Although we’ve never talked I know quite a lot about him. I know where he lives and where he has his office. I know where he went to school and what he does to make a living. I saw him once on Twickenham riverside and again on Ranelagh Drive in St Margarets when I said “Hello.” He was polite enough to smile back but he didn’t recognise me. Why should he? The only time that we had met before was on Thursday June 17th 1965.
In 1965 I was in a beat group called “The Trekkas” based in Welwyn Garden City. We were only an amateur band but good enough to be regularly booked to support established acts like Manfred Mann, Amen Corner, Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. We even got to play alongside Elton John when he was plain Reg Dwight.
On June 17th 1965 we had been booked to play support at Bowes Lyon House in Stevenage. We knew the venue well. It was a popular youth centre and as it wasn’t too far from where we lived we had often been there to see bands play. What we didn’t know was the name of the band we were supporting. All we knew was they came from West London.
We got there about 6.00pm to set up and were surprised to see that the other band – the unknown ‘stars’ – had already been into the hall, set up their own equipment and left. There was a drum kit and two huge amplifiers, bigger than anything that we had seen before. Everything was battered. The drum kit looked like it had been dropped off the back of a lorry. One of the amps, the one on the right, was missing the cloth covering the speakers. This had been replaced by a union flag. The gear looked expensive but it had been trashed. We counted up the amps and the mics and worked out that there were probably no more than 5 of them. Hah! There were 6 of us in “The Trekkas”. Whoever they were, they were outnumbered. With a home town audience and lots of local fans we’d blow them off the stage.
“The Trekkas” were a Mod band. We wore matching madras jackets, Ben Sherman shirts and shoes from Ravel. Angie, our keyboard player, wore a Biba dress with a Peter Pan collar. We were very tidy. Our music was tidy too – R&B classics, soul songs and Tamla Motown ballads – all played in a precise way – loud enough for serious dancing – but not so loud that people couldn’t talk. People liked us. We were very neat.
It was still light outside when we went on, I remember that, and at the end of our set we received appreciative applause. The guys coming on after us weren’t neat at all. There were 4 of them and they didn’t bother with matching outfits like most other bands at the time. They looked like they had had just stepped out of HMV with some nicked albums under their arm. One wore a T shirt with an RAF roundel on the front. Another, the singer, had an arrow point striped shirt. The bass player was wearing a jacket covered with military insignia. The guitar player, carrying a beaten up Rickenbacker, had a jacket made from a Union Jack. There was definitely something about them – a kind of ‘flash’ arrogance perhaps – but they were certainly cooler than us, sharper than us, angrier than us. In 1965 there was a word for people like them. They were “Faces” – out in front setting the trend. They didn’t bother with any of that “Hello, Good Evening” nonsense. They just plugged in their guitars, looked at each other and let rip.
They didn’t play their music, they attacked it. The volume was incredible. The bass line thudded against you, rattling your entrails. The drummer, RAF roundel man, ignored most of the percussion niceties, and set out to beat his kit to death. On top of all this turmoil the guitarist in his Union Jack jacket was chopping and hacking at his guitar, his arm windmilling in the air and slashing down to punch out chords. This wasn’t the usual ‘beat group’ crisp solos and chanky-chank rhythm. This was six string Armageddon with every frustration they had ever felt compressed into 3 minute musical hand grenades. You could hear it in the songs they had written…
“Dizzy in the head and I’m feeling bad
The things you’ve said have got me real mad
I’m gettin’ funny dreams again and again
I know what it means but…”
Meaner, madder, faster, more furious…
“Nothing gets in my way
Not even locked doors
Don’t follow the lines
That been laid before
I get along anyway I dare
Anyway, anyhow, anywhere…”
Caught up in the musical maelstrom the audience had stopped their neat side-to-side block dancing and were now pressing against the stage in a seething crush. Now they were bopping their brains out. The Mosh Pit had come into being.
And just at the point when it couldn’t get any crazier it suddenly did. The guitarist started bayoneting his amplifier with his guitar, smashing the neck against the speaker board. Every rule about caring for your instrument disappeared in a screeching, splintering, crashing, cracking tsunami of sound. Then the drums went too, kicked forward and over off the stage. Tumbling, clanging into the audience. No “Thanks and goodbyes”. No “Goodnights and see you agains”. Just noise and fury and destruction and then they were gone leaving us, the audience and the world of Pop music changed forever.
Two months later, on Friday 6th August 1965, the same band appeared at the Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival alongside The Yardbirds and the Moody Blues. It was never quite clear who was supporting who that night but we knew…didn’t we?
On 7th September 1978 the one with the RAF roundel, the drummer, died. A day or two later a scrawled epitaph appeared on a hoarding near the Red Lion in Twickenham. It said “Moon Lives”….and course Keith Moon did – in the recordings that he had cut back in the 60’s and 70’s with that band – that bunch of West London ‘faces’ – The Who.
I still occasionally see the other one – the lanky one who wore a Union Jack jacket that night at Bowes Lyon House. Although I know quite a lot about him he doesn’t know me at all and why should he? The last time that we met was on Thursday 17th June 1965.
FOOTAGE OF ‘THE WHO’ AT THE RICHMOND JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL – 6th AUG 1965
— from Martyn Day