‘Is there anybody out there that wants to rock? (Cheers) Is there anybody out there that wants to roll? (Cheers) Is there anybody out there that wants to BOOGIE? (Even more cheers…) Tonight… live… from the Apollo, Glasgow… we have the number-one rock ‘n’ roll band in the land (roars)… Will you welcome… the magnificent… STATUS… QUOOOOO (crowd goes crazy…)’
(Status Quo Live!, 1977)
Listen to that! I’d never come across the word ‘boogie’ before. And I had no idea about the visual onslaught of gigs. I just heard the soundtrack, like Werner Herzog listening on headphones to the noises of Timothy Treadwell being eaten by a bear in Grizzly Man. He says calmly to a grieving woman: ‘You must never listen to this…. You should destroy it.’ But I wanted to KNOW MORE. It was 1977…
I was 13. The year before, I’d bought three Beatles LPs (there was a bit of a Beatles revival in the charts). I’d swapped them with Sam and Alexander (*) at school, so we all at least had cassettes of all of them. (Sam was later in 23 Skidoo, and was responsible for my hippest ever moment at Oxford: Scamps Discotheque – in the shopping centre, 10/5/1982, when 23 Skidoo played there and I WENT BACKSTAGE and hung out with the band!! M was very impressed and – almost as a result (not really) – married my sister…)
So at 12 I owned Revolver, Abbey Road and Yellow Submarine (fairly dismal, though Hey Bulldog is great. As for the White Album, my father had it – as one of only 3 or 4 ‘pop’ records. The reviewer in the Times had called Lennon and McCartney ‘the best songwriters since Schubert’ (talk about damning with faint praise…). So my dad had bought it. He particularly liked Blackbird)).
I bought them all at Our Price in Golders Green, between buses, on the way back from school. For my 13th birthday, I got How Dare You? by 10cc from my sister. It had a brilliant Hipgnosis cover and I’m Mandy Fly Me AND Don’t Hang Up, which contained the (for me, at just 13) immortal couplet: “When the barman said: ‘What are you drinking?’/I said: ‘Marriage on the rocks.’”
How sophisticated can you get? (Listening again now, the music is anodyne, but the lyrics are fantastic…)
At 13, in 1977, I went to a new school. I branched out musically. I bought Status Quo Live! (It was around that time I started wearing my overcoat with my arms not in the sleeves. I’d seen it on tv and thought it was ultra-cool! Though it tended to fall off… **)
And then in January 1978 I discovered New Wave and started again with my first single, Shot By Both Sides.
And then in 1979 I discovered gigs! First gig: Magazine at Drury Lane (sitting down. Really it was like the theatre…)
Second: Joy Division at the YMCA!!! (2/8/79 – I don’t even have to check!) I was 15 and it was like: Here’s what I’m meant to do!
I didn’t make a film for 4 more years, but from that moment on, I was hooked on ‘art’. (Joy Division were also my 3rd, 4th, 9th, 21st, 26th, 36th and 37th gigs. The last two were a Factory Special at the Moonlight Club, West Hampstead, 2/3 April 1980. And in case you think my recall’s weird, I wrote it all down in a notebook, which I still have…)
And then in May, Ian Curtis hanged himself. I was 16. It was when I was listening to John Peel on the 19th that I heard. It was after 10pm, and everyone else was in bed. I was up and writing an essay about – and I remember this – Henry I and his domestic policy.
At that moment, it (whatever ‘it’ was) was OVER…
* Alexander is currently director of the Ashmolean Museum. It was that kind of school. I last saw him doing magic in Oxford, 1984. And on tv, he did magic on Jonathan Ross, I seem to remember…
** It’s called ‘shoulder-robing’, my sister tells me.