Friday night and we set off for the New Moon Club in Cardiff. It was three floors up on the building that made the corner of Bute Street and Bute Terrace. Bute Street is the gateway to the infamous Tiger Bay where Shirley Bassey was born. I'm sure she was not proud of the fact though as being a dock area it was more famous for its prostitution than anything else. You only had to drive down a hundred yards to see thirteen and fourteen year old girls at three in the afternoon, still in their school uniforms ready to make a buck in the back seat of a car at the expense of the dirty raincoat brigade.
As with any questionable place it seemed a lot bigger than it actually was back then and walking just a few yards seemed to take an eternity with the thought at the back of your mind that your next step could be your last. It's not like that now though. As with London, Glasgow or Liverpool's docklands areas vast sums of investment have been ploughed into their regeneration which has resulted in them being the most sought after places to own property.
And The New Moon was where we went on a Friday nights. Blitzed out of our minds on whatever concoction of drink, drugs or both that happened to be on offer at the right price. On that particular evening we'd done the usual stint of meeting in The Tredegar Arms back home in Newport and taking it in turns to see what we could score. There was some LSD in Alway so Screwball took the bus there only to come back empty handed. There were uppers in Pill so Mr Wha took a bus there and came back empty handed. There were downers in Malpas so Hodge took a bus there and came back empty handed. It was a pattern that was to repeat itself until we decided a good night was being wasted so we opted for a session on the piss. As much scrumpy cider as our bodies were capable of consuming until we were fit to die. Not before we'd climbed the fifty seven steps up to the flea pit of an establishment called the New Moon though. Fifty seven steps that for the record were steeper than the North Face of the Eiger! Luckily though, the twelve mile train journey from Newport to Cardiff had given us just enough breathing space to re-compose ourselves, if you could call it that. To this day I still find it hard to believe that we consumed such copious amounts of things that could only do us harm and still survive, but from time to time the inevitable happened. There were casualties along the way but that was yet to come.
Having been helped up the last few steps to the New Moon, once in we did all the usual unsavoury things that we were renown for. Hornpipe knocked everybody flying as he boogied until his head nearly fell off, Jimmy Fairbairn looked into space like the zombie he was destined to be for the rest of his life, Mr Wha jumped in front of people shouting "whaaa" (no prizes for guessing how he got his name) and JC and I cruised the joint mine-sweeping, a term loosely used for stealing unattended Newcastle Brown Ales or pints of cider, depending on which had been left on the tables while their owners cased the joint with the hope of getting lucky with some young thing who's knicker elastic wasn't quite tight enough. It was pretty much the same old same old but it was on nights like that when our friendship gelled.
Magdalen was a rare breed of human being who everybody loved mentally and physically. She was continually full of the joys of life and a source of inspiration for all around her. If ever anything went wrong you only had to look at her or listen to her talk and you knew inside that everything was going to be OK. She was from Cardiff but the first time I met her was at the New Found Out after JC had said just come along and we'll be there.
On that first occasion shed come down by train to meet him and it made sense for us to meet at the NFO as it was only a hundred yards down Cambrian Road which is directly opposite the exit from the railway station so, it was impossible for her not to find the place. And there would be no wasting drinking time or hanging around if the train was late. No matter what time she arrived she only had to enter the pub and we'd be there. In retrospect it would have made more sense for her to meet JC in The Knights Arms instead of travelling the twelve miles east to Newport then doubling back west through the place she's just left to get to Porthcawl, but that's what she did and there you go.
JC had teamed up with her a few weeks before in the New Moon and the plan was that if the weather was OK shed meet up with us, and then later we'd go to The Knights Arms and stay overnight. The Knights Arms was a pub fifty miles away in the South Wales seaside resort of Porthcawl where we went on sunny weekends if there were no concerts on. There was a lot of live music at that time and we all had similar tastes. The Edgar Broughton Band, Ten Years After, The Groundhogs, Taste with Rory Gallagher on guitar and vocals and Roy Harper were all favourites of ours. We followed them around the South West spending time with them on every occasion that we could, and it was our ties to Edgar Broughton that resulted in an introduction to the Rolling Stones in London's Hyde Park a few years later when they used what we thought was the Broughton's tour van to get to the stage at their Stones in the Park gig, but that's another story.
Magdalen had turned up with Carla for company and Carla and Magdalen were like sisters to look at with same build, more than ample breasts atop their slim bodies, cleavage that you could swim in, and lovable personalities. The only real difference was that Carla's long flowing hair was black and Magdalen's blonde. I'd always preferred brunettes for whatever reason and the moment I saw Carla I wanted to be with her. Of course, with them both being beautiful girls, us being young guys with our hormones going wild, and Magdalen being with JC it was a simple case of playing wait and see to find out who would end up with Carla over the course of the weekend. Admittedly, back then none of us were real ladies men, preferring to get stoned or to cause some chaos for no other reason than it being something to do. But Britain's no different today than it was then. Kids go out and wreak havoc for no particular reason now, but in our day it was harmless fun and nobody got hurt or stabbed or raped or robbed. Well there was the occasional breaking of the law but nothing harmful.
One night we'd been to Penarth Padget Rooms (or The Patty as it was affectionately nicknamed) to see Man or Kimla Taz or Taste or whoever the hell the band playing was that night. We went to so many concerts back then that they've all since got mixed up in my mind. It's a pity that Hornpipes not here to help me now with this. He has the most amazing memory, and sometimes when I see him and think there's nothing else left to remember out comes a crumpled up photo from his wallet as he tells a story and another long lost treasured moment comes flooding back from the past.
Anyway, as usual when we went the twenty miles or so to Penarth on the train we took our sleeping bags as the service was one of those being cut back by The Great Western Region division of British Rail. Hence, only a few trains stopped each day and there were never any at night coming back. The train station had long been discarded and if it wasn't for the occasional train that carried on down the line to take the holiday makers to the last stop at Barry Island or to take the commuters to and from Cardiff the whole line would have shut down years before. In brief, the discarded platform was the perfect place to put our heads down after the events of the evening and on that particular night we were all stoned and Jimmy decided he wanted to sleep in the derelict ticket office. But half way through the ten by eight framing that once held sheets of glass his frail skinny body got stuck horizontally four feet from the ground, not able to get in or out. Eventually we eased him out but not before his mate Mob had gone to the ticket office door, turned the knob and entered. Of course when you're as stoned as we used to get back then back then the idea of entering a room through a door was the last thing on our minds. It was one of those nights though and Jimmy was in mischief mood so went walkabouts in town with Mob. Now there's another story.
Jimmy had came into the pub with a new friend and Magdalen immediately nicknamed him Mob because he was with Jimmy. Jimmy was always a loner and as with all of us we'd made one another's company by accident, but Jimmy had no background that anybody knew about. We all went to this school or that and hung around with a certain gang that everybody else knew, but it was as if Jimmy had no past. The only thing we knew about him was that he was Scottish, a rare breed to be found in Wales in those days. Wales was very Welsh and there wasn't the influx of cosmopolitan faces that there is today, except for the Eastern European Poles or Lithuanians and the Jews. So, Jimmy just appeared from nowhere, and when he suddenly turned up with a new friend Magdalen assumed that the friend was his gang or mob.
The rest of us went to sleep on the station platform until at about four in the morning when we were woken to the sight of Jimmy and Mob with boxes in their hands stepping over our comatose bodies calling out coca cola, cheese and onion, smokey bacon, ready salted and on and on. What happened was that Jimmy and Mob had got hungry on their early morning walkabout so broke into a small roadside kiosk and stole some boxes of crisps and crates of coca cola. Jimmy especially was nuts like that. He was always doing crazy things like the time he came into The Trout with a carrier bag full of saxophones that he'd made from tin foil. For the rest of the evening, much to the dismay of all the straight people in the pub we continually put coins into the jukebox to play Bill Haley's Shake Rattle and Roll so that we could mime to the saxophone parts. Or there was another time in The Trout again when he came in dressed in a plastic Father Christmas suit. No sooner had he arrived had he leant on the wall heater and stuck to it as the suit started to melt.
Looking back, The Trout seemed to be one of the less likely places for madness, but that aside, I still seem to have more memories from there than a lot of the other haunts we frequented in Newport. One of the regulars there was a guy called Taffy. As anybody from Australia is known as an Aussie, or a Scottish person is referred to as a jock or Americans are called Yankees to the outside world (though depending on what part they come from they may argue the point on that one), then Irish are affectionately called Paddies. People from Wales are called Taffy but Taffy in The Trout was Irish. It was a name given to him because of the contradiction of his appearance. He was black, of African origin and had pure white hair and a broad Irish accent. We had never seen a black Irish person before so we gave him the moniker Taffy. Like the majority of the locals he was a hopeless drunk who accepted what had been handed out to him and took the name in the same good nature as it was given to him. He lived on his own and was forever adopting stray animals for company on the way home or stealing bicycles from peoples front gardens to save walking when he'd missed the last bus after the pubs had closed. The result being that he would wake in the middle of the night and trip over either the stray dog or the bicycle whilst trying to find his way in the dark to the bathroom. Usually the bike or dog would be set free or dumped the next morning and that was the end of it, but on one occasion he really took a shine to a flee ridden mutt that he'd woken up next to as he got out of bed for a pee.
The next night he came into The Trout with a half sheepdog and half whatever the hell the other half was supposed to be held close to his side with a piece of string tied around its neck. "Whose is the dog Taffy"? we asked and he answered "mine. He needed a home so I'm looking after him". "It's got no balls Taffy. Its a bitch". "You know what I mean, he, she, what's the difference, its my dog". "What's its name"? "Wog" Taffy answered. "Wog the dog! I called him that because he's black". Between the lot of us there wasn't an iota of racism but we still couldn't help laughing at the absurdity of a black person calling his black dog Wog. Of course these were the days before political correctness when wog stood for nothing more that western oriental gentleman. Before the word got twisted by certain individuals or groups to be classified as derogatory and before the golliwog symbol of Robertson's jam and preserves was removed from their products for fear of offending the darker members of the nation.
For the next few weeks Taffy would drunkenly sing to his canine friend Walking the Dog from the Rolling Stones first album but deliberately slurring the word walking as he changed it to wogging the dog. Taffy and Wog were inseparable for the next month until one night when they couldn't get onto the last night bus together because Taffy was so drunk. So Taffy tied Wog up in a garden and stole a bicycle to get home. By all accounts Taffy meant to collect Wog the next morning but forgot where the house was because he was so drunk so the next night he turned up in the pub wearing a new trilby hat but without the dog. "Where'd you get the hat from Taffy"? we asked and he proceeded to tell us of the events of the previous evening finishing with, "the hat was in the garden next to the bike and as it was starting to rain I wasn't going to let the opportunity go by so I took the hat and left Wog there instead. I think I'll just keep the hat. It doesn't need so much attention. Don't have to feed it either". But getting back to the original story of harmless fun, other than that weekend on Penarth Station I can't ever remember any of us doing anything criminally wrong.
Taking the bus to Cardiff then changing for our connection to Porthcawl there was JC, Hornpipe, Mr Wha, Jimmy Fairbairn, Mob, Magdalen, Carla, maybe one or two others, and me with my guitar. After a wasted day in the tourist area of the holiday town we made our way to The Knights Arms. Saturday nights were always buzzing there because the jukebox had probably the best selection of music that I've seen in my life, but more importantly to the locals it was an area of containment. In previous years Porthcawl had been a meeting place of the kids from Cardiff and the Welsh Valleys. There was a big rivalry between the two clans and it always ended in fights which for several years had given the place a bad name. So if the police could somehow get everybody into The Knights Arms it would be a lot easier to control the crowd should any trouble arise and second fold it would be isolated thereby not being a nuisance to the local community, but this was a few years later and The Knights Arms was now being frequented by the hippies. Should any ill doing raise its head the pub was ran by a set of twins and their brother who all looked like professional wrestlers. They were enormous, as wide as tallboys, and they took no shit from anybody. Only once I fell foul of them and after two warnings for stumbling against the jukebox, in my inebriated state I inevitably did it again and was taken outside, smacked around a bit, and then told that's your lot for tonight butty followed by we'll see you next week but try to be a bit more sober or the same thing will only happen again.
We sat in the beer garden in the back where JC and I took it in turns to sing Dylan songs and the girls liked Bob Dylan. Even more to the point though, Carla seemed to like me. I can't remember now but on that first night we probably took some speed. We were definitely drunk, and speed like coke counteracts the effects of the alcohol and that was one of the reasons we took it, as if we ever needed a reason for anything. Unfortunately one of the ill effects of speed is that everything in the body works at ten times its usual efficiency except the trouser snake which doesn't work at all. Nevertheless, at the end of the evening I walked off hand in hand with Carla, and as with every evening after The Knights Arms we all split into different directions to sleep wherever we could find. Then, miraculously, we all seemed to find one another the next morning.
Carla and I were still hand in hand when we bumped into JC and Magdalen the next morning, and even though we probably hadn't had more than a few kisses as we cuddled up together for the evening it was at that point that my relationship with Carla had begun. Like us, JC and Magdalen had slept in a small boat beneath tarpaulin covers that had sheltered us from the weather. One of the reasons we always split up was that if there were three or four of us together sleeping rough we always got moved on, but somehow two were acceptable. Jimmy and Mob had slept in one of the annex buildings of the caravan site in the tourist area of Trecco Bay, Mr Wha and Hornpipe being the only two who knew one another from child age had teamed up together and slept under a bridge, and Lazy Shit Anywhere Man who wasn't to acquire that name until the following summer had slept on the back seat of a bus with Screwball, as did Hodge and another person the rest of us didn't know. Hodge was like that though. He'd turn up and one week he'd be one of the gang and other weeks it was as if he didn't know us at all when he was with someone else.
Me, Carla, JC and Magdalen made our way to the seafront cafe where Mr Wha and Hornpipe had already claimed a table next to an electric fire. Did the bed bugs bite? asked Magdalen which was her way of asking why are you up so early? Mr Wha answered that they were froze to the bone and on top of that it rained in the night and the two of them had got soaked from the spray blown under the bridge by the wind. They started off in the back of one of the tourist buses that were never locked, but they'd been thrown off. It was always touch and go on the buses. You could be lucky and sleep through until the cleaners woke you up at seven or you could be cast off into the cold night almost immediately. That's why JC and I usually opted for the tarpaulin covered boats. It was usually pretty much interruption free there. You smitten? Magdalen responded to Mr Wham's disappointment in his choice of bed for the previous night, and that was the first time I'd ever heard the expression.
Magdalen was a typical hippie with flowers in her hair, and on that first weekend she wore a tie-died skirt, open toe sandals and a loose colourful semi through top. Her waist length blonde hair was the only thing that covered her amply developed unsupported breasts. She had no scruples about her free spirit and everybody knew that. JC knew he wasn't her only lover. But it was 1968 and we were still in the throes of the summer of love so nobody seemed to care. For my part I respected JC's friendship so in my mind it wouldn't have been right to take advantage of Magdalen's advances. Nonetheless, despite my continual five year relationship that was to follow with Carla, on a few occasions whilst under the influence of something or another I did slip my hand inside her shirt or we'd engage in a little finger love.
Magdalen had a strange vocabulary that at first I thought was a Cardiff thing, but I was soon to realize that it was just her. She'd come out with questions like what happened? when nothing had happened at all or statements like there it is gone as shed point to something that was no longer there, prompting those around her to follow her aiming hand and look at a vacant space. My personal favourites though were "tell him I said" and "smitten". Tell him I said could be adapted to any situation. If she hadn't seen someone for a long time who she really missed tell him I said meant tell him I miss him or if it was someone who'd just done something crazy it meant tell him he's nuts. Shitt'n was a shortened version of shitting or talking shit. She would regularly use it randomly without a reason though which left the other person mystified as to what the hell she was talking about. An example would be if she was talking to someone and a third person would ask "what's happening"? and she'd answer "just smitten" so the other person didn't know if they were just smitten or if it meant mind your own business.
Another of the crowd I was to meet at the New Found Out was Boom Boom Walowsky but that wasn't to be until the following year, 1969. By no stretch of the imagination could Boom Boom be considered as one of the gang. He just appeared outside the NFO one Saturday afternoon with Scotty. Scotty as his nickname would suggest was, like Jimmy Fairbairn of Scottish origin. Boom Boom on the other hand was from the South of England. Devon or Cornwall or somewhere like that where everybody says things like "ee" and "aye" and "ooh argh". Contrary to popular belief he acquired his name as a result of a few idiotic remarks. Most people thought that it came from the children's puppet Basil Brush whose catchphrase was the same word repeated. Boom Boom the man had started mimicking the children's puppet on any and every occasion, but the truth was that that only came after being given the name. It's origin came to be one stoned day after telling us a story about a firework display. Hence, there was the Boom Boom, and on another occasion he mentioned something about America so we gave him a typical American name, Walowsky. You may say that Walowsky isn't a typical American name but neither was the way any of us thought back then, so if we thought Walowsky was a typical American name that was good enough for us and that was all there was to it.
On that first sunny Saturday afternoon we were again about to leave for The Knights Arms. I'd already crossed the road and turned to see where the others were and there was Mr Wha talking to Starky the tramp, Boom Boom and Scotty. The usual crowd were out that weekend. JC, Hornpipe, Mr Wha, Jimmy Fairbairn, Mob, Carla, Magdalen and maybe one or two others. We set off on the journey with our usual armament of two flagons each of rough scrumpy cider which, as usual we drank on the upstairs floor of the double decker bus on the way to our destination. And on that first meeting Boom Boom and Scotty tagged along for the ride. The fact that we all had sleeping bags except them didn't faze them though. They came in any case.
We were old pros at sleeping rough and there had been so many occasions when wed gone to an all night barn dance to see Fleetwood Mac or Jethro Tull or someone like that and save for the odd occasion like when Mr Wha and Hornpipe got soaked we at least knew how to be comfortable. Of course, on the majority of occasions we didn't sleep at all as we were so high on whatever, but if we did, at least we did it in as much style as could be expected of hippies in the sixties. On reflection its a miracle that none of us ever had our sleeping bag stolen as we would turn up at wherever, and no matter if it was a town, village, or farm we would find a place to hide the bags until such time as they were needed. Or sometimes we would just leave them there unused until we left to return home at the end of the trip and get our parents to wash them ready for our next adventure. Its obvious that somebody must've seen us hiding them at some point but never once did a bag go missing.
Scotty was a non entity of a person. No personality whatsoever, but in total contrast Boom Boom who was full of his own self confidence. Too full of himself many including me had said. From day one I never liked him and even though it took a while, my initial suspicion of him was eventually to be proven well founded. He was a lot older than any of the rest of us and it showed in his well earned middle age spread of fat that he made no effort to hide under the sleeveless sweat stained vests that he always wore. In his early to mid forties I couldn't understand why he wanted to be in our company. Nonetheless, he tagged along with us and for the better part he was accepted.
It was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout the summer except that Scotty seemed to fade into obscurity. As fast as he had appeared had he disappeared, and for my part I wished Boom Boom had gone with him. I'm not going to get high and mighty here on a pro drugs stance as it is obviously up to the individual whether they are involved in or abstain from such activities but Boom Boom never took any illegal substances. Instead he would get ridiculously drunk on scrumpy and then pretend to be seeing the hallucinogenic drug fueled images that we were experiencing. It just seemed a little weird to me that if he wanted to be a part of it why not be a part of it instead of pretending.
After the introductory trip to The Knights Arms Boom Boom bought himself a sleeping bag and turned up everywhere after the like the proverbial bad penny, but he bugged the hell out of me because he always wanted to be the centre of attention. JC and Magdalen and Carla always attracted attention but that was OK because it was for who or what they were, but Boom Boom as a person had nothing to offer, so one of the good aspects of the drugs that we were taking was that we could turn on to them and turn off from him.
Between festivals, barn dances, free trips to London on the milk train, walking back twenty miles from Blackwood in the Welsh Valleys oh, I didn't tell you about that did I? Be patient, I'll get to it eventually, and sunny weekends at Penarth, there were the occasional weekends in Barry Island. Barry Island isn't so much an island as a continuation of the South Welsh mainland that had a stream running to it. A few miles down the line past Penarth it gave the impression of being an island though because there was only one road in and out. And the road ran in parallel to the railway line that terminated next to the antiquated fairground which sat alongside the beach. With the exception of the very occasional concert at the Barry Memorial Hall I have no idea why we ever went there unless it was another place to get stoned or maybe to look at the fairground attractions whilst tripping. I don't even remember any of the concerts we went to there but Barry was famous for one thing in our minds if nothing else. It was the place where John Donovan was renamed Lazy Shit Anywhere Man.
We had watched Taste or maybe The Goundhogs at the Memorial Hall. The Groundhogs were another of the bands we used to follow around in the late sixties and early seventies. It's just that they weren't on the same festival scene as Roy Harper and The Edgar Broughton Band which is the only reason I haven't mentioned them before. Anyway, just like our lost weekends when we slept in upturned boats or in the tourist buses in Porthcawl we were about to do the same in South Wales second most popular tourist destination. At Barry though we pulled back the tarpaulins that covered the deck-chairs on the beach and in no time at all our combined body heat in the enclosed purpose made tent kept us warm enough to sleep in comfort.
With the exception of going there as a kid on my bicycle, collecting bottles on the beach, taking them to the bottle bank where we got a penny a piece for them, buying ice creams and lemonade with the proceeds and returning the twenty miles back to Newport before it got dark, I hadn’t been to Barry Island too many times in my adult life. Old habits die hard though and as I had no money as a kid I still had very little as I got older. I remember that on that particular concert weekend when there was me, JC, Hornpipe, Screwball, Hodge, Jimmy, Mob, Mr Wha, Cricko, John Donovan and the girls, we decided to do the same thing. Same plan but different tactics. At The Station pub in Barry Town which is the last train stop before the train goes to its destination in Barry Island the girls sat looking seductively in the bar while us guys took it in turns to go around to the back of the pub before entering. In the small lane that led to the tradesman’s entrance was where the empty bottles were kept and it should have been locked up, but Barry was a sleepy town where nothing much ever happened so nobody ever suspected that anything illegal would ever happen there.
JC and I walked into the pub with a handful of bottles, cashed them behind the bar and bought some drinks without acknowledging the girls. A few minutes later and Hornpipe appeared with Mr Wha and the procedure repeated itself. Next came Screwball and Cricko, then a few minutes later Jimmy and Mob, then John Donovan and Hodge. By the time the last ones had entered we’d all started talking to one another as if we’d never met before asking the girls “are you going to the concert"? then somebody else would say “oh really, we’re going there too” and in the course of ten minutes we all knew one another.
As is always the case when you’re onto a good thing we got greedy though. And Screwball was the instigator of the plan to do it all again. Screwball had a good head on his shoulders but acted as if he was carrying the world along there with it. He always had something on his mind and thought too much about nothing which didn’t leave any room in his brain to fit any logical conclusion to what he was thinking about. Consequently, after listening to his scheme we went around the back again to repeat the situation in the lane but this time getting twice as many bottles. Of course the inevitable happened and we got caught so were subsequently thrown out of the pub, but it wasn’t long to go before the concert so we didn’t care, and by the time of the next concert it would all be forgotten so we could do it all again.
The next morning we got up and John Donovan was missing. Nobody thought anything of it as we all went our separate ways from time to time, and then mysteriously as if we were all tagged together with some kind of homing device we’d meet up again like the times in Porthcawl. I went for a walk with Carla to the end of the beach where the Butlins Holiday Camp was and we contemplated what it would be like to be normal people sleeping in a chalet with clean bedding instead of on the beach with a crowd of smelly hippies. JC went off with Magdalen in the opposite direction, and in one of the rare occasions that Jimmy went anywhere on his own he left Mob and walked along the side of the main highway back in the direction of Barry Town.
In the tourist season the road got very busy so midway between Barry Island and Barry Town a crossover had been built for pedestrians to get from one side to the other. Jimmy had used it and was still scraping his shoe when we all met back at the deck chair tent. “Somebody shit on the pavement” he said. “That was me" announced the newly returned John Donovan as if it was the most natural thing to do in the world. “I wanted a shit so I went for a walk and now I’m back". Of course, in true lunatic style we all walked to the crossing to inspect the scene of the crime and the squashed turd was still there, slap bang in the middle of the walkway at the end of the crossover. Not in the field next to it or behind the bushes, or under the tree where nobody could see him, but right in the very middle six inches from the bottom step of the crossover where it was virtually impossible for anybody following in his footsteps not to step in it. From that day onwards John Donovan was dead and Lazy Shit Anywhere Man was born, and never was he to be called John again.
Blackwood is a nothing of a place in the Welsh Valleys with its only claim to fame being that the Manic Street Preachers are from there. But around the late sixties it was one of the non-descript out of the way places that we went to for kicks if there was any good music on. We went to a lot of unusual places then but those were the days of bands playing in unusual places. There were barn dances with top acts in a tin construction in the corner of a field that only the locals could find. And when you got there the place would be bursting at the seams with hairies who’d travelled a hundred miles to get there.
I’d seen the Beatles in a 2,000 seater cinema called the Cardiff Capitol and Pink Floyd in a disused airport hangar called Sophia Gardens in in the same city. OK, it wasn’t really an airport hangar but that’s what it looked like and I also caught their show a few years later when they played at Afan Lido, a covered swimming pool in Port Talbot . And there were The Rolling Stones with half a dozen support acts that included Inez and Charlie Foxx and The Mojos also playing Cardiff’s Capitol Theatre. It was only ever a theatre at such musical events and at Christmas time for the pantomimes though and a picture house for the rest of the year. Another of those obscure gigs was Black Sabbath playing in the Institute of Blackwood just as thhey were breaking.
The party trick for us all would be to take the bus to Blackwood, go to the concert, buy lots of chewing gum and a few packs of cigarettes each, take some speed, charm some pretty birds out of the sky and promise faithfully to return the following week when we’d be in a straight enough state to prove to them that we were as good in bed as we thought we sounded to them when we were speeding, and when it was over we’d walk home the eleven miles back to Newport. Of course, we never returned to prove our sexual prowess, but if reputations could be built in our own minds on females initial reactions to us when we were speeding you could have nick named any one of us Mick Jagger.
For the better part it was harmless nonsense on our part and besides, the girls were with us so free living as we were there is a limit to how far you can push a situation. In any case, as I recall it was the girls who instigated half the potential liaisons by saying to some poor unsuspecting female “he’s been talking about you all night but was scared of approaching you for the fear of being rejected.” Of course girls trust girls so the inevitable introduction followed and our amphetamine injected hundred word a minute barrage of gibberish which in our minds, if not reality made our new partners weak at the knees. At the last moment when we’d taken the whole thing as far as we could Magdalen and Carla would reappear and save our reputations before the inevitable end conclusion ever came upon us. In the early part of our relationships that were to follow the girls let us get away a lot of lip service and hands in blouses before intervening, and by the same token JC and I were very tolerant to their indiscretions, but in the latter stages we all toned it down a bit.
On the way back from Blackwood Magdalen entertained us all by talking shit like you would never believe. “Did you ever hear the story of the Arkwright Brothers? They were one of the first families in the North of England to have a motor car. That was in the days of music hall back in the nineteen twenties. Well they had an accident and the one lost a leg and the other lost an arm. They obviously couldn’t work in traditional employment so they started a music hall routine where the one armed brother juggled whilst the one legged one tap danced.” She was always smitten and throughout it all she kept a straight face and JC just grinned from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat. They were good days. Days before the drugs got too heavy and the laughing ceased. Times when we did things and went to places because we wanted to and not because we felt the need to because it was the only way of satisfying our drug hungry needs. But on saying that, upon arrival in Newport we got our senses together and headed straight for the Hollywood Festival at Newcastle Under Lyme the same day to see amongst others Traffic, Ginger Baker's Airforce, Black Sabbath (again), my old mate Screaming Lord Sutch and The Grateful Dead. I'm guessing that a throat full of speed seen us OK to carry on as if nothing had happened.
Occasionally we’d go to Cardiff and stop over at Magdalen's place. She had an apartment that with her being an only child her parents paid for and it was only small but it didn’t matter. I remember one night we went there after being at The Revolution, a club on the first floor opposite the New Moon. The Revolution had opened as a late night venue for the New Moon’s punters who still hadn’t had enough drink or partying at kicking out time. We got there in our usual state of ruination and the door staff refused to let some of us in. Magdalen put on her most serious of faces and shouted at the doorman “My name is Magdalen and I’m a very good friend of Lenny and if your not going to let us in you tell Lenny I said……………..Now.” The doorman had no idea what she was talking about but Lenny was the owner, Magdalen sounded like she meant business, and I can only guess that Lenny wasn’t there that night. So we all got in. Later we went back to her place and before we all jumped into the one double bed together we made the most of the remains of the effects of the LSD we’d taken earlier in the evening.
The sleeping together was a natural thing. So many times in the past maybe two or four of us would go to bed together and in the morning we’d wake up to find one, two, or even three of the others tucked under the sheets with us. It was nothing sexual or anything like that. These were the sixties, before global warming, and in the winter there was snow on the ground but there was no central heating except for the rich people and Magdalen only had a two bar electric fire. So we all slept together. But before retiring to the bedroom that night we lit a candle in a glass ash tray and me Carla, JC and Magdalen lay on the floor making a perfect cross with our faces meeting in the middle six inches from the burning candle where we were watching its hallucinogenic effects as we wore off the last of the LSD we’d taken earlier that night. As the remains of the candle met the glass and just before the flame died the ash tray exploded. It was a miracle none of us were blinded, but a chunk of glass had lodged itself in Magdalen's chin. JC managed to get it out and stop the bleeding but the next morning we all went to the hospital where the wound was tended to professionally and Magdalen received three stitches. The doctors said she would have a small scar for the rest of her life which she did, but it was on the underside of her chin where you could only see it if she looked up.
With the exception of that morning in the hospital I only met Margaret once and that was on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the small South Wales town of Bridgend. I have no idea how or why we had ended up half way between the country's capital Cardiff and our occasional weekend escape of Porthcawl as the bus we usually took went straight through. But the reasoning why we were there is not important.
It was the usual contenders of Mr Wha, Hornpipe, Carla, myself, Magdalen, JC of course, and maybe a few others who had ventured there when Magdalen stopped and started talking to her in the street. Magdalen's mother was a school ma'am or auxiliary teacher of a small school in one of the satellite towns on the outskirts of Cardiff. And whilst Magdalen had once appeared to be following her mothers footsteps into a life of academia, like so many of us back then she hung out with the wrong people, decided to be rebellious because she was at that rebellious age, or simply took a wrong turning, ending up somewhere off the beaten track. So Magdalen flunked out and never fulfilled her mothers dream for her of going to university and being a pillar of society.
Despite her Welsh upbringing Magdalen's mother had installed her daughter into a posh boarding school at an early age where she learnt to speak the Queens English with no hint of her true roots. That was probably a little of the airs and graces on her mother's part as she was raised in one of the no accent areas of Derbyshire or Lincolnshire or somewhere like that, and despite her not saying it as such you got the impression that Margaret didn't care too much for the Welsh accent.
She was a very graphic talker, expressing herself equally with her body and mouth. I was telling him she would proclaim as her arm went up and the listener would automatically follow the arm to find there was no significance in the gesture. Or she would stop mid sentence and look down as if a dog was peeing on her shoes, and only start talking again when everybody was looking to her feet. Margaret was very funny like that but as weren't sure how to take her none of us actually laughed until after we'd gone our separate ways.
Like JC, Carla, Lazy Shit Anywhere Man and me, Magdalen was an only child. In the case of Lazy Shit Anywhere Man he was adopted and I had half brothers and step brothers and a step sister through my mothers marriage to my step father, but looking back none of us came from big families which was a rare thing back then in the days before television and the contraceptive pill. Hornpipe and The Wizard only had one sister apiece, Mr Wha had a younger brother and sister and Jimmy Fairbairn and Mob never talked of any family. In retrospect that could have been one of the deciding factors that drew us together. Children from one or two child families tend to excel academically, be creative, or mix with their own and I'm sure that with all of us it was a mixture of the three.
It was at the age of sixteen that Magdalen left home. It was different back then. Considering there's so much more wealth today it's hard to conceive how any of us survived but despite having no money we all left home at the very first opportunity not knowing or caring where the rent or money for food would come from. Maybe I'm romanticising in my older age but today kids stay at home into their twenties which was unheard of in my day. Of course Magdalen's mother was disappointed at her daughter flunking out and probably even more disappointed when she saw who she had started living and sharing her life with.
Every one of us had Welsh accents in varying degrees and JC regularly adjusted his according to the company he was keeping, or when he was telling a story like getting some rub from Mrs Wilson. And like Magdalen he could sense an opportunity for self entertainment and seize the moment with a passion as Magdalen did when she was smitten with somebody who didn't know her. The story goes that when he met Magdalen's mum JC would feign an accent much stronger than it actually was, speaking loudly and clearly making sure she heard every single syllable and at the same time laughing inside in the knowledge that she was cringing at the thought of her well raised daughter associating with such a common person. I don't know if that was anything to do with the only child syndrome but we all had wicked senses of humour, laughing at the most bizarre things for no reason other than that if nobody else found it funny then there had to be a laugh in there somewhere.
Taking us all into a small cafe where she treated us to scones and tea she told us a story with maximum gusto of when she was Magdalen's age. I would travel with my sister from our home in mid Wales to the seaside resort of Aberystwyth where wed ride on the narrow gauge mountain railway with its quaint steam trains that pulled the carriages. We'd moved to Wales because our parents were farmers. Daddy had sold up and moved to Wales with Mummy. Of course, at that age we didn't understand the difference between one farm and another but there must have been a reason for moving. Aberystwyth was very picturesque and we loved going there on weekends as we'd never lived close to the sea before.
Of course, even though her sister was a few years older than her, in those days staying overnight without a chaperon was out of the question. But their weekend trips to Aberystwyth did give them the opportunity to escape from their parents farm and experience a little freedom. Leonard was from a wealthy farming family in a different part of Wales and like so many young men of the time was fascinated by the attraction of steam transport. It was fate that he should meet Margaret, and that was how Magdalen's parents first got together.
Riding back and forth on Aberystwyth's Vale Of Rheidol Railway week after week, twenty year old Leonard finally plucked up enough courage to comment to the seventeen year old Margaret that he'd seen her and her accomplice on the train several times before. He enquired if they lived in the seaside town and upon realisation that his interests were not only as to where they lived she was a little surprised that most of his attentions were directed at her. Her sister being older was more mature in every way and back then it was almost unheard of for any girl out of her teens to be single, but the story and Leonard's attentions were all about Margaret not her sister. Margaret continued with gestures of "oh you should have seen" as she threw her head back or "and I told him" as she looked at some unsuspecting chap in the corner of the cafe, and we quickly learnt that none of her physical spasms had any meaning whatsoever. It wasn't hard to see where Magdalen got the quirks in her personality and strange vocabulary from like her pointing at things that weren't there whilst proclaiming "there it is gone".
"Leonard told his parents of the girls he'd met that weekend and the farming community has always been a tight knit thing in Wales. What with the country fairs and fetes and horse shows everybody knew everybody. Any future liaisons were encouraged by our parents and after a short courtship we were married. And then a year later along came Magdalen" Margaret continued as she stroked her daughters hand over the table whilst almost knocking over a cup of tea in the enthusiasm of the moment. "Most people back then were Bills or Leonard's or Susan's or Margaret's so we decided to be a little different and juggle our names a little to come up with a mixture of both, and that's how we came up with the name Magdalen" she injected, as if in defense of her daughters unusual moniker.
None of us were quite sure why Margaret was telling the story to a crowd of complete strangers let alone friends of her offspring, which even today is somewhat taboo. Unless it was her way of letting Magdalen know that as a parent she couldn't tell her daughter that staying in Porthcawl with a casual boyfriend for the whole weekend was OK, but deep down inside she understood. Of course none of us realised at the time that Margaret had leukemia and would be dead within the year, so maybe it was her roundabout way of saying to her daughter with a little dignity it doesn't matter what you do, I will always love you.
The eventful day came and went with hardly any of us realising what had happened. Magdalen disappeared for a few weeks and her other half JC didn't question it too much as like my relationship with Carla, his with Magdalen was on a basis of if I'm here I'm here and if I'm not I'm not. I think it was probably Carla who eventually let the news slip but Magdalen was somewhat devoid of emotion. It was as if she was in denial, but you don't turn around and start talking about something the other person specifically doesn't want to hear. If there were any moments of confidentiality they were shared with Carla not JC. It was a pattern to repeat itself time and time again over the years. The two girls were very close and totally loyal to one another.
Back at the hospital I had no idea why Magdalen had told her mother what had happened but as with her relationship with Carla they had a very special bond, and I got the impression Margaret knew a lot more of what her daughter got up to than she let on. We all had our moments of almost being caught out though, like when Mr Wha bumped into his parents in the middle of the town on a Saturday afternoon and he was tripping his arse off on LSD. "They were made of plastic" was all he kept repeating for the rest of the day and that was only fueled by his suspicion that they would approach him the next day and ask what the hell were you doing yesterday. But in reality, to them he probably looked totally normal and the only weirdness was in his head.
With or without the others we continued going to as many concerts as we could between our trips to The Revolution, Blackwood, or wherever, and even though we all had a basic taste for the same kind of music we did a lot of individual gallivanting too. Screwball, the intellectual egghead liked the music of The Soft Machine who nobody else appreciated, Mr Wha hated the screeching (to use his own words) of Led Zeppelins singer Robert Plant and JC and my tastes were eclectic to say the least. Consequently, when we were pointed in the direction of Screaming Lord Sutch we travelled up to London to see him.
Though I was never to continue any relationship with Sutch, JC apparently got quite close to the rock'n'roll eccentric over the years and it was on the trip that I joined him on that they first met. I was working on one of my two minute jobs in a textile factory with a guy called Ray Daunter and a woman called Faye Coffey. I seemed to have so many two minute jobs back then simply because there were so many, unlike today with computers doing the work and millions unemployed. Faye and her Husband Danny were the founder members of the UK Jerry Lee Lewis Fan Club Breathless Danny as he was known as for is infinite amount of energy and enthusiasm for all things rock'n'roll was the Vice President. Through that very brief introduction to the husband and wife rock and rollers I was turned on to Screaming Lord Sutch who had had a singular minor hit by the name of I'm A Hog For You. It was the first time that Sutch had performed for several years and his gig at the Hempstead Country Club was billed as his big come-back.
Ray was on the peripheral of our crowd and only knew us through Hornpipe and Mr Wha as he lived around the corner from them. But he was an avid lover of music which is what drew us together. He wasn't a drug taker though. Instead he lived a comparatively normal life with a regular traditional girlfriend, unlike the relationships JC and I had with Magdalen and Carla. We used to go to his place quite regularly but if the truth is known it was probably more because JC fancied his sister than for our love of his obscure record collection. Nonetheless, we shared our musical likes and dislikes and because of the who's who of the musical hierarchy acting as session musicians on Sutch's forthcoming album JC and I decided to make the pilgrimage to see his come-back concert in London.
We arrived early outside the venue that resembled a prefabricated church hall and bumped into David (to use his real name) Sutch outside where we told him that wed travelled all the way from Wales to see him perform. He was duly humbled by our enthusiasm and insisted that we be his guests at the show later that evening. In true JC style we were in the thick of things again and without even trying. We left Sutch to whatever he was doing and returned in the evening, showed our passes, said the magic words as instructed, and were ushered to a six by four foot kitchen on the side of the main hall where complimentary drinks were being served to the guests.
The hall was heaving with bodies and sweat and the kitchen was heaving with famous faces. Throughout the night we crossed paths with luminary after luminary and even though my recollection of the evening is somewhat blurred due to a few too many complimentary alcoholic beverages I do recall Keith Moon of the Who, Richie Blackmore from Deep Purple and Noel Redding formerly of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and then with Fat Mattress being in the kitchen. Of course it was always destined to be a star studded affair as it was around the time of Sutch recording his album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends. The album boasted such musicians as Noel Redding, Jeff Beck and members of Led Zeppelin providing the backup to his vocals but, as with so many of the good times we had, we did too much and remembered too little. And throughout it all, suffering from post teenage amnesia fueled by an intake of concoctions of anything that could only do me harm in the long run is the only regret I have of growing up, but other than that I wouldn't change a thing.