Friday, 5 September 2008

Part TWO - The Eighties


And so it came to pass. 1979 become 1980 and a new decade had begun. I knew it was going to be good. I could feel it in my water.

Life was great. I was joining a band, playing synths. First gig, Rock Garden, second gig, Ronny Scotts. It was happening. I was getting where I wanted to be on my terms. Exactly as planned.

My politics were now full blown socialist, with that subtle edge of capitalism that you find when scruffy, useless oiks get a sniff of money or fame. Think of that useless cunt Billy Bragg and you get the idea. Born to be loaded but impeccable socialist credentials. Can read a balance sheet and P&L whilst hand rearing an orphaned lamb in front of the cameras. My time was taken up hassling slick A&R men at record companies, negotiating gig fees, recording, thinking up marketing scams and the oh so important networking with the other scammers trying to climb the greasy pole that leads to being able to spout about poverty whilst having your favourite hat flown first class across the Atlantic.

It was only a matter of time until I too could order a learjet, stick two fingers up to the “ordinary” people and be me. I knew best.

An offer of a record contract came. It was based in Germany, even better. I could get out of Thatchers Britain and go and get me some cosmopolitan credentials. We were the “hot” band, over from the UK to take the German market and I could show these squareheaded sausage munchers how it was done. Except I couldn’t. Being a novelty is great until the novelty wears off. Been seen too often playing at the same old clubs, not able to negotiate in German and there was no way anyone was going to give a bunch of upstarts like us a break if we kept biting the hand that fed us.

The record company loaned me out to all and sundry to keep me from smoking in their offices and shagging the receptionists. A tour of Eastern Germany came up and I was in heaven. I could mingle with the comrades, taste their suffering and feel the cold grey atmosphere of a totalitarian state where I was sure I would feel at home. Visions of Tractor Production and smiling children filled my head.

Bollocks to that. After two weeks on the road, I realised that East Germany was a desert. People stayed at home, being fed propaganda that none of them believed all day long and the Police were not friendly agents of the State, anxious to ensure that the spirit of comradery flourished. They were bored, stupid and cold.

There was nothing decent to eat, the women were all so bloody tired, the men never smiled and the fashions were worse than any Australians nightmare. And the sun never shined. The clouds hung 12 feet above your head all day and the wind blew. The drinking was hard and fast to make sure you numbed yourself as quickly as possible. Nobody spoke to us, our lyrics had been cleared by the censor before we performed and fraternising with the locals was not permitted. East German hotels only have so much “charm” after two nights and the stench of two stroke never leaves you.

It was grim. Really grim. The people were miserable, defeated and there was NO escape. I’ve seen similar in North Wales.

Enough of the music business. I wasn’t going to get rich after all. Plenty around me did though. But they were the Billy Braggs, the cunts, the back stabbers and the most venomous capitalists wearing red flags you have ever seen.


Luckily, I had started to experiment with computers and the first desktops were hitting the office managers desks. I had knowledge and knowledge is power, so by the start of the second half of the eighties, I was suited and booted and working in the City of London. Oh yes, it was fever time. My first property on Streatham Common, my first filofax, my first car.

Interesting times. Those that could show wealth, had respect. Those that couldn’t were excluded from everything. The Porsches, the Yuppies, the Champagne. Of course, I reconciled my socialist leanings with the fact that I wasn’t part of the system, I was exploiting it. Sure, I could spout about starving Africa because I had dub records. I could feel guilty about starving Indians because I’d been there. On holiday, mind. I read Time Out and laughed at the Steve Bell cartoons. I was hip. In the know. I could throw stones at Thatcher because even though I was part of it, I could read the Guardian and pretend I was above it.

The fa├žade didn’t last. The one thing I am very bad at is working for other people. My personality and my upbringing taught me to hate authority and if people left me alone, it was fine. But they didn’t. Dogs were eating dogs and it was an orgy of egoism back then.


Eventually, I simply snapped. I’d had enough of fools gold on their terms. I sold up on August 1st 1988, loaded everything into a van and set off for Dover…
Lessons Learned One: Money is the root of all evil
Lessons Learned Two: Propoganda is just that. Worthless
Lessons Learned Three: German women don't shave their armpits, legs or twats. Or chins in Gera.
Lessons Learned Four: People who read Time Out are far more dangerous than you think.

23 comments:

Womble On Tour said...

East Germany did the same to me. It was dank, dark and deeply depressing. The only colour was the Communist Party slogans draped from the buildings. We were out there because my dad was at a conference and we all wore conference badges; mine said I was from London and ordinary people looked at me in disbelief that someone from the West had been let out of their own country - an experience never afforded to them.
The people were scared to talk to us, no one smiled, the trams were smelly and the shops were empty. We saw people being searched by the police, and cars being taken aaprt at the border. I'd never go back.

Lesson for me - socialism sucks.

Billy Wallace said...

Well nobody can say you started late,
and it sounds like you,ve not many blank pages left in your passport these days,
looking forwards to part three.

Old Holborn said...

Womble, I went hitch hiking in Czechoslovakia in 1981, alone, for two weeks.

Madness. At the camp site in Prague I visited (after registering with the police, as you have to everyday), I was the ONLY westerner and was mobbed by East German girls on MZ two stroke motorbikes.

I had a submachine pressed into my neck near Brno by the cops and my own "spy" in Bratislava who showed me around whilst noting my every word in his notebook.

You HAD to change £7 a day to keep your visa and you can't spend more than £1 day. On anything. I ended up buying the entire campsite a beer and a sausage with the sackful of Krone I had collected during my stay. Loved the huge shops selling one sausage made of donkey hooves or the bags of sawdust they sold as snacks.

woman on a raft said...

Beats me why people want to recreate Stasiland here. BTW, did the van have a name? Vans often develop eccentric personalities of their own.

Anonymous said...

Dave Gahan the lead singer of Depeche Mode spoke to me once back in 81,"get out of my fuckin way prick" he said. He stunk of evo stik.
I think he ended up in the fatherland as well, better than Basildon I suppose.

electro-kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Old Holborn said...

Boo.

Electro Kevin deleted his post

Here it is again:

electro-kevin has left a new comment on your post "Part TWO - The Eighties":

I think the cultural changes brought through music in Britain from the sixties onwards wasn't a reaction against what was wrong with our country ... it WAS what was wrong with Britain...

a youth obsessed movement that regarded anything adult as unhip, untrendy and irrelevant. From thereon life in Britain immitated art in garish Andy Warhol fashion.

Now our society is fixated with teenage ... little girls are encouraged to dress like mini-sluts and fat old men wear jeans and Woodstock 'T' shirts of their youth ...

worst of all we have politicians elected on image alone which explains the dreadful sixth-form attitude pervading Parliament and the marginalisation of anyone over the age of 30 with anything like a conservative (small c) outlook.

You seem proud of your past, Old Holborn. I don't know why - you're part of the movement that paved the way for the people you slag off in your most recent post.

By all accounts not only were you a musical rebel at the forefront of seventies decadence, but you were also part of the movement in the City during Maggie's term which lead to the corruption of our banking institutions...

now you sense - rightly - another movement going on and want to joint that bandwagon too ... the revolt against socialism in Britain.

With me you will find constancy - you, I think, are a fake or at the very least one who does not know himself well.

I'm also a very good guitarist qualified to a high level but never felt the need to push it.

electro-kevin said...

I think the cultural changes brought through music in Britain from the sixties onwards wasn't a reaction against what was wrong with our country ... it WAS what was wrong with it.

Pop was a youth obsessed movement that regarded anything adult as unhip, untrendy and irrelevant. From thereon life in Britain immitated art in garish Andy Warhol fashion and it became a sin to get old - witness the disrespect our elderly are afforded in pensions and treatment.

Now our society is fixated with youth and everyone must conform to it ... little girls are encouraged to dress like mini-sluts, old women with ghastly face-lifts and fat old men wearing the stupid jeans and Woodstock 'T' shirts of their youth ...

worst of all we have politicians elected on image alone which explains the dreadful sixth-form attitude pervading Parliament and the marginalisation of anyone over the age of 30 with anything like a conservative (small c) outlook.

You seem proud of your past, Old Holborn. I don't know why - you're part of the movement that paved the way for the people you slag off in your most recent post.

By all accounts not only were you a musical rebel at the forefront of seventies decadence, but you admit to being part of the rebelious decadent movement in the City during Maggie's term which lead to the corruption of our banking institutions. So there we have two important bastions of British life you helped to sully - polite behaviour and trustworthyness.

now you sense - rightly - another movement going on and want to joint that bandwagon too ... the revolt against socialism in Britain.

With me you will find constancy - you, I think, are a fake or at the very least one who does not know himself well.

I'm also a very good guitarist qualified to a high level but never felt the need to push it. Nor have I felt the need to push the fact that I have an awsome right hook.

The genuine article doesn't seek approbation.

Old Holborn said...

"Nor have I felt the need to push the fact that I have an awsome right hook."


Would you like a full refund Kevin?

It's an interesting argument though. That my preference for music has brought western civilisation to it's knees. I'll mull it over. I have mulled it over. What utter cockwafle.

electro-kevin said...

Nope - you can have that one for free, OH.

Even as a youngster I could see where it was all going to lead - the punk rockers on the Bill Grundy show for example. Even the Beatles' overt - albeit sugary - challenge to authority was a risk.

Art - in the form of music, satire, image - shifted paradigms and exacted change in subtle ways. The most pernicious aspect of popular art is fashion - a form tribalism which is self-exclusive. If you don't follow fashion it's very difficult to find yourself included in many circles and influential cliques. Though you project the image of being a rebel your personal account seems to show that you followed at least two things which led to damaging consequences for Britain:

- freedom of artistic expression

- dog-eat-dog City greed

The first gave us our "none judgment" attitude. Well how could we be judgmental about chavs in shell suits and rappers in bling when our own were dressing like the undead ? How could we assert our former ideals when taboos were being broken after we'd broken so many taboos of our own ? The lubricant for this was music, art and satire "Hey ! Don't be offended - it's only comedy." Thus those of us who tried to do anything to redress our hurt feelings were ridiculed and made to feel inadequate.

Wasn't it screamingly obvious that this 'freedom' was going to mutate into what we have today ? Nasty tattoos on necks and faces - disfigured earlobes and the obligatory pugnacious little dog on a chain ?

Then there is the same for banking - and the credit crunch where we now have the underclass (erstwile working class) emulating the buy-now-pay-later attitudes of aspirant yuppies during the '80s. It took a while for it all to transmit downwards - but transmit it did in the most pernicious way.

The rot started from the head down, let's make no mistake about that - you can't have your cake and eat it that you were there part of it but " ...not REALLY part of it, you understand. I was a rebel in disguise"

The people that followed this shite were the biggest conformists around.

My reason for disclosing my pugilistic ability is that I felt this to be one of the rare occaisions to be clear that I am not merely a mouth without trousers.

My thanks to you for not deleting my earlier comment.

I'll stick around if you don't mind. Regardless of what I've said I think you're a good blogger.

Lilith said...

But Kev honeybun, light of my bloglife, and apple of my pc, I thought it was all MY fault for being a feminist? Or Maggie's fault for politicising the police, or Nu Labour's fault for tax and spend, or the FSA's fault for not doing their job? Please don't tell me it's Neil Young's fault, really? I have to have something to cling to... Perhaps it really WAS that terrible hair do I had in 1983 ...

Lilith said...

Tell us about the 90's OH. Did you became an alternative health practitioner and grow a fluffy white beard? Did you go into telecoms? TV Evangelism? Do tell :-)

electro-kevin said...

Fancy seeing you here, Darlin' !

(I have met Lilith's dog ...in real life, OH !)

You know I'm not a killjoy - I guess I'm just fighting old demons really. My refusal to become a punk, mod, skinhead was what caused me to learn how to throw a punch - so these fashions were fun ? Yeah right ! These people were easy going ? Puh-lease !

I'd put it like this. From the sixties Britain decided to throw a party where limits and boundaries would be pushed and caution thrown to the wind. Out of it came moments of pure genius and great creativity - but at the same time we lost something precious - the right to set standards. And now that the party's drawing to a close it's only now that we can count its true cost... in a few years we'll be in a position to decide whether it was worth it.

I think not.

electro-kevin said...

And no, Lilith. Your hair-do was lovely in 1983 (the picture with baby K, am I right ?)

You've made me go all gooey.

Old Holborn said...

I think otherwise. As a Libertarian, I am responsibile for my life. As far as I know, I only get one and am more than half way through it. When I die, I will not go to heaven. I will simply not exist anymore, rather lke I didn't exist 200 years ago. It didn't hurt then and I am 100% sure it will not hurt now.

So. If I dyed my hair it was my choice. It did not affect anyone but me. What you seem to be saying is that there was once a gold standard of civilisation and allowing people to take responsibility for their own lives (instead of being serfs or slaves to a god) has somehow undermined the utopia.

It didn't. All we are now is simply more free to be us. As it happens, some people are free to be the complete cunts that slavery or serfdom denied them.

What successive governments have done since the war is to take away responsibility from the individual in order to control the individual. When your average council house scum fucks up, the first thing they shout is "ain't my fault!" Well, they are right. They handed all their rights and responsibility to the State in return for a nice bundle of welfare benefits. Cash.

They are now free to behave as they wish because they cannot be blamed for their actions. The State can.

Does the State care? Not a fucking jot. Just keep watching the TV and we will look after everything for you.

Lilith said...

And it's going to get worse and worse with the EU breathing down our necks, robbing us blind and criminalising us left right and centre.

No Kev, that was the unfortunate hair do of 1990. 1983 is here

http://lilith-stuff.blogspot.com/2007/06/me-at-19.html

Lilith said...

I think a big problem with the Uk is that as a nation we hate our children. We force thousands of children to go to places known euphemisticly as "schools", that even scare us as adults, five days a week 44 weeks of the year, enduring mindless and repetitive and stale curricula designed to help the lowest achiever get an A*. They are in the care of mad exhausted and bewildered "teachers" in scruffy wire fenced concrete enclosures in their thousands. Can't be right.

Anonymous said...

being able to spout about poverty whilst having your favourite hat flown first class across the Atlantic.

Bravo OH.

Stop Staring at my TITS! said...

For me the following is the truth concerning out education in the UK.

They hate you if you are clever yet they dispise the fool. - Lennon.

@EK "Now our society is fixated with youth and everyone must conform to it"

Yeppers Society wants us fixated and wants everyone to conform. Just be sheeple, everything will be OK.

Bollocks and bollocks some more.

We have one life, the individual is to blaim for his/her shortcomings, we as individuals can choose not to be what "they" want us to be. How can we love and respect others if we cannot love and respect ourselves.

Sorry if trite, but my 2p worth.

Keep it going OH - lovin' it.

electro-kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
electro-kevin said...

I'm not just talking about hair dye here.

There is a widely held belief that British pop/rock music was the best and judging by the overwhelming presence of ageing British artists still packing out international arenas it is true.

The reason why much modern British music made European seem so staid was its irreverance and edginess. It was at the forefront of a real intellectual revolution. There was a real sense of danger in much of it and and also a sense that boundaries were being pushed... and they were - this is the very thing which made it exciting.

How much did youth culture really cost us ?

Our country I'm afraid.

By following this path and yes - dying our hair, forgetting our manners, deference and later losing our bottle to be openly judgemental of really bad behaviour (because, actually, we quite admired it in renegade artists) we forfeited the authority to assert ourselves. In fact I'm not sure that we can remember much about what truly good behaviour is any more... we'd offer some vague explanation of what being 'nice' is instead.

This goes for our politicians too, raised on a diet of rebelliousness, hence their sixth-form approach to governance culminating in today's society which gives equivallence between the lumpenproletariat (underclass) and one who slogs his bollocks off earning an honest crust. This could have been put right in the last ten years but the Blair government were 'progressives' and he himself loved nothing better than posing with a Fender Strat espousing his love of rock culture.

I don't think our dead WWII ancestors would recognise us as their people at all if they were resurrected. Whether that's a good thing depends on how highly you value the British war time generation's approval of you. That most people over the age of 70 hate being called by their first name is viewed as petty says a lot about our differences - the publich use of profanities must be shocking for them.

Frankly, I think we're a right let down and need to grow up from our perpetual adolescence fast.

I agree with Stop Staring at my Tits! btw - do keep up the postings.

ancient native said...

I grew up in the age of the "Teddy Boys" and one of the principal facets of that was the ability (requirement?) to dress extremely smartly - even though drainpipe trousers may not have done many favours to lots of their wearers! But shoes were always highly polished (when they were not of the suede variety), shirts were spotlessly clean, ties were de rigeuer - even the thin bits of neckrope affected by some - and trousers had very sharp creases.

May be the scruffy painted and unwashed punks who followed on were just trying to be different? I wonder where all those green spiky-haired Mohican-topped youths are today.

Great blog OH; compulsive reading which I regularly recommend to friends.

electro-kevin said...

"What is the World coming to ?"

My granny (ex WWII Red Cross nurse)
My grandad (ex REME Sgt Major and veteran of D Day, Dunkirk and India campaigns)

This was in response to punks, lady-boys (New Romantics) and other fads in general.

The general response of that generation to our fads - so much so that it became a cliche' much mocked.

But I think they were right.

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