Magdalen was still very much a part of the heroin crowd even though she didn't really like it. But she loved JC and he took it so that was that. As with so many of the old crowd her drug of choice was acid. LSD, call it what you will, but to us it was a harmless fun drug. The psychedelic effects, the uncontrollable laughter if you only took half a tablet, the never ending nights of ecstatic enthusiasm for the most trivial of things, and shitt'n. More than anything else in the world Magdalen loved shitt'n. She could talk for hours about nothing and nobody ever had a clue what she was talking about but they never got bored. JC's ways were getting her down though. OK, Magdalen was shooting up heroin but she still had a grasp on reality. She was still holding on to what seemed to be slipping away from JC. She never said anything but it wasn't hard to tell. The only person she confided in was Carla and in true women's confidence Carla didn't pass too much of that on to me.
Through thick and thin Carla had always been there for Magdalen. Her visits to the big city every few months had helped to keep Magdalen's sanity intact. It was on one such weekend that they had gone shopping in London and they'd both taken an acid trip to make it a little more interesting. Though neither were the shopping kind of people it was an excuse to get out and see something different. Besides, the both of them were great people watchers. And where better in the world to watch people and life go by than in Camden Town? It had everything from the recently opened market that in less that a decade would become one of London's most famous landmarks to the left over hippies from the Age of Aquarius, or the outdoor eateries and barges on the canal to the ten feet high replicas of boots and planes that jutted out from the shop walls above the street below. And then there were the psychedelic painted buildings reminiscent of the photos you see of San Francisco's Haight Ashbury in the Summer of Love. And both Magdalen and Carla were familiar with Camden's musical centre point The Roundhouse.
The Roundhouse was a converted railway depot that housed a turntable to point the old steam trains in the opposite direction. Hence, the name The Roundhouse which after its conversion had become one of London's major venues for musical extravaganzas. There always seemed to be some musical event happening there and the girls were regular visitors though to this day I've never set a foot in the place other than the reception area.
Camden Town was a wonderful place to take acid and it was a bright summers day so the setting was perfect. At the side of the canal beneath the railway bridge was an incline down to the lock gates below, and on days like that they'd just like to sit on the side of the canal and watch the barges go by. As they made their way to Camden Town there'd been a shower of rain which had left a sheen on the paving slabs that still hadn't quite dried when they arrived. Walking down the incline Carla slipped and banged her head on the slab as she hit the floor. Stooping to lift her Magdalen thought nothing of it when Carla started laughing. It was a nervous reaction though and all was not well. In a short space of time it became evident that something had gone badly wrong. Carla began talking incoherently but this wasn't the girls everyday shitt'n. I felt so sorry for Magdalen when I heard the story. It reminded me of when Steve Jones had drowned in the Serpentine after the Pink Floyd concert but then there were a crowd of us to give one another moral support. This time it was just the two of them and Magdalen was off her head with the acid.
The ambulance came and for the next forty eight hours Carla slipped in and out of consciousness. She was never to be the same again. The Carla I had lusted after, wooed, won over and had subsequently grown to love was gone. The new Carla was devoid of emotion, unable to tell good from bad or right from wrong. I don't know the technicalities of it but she'd hit her head in the wrong place and it was as if somebody had switched her lights off. To all intents and purposes she was the same as any other person until you looked into her eyes or heard her talk. It was like talking to a child. The only comparison I can make is when you hear the stories of The Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett after he'd taken too many bad chemicals. But Carla hadn't taken too much of anything. OK she was tripping at the time of the accident but essentially it was a freak accident and nothing more.
Looking back all those years later it seemed inconceivable that we'd met in 1968, and despite being almost inseparable thereafter it wasn't until my weekend of enlightenment at Phun City three years later that I mentally committed myself to her. And there I was, two years later, back where I'd started as if the last five years had been a Technicolor dream.
It was around that time that I left everything and everybody behind for pastures afar. For some time I'd been disillusioned with the whole drugs scene and for the previous year or so I'd been spending more and more time with some friends who lived in a caravan in a small village about six miles outside the borders of Newport. It was close enough to get to but not too far to make the trip an inconvenience. Magor is a traditional British village that everybody pictures in their head as an idyllic retreat to escape to. There were two pubs, a corner shop cum post office, quaint granite buildings with ivy growing up the side of the windows, a church with a spire that dominated the countryside skyline and bells that woke everybody on Sunday mornings, a village square outside the one pub and a grass area outside the other. And it was in Magor that we'd meet on the weekends and drink in The Wheatsheaf which was the pub with the grass outside.
John, a pipe smoking left over from the beatnik age was a few years older than all of us. His partner Lisa was a few years younger than all of us and her mother was not at all amused at her seventeen year old daughter shacking up with a twenty eight year old man in a caravan. John played guitar and harmonica and wrote the songs he sang, as well as a repertoire that ranged from children's lullabies to rock and roll. Lisa played harmonium, was learning guitar, and sang back up vocals to harmonise with Johns lead. On weekends the people I'd met way back when in The Castle Folk Club converged on Magor to entertain the clientèle of The Wheatsheaf singing hits of the fifties, folk classics, and the occasional self penned songs.
In a space of less than six years I'd gone from being a guitar strumming song writing drunkard in one of the most notorious meths and scrumpy pubs in Newport to a social drug user who mixed with a selection of junkies and rock stars. Then, backing off to unsuccessfully try my hand at being a rock star myself I'd moved on to the caravan in Magor where I was drinking with the same old friends I'd first met in The Castle Folk Club six years before.
It was rare that there were less than ten of us performing in The Wheatsheaf and at the end of the evening after we'd missed the last bus back to the civilisation of Newport where most of us lived we'd go to John's caravan to crash out for the night. The mayhem that followed was very similar to the highs I had with JC and the rest of my previous company but it was mayhem fueled with alcohol not drugs. It was inevitable that the party atmosphere would carry on when we left the pub, and after the mile long walk up the Dancing Hill to Beaches Farm where the caravan was situated we either collapsed in exhaustion or set ourselves up for round two of the madness. Of course the latter always won and we ate Lisa's home made alcoholic damson tarts or drank John's home made real ale or cider into the night while singing more songs and keeping the rest of the caravan site's residents awake with the racket.
So sleep time came, but there was always somebody who wanted to stay awake a little longer, and when there are ten people trying to sleep in a four berth caravan, more often than not very little sleep was had at all. Ten minutes silence and someone would ask "is anybody awake"? which woke those already asleep up, and then another ten minutes and somebody farted which made the others either laugh or complain at the smell, and so the night went on.
They were good days and very welcome ones after what I'd been through with JC and Magdalen. And Carla. Yes Carla. I still missed her so much but there was nothing I could say or do. After her accident we drifted apart. It wasn't a case of abandonment or anything like that. It was just a simple case of her inability to acknowledge what we had. I still loved her like crazy and I felt physically ill when I thought about what I'd lost but it wasn't about me. And besides, she was spending less and less time in Newport, preferring to be with the people she grew up with in Cardiff twelve miles away.
On one crazy weekend in Magor Milky had mentioned his desire to go to Jersey in the Channel Islands to live. Milky was a mothers boy. An only child who'd always had everything he wanted. He was the same age as me but still living with his parents and had never travelled further than Magor in his life. He was one of The Castle crowd and crazy in his own unique way. He was very serious and could talk at depth about Aborigine tribes in Australia, or the creation of the universe, or the origins of the blues music he played on guitar. But he was like a Jekyll and Hyde character after alcohol. The moment he tipped the scales of the eight pint mark he would turn into a mad demented giggling idiot. I know everybody changes after a drink but he took it to the extreme. I mean that in the nicest possible way though. I still see him from time to time and would never say a bad word against him if I thought he or anybody else could construe it as being offensive.
On reflection I've been blessed with good and interesting people like him around me all my life, and with the exception of my school days I've loved those close to me with a passion, never falling out with anybody. The Castle crowd, or Magor crowd as they were now were those kind of people. John and Lisa could never do enough for other people and the caravan they shared was always open to anyone who needed a bed.
I'd always considered John to be a John Mayall kind of father figure who coincidentally he bore an uncanny physical and facial resemblance to, and like his namesake, the blues legend adopted all the stray musicians until they found their own way and spread their wings. That was what John and Lisa's caravan in Magor was like back then. Then there was Hornpipe whose place I'd stayed at on numerous occasions after JC had teamed up with Magdalen and left Newport to live in The Big Smoke. And JC, Magdalen and Carla! They were good people too as were all the others and I honestly don't know if I sub-consciously chose my acquaintances that way or if it was simply meant to be.
So Milky wanted to go to Jersey to live and he asked me if I wanted to join him. Another adventure seemed like a good plan, even though I knew it would never last. At some point in the future he was to join the merchant navy, see the four corners of the world, and like so many in my previous company he was eventually to get messed up on drugs. But back then he was a mummy's boy. I'd give him a week away from home tops, but despite my misgivings about his staying power, on the Friday night we took the ferry from the South Coast of England and arrived in Jersey on the Saturday morning.
On the way to Rose Farm Camp Site where we were destined to lay our heads that night we looked out through the window of the bus and saw a building site at the bottom of St Aubins Hill. After pitching our tent we walked back down the hill and asked if there were any job vacancies. I was so confident that we'd never stay for more than a week in Jersey that I hadn't given notice from my job back in Newport. In fact I was that confident that I hadn't even bothered making any financial provisions for a future in my new home. So, if my suspicions were wrong and we did stay we'd need to earn some money. You can start on Monday morning was the response, and that's exactly what we did. It was more of a necessity than for the love of it though as after a marathon duty free drinking session on the boat to our new home we were already almost out of money.
I'd previously worked in a timber mill doing manual labour but wasn't ready for what we were about to encounter. Lifting, shoving, pulling, pushing and digging trenches! The only thing I have to say about it now is thank god I'll never have to work again for a living. By my own admission I hated it but Milky was suicidal. He'd recently finished a five year apprenticeship in the steel industry and whilst it wasn't pen pushing his work was a lot easier than the work I'd previously been used to. So on the Monday night after the longest day of our lives we cleaned up and got into our sleeping bags in the tent at Rose Farm Camp Site and went straight to sleep.
Milky with weeping blisters on the palms of his hands eventually walked off the building site in tears at mid-day on the Tuesday. I really felt for him. He wanted to prove to himself that he could stand on his own two feet but after only three and a half days away from home he was resigned to going back to live with his mother at the age of twenty four. For my part I never got around to leaving Jersey on a permanent basis until I finally retired in 2014.
I go back to Newport from time to time and I still see Hornpipe on every occasion that I can but only got to meet Mr Wha once and the others from that period seem to have faded away. There was talk that Jimmy was messed up with some heavy drugs, Screwball, Lazy Shit Anywhere Man and Mob seemed to have disappeared off the face of the planet and Boom Boom left town after what was to happen shortly after. Hodge and Cricko have both since died of causes unrelated to the abuse their bodies had received nearly forty years before and the others from that period? Well, who knows?
JC and Magdalen were as always off their heads when the door flew open. Taken into separate rooms where they couldn't corroborate their stories the cops searched the place. There was some Lebanese hash on the sideboard, a few joint ends in the ashtray and used syringes in the garbage can outside, but nothing else. The argument for the defense was that the syringes could have been put there by anybody passing through the lane at the back of the house, and even back then smoking dope wasn't the end of the world but it was enough to bang them up until they were prosecuted.
By that time I'd been living in Jersey for not much short of a year so I only got odds and sods of information about what was happening in piecemeal fashion. By all accounts Magdalen took her incarceration really badly as she wasn't used to such treatment, but the only effect it had on JC was the withdrawal symptoms of going cold turkey as he yearned for the drug he'd become addicted to. Three days later there was a preliminary hearing and Magdalen was set free as JC had said the Lebanese hash was his. But JC's plea for bail was refused as the prosecution introduced a second charge against him of murdering James Patrick McCartney, and a third of Trafficking a Class A drug. Neither Magdalen, JC, nor his defense could make any sense of it but it transpired that Boom Boom in his previous encounter with the law had entered a bargain plea with the police to secure his own freedom.
JC was the kingpin, the big boss of the drugs empire that fulfilled the every need of the hierarchy of rock. Jimbo being the middle man, the man on the street, was the main outlet for JC, and when he cleaned up that left JC in a predicament. It was guaranteed easy money with Jimbo at the helm. JC had always used others to collect and deliver the goods which made him more an overseer of drugs. Like the local bank manager responsible for millions of pounds who never sees more than a few thousand at a time in the tills. That was the way that JC ran his business and thereby there was very little chance of him ever getting caught red handed.
But Jimbo was off the scene, and in a moment of desperation JC had confronted him in the small room of Kings Cross station. He taunted come on, lets shoot up one last time for old times sake, and he knew that if he could tempt Jimbo just one more time the catch would be his. All JC would have to do would be to reel in his quarry and it would be business as usual. But the fix was too pure. Jimbo lost consciousness and JC got scared. JC could have made an anonymous call to the emergency services but he didn't. He could have tried to resuscitate Jimbo and chance getting caught but he didn't. He could have got one of his side kicks to do the dirty work and kept himself out of the picture but he didn't. JC left Jimbo to die. That was the testimony that Boom Boom gave in court to secure his own freedom and the jury of twelve believed him.
Boom Boom was free to come and go and JC was sentenced to a ten year stretch for trafficking heroin. He was found not guilty on the charge of manslaughter as Magdalen had provided him with a stone wall alibi on the eventful night. But if the truth be known the prosecution would have preferred the convictions to be the other way around. The whole case was farcical in as much as there was never any heroin found in the apartment that JC shared with Magdalen, and the whole conviction seemed to rest on the evidence of a habitual liar who rarely saw JC and who had probably never met Jimbo in his life. Of course there was an appeal which was as unsuccessful as the original trial so this time it really was the end of an era.
For my part I didn't know what to think. For as long as I could remember JC had had a secretive side! He had a way of smiling that stupid smile instead of answering you direct. He was a lot like Magdalen in that respect. Magdalen could talk for hours and say absolutely nothing, but the reality of the matter was that none of us really knew JC anymore. I was in Jersey, the rest of the old crowd had gone their separate ways and JC lived in London with Magdalen. At that point I questioned my own beliefs. I was a different person to the one who left Wales the previous year, and that me was different to the one who fell so madly in love with Carla and only left her for no other reason than because it had to be. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was sad. Not sad for JC or myself, but for Magdalen. First she'd lost her mother, then Carla, and now JC.
I'm not a religious man but in a moment of desperation I said a silent prayer in my mind for her. It appeared that I was wrong about JC so it occurred to me that I could be wrong about her. She always seemed strong but what if she wasn't? She'd already showed her vulnerability when she'd been locked up. There was a possibility that I'd never see JC again and the reality that I'd never see her either was just too much to take in. Again I lost contact with the others and with the exception of a two minute phone call to Hornpipe a few days before my once yearly trips back home to see my family I had no idea what happened in Newport anymore.
Life in my new home continued to be interesting in different ways. The initial first few years there were a continuation of the John and Lisa weekends with a social life of playing guitar in pubs and folk clubs fueled with regular excessive amounts of alcohol. Around that time John did the right thing and made an honest woman out of Lisa. They sold the caravan, bought a house, had two kids and as they say, lived happily ever after. For me there was no more of the speed or acid or any of the other illegal substances I once swallowed like children's sweets. All else aside, Jersey with its Methodist religious nuts and draconian way of thinking has never taken too kindly to drug taking hippies. It wasn't that though. It was time to move on so I never went back to that way of life again. And whilst alcohol isn't necessarily a good alternative to anything I can't honestly say that its ever done me any real harm.
The following years were to see me mingling with the likes of the members of Led Zeppelin in Jersey and post Live Aid, Bob Geldof, Jason Bonham the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer, and Roger Taylor and Freddy Mercury from Queen who I got to meet through a chance encounter with Joe Strummer, the front man of the rock band The Clash. He was temporarily living around the corner from my holiday hotel in Santa Eulalia in Ibiza and I probably wouldn't have bothered speaking to him at all if it wasn't for the fact that I'd overheard him say that he'd lived in Newport around the time that I left some eleven years or so before.
After a brief introduction I discovered that he used to drink in the sixteenth century Ye Olde Murenger House and The Greyhound pubs, both of which were in spitting distance of The Tredegar Arms and the NFO where I had met JC and the others in my drug taking days. Ye Olde Murenger House, like every other place we frequented was another venue for our youthful insanity.
One night JC had hit upon the idea that Newport was lacking a theme park so we set about creating Topsy Turvy Land in the back room, and in much the same way as the hard knocks protected us from any violent situations, publicans and landlords had a very high tolerance level to our drug and alcohol induced antics too. Consequently nobody batted an eyelid as we proceeded to turn all the chairs and tables upside down. Next we took the still switched on TV from its stand and turned them both upside down, and still nobody said a word. Those of us capable enough stood on our heads as we balanced against the wall and watched the upside down TV picture, and it was only when we tried in our wasted conditions to turn the pool table upside down that we were finally evicted. That was in the fun days before the drugs got heavy and in the times when everything JC ever did was for fun. Amidst everything that happened back then the one thing that sticks out in my mind is the laughter, and the whole Topsy Turvy Land or JC throwing the dead seagull into The Globe seemed to be everyday occurrences for the entirety of our early times together.
Anyway, as well as Ye Olde Murenger House, Joe and I had both used the same nightclub. El Siecos in Clarence Place was later to become TJs, and subsequently voted one of the top fifty big nights out in the world in the December 1997 issue of FHM magazine. It was also the place where Nirvana's Kurt Cobain allegedly proposed to Courtney Love. So, I was destined to while the night away in the world's largest disco Ku with the members the newly crowned best live band on the planet after they stole the show at the recent Live Aid concert in London, and just because I'd met a guy who once lived in Newport!
How it came to be was that Joe Strummer had been hanging around in Santa Eulalia with Jason Bonham the Zeppelin drummers son who was living there for the summer season, then after the Live Aid Concert Bob Geldof, Freddy Mercury, Roger Taylor (Queens drummer), his partner Dominique who he was later to marry and some other people converged on the Mediterranean island to chill out. After my chance meeting with Joe I bumped into him again the next night as Santa Eulalia is so small it's impossible not to meet people if they're there. This time he was with the others though, so after a meal we bundled into a few cars and drove to Ku which was and maybe still is Europe's largest disco. Whilst I never did get to see Queen perform live we did stop on the way for a few drinks where Freddy and Roger took to the stage of a small bar and played a few rock and roll classics before moving on to the nightclub. And that trip to the Mediterranean island was to be the beginning of a love affair between Freddy Mercury and Ku that would peak two years later when it was used as the location for the live shoot of the video to the song Barcelona which co starred the opera singer Montserrat Caballe.
The Led Zeppelin thing had happened ten years earlier in Jersey shortly after I'd moved there. The watered down story of what could itself turn into an epic was that I drank in a pub called The Old Court House with a guy called Jim Dudley. Jim was a member of the family that owned the Midlands casting company called Brickhouse Dudley that was responsible producing manholes covers that can be seen from all over the South of England to as far afield as Dubai in the middle East. Jim went to school with Led Zeppelin's singer Robert Plant. And when Robert - holed up in a hospital bed in London following an accident on the Greek island of Rhodes - was being told he had to leave the country for tax reasons he got in touch with his old school chum Jim. As luck would have it Jim and his wife were about to leave Jersey for a holiday in, believe it or not, the very island where Robert had sustained his accident in the Mediterranean. So, Jim and his missus left the keys to their house in the exclusive Richlieu Estate cul-de-sac in the St Brelade area of Jersey for Robert to take charge of until they returned. Within a week the rest of the band joined the singer as they were in the same tax predicament and so started a four month stay for the band in my new homeland, even if the guitarist Jimmy Page was to spend most of it on the other side of the Atlantic to mix the bands recordings of their recent tour which was to be released as the soundtrack to the film The Song Remains The Same.
Richlieu Estate is a spit away from The Old Court House which has since been immortalised as Lil's Royal Barge Inn in the television detective series Bergerac. Being a very trendy place at the time it became one of the bands local watering holes. Of course, as I drank there most nights it was inevitable that we'd cross paths and as Jim Dudley was a good friend it was inevitable that I'd spend more than a fleeting two minutes with them. I initially spent as much time with the band as was realistic for a guy who had to work for a living and it made me think of JC. He would have been in his element had he been there, but in his own non committal way. I suppose in our time we'd met a lot of famous people but neither of us ever got awe struck or anything like that. If I'm honest though, I'd give my eye tooth for a few photos now of the concerts we were at and the people we met.
In the following four months the Zepp members were very high profile creating havoc in much the same way as I had in my previous escapades with JC, but with them not having any financial worries it was impossible trying to keep up with their antics. For the record, in the time I spent with them I never saw any signs of any illegal substances. This was however allegedly the peak of Jimmy's heroin addiction and from my own experiences I knew that it's sometimes almost impossible to tell if an addict is under the influence unless they are totally out of it. Alcohol addiction is much easier to detect. There have been several attempts by Zeppelin aficionados to recreate in print what happened in the four month period that the band stayed in Jersey and none are close.
Jersey being so small is a very hard place to be low profile and so time and time again our paths crossed. Sometimes planned and sometimes as an off chance, and one of the off chances was at the Ann Port Bay Hotel that ran folk evenings on Thursdays. One night Zepp's John Paul Jones and John Bonham staggered in obviously worse for wear after one of their marathon drinking sessions and took to the stage in front of about fifty people. Another off chance meeting was Behan's Night Club. Behan's was a fifties style dance hall that hosted cabarets in the tourist season and opened for four nights a week to make what money they could off season.
Tuesdays were rock'n'roll nights when Norman Hale played there to three or four hundred people. At that time I also frequented a nightclub above The Harbour Lights pub which was a stones throw from where I lived, and that in turn had a resident pianist called Norman Hale who was a former session musician. Norman knew John Paul Jones from the days when they were both session musicians so on the 9th of December after sitting in the audience for the previous couple of weeks, John Paul Jones and John Bonham joined him on stage for a few numbers finishing by saying thanks, maybe next week well bring the rest of the band to play. On that occasion I'd been given a tip off by Norman that they were itching to get back on stage and it was only a matter of time before something happened. Jersey was so laid back in those days that nobody including me took their closing comment seriously, but to their word, the following Tuesday the whole band got up backed by Norman Hale to do an hour set of mostly rock'n'roll classics. It is probably the only time in history that Led Zeppelin pre-announced a gig and it didn't sell out. A few weeks previously when their tour ended the band Bad Company who shared the same record label and manager as my temporary drinking cohorts flew to Jersey to take temporary residence for the same reasons as Led Zeppelin had and Zepp were hanging out with them for the latter week or so of their stay. Then the night after Zeppelin's gig the headliners at Behan's were chart topping band Love Affair, but by that time I was all rock starred out so got on with my life.
Greg Morrissey was the typical example of dreamer made good and a perfect substitute for JC if I ever needed one. He was the same age as me and one of the first people I met in Jersey. At the time he was working as an electrician for one of the biggest hotels there and he would constantly talk about one day doing this or that. Enthusiasm oozed out of him and it was impossible not to like him. On a weekly basis he'd make arrangements to meet me at say eight and then just as the pubs were closing some hours later he'd walk through the door as if nothing had happened, accepting in his own mind that such behaviour was totally normal and acceptable.
He treated everybody the same and those people just continued loving him for the person he was. The key to his popularity was the way he talked to people. Being Irish he had the gift of the gab and I don't know if he ever did kiss the Blarney Stone but he certainly could and most definitely did charm the birds out of the sky. I think he had been the instigator of us going out on a few dates with two of the then soon to be famous Nolan Sisters who were on the island performing in cabaret for the summer season. Of course it never came to much more than a few dates but it was a funny little anecdote to entertain my aunties and uncles with when I went back to Newport.
A few years after meeting Greg there was an opening for a DJ at the hotel where he worked, and much to the amazement of everybody he bought himself a DJ console and took the job himself. The fact that he knew very little about music didn't stop him. He went out, borrowed enough records to get started, and in no time at all he graduated from one night at the hotel to buying another DJ console, to employing two other people to work as DJs whilst renting the consoles to them, and within a year he had started his own entertainment agency called Knight Sounds which was handling six hundred bookings a week.
With his new found wealth which came with the success of Knight Sounds he bought a house and got married, though that was one venture not destined to be as successful as his business enterprise. Unfortunately he showed his wife the same lack of commitment that he had to me and all his other friends, but she wasn't as forgiving as the rest of us. Within a few years the marriage would dissolve and Greg would sell Knight Sounds, move to Spain, subsequently move back to the UK, and eventually make his fortune in property. But that was yet to come. For the time being Mr and Mrs Morrissey were happily married, despite the constant flow of visitors and business acquaintances coming in and out of their home to disrupt their otherwise tranquil lifestyle on what seemed like an hourly basis.
I was one of the many household additions in the early days and I spent a lot of time there either socially or helping renovate it with my recently acquired construction skills. Other visitors included managers of the hotels who were employing his services and occasionally the artists themselves. For the better part they were run of the mill dancers who'd left the cruise ships to do a season in the islands cabarets or singers with no personality of their own, but occasionally there were big names like Karl Denver and Roy Orbison.
I met Karl at Greg's when he was feeling somewhat sorry for himself and literally crying in his drink. He was the cabaret headliner at the Hotel De L'Europe (since renovated and reopened as Chambers Bar) and in between feeling down in the dumps he drank, presumably to forget his sorrow. It was no secret that he drank way much and was sozzled when we met at three in the afternoon. Greg introduced us and my reply was Karl Denver, "no, I can't say I recognise the name". Karl in response burst into tears crying "nobody remembers me anymore". Of course I did recognise his name from his big sixties hit Wimoweh and it was pretty mean on my part to act like I had no idea who he was, but I didn't think he was going to start crying.
Another chance meeting at Greg's was with Roy Orbison who was also probably on the island doing cabaret and I can't believe that I let the moment go so light-heartedly. I was singing in folk clubs and pubs around that time and even though I say it myself, I was a lot like JC in as much as I never had a problem writing a song. Likewise I never stood by any style for very long so as a consequence, over the years have written and performed rock songs, ballads, country, reggae, and all sorts of other stuff. Around the time of meeting Roy though I was in my comedy mode which was probably a kick back of my liking for the nineteen seventies Charley Chaplin of acoustic music, Loudon Wainwright the Third. One of the songs I'd written and was performing then was I Got the VD which in retrospect isn't anything to be proud of, though I have to point out that its content wasn't autobiographical.
I was teaching Greg to play guitar around that time and despite the fact that I never taught him this song the only one he knew from start to finish was Elvis Presley's Wooden Heart. So we sat down and Greg played his only song and passed the guitar to Roy who played and sang a song. Then with his usual enthusiasm Greg excitedly said "sing Roy the VD song Dave, sing the VD song".
Now anybody with an ounce of loco would have clutched the moment and cherished it by giving a rendition of one of the hundreds of songs I'd written in the hope that one day Roy would record it, but no. Roy was washed up. At least that's how I thought of him back then, not realising that twenty years later he would share top billing in a band that included George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and my all time idol Bob Dylan. Hindsight can be a wonderful thing when things go right but in situations like that there's little consolation. Of course I rambled through "Oh I got the VD, oh I got the clap" and so on to the bemusement of Roy, but if the truth be known it was probably more his acknowledgment of Greg's enthusiasm for the song than for the song itself that put the wry smile on Roy's face. One thing was for sure though; I Got The VD was never destined to get onto a Travelin Wilburys CD.
On so many occasions when I was in Greg's company I couldn't help comparing him to the teenage JC. The whole lovable personality, having people following him like sheep, smiling stupid smiles and his unbelievable appetite for life were infectious, and if you were in his company, just like if you were ever with JC you couldn't help but feel a little better about yourself. Other than that and a few out of the blue performances by mainstream rockers like Adam Ant, Meatloaf, Blondie, Elvis Costello and of course the Led Zeppelin thing nothing ever seemed to happen in Jersey
This isn't about me and Jersey though its about JC and Magdalen but on a final note, the Elvis Costello visit is worth a mention. Pix Pickford, a Jersey man who had had minor success in a band called The O Band was the promoter of the Elvis Costello gig at Fort Regent. Fort Regent is a big dome shaped entertainment centre not dissimilar in appearance to London's Millennium Dome cum O2 Arena which sits on the top of a hill of the same name that overlooks Jerseys main town St Helier and the Southern coastline of Jersey. Because of Pix's musical past Costello's manager Jake Riviera phoned him up and said Elvis wants to make a video for a song called Clubland and what he wants is a dance hall, doorman, policeman, pretty girls entering the dance hall and so on. Can you arrange for the hiring of the venue and the people? Of course Pix said yes, but for whatever reason forgot all about it until the day before Elvis was due to do the shoot. Over another phone call from Jake the video shoot came into conversation and Pix said yes everything's sorted when in fact nothing was sorted at all.
So, at the last minute Pix managed to hire the islands top night spot West Park Pavilion, one and the same place known as Behan's when Led Zeppelin had played there ten years earlier. Pix wore a dinner suit with a king sized safety pin to hold it together at the back because it was too big and dicky bow to play the part of the doorman, he hired a policeman's uniform from a fancy dress shop and a friend wore that, his wife and her friend were the nightclubs pretty girl clientèle and so on. I was to befriend Pix several years later but regretfully I obviously wasn't privy to the video shoot or Elvis Costello but I did go to the concert.
JC was released early from prison for what I assumed to be good behaviour after serving two thirds of his sentence. By this time I'd been living in Jersey for nine years and my visits to Newport were getting fewer and farther between. I hated the place with a vengeance. During the course of my time away the town area where I'd experienced all the wonderful memories of my youth had changed into a violent hub of out of control hooligans. It wasn't just Newport though. The inner cities of the whole of the UK were changing for the worse. I no longer held a candle for my youth. I liked my new life in Jersey, even if it was claustrophobic living on an island where you could never escape without first booking a boat or a plane.
Magdalen had stayed in London for some time after JC got sent down and she lost touch with everybody except maybe Carla. Hornpipe married his long time girlfriend Sandy and the self confessed football loving mans man Mr Wha discovered the pleasures of the flesh and after a short courtship married Jess. Both Hornpipe and Mr Wha took on mortgages so disappeared off the scene. And of the old crowd it was only Hornpipe who ventured out when I came back on my obligatory annual trips to see my family.
It was on one such trip that I was to see JC for the last time. I'd made the usual once yearly arrangements to meet Hornpipe who informed me that JC was free. I thought he was still in nick I responded. Nah, he got out a few months ago he said continuing with I'll give him a bell and get him to come out with us. He'd love that. On previous trips I'd got into the habit of seeing only John, Lisa and Hornpipe, who coincidentally had bought a house a few hundred yards down the hill from John and Lisa despite the fact that they'd never met.
Mr Wha lived in Pill a mile down from where I'd cut my eye teeth learning to play guitar in the back room of The Castle. The same place I'd first met JC fifteen years before, even if I still couldn't remember that initial encounter. The whole area had since been razed to the ground and a new housing estate has been built on the site. Mr Wha and Jess had bought one of the new houses in the place that had once been the most derelict depressing and dangerous parts of town, but by Newport standards was now as good as anywhere else.
As Hornpipe lived on the other side of the town area which had by then become the dangerous shit hole that Pill once was there was no neutral meeting ground. So they'd lost contact. Until I came back that was. Hornpipe suggested that we get as many of the old gang together as possible, but impossible was more the operative word. Jimmy, Mob, Screwball, Hodge, Lazy Shit Anywhere Man, and Cricko were either doing their own thing after moving on or were nowhere to be found.
I met Hornpipe at his place before going to the house that JC had bought with Magdalen. JC was a changed man. Gone was the spaced out look from his heroin days. In its place was the cheeky boys grin that had transfixed everybody who met him in the early days. The whole night was one of those moments in time when you remember every tiny detail. I could almost describe the evening minute by minute but the thing I remember most was that we laughed a lot.
JC's house was immaculate and looked like a show house with nothing out of place. There was a large white leather three piece suite that dominated the living room and real hardwood display cabinets that housed expensive ornaments. The pots and pans in the kitchen looked like they'd never been used, and I didn't know if we were looking at the real JC or if it was Magdalen's influence but JC's life had definitely changed for the better.
Magdalen had been called away to some family crisis in Cardiff which was a pity as the rest of us had women in tow. I was with my girlfriend Carole who I was living with at the time; Hornpipe was with his wife Sandy and Mr Wha was with Jess who I met for the first time that night. Then there was JC who was the only guy on his own. It was a strange irony considering he had always been the one with the magnetic charm and females swooning all over him back in the good old days.
Hornpipe and I had deliberately made our initial reunion a guy thing as neither of us had seen JC for over seven years, and then it was when JC was at his worst so we didn't want the girls having any nasty surprises. An hour later and the three of us walked down the hill from JC's place to Hornpipes where I'd left Carole talking to Sandy, and then the five of us walked the last mile or so to El Siecos, Joe Strummer's old stomping ground on the outskirts of town. And that's where for the first time in nearly a decade we met Mr Wha who'd came with his wife Jess.
I was in the throes of my first serious relationship since leaving Carla but despite that I still left Carole in the corner of El Siecos to talk the night away with Sandy and Jess. It wasn't a deliberate thing; its just the way it happened. Sandy and Jess made Carole feel at ease despite the fact that she was uncomfortable about coming to Newport with me in the first place, and it didn't help matters that I spent most of the evening reminiscing with JC, Hornpipe and Mr Wha. As soon as she'd been introduced to JC she understood though. I'd told her so much about the old JC. The one we were seeing that night. But I'd deliberately left out large chunks of both of our lives when I'd told her what we used to do in Newport all those years ago. And as with the other girls she had never been into drugs of any variety so it made me wonder what their conversation would have been if Magdalen had been there.
At that point I didn't get to ask where the money came from for the house but from the way the conversation went it was paid for in full. It was in the fancy part of town too. St Julians where he'd gone to school with Jimbo over fifteen years before. And there was no expense spared on the furniture. JC had a job in a factory which was nothing special but he liked it and it was something to keep him out of troubles way which was the main thing. But it still didn't account for where all the money came from for the house and the fancy furnishings.
In my mind that final meeting with JC was his swan song. Despite all that had happened and no matter what may have been I still knew that deep down inside he was a wonderful person, and if I truly wanted anybody to land on their feet it was him. So many times we're forced into a situation where we see an elderly person or whoever who suffers for months on end before finally giving up the fight with the grim reaper, but JC was on top form. He had the world at his feet. He'd been on life's roller coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and now he was back right where he wanted to be. He was financially secure, he had his health, through it all Magdalen had waited for him, and just like the old days he constantly wore a big stupid smile. It was as if the last ten years hadn't happened, like I'd just woken up from a bad dream.
When JC went off the rails Hornpipe had become my new best friend and we became as inseparable as JC and I had once been before. And again it was just Hornpipe and me the next morning. I'd gone around to his place after dropping Carole off at the station where she was taking a train to the North of England to see her folks. Though she still didn't know the full ins and outs our colourful past she was homesick. She'd travelled from Jersey to Wales to meet my friends and family, and much as everybody made her feel welcome it just didn't make sense to her to stay with me when her own flesh and blood was only a train ride away.
Sandy was on the perimeter of the drugs scene when she first met Hornpipe and though she never participated she knew what was happening so always gave us lots of space to ourselves when I was in town. Other than a quick phone call and the walk up to JC's place the night before it was the first time I'd had a chance to talk to Hornpipe uninterrupted for a long time. I asked him about the house and the fittings and where the money had came from, not really knowing if I wanted to know the truth or not.
"Do you remember Scotty who turned up with Boom Boom that first weekend outside the New Found Out? Yeh I replied. Well, with JC setting up home with Magdalen in London and JC never mentioning Scotty nobody recognised a connection between them any more. You probably don't remember now but when Scotty disappeared Boom Boom told us that he'd gone to London to live. Of course it was of no significance so understandably I'd forgotten the conversation, but somehow or another Scotty had bumped into Jimbo and they started hanging out together. Scotty got real fucked up on heroin because of the relationship though.
The story goes that Jimbo was supplying his heroin and despite a warning that one of the batches was a lot purer than the stuff that was normally on the street Scotty didn't listen and shot up the same amount as usual. The long and short of it was that he OD'd and would have died if it wasn't for JC being there at the time. In much the same way as Magdalen had nursed JC at the Phun City Festival, JC was there for Scotty. By Magdalen's admission though Scotty was as good as a goner, so between Jimbo supplying the drug that was taking him to the brink of death and JC's bringing him back from it there was no getting rid of Scotty for either of them after that.
But he was only on the outside and never got to hang out with the famous people or any of that stuff that we did which is why we never got to meet him on our occasional meetings with JC when we went to London. I don't know if it was desperation or drug dependency but when Jimbo cleaned up Scotty was left without a pusher and he got a real mean attitude about him. You obviously will remember that Scotty never struck any of us as Mister Nice Guy and it was no loss to anybody when he left for the big city.
JC trusted everybody though and either never saw or never wanted to see bad in other people, and within a short space of time after moving to London Scotty was breaking into shops, mugging old people and girls on their way home, and anything else he could do to get the money to pay Jimbo for the junk. He got caught and spent some time behind bars but went straight back to Jimbo when he was released. He was living periodically with Jimbo and Polly and when Jimbo cleaned up Polly threw Scotty out on the streets. To ensure that neither he nor any of the other bad influences around them ever got back in she even had the locks to the apartment changed.
Nobody knew what had happened to Scotty for a few months after that but he always wore a silver crucifix around his neck. We never took any notice of it at the time but we now know that his mother had given it to him on his twenty-first birthday after having his initials JM inscribed on the back. Addressing him only as Scotty we never knew him as James McAviney so didn't realise he shared the same initials as Jimbo. Other than the initials there was nothing special about the otherwise cheap crucifix that could be bought in any one of a thousand places, but it was inside Jimbo's shirt when he was found on Kings Cross Station. The police had questioned Scotty at the time as he was already in the frame because of his association with Jimbo and his previous scrapes with the law, but they'd failed to pick up on the association of the crucifix. All else aside though, Polly had had to call the police on him when he'd continued to harass them to the extent of stalking them both".
Hornpipe proceeded to repeat Scotty's confession that he had inadvertently given to the wrong person six months earlier. "Scotty was in the advanced stages of cancer and had been sent to a hospice to spend his dying days. Scotty was a practicing catholic and the day before his death his wife and two young daughters had come to visit him. The cancer had spread from his lungs into his stomach and as much of his innards had been removed as could be. It was only a matter of time. In much the same way as we'd taken cocktails of drugs to get a high in the old days Scotty was doped to the hilt with morphine to ease the pain, and whatever else the nurses decided to throw down his neck during the course of the final day of his life.
The nurse announced your father is here to see you. Scotty had lost contact with his father some years before over an argument that nobody cared to remember but bygones sometimes have to be bygones, so his father had come to see his son off. In the confusion of the moment mixed with the concoction of drugs in his body the religious believer Scotty had misinterpreted your father is here to see you to mean the catholic father had come to see him to read him his last rights.
"Father please forgive me, I have sinned". And despite speaking almost incoherently Scotty proceeded to tell the whole story of how he had administered the lethal final hit of heroin into Jimbo's arm. He'd followed Jimbo to Kings Cross Station where Jimbo was doing nothing more sinister than relieving himself, administered an overdose of the drug into his arm and left the syringe in the cubicle to make it look like accidental death. And whilst lifting the somewhat large frame of Jimbo onto the seat, unbeknown to Scotty the crucifix fell off and slipped down into Jimbo's shirt. The confession was by all accounts more riddled with guilt over losing the crucifix and having to lie than it was for killing Jimbo because Scotty's mother who had given it to him had also unexpectedly died three weeks after Scotty's twenty-first.
The nurse heard everything and reported it to the police. Scotty's father was a devout catholic and confirmed that the nurses story was true. JC was released from prison and given a big cash hand-out of compensation, and as farcical as the original trial was, his release was just as ludicrous. Whilst the main charge against him had been the murder which he was acquitted of and only convicted on the secondary charge of trafficking a Class A drug, the law lords now had a confession that proved JC's innocence of the murder but not of pushing drugs. So the police let him go! However, by all accounts the gist of it was that amidst the confession was the statement that an innocent man was in jail so no matter what the charge, the British Judicial System saw fit to release JC".
"So what about the poem in the obituaries column just after Jimbo died"? I asked. "That was a total ruse. Scotty knew of the animosity between Benke and Jimbo so had put the lines in the local paper to make it look like Benke did it, thereby giving him a load of shit for the sheer hell of it. Even though he was an evil bastard that poem was a masterstroke that challenged the knowledge of everybody. Scotty loved the works of the Scottish bard Robert Burns and one of his poems is called On a Bank of Flowers which in itself could be a reference to death. The second verse starts with her closed eyes, like weapons sheath'd which is where the first line His closed eyes like weapons sheathed comes from. The second line your bitter wind still burns my cheek is a reference to Robert Burns. The third line you gave which could not be returned is a reference to Jimbo getting him addicted to heroin and finally but still I had to pay you back speaks for itself".
"OK, what about Boom Boom testifying against JC? We all knew that Boom Boom and Scotty were as thick as thieves so were they in it together"? "To the best of my knowledge it was pure coincidence that there was any connection between Boom Boom, Scotty and the case against JC. The cops obviously had something on Boom Boom so he told a bunch of lies that the law just happened to believe". We wanted to carry on the reminiscence at JC's at the top of the hill but he'd been called into work at the last moment so I said my goodbyes to Hornpipe and Sandy and walked up the same hill to get to John and Lisa's who I hadn't yet seen on that trip.
Back in Jersey things were just the same. Nothing ever changed there. It's the same with any small community. Like when I'd escaped from Corpa back in 1967 to see the bright lights of town. I didn't want to spend my life working in a factory never travelling more than five miles from my roots. So I moved to a ten by four island chained like fishes are chained to the sea, only getting away at Christmas and once each summer for a holiday somewhere in the sun. Of course when you're never more than a two minute drive from a beach there is a difference, so I suppose it was a far cry from my youth in Newport, no matter what I may think now.
"I'm sorry to write to you like this with bad news but I found out last night that John died a few days ago". And so Hornpipes letter went on. I felt physically sick. It was two years since our night out and even though we hadn't kept in touch since then I just guessed that everybody was OK. As chance would have it I was due for a visit back home, and as I received the letter on the Friday I booked the first available flight which took off at noon the following day. The funeral was on the Monday so I booked to return on the Tuesday so making a long weekend of it.
Saturday afternoon and again it was just the two of us as I recounted the days with Hornpipe. "The accident was on the Tuesday before last" Hornpipe continued. "It was a hit and run and the police think it was deliberate from the word on the street. JC should have died immediately from the impact and to all intents and purpose was clinically dead when he arrived at the Royal Gwent Hospital. On the way there in the ambulance he fell into a deep coma and it was touch and go as to whether they were going to switch the machine off, then miraculously last Friday he regained consciousness.
His parents and Magdalen who were the only visitors over the weekend were obviously relieved to see him reacting and hear him talk again as in the words of the doctors he was still on the critical list but over the worst of it. Then on Monday night he went to sleep and never woke up. The autopsy which took an unusually long five days concluded that the cause of death was death by misadventure having been the victim of a hit and run incident whilst under the influence of alcohol". "What kind of fucking cop out is that" screamed Hornpipe to me. "He was hit at seventy in a cul-de-sac with a ten mile an hour speed limit and they say he died from an accidental hit and run. Accidental, incidental, misadventure, what kind of legal mumbo fucking jumbo is that"? I had rarely seen Hornpipe angry but he was livid as the tears welled in his eyes. It was like history was repeating itself again and again. First there was Carla's accident, then Jimbo and now JC. There was no rhyme or reason to anything anymore.
The funeral went without any hitches and the turn out was impressive. Admittedly it was partly due to the anticipation of some famous faces turning up but as it happened the only almost rock star I saw there was David (Screaming Lord) Sutch. There was an uncanny irony that he should be the only famous face there as when JC and I had first seen him thirteen years before he made his trademark entrance by being carried through the crowds to the stage in a coffin, and now I was with David Sutch watching JC's coffin being carried through the crowds to his final exit. David told us that he was in the process of starting his own political party. His previous dabbling's in politics dated back to 1963 when he contested the Stratford-upon-Avon by-election caused by the resignation of John Profumo that being the result of the Profumo Scandal. When The Raving Monster Loony Party as he was to call his party got into government they would introduce rock schools for kids where they could learn to play instruments and thereby keep the kids off the streets. From the first time I'd met him he struck me as being as mad as a hatter and he hadn't changed at all. But he was a light-hearted welcome amidst everything else that was happening that day.
The crowd of about two hundred and fifty people included several plain clothes policemen who stood out like sore thumbs. Hodge had churned on the pounds in the ten years since I'd last seen him, Cricko was in ill health, Screwball was apparently there but I didn't see him, and though I didn't get to meet him on that occasion Mr Wha was there alone as I was to learn later that he and Jess were having their own family crisis of sorts of their own. And conspicuous by their absence were Jimmy, Mob, Carla and Magdalen.
It didn't worry me about Jimmy and Mob but I really wanted to see the girls again. Admittedly there was a new lady in my life and I'd left her in Jersey not even telling her why I was returning to Newport at a moments notice. But I never got over Carla. She always was and I guess always will be the only true love of my life. And in those moments of madness when your minds all messed up I imagined Magdalen being with us saying "ah hell jump out of the box in a minute. He's only shitt'n". But of course he wasn't shitt'n, and at the wake in The Oddfellows pub at the bottom of the hill where JC had once lived with Magdalen, again it was just Hornpipe and me recounting the events of the last decade.
"So going back to the story of Boom Boom, where is he now"? I continued. "He did the only honourable thing that he ever did in his life, he committed suicide. He took a whole load of sleeping pills, washed them down with as much rough scrumpy cider that he could force down his neck, and then tried to hang himself with a belt fixed to the top of a door. By all accounts he'd attempted it before but while he was contemplating the consequences everything kicked in and he keeled over, banged his head on the wall and was found unconscious before he had the chance to get on the chair and kick it away".
The same scene had been played out for the final time and nobody knows for sure if he really wanted to kill himself or just sought the attention it drew but whatever the case, he didn't survive. There's an uncanny irony that of all the drugs we took, for the better part the mainstay of our crowd survived and yet Boom Boom who was so anti drugs would end up dying from an overdose. The coroners verdict said that he died from asphyxiation after choking on his own vomit when the belt tightened round his neck before snapping but the belt part of the conclusion was a mere technicality.
As we left the wake at The Oddfellows we walked down the road to Hornpipes place where his wife Sandy was waiting. As was always the case when we got together we went into the front room of the house where the stereo was kept and he'd put on some crackly old seven inch pieces of vinyl of the music we'd last heard way back in the early days. Hornpipe dug up some old lost story from the past that I'd forgotten about and again, despite our grief we laughed about the good times. His son Robert who had been named after his fathers idol Bob Dylan entered the room and couldn't understand why we were in tears of laughter after returning from our friends funeral. But Sandy understood as she brought us both a cup of tea before leaving us again to reminisce.