Did I Mention I Was Doing A Gig?

Yes, at the Robin 2, in Bilston, Wolverhampton, on Tuesday December 5. Tix £8 in advance, £10 on the night.

Telling stories. The usually unprintable kind. Like this one…

It’s different now of course but back when I started, rock writers were regarded with almost as much intrigue as rock stars. With no internet, no MTV and only Top Of The Pops and Radio One to sift through, usually in vain, for the music you loved, weekly music papers like Sounds and NME were the main gateways to the stars, their top writers the angels-in-human-form you relied on to convey messages to and from the gods.

If there was one thing better than sitting listening to the new Zeppelin album, it was sitting reading Nick Kent’s latest interview with Jimmy Page while listening to the new Zeppelin album. As for reviews, I always imagined some soundproof room where, say, Geoff Barton would be seated on the throne, headphones clamped tight to his head, nodding along taking notes as he sought to unfurl the mysteries of the latest Kiss live album. At night they would all convene – rock stars and writers – at some guest-list-only club where they would laugh and snort cocaine together while digging the latest Aerosmith bootleg and taking their pick of the resident groupie population.

It was an illusion I continued to labour under right up until I began scribbling my own reviews for Sounds, in 1977. On those brief occasions when I was allowed into the Sounds’ office to collect whatever crumbs were left for the likes of me on the shelf of LPs that no-one else wanted to review, I was disappointed to note how unerringly it looked like every other dull office I had ever dragged my feet in. No music blaring, no fat joints being rolled, not even any good-looking chicks.

I blamed punk, which had arrived onto the London music scene at the same time I had, though with somewhat more effect. I had arrived too late and with too little, that was all. The days of Pete Makowski riding around on the back of a motorcycle with gun-toting members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were simply over.

Or were they? When the magazine rang one day and asked if I’d be “into” interviewing Ian Hunter, I was thrilled as a) I’d never actually interviewed anybody before and b) I had only recently taken down pictures of Mott The Hoople (and all the other pre-punk “old farts” it was no longer socially acceptable to admit you ever liked) from my bedroom wall. Not that I had ever stopped listening to Mott or The Hoople. But you could do that when no-one else was around, like playing Subbuteo.

Best of all, interviewing Hunter would include a genuine slice of early-70s extravagance in the shape of a “limo” which would pick me up from my “pad” and whisk me to the plush studio outside London where the sun-glassed one was working. As my pad was my parents’ house this involved the somewhat surreal sight of my mum and half the neighbours in the street waving me off as the car wafted out of view.

Even harder to take in, though, was what awaited me inside. A fully stocked bar, a very diva-ish PR lady, all cigarette-holder and champagne, and, more ominously, a dour-looking older woman writer from Record Mirror who had plainly not only Done It All but was currently overseeing mass-production of the low-cut T-shirt that went with it. Needless to say, I was utterly out of my depth and sat there forlornly as the two spent the entire journey chatting away about the sorts of people I had only ever seen pictures of or read about in the music press gossip columns: who fucked who and why and when and what everybody else thought about it, darling.

Fortunately, the lady PR had handed me a bottle of cognac and so I had at least one friend I could turn to in the 90 minutes it took to reach our destination – and for me to finish the entire bottle. Not that I was pissed. I was much too nervous for that. It was only when I fell out of the limo and practically into the arms of Ian Hunter, standing in the courtyard of the farmhouse residential studio waiting for us that I realised just how shitfaced I was.

“Ian,” tinkled the lady PR, waving her perfumed cigarette, “this is Mick from Sounds. He’s a big fan.”

“Is that right?” said Hunter, looking me up and down and ignoring the hand I held out. “I’ve got a son about your age.”

And that was it. I was dead in the water before the ship had even set sail.

He turned to greet the dowager from Record Mirror. Old friends, darling, from the Dudes tour. Kiss, kiss. Much laughter. They walked arm-in-arm towards the studio while I followed at a safe distance behind. For the next two hours I was told to “sit there and keep out of my way” while Hunter went about his business, pushing faders, twiddling knobs, while laughing and joking with Mrs Record Mirror. Eventually we were led into a side room where, because he was so busy, it had been agreed that we should interview Ian together. I fished out my old cassette recorder from the polythene shopping bag.

Hunter glared at me again. “I don’t do tape-recorders,” he said. What? But how would I record the interview? “What’s the matter? Don’t you do shorthand? Aren’t you a proper journalist?”

Of course I don’t do fucking shorthand, I wanted to say. Of course I’m not a proper journalist. I’m from Sounds. Then noticed the old cow from Record Mirror sitting poised with notebook and pen. She kindly tore off a page for me to scrawl on while I fished around in my pockets for a biro.

There followed the most excruciating hour of my young non-journalistic life as Hunter directed all his attention to competent, old-friend Record Mirror, and barely more than a sneer to twatted and drunk young Sounds.

In the limo on our way back, I was handed another bottle of cognac while Lady PR and Queen Mirror resumed their rarefied dialogue. Soon, however, the queen had begun to doze, at which point Lady PR ran her fingers over the crotch of my jeans and pulled me close. “Did you get what you wanted?” she asked, before plunging her tongue into my grateful-for-the-attention mouth.

I supposed it would have to do.

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