Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
"It's Going To Be There Forever" -- Part 3
Late August and early September of 1978 ground languidly on. With two members of the band on holiday there was nothing going on but the rent. I must have scanned the singles reviews of the music papers..and yet, I don't remember doing so. The gigs rolled in for autumn and my girlfriend rolled back out. I was getting used to it now. I was also getting ill again. Run down, broke and sad. We needed to sort out another German tour. This was actually the manager's job, so the band decided to send the Twat out to Germany. To be on the safe side, they decided to send me with him. I think they also thought, too, that maybe I needed a break. Being in Gypp, was kind of like being in a family. Everybody looked after each other. We socialised together. Three of the members had known each other, or had been playing together since at least the late 60s.
The Twat and I were supposed to be taking a ferry from Harwich and then being picked up at Zeebrugge. For some reason, probably lack of organisation on the management's part, this was not going to happen. It would now just be me and him, all the way from England to Westphalia by train. We had a couple of meetings fixed up, we met an agent or two and over the seven days of early October that we were there, the Twat lived up to his name. He drank so much beer and let himself go so badly that he became an embarrassment. It was not difficult to be drunk in Germany. We were among friends and fans -- and mostly, in bars. The Twat now became quite international -- as a twat. Not only did he fail to secure any gigs but he became permanently drunk. And he stank.
Unlike him, I used to have an almost military regime for keeping myself together. On cold autumn mornings, I went down into the courtyard of the place where we were staying. There was a small room with a cobbled floor and one cold tap. I'd go down there early in the morning, remove all of my clothes and gasp with shock as I threw cold water all over myself. Short of flogging myself with birch twigs over the wheel of a gun carriage, it couldn't have got much more Prussian. Ten minutes of that, though, would chase all but the worst of hangovers away. And I tried to eat sensibly. The Twat didn't. He began to fall apart. After a while, he didn't know where he was or what he was doing. He also ran up about a forty quid bar-tab in our friends' bar. When I found out about it, I paid it off by doing a Sunday lunchtime solo gig, the day before we came back. We put a two mark door charge on. It was nothing really...Fifty pence or so, at the time, but it not only paid off the Twat's bar debt, it also gave me a bit of money to come home with.
The trip home was fairly desolate. A slow and tortuous crawl in a rattling train, on a grey October day, across what looked like every cabbage field in Germany and Holland. Luckily, the Twat slept. Because if he'd said another word to me, I swear I would have throttled him. An old German guy got in, somewhere near the Dutch border. I could see something in a side-bar of his newspaper. In my bad German I asked to look at it: "Kanne Ich...deine zeitung, sehe, (erm) ein moment, bitte? " I couldn't believe it. The little headline read Keith Moon Ist Tot. Moony had gone and died, while I was away.
I got home sometime during late morning of the Monday 9th October. Back at my nice little house was a note from my ex, who'd come round to pick up some things while I was away. (as they often do). It said something like: "Dear Martin, I lent the place to a Portuguese student, while you were away. I didn't think you'd mind. I told him to feed Willie (my cat). He's probably gone now. He's quite nice, but he's a very messy boy. I hope you don't mind. xxx ..."
No kidding. He was a messy boy. The bed was alright. I don't think he'd even slept in it, but on my dressing table was a tower, maybe thirty or forty empty beer cans.The place was cold. The kitchen smelled of old burning and the ceiling above the stove was black. My best pan had been burnt black. The cat had lost weight. There was uneaten cat food in his bowl. Willie looked very feeble. It was unlike him not to eat. There was no food in the cupboard and the sink was full of dishes. I only had a bit of German money on me. I emptied out my pennies jar, managed to rake up a couple of quid and went back out into town.
On my way to the supermarket, I passed a music shop. A guy from a rival band called to me. "Hey, Zap! The NME reviewed your single." I shouted, "What? When?" The musician told me that he thought that if I was lucky, there'd still be a copy in the corner newsagents down the road. I said: "Thanks." He laughed at me sardonically and said: "I wouldn't be in too much of a rush. Ha haa. " Ten minutes later, I stood in the supermarket queue with a can of catfood and the last NME in Colchester and I read my second ever piece of national rock press. " These songs are drippy and false. The singer sounds like the twit out of Flintlock ( a manufactured bubblegum band of the time)" For a whole paragraph, the review continued..scathing, condemnatory...nasty. Danny Baker, for it was he, could have just written nothing. I mean, they must have been sitting on the record since mid July or something. Why wait three months just to slag it off. If it was that bad they could have just thrown it away. The worst of it was...by now, I believed that he was mostly, right.
I paid my last pennies out for the catfood and some bread, I got to a corner of the supermarket and I thought about my girlfriend. Then I thought about the cat. Then I thought about all the work and the sessions.. and the band sweating blood, trying to get this record out. And on a Monday lunchtime, in a crowded Colchester supermarket, I stood there and I cried.
I went marching out of the shop and went round the corner to a pub, by then managed by the former roadie of Plod, my earlier band. Typically the place had just shut for the afternoon. I hammered on the door with both fists. "Nik! Nik! Open up." He'd been a very close friend of mine. I could hear him shouting: "Fuck off. We're shut." I hammered on, He eventually opened the door. he took one look at my face and pulled me in, locking the doors behind us.
"What's the matter? Martin." he asked. I could not utter a single word...or else all the sorrows of the whole world would have emptied out of me. He looked at me. "Wine?" I gulped a tearful." Yeah." He brought a bottle of German wine, pulled the cork out of it and handed it to me. I did half of it in one swig. He looked at me again." Better?"
I gasped, "Yeah." and then I emptied the rest of the wine down my throat. I sat down with him for an hour or so of his valuable afternoon rest-time, and told him all my troubles. Now that's a proper friend. You don't usually get more than a handful of them during your entire life.
Then, I went home, tidied up the place, persuaded the cat to eat, had some toast and slept. The next morning I resumed my part-time job at the restaurant where I worked, washing the plates of the bourgeoisie. And I got on with my life. And I remembered my dad's words.
"If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined."