That summer the streets had turned meaner. There were stories of violent confrontations fanned by Fleet Street and passed around like imitation war stories. I stood in the West End one time waiting for Chrissie Hynde; a mob of Teds circled me a couple of times but were unsure of the semiotics of my plain black tee shirt and trenchcoat. I was moving away from Punk toward a sort of 60’s French noir style. When Chrissie came out of Leicester Square tube, they made up their minds that we were Punk and took off after us down St Martin’s Lane. I ducked into a kebab shop and asked the man behind the counter to call a copper. The mob grabbed Chris who was just behind me. The guy behind the counter cowered. I got down on the floor with one arm around a stool that was bolted to the floor and braced my legs against the doorframe. I had to literally winch Chris away from them and into the shop with my free arm. I always wondered why they didn’t just come into the tiny kebab shop after us. I can’t remember what they looked like individually. It was like dealing with nature in a dream-state of uncontrollable crisis. It belonged in the street (atmospheric) not indoors (ambient). I think that is why they didn’t come in. Chrissie got a bit bloodied but it could have been so much worse.
It is too simple to call it the summer of hate. It was fear, human despair spinning financial desperation. It felt personal only when it touched something familiar. It was endurable, like bad weather, as long as it remained external.
But the mood of Punk definitely changed; I saw the shadow of the train-wreck at the end of the tunnel. This was before there was a ‘language of recovery’ and heroin and alcohol had really taken over. The stress of knowing where Punk was going made me physically sick. My childhood had been shredded by addiction that left me in foster care. I had seen this before. I had no other family but my friends. I cared deeply. My own band was not immune. I remember standing in The Ship at a table with Patti Palladin and all the guys we’d just played with on tour with the Only Ones. I had no voice at all; I sounded like a mobster. I leaned over and fired them all in a gravelly whisper. Naturally, they laughed, but I’d begun, at that moment, to move slowly toward the vanishing point, which was just another door opening.
Ruth Marten, a friend since art school in Boston, arrived from NYC with her tattoo machine. New York had a blackout and looting topped with The Son of Sam serial killer that summer; Europe had the Baader-Meinhof. London’s violence was relative. My closest friends often hung out at Jonathan Ross’s on Bovingdon Road. Jonathan was just starting to work with holography. I had Ruthie tattoo Le Violon d’ Ingres, the Man Ray image, on my back. I showed it to Man Ray (who was already in a wheelchair) at his retrospective at the ICA (he would die that fall).
When I took off with Ruthie to the Köln Biennale, I met Diego Cortez who showed me what became known as the ‘Jughead Series’ of drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The energy in art revitalized me. The recording of RAF by Snatch and Eno was born of that trip and I met many of the people who would later be called ‘No Wave’ in New York. When I came back to London, I went into hospital to have my tonsils out. Within two weeks, I’d recovered enough to join John Cale’s band for a European tour and slip out of London.
[Pictures (except the Melody Maker coverat the top): The Bovingdon Road series 1977, Ross Collection: 1) Judy Nylon, Ruth Marten and Chrissie Hynde. 2) Patti Palladin, John Betjeman and Gina Langton (plus Byron on the wall). 3) Judy Nylon. 4) Judy Nylon and Ruth Marten. 5) Tattoing equipment. 6) Ruth Marten tattooing Jonathan Ross]
Check out The Summer of Hate 1: Jon Savage
First posted: Monday, June 18th, 2007.There are currently 4 comments on this post. You can follow all the comments on this post through this RSS feed.