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.