“It’s gonna kick off in here tonight, no fucking two ways about it,” the mohican said to his spiky-haired mate. ‘We’re just gonna have to have the cunts.”
“Too fucking right,” his friend replied.
They were standing side-by-side at the urinals while I was at the sink splashing water onto my face. The message they were broadcasting didn’t do my nerves much good.
It was the mid-80s and we were in Huddersfield having come up from Birmingham, about 30 of us piled into a transit van. It was knees against chests where most of us were, in the back, for a whole six hours on the motorway. The vehicle was rattling as it coughed its way up north. We had to get our heads down when a police car passed, which wasn’t easy as there was no room to move as it was but if the Old Bill had seen us packed in there, a hazard to ourselves and others, there’d have been no gig in Huddersfield.
Originally, we were supposed to go there by coach and one duly arrived outside the band’s favourite pub. Problem was not enough punters turned up to pay for it and the driver lifted the clutch and off he went, despite a last minute attempt by some of the lads to press-gang passers-by into coming with us.
In that interim between the coach leaving and the van juddering around the corner to proclaim its rescue mission, I considered claiming to be ill suddenly. I was only 16, after all. They would have understood. They would have also thought me a complete wanker. So I stayed.
Crammed into the van I suppressed a panic attack but at least I had my two school mates there as some kind of support, though they were as bemused and scared as I was. One was the band’s recently recruited rhythm guitar player, as unlikely a punk band member as you could imagine. He tried wearing torn t-shirts on stage to make himself look a bit naughty but it didn’t work. That said, the other musicians didn’t mind, as long as he could knock out the chords.
Period Pain and the Pungent Smells didn’t mind much about anything, least of all their music, which often got in their way of a piss-up and chasing skirt. Their lyrics were abominable, clouded by a ranting vocals and three-cord riffs. But the very fact of them taking nothing seriously was a winner. The lead singer was a black guy in an exclusively white world and the drummer was a 15-year-old who had already fathered a couple of kids. The bassist was aged 38 and was banned from his local chemists who didn’t believe he had a condition worthy of the drugs he frequently tried to buy.
The lead guitarist called himself Storm. It was apt because of his very fragile temperament. Tantrums were his forte. He was entitled to them because he and his brother, the “manager’, owned ‘the Van’, which usually took everyone to local gigs, but not all the way up to fucking Yorkshire.
Another bright idea during that trip was to fling in a couple of crates of beer on top of us all, who were already on top of one another. Aside from the gliffers (glue sniffers) inhaling their wares pathetically by the rear doors and already oblivious, the throng fell on the cans and started supping.
Inevitably, bladders weakened and nowhere near a service station. But in this decrepit, un-roadworthy wreck, were rusting holes in the side. Those that needed to pushed their dangly flesh through them to relieve themselves. Other drivers seeing the trail gesticulated to tell us that our tank was leaking.
Finally, we arrived in Huddersfield. It felt like heaven to me, just so that I could unravel my legs. Others exclaimed that it was a “fucking shithole”, even though as it was pitch black dark you could see nothing of it. That said, something in me sensed some truth in the prejudice.
We got to the gig venue, where Lancashire band The Macc Lads were to headline and the place was full of skinheads. The collective “Fuck” from our lot may have been under the breath but it was deafening nonetheless. There was a row in the pipeline.
The Macc Lads were above the fray because they were neither punks nor skinheads. They were more like football casuals a bit before that look became a common sight. They were also completely pissed so in no condition to pay attention to any agro that might be brewing. I had a chat with one of them before they went on. As one of the co-authors of the song ‘Sweaty Betty’, which includes the lines “Sweaty Betty/She’s got a Huge Vagina/Sweaty Betty/ You’d Fit a Bus inside her,’ he appeared to be a very intelligent bloke, though he could barely stand up.
PP and the Pungent Smells did their set and the local skinheads moshed about for their money’s worth, along with the Brummie punks.
Then after The Macc Lads’ set the crowd dispersed. We crawled back into the rear of the transit van, exhausted and even more numerous than before, for some reason. Then we halted at a traffic light and the van got pelted from both sides with boots and bricks. The skinhead attack, finally. “Let’s stop and have the cunts!” “Open the fucking doors!” Those were the refrains. But the manager, thanks be to Christ, just put his foot down.
Bio: Colin Graham is a British journalist/writer who has spent the best part of his life in Eastern Europe, including stints in St. Petersburg, Warsaw and Belgrade. His short stories have appeared at Thrillers, Killers N’ Chillers, A Twist Of Noir, Pulp Metal Magazine, True Brit Grit and Radgepacket Volume Five. The journalism has appeared in numerous publications, among them The Guardian, The Independent-on-Sunday and The Observer.