It was time for some action, time to be found. Time to change from neutral into first gear. I had to earn some money so I could go to London, if I was ever going to make anything of a musical career. I became a glazier for 1 ½ weeks but found it easier to snap sheets of glass into millions of small pieces rather than cutting it with a glass cutter. Maybe I should have gone back to silk screen printing or perhaps not. Anyway, at least I was trying.

My next job followed three weeks later. I became a salesman for Thompson and Brown Brothers selling specialised components for motor vehicles. My first morning at work I filled the back of the brand new 5 cwt Ford Anglia van with clutch plates, brake shoes, brake pipes, gaskets and all manner of strange bits and bobs for my great sales onslaught. By lunchtime I’d been to five retailers and hadn’t sold so much as a rubber patch to seal a puncture. By five o’clock I hadn’t sold anything – I was hopeless – I couldn’t have sold a wiper blade for a dinky toy!

I made my way back to Thompson and Brown Brothers with my tail between my legs. On approaching the Newcastle Swing Bridge I came to a halt in a long queue of traffic. It was a case of drive ten feet, stop, drive six feet, stop. Just then a cluster of wonderfully, wobbling girls in miniskirts appeared on the other side of the bridge, my eyes were glued to them, and as they walked past I drove straight into the back of a brand new Rover. It was not unlike a small fly travelling along at 100mph and colliding into the arse end of a huge rhinoceros! I had only cracked the number plate light on the Rover and I immediately jumped out to apologise to the driver, who having seen the damage to both vehicles before me, told me not to worry and drove off. I couldn’t believe my luck until I turned around to see a Ford Anglia van with its front wings, headlights and all behind the front wheel! It took me ages to lever the engine from the back seat.

Two days later I applied for job no. 3. Minicab driver extraordinaire. I lasted two shifts, working from 6pm until 2:30am, for the total sum of six pounds per night plus tips on a good night. It was slave labour!

‘Screw this for a lark,’ I thought to myself and decided I should sell my record collection, half my clothes, a spare guitar that I had lying around, and a few electrical appliances that didn’t even qualify for the term ‘dodgy’ – they didn’t work! Maybe this way I could raise enough cash to last a few weeks in ‘The Smoke.’

Six weeks later, I was all packed to go to London; I had an address in Burton Place, just off Berkley Square where I could land for a few days. The abode of one Victor Brox, Hammond Organist and blues singer with ‘The Blue’s Train’ and Ainsley Dunbar’s ‘Retaliation.’ This was prearranged for me by a crazy Geordie guitar player called Kylastron, and a 50s/60s French rock and roll idol, Vince Taylor. Vince was having big hits in France at the time The Shadows were gigging regularly at ‘The 21s Café’ in London’s Soho, along with Adam Faith, Joe Brown and many others of their day.

A drummer friend decided he also wanted to move to London, so we arranged a lift in the back of a lorry delivering goods from Kings Cross to Gateshead. We paid the driver five pounds each and were picked up from our front doors. I loaded three huge speaker cabinets, two amplifiers, my bass guitar and an assortment of clothes into the back of the lorry and climbed in after it. Next stop was at ‘Shiny Row’ to pick up a double drum kit, hundreds of percussion accessories and John the drummer.

After an hour or two on the motorway being thrown from bow to stern in the dark interior of this huge removal lorry, we both desperately needed to pee! It was no use knocking on the side of the box; the driver in his cab was oblivious to our predicament. The only thing we could do was wait; after all, he must surely stop somewhere along the route. So we waited and waited and counted the occasional overhead lights, which shone down through the fibreglass roof, but he didn’t stop. John the drummer had an idea.

We would roll up the back door a few inches, and if we lay on one side of the floor we could pee through the gap, out onto the police car behind us. Luckily there was no police car behind, just a darkened road, and the sound of the exhaust and prop shaft spinning round. Two minutes later we sighed with relief. The cunning plan had been executed. It was a good job the driver hadn’t locked the slide door, as we may have had to use John’s floor tom tom.

We’d been sitting there for about four hours when we decided we felt hungry; it was now 2:30am and I had a very strong suspicion that this guy wasn’t going to stop before the big city. Out of boredom we started to look around the driver’s load, lo and behold, what did we find but boxes full to the brim with chocolate biscuits. John’s petrol lighter just refrained from giving up the ghost long enough for us to find the edible cargo. I immediately stuffed two in my mouth at once and handed John one, “No we’d better not,” he said, “They’re not ours.” I munched away and dug into the box for a third. They were a little dry and hard but after throwing six down my neck the hunger pangs seemed to disappear.

An hour later however, I began to get a stomach ache and had to lie on the floor of the lorry, in amongst our equipment; it didn’t ease and eventually my greatest fear was realised. I desperately needed to move my bowels in a big way. It was getting light over up through the fibreglass roof and the boxes up against the roof were now visible along with everything else. I prayed that our driver would pull over somewhere and I could pay a much needed visit to the little boy’s room for a much needed explosion of the bottom. This didn’t come to pass. Around 5:30am we were obviously off the motorway and in the vicinity of London. I was in agony and almost beside myself.

We arrived in Bruton Place W.1 at about 6:15, the lorry pulled to a halt and the engine cut out. Just then our driver pushed up the sliding door and I immediately jumped leaped out to find the nearest toilet. I ran straight through the first open door I saw and came face to face with another pair of doors which were locked, so I dashed back into the mews clutching my stomach and walked as if I were in a walking race to avoid jogging up and down.

John the drummer and Driver the driver stood at the rear of the lorry watching me doing my Keystone Cop movement up towards Berkley Square. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t find an available lavatory within the next fifteen seconds. I turned round to see them unloading the gear into 12 Burton Place. It was open! There would be a loo at no. 12! Somebody was up; all I had to do was make it back to the mews. 150 yards, 100 yards, 75 yards, No!! I could hardly wait! Oh no! Please God, 30 yards! “Is it open?” I shouted to John and our driver. “Yes,” came the reply from our driver, “I see you found the dog laxatives then!” exclaimed our laughing lorry person.

I ran past both of them into the open door on my left, up a flight of stone steps and peered into a likely open door on the first landing. Shit! Damn! It was a broom cupboard I felt tears welling up I my eyes. I tried the next door on the landing and there before me stood the most welcoming sight in the history of mankind, a gleaming white loo, with soft white Andrex toilet paper. Up to date, I have never found anything to match the great sense of relief I experienced there in no. 12 Burton Place. When I eventually appeared some minutes later, I was met by John, humping my speaker cabinets into the ground floor entrance and laughing his head off. “They were laxatives for dogs!” he exclaimed, “The biscuits in the back of the lorry were f**king dog laxatives! Ha! Ha!”

“Where is Sterling Moss?” I asked.
“He’s gone. He had to make Kings Cross for seven o’clock. Mind you, he nearly fell apart when he sussed.”

I left John the drummer in the downstairs hallway of No.12 and went upstairs to try to locate Mr. Victor Brox, the famous Blues Bugler. There was a strange grunting and moaning sound coming from the front room. The sound got louder and began to sound a bit like a 45 rpm record playing backwards at 33 1/3 rpm. I stood outside the door listening to this, ‘ooohomomom! Glummambjackomm! Moan! Groan! Shakomom nam!” I pushed the door open to find Kylastrom Langstaff standing on his head in a circle of joss sticks and old clothes, strewn across the tatty kilim rugs that covered the floor. He had arrived a couple of days before us to rehearse with some guy called Brian Ferry who was attempting to put a band together.

Kylastrom climbed down from his cosmic posture and welcomed us into Victor’s flat. Little did we know that Victor was not even aware he was receiving visitors.
“Hi! Is Vince Taylor with you?” I asked.
“No, he’s still in Newcastle, he’s putting together a rock and roll group to give Alan Hull and Lindisfarne some competition” replied Kylastron Langstaff.
“Are you going to get together with this band you were talking about?” I enquired.
“No, I don’t think so, but you should see this guy, Brian Ferry – he’ll probably store your gear for you and he’s looking for a bass player and a drummer.” Just then, John the drummer entered and reminded me of all our equipment downstairs. We carried the 1 ½ tons of musical gear up the stairs and as we reached the landing we were approached by a thick set, older looking gentleman with long grey hair.
“Hello, can I help you carry something? I’m Victor!”

We introduced ourselves, and Kylastron Langstaff instantly disappeared. It was somewhat embarrassing because Victor already had a flat full of people staying there. John and I were very apologetic; explaining that we had assumed it was all fixed up for us to stay a couple of days. Kylastron reappeared with an old acoustic guitar and started to play the blues. Victor began to chant in a basso profundo tone, and John and I began to wonder what the hell it was all about and where we were going to stay. The next moment a guy entered who I recognised from the old Club Ago-go in Newcastle. He was trying to sell Victor some Hashish whilst rummaging through his refrigerator. I began to get the impression that the famous Victor Brox was an easy touch and constantly was being used!

Later that afternoon, Kylastron made some phone calls on our behalf on Victor’s bill. He managed to get us fixed up with some hippie lady in Palmers Green; the only problem was that there would be nowhere to store our gear maybe this Brian Ferry character would help out? One hour later John and I were in two London cabs (stuffed with drums and speaker cabinets) on our way up to no.2 St. Mary Abbots Place, Knightsbridge, the home of a couple of models and stop-gap lodgings for Brian Ferry.

The birthplace of Roxy Music – 2 Warwick Close, St Mary Abbot’s Place, Kensington, London

We heaped our mammoth load from the cab onto the pavement outside the flat, which was just along the road from Olympia. I paid the driver, stepped through a little gate and rang the first bell on the left. John sat on a mountain of gear and waited. A very straight, clean-cut guy in a flecked, grey polo neck sweater opened the door.

“Hi! I’m Charley – Kylastron Langstaff said you’d stash our equipment for a while till we get sorted out.” said I. “You are Brian Ferry aren’t you?”
“Yes, hi! Come in. I’ll put the kettle on and then show you where you can put your gear.”

For the second time in one day, John the drummer began humping my bass speaker cabinets and his drum kit into another London flat.

Ten minutes later we were sitting in the ground floor front room, drinking Earl Grey tea and being given some Brian Ferry advice on how to travel on the London buses without paying full fare and how to get off without paying at all; and there were certain tube stations where you could get through the barriers or walk up the stairs without paying. This guy obviously knows his way around – maybe we should keep in with him.

“Kylastron Langstaff told us you were putting a band together and you needed a drummer and bass player” I said, thinking that maybe if John and I rehearsed with him, he might possibly let us keep our gear there for more than a couple of days.

“Yes,” said Ferry. “Graham my bass player from ‘The Gas Board’ (a local Newcastle band) is now working full time at Scotland Yard and can’t give us the commitment we need. There’s no drummer at present, just a guy called Brian Eno, a sax player and me.” At that moment he leapt onto a stool in front of an old harmonium, started to pedal furiously, pulling out the stops at the same time, he looked as though he was trying to bump start it.

“I’ve got this new song I want the band to do, it’s called Virginian Plain.” He demonstrated the drums by beating and hammering the top of the harmonium, the thing started to creak and groan and a couple of chords came out sounding like a hippo on heat. Then he started to sing!

John the drummer and I looked at each other not believing our ears. This guy couldn’t be serious! Cranking up his old harmonium, talking about the art of silk screen-printing combined with a stage show somewhere and singing strangely, “What’s her name, Virginia Plain.” Well, we’ve heard some kooky ideas in our never-ending apprenticeships as trainee pop stars, but this took the biscuit.

‘No way am I dressing up and painting my hair silver for this nutter!’

It was time to make our excuses and leave to pursue our arranged lodgings with our Palmers Green Hippie Lady. Brian stored our equipment for us on the agreement that we would rehearse with his new band, starting the following afternoon.

We arrived at Palmers Green Station at 8pm and headed for the local Fish and Chip shop before landing at our lodgings for the next two nights. A lady called Kathy led us into the front room, thick with Hashish smoke; joss stick smoke and wood smoke from the fire. In less than two minutes my eyes were watering as I was having ‘Lord of the Rings’ explained to me by a deaf artist known as ‘Deaf Nick.’

Deaf nick was a space cadet of the first order. It was all Gollum meets Frank Zappa and “have a toke on this, man!” After a couple of puffs on his joint, stone circles and the connection between lay lines and heavy rock music seemed to make no sense whatsoever – maybe I was getting tired, it had been a long day; I had met so many new faces in the last fifteen hours, my stomach still felt a little delicate after eating all those dog laxatives, or maybe I was just getting stoned…

Kathy sat opposite me, and seemed to be staring a lot in my direction. “Would you like to see some of my poetry?” said she, with a glint in her eye that suggested much more than thumbing through her scriptural efforts. “They’re downstairs if you’d like to come down – Come on! I won’t bite you.” She arose from the Batik covered sofa and floated over to a little hallway, which lead to a kitchen.

I staggered to my feet and followed. She removed a bicycle which stood in front of what resembled a kitchen broom cupboard, opened the door, flicked a light switch on the wall and descended down a flight of very steep, wooden stairs – the cupboard was not a cupboard but a cellar, heavily doused in Petuli Oil to hide the smell of damp, dust and muck. It was like descending into a pit of rags and rubbish. Long tie-die cheesecloth dresses and yak wool shoulder bags hung on the wall next to a wrinkled poster of Jimi Hendrix. There was a popular print by Mucha of a floating nymph with the word JOB scrawled across the top. A camp bed, which unfolded to its full length of 5ft 10ins stood against one wall – a paper plate and plastic fork covered in tomato ketchup was strewn across more discarded clothes. I couldn’t believe that someone would want to come down here to eat!

Kathy scratched around in a cardboard box and produced a school exercise book; she lit up another half smoked joint of grass and sat herself down next to the ketchup covered plate and read, “A rainy evening; another time, a walk through my never ending dreams that dance a passion play, memories of you.” She read on and on and on! Rainbows, flying fish, butterflies and all manner of weird and wonderful things apparently reminded her of some guy somewhere. Then there were clouds, blackness and thunder, and she disappeared off on a stoned tangent about a holiday in Lancashire with a member of her estranged family.

I was beginning to nod off in her little smelly burrow and she told me I could sleep there on the dodgy mattress. I was so knackered and the thought of partying the night away upstairs with Deaf Nick, John and some other lost souls who had just arrived didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. She said I should get into bed and she would go back upstairs where the happening was now apparently happening. I cleared the camp bed and curled up in the sleeping bag I had made out of an old eiderdown. In less than a millisecond I was in the land of nod.

The next thing I became aware of was something moving down there under my duck down paper. I was still only half-awake, maybe I was dreaming, I could hardly lift up my eyelids until I felt a hand lightly caressing my still sleeping penis. I opened my eyes to a total darkness and lay there motionless. I could feel the warmth of a body next to me. How should I react? I decided to pretend I was still asleep and silently prayed it wasn’t the hand of Ye Olde Deaf Nick! I kept my breathing slow and deep; the hand lightly travelled up my chest and another hand firmly got hold of my backside. I jumped slightly and mumbled something like “What’s going on?” The body moved away slightly and a Zippo cigarette lighter touched a candle bringing a dim glow to the surrounding cellar. Kathy had slipped back down from above, which was now silent apart from the sound of a rattling water pipe in the overhead kitchen. She had shed her clothes and slithered into my sleeping bag beside me.

“Hi it’s me!” she whispered, “It’s nearly 5am, just go to sleep.” I was asleep! At least my body was, my eyes were open and one millionth of my brain may have been functioning at that precise moment. How could I just go to sleep when she again began to caress my genitals and apply her tongue to my right ear? I turned over to her; the camp bed creaked and springs zinged under the double load. She was gawky, yet her pressing want began to stir something down there below. I was now fully awake and staring into the eyes of a blonde Rita Tushingham. It was as if she couldn’t go without; she wrapped her legs and arms around me so she could get on top. Her legs, lean yet muscular straddled me. After two or three minutes of slow, soft intercourse, she sat pressing hard down onto me and reached over the bedside table, picked up a half smoked joint and re-lit it once again. We took a few puffs on the Thai grass and continued the job in hand. It felt good; a tingling sensation in the fingers and toes crept up my legs and arms added to the pleasure of the moment. Eventually, the tingling gave way to aching, which reminded me how tired I really was. In a while, it was all over for me, but Kathy, who was still raring to go, got the message and just lay there quietly as I fell into a sound sleep.

I awoke to the sound of rattling water pipes and “Peaches en Regalia” by Frank Zappa on the upstairs sound system. It was 10:30 am and the smell of damp filled my nostrils. Kathy was nowhere in sight as I clambered up the steep wooden steps from the cellar. The only person upstairs was John the drummer who was keenly looking through the collection of albums which dominated the bottom of the living room bay window.
“Hi! Where is everyone?” I asked.
“They’re all out,” said John, “Nick the artist went home to his flat around 5:30 this morning followed by a bunch of other people who arrived about an hour after you disappeared” “By the way, where did you go?”
“Oh I slept downstairs in the cellar on a camp bed.” I answered feeling a bit embarrassed to go into detail.“Did Kathy say if she’d be back or anything?” I asked John, who was staring straight at me with a wide grin on his face.
“Oh, you didn’t did you? You did didn’t you?” I nodded and wandered off into the kitchen to make some tea.
“We’d better get into gear soon cos we’ve got to go to Brian Ferry’s gaff to rehearse.” I shouted. The music coming from the living room stopped and I heard John talking to someone. It was Deaf Nick asking if we wanted to stay over at his place to help make more room here. We accepted. An hour later I left a thank you note for Kathy and closed the front door behind me.

Deaf Nick’s flat was over the road and down a bit and I was told to look for the house with the orange painted hedge. And sure enough there it was! A house with a florescent orange hedge, a pink dustbin and a bright, sky blue front door.

Deaf Nick whistled a lot, or rather his hearing aid whistled a lot due to being turned up too loud. He rented two rooms on the ground floor, which were littered with half painted canvasses, in a sort of stoned Salvador Dali style. There were black and white tiled floors stretching off into distant horizons, and water pouring out of melting wall clocks. It was the “I’ll-make-it-as-weird-as-possible-and-they-might-think-I’m-a-genius” syndrome. Lots of sixties artists painted all that diddlyshit and some of them made a great deal of money out of it. Anyway, Nick was a good guy and I liked his flying wall clocks and melting clock faces very much.

John the drummer had decided he definitely didn’t want to play bum-tits and mammy-daddies on a song called “What’s her name, Virginia Plain” and told me to go to the rehearsal by myself. He would arrange to get his kit picked up from St. Mary’s Place and moved into Deaf Nick’s front room. Oh well! What could I say, I suppose I felt obliged to go and play bass with Brian Ferry and give some solid rhythmical bottom end to his squeaking, farting harmonium noises.

I arrived at Kensington around mid-afternoon and rang the doorbell of Brian Ferry’s model girlfriend’s house. There was a very strange noise indeed coming from the other side of the door. It sounded as though someone had put a microphone in front of an old valve radio, turned the volume up full and started to switch quickly through all the Long Wave channels, Luxembourg, Holland, Botswana, Mars, Venus… I stood ringing and knocking for three or four minutes, awaiting subsidence of the cacophony. Eventually, the door was opened by the biggest pair of breasts in the world. (They made Chesty Morgan look like Twiggy.) They lead me in through the little hall, past the kitchen and into the front room to where the wows, pings and flanged farting noises were blasting forth. Brian introduced me to another Brian.
“This is Brian.” Said Brian.
“Hi! I’m Brian,” said the other Brian who was fiddling with a synthesiser, which looked rather like a piece of telephone exchange equipment, lots of little jack leads plugged into lots of little holes. It looked really intricate but only produced this silly squeaking noise, by moving a joystick in the middle of it all.
“This is Charley,” said Brian to Brian, “he’s leaving his amplifier and speaker cabinets here and he’s also going to play some bass with us.”

Five minutes later, I was trying with difficulty to fit Tamla Motown type bass lines to “What’s her name, Virginia Plain.” It felt just about as alien as Jimi Hendrix playing a guitar solo with the Beverly Sisters! But I persevered.

Brian seemed to like it. Brian number two had something to do in town and left shortly afterwards. The problem was trying to figure out what was in the nice man’s head with only a harmonium to work with the music. I just couldn’t get the angle and decided that I really must concentrate on first finding a good place to live and keep my own gear there. Then I could audition for something more normal, more grounded. A friend of mine was playing bass with Geno Washington, (England’s answer to Wilson Pickett) maybe he could give me some contacts to chase.

I eventually left Brian and the biggest bosoms in the universe at St. Mary Abbots place and made my way back to Palmers Green. History repeated itself that night with Hippie Kathy in the cellar; Deaf Nick and John the drummer in the upstairs living room and a quarter of an ounce of Thai grass in a joint. It all seemed a little debauched; here I was smoking pot like it was going out of fashion, screwing the lady of the house (whom I’d only known for twenty-four hours) and I didn’t know where she’d been, furthermore, she didn’t seem at all bothered where I’d been! I suppose Kathy was the epitome of a groupie.

I later learned that her conquests not only included Kylastron Langstaff, but also, Roger Daltrey, Jimi Hendrix and a string of rock musicians that stretched the length of the M1 motorway. Her body was very attractive, yet her boasting of so many sordid knee-tremblers was a little worrying in hindsight; but it was the beginning of the seventies, we had been introduced to ‘free love’ and ‘anything goes’ in the sixties. We’d had “Out of Our Heads” by the Rolling Stones; we’d had our summer of love with Scott McKenzie throwing flowers in everyone’s face. Sergeant Pepper came and went. American singers Tim Buckley, Jim Morrison and a host of others the world over, died from the excesses of rock and roll. Yet we all just wanted it to go on and on.

Two weeks later John the Drummer and I were joined by a shifty character called Ray who played blue beat tenor saxophone. We all shared a room together in Gladys Road, West Hampstead for £10 per week. Unfortunately, I ended up being the only sucker who had saved up enough money to pay a month’s rent in advance, and when the month was up the other two decided to do a midnight run for it. I was left in the proverbial shit! I had been used. John the drummer eventually appeared on a couple of records by a band called “Mr. Big.” The sax player eventually appeared on an orange box in Covent Garden Piazza busking on an ocarina and selling paper snakes on sticks.

I tried my luck at a couple of auditions for bass players in the hope of finding a working band but nothing seemed to materialise. I offered my services to Victor Brox but he had the blues and didn’t want to play any more blues. I walked the streets looking for some kind of part time work but nothing surfaced. I tried to make a claim at the Social Security office but it seemed there was an endless postal strike and they couldn’t get my papers down from the North East.

It was time to do some mega-quick thinking and get something together because I had run out of my savings and I couldn’t afford to rent the room on Gladys Road on my own. I could have gone back and lived at Brian Ferry’s place but did I really want listen to a guy singing gobbledygook and spending 24/7 playing a harmonium? Not really!

At the end of the fifth week I moved out of Gladys Road with the help of a new lady friend called Moira and her Morris Minor. I had met her in a pub in Hornsey next to the town hall. She and a couple of her friends had spotted me in the crowded bar, looking like some kind of lost soul and began talking. They took me along to a party somewhere in North London and later she volunteered to drive me home to West Hampstead.

She was a nice girl and the following day I repaid her the favour by adjusting the brakes and refitting a brake pipe on her car. She introduced me to her friend Peter, who offered me his floor to sleep on till I got fixed up with somewhere better to live. I spent two weeks in their company, sleeping in my sleeping bag on the floor of Peter’s bedsit room in Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park.

After several journeys on my behalf across central London, Moira had kindly picked up my bass amplifier and mountains of speaker cabinets from Brian Ferry’s gaff in Kensington and dropped them off in Peter’s Finsbury Park communal hallway, blocking the path of incoming and outgoing tenants who shared the house.

I was beginning to feel parasitic and wished I was back in Newcastle where everything was familiar and I could at least make some sort of living. The only thing was, returning North with my tail between my legs would totally ruin my reputation around the Newcastle scene. I could lie and tell them it was all great in London and that I was going to return to pursue my pop career after I’d got a new band together… That’s it! I would go home to my familiar base, write some hot new songs, form another band and return to London in grand style!