And so, in a predictable fashion 1976 became 1977. This was to be something of a watershed year for me. In 1976 I was going to school and eating my mum’s fruitcake while watching Pussycat perform Mississippi on Top of the Pops (OK I was 17 but I was pathetic). By the time 1977 had ended I was in a darker place, having left school, got my first full time job and attracted far more attention from the local police than was healthy, on the other hand I would have my first ‘proper’ girlfriend (OK I was 18 but I was pathetic).
The old year had ended rather eventfully due to two entwined events. A group of us had been to a post Xmas party at some anonymous suburban house where, I assumed, the parents of the party holders were on holiday. I cant remember being invited, in fact I’m sure I wasn’t but a Watneys Red Barrel party can was enough to ensure admittance. Unfortunate among the invited guests included a group of very short haired lads who I suspect may have been squaddies who were looking for trouble. Being on the outlook for violence was pretty much part of the deal of being a young man in a small town but probably due to the fact that I had found something better to drink than the Watneys I took my eye off the ball somewhat. The first I knew was the skinhead 4 had started picking on a lad I knew and actually threw him through a glass door, they then set about punching people at random in a scene reminiscent of an old western film but without the comedy player piano soundtrack. Having knocked half a dozen lads to the floor they seemed to run out of steam and there then followed the inevitable teenage party scene of crying, apologising and running over events several thousand times in the way that only self absorbed teenagers can do.
Unfortunately my group, who had escaped unscathed so far were followed and attacked as we left. Luckily for my my attacker was probably the weediest of the crew and I was able to throw him off and legged it into the darkness of a Norfolk night. When we did manage to locate each other it was clear that I had got off the lightest, Plainy had been hit in the face but Steve had been quite badly beaten up and had a nasty looking eye.
We made it home but the next day I found out that Steve was now in hospital with his injuries and was likely to be there into the new year. His father had now contacted the police who would be calling on me over the next few days when they would make it clear they thought that I was wasting police time as I couldn’t give them names and addresses of our attackers as well as having long hair which meant I had been asking for it anyway.
Worse still the next evening was to be the first ever public performance of The Rockwell Buzz Company at the local church hall. Although we had been practising for the last 4-5 months on a weekly basis, we were still rubbish but now our singer was in hospital to two other members of the band had just been attacked.
In all honesty I don’t think we missed Steve that much, in fact I cant remember him even singing that much when he was at rehearsals, he just used to sit there smiling, smoking and nodding his head, his real role was probably something along the lines of ‘creative vibes’. As for myself, I was rather shaken following the previous night’s events. There was every possibility that our assailants might reappear to finish the previous nights work. On top of that it was bitterly cold, I played an entire set with my RAF greatcoat fully buttoned. In an effort to cope with both these problems I was helping myself liberally to several swigs from a bottle of whisky that had somehow appeared. Up to now I had rather prided myself at my ability to remember whatever intricacies our set list contained but by the time the Rockwell Buzz Company took the ‘stage’ I was pretty useless.
Robbo, our bass player, had brought his older brother along, a fully functioning adult who could play competent guitar and sing. It was suggested that he play a few songs at the start of the evening to pad out our rather paltry performance. It was then also offered that I could play with him just using brushes on my drums which of course I agreed to with the confidence of someone who has been drinking more whisky than is good for them.
And so I made my drumming debut in front of a proper audience. The Sex Pistols had just scandalised everyone. Music was changing fast,1977 was approaching when the two sevens clash, no Beatles no Elvis no Rolling Stones just the prospect of Armageddon. My own performance encapsulated none of this and instead I tapped away with bushes trying not to make too much noise while Robbo’s brother treated us to his version of James Taylor’s ‘you’ve got a friend’.