Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Custard Pies and Rude Boys

As my childhood rolled on in the hilly Middle Earth of Shropshire and Staffordshire, I became more and more aware of a phenomenon called 'Rock'. This appeared to be a dark but exciting creature that hinted at an adult world a little different from the banal domesticity of that of my parents. I started to realise that being a grown up could be quite cool and interesting.

Of course, seeing trailers of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon helped a bit in this respect as did the escapades of the motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. The Saturday morning children's TV prog Tizwas was a kind of prehistoric internet for this kind of thing. It was anarchic, random, sometimes 'inappropriate' for childhood viewing (Chris Tarrant's obvious infatuation with his co-presenter Sally James' tits), but it was a great audio/visual cultural hub for us infantile magpies to glean a few jems from the otherwise grey and stuffy 70's landscape.

Between the throwing of custard pies, buckets of water and double entendre's, a rock 'n roll band would suddenly appear. I remember seeing Kiss on there, Gene Simmon's breathing fire, the big amp stacks and the huge arena crowds - WTF! This was much less sedate than the artificiality and glossiness of the TOTP's studio. There appeared to be this music that was outside the charts, much more edgier and possibly dangerous than the normal provincial TV fare on offer.

I used to enjoy the Marc Bolan tv show around this time too (amazingly I found it ran to only six episodes before Bolan died in the September of '77). Although very much in the trad mold it had a bit of a 'live' feel too it. The bands Bolan showcased included The Jam, Generation X, Eddie and the Hot Rods and Thin Lizzy. Bolan played his own T-Rex stuff, old and new as well. Whenever I think of those shows now - it's always summer, blues skies, getting home from school, the excitement of approaching adolescence, the very deep sense of the world being very big and life very long. I suppose its a kind of naive anticipation for the vastness of it all, preparing for your ship to sail.

I felt a genuine need for a guitar now. I mean this was real desire, a desire that had coagulated with the raging sexual chemistry that was occurring in my pre-teen body. I remember me and my cousin (another boy) spending literally hours and hours drawing guitar players on cheap A4 lined pads at my Gran's house. SG's and telecasters were quite easy to do but Strats and Les Paul's tended to go a bit wonky. Our lines didn't just go for a walk, they staggered all over the shop.

Another pop cultural force that fed into our guitar hunger in the late 70's was Skateboarding. I was really into it, as was my cousin. We went to skate parks, slalomed through rows of empty Fanta cans on baking pavements and passed around those gorgeous American skate magazines that were a very select kind of juvenile porn. Cool guys with long hair, living out a rock 'n roll lifestyle by skating ice blue empty swimming pools in the California sun - and getting paid for it. All of this skate stuff fed back into the broader rock mythology like a mobius strip. it was all part of the family, a family that my parents generation didn't really get - or at least on the surface didn't appear to get at all.

Having a few records such as Queen's 'Jazz' album and recording stuff off the radio onto my little cassette player wasn't enough for my home entertainment needs or artistic expression. I wanted a real guitar, I wanted to have a stab at the axe god thing myself. Thankfully, the planets were aligning to make this historical event come to pass.

~ H-Allen