"Collins' easygoing charm is hard to resist. A welcome visitor into any home that houses a Nick Hornby or a Tony Parsons" (The Herald)
"Beautifully observed, cleverly narrated and very readable, it's like being part of the great unwashed again" (Jockey Slut)
"Entertaining and surprisingly familiar read ... Even for those of us who were still in pre-school at the time, the joys and lows are all given an added relevance via the author's emulation of Nick Hornby's self-deprecating humour. Like High Fidelity, if it had been written by a teenage Rob Fleming" (Rock Sound)
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ROCKERS ARE GETTING COOL FEET
If you want to look like a rock star this summer, fellas, throw your socks away. Most of Duran Duran seem to favour the sockless look. Even Echo and the Bunnymen's moody Ian McCulloch has chucked away his socks. I was so impressed that I tried it over the weekend and all I can say is that it has to be the most uncomfortable fashion yet invented!
John Blake's Bizarre column, The Sun, 28 July 1983
'Dave Griffiths doesn't go out looking like that!' Mum snipes, slamming the cutlery drawer to underline her point.
We're having one of our free and frank exchanges of views, becoming ever more frequent as my need for fumbled self-expression increases. I'm on my way out to collect Sally for tonight's big party. Why does she always wait until I'm on my way out to challenge me? Why do all mums do that? In the old house at Winsford Way you could get from the stairs to the front door without passing the kitchen ('I'm off out, won't be late, bye!' slam). Not at Kestrel Close. The kitchen's between the stairs and the door, like a sentry box.
'I don't want to look like Dave Griffiths,' I protest. Dave Griffiths is my ultra-straight friend who is leaving sixth form not for university but the RAF. Where's Dad when you need him to arbitrate? He usually dries as she washes.
'I sometimes wish you were Dave Griffiths,' she shouts. Ah good, she's strayed into fantasy. I give her an eye-rolling look of derision and reach for the door handle. The argument is over. I have won the battle, and so, in her mind, has Mum.
'Won't be late, bye!' slam.
I was, to be fair to Mum, beginning to put my head above the parapet in fashion terms that year. I wore my hair increasingly blow-dried and lacquered, in deference to Ian McCulloch and Robert Smith and other pop peacocks whose aromatic, dark music I'd fallen in love with on Switch or The Tube. Boots on the Market Square did brisk business with their gender-unspecific green hair gel that year. Black pumps were de rigueur, even when it got too chilly to wear them sensibly sans chausette. October was the reluctant start of the sock season, by which time I'd be off.
There is something about me in plentiful Truprint photos from the time that suggests I am not content merely to be part of a group that stands out from the crowd. Either my jeans are rolled higher than everybody else's, or I am wearing my hair spikier, or the sleeves have been more roughly hacked from my T-shirt for that Bono soldier-of-fortune effect. And no one else seems to be wearing fingerless gloves.
You couldn't play the drums in fingerless gloves, more's the pity. The local band I drummed for and gigged with had risen from the ashes of a previous band, Absolute Heroes. We were called, with no hint of embarrassment, Sketch For Dawn, after a Durutti Column track that bassist Craig and I particularly loved. All four of us in the band backcombed our hair to varying degrees, as did the knot of kids who came to see us play at the Black Lion in town. In fact, only Dave Griffiths stayed completely square, as if he were perhaps in the pay of my mum.
It was a Northampton thing. Provincial, Middle English, suburban, it was fertile soil for the sombre flowering of a generation too young to have experienced punk first-hand and too far away from the nearest city to affect New Romanticism. A tartan cape and jodhpur ensemble would have got you kicked in down town, and perhaps rightly so. It was all right for the actual New Romantics - they lived in London and got taxis. Their look and lifestyle was never going to translate to Northampton. But second-hand overcoats, check shirts and cheap hair gel? Bring them on.
You needed nothing much to do and nowhere much to go in order to get a fix on this moody new music's A-level-friendly ennui. Minor chords and wailing vocals, it was a custom-made soundtrack for our wannabe disaffected, misunderstood years. The movement's Beatles and Stones, The Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen, were in the process of going awkwardly overground in 1983 - fixtures suddenly of Top of the Pops and Smash Hits - but their sartorial influence was, it seems, much more heavily felt outside London. Macs, multiple T-shirts and heavy fringes were anything but the uniform of an ostracised cult in Northampton. They were everywhere, or seemed to be. Though big hair and outdoor slippers were not welcome at the town's only notable nightclub, Cinderellas, we successfully colonised select pubs and newly minted wine bars and kept our overcoats on, however hot it got.
Cinderellas - or Cinderella Rockefellers, to use its full, disagreeably aspirational title - remained off-limits. Until, that is, it opened its doors to the great unsocked by advertising its first ever Alternative Night. This meant no door policy, and Northampton's raincoat brigade jumped at the chance actually to see inside the place. They were playing 'Mad World' by Tears For Fears - an approved record - as we pushed through about the third set of silver-laminated double-doors, but the mythical Cinderellas was no better than a hotel disco really. And no bigger either - once you'd taken into account the ubiquitous mirrored surfaces. It was not a wild success. The dance floor was too keen and obvious and needy, with its pulsing floor and flashing lights and remained forbiddingly empty for much of the night. On reflection, we preferred the dour ambience of the Masonic Hall.
Northampton's more conservative soul boys, who were legion, might have considered us avant garde - actually, poofy's more accurate