Under his nom-de-punk Richard North, Richard Cabut produced a celebrated fanzine called Kick. He went on to define the “positive punk” sub-genre in 1983 (when he worked at NME) and played with Brigandage. He is now a writer and journalist:
In the summer of 1977, I am seventeen — perfect.
I don’t work. Although I washed cars for a week once when my mate Steve went on holiday. The boss said they’d be cleaner if he’d pissed on them. Fuck off, baldy.
I speed a bit — little brown packets tucked in zip pockets — and do other stuff, too. Inspired by the Ramones and Mark P, I try sniffing glue, but it doesn’t work for me. I open the tin, take a tentative little snifflet of Cow Gum and am surprised when nothing happens — little do I realise that you have to tip the stuff in a plastic bag and stick it over your head for five minutes before you can satisfactorily fall flat on your face, off your napper. They should print clear, precise instructions in the punkzines for god’s sakes. I also occasionally indulge in over-the-counter decongestants. One tablet per day is the recommended dose. So I take eight and get a buzz. Wait. If I feel a mild hit on eight then, well, what if I take 30? I’ll feel really good, right? I vomit for a whole day and feel like shit for the next three. But this doesn’t stop me from going through the whole process all over again a few weeks later. And so on. Seventeen…
Mostly I dream of escape. I live in smalltown, working/lower-middle class suburbia. Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Thirty miles from the capital. Here, kids leave school and go on the track, the production line, at the local factory, Vauxhall Motors. If you get some qualifications you can join the civil service. Meanwhile, Trevor and Nancy have been going out with each other since 3rd Form and watch telly round each other’s house every night, not saying a word. I don’t know what I want, but I know I don’t want any of that shit ever.
Instead, I’m in love with punk rock. I’m in love with picking up momentum and hurling myself forward somewhere. Anywhere. Rip up the pieces and see where they land. I am suburban punk Everykid in pins and zips, with a splattering of Jackson Pollock and a little Seditionaries — getting chased down the King’s Road, after bunking the train down to the Smoke, by (strangely) American rednecks rather than Teddy Boys, although that does happen, too (the rasta at the antiques market, Troy his name is, hands out cut-throat razors to harassed punks). And wraparound shades worn after dark so that everything is but murk, which might explain a heavy snogging session that turns out to be same-sex — rolling about on the stage while the Damned are playing. Ooh, divine decadence, I like to think.
I write my first fanzine, Corrugated Boredom (which later becomes Kick), pondering pretentiously on Dada and Surrealism, and penning bad poetry. Hey, luckily I still have some around. Here’s one: ‘You live in a coffin/You can’t move/You’re buried alive/You’ve done it to yourself /What can you do?/Before, you wanted life/Now you just want existence’ — which I actually read out live. You get the picture.
I also bash away on an old four-string acoustic guitar and write crappy, clichéd songs. I remember one: ‘Blades for flowers/drainpipes for jeans/hippies are dead/And they’ll never return/ 67 reversed has destroyed that dream’. It’s actually written the year before, in the summer of ’76, after seeing Dr Feelgood (mid-set Captain Sensible crept up behind Lee Brilleaux and gave him a mighty two-handed shove into the audience. What a wag). But is obviously inspired by the Pistols — whose gig at the Leighton Buzzard Bossard Hall is unfortunately banned when I turn up to see them.
Meanwhile, in my bedroom there’s Sniffin’ Glue and Other Self Defence Habits (July ’77), some Aleister Crowley, a bit of Sartre, 48 Thrills (bought off Adrian at a Clash gig), Sandy Roberton’s White Stuff (from Compendium in Camden) and John Peel, of course. And tons of records — I love the smell of fresh new punk vinyl, as well the slightly different scent of Jamaican imports (pressed on old recycled vinyl, because of cheapness rather than eco awareness) — all of it a shining, odorous promise of unexpected imaginings. It smells of the future. Can’t wait till ’78? Definitely. The intensity of sitting in a loud room in a silent town, full of electricity. Floating above circumstances. Soaring…
… and flicking V-signs during the Jubilee itself, while nicking union flags from wherever they can be found (everywhere), and invariably hanging out in the ladies (à la the Roxy Club) — although this has repercussions. But local reaction is bemusement rather than hatred. There’s only a handful of punks in town; no threat. There’s also a certain amount of crossover anyway. Skiz, who was there at the Clash Rainbow gig, is still into football aggro: at Luton v Fulham, he fights it out with a Londoner, who is also a punk. A weird feeling, says Skiz, who shouts: ‘He’s got a knife!’ — and even a nearby copper starts putting the boot in on the Fulham fan. And everyone is still into funk, too: the California Ballroom is Dunstable’s equivalent of the Lacy Lady or Global Village. Since ‘75 or so, hip kids had been travelling from miles around (even from London) for the plastic sandals and pegs scene there. It was all quite retro — 40s swing fashions — until punk.
The real hatred around my way comes early in the following year, in 1978. That’s when all the kids from the surrounding ‘orrible London-overspill estates get into punk for a couple of months or so. On the way to another Clash gig, on January 25, Steve and I join a big group of new punks, maybe 30 or 40 strong, walking along the main road. A police car stops us, and everyone waits his or her turn to be searched. The kid in front of me surreptitiously pulls out a gun, a real revolver that he’s nicked from a party, apparently, and passes it back through the group to a girl who sticks it in her handbag, crosses the road and walks away. I should have done the same. The gig itself is a bloodbath. Different estates slug it out with each other — Lewsey Farm v Stopsley — people stagger around with axe wounds, blood everywhere, the Wild West. A support band called the Lou’s gets killed, the Sex Pistols’ minder English wanders around with a knife. I’m backstage and the Clash are worried: they’re popping Mogadons (a downer). I’m worried, too — that I’ll get stuck forever in all this bollocks. I know it’s time to move. Which, I do — to London. And, as it’s obligatory to say in pieces like this, I’m still moving.
First posted: Sunday, July 8th, 2007.There are currently One comment on this post. You can follow all the comments on this post through this RSS feed.