Thursday, 15 September 2016
At The Edge...
I am an unashamed lover of all things 80s as is probably, exceedingly, obvious by now.
After my recent epistle on the wonders of the toy and game stores we had in Sheffield, I was reflecting on what else I was being opened up to at the time I really got a handle on the whole gaming thing.
I think it was late ’79 to early ’81 where I started to musically awaken as well as exponentially broaden my mind with the possibilities of fantasy and science fiction beyond the Saturday morning TV cavalcade and the seeming mountain of sci-fi and action comics that I partook of every week.
I think it really all began with Adam & The Ants… OK, they looked pretty camp on reflection and with 35+ years of hindsight, but look, they were different and they had a sound which was different to most. There is a case, of course for drawing comparisons with Bow Wow Wow, but given that both bands were Malcolm McLaren proteges, that’s hardly surprising.
One thing which has stood out during my musings is that I was from this point, no matter how much my parents tried to make me conform and control me, no matter how often the so called ‘popular kids’ made my life a misery (and they did. Not your modern idea of bullying, on no, some proper fucking kickings and what can only be described as physical torture) I had music and imaginary worlds to retreat into. Retreat, I did.
I was joined in my musical adventures by Stanny who also shared an interest in gaming once I’d made the decision to share my newly found secrets. His elder brother was a serious heavy rock fan and so we got our hands and ears on some top notch metal. He was also a talented professional artist and it was he who tok some of our first plastic Heritage fantasy miniatures and painted them. They were not a patch on the stuff that we later drooled over when Games Workshop opened, and the skills of Peter Armstrong and Andy Ritson were showcased. Pete was good, but I’m sorry, Andy Ritson took everyone to the cleaners when it came to brushmanship.
Anyway, as we found our feet at secondary school and met new friends from other schools, we fell in with Andy B and Stav. Andy B was the first new contact, and he shared our love of a rather peculiar mix of Peacock Punk (Toyah, BWW, The Ants etc), Rock (Maiden, Deep Purple,Saxon, and a whiff of Sabbath) and Post Punk (P.I.L, Stiff Little Fingers and Exploited). Andy B’s cousin was a few years older and he was a recovering punk, and was part of a group of similar aged hardcore punks who tore up the Thursday lunchtime discos at school. Our teachers we found could be seriously liberal when not in the class room and with their left wing, anarcho-hippy tendencies we could be sure that amongst the usual sugary pop crap, there would be some cutting edge stuff.
Week after week, we 2nd form types watched from the sidelines as the older punks danced what can only be described as a kind of Redskin war dance backwards. It was called oddly enough and without irony the ‘backward run’ It was a kind of backwards running pogo, with serious spazzing out, but it was awesome to se these guys, dominating the dancefloor for 2 and a half minutes at a time, hurtling around and seeming to be on a collision course only to duck and weave away as if magnetic opposites at the very last second.
Then, one Thursday, Stanny, Andy and I kind of looked at each other, silently agreed upon a course of action and threw ourselves into the storm. Andy nodded to his cousin Sid, who nodded to his mates and we were allowed into the sacred Pow-Wow circle. Then we saw another kid also join in. I vaguely recognised him as being in my year and as one of the ‘In Crowd’ but here he was with the rest of us, as the hall watched on… This was Stav, more of whom, later.
The dance seemed to last for hours, but as ‘At The Edge’ by Stiff Little Fingers is a shake over two and a half minutes, it’s pretty obvious that exhilaration and fear were working their potent alchemy to make time stretch out forever.
Anyway, it ended and although we joined the older lads a couple more times in the coming weeks, it was never quite the same.
We did however start to dance to more stuff, and the popular kids did for a while give us a wide berth as they tried to work out if wisdom dictated a continuation of hostilities. Eventually it was business as usual.
But, Stav sidled up to Stanny and I one day and got talking. I can’t recall how he could have found out, but he said he'd heard we played D&D and did we want to go over to his parent’s house for lunch? We were suspicious of course, because it could be a trap, but Stav was a true closet gamer, it turned out. He was pretty safe from the hard kids as his older brother had ‘form’ and so that made Stav 'off limits' to all out bullying, and besides he could look after himself in a tight spot.
He had some games that we’d not heard of but had not played D&D. Thus it was, that we raced the 250 yards every day to his parents house and either gamed or talked about games whilst eating soup which I swear was like lava, but which could not have been in the pan for more than a minute. Stav was a through and through gamer like Stanny and I, but he made us swear that we would never tell anyone, nor indeed would we discuss our mutual interest at school, but every weekend, every holiday for about three years we got some gaming in, slowly drifting apart as I became more and more involved in the numerous clubs in Sheffield and widened my circle of acquaintances.
It was not just the gaming that Stav was into. He was a massive fan of The Clash, and it was during one of our daily lunchtime sessions that Stav first opened my ears to them when he played ‘London Calling’ and ‘London’s Burning’. At the time I was pretty impressed but I was starting to listen to other stuff such as Haysi Fantayzee (the only kid in the school who did) XTC and Tenpole Tudor, with a smattering of Lene Lovitch. Lord, I was weird… I still am. In later years though I really understood what The Clash were about and whilst I am not a hardcore fan, I confess to having the odd binge on their back catalogue.
I could go on, but I am tiring tonight, but, it’s amazing how you remember stuff just by looking at a rule book or catalogue. Oh that reminds me ‘EXIT Books’ in Sheffield, a rather run down ‘underground’ book shop. But that will save for another day, I am sure…