It was January 1979. It was freezing cold. And music was everywhere: the Punk scene was thriving, classic records were being issued on a daily basis, and I was just a tender 20 years old, living in my parents bungalow in crappy little Lancing, a blink-and-youll-miss-it small town somewhere between Worthing and Shoreham, in Sussex.
My twin brother Shaun and I were from a large family, and I was the very last of my mothers brood to remain at home. Shaun and myself were music addicts, obsessional, passionate and very particular about our record collections, ceaseless record shopping, and nightly taping sessions from the utterly fabulous and indispensable John Peel show on Radio 1.
We had grown up through the back-end of the sixties, and into the glam-rock seventies; we felt we appreciated the meaningful lyric, the perhaps unconventional arrangement and the high-octane energy level of truly original music. But by 1976, this was in short supply.
We all remember those tedious, bland years leading up to the spikey-top nonsense explosion: baggy trousers, perms, Led Zep, Queen, Tavares, The Wurzels .ugh! I wont go on...Thank god, it was partially blown away by people doing it for themselves, mostly just kids!
Back to rock n roll pop purity. Shaun and I had gone straight to work in a denim factory from school. It was a nightmare. Then Shaun left, just like that! Walked out. Leather jacket, fast times beckoned. I stayed on for a while, too timid to get involved in the outside world, but hugely enjoying the fantastic records.
We went record-shopping each weekend, sometimes in London but more often in Brighton, a fifteen minute train ride away. By January 1979, I was bored shitless, aimless, and badly needed to break away from provincial bonds, from a quiet, bookish existence, from tedium.
One night I was taping stuff off Peel, as usual. In amongst glorious stuff by the likes of the Lurkers, the Lines, Red Noise, the B52s, 999 etc he played three tracks by a band called the Piranhas these songs were hilariously funny, with catchy tunes and lovely DIY production values.Peel said these tracks were from a compilation album from Brighton!
It was on a little Independent Brighton label, Attrix Records. It was called Vaultage 78, and he promised to play more tracks from it the following night. So next evening, there I was, poised above the pause/record buttons on my Music Centre that night I taped a further two or three other selections and they were all excellent.
The very next Saturday, I went to Brighton and bought the album. It was rarely off my turntable; full of great stuff the seriousness and surreality of Devils Dykes; the comedy of the Dodgems, Test-Tube Babies and Piranhas; the superb integrity, power and lyrical detail of the Parrots; the bizarre stop-start puns of Nicky and the Dots in short, pretty wonderful stuff.
On the insert that came with the album was a telephone number, along with words that went something like: if anyone is interested in contacting us
And so, I thought, why not? And did so. I spoke to Julie, whose small children were crying loudly in the background during our brief chat. Julie seemed very friendly, and suggested I go over and visit her and her husband Rick, who was the singer, guitarist and songwriter in the Parrots.
Despite her warmth on the phone, I confess I was ridiculously nervous as I got off the train in Brighton one evening a couple of days later after all, up until now I had led a pretty sheltered existence; fairly wild at school, but inert and sedentary since then; and these people were punks!
The real thing! I was expecting spiky hair, and people in squats, shooting up. What I found was quite different: a basement flat above Brighton station, completely dark because they hadn't paid their power bill! The small flat was eerily lit by candles.
Rick and Julie were excellently approachable, friendly, unpretentious people, a young couple with two small kids. We sat in front of the roaring log fire and talked music. They seemed taken with my rampant enthusiasm and nerdy encyclopeadic knowledge of bands, records, labels.
For me, it was amazing: I was chatting to Someone Who Had Made A Real Record! Who had put the whole thing together! Who played fantastic guitar, wrote fantastic songs, who sang just like Lou Reed! That night I helped them sleeve-up hundreds of copies of Vaultage 78. I was in heaven! I felt I had become Part Of The New Wave! Pathetic really, but, well, there you have it; I had started to Come Alive.
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