Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
How we met
44 years ago 7th May 1977 (a Saturday)
Jeff, my longest friend and I were on a night out to celebrate his first week at Fords, Halewood. Those days workers were paid weekly. Cash, pound notes, even coins within a wage packet.
A, not quite square brown envelope with a small transparent window to view any cash inside. The details of your pay would also be inside (a wage slip) stapled attached to the cash within, to prevent fraud. Previous to stapling some ‘canny scousers’ would carefully remove a £5 note without disturbing the seal and claim their wages short demanding another fiver!
I cannot recall the beginning of the night but we probably started with a couple of pints in our local ,The Mons before heading into ‘Town’, to Eric’s.
As ‘Punks’ Eric’s was our standard fallback venue, our spiritual home, it would be ‘weird’ if we didn’t go there? We could ‘often’ get in for free except for some full house gigs. As a band we performed there, support to many, now iconic bands. However, most nights we would just meet and hang there.
Eric’s was a seminal venue in the development of the UK punk rock movement. Created by musical entrepreneur Roger Eagle late 1976 and host to numerous local, national and international musical icons primarily within the music sub-cultures of the time, then up-and-coming bands like: Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Joy Division, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cardiacs, The Slits, Talking Heads, The Stranglers, Ultravox, XTC, X-Ray Spex and early gigs by the next wave of scouse talent – Dead or Alive, Echo & the Bunnymen, Julian Cope, The Teardrop Explodes, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Wah! Heat ……many many more.
We were earlyish to be arriving at a club although being Saturday it was already, lively. Straight away I bumped into Steve Fairway. I was surprised to see him, Steve was not an Eric’s regular, in fact, he didn’t strike me as the Eric’s type.
Myself & Steve were completing a first year of an engineering, industrial apprenticeship together at Kirby College. A single year, broad-based, industrial training programme. After completing the course (passing) trainees would return to their respective employers to continuing their specific apprenticeships. I was training to become a HGV mechanic Steve, an industrial electrician.
I didn’t know him well, we weren’t mates. As in, I knew other blokes on the course I would call mates? I did like him though, certainly, I didn’t ‘not’ Like him? A big guy who practiced martial arts, Judo I think, a very straight, normal bloke, definitely not your typical Eric’s material?.
With him were two very fit’ girls.
First impressions, he was punching way above his weight.
We literally bumped into him as we entered the club, he introduced us to Gail and Irene. Both looked 18-20ish. Irene had a shock of short, bright, natural, red hair, Gail short black hair, a distinctive yet complimentary contrast, indicative of the era, ‘Brian Ferry’ backing singer style.
Small talk, something I was shit at.
(I think) I was wearing, my signature glasses (trendy, black, metal, aviator style rims with bright yellow lenses), a 3/4 length, Rupert the Bear, beige, duffle coat on top of black elasticated, ultra skinny ‘drainees’ and probably, a woollen jumper that had a ‘Magic Roundabout’ Dylan, the dog patch sewn onto it (hiding a small hole), white hi-leg, lace-up, boxing boots or, tartan ‘Dad’ slippers. Impressive …ha ha!
It was Gail’s outfit that caught the eye, or rather, what she was NOT wearing.
She had on an over large white, long sleeved (rolled up) ‘dad’ shirt (I found out later it was Arthurs, her dads), no skirt, just dark, black tights, black ankle boots and possibly a thin tie although I am not 100% sure, I might have made that up? I would have worn a thin black tie with that shirt.
She had left the house wearing a different outfit with her dads shirt in her bag. When she arrived at Eric’s she had remover her outfit, swapping it for her dads white shirt that she wore as a ‘very short dress’.
She looked amazing, sexy, ‘rude’, fit as fuck.
Steve didn’t actually say the words ‘girl friend’ but it was definitely implied. …’keep off’
She seemed to want to talk to me. I told her I was in a band, she claimed to have seen us play, only a couple of weeks ago in another venue across town, The Sportsman. Irene was not as fit as Gail, Irene had ‘all’ her clothes on!
I seemed to hit it off with Gail. Jeff and Irene didn’t seem that interested in each other. Irene was a smoker, and Jeff revealed later that her ‘smoker’s breath’ had, instantly, put him off.
I am shit at coping off but for some reason Gail and I clicked.
No doubt about it , she was a looker, (normally) way out of my league but for some reason she seemed interested in me. They were both very much part of a Liverpool ‘it’ crowd. Trendy, attractive people, a scene. I definitely was not. She dropped many names none of who I knew? A trend test? To see how ‘cool’ (or uncool) I was?
Much later (years later ), it was my not being, or even wanting to be, part of ‘the Liverpool scene’ that had attracted her to me? She had ever met anybody who wasn’t either in, or wanted to be in the scene before? She told me ‘liked the fact that I was who I was, happy in my own skin despite the fact I wore ‘slippers’ to go on a night out in!
The reasons for that are simple. I did not have time to ‘socialise’. My social circle was restricted to musicians and bands. Working full time and playing part-time, I didn’t have any spare time for anyone or anything else. If we were not performing, I would not go to pubs, bars & clubs, I would be practicing guitar, alone, learning songs from listening to David Bowie albums. I was never interested in, nor had any time for normal teenager behaviour. My band took every once of any time I had spare.
I was definitely not part of the Liverpool ‘it’ crowd.
Steve excused himself (toilet) and I was in like Flynn, ‘how long have you and Steve been going out together’? ‘We are not going out together’.
Not long after, they were leaving, off to a party at another venue across town, The Sportsman. Just Gail and Irene, not Steve. The Sportsman, the venue she said earlier she had seen my band perform a few weeks ago.
The Sportsman was a trendy, busy venue. A ‘scalp’ for any new band to play. We had worked hard to get gigs there. We had gone down well to a full house. I remember the gig as it was a success.
I had been wearing a blue, one piece boiler suit and white boxing boots, with dyed, bright-blue hair (and my signature yellow glasses of course).
At the time I was working full time, 7 days a week as an HGV (apprentice) mechanic, up at 6.00am to travel, by bus. for an 8.00am start. Nighttimes I was either rehearsing with the band or playing gigs, usually, local but regularly further afield including many gigs in London, iconic venues like The Marquee Club.
It is amazing what is the capacity of youth? How I, physically managed I do not know
Dad also worked at the same company, as transport manager, in an office, nowhere near the workshops where I was based. So as not to embarrass him (too much), Pre-performance I would dye my hair with coloured, vegetable dye. That way, I could wash/rinse it out the following morning before going to work.
This Sportsman gig – my hair was dyed blue, to match my blue boiler-suit.
The good thing about vegetable dye is that it washes out (easily). The problem with vegetable dye is that it washes out easily. As I began to sweat on stage, streams of blue began to run down my face, onto the rest of my body, onto and dripping from my guitar. I must have looked like a fucking Smurf!.
Later, Gail told me that the reason she had remembered us playing was she had noticed my smurfing hair on stage she remembers thinking ‘we were good’ but ‘look at that dickhead with the blue dye running down his face’. Me.
Steve, Gail and Irene announced their departure from Erics’, the girls confirming their plans to move on to a party, a ‘stay behind’ at the Sportsman Bar, Jeff and I were remaining at Eric’s. Right at the death Gail said ‘why don’t you come with us’?
I glanced at Jeff and in a flash we agreed, later on? We will follow you over there?’ I asked if this could work, would we get in? Afterall we weren’t ‘that trendy’? Gail said ‘yes, sure, just say you are meeting us?’
They left. We remained for another hour or so.
Jeff wasn’t as keen as myself although he did appreciate my enthusiasm, girls like Gail were not interested in the likes of myself and Jeff? She was fit as fuck, way out of our league, I would be a fool not to go for it? To give it a try? I was already besotted, excited, struck by the mythical, romantic, thunderbolt, cupids arrow.
We went to the Sportsman and, remarkably, we got in.
The Sportsman was a strange venue a ‘pub’ that wanted to be and felt more like a ‘club’? Popular, a regular live music venue. Not a kids pub but not too old either? It was a survivor a venue that regularly reinvented itself, with many, many transformations and name changes over a couple of decades.
For many years there was a replica (formula Ford), race car chassis bolted, upside-down, to the ceiling, just prior to the entrance staircase. The first thing you would see when you entered from the street was this upside-down race car. A unique novelty feature that attracted much attention.
The idea became a magnet for ‘macho’ customers to try to sit in the upside down car. To successfully achieve this feat involved considerable strength, to hoist yourself up then toss over, mid air, and position yourself in the drivers seat, holding the steering wheel. Yeah fucking good luck with that?
I never felt the inclination to give it a try. A man has to know his own limitations?
We had arrived quite late, they (Gail) seemed pleased to see us. Despite it being a party ‘a stay behind’ it was still a pub not a club. Those days normal Saturday pub licensing hours were an 11.00pm finish. We had arrived after 12.00 and things had already started to wind down.
At the last minute prior to being ushered out by the doormen I surprised myself and asked her for her phone number. Neither of us had a pen. Nothing to write it down on or with. We could not find, borrow anything either. I said I would remember it and she gave it to me 428 5437. I said would call her early next week.
No Pen. No paper. Twatted.
Jeff and I decided that, between us, we could remember her phone number. Jeff would remember the first (shorter) part 428 and I, the the longer half 5437.
What could possibly go wrong?
We were pretty puddled by then. We had hit it hard, determined to drink ALL of Jeff’s first weeks wages. I can’t remember how and when we got home, other than it was early Sunday morning, 3.00am)?
I woke about 1.00-2.00pm and rang Jeff immediately.
His mum answered ‘he’s still asleep, in bed, do you want me to get him up?’ Mum Code for – ‘I want to get the lazy git up!’ Hungover, remarkably, he had remembered his half of the mission. Between us we had ‘a’ number which I hoped belonged to Gail.
I called her Sunday afternoon.
It was her. Despite all the odds, two drunken fools, had managed to remember a number (between them), after only an eight hour sleep, a hangover and a bucket full of beer. Mission accomplished. Well done Jeff.
We (Gail and I) arranged to meet the following evening, to go to the pictures together.
44 years on, today, 7th May 2021, the rest, as they say, is history?
Thanks for reading.