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CHAPTER 3


GENERATION X


“A champion is afraid of losing. 

Everyone else is afraid of winning.”

Billie Jean King



Shortly after leaving The Clash in 1977, I bumped into Bernard Rhodes who suggested that I go out on tour with a French all-girl band. This was not to play, but to give them a bit of help and advice. Since I was only 20 at the time it seemed like an odd idea. I asked him where they were touring and he said Italy, to which I immediately replied, “I’m in!” We toured Italy, which was a very strange place musically at the time. It seemed like Punk had arrived but no one knew what it was supposed to sound or look like. I don’t know how much help I was to the band but I certainly managed to sample a great deal of Italian food and wine. After one particularly heavy night I spent most of the day in bed. The chef at the small hotel where we were staying actually came into my room in the evening and said in broken English, “You have to eat or you will die!” It was a fun trip but on my return I realised I would have to get back to playing in a band. 

I had heard all about Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers from Joe Strummer and Mick Jones who had just worked with them on ‘The Anarchy in the UK’ Tour. Actually, most of the shows on that tour were cancelled because of the Sex Pistols infamous swearing on live TV. Thunders was well ahead of his time – he was only two years older than me and yet when I joined The Clash at the age of 19 he was already known worldwide as a guitarist with The New York Dolls. The New York Dolls was one of the bands that had two drummers die before anyone else in the band. Mick and Joe at that time were raving about the Heartbreaker’s drummer, the late Jerry Nolan. I asked Joe why he hadn’t asked Jerry to join The Clash and he sort of frowned and said something about him being from a different culture (I don’t know if he meant being American or the drug culture that Jerry was fond of) and also being 30 years old. It seems hilarious now to think that 30 felt extremely old to us at that time. Some months later I got a call asking me to come along and see The Heartbreakers with a view to joining them. It seems there was some problem with Jerry but I can’t remember what it was. I was quite excited to see them, after what Mick and Joe had said, and was not disappointed. The band played a great set of brilliant songs, had lots of energy and the audience loved them. I subsequently went down to rehearse with them and we all got on very well. 

Before I knew it, we were off on tour together. The first gig I played was in Amsterdam. This was one of the first Punk shows to be held in Amsterdam. I will never forget that when we left the stage at the end of our set, which was about 45 minutes, it seemed that every single member of the audience simultaneously looked at their watches. They had apparently been used to listening to hippy bands who went on and on for hours. The promoters asked us to go back and do some more. I pointed out that my hands were already bleeding, as I had given all that I had (I hadn’t yet discovered the wonders of golf gloves!).

We went to a nightclub after the show and the owner of the club said, “If you get up and play one song, I will give you free champagne all night.” I think we were already drunk anyway but we took him up on his offer. I don’t remember anything else about this (I was as drunk as a skunk) but my friends told me that when the resident band came back to take over, I told the drummer to get lost as I was playing now and actually played the rest of the set. It is very scary when you have done something like that and can’t remember one single minute. 

These guys were very different from The Clash, and not the slightest bit interested in politics. They were more interested in wine, women and song, although not necessarily in that order.

When I tell people that I spent fifteen years touring with rock bands, they often snigger and ask, “What about all those girls then, eh?” There’s a widespread belief that rock musicians spend 5% of their time playing music, 45% sleeping and 50% having sex. It’s true that when you are touring with a rock band, girls tend to throw themselves at you. There’s a downside to this. The ones whom you would like to throw themselves at you usually don’t. Worse than that, the ones you would really rather not throw themselves at you usually do. Most guys in bands have had much more than their fair share of casual sex. In the seventies it was strangely un-cool to use condoms. This may sound odd to younger people but before AIDS came along, there was much less pressure to use protection as so many girls were on the pill. I remember telling some fellow band members that I’d never had a sexually transmitted disease. They were amazed, having had such problems multiple times. I concluded fairly early in the game that unwanted pregnancies or diseases would really spoil my plans, even though I didn’t have any plans! 

I did once seduce a very attractive girl and whisk her off to my hotel room for the night. Later, after we had both calmed down, she pronounced that “Drummers are better lovers.” I enquired as to the origins of this idea and her reply was a long list of well-known drummers that she had bedded. As this list was trotted out I reached two conclusions: Firstly, I decided that, knowing some of these guys, it was probably all true. Secondly, I realised that I’d just joined the list. This and other experiences led me to the conclusion that there is a lot to be said for monogamous relationships. It was something I was to get involved in within a couple of years.


*


On my 21st birthday, I went shopping with my mother and she bought me the finest leather jacket I had ever seen. I loved that jacket and wore it all the time. One Saturday night I was playing pool in a pub in Hemel Hempstead. I took my jacket off to improve my pool playing technique. At the end of the evening, when I went to pick up my jacket to go home, it had disappeared. Now there was no way I was going to put up with it disappearing. I searched all over for it but it had definitely left the building. It was now quite late and not many people were left in the pub. Those I asked had no recollection of seeing anybody take it. I was with my friend George, who lived in Hemel Hempstead, which is about 40 miles from London, where I lived. I told George as we left that I would get that jacket back, whatever it takes.

I was not just focused on that goal, I was obsessed with it and no power in the universe was going to stop me. George, however, didn’t have any emotional attachment to the jacket, and so he focused on the obstacles: First, we had no idea who took it. Second, we had no way of finding out. And third, I lived 40 miles away. When you focus very hard on the outcome, the obstacles somehow become much smaller. At that time, to me, the obstacles he described were tiny molehills, whereas he saw them as mountains. 

The following evening I made the trip back to Hemel Hempstead, and took the long-suffering George with me back to the pub. I asked every person in the pub whether they were there the previous evening, if they had seen anything, and did they know anybody who was likely to have stolen the jacket. Some people were helpful and polite and some were not terribly happy about my intrusion into their evening. I didn't care. I just needed to get the jacket back and nothing was going to stop me. I even had an argument with the landlord who was not happy with my disturbing his patrons.

I got no information after two hours of hard work, and at closing time the situation looked hopeless. Poor George was considering buying me a new jacket just to get home and relax. As most of the people left, George turned to me and said, "I really understand that you want that jacket back, but we’ve tried our best, done everything we can, and it’s time to accept that it's gone." Against all logic and reason, I continued to insist that I was going to get that jacket back. Just when George was on the point of looking in the yellow pages for the nearest asylum for the insane, a man came up to me and said, “I'm going to write down for you the name and address of someone who might have taken your jacket. He’s a junkie who’s in the habit of stealing, and he was here last night. However, I have absolutely no evidence that he took it.” I smiled, thanked the man and said to George “Let's go.”

We quickly found the address and at around midnight I rang the doorbell. I could taste victory. After quite a few minutes, the lights came on and a little elderly lady answered the door wearing a dressing gown and slippers. She assured me that nobody of that name lived at that address. At that moment I saw no point in bothering her any further, so I thanked her and said goodnight. This was the time that George made his final appeal to my sense of reason. My reply was simply, “I am going to get that jacket back.” If this guy didn't live at the address we were given, then we needed to find out exactly where he did live. George ran out of words to describe how crazily he thought I was behaving. 

As we argued the case, a taxi pulled up and a man wearing my jacket got out of it. The man who gave me the address had got the house number slightly wrong. All the anger that I’d felt at having my jacket stolen melted away, and I simply said to the man, "Give me back my jacket." He seemed a bit worried and started to make all sorts of excuses for why he had taken it. I simply took the jacket and went home a happy man. Not only did I have the satisfaction of getting my jacket back, and the marvellous opportunity to say to George, "You were ready to give in far too easily", but I had learned a lesson that virtually anything is possible if you focus hard enough on what you want. I also had a feeling that something bigger than me was in control of all this.

At this time I was on the lookout for interesting musicians. I met a guy called Pete who was a singer-songwriter from Newcastle. He had been doing some experimental writing with Keith Levene (who had departed from The Clash two years before). He played me some of his songs on the piano and they were really unusual but catchy. We started working together and he promptly changed his name to Ken Lockie (I really never understood why). We started to recruit musicians, one of whom was Marco Pirroni, a guitarist. Marco was easy to work with and a good guitarist but none of us had any idea he could write songs. He later went on to have a great deal of success with Adam and the Ants. We also found bass player Jimmy Hughes, with whom I formed a great rhythm section. We called the band Cowboys International, signed a record deal with Virgin and started touring the UK. We built a following and eventually recorded an album called Original Sin. This was at a time when music technology was developing at an explosive pace. We started using sequencers, combining this with real instruments played in real time. I still feel they were great songs but it seems the band was ahead of its time. A whole bunch of electro-pop bands came along soon after. Ken went on to work with John Lydon and Keith Levene with PIL (Public Image Limited). A few years later, Ken was bizarrely voted ‘The most obnoxious Englishman in New York’.

Whilst in the middle of the Cowboys International project, I received a telephone call from a lady I did not know. She had started a band and they needed a drummer. Johnny Thunders had recommended me. She sounded very pleasant and interesting, and so I decided to go down and spend a few hours rehearsing with them. They played very well, the songs were original and classy and they all seemed to be very nice people. We got down to discussing business and they told me that, although they had a manager, there was, as yet, no record deal and therefore no money. At the time, I was working with a band that did have a deal and, although we weren’t yet selling records, we were, so to speak, higher up the ladder. I decided to reject the new offer to join on the basis that it was going backwards. I politely refused, to which they responded, “We think you’re making a mistake.” They were right. The lady was Chrissie Hynde and the band was The Pretenders. They were at number one in the charts in less than a year. 

I left Cowboys International as we were not getting enough commercial success. Once again, Bernard Rhodes popped up and asked if I was interested in working with his favourite artist, Vic Goddard. Vic seemed to have been around from the very first days of Punk. He had formed the band Subway Sect and supported The Clash on numerous occasions. Even when Bernard was no longer working with The Clash, he would always have time for Vic who he felt was one of the most talented musicians he had ever come across. Bernard asked me to play on an album with Vic, which I was happy to do because Vic had always intrigued me as one of the most unusual characters in the whole Punk movement. To this day I have never been able to work out what makes Vic tick. He is not the slightest bit interested in fame for its own sake and is very humble and easy to get on with, which is very unusual for any songwriter or front man.

We needed a bass player so we called up an old friend of Vic’s who had always been a talented bass player and who was currently not in a band. We met in the local café and were totally shocked when he opened his mouth. This was not the same man we had known six months earlier. He told us he had taken lots of magic mushrooms (yes, the type that contained hallucinogenic substances similar to LSD). He said, in a very slow and matter of fact voice, that he hadn’t played the bass for a month but he would go home and pick it up to see if he could still play. If he could, he would come along and play with us, and if he couldn’t he would retire altogether. At that time this was the worst example I had seen of the damage that LSD could do. Regrettably, I have seen many others since. Getting drunk and making a fool of yourself is one thing, but permanently damaging your brain is quite another. If those people considering using LSD could meet such people it would surely dissuade them. I hope the man with the mushrooms recovered but I fear he didn’t - I never saw him again. 

My brother, Bryn, stepped in and played the bass and did a great job. We recorded the album quite quickly and it sounded great. There was a similarity between Vic and Ken Lockie. Although very different characters they were both very talented and both failed to achieve the commercial success that they deserved.

When you’re in a band there are always plenty of girls around but I was looking for someone with whom I could have a proper conversation. I met a girl called Maxine. We got along well and started dating. She was a girl I could talk to about anything – politics, music, art, movies, etc. She enjoyed all the crazy parties but was able to keep her life together. Maxine had been working in media resources but was about to go to law school. We eventually decided to get married. During our engagement, my brother John got married to another percussionist called Polly, with whom I got on extremely well (thank God!) and we all looked forward to the two weddings. On John and Polly’s wedding day we were driving the 80 miles from London to Sudbury, when about thirty minutes into the journey my clutch failed. When this happens you can keep going but if you stop the car you cannot get started again. I drove a further 50 miles to the church without stopping. Maxine had several heart attacks on the way, but we got there just in time to hear “I do”. They now have two lovely daughters, Katie and Anna. Katie followed in my footsteps to become a chiropractor and Anna is a designer. Having nieces is fantastic. Its like having kids without the expense and stress. I have always enjoyed being an uncle and, who knows? It may have been a good apprenticeship for being a father one day!

When it came to my wedding I decided to invite the whole family, which was a bit like inviting one half of London. The East End part of the family hired a large coach. The last pick-up stop for the coach was my Gran’s house. She got on the coach and then suddenly exclaimed that she had to go back into the house. The 60 or so passengers waited patiently for 15 minutes, whereupon she emerged – wearing a different hat! I remember Uncle Manny commenting to her, “Who’s going to look at you?” as she was then ninety-five years old. I thought it was great that she still took pride in her appearance at that age. The wedding was on July 28th 1979, which was the hottest day for five years. 

We hired a vintage Rolls Royce for the day. The car only had to go about one mile but unfortunately, whilst taking Maxine to the church, it broke down. Maxine was given a lift by an elderly chap in a little Vauxhall hatchback. When we came out of the church there were two vintage Rolls Royces there, just in case. We then had a big party with my dad’s band providing the music. I vividly remember my entire family waving us goodbye as we left – a very emotional experience. We spent two weeks on honeymoon on the island of Crete.

Soon after, we visited some friends in Northampton. While we were there we looked at a house and fell in love with it so we bought it and moved there. The prices there were so much cheaper as it’s about 60 miles north of London. That meant I was always the first to get home when we played north of London and the last to get home when we played south. Paul Simonon once asked me, “What’s it like in Nottingham?” I replied that I had no idea. There followed a short pause, then he said, “Don’t you live there?” Typical Londoner!

We wanted a dog and chose a bearded collie which we named Denis, as he was a menace. Actually he was very friendly to people but would routinely attack any other animal, regardless of its size. For me he was the cutest, friendliest animal I’ve ever known. He shared my life for 16 years. 

One night I was driving home at 2 am, which was nothing unusual in the music business, when I ran out of petrol. I put my hazard lights on and stood by the car waving at people hoping to get a lift to the nearest gas station. I suppose being dressed in punk rock stage gear wasn’t the best enticement for people to pick me up. No one stopped. I was freezing to death but realised that if I got back in the car to warm up it was even less likely anyone would stop.

Just prior to hypothermia setting in, a mini-bus with the words, “Jesus Army” written all over it pulled over. I knew nothing about these people but I certainly wasn’t in a position to pick and choose. I gratefully accepted their offer of a lift, both to and from the petrol station. Of course, I realised that this was their path; they help people because Jesus did. I was expecting perhaps a speech about converting to their faith or at least a leaflet but none of that was forthcoming, just a smile and their best wishes. At the time I was struck by their kindly manner and the fact that they didn’t hesitate to help someone they knew nothing about. This felt like a re-run of the Good Samaritan. I have no doubt that they are still doing that today to various grateful (and ungrateful?) people. 

I got a call from Tony James, whom I hadn’t seen for a while. He’d formed the band Generation X while I was working with The Clash. I decided to accept an invitation to meet with Billy Idol and Tony James with a view to joining GenX (formerly Generation X). I met the two of them at the mews house they were sharing in west London. I had seen Tony at intervals over the last three years, as he was a good friend of Mick Jones. For some reason, I’d not yet got to know Billy Idol, who was a larger than life character who really wasn’t designed for anything other than to be on a stage. Billy was very enthusiastic about me joining and had a very likeable personality. This is very important when you are thinking about joining a band, in the same way it would be important if you were joining a football team. Added to this, Tony was (and still is) the type of person who could sell sand to the Arabs. Once I agreed to join the band, our first job was to find a guitarist. We signed to the Chrysalis label and I was struck at that time by the difference in approach between Virgin and Chrysalis. Virgin’s strategy seemed to be to sign up as many bands as possible in the hope that one of them made it, whereas Chrysalis would sign one band and try and make sure that they made it. Needless to say I preferred the Chrysalis approach. 

We all felt that this project needed a strong manager. We were introduced to Bill Aucoin, a big-time manager who, at the time, was still managing Kiss. He was a great guy to be around: every time he came to the UK he would take you straight to a nightclub and order champagne. He had that deep confidence that comes from massive achievement. We all held him in very high regard and were sure he would bring us the big success we were after. Managers of bands are often markedly different in appearance from those they manage – this has become something of a cliché in the music business – and Bill was no exception, he bore more than a passing resemblance to John Cleese. 

We must have auditioned thousands of guitarists. We couldn’t believe how hard it was to find the right person. When it came to recording we had to call upon various guitarist friends to help us. We worked with Danny Kustow from the Tom Robinson Band and the late John McGeoch from Magazine, Visage, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and PIL. Eventually we found Jamie Stevenson (who was later to work with Glen Matlock, The Alarm and The Cult) to finish the album. We had discussed the idea of having Giorgio Moroder produce the album. This would have been a very unusual step for a punk band. In the event Giorgio was too busy but came back with a suggestion that his right-hand man Keith Forsey would be perfect for it. Keith came from Ilford and had played drums on virtually everything that Moroder did, so he was no stranger to a studio. We hesitated over this choice but agreed to meet Keith. He was a very positive let’s do it now kind of guy. We decided to take a chance. We started by recording the single, ‘Dancing with Myself’ and were very happy with the outcome.

We went on to do the album with Keith, who turned out to be a very gifted producer. He went on to produce Simple Minds and many others. If I have a perpetual deficit, it is that I am not at all visual and almost invariably fail to recognise famous people when I meet them. This can sometimes be embarrassing as it can be mistaken for arrogance. The worst example of this is when I was introduced to a woman called Diana in a nightclub and someone had to point out to me later that I’d just met Diana Ross. I met Marvin Gaye when we were recording the GenX album. He had been brought into the studio to record a radio ad. Just as he arrived there was a legal dispute about whether or not he could do the ad, as he was contracted to a record company for everything he sang. He ended up sitting on the sofa for about four hours whilst the lawyers argued. He finally went home without singing a single note, as they couldn’t reach an agreement. Still, at least it gave me the opportunity to meet the great man. A few years later I was shocked to hear that he’d been shot dead by his own father.

After talking to Marvin, I decided to try out the pool table. During the recording of that album I had plenty of free time. One of the good things about being the drummer is that you can get your work done first and then relax whilst everyone else sweats. I wandered off to the recreation room, which had various machines and a pool table. There was nobody there for me to play pool with. One of the studios was undergoing an extensive building renovation so I wondered if one of the builders would be around to give me a game. An Irish guy walked in wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I asked him for a game of pool and he agreed. Whilst chatting to him over the game of pool I asked him how the work was going and he said not bad, they hoped to be finished in about three weeks. After about half an hour of playing pool, I said to him, “Shouldn’t you be getting back to work?”, to which he replied, “No they’re fine without me, let’s have another game.” I thought to myself, whoever is paying these builders will be miffed to know that one of them is playing pool all day. About an hour later, he finally announced that he should go back and do some work and then surprised me by saying that he wasn’t very happy with the last guitar solo he’d played so he was going to go back and redo it. He wasn’t the builder but Rory Gallagher, probably Ireland’s greatest ever guitarist! A humble and incredibly charming man, he died following complications from a liver transplant and is buried in Ireland on the Clash road.

I later sat in on a meeting with our new manager, Bill Aucoin, and Chris Wright, the boss of Chrysalis. After hearing the single, ‘Dancing with Myself,’ Chris said, “If we can’t make this single a hit then we shouldn’t be in business.” It wasn’t a hit! When we finished the album, just about everybody loved it. Yet for some reason we couldn’t understand, it just wouldn’t sell. I felt we had a great team, one of the best managers in the business, a great new producer in Keith (who went on to produce many other hits) and one of the best record companies around. Nobody could explain why that album would not sell. Sometimes in life there comes a point where you just have to move on. So we split the band up and went our separate ways. I stayed in contact with Tony as we had some ideas that we felt could be developed and we had been a good team. Billy went to the USA to start again. Sadly, Bill Aucoin died recently following complications from prostate surgery.

Billy was a great character, always joking and mimicking other accents and voices. He was in love with rock’n’roll and never seemed interested in doing anything else. When we were working together we were both about 25 years old. At that time he had never taken any drugs and hardly ever seemed to get drunk. Bill Aucoin managed him and Billy quickly established himself. One would have thought that, having avoided drugs for years in the music business, by the age of 26 he was home and dry. Unfortunately this was not the case. I remember meeting up with him in 1982 when I was touring the states. He was pleased to see me but his pupils were very constricted – a common sign of heroin use. 

During the time we worked together, I noticed that his heroes had been people like Elvis, John Lennon and Lou Reed – all associated to some degree with drug abuse. He seemed to subscribe to the idea that to be truly great you need to experience that stuff. He struggled for a long time with drug addiction but at least managed to keep his career going. I hope all that is behind him now, but it’s not easy to get out of that trap. I remember Tony James saying to me, ”Once you start on heroin, you can never completely beat the addiction.” I thought that a bit harsh, but in my years of working with drug-addicted musicians, I’ve seen little to change that opinion. I kept hearing rumours that Topper Headon (the new drummer with The Clash) was regularly using heroin. I’d seen enough of what it did to Johnny Thunders and was never interested in trying it. 


*



NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE NUMBER 2

As a very optimistic person, I have always been able to laugh off failure, for instance, when we released a record and it didn't get into the charts. I was always able to say, “Never mind, the next one will make it.” There came a time when life wasn't going too well for me. Not only did our record not get into the charts but I didn't have a band. I had no income and nothing coming up on the horizon. My financial responsibilities were piling up. In the face of unpaid bills, I decided I would simply roll my sleeves up and go and do some work. As a musician I didn't really have any other specialised saleable skills. I got a temporary job driving a delivery van, which wasn't particularly well paid, but at least it meant that I was keeping the wolves from the door. 

Late one night, whilst making a delivery in the East End, I became aware of the presence of two men, one behind me and one at my side. The one at my side was pointing a very long thin knife at my neck and demanding money. I decided that there was no point in arguing, especially as I remembered being told that knives were more dangerous than guns, because knives don’t make lots of noise and bring unwelcome attention. Funny how such things pop into your mind at certain times. I gave them my wallet, which contained the princely sum of £5. They became angry because for some unknown reason they were certain that I had large amounts of money, either on me or in the car. As soon as the guy behind me moved into my field of vision I made my escape and although I received a knife wound in my arm I felt this was definitely preferable to one in my neck. 

You do feel somewhat vulnerable when someone holds a nine-inch blade at your neck. In those situations you don’t really have time to worry because you are so pumped full of adrenaline that you are running on automatic pilot. I was taught as a child that everyone has a guardian angel that looks after you. Throughout my life I have felt slightly guilty, as it would appear that my guardian angel has to work three times as hard as everyone else’s. He certainly put in a full shift that evening as the eventual injuries I sustained were far milder than they might have been. 

The wound I had received was small but deep, with profuse bleeding. I walked down the empty street at two-o-clock in the morning, wondering how I could call an ambulance. A large van pulled up and the driver got out to go into his house. I approached him and explained that I had just been stabbed. All I wanted was for him to call an ambulance. He said, “I’m really tired now, but if you walk to the end of the street, turn left and walk another two hundred yards you’ll see a phone box.” I was in no mood to stand there arguing with him so I walked to the phone box and did it myself. The ambulance came quickly and they were great.

After being patched up I was taken to the police station. I explained everything, including a good description of the main assailant, who had a massive scar down his cheek. Then the two detectives started muttering to each other. One said, “It sounds like…” then mouthed something to his colleague. The other guy said, “No, he’s well over thirty and besides, he’s a nutter – he would probably have killed him just for the hell of it.” The first detective said, “He’s actually thirty, and he may well have killed him.” They continued this conversation out of the room and came back in. They said, “We are going to show you a photo but you must never tell anyone you’ve seen it.” I was intrigued and readily agreed. They then amazed me by showing me a photo of the guy that had just stabbed me. They explained that in order to get a conviction I would have to pick him out of an identity parade. If his lawyer knew that I’d seen that photo then the case would collapse. I told them I understood perfectly and was ready to pick him out any time. They said they’d be in touch and gave me a lift home. I had no problem with lying about having seen the photo, as there was not the slightest doubt about his identity. Also I felt he was definitely going to kill or injure innocent people so the quicker he went behind bars, the better.

Two months had gone by since I reported my attack to the police and I still hadn’t heard from them, which seemed odd. I contacted them and another detective arranged to meet with me. I told him the whole story and he apologised that the night staff had not passed the case on to the day staff. I was not worried about any of that; I simply wanted this guy behind bars. He assured me that there would be no problems now and that he would contact me in a few weeks. Months later, after hearing nothing more, I again made contact with the police. This time I was told that the person I had last spoken to had left the force and they knew nothing about it. At that point I gave up on the quest for justice. It seemed that you had to be continually pestering to get anything done, and I didn’t feel I had the time for that. I suspect that “Scarface” ended up in prison or dead before too long.


*


I felt at that time that my efforts to earn a living in any shape or form were being thwarted. I was also sinking further into debt, since it took several weeks to recover from the injury.

When my arm healed I still had no prospects of income from music, so I decided to go out and try to earn some money once again. This time I went to an employment agency and said, “Just give me some work to earn some money – I don't care what it is.” They sent me to a huge furniture store where I stood around with lots of other guys. An enormous truck pulled up and opened its doors. It was loaded with flat-packed furniture. We unloaded these packs, forming a human chain so somebody would throw you a wardrobe, which you threw to the next guy. I had occasionally gone to a gym but only for an hour at a time. This was two and a half hours solid. I gasped with relief when a tea break was announced. I nearly choked on my tea when, after only ten minutes we had to go back to work. Tea breaks in a recording studio normally last one or two hours. By the end of the day, I felt like the truck had run over me several times. I then faced the prospect of going back for another day, and another, and another. I was constantly aware of the fact that even while doing this punishing work, I was actually still sinking into debt, (albeit more slowly than if I had not been working). It took about two weeks for me to experience a feeling of complete failure and despair. Once I had felt those feelings profoundly, I got a wonderful phone call, “We want you to come and make this album but we can only pay you three grand.” I bit the caller’s hand off to the shoulder and went back to doing what I did best. 

The lessons learned from experiencing failure and despair tend to stay with you for the rest of your life. This is really good news because you don't want to be relearning these lessons too often. For me, one of the big lessons is that whenever I sell a product or service I am acutely aware that the purchaser may be one of the many who have to work really hard to earn that money. The vitally important point to bear in mind when it comes to failure is that although a given venture failed, that does not make you a failure. 

I carried on working for a time with Tony James, who had several special gifts. He was full of enthusiasm and determination and he was a great one for knowing what was generally going on – unlike myself, usually oblivious to the world outside the band I was playing in. We did several projects together as a drummer/bass player team, helping various other bands on the way. We were hired by Dave Dee (formerly of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch – a contender for the world’s most ridiculous band name). Dave had a record label called Double Dee Productions. We made an album with the London Cowboys, a band formed by Steve Dior who had previously auditioned for GenX. Actually, I had thought that he should join GenX but there was a feeling with Billy and Tony that his personality would clash and perhaps they were right.

Tony and I also worked on our own stuff and he persuaded Annie Lennox, who was then between bands (after The Tourists and before The Eurythmics) to do a vocal track for us. She did a great job singing on that track but for some unknown reason that music never saw the light of day. We also helped Stiv Bators to form The Lords of the New Church. Tony later went on to form Sigue Sigue Sputnik in 1984.

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MY COMPUTER PHASE

Towards the end of the seventies my old friend, Robin Beauchamp, was working with computers. He seemed to be enjoying himself and earning a fortune. He often told me about his work. Computers intrigued me, because they were getting more and more powerful and seemed to be taking over the planet. I had always been good at science at school and enjoyed any kind of mental puzzle. Like many musicians, I resented the fact that when you are in a band you have to be in certain places at certain times. I often missed various social events because I simply couldn’t be there. Friends of mine in so-called normal jobs would simply take a day off and go to the party. This is an example of the grass appearing to be greener. I decided I would make friends with computers and try and figure out how they work. 

I took an aptitude test for work in the computer industry for the sake of curiosity. This was rather like an IQ test. I got 100%, which my examiner found amusing, joking that he was always suspicious of anyone who got that mark. That gave me the confidence to take things further.

So I took some courses and found that I seemed to have a flair for programming computers. I learned two programming languages, COBOL and PL1 and managed to get some programming work. I found the challenge of getting these huge machines to do what you wanted quite exciting. However, having overcome the challenge and having produced some solutions to various problems, the novelty wore off – and I stopped enjoying it. As always, as soon as I stopped enjoying it, I immediately changed direction. I got a job supporting people who were using computer programmes. This involved lots of travel, talking on the phone and lunches. This too I enjoyed at first but then again the work became routine. At that point, I realised that not only was the grass not greener – it was actually browner. At that point I returned to playing music. 

It was whilst juggling both music and computers that I had a phone call from an old acquaintance.

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