I’ll précis the boring childhood stuff. Yes, I had a shite childhood. Only child. Dead dad. Insane mother. The usual. I pay an analyst two hundred bucks an hour to tell that story so you can ask him. However, at 13 I met Donnie.
I say ‘met’ which isn’t strictly accurate. We’d been in the same class at 11 but gratuitously ignored each other. So you could say we’ve known each other for thirty years now. Anyway, back to 13. Do you remember the NWOBHM? No? I’m not surprised. Lots of dodgy heavy metal bands wearing studs but it was my initiation into rock music. We’d bumped into each other at a Motorhead gig at the Odeon a couple of weeks earlier and had exchanged surprised pleasantries. Our school was strictly Mod so another headbanger was a rarity.
So it’s morning break and I’m strutting round in my shiny new Saxon T-shirt when up walk Oggy and Bogie, the two school psychos. Instead of retreating, a combination of teenage bravado and White lightning cider (concealed in a lemonade bottle) kept me standing. Cue the witty conversation.
Oggy or Bogie (they were interchangeable). “Stevie, you a poof?”
Me, “Don’t be fucking stupid”.
Oggy/Bogie, “I say you’re a fucking poof, you’re a fucking poof, right!”
Me, “Ah fuck off, ya pair o’ arse bandits.”
Oggy/Bogie then ceased the jocular repartee and proceeded to kick the proverbial seven shades of shit out of me. At this point fate takes a hand and Donnie walks round the corner. Five minutes earlier, five minutes later, I’d probably be working in an office somewhere thinking about how different things could have been. However, Donnie leapt to the rescue. Well actually they kicked the shit out of him as well.
At that moment, we connected. Now I’m not going to into any fake male bonding shit but, even now I’d do anything for him. I mean, I hate the bastard sometimes and he can be a real prick, but he’s still the best friend I ever had.
What? Oh, must be two years since we met. Last I heard he was running a holistic hunting lodge in Vermont. Yeah, holistic. Apparently they can only kill animals when hunter and hunted have reached an inner peace within themselves and with their place in the universal matrix. Yeah, I thought it was bollocks as well. Well, he married the stupid bitch, so it’s his problem.
So anyway, to get back, we were the outsiders at school, so we clung together even more. We spent the next three years being suspended, punished and eventually they asked us to leave. We took the summer off, bought a crappy old VW van and headed off on the festival circuit.
We spent three months in that van and they were probably the best three months I ever had. Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Nostell Priory, Castle Donington. We did them all. I discovered good drugs, proper sex (not the schoolboy fumbling) and the bass guitar. I had my first acid trip (and numbers 2 through 30!) and life seemed good. However, we eventually ran out of money (and people to blag off) so it was back home. To the dole queue.
This was definitely a watershed. What? No, give me a No. 7. Yeah, the Turkish Delight. And a bottle of chilli beer. So, a watershed. Discovering good drugs. Unbe-fucking-lievable. We’d been drinking since 13. I dropped my balls at 15, but this was the biggie. We’d been doing speed at school ever since Jacko, the local dealer, saw the long hair and leather jackets.
“A freebie, boys. Just ta see if you like it. No harm done if ye dinnae.” What the fuck did he know. Three hours later I’m a gibbering speed freak, crying out for more of the same. You name it we took it. Not surprisingly. the authorities knew something was up but they didn’t know what. Lots of pep talks about wasted opportunities, suspensions-a-go-go and then finally, goodbye. Why?
A series of ‘minor indiscretions’. Stoned at assembly, drunk in the common room, not turning up at all during fourth year, conducting black masses on school property. No, I’m not fucking joking. The school had a “Christian Union” and we wanted to do something for the other side. Equal opportunities and all that. Where was I? Oh yeah. The breaking point was astonishingly mundane. We broke in one night while speeding and crapped in the canteens hot water tank. And forgot to tell anyone. They didn’t find out for two days, which is about eight hundred lunches later. And two hundred cases of food poisoning. So they called in the health inspector who found one still lodged in an overflow. So despite strong denials they blamed us and off we went.
So. as I said, we bought a van (thanks to Jacko’s pioneering franchising scheme) and off we went. Then back to the dole. This was the worst time of my life. Craving acid and speed, drinking a bottle of vodka and day and living in the back of that fucking van. Oh, and the government very kindly gave me twenty one pounds a week to live on. So I did what Mr Tebbitt suggested and got on my bike. You name it I did it. Labouring, scaffolding, stealing, dealing. Anything to get by. Donnie was luckier than me. His parents hadn’t discovered his bad habits yet. So at least he had a roof over his head that didn’t leak constantly. Then came lucky break number two.
I met Gogs. I was hanging around Billy’s Music Shop (a regular junkie hang out) when this very smart, designer permed, pressed Levis guy walks in. An hour later he’s spent three thousand pounds on equipment and paid in cash! My kinda guy. So I very kindly helped him to load the gear in the back of his new Transit. We were talking and I happened to mention that I played bass. This superb lie was to make me the man I am today. Because Gogs said, “great, I’m forming a band with a mate of mine at college. I play guitar, he plays drums. Do you want to jam!” Jam(!) A fucking dickhead is what I thought. However, I said “yes. Unfortunately I’m so skint I’ve hawked my bass to Billy”. Gogs looks at me, sees something I’ve hitherto missed and says, “come on. Let’s get it back”.
So back in we went. I frantically signalled to Billy, who as well as musical instruments sold every other kind of ‘equipment’ you could ever need. “Quick”, says I. “This nad is gonna buy my bass back!”. “You don’t have a bass”, pedants Billy. “I do now. Which is the best second hand one you’ve got”.
Ten minutes later I’m the proud owner of a bass, amp and for good measure some effects pedals. Fifteen hundred big ones. Billy’s happy. I’m happy. Billy’s happy again because he knows he gets it back tomorrow for seven hundred. I’m happy because the seven hundred keeps me in gear for a month. Billy’s even happier because I buy my gear from him. Oh, and Gogs is happy because he thinks he’s got a bass player.
I dump the equipment in the back of the VW, Gogs gives me his address (in a very posh part of town) and I arrange to meet him the next night for a “jam, man”.
The following morning I woke up nice and early (about 11), finished off the previous nights pizza, had a triple-S and started to load the equipment back in the van. Where I lived in Wester Hailes you didn’t leave things in your van overnight. In fact, stripping down the van and carrying it up the stairs was virtually the only way of guaranteeing you had a van the next day. So off to Billys I went.
Except I didn’t. I drove around all afternoon in a state of shock and panic. This wasn’t what I expected. What the fuck was I doing? I didn’t want to be in a band. I wanted to be a statistic. That was what I’d always been and what I always wanted to be. Get a fucking grip! But it didn’t work. For some strange unfathomable reason 9pm saw me driving up to Gogs’s house. Enter the muso.