JC went to school with Jimbo McCartney and though they were both in the same class with similar grades Jimbo was the one most likely to succeed. He seemed to have a natural ambition to succeed whilst JC's only ambitions were to have a good time and laugh as much as possible. As with so many school friendships though, when the last term was over they went their separate ways and didn't speak until crossing paths by accident a few years later.
But..... Unbeknown to JC, Jimbo had gone to live and work in The Big Smoke, The City, London.
On leaving school he'd secured himself a job as an assistant manager of a betting shop in Newport and was almost immediately promoted to manager when the position became vacant. Nonetheless, his vocation on the straight and narrow was to be short lived. Within a year he went to London where, on the strength of his education and sudden rise to the top of his previous position he found himself in a high flying job in the city where by all accounts he was doing quite well for himself as an executive of a record company.
I'd never given much thought to Jimbo as a person other than when we were kids. He lived a few blocks away from the corner of the next street to where I lived, but we went to different junior schools which resulted in us going to different schools of further education. He was a very plain, nondescript person who, before moving up to The Big Smoke hung around with the mods in The Angel pub at the bottom of Bridge Street. Cambrian Road where our local the New Found Out was ran into Bridge Street at right angles on the next but one junction to where The Angel was, so our meeting places were only a few hundred yards apart. And I was obviously unaware that JC knew Jimbo otherwise I would have mentioned it to him on the odd occasions when we met. Consequently, I hadn't given it a second thought when I nodded acknowledgment to Jimbo when passing The Angel. Anyway Jimbo and the mods did their thing on their fancy customised scooters and we did our thing which bore no relation to anything anybody else did and that was it! But it was still strange that we were always so close and yet so far apart.
Jimbo had lived in London for about a year and to combat his high flying high pressure job he needed an outlet. He'd always taken a lot of speed which at the time was the designer drug of the mods, but he needed something more. He was the most unlikely candidate for any drugs but the music industry has always seemed to court them. Nevertheless, I was somewhat amazed to learn that he was into all sorts of weird and wonderful chemicals as I thought in my naiveté that that market was restricted to unwashed hippies with long hair. I'm not saying that any of us were intentionally dirty, but when you stay out for whole weekends sleeping on roadsides, or in upturned boats, self sanitation isn't always the first thing on your mind.
I don't know how it all got started but the long and short of it was that by the time we crossed paths again in London some time later Jimbo was pushing anything and everything to whoever wanted it and his main earner was heroin. That was allegedly part and parcel as to why he'd made such a rapid departure from his managerial post in the betting shop. It became common knowledge to all it seemed but me that he was becoming more and more dependant on heroin. The next thing there was a lot of money missing from the takings of the betting shop that he managed and the allegation was that he'd taken it to pay for his next fix. He was immediately ousted from the job but no charges were pressed which left him clear to pursue a new career in the big city.
Heroin was major league and for the better part we didn't want to know about it. Drugs were supposed to be fun and we didn't want to witness another Hyde Park Serpentine episode despite that not being anything to do with the use of heroin. The crazy thing about it was that when we were all off our faces with acid it seemed to be different. I suppose in our own way we were just as suicidal but it didn't occur to us at the time. I mean, people have lost their lives jumping out of multi-story blocks thinking they coulf fly after taking LSD. But I still maintain to this day that heroin is a wasting drug that slowly wears you down until your eventually so low that the only place lower to go to is a hole in the ground.
With Jimbo's position and part time profession he had become friendly with a lot of very big names in the music business and it was indirectly through them that he again crossed paths with JC. JC, Magdalen and a few other people we'd not been introduced to at that point were spending more and more time in London. The festival season was over and we'd all gone out on the big bang at the Isle of Wight. Winter was coming in fast and nobody was in the mood to be gallivanting from one side of town to the other to find a load of whatever drug it was that wasn't there. When I look back in reflection, drugs for the majority of us seemed to be more prevalent in the summer months. OK, we were stoned twelve months a year but the experimentation seemed to happen when the sun was shining and we could appreciate a walk through a park to look at the trees or simply stay up all night just shitt'n about some nonsensical subject without catching hypothermia or getting soaked in the rain or freezing our balls off for no other reason than it being the middle of winter.
Then again, there was the episode at the top of Stow Hill that looks down on Belle Vue Park. I was with the usual contenders of JC, Hornpipe, Mr Wha and the girls when we'd scored some acid off Hodge. Now Hodge was as serious as the day is long and always a good target if you got your kicks out of simply ripping the piss out of somebody. And yes, that's exactly what JC and Magdalen did on so many occasions. Some time later after taking the tablets Hodge was somewhere at the bottom of the park and totally off his head with the same really strong acid that he'd given to us. As we were at the top we considered how we were going to get down to meet him and express our grievances. It was the middle of winter and there was snow as far as the eye could see. Taking some empty milk crates from outside a shop we used them as toboggans as we slid down the hill to meet up with Hodge at the bottom.
"This acid is shit" proclaimed JC and I supported him with "we want our money back". "What about you? Aren't you tripping yet"? he asked the rest of us to which Magdalen replied with the most stupid look on her face "nothing". The whole charade went on for what seemed like an eternity and eventually one of us had burst into tears of laughter and the rest of us followed suit. The truth of the matter was that we were totally fucked and there was no snow or winter. It was a balmy summers August night.
It must have been around the start of 1971 when I re-established my ties with Jimbo, and that in turn was to lead to a very interesting period of my life. JC had by then been living almost permanently in London with Magdalen since the end of the previous summer, and even though it was still basically the same crowd hanging out together in Newport it had all become a little fragmented without the previous conviction or enthusiasm as we'd had when JC was there to lead us. Hornpipe had become my substitute for JC. And time and time again we paired off to do some crazy thing or another as JC and I had in the past. One of those crazy things was that Hornpipe and I had got into the habit of feigning sleep on the train after a night out in Cardiff so, when the ticket collector on the 03.40 from Swansea to London jogged us for our tickets we were by then already in Reading and the next stop was London so there was no option but to go all the way.
Of course we never carried any identification so when confronted by the ticket collector we'd give the details of someone we knew existed just in case they checked, but on a few occasions I'd inadvertently given the name and address of someone who I worked with and then forgot about it. A few weeks later some burly workmate would be wringing the last breath out of my neck demanding that I pay the rail bill that they'd just received in the morning post knowing that I was the only person within wringing distance who had the audacity to stitch them up.
In theory it was a good way of getting to London for a change of scenery, but the insanity of the situation was that we rarely left Paddington Railway Station when we got there. I mean, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Leicester Square are all within walking distance of one another, but if the truth be known we probably didn't have enough spare cash to get from Paddington to London's West End on the underground. Instead we would have a cup of tea in the platform cafe and catch the first train back to Newport at seven thirty in the morning.
I was by then closer to Hornpipe than I was to JC and on one occasion I had taken the sleep feigning London trip on my own not realising that Hornpipe had done the same thing on an earlier train. When I got off the train I could see him already in the cafe at the end of the platform, so I casually rolled a cigarette, walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder asking "got a light mate"? In response he said "sure mate" as he pulled some matches out of his pocket leaving me to go along my way. There was no recognition on either part of shock or surprise. It was as if we had never met. And we never discussed the event after that other than one of us saying "I saw you in London" the next time we met with the other responding "yeh, I thought it was you", and to this day I still don't know if he saw me in the corner of his eye before I tapped the light.
It was on one such sleep feigning trip to London that Hornpipe and I bumped into Magdalen and JC on the train. We were on the train from Cardiff and saw them get on at the next stop which was where we should have got off in Newport. It was a Friday night and they were going to The Big Smoke for the weekend. As they were staying with Jimbo we decided to make an extended trip out of it too.
Jimbo's other half Polly met us at Paddington and didn't seem at all fazed at the fact that two more hangers on would be staying at the flat until whenever. That's the way things were back then. All of a sudden somebody turned up and a week later when the food ran out they moved out and somebody else who had enough money for food moved in until those rations ran out and so on. There were never any plans. We all seemed to live life very spontaneously. I remember vividly on several occasions on a Friday night, at dinner time I'd say to my mother "I'm going up the road to get a packet of cigarettes". The shop was two hundred yards away if that, and then just as I got there a bus to town would come and I'd jump on it. It was inevitable that I'd bump into one of the gang, we'd have a drink, the rest of our crowd would eventually arrive, we'd get sorted with whatever drugs we could get our mitts on, board a train for Cardiff or a bus to Porthcawl for one of our infamous lost weekends, and eventually get home at seven on the following Monday morning, just in time to get ready for work. And all because I wanted a pack of cigarettes!
Polly took us by cab to the flat that she shared with Jimbo in Earls Court, explaining on the way that the weekend had already started and Jimbo had to oversee some things at home. Things were looking up. Taxis were unheard of in those days. I suppose we could have mustered up the money if we really wanted to get a cab but I don't have any recollection of travelling by any other mode than bus, train or thumb back then. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Jimbo's place which was rocking. Bob Dylan blasted out from the record player while zombies cut up album sleeves to make roaches for joints. Jimbo who was dressed immaculately - obviously a call back to his passed days as a mod - appeared to be totally straight despite the unearthly hour of five thirty in the morning. I wondered how the hell he got away with the music so loud at such a time but it didn't matter.
The apartment was very well decorated and nothing like you would expect from the antics that were going on there. In the corner were a couple fixing one another up, sharing the needle that had just been used on the two guys next to them. In another corner were people smoking joints and on the glass table a group of four or five took it in turns to snort lines of white powder that despite our colourful past neither Hornpipe or I could positively identify. All the seediness and deprivation associated with drugs was there. The strange irony was though, that of all the down and outs and freaks in the place Jimbo was the big fish, the pusher who was tending all their needs, yet he was the straightest looking of them all.
I retired to the kitchen with Magdalen and that's where I met Alice Ormsby-Gore for the first time. Alice was the daughter of Lord Harlech who, until he retired in 1965 was the Ambassador to the United States. The position had brought him very close to the then President John F Kennedy. That close that he was a pallbearer at the Presidents funeral two years before his retirement. Following his retirement Lord Harlech was to become a television executive who founded HTV and was also the president of the British Board of Film Classification.
In a very short space of time I was to learn of a lot of similarities between Alice Magdalen and me. Like us, she was raised on a farm in Wales, her second Christian name was Magdalen, I was born on the Fifth of April 1950, and she and Magdalen were born on the Twenty Second and Seventeenth of the same month in 1952. She, like Magdalen had recently inherited a step mother when their fathers had remarried and I'd had a step father from a very early age and, here's a really spooky one that we obviously didn't know at the time. Alice was to die of a heroin overdose twenty-four years later on Magdalen's forty-third birthday.
Alice was the current boyfriend of Eric Clapton who I was also about to learn we would be meeting again that day. She was at Jimbo's place to score some heroin for him as like Eric she was addicted to it, but at that time I liked to think of hers as a dignified addiction if such a thing exists. What I mean is in Eric's time of his addictive needs Alice would give him her share of the drug and replace her urges by getting absolutely paralytic on vodka instead. I was somewhat amazed to hear all those years later that the drug was to kill her after all the bad influences around her had cleaned up. But that was then and this is now and there was no need for anybody to go without anything.
Alice was doing fine with what was on offer and I found her to be a very likeable person. Of course, with her being the same age as Magdalen they got along like a house on fire. And Alice laughed a lot at the way Magdalen talked. It was infectious that when you were with her you'd be drawn into saying stupid things like no change there not knowing or caring what it meant, or Magdalen's constant use of the terms just shitt'n or tell them I said which everybody who met her repeated on several occasions. When Alice had first met her and asked how long she'd been with JC Magdalen's response was you can't measure the world with a ball of string. At first Alice thought she was weird but like everybody else, when they got to know Magdalen they liked her.
We talked until the sun came up and at about seven I went for a walk with Magdalen. We hadn't seen enough of each other for quite a while and despite the negative direction her life was going in I still missed her a lot, but even more so did Carla. I was still seeing Carla and wished she was with us then. There was something very civilised about walking to the corner shop and buying eggs and bacon for the down and outs who adorned the floor of Jimbo's place. It reminded me of Phun City when she handed out the burgers, and after all was said and done she was very maternal if you can call it that. Like the time I'd temporarily been away from Carla for whatever reason. I can't even remember how the situation came to arise but Magdalen happened to notice that I was getting a little excited below the belt so she pulled me into a dark corner, put my hand inside her shirt and gave me a hand job knowing that I was as frustrated as hell. OK, that's not maternal but she naturally liked to look after people, even if it was sometimes in an unconventional way.
Come eleven and everybody had left except Jimbo, Polly, JC, Magdalen, Alice, me, Hornpipe and two guys who lived next door. Jimbo threw the two guys out and woke up Hornpipe from where he'd crashed out on a bed next to a couple whilst they were making love earlier in the morning. Magdalen stayed at the flat with Polly to clean up and shouted to JC "tell Eric I said" as the rest of us jumped into a taxi to take the forty minute ride to Eric Clapton's Surrey Home called Hurtwood Edge.
Eric's place was something between a very large house and a mansion but we only got to see two or three of the rooms. It didn't matter though, I'd been raised on a farm that sat on acres of land that has since been converted into ten semi detached cottages so I was familiar with places you could get lost in. It did have a substantially larger than normal garden though that was to host several parties with a marquee and room for several hundred guests.
I'd bumped into Eric a few times by then. There was a nodding of the heads and a brief few words at the Blind Faith Hyde Park free concert but that was the first time we met so it was nothing more than that. On that occasion we'd got backstage due to our ties with the Edgar Broughton Band who was also on the bill. Due to Dylan fever it was an equally brief acknowledgment that followed at the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival even though I'm pretty certain he didn't have a clue who I was. Then there was the Colston Hall shindig with Delaney and Bonnie and George Harrison, but on that occasion it was like Carla and I were extras playing bit parts in a movie. There were so many people backstage and so much was going on with George being there that it was impossible to talk to anyone, and by the time we got to the after show party we were both off our heads on whatever and we left before it all wore off. And some time after I was formally meeting Eric for the first time at Hurtwood Edge I was again to meet him at The Troubadour Club.
The Troubadour was a small long hall below ground level where anybody who was anybody hung out and on the 21st of October 1972 I was there playing as a back up act to a band called Albert. They were a progressive rock outfit in the style of Yes who took their music very seriously. I'd been unofficially living on off at their house in Stow Park Avenue in Newport whilst also crashing at anybody else's place who would let me through their door. I was as they say of no fixed abode, flitting from one address to another whilst staying at none of those places for more than a few nights at a time.
The whole JC and his Newport gang thing had by that time well and truly fell apart as JC spent all his time in London with Jimbo and his friends so, minus JC and Magdalen the rest of us had a last fling at the Tredegar Arms which was a few yards up Cambrian Road from the New Found Out and slap bang opposite the entrance to the train station we'd so regularly used to escape from the tedium of Newport. The same place where Magdalen started her first date with JC so long ago. It wasn't a deliberate thing on our part but we'd gone out one Friday night to get whatever chemical mind altering drugs we could obtain but none were on offer. To hell with it, we'd already gone out with the big bang at the Isle of Wight Festival and if there was to be a final drug taking swan-song then that was it. So we all decided there and then that we'd get commode hugging drunk instead, and for the better part that's what the majority of us did for the rest of our lives. A sort off deja vu returning to the same kind of lifestyle as when we'd all first met and started going to the New Moon.
The members of Albert smoked dope and occasionally took speed but nothing heavy, and besides, I've never considered dope to be a drug as such. Proven as if proof were needed by its use considered a misdemeanor and and an unchargable in most parts of the Western world. It was a good transition for me as once again, like when I was released from the temptation of taking the dash of methylated spirits in The Castle, I needed to get away from bad influences before something crazy happened to me. I'd already witnessed a few drug related deaths and didn't want to be the next on my own list. What with the departure of JC and Magdalen to The Big Smoke I spent more and more time with Albert, and as I wasn't getting any younger I made a conscious decision that the time was right for me to have a go at making it in the music business myself.
To be honest, for the better part my contribution was to fill in time in empty halls while the band waited for an audience to turn up but for my perseverance I played a few memorable gigs backing Albert. Like the time at the Western Super Mare Pavilion where I was at the bottom of the bill (which in reality wasn't on the bill at all) to Birmingham chart topping band Slade. On that occasion on the 13th of January 1973, like so many times before I had the usual access all areas, but this time it was on my own merit. And with Slade being so popular there were groupies and pubescent barely old enough teenyboppers dripping from the walls and hanging from the ceilings. It was a dream to any young kid whose hormones were going wild and mine most definitely were, so I took full advantage of everything on offer. And then there was the night at The Troubadour when we met Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend.
I did my spot on stage followed by Albert which was around the time that Eric and Pete arrived. I went over and reintroduced myself and we were in the middle of getting to know one another as a group of loud mouthed Americans made their entrance very evident. Albert wound up the first set and the Americans approached their roadie. "We've just flown in from the States. Can we use your gear to do a few numbers"? "Sure, but it will cost you twenty quid". As David Johansen pulled the wedge of notes from his pocket the roadie said without batting an eyelid "for each roadie". Sixty pounds lighter the New York Dolls took to the stage and five songs later they finished their first ever gig in Europe.
I mentioned it to Eric on a subsequent meeting but he didn't even realise that it was the Dolls until then and I'm not convinced he remembered me for that matter. I don't know if it was me, the effects of heroin on Eric or just the man himself but I couldn't quite connect with Eric. I'm not speaking out of turn or being disrespectful here as I've since read Eric Clapton The Autobiography, and by the man's own admission he painted himself as a somewhat helpless person unable to fend for himself, easily led astray and with no or very little willpower.
I've never been a person to kiss and tell or to lay everything on the line though. There's something a little not quite English about it. But if you read between the lines of Eric Clapton The Autobiography, in my opinion there's a little too much information of the things that nobody needs to know and maybe not so much of what should be there. If your going to do something, for better or for worse, be it writing a book or taking drugs, at least let it be with dignity as the moment a person's dignity is gone there's nothing left. For my part I'd always considered drugs to be recreational as opposed to a way of life, and despite JC's continued excessive abuse of all things alien to the human body and mind, for the better part he maintained his sense of humour, but little as I knew Eric I got the impression that he was about to cross the line and oh how right I was.
On that introductory trip to Hurtwood Edge the hardened junkies got their fixes in whatever fashion befitted them. JC and Magdalen who by then had arrived in a second cab mainlined along with a few others and Eric snorted the white powder from a gold spoon that hung around his neck on a chain. I was later to learn that Eric gave the spoon to the alternative doctor Meg Patterson as a thank you present for cleaning him up some years later, but back then it was a permanent feature at the top of his chest. Eric hated needles and in what I'm guessing was a mark of respect for his feelings, those cooking and injecting the drug did it in another room.
We passed the rest of the day and well into the night sitting around talking and jamming in the living room with whatever musical instruments were at hand. The living room was a mish mash of assorted furniture, not decorated and half decorated, old style and new style, and to top it off there were the most enormous speakers I'd seen in a house in my life. And unlike Jimbo and Polly's place there was no continuity in the decor whatsoever.
Eric played acoustic and I played an unplugged Fender Stratocaster. Both JC and I were limited in our musical abilities so we left the real playing to the real musicians. By picking up the unplugged strat it didn't really matter what I played as nobody could hear it in any case. JC knocked out a drum beat on the table and Magdalen made stupid blowing noises with her mouth until mid tune everybody broke up in fits of laughter as somebody asked her "what the fuck's that"? The music started again and stopped as fast as it started when she started blowing again, but this time not before her asking what key the song was being played in as if she was about to pick up an instrument. Magdalen had an uncanny knack of realising what made people react and she played on it until she wore it out or found some other idiosyncrasy that amused those around her. It was like her vocabulary. When you first met her you'd scratch your head when she spoke to you, but as soon as you got to know her you'd take a guess at what she was talking about and if you were wrong it didn't matter.
It was shortly after that that life as we knew it seemed to come to an end. In the period from 1971 to 1973 we continued to go to as many live performances by our favourite bands as we could, but with JC and Magdalen off the scene it was more sporadic. We missed out on a lot of what would have been memorable events a few years before. The Rolling Stones played Colston Hall and none of us went to see them. Of course JC and Magdalen were there and as usual they got the celebrity guest treatment like they always did as their mingling with the rich and famous had fanned out to include everybody who was anybody. And even if our introduction to the Stones had been JC blagging it at Hyde Park, at this stage he really did know them. We did see up and coming bands like King Crimson (who coincidentally we'd first seen at the Stones Hyde Park gig) and Curved Air. Oh, and how could I forget our balcony seats looking right down on David Bowie for his Ziggy Stardust tour a few years later. JC and Magdalen were with us for that one after coming back for a week away from the madness of the big city but the backstage pass syndrome was over for us, and even having JC with us didn't get us any closer to Bowie than our seats in the balcony of the same venue that had seen us backstage at the Delaney and Bonny cum Eric Clapton cum George Harrison gig.
It was still great to see our old mate though and he continued to come back to Newport from time to time to check up on friends and family. The other reason that he returned to Newport was to partake in the only hobby I ever knew him to have which was fishing. Not deep sea fishing but course fishing which was something he never got the opportunity to immerse himself into back in London. Funnily enough, with the exception of heroin it was the only thing we didn't follow him into. I don't know too much about the pastime but I do remember his enthusiasm when telling us of the joys of tickling a trout or catching the big whatever that had eluded the regular fishermen at the local reservoir. Apparently Eric Clapton was also into course fishing in a big way too but in his case he didn't get into it until some years later when he was introduced to the sport by Gary Brooker of the sixties band Procol Harem. As I understand it fishing became a mental stimulus for Eric after he'd quit drinking. JC told us years later that he'd bumped into Eric occasionally, but unlike other outdoor pastimes its not a communal activity, and I know from what he's told us that one of the novelties of fishing for JC was its solitude and tranquility so I don't know if he actually did speak to Eric on those occasions or not, or whether he actually met him for that matter. But that was another of JC's endearing properties as a human being. Whether he needed to or not, he had an habitual insistence on colouring his life at every given opportunity, thereby making himself even larger than life than he already was.
That aside the other big catch for JC so to speak was salmon. The River Usk that runs through the middle of Newport has one of the fastest and highest tides in the world. As a consequence when the salmon swam up stream in season they occasionally got landed on the mud banks outside Cashmores where the steam trains were being dismantled. Of course it was a crime to take the fish and if you were caught there were stiff penalties. Not as stiff as the costs of the permits to fish on the Usk's banks at Newbridge though which is only a few miles up stream. That was where JC used to escape to on his occasional trips back to his home town and its probably the only place where he managed to escape from the demons in his head that were by that time beginning to rule him.
Though we didn't know it at the time Newbridge itself boasted more than its share of famous visitors, but with none of us being fishing people the rest of us weren't to know that at the time. In latter years many a celebrity fisherman such as the television quiz show host Chris Tarrant and The Who's singer Roger Daltrey had tried their luck from the Usk's muddy banks, but the most regular personality to visit was the jazz pianist George Melley who had even gone as far as buying a house there.
On an exceptionally cold November morning in 1973 James Patrick McCartney, or Jimbo as he was better known to us as was found dead in a cubicle of the gents toilet at London's Kings Cross railway station by the early morning cleaner doing his rounds. The coroner was later to pronounce the cause of death as death by misadventure brought on by an overdose of heroin. At the age of twenty-four the plain, most unlikely of drug takers had led a colourful life in his latter years. He had left school full of promise, got a job in a betting shop, was almost immediately promoted to manager, provided speed to the mods in Newport at the same time as pursuing his managerial duties, became addicted to heroin and was subsequently sacked from his job for allegedly pilfering to presumably pay for his expensive habit though not prosecuted, became an executive of a record company, progressed to pushing any Class A drug you would care to mention including heroin to the most elite of the UK's hierarchy of rock, seen the error of his ways, cleaned up, and subsequently had worked for six months in a rehab clinic helping other addicts.
Nobody believed he had gone back to using heroin. After losing his father a few months earlier, if he was going to fall by the wayside again it would have been then. But he didn't. He had stayed clean and been re-accepted into the family home by his mother and his younger brother Graham who had not so long before disowned him.
One of the less fortunate repercussions of Jimbo's seeing the light and cleaning up was that he had apparently upset several people for a variety of reasons. They no longer had a good source for their drugs. He had disassociated himself with all but the closest of his friends which had inadvertently meant that the parties at his and Polly's pad had ended. And it was claimed though never proven that as a part of his rehabilitation he had named some of his associates and put them in the frame with the law for possible future ill doings. Most importantly though it was alleged that there were a lot of people he owed money to.
A few nights later in the South Wales Argus obituaries column a cryptic poem appeared.
Benke was in the middle of the scene in Newport where Jimbo had started his drug dealing days pushing amphetamine pills to the mods. It gave them a sense of bravado before setting off on their scooters to cause some havoc with the leather clad rockers from the other side of town. There was always trouble back then when we had all just left school. It was a continuation of the mods and rockers Margate and Brighton riots in the South of England in 1964. It took quite a few years for the animosity between the two fashion extremes to calm down and at that point it still hadn't.
Of course Jimbo had turned his back on Newport for the brighter lights of London some years before and I'd never known him to be violent so maybe that was a part of the reason why, but he still returned every six weeks or so to do a little business in his own back yard so to speak. But by then his clientèle base wasn't what it once was. As people get older their attitudes change and some of the mods had settled down with wives and children, some had moved to another town, and some had progressed from taking speed to sticking needles in their arms. Benke fell into the latter category. It was this association that kept them together but that's as far as their friendship went. They abided each other for the common cause. Benke needed heroin and Jimbo sold it.
The poem drew interest to not only Jimbo's friends and family but also to the police. They knew of the association between the pair and had metaphorically knocked on both their doors many times but had never had quite enough evidence to put the finger on either of them. Benke had a list of convictions such as shoplifting, causing an affray (with the rockers), trespassing (on a railway track to play chicken with the oncoming trains), and vandalism, but he had never been collared for his drug taking activities.
Boom Boom Walowsky was still in bed when the police broke into his dingy one bed roomed flat at around four in the morning. He put up no resistance as he was driven to the cells in the lower dungeon rooms of Newport's Civic Centre building in the middle of town. By this time the rest of the crowd I hung around with had began to agree with my initial opinion of Boom Boom. He was an arse-hole. As with any trouble he was involved in he brought it all upon himself, and mostly as a result of his own big mouth.
There were numerous occasions when we'd been away, that while the rest of us got stoned and were, to use Magdalen's eloquent vocabulary just shitt'n (in the nicest possible way) he was shitt'n in the worst possible way. So many times he'd nearly had his lights put out by some burly geezer for saying the wrong thing in his own inimitable obnoxious way. And following the death of Jimbo he had been very vocal concerning the whole drugs thing. Conversations along the lines of he had it coming, even though to the best of my knowledge he'd never actually met him, or claiming that he knew the meaning of the cryptic poem.
The law could and had on regular occasions pulled Boom Boom in for a night behind bars after some drunken escapade that had left him pole-axed in a gutter. But this was different. This was the build up to a murder charge. And if anybody was going to squeal Boom Boom was their man. My original observations of him had proven true so many times over the last few years. He was two faced, always sucking up to people for no reason like they were long lost friends and as soon as they were out of earshot he'd shoot them down in flames with some trumped up claim that we all knew was a load of bollocks. He was a thief, stealing my original limited edition gatefold sleeve copy of The Rolling Stones High Tide and Green Grass long playing record from Scotty's place where there'd been a party. It seems petty now but at the time it was a big deal to me. And he was a liar. On numerous occasions he'd claim to do things he hadn't just to up his kudos but, if unexpectedly to him something he said wasn't to our liking he would swear that he'd been misquoted. All in all Boom Boom wasn't the nicest of people and all else aside I could never understand why a forty something drunkard would want to hang out with a crowd of dope heads who were not long out of their teens. None of us lost any sleep over Boom Boom getting banged up and that was almost the final straw for his friendship with us, but little did we know, his piece de resistance was yet to come.