I’m listening to Brain Capers by Mott the Hoople. I’m instantly transported back to Will’s bedroom at the Wave House, Heybridge, in the early 1970’s, and I can smell some nice incense. It’s either the Catholic church incense which he used to nick from the church, or an Indian Sandalwood.
I advised Will to buy the album from Mid Essex television in Maldon, essentially a tv/radio shop in the late 60’s/early 70’s, that had a nice selection of vinyl. I remember buying Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits from there in 1970.
Somehow the Brain Capers sleeve really did it for me; I loved the Lone Ranger mask attached to the cover, even tho’ I had no idea how the music sounded. It sounds big, heavy and grand; Mick Ralph’s guitar is outstanding, the bass really kicks, especially on the RM and it wholly rocks out. Hunter’s voice is orbiting Planet Bowie, and whilst there are several covers on the album ( which I wasn’t completely aware of at the time ) the original songs are outstanding . I can hear the Small Faces in their sound sometimes, maybe what Messrs Marriott, Lane, Jones and Mclagan would have sounded like in the 1970’s, had Stevie not left the fold.
So Will returns from a court hearing in London: “look what the fucking judge sold me!” he says gleefully. Initially it looked like some funky Moroccan hash, but one sniff told me otherwise. “It’s fucking incense you cunt!” I said, and a look of serious dismay came over his face. “Cunt!” he says, “that cost me a fucking fiver!”…..
Will had been conned into buying Sandalwood incense as Hash, after he’d left court in London having being prosecuted for stealing a car……and thereafter driving it the wrong way down a one way street. I blame Kerouac and Dabbler’s bad influence: a dashing biker boy with a really mischievous edge.
When Will and I were 14, we attended a party at Cock Clarks, which a soon to be close friend Bob Mardon hosted, at the village hall. True to form, we were in the kitchen, when a fellow known ubiquitously as “Dave” handed Will the last quarter inch of a joint. He had a couple of good tokes, then passed the roach to me, which I enthusiastically sucked on, and was very disappointed that it burnt out almost immediately. I must admit, whether through wishful thinking or no, I felt rather odd afterwards.This was the first time I’d deliberately tried to alter my consciousness with drugs, in the summer of 1972.
I remember going to the Lion and Lamb pub ( aka the Animals ) in Chelmsford with Will, a little later in that summer, to try and score a “quid deal”. The Animals was a renowned “head/hippie” hang out, and we were assured by older boys that this was the place to buy some hashish, which in those days a reasonable lump could be bought for one English pound. I guess that must have been about a sixteenth of an ounce. Despite our best efforts ( i.e. hanging outside the entrance, asking several “head” types whether they could get us a quid deal! “Oh yeah, no worries kid, how many kilos you need?!” ) sadly we remained unsuccessful, until Christmas that year, when the aforementioned Mr Baggit hosted a party for a select group of my friends ( Will, Barn, Coffer ) with the tantalising prospect of “lots of hash”. We may even have chipped in a few quid of our Christmas money to help with the purchase……
Just as an aside, hashish in the early 1970’s in the UK was as about as exotic as it could ever get. There was so many different varieties, my personal favourites were Red Lebanese and sticky black hash from Pakistan or India. Once I smoked some Kashmir hash with the boyfriend of my then girlfriend’s sister: the taste was beyond pussy and the effect was almost akin to a heavy mushroom body hit. Fucking strong!
Whilst my travels have by no means been as extensive as Wills, or several of my other counterparts, I’ve certainly sampled the finest exotic hash from across the globe……and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!
Speaking of smoke, that’s the first ever image I have of Will; in the boys toilets of the old Maldon grammar school in 1969, surrounded by all the really bad boys, puffing away on a cigarette, a Will’s Woodbine if I’m not mistaken ( no pun intended: before Player’s number 6 they were everyone’s cheap smoke ).
Will told me he started smoking when he was 8. I guess some people are just born to be bad, and Will made it his mission to school me similar. We met by sitting next to each other at the back of the class on the first day of what should have been our second year at grammar school. Sadly we had to go through the turmoil and trauma of moving school yet again, as education had suddenly become “comprehensive” in 1970. Which was probably a better description of how badly behaved we were……
After our “blowin‘ free” ( copyright Wishbone Ash 1972 ) Christmas of 1972, which was made even more wonderful by my sister Helen buying me the first reissue of “the Man who sold the World” ( an album that Visconti says Bowie was stoned on black hash when he made it ) and our first Hawkwind gig together, in the dreary return to school in the new year of 1973, Will suggested I try one of his fags, assuring me that the effect would be similar to the first joint I’d smoked that previous weekend. It was a ten pack of Player’s number 6, and if ever smoking a cigarette changed anybody’s life, it was at that moment. And I can still remember the sensation. Of course it was fucking horrible, but once the nausea and dizziness abated, I had the most delicious head buzz, which was so profound I spent the next 36 years chasing it. Such was Will’s influence.
Will had a flippant, devil may care attitude which I loved, and I guess on his part he found my passion and my knowledge of music exciting.
Even as a young child, Will had a fascination with the outsider, the maverick. There was no way he was ever going to conform to any one’s standards, and I had a psychopathic aversion to doing what I was told, so I guess that’s why we got along just fine. Two kids saying fuck you to the world, except of course ( being a good boy at heart ) I let Will go first.
I’m not sure how, but we’d behave badly at school, and after whichever long suffering teacher would try and chastise us, we’d be ordered to stand outside the headmaster’s office, in lieu of receiving the slipper. Which we did, literally, outside of the building! No chance of bumping into that evil headmaster with his nasty casual footwear out there……
One day, I guess we must have been 14, Will decided we should start drinking alcohol at school, in an attempt, no doubt, to break up the utterly tedious school day. We bought quarter bottles of Smirnoff, a handy sized bottle that fitted snugly into the top pockets of our school blazers. Will reckoned our breaths wouldn’t smell of booze if we drank vodka, and I can remember we visited the local off licence Tolly’s almost daily to buy our stash for a few months, until some other fad took our fancy. I can recall buzzing in a major way a couple of times, but mostly I guess it just numbed our brains.
We didn’t really start serious boozing til we were around 17.
I guess Will has always been a bit of a brain. I can recall him turning me onto a magazine called Practical Electronics, a kind of Record Collector type magazine for the electronics fetishists. Will had a passion to create electronic things: whether it be a radio or a primitive oscillator, and this lead us to becoming pally with Doug West, a local tv repairman, who provided us with lots of different components, and was a really nice guy and tried to encourage Will’s enthusiasm. And I believe Will constructed the powerful bass amp and cab he used with the Accidents mark 2 himself. We’d send off for components via mail order too, and get excited at the sight of jiffy bags stuffed with small plastic bags of transistors etc, a bit like the baggies we’d eventually receive our future stashes in……
When we were 15, we started to hang out in Colchester a lot. We both had Radio Caroline penpals ( girls, of course! ) from there, and Colchester was full of gorgeous women and record shops, and shops selling incense and other exotica. I’d blagged a couple of early copies of Oz from either Ludi Simpson or Ian Hazelton at grammar school ( they had a sixth form common room, and I was a new bug ) and I gravitated there, as they had a Dansette record player and lots of vinyl records. Two albums I do recall listening to there were Led Zeppelin’s first album and Who’s Next, which I guess would date the encounter around 1969. So anyway, I knew about the so called underground press at the age of 12, and when we spotted Oz in the corner newsagent’s by the Castle ( we bought our speed chopping lock knives from the haberdasher’s there a couple of years later ) we knew we had to buy it, along with It, Frendz, Gandalf’s Garden, Nasty Tales, and anything else that looked remotely weird, fucked up or stoned. And of course we also bought comics, mostly Brit first editions, and that particular habit ran wild in 1976, with Will’s new found speed dealer affluence. It goes without saying we bought as many underground mags as we could, along with literally thousands of comics.
I think the original attraction to this newsagents was probably the porn mags they quite openly displayed in revolving racks close to the door. This was probably the era of Playbirds/Mary Millington/David Sullivan publications, tho of course we never dared to buy any of that type of material. Just Oz and the like, which certainly contained far more subversive writings than the then “pushing the boundaries” porn. I still have dreams about that strange shop. There was a corner that had fetish material, mostly just words in cartoon-ish covers. Guess it must have been “weirdos corner”!
Will was 15 when he took his first Acid trip. Bearing in mind, those were the days when an LSD trip lasted full on for 12 hours. I think for the most part he enjoyed the trip, but as it began to wear off, paranoia set in. It was probably the middle of the night, say 3.00 a.m. and all of us junior wannabe hippies were tucked up in bed, me with my hot little 2nd girlfriend, already to shift into 3rd gear, when Will knocks on the door: “can I come in? I don’t feel good”.
Of course I said yes, and he came in, and I asked him what was wrong: “I can’t sleep, every time I close my eyes, I can see every single cell in my body. Can I sleep on the floor next to your bed?”. Naturally I was extremely reluctant, here was I about to redefine what Chuck Berry meant when he said “Rock’n’Roll“, but Will sounded positively desperate, and the gal Sal said she felt sorry for him, so no doubt still in his great coat, bless him, he laid on the floor and tried to come down. He groaned occasionally for the next few hours, and I guess unable to sleep, with the Acid wearing off, he eventually got up. Will was never the same after that first trip: he became cynical and raging, which I really couldn’t understand at the time, but I guess now I realise he’d seen “reality” for what it was, bullshit, and he was angry and annoyed everyone else was too stupid to figure it out too. But of course, it didn’t stop him dropping Acid 3 or 4 times after that…..
And speaking of which, up until his speed dealer affluence, Will wore a perma great coat ( a big wool army surplus coat from the 1st WW ), grebo boots ( as modelled by Lemmy in Hawkwind ) flared cotton loon pants, which seemed to permanently row with his ankles, and long greasy black hair. And of course we must mention everyone’s favourite essential oil at the time, Patchouli. Baggit wore it, Coffer wore it, Barn wore it, as did Will, but I don’t recall wearing it myself. Well I didn’t need to, there was a permanent fog of it around me! “Well it hides the smell of hash”, yeah right, all the cops had to do was follow the Patchouli pong!
Will liked drugs, and I had a certain fondness for them myself back then, specifically hash, but one day Will came back from scoring somewhere, not only with hash but something new; French Blues. You bought a bag of 20 little blue pills for a fiver, and it was a lot less hassle than doing a line, and this was before we’d discovered the “delights” of Amphetamine Sulphate anyway. I believe the active ingredient was Drinamyl, but whatever it was, it was probably the best drug I’ve ever taken. You felt rather stoned, but with a very pleasant speedy edge. Just everything felt good, like the original Ecstasy in the 90’s, everything was soft and buzzy and fun. Plus it was a very horny drug, and unlike Sulphate you could get a hard on in the blink of an eye.
Sadly our tenure with Blues lasted probably a few months, and they became unavailable, and Sulphate was pretty much the only speed in town. Obviously it was far cheaper to produce, and less of a hassle, except apparently the smell of cooking vinyl tiles ( I kid you not ) smelt awful, so Sulphate factories had to be somewhere away from anywhere, otherwise the dreadful pong alerted the Bill to their presence.
When Will started getting serious about dealing Sulphate, he began to earn large amounts of cash. He dressed immaculately, went to a classy hairdresser and got his hair cut and sorted, and generally looked pretty dapper. He bought expensive cologne ( which smelt fabulous ) and really took to the lifestyle. But of course, the continual use of speed seriously fucks with one’s head, and one of the weird side effects was he began ironing his money. I recall going round to see him, probably prior to us venturing forth somewhere, and he was ironing a wad of cash. After he’d finished ironing his money, he ironed his already read newspaper……well it looked better ironed.
I guess we’d turned onto the “good” speed of Blues just prior to Punk, in 1976, but Sulphate was an altogether more aggressive animal. And when Will started dealing it, we were always privy to the “dealers stash” i.e. fairly uncut Amphetamine and Will always made sure we both had a few grams in our bin, permanently. Which meant of course we caned the shite out of it on a frequent basis.
Will seemed to be a bit more resilient to the come down than me, but I recall the only happy endings of our speed binges resulted several times in us taking Barbiturates. One memorable evening at the Headgate in Colchester with my eyes rolling around in their sockets, having been up most of the weekend, someone kindly gave us a couple of barbs which calmed us down wonderfully. I really don’t know how we survived those times, sure the Blues were wonderful and if they were still available I’d probably drop a couple every once and a while. But Sulphate was teeth grindingly violent. Put it this way, if French Blues were music they’d be a hornier, psychedelic David Bowie, but Sulphate would be Sepultura or Scraping feotus off the Wheel, i.e. full on and fucking frantic, and after a while fucking unpleasant.
Despite come downs I’ve described as “feeling like the man who laid the gas mains to Belsen” we persevered through many teeth grinding, tongue flicking days and nights, until my Ma bent my ear so bad on a Sunday come down, I picked up a carving knife and contemplated shoving it in her back. Of course it’s very unlikely I’d have stabbed my Mother, but it scared me enough to stop sticking that shit up my nose, well for a few months anyway. Oh and just a word about speed and smoking: it’s delicious, sensual, and I guess I’d easily smoke 3 packs of fags a day when we were fast, sometimes more. And I guess Sulphate was the perfect drug for the coming Punk generation.
In the Punk era Will would call me at anytime, day or night, usually speeding off his tits, and ask me if I fancied a drive, usually to Kent where we knew 2 sisters who were really hot. The middle sister Carrie ( Will’s beau ) used to spend a lot of time with her oldest sister, who lived off King’s road in London, in the summer of 1977. The oldest sister of the 3 was apparently the partner of Yes’ tour manager at that time. When we visited London, in 1977, we stayed at their flat in Chelsea. We drank loads of beer, and I recall much Tenant’s, not in the least because it featured “Lager Lovelies”, a sexy, good looking honey on each tin. And of course it was heartily approved by Jed Wilson, being Scottish. But Will and I were too wuss to go out and buy our booze because the media was full of stories of mad raging Teddy Boys, rampaging thru the streets, murdering young Punks like us. So went sent the girls out, whilst we laid on the several comfortable sofas in the house, smoking big joints of hash and weed, watching re runs of The Prisoner on London tv ( so much more exotic than Southern tv, plus they closed much later ) and doing the occasional line, tho’ I think we’d stopped caning the Sulphate hard at that point, at least I had, tho I’d be unlikely to refuse a line.
One fine Sunday afternoon, cruising back from some particularly nice pub on the King’s road, after thrashing Becky ( my beau, the youngest sister ) at pool and having drank our own body weight in beer, we were cruising along, probably smoking a large spliff, care free and laughing, when Will’s girlfriend at the time Jane, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, changing the gears ( !! ) asked Will what that very posh car was in front of us. “I dunno” says Will, “Let’s get closer and find out!” And sure enough, Will stepped on the gas to try and discern what make of motor it was, and whilst he was looking at the gear stick trying to figure out what gear he was in, the vehicle in front came to an abrupt halt and we crashed into it’s arse with a nasty crunch.
“Ah…..it’s a Bentley” says Will, very nonchalantly, at which point Becky and I started laughing hysterically, so much so that we actually ended up on the floor of the van, close to wetting ourselves. When Major Bagshot ( well it looked like him ) got out of his Bentley, he didn’t look terribly happy. Will said to the Major “at least it wasn’t a Rolls Royce”, which pissed him off even more than Will crashing into the back of him!. “It’s just as good as a Rolls Royce!” the Major replied, grumpily……
That accident cost Will 80 quid, which was quite a lot of money back then.
That was just one in a long series of minor crashes we had in Will’s Simca van which started ( in the Queen’s Head car park ) a couple of hours after we decided to name the band “The Accidents”, in the Queen’s Head on the quay, at the suggestion of Jed Wilson. Will finally wrote the van off on Birch hill, on the way to Essex Uni to see Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers on the 10th of August 1977 . Sadly Paul Sullivan bashed his head on the windscreen, which triggered his epilepsy, which he hadn’t had for a couple of years till then.
We stood on the side of the stage for pretty much the whole gig, no one bothered us. The Heartbreakers were fabulous.
I got a call from an old friend who was a pro musician. He’d scored some fabulous smoke, and would Will and I like to pop round? I can see Will and I spikey haired in the memory, so I guess it must have been summer 1977, and it was mild and sunny. I’m not sure why, because usually we were only allowed to use it to go to band practises, but we drove round to see our mate in Alfie’s flat back Bedford truck, a beast of a vehicle, a work horse.
As soon as we walked through the door at our friend’s house he produced his stash, an odd looking yellow coloured weed, almost the colour of Golden Virginia tobacco. He’d bought it from the lighting crew of the show he was playing in: the crew would regularly trip to and from New York, bringing back all manner of smoking loveliness. This was apparently Columbian Gold, AKA Santa Marta Gold, known in California as the best and strongest weed on the planet. “Yeah right” says me and Will, “skin up then”. Our mate warned us this was some heavy duty shit that was best smoked neat in one skin joints.
Literally after maybe 3 tokes I could no longer sit in on a chair, it was simply far too effort-ful. After 2 more tokes sitting was no longer an option and both Will and I lay on the floor. I can just about recall the hit: my body felt incredibly heavy and I closed my eyes and it was as if my thoughts were mosaic and multi coloured. The head buzz was phenomenal, my brain felt like it was flying through the universe.
A short while after we finished the spliff, our friend played the “Columbia Colly” album by Jah Lion. The sensation of the music was sublime and blissful. I was floating out in space with Lee Perry and the Lion, and I realised I understood Dub Reggae more than I ever had done before, smoking Gold Columbian weed.
I don’t recall a great deal of talking that first time, tho’ after 3 hours the buzz began to normalise and we were able to at least get up off the floor. I guess it was as close to a trip as I’d ever experienced: a real rocket ship ride and it certainly was the most powerful weed I’ve ever smoked. The main gene of Santa Marta Gold was spliced with Afghani weed, to give us Skunk weed in it’s original form, but there was a paranoia element to Skunk which wasn’t present with the Columbian weed.
Once the buzz had worn off enough for Will and I to actually be able to walk, we said our goodbyes and headed out to the truck……which had a flat tyre! We laughed then cried our asses off for a while, then Will, most laboriously, replaced the flat with the spare tyre, with some incompetent help from yours truly……
I remember sometime in the summer of 1977, Will had caught a whiff of a party in Witham, and he having a vague invite/connection, off we trundled. I can recall it was still daylight when we arrived, so we’d definitely be wearing the shades and leathers ( my leather having been provided by Becky, the youngest sister, a blue, probably incredibly expensive Lewis leather. I met Jasper Conran at one of Hilary Peyton’s parties in Islington in 1977, he virtually begged me to sell it to him. Paul Simenon was there too ). When we walked in, Saturday night fever by the Bee Gees was playing. This was equal to Kryptonite for Will and I, so I walked up to the stereo, took the arm off the record, opened the window and threw out the offending LP, much to Will’s great amusement. However the host of the party, a straight and decidedly non Punk girly burst into tears: “my lovely record!” she sobbed, “you’ve ruined it!”. Remorse however, did eventually strike, and I retrieved the album from the garden at some point. But I guess that was the epitome of Punk: removing the old ( sometimes forcibly ) and arrogantly replacing it with something spontaneous and exciting, even if we weren’t too sure what that something was……
Sunglasses after dark? Yep, way before the Surf Rats turned on to Dwight Pullen’s classic Garage/Rockabilly single, Will and I decided it was a great way to hide your stoned dilated pupils…..any time of night or day. I remember probably around 1976, walking into the middle bar at Essex Uni, both of us off our tits and hungry for a belly full of cheap Tartan. A Hell’s Angel came up to Will, who was wearing a pair of shades that looked like they’d been designed by Jack Kirby, and said “what you wearing those for you cunt? it’s pitch black out there?”. Will mumbled something, but basically ignored the guy. “Take them off you cunt, otherwise I’m gonna break your neck!”, and seeing other Hell’s Angel’s giving him dirty looks, Will complied. But as soon as they’d gone, he put them back on! And probably drove home wearing them too……
I guess the shifts in the Accidents, in both music and attitude, terminated our relationship, which was very sad. Basically, as a result of Paul’s suggestion ( and my agreement ) to go more “pop” and “new wave”, we sacked Will. I can’t recall doing it, so I guess it may have been Paul. Big fucking mistake: Will and I shared a vision of how Punk really was, tempered in the fires of the first few Ramones gigs that we saw. We had it all and didn’t need more, but at Paul’s behest and my affirming, we decided to expand our horizons. I guess Paul was a bigger bully than Will: there were times on the way to rehearsals and gigs where they started arguing and Will would get so angry he’d stop the Bedford and offer Paul out. Paul for the most part declined, but I do recall the exchanges getting impossibly heated, with me on the sideline, imploring them to shut the fuck up and get on with the music.
If I’m honest ( and it would have been unlikely to occur with any frequency because of Will’s wanderlust ) we could have been a second division Punk band, and still playing today occasionally, probably. Will was like a Dee Dee Ramone junior and cut his hair spikey with a cut throat razor. How’s that for Punk rock cred? Actually, he was more like a cross between Lemmy and Dee Dee. And his DIY ‘do looked fantastic.
Of course Paul and I went onto many great Rock’n’Roll adventures together. But we fucked with the formulae……
Well anyway, Will’s departure from the Accidents triggered a series of life changing events for him: a move to London ( by then, most of our close friends had moved to London ) a dalliance playing more music with Paul Holt in the Palookas, making lots of new friends, travelling the planet, working for IBM, working in Afghanistan, caring for his Ma, and eventually moving to Australia permanently.
I guess that’s almost the end of the story, except Will and I are still very close, and try to speak a few times a year. I respect and love Will more than I can say, and I’m not sure why I can still say that. But I suppose the bond for us is sharing our transition from boy to man, coupled with a lot of great memories of people who are no longer with us. And those early Ramones gigs gave us a common Rock’n’Roll vision. He’s like a familiar, comforting voice from the past……
“You want to get your arse on a cruise ship and go to Australia. I don’t know what you’re still doing here!” Alfie Ruffle 1915 -2006
And this is how we may have sounded now, were Will and I still making music. Lyrics by Will, of course……