I don't know. You give up drugs and walk headlong into a bar..an iron bar by the size of the lumplesplitskin on my bonce.
Apologies to anyone who had to witness me in tru old-school lashed-up and minging mode last night at the whatsit club in Moscow.. before it all goes blank (somewhere around wonderwall i'd wager] [dear god..] I do recall having a fine old time of it. Unusually, i wasn't even subject to my pre-gig wall-climbing and so all in all, despite myself, I had a blinding if breif little jaunt to Russia. Anyway, I was asked recently to write an article for a certain periodical about songs that influenced me in various ways. In case they edit it to fuckery I'm whacking it out on here for your amusement..
A Soldier's Son, by Peter Doherty
Funny thing about army barracks is.. the shit jokes. Contradictory, I know. Likewise, I remember hearing a lot of army related songs in those formative years. Mostly about Hitler's genitalia or lack of, the QM's stores and one perennial favourite, that went something along the lines of "left, right, left, right, left" , which I could hear belting out from the parade square even as I put on my first ever single purchase - Jive Bunny and The Master Mixers, 'Thats What I Like'. Hell seeing days. Your second to last enclaves of upwardly mobile underclass muttering disciplined salute-signalled obedience to the very last enclaves of bona fide [t]officer class ooray'Enries. The first song that made me smile behind the barbed wire and the blood pool from where one 'army brat summer activity' javelin instructor had carelessly thrust his spike through a pal of mine's head was Dereck B's 'Get Down'. It was the eighties, I was eight and the bloody tape recorder ate my tape, but not before I'd sat agog many an hour, listening repetitively to the premiere UK eighties hit pop artistes, Dereck B and Easy Q. They spoke of a long far off place called East London. The furthest east I'd been was Tottenham Court Road. They spoke of "Cuts that rumble like earthquakes", "Sticking sawn-offs up the noses of guards" and more intriguingly to my once innocent ears, some female acquaintance who had "two big things like basket balls and down below was like Niagra Falls". The tape died, but a vision was born.
To the bemusement and amusement of my school friends and probably my family, the twelve year old junkie rocker in training was an obsessive listener to The Chas and Dave Christmas Jamboree 12"s. These treasures were the North London duo's mass medleys of old school music hall songs. And I'm talking about songs, a lot of which had never even been recorded, some dating back to the Virginia Plantations. They were lyrical, often melancholy, littered with single entendres and always melodic in extremis. Even as my eyes were being drawn to the volumes of war poetry in a downstairs closet, I was mesmerised by 'Harry Was a Champion', 'A Big Fat Fly Flew by Fat Flo's Flat', 'When you go Down 'oppin' ', 'Down the Road There was a Bloomin' Riot' and countless ditties about old bald heads, sticks of celery, Chinese laundries and one that later partly popped up as a crucial verse in a popular Libertines song:"the other night I goes to a ball and they calls me Cinderella/ and upon my coat I wears a button hole and they calls me a tidy fella/ next to me comes old Mother Brown, pulling up her railway socks/ says to me come and have another dance, cos its ain't quite twelve o'clock/ so off we go, round and round, but there's gonna be some trouble I know/ cos I got no buttons on me trousers/ and me pins ain't none too strong/ hurry up Mrs Brown I can feel it coming down, and it won't take none too long".
Somewhere between the pillows and the skies, amidst the stark satanic thrills of adolescent whimsy, there's a second hand record shop. Lets say its in Nuneaton. Lets imagine a wonky fringed fifteen year old striding purposefully towards it with his paper round money in his hand. He carried the money openly to make the record shop owner think he was going to buy stuff, but the week before he'd seen a strange apparition, a call to arms even: some right bramah had paraded out of the same shop, wearing a t-shirt saying 'Shoplifters of the world unite'. Later that day the earth collided with the sun, all the clocks started going backwards, even though they were melted and I didn't watch that evening's edition of Noel's House Party. I sat in a room bedecked with QPR memorabilia and stolen library books, a chewed up Derek B tape and a periscope from an Iraqi tank the old man had brought back from the Gulf... and my life changed forever. 'I started something I couldn't finish' cranked into life and something divine occurred to me. Within six months I had officially taken up residence inside Smiths songs 'Well I Wonder', 'Jeanne', 'Real Around the Fountain', 'Nowhere Fast'. I think 'The boy with the thorn in his side' made me want to pick up the guitar. 'This Charming Man' quickly made me put it down again and then 'Rubber Ring' left me in two minds.
Moving on... Its summer 1997, I'm dossing at my Nan's flat London NW2 working at Willesden Green cemetery. By now I'm in possession of Benny, a crappy old Spanish guitar that is causing serious rifts in the domestic politics of Nanna Doll's gaff. My cousin Lee Cassidy had a flat in an opposite block. I sat gobsmacked in his kitchen before work one morning as he told me that he'd never listened to guitar music just dance, rave, jungle etc. "Hang on though Pete, hold tight...." and 'Fools Gold' by the Stone Roses blasted out across the room. Bloody Hell, what the fuck is this? I looked at my cousin and then at my feet. Oh, this must be dancing.
One saturday morning, that summer it was my day off and I wasn't going to sit around at Nanna's being told to shut that bloody row up. I go up West with my little guitar, I play 'Meet me on the Corner' by Lindisfarne. I get moved on. I mooch awhile, I do my hair in lots of shop windows, the quiff just won't stick, so what can you do? You go home with your latest 'purchases', one of which is a walkman that some careless lad left on a pub bench. On his blind spot. You come out of Kilburn tube because the barriers are being mended, take the 16 up Shoot-up Hill, all the way along to the trading estates where Children's World was and you fancy a walk, so you cut through Gladstone Park. There's an old rusting metal railway bridge and daubed upon it for as long as I can remember are the words Dollis Hill Mods with Mods crossed out and replaced with the word Skins and then Skins crossed out again and replaced with the word Mods. You have a look at the walkman. Quite flash. You put it on, asteroids destroy Neasden and all the bells in all the churches in London clang like no one's business. I bounce home, trying to walk like a black kid as 'Marcus Garvey' by The Skatalites blows my tiny mind. '007' by Desmond Decker 'Rudy a message to you' by Dandy Livingstone... I felt like Saint Peter just as I passed the junction of Dollis Hill Lane and Damascus Close.
Peabody Cottages, Bruce Grove, sometime in 2001. The rain was playing havoc with my attempts to finish my novel. What with the fact that my bedroom roof had just caved in. Aside from that, my girlfriend had ended another vicious row by running down Tottenham High Road in her neglige. The car that I'd bought off a young Dole-scrounging, heroin-addicted would-be superstar Jonny Borrell didn't fancy the trip (what with it being two hundred and seventy-five quids worth of absolute shite) and I stood shaking awhile, the radio alarm came on and a sports reporter told me that QPR had just lost at home in front of a record low crowd. The phone rang, my jobseekers allowance key worker was calling to remind me I needed to come in today as they had concluded their investigations into my false claims and I was to be signed off and issued with a demand to repay two years worth of benefit fraud. The phone rang again. It was B.T. They were cutting the line. I stubbed my toe on the sideboard and stumbled down the stairs, cracking my head on the record player and spinning it into life. 'Good Morning Heartache' sang Billy Holiday at slightly the wrong speed. I made two promises to myself. I'm gonna have that chord progression one day, just see if I don't. And I'm never buying a used car off Jonny Borrell again.
Times and dates are now a little vague, I really could bang on all day about the whens, the wheres and the whyfores of Immortal Technique's 'Fuck You', Arthur Lee and Love's 'Your Friend and Mine', 'I Wish' by Mick Whitnall, Wolfman's 'For Lovers', the theme tunes to Steptoe and Son, Fools and Horses, Rising Damp and Hancock's Half Hour, Donna Summer's 'Love to Love You Baby', 'Chaos in the Courtroom' by The Bandits, 'The Modern Age' by The Strokes, but instead I'm putting my flag in the ground and its staying there forever. If this article should get edited, think only this of me; there is a corner of some skanky Victorian gaol cell, that is forever Billy Bilo's and it was there that I squashed my ear up against the crack in a door and listened to 'Free as a Bird' by The Beatles coming out of the Screw's transistor radio from the landing below.
"Turn it up Guv" I begged.
He turned it down.
"Whats that Doherty?"
"Can you turn the radio up please Guv".
"Listen to him, will ya, he thinks he at the Camden Palace, this is Scrubs mate".
"It's called Koko's now you fat northern cunt" I mutterred under my breath. -
"No" came a voice from the next cell "its definitely Scrubs".
In fairness, the prison guard in question did turn the radio back up, but the song was ending, being followed on the Capital Gold playlist by 'Cool for Cats' by Squeeze. Well, you can't lose them all can you?