Saturday, 5 June 2010

Too old to party, too young for a bus pass

As a retired boho, I had to shake my head sadly at a piece on the Guardian music pages entitled Why don't rock stars trash hotel rooms any more?
Honestly, musicians today – total disgrace. Don’t know why they don’t just give it up and join some pointless local government department or other.
Caroline Sullivan (see ) sounds a little nostalgic for the golden days of Led Zep & Co, and has some fun at the expense of modern artists who behave like theology students and limit their demands to things like pillows with no feathers (because a band member has an allergy).
I know what she means, but then I was lucky enough to be schooled by the best at the end of that golden era. On the other hand, if I’m honest, not only do I not remember some of what they taught me, to this day I don’t know where I was when receiving instruction.
The days immediately following a 1982 after-gig party involving the early Motorhead line-up are a particular black-hole. I’m not sure I even wrote the article I was (in theory) supposed to provide to the Dublin mag Hot Press. Not that Lemmy, Philthy Animal or Fast Eddie ever worried about bad publicity – or in this case the lack of it.
But I started earlier than that. Around my 18th birthday, in fact, when a friendly college tutor invited me along to a party given by his landlord at a former village rectory in Norfolk and, for reasons he wouldn’t explain, suggested I brought my tuba. It was supposed to be a gathering of local arty types, and the host was a trad jazz trumpeter who’d started out at London art schools, so I thought no more of it.
The party started normally enough. Then, about 10 PM, there was a huge crash outside, and we emerged to find a large US car had hit the rectory gates before skidding into the duckpond. Out of the passenger door emerged a very drunk Viv Stanshall, the Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band singer, who I soon learned was one of the host’s old art school mates. Then Viv’s best mate Keith Moon got out of the driver’s door, and the party livened up….somewhat!
For example, at about 1 AM the village cop watched me accompanying Viv Stanshall in a 1920’s ditty, Tubas in the Moonlight as we both sat on the rectory roof, then walked off, totally flabbergasted, saying, ‘Forget it, no magistrate would ever believe me!’
If your rock education starts by partying with Keith Moon you’re never going to be normal again, or bother going to office parties when commissions from corporate publishing bores dry up (as they will) and you have to grow up and get a proper job.
But the golden age of rock excess was also, funnily enough, an age in which people may have partied hard, but also looked after each other, and even famous rockers cared more about their fans.
For example, reading in Sullivan’s piece about the sad security worries of the whiney stude faves Keane, I remember the night when The Clash’s White Riot tour hit Plymouth. After a stonking gig where the audience rioted, chasing a notorious venue’s scumbag security into the toilets and jamming the door shut with an iron bar, the hardcore fans followed the band back to the Holiday Inn, where Mick Jones and Paul Simenon opened windows and fire exits to slip them all in for the night.
No, they couldn’t afford the bill for the damage, and no, the band’s label didn’t stump up either. That’s just the way musicians earning no more than the dole behaved back then, and probably never will again.
My hedonistic days are long gone now, though every time work colleagues try to impress with small town tales of excess I’m not smiling at their antics, just passing the time until they stop talking by recalling my own.
I'm also wondering how Keith Moon or Viv Stanshall would cope in a retirement home. Or more precisely, how the management would cope with them.

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