Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
THIS LITTLE ZIGGY 2 / Chapter 2
Strictures at an Exhibition (1975)
I study the photo gallery in a battered and much travelled scrapbook – my oldest one. Firstly, there is the unsatisfactory passport pic. We realised that I still had the previous night's make-up on and that the good fellows of H.M. Customs wouldn't look fondly upon such a thing. We'd have to try again. The photo which we eventually did use, still managed to get me stopped and searched at every British customs post, from 1975 until it expired, however, so I may has well have used the original pic. Second pic down is the reason I got a passport again. The pretty girl in the picture next to the moron on the sofa, was Mlle. Roche, half-French, half-Corsican and also, my girlfriend at the time.
With it being early 1975, and Colchester's Finest, The Mighty Plod, having just been signed to a record company, I was off to southern France for some well-deserved debauchery. Below the picture of the happy couple is a picture of three-quarters of the now post-glam Mighty Plod. That's Martin Newell (21) in the hippy hat and starry teeshirt, Bachelor Johnny (23) with the ever-present bottle of neck-oil and next to him, is 18 year-old Stix Natkanski, his arms folded like a Polish goalie. It's mid morning, sometime in January 1975. This was round about the time we thought that stardom was only a single's release away. These are our civilian clothes by the way– which we generally slept in. We are standing outside St Guinness 's, the former orphanage which was Johnny's home. Little did we know that there'd only be a couple more gigs, a very long wait by the telephone ( This was a bit pointless, since we didn't have a telephone) and a fair amount of drinking. Five or six months down the line it would all be over and Colchester's finest would be no more, “Cancelled” so our drummer said, “due to lack of interest.”
The final photograph, is your correspondent, a few months later. It was taken by an unknown female photographer in her bathroom after a successful day's drinking. Following my first trip to France which had been in late winter, I saved up all my pennies and managed to get myself back out there again in June, just in time to get horrendously sunburnt, poisoned by shellfish and finally, jettisoned by the lovely Mlle. Roche, in favour of an American airman. I also think that my keen interest in drinking France dry, from the time I got dressed in the morning, until the time I fell onto the bed at night was a deciding factor. She also said that her parents, suspected that I was on drugs. I did rather take umbrage at this, because I actually wasn't. This matter, however, led to a series of animated discussions, which in turn led to me taking the lonely train back from Montpellier to Calais one day in late June. I came back to blazing sunny England with a heavy heart, no band and no money. I'd like to thank the makers of MIR washing powder for preserving my modesty and allowing me to share these lovely memories with you.
A funny old time 1975 was. The best of times and the worst of times in a way. But first, a story. I now moved into a flat on Hangover Hill, with Big Nik, Plod's former roadie. I'd been dumped, Nik's girlfriend had left and it seemed logical that two young born again bachelors should now join forces. One day, I got invited by a nice young woman called Floss to go to a party in a rather large house in the country. Nik elected to drive me there and attend too. On the way travelling in Nik's trusty Commer van, we realised we'd run out of cigarettes. You always need extra fags for a party, don't you?
So Nik, coming to a small country pub, said that we'd better go and buy some in there. He warned me that the landlord, being a former policeman, was not well-disposed to lads with long hair, fancy shirts, tight trousers and all that malarkey.
We walked into the tap-room. The landlord, with a face like a Staffordshire bull terrier, confronted with two exceptionally effeminate cats, growled: “Yes?” “Forty Players No. 6. please.” Nik said, firmly. “ I'm not running a bloody off-licence.” snarled the publican. “This is a pub. You come in here to drink.”
There was a pause. Nik said: “Two Britvic orange juices, please.” The landlord, his face a rictus of annoyance, turned to get the orange juices. With beautiful timing, Nik repeated: “...and forty Number 6, please.” The landlord banged the orange juices down on the counter, and went to get the cigarettes, which he also slapped on the counter. Nik counted out the exact amount of money to pay for the cigarettes, putting both packets in his pocket. The landlord looked accusingly at him: “ Well? " he asked. "What about the orange juices?”
Nik said. “Drink 'em yourself, you big fat cunt.” For a while, I didn't quite believe what I'd just heard. I looked at Nik. Nik looked at me. Time was suddenly frozen. It went deathly quiet. Then Nik looked at me seriously and said: “Run!”
We pelted out of the door like a couple of whippets and ran for the van, which was parked over the road on a small triangle of grass. We slammed the doors, Nik put the keys in the ignition and the van made a sort of RRRRRRR-RRR-RRR noise, followed by a dismaying KERLUNK as the engine stalled. I looked back towards the pub. The landlord was already at the door flanked by four burly locals, one of whom was rolling his sleeves up. Nik tried the engine again. The men were advancing upon us.
Suddenly the Commer gave a cough and sputtered into action, Nik put it into gear and we roared off up the narrow country lane, with the shouts of our pursuers fading behind us. I was swearing, out of sheer relief. Nik was roaring with laughter. It was a great party. Can't exactly remember how we got home. It set the tone for the summer. One summer in a decade. It would be almost another year before I got myself back in a proper band.
Note Some decades on, Nik became a publican himself and finally ended up as the mayor of a small Suffolk town.