped our mega rise to stardom, the fact that my singing was fucking awful, and secondly, the drummer’s drums had been repossessed by the Hire Purchase company. A singer without a voice and a drummer without drums, were not in high demand… with anyone!
At 8 o’clock, having drunk a half gallon of Ansell’s Bitter, we made the momentous decision to head off to the party. We stopped at the off-Licence on the way to the railway station, and spent a small fortune on a bottle of Vodka and a Watney’s Red Barrel party seven.
(This was the ubiquitous carry out of the seventies, a barrel that contained 7 pints of beer.)
When bringing a bottle to a party, it was important to bring a cheap option, which could be jettisoned into the kitchen for the general party-goers,whilst your good stuff you kept to you to yourself.(A less scrupulous party-goer would buy a cheap bottle and swap it for a better one, I have just been informed, this however, would not enter my mind) So we sat fully prepared for a big night out, on the cross-city train, full of the whats and wherefore’s we would enjoy at this select soiree.
The train trundled sedately into the train station at Sutton Coldfield, and with the quick and sure footed gait of youth, walked the mile to the allotted site. The house was dark and quiet, when we rang the bell. Delney and Pete, a work mate, came blearily to the door.
“Ok, mate, the party’s here!” I shouted excitedly.
“What?” He said.
“The party…” I blinked at his dumb look.
“Sorry mate. the party is next week, not today.”
I looked at the drummer, he looked at me. We both looked at the booze we carried.
“Don’t suppose you’ve got an opener for this?” I pointed at the party seven of Double Diamond.
Pete looked at the little barrel, and went inside. He came back with a posi-drive screw driver.
“Try this.” The drummer set the barrel on the floor. He took the proffered screw driver, and gouged out to make-do openings in the barrel. It frothed dangerously, and deposited a lion- share of its contents on the tarmac. He passed the screw driver back to Pete, like a doctor passing a scalpel back to the nurse.
“No problem.” Pete shut the door.
“We better get this drunk. Can’t exactly walk along the street with it open.”
I shrugged. What a wash-out. We found a wall to sit on and took turns swigging beer from the ridiculous barrel. Having worked our way solidly through the contents, most of which ended up on our fronts, we trudged wearily back to the station… Another wasted Friday night!
During the hour long slow sojourn back to the station, having dispatched the Watney’s Red Barrel into the nearest hedge, we took turns in sipping, then slugging, the bottle of Vodka. So that when we actually arrived back at the Train Station we were both happily steaming.(DRUNK)
The station was empty. There was but one train left to arrive at the desolate platform, the 11.30 from New St. Birmingham. Of course, the curse of drink on young men is legend, better men than I have been brought down by its perils. Having clambered on top of the bus shelter type plastic contraption on the platform, the drummer was beating away happy little timpani riffs on the edges of plastic and aluminium and I was down on the tracks lying prostate like a girl from the silent era, shouting Heeelllp, Heeeellp! The drummer shouted loudly at my prostate form, that someone was coming! I jumped up, more afraid of someone seeing me acting stupid, than I was of the threat of a train dissecting me. A middle-aged blonde lady, clip-clopped her high-heeled way down the slope from the station. By the time she arrived I was sat demurely in the bus shelter, as if butter wouldn’t melt! She smiled wanly as she passed and I realised I knew her…
She was the daughter of Meg Richardson. Not literally of course, I don’t think Noele Gordon actually had a daughter… But she was the screen daughter of the TV character Meg Richardson, both characters from the now defunct soap opera, CROSSROADS. Thankfully, I had not made an arse of myself. However, as the drummer still remained drumming on the top of the shelter, the same could not be said for him. When he saw who it was, he silently slid down off the roof and sheepishly sat down beside me.
As we left the train station, we looked at each other and laughed.
“Well that was a waste of fucking time wasn’t it?” The drummer said.
“A bit of the washout, but just think… We’ve got a party to go to next week!”
Ok, so we missed the party the first week. The next Friday, segue into the last week. The usual suspects sit drinking in the George IV. After two pints, the hero says to the drummer,
“What about going to that party?”
“Are you sure its on?”
“Oh you sure, you are sure?”
“Yeah, Delney, said it’s gonna be crammed with her mates…”
“Most definitely.” The drummer looked around the sparsity of the clientele of the pub, and said,
“Well, my old china, there’s fuck all going on here.”
Reprise the scenes from the previous week, we left for the off-licence. This time we went sans the Watney’s red barrel, as the party seven was difficult to drink without a bottle opener. We settled for two half bottles of vodka each, as the bottles were easier to conceal about your person. The palliative offered to the kitchen table, this time was a tasty little Mateus Rose wine. We would not be drinking it. It was a token offering for the ladies.
So, we went on the train to Sutton Coldfield. The mile to the house was not covered with such alacrity as the week before. Once bitten twice embrocated. We were not expecting miracles. We arrived at the address. This time it was awash with lights, We did not need to knock the door. It was wide open. Beats from the front room escaped like magical madrigals across the road. My drummer gave a little skip, like a boy from the playground.
“Sounds more like it!” He ran into the house, like a man on a mission. I looked around the gathering throng for the birthday girl. She was deeply en-tongued with Pete in the lounge, which had been cleared of its furnishings. I tapped him on his shoulder, and he gave me sheepish grin…
“Alright mate, made it then, on the right day?” The joke being, he had ribbed me all week about being a premature ejaculator. Such is the jocular hilarity of banter in the midlands.
“Fuck off mate, I’ve never been too quick in my bleeding life!” A hasty rejoinder.
We circulated. My drummer, clockwise, me anti-clockwise. He winked at me as we crossed paths…
“Plenty of crumpet!” his hasty appraisal of the situation. Mine was less encompassing. I focused upon two likely characters. A very striking dark-haired girl and a her mate, who was perfect in her demi-perm and white dress.
“I’m in here mate” I said to the drummer, nodding my head towards the two girls.
He looked incredulous, as the two girls in question, were unmistakably the best in show.
“Come on then.” He said.
“No. Let them be, let’s away to the kitchen.” I grabbed his eager arse and pulled him away to the kitchen. Here we found glasses and soft drinks to make our vodka last longer. We ditched the bottle of Mateus Rose, and found orange juice and glasses.
“Here.” I said, as I passed him a glass.
“Don’t get too pissed!” I said..
“We don’t want any trouble. OK?!”
“Okay, I hear you, no smashing things up.”
A couple of weeks before, we had been arrested by the local constabulary. How had this come about?
We had been at the local disco at the rugby club. We had partaken of a few beverages and been outside sharing a few joints. We had been in conversation with our two long-haired guitarists about forming a band. They were all for it at the time, not when we got to rehearsing, either the drummers drumming or my singing… made them cool on the idea of a band. Anyway, long story short, I’d left the disco on my drummer’s back, after a short altercation with the local constabulary. We had escaped without prosecution, but our high spirits, ie the fact I was riding him piggy back, had evoked the ire of one of the local ruffians, who on seeing our high spirits had taken exception, and punched me in the face. Unable to protect myself, as both hands were occupied reining in my horsey, I received a massive black eye. The ruffian had rounded on me as I dismounted, and called me all the names under the sun.
“You fucking idiots are gonna get us arrested.” He exclaimed. I rubbed my eye. I looked harshly at him, and then noticed he had a beer mug in the other hand. My alert brain, always on the look out for danger, said, probably best not smack him one back.
So, the drummer and I made our way home without any further ado. Half way home, we decided between us, home was not the place to go… Given that my eye was out on stilts… And that I would probably face interrogation from my parents. This was something I didn’t fancy at the time, as I was still stoned from the Cannabis and liable to incriminate myself. So we stopped off at a half built building and sat beside the fireplace.
“What we need here, little drummer boy, is a fire to fill this fireplace.” Given that the house was on a building site and building materials were ever present, we found plenty of bits of wood and paper, and soon built an impressive fire. It must have been impressive, because the flames alerted the neighbours and shortly, we were once again visited by the boys in blue.
There was a notorious Sergeant at the local police Station. Jock Mackay. A bastard to all who sailed with him.
“Alright boys? Your fucking nicked my beauties.” I put my hands up, The drummer ran. Big mistake. He was caught in the back yard, with a swift left hook. He fell gasping like a carp to the ground. Jock took my hands and put them behind my back and then handcuffed them. Him and his driver led me up the garden path to the awaiting panda car. The Driver opened the back door, and Jock, ever helpful, smacked my head against the roof.
So, its 4 a.m. and I’m brought into the interview room. I’m still underage, which the dear beloved sergeant already knew.
“Listen, just tell me it was your mate’s idea to set the building alight and you’ll get off!”
I knew the dreaded Jock’s M.O., and could see he was trying to set up my drummer boy for the fall, as he was in fact over 18.
“It wasn’t his idea, we both thought it at the same time.”
“Oh dear son, looks like I’m going to have to tell your mum.”
“You can tell my mum, she already knows about you.” My mum was a youth worker, and already knew the dreaded Jock’s way of working. he liked to fit up youths for jobs, just to get convictions. He knew who my mum was. He knew fitting me up or my mate, would lead to loads of hassle. Seeing that I’d seen through his plan to fit the drummer up for the charge, he had no alternative but to let us go, but not without some fun for his leary mates. We were eventually shown the stairs, and thrown down them.
We crashed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs.
I shouted back up.
“OI, we were only half a mile away from home… You Gonna give us a lift back?”
Jock’s face turned puce.
“Fuck off you little twat! You better stay clean otherwise I’m gonna fucking have you!”
I turned to the drummer, picked him up, then turned back to Jock and said,
“Thanks for your help!”
The picture accompanying these series is of Kylie Minogue. It was chosen because the hair perfectly matches the girl who will shortly become the heroine of this piece. She was not my first choice. My first choice on that fated night had been her best friend. She had short cropped dark hair ( a pixie cut, I’m reliably informed by my editor) and was striking rather than beautiful. She looked like a younger version of Julie Covington.
Always drawn to the extremes, I took my little drummer boy by the ear.
“Ok sunshine, lets go and dance. Don’t say anything. Just dance and stay cool.”
I grabbed his shoulder.
“Listen! I mean it. Don’t say anything. Do not under any circumstances ask them if they Fuck.”
“IT WAS A JOKE!”
“It was no bleeding joke mate, we got run out fucking town by a lynch mob of angry hens… Just because it was a hen night, didn’t mean that you could take liberties!”
“I found out what I needed to know… They didn’t.”
“You think? Anyway, this time leave it to me. ”
Someone had slipped the Album SOLID SOUL GOLD on to the turntable, whilst we had been out in the kitchen, laying plans for mice and men, and the girls were doing that shuffling two-step dance which evokes handbags on the floor and long drinks with fruit in, most likely Cinzano and Lemonade. I inwardly groaned as I tried to make our move into the centre of the throng, look cool. A hard act to pull off when your entrance to the fray is accompanied by “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify. A slow dull song at the best of times, it was not the sort of tune you make an impression with. The drummer could. He did a forward roll, whilst holding his drink and bounced up like a veritable rubber ball. He waved his drink in front of Julie, her of the pixie cut,
“Do you want some?” He shouted across to her. I slapped my forehead hard with my hand…here we go again. She flounced off in the direction of the kitchen, and the drummer followed closely behind. I took the beat of the tune and began to mirror the dance of the other girl, the demi-wave blonde, who smiled at me. The Puppet song faded out and was followed by “Hold on I’m coming” by Sam & Dave, which had a better beat and I schmoozed closer with a little bit of syncopation, an extra flick of the hip added to the two step shuffle. The Demi-wave swished as she tried to mirror my new move… She was still smiling at me. I relaxed. She moved her mouth to my ear.
“I love your shoes.” She said. Bingo!
Okay, another little digression. The shoes were a major investment. I’d recently been to see Saturday Night Fever, and had been rather taken with the shoes John Travolta had hankered after.
Like these, but with a bigger cuban heel and less shiny. They looked amazing, and when I found a pair they had cost a bloody fortune. Never much of a fashionista, these were the only shoes that I have ever felt the bees knees in.
I felt fully vindicated in my travails to find the blessed shoes. The girl loved my shoes.
“Thanks.” I shouted in her ear. When “Working in a coal mine” came on I gestured that we should perhaps sit this one out. I led her out to the kitchen and gathered another glass and more orange Juice.
“Shall we go outside into the garden, get a bit of air?”
She looked around anxiously to find out where her mate, Julie was. Julie was nowhere to be seen. I saw the drummer. He has slid down the wall behind the fridge, shaking his head slowly in remorse, and held a sausage to his eye. The sausage was raw.
“Alright mate? Why have you got a raw sausage held to your eye?”
“Bleeding obvious innit? They don’t appear to have any steak in the fridge!”
Head slap number two.
“Why do you need steak?” He moved the sausage and revealed a shiner.
“What did you do?” I asked redundantly… I knew what he’d done. He’d done what he always did. He’d fucked up!
“Well, you know her mate, the dark-haired one… I sort of inadvertently stroked her arse as we walked into the kitchen… I’d meant it as a friendly gesture, however she took exception and clouted me with her handbag.” He looked across at Jane, the demi-wave’s name I later found out.
“What the fuck is in her handbag?” He asked.
“Probably a £5 bag of 2p’s.”
“What? Why… Why would she carry that much loose change?”
“She works for her Dad. Tomorrow being Saturday and the banks being closed, he asked her to fetch a bag of copper from the bank on her way home. As we have not made it home yet, she probably still has it in her handbag.” Of course these days banks are open on a Saturday, so such a mishap would never happen. In those dark times however, such situations were common place. I looked down at the drummer and shook my head,
“Mate, I don’t think the sausage is working for you.”
“No you’re probably right.” He looked at the sausage ruefully, and then ate it. Jane looked away. I grabbed her hand and led her into the back garden. We sat at the far end of the garden on a rustic bench in silence, and swigged our drinks. I’d given her a slug of vodka in her orange juice, the strength of which had taken her breath away.
“Jesus, that’s strong, you trying to get me pissed?”
“I don’t know… Do you need to be pissed?”
She shook her head.
“Is he always like that?” She asked, gesturing back towards the house.
“Oh no,” I said, “This is him on best behaviour, he’s usually much worse!”
“Why do you hang around with him?”
“Well when my band broke up, he was my part of the divorce settlement. The two guitarists went of with the guitars and talent, and I was left with the drummer and his disappearing drums!”
“Disappearing why… how so?”
“They disappeared when he stopped paying the Hire purchase agreement. Two large bailiff’s came around to his flat with a summons and left with his drum kit and a rousing round of applause from the neighbours.”
She laughed. She laughed a lot. I liked it when she laughed a lot. I liked her. I looked into her eyes and kissed her. My normally gauche affectation left me. It felt smooth. It felt natural, I told my brain to shut the fuck up and enjoy the moment. So I did. Thoroughly.
Jane seemed to enjoy the moment too, and showed no sign of stopping the pressure on my lips. We grew more ardent, more exploring. Then she pushed me away.
“Wait. Where’s Julie?”
“What. Who? oh.”
We walked back inside the house. We found the drummer. He was sat on a chair next to the drinks table, and was steadily working his way through it.
“Mate, where did Julie go?”
“The girl who whacked you.”
“Oh Her. She left. She said tell Jane I’ll see her sometime. And thanks for bringing me to another wonder-fucking-ful party!”
“Is that all?” I asked, wondering, as I looked at Jane, what my chances were now.
“Yes I think so, no wait she said something else. Yes, she said to me, I hope you get the pox you slimy fucking arsehole, and that your dick falls off with gangrene.”
“She has a quaint turn of phrase your pal Julie, doesn’t she?” I said to Jane. Jane shrugged her pretty shoulders.
” She has a very low threshold when it comes to dickheads. Sorry mate.” She looked down on the drummer boy as he drummed his fingers.
He got up. He tapped me on the shoulder as a parting gift, and walked out of the house
“Well that’s him gone then.” I said. ” What shall we do now?”
“You wait there.” She said and went off into the lounge. I saw her talking to Delney, the party girl and when she returned, she took me by the hand and led me up the stairs to a bedroom. It was a very small boxroom, with a very small single bed occupying most of the floor space.
“Shall we?” She asked pointing to the bed.
“Wait.” I said, “Stay there, I’ll be right back.”
I ran back down the stairs, and Delney gave me a thumb’s up sign. I smiled back at her as I made it back into the kitchen. I looked at what was left of the booze bar and found the bottle of Mateus Rose. I picked it up and a couple of glasses and ran back up the stairs to the bedroom. Brilliant work… James Bond would be proud of me. Only one problem. How to get the cork out. I ran back down the stairs. There was no corkscrew on the table. I searched the drawers. Nothing. As a last resort, I went back to Delney, and poring Pete… Hands everywhere… And shouted in her ear,
“Where’s the corkscrew?” Delney laughed.
“In my bedroom probably.” The next question, where was her bedroom. she gave me instructions as to where I might find the utensil, and made me promise to put it back, as she would need it later.
I took the bottle into her bedroom, and took the cork out. I ran back to the room which we had been allotted. Jane had stripped down to her bra and panties. She looked very cute, with her demi -wave spread across the pillow. Her snores did not sound quite as sweet.
Shit. I set the bottle and two glasses on the bedside table and slowly inched under the sheets. I got one buttock on to the mattress, and Jane turned sharply in her sleep, her flailing arm reaching out and slapping me across the cheek. The noise woke her up and she was momentarily unaware of who I was and where she was. She looked at me quizzically. Then she relaxed. She remembered me. I gave her a kiss on the forehead. I quickly stripped off, with only my Y-fronts to hide my modesty, and tried to get into the bed without smothering her. She edged closer to the wall, and as long as we sat sideways we could both just about occupy the bed, without fear of falling out. We drank the wine, we made love… more than once, in more than one position. We were very imaginative with the space and still young enough to find each other’s bodies enthralling.
We slept, eventually, we awoke… We did it some more. In and out of sleep and awakenings. We stayed in that room until Sunday afternoon. Eventually, Delney, knocked on the door and told us sheepishly that we would have to go, as her flatmate would be back that afternoon, and would probably need her bedroom.
Reluctantly, we left. She went her way and I went into Sutton in the hope of finding a bus to Lichfield. Sunday rail services did not occur in the Seventies. Sunday was still a day of rest then, no shops were open… There was bugger all to do, except go to church and repent your sins. I was rather busy trying to find some sins to enact first!
A lost weekend, but what happened next?
Firstly, the drummer boy, I don’t think I ever saw him again… I would hope that he saw the error of his ways, and became a decent human being… but I very much doubt it.
Julie, likewise I never saw again and could not find out anything about her from Delney. Julie was Jane’s friend not hers, she had tersely said. She may have been hinting at something, but I will leave that alone for now. Delney, eventually finished with shifty Pete, when he’d been found out cheating with some other girl in the office. Pete was not long for this world, I think he died of Liver failure… Aah the vagaries of the demon drink!
And me? and Jane?
Well, on the strength of that lost weekend, I decided to move into the house with Delney and the other flatmates, with the prospect of the delightful Jane being close at hand. When I range her up on the Friday I moved in, Jane finished with me. She did not want a proper relationship…
So I moved back home. Tail between my legs.
You live and learn.