Ch 2: 1980 – 1983 John Mohan ‘Guitar In My Hands’

1980 The Only Way To Change Things Is To Shoot Men Who Arrange Things :
Mod mania was still leading us even though John Peel was pushing other New Wave music
on his show which would gradually move the focus on. There didn’t seem to be many
exciting new mod bands coming through and we’d bought and were still buying any mod
records that came out. The Chords and Purple Hearts albums were excellent.
At this point my brother acquired a red electric guitar (pictured with me), it didn’t have a logo on it but was a Vox Consort from the mid-60’s with a neck that was probably from a Vox Teardrop, never did find out where it came from.

I practised along to ‘All Mod Cons‘ which was hard, then ‘Maybe Tomorrow‘ by The Chords which was much easier, after a couple of weeks of tuning the guitar and bumming out the chords it came together nicely – ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ was in the bag. Then other tunes were getting practised as the mood came, especially Jam songs, ‘Fly‘ and ‘Away From The Numbers‘.

Gigs (partial list)
8-2-80 Marquee – The Chords, Upsets
7-4-80 Rainbow – The Jam, Records
21-6-80 Marquee – Long Tall Shorty, Eddie Steady, Sta-Prest
15-7-80 Marquee – Purple Hearts, Skavengers
15-11-80 Rainbow – The Jam, Piranhas, Apocalypse
12-12-80 Music Machine – The Jam, The Nips

Mum was a Home Help for the Council and one of her regular visits was an old lady, who in
July told her awful news that her next door neighbour’s son had died. It was Malcolm Owen, The Ruts vocalist, he’d had a heroin overdose in the bath at his parents house in Hayes.
I was gutted.
Searching for the Young Soul Rebels‘ album by Dexy’s came out in July, I had the ‘Dance
Stance‘ single from ’79 and liked their sound, this album though was immense, with
passionate, sometimes anarchic singing from Kevin Rowland. It wasn’t mod but so what?

That summer I went with other mods to Cheekee Pete’s disco in Richmond, unfortunately
skins had congregated on both ends of Richmond Bridge which needed to be crossed, they
were after trouble and I was lucky to get through with only a few bruises and retaining
ownership of my Jam shoes. It seemed like being a mod was becoming a hassle.

In July I left school and in August would start an Engineering apprenticeship with Hoover.
The pay was £39 a week, not bad but work was a 40hr 5 day week, clocking on at 7:45,
clocking out at 16:45 with an hour for lunch, it was exacting work and you were treated like
an adult. Treks to gigs across London were now getting replaced with a social life in local
pubs with Gordon and Ed, meeting lots of new folk and new influences.
The Hayes pub we first regularly went to was the Royal Oak as the landlord served
anybody. It was like a youth club with a bar and a good jukebox – including ‘Not Fade Away‘ and ‘It’s All Over Now’ by the Stones. A old mod friend from school wanted to be in a band, he played bass and knew I played guitar, we agreed to buy an amp between us and spent £90 (a lot of cash) on a new one from a Hanwell guitar shop, I payed £75 he £15 and he was to owe me the remaining £30 for his half. Two weeks later he’d changed his mind and unsuccessfully asked for his £15 back. So now I had a guitar and an expensive amp.

Some of the local older mods, had a band called The Hitmen, we saw them rehearse in a
garage, it seemed amazing to see lads like us just blasting out this sound. I loved ‘Start!’ by
The Jam and set about learning the blistering solo by Weller, it was really difficult at 45rpm but soon realised it’s easier at 33rpm and the odd bit at 16rpm. Why they ever put 16rpm as an option on a record player is unknown.
On the morning of 9th December, eating bacon and beans before leaving for work, the radio announced that John Lennon had been shot dead. Three days later we went up to Camden for the The Jam gig at the Music Machine, the only tickets were from street touts but we were a bit more streetwise now and got them for a good price. The Jam were brilliant again, the best of the 3 times we’d seen them that year. The year closed with thoughts of moving on but to what?

1981 Can You Hear It, The Sound Of Something Burning, Something Changing :
John Peel led the way, we still loved The Jam but now started to be more open to new
directions, no more mod gigs, rarely any football matches and bought the NME almost
solely from now on.
A book showing all guitar chords was purchased. There were so many keys, so many chords in each key, too many, and how on earth can you get the correct fingers to the correct fret fast enough to follow a tune? Maybe better to just practice along to favourite songs.
I loved ‘Boy’ by U2, and set about learning some of it, the Edge’s playing on that album was simple but really atmospheric, especially ‘An Cat Dubh‘ and ‘Into the Heart‘.
From then on it was, tune guitar to the record, play along using trial and error at normal
record speed or slower, and gradually I noticed it was getting easier to pick up new phrases
or tunes almost like the fingers were starting to bypass conscious thought and were
anticipating where they should go next. It was weird but probably not surprising as my brain was now full of music and desperate to master tunes.

Now to see U2 live, their Hammersmith Palais gig was brilliant, very tight and dynamic.
Gigs (very partial list)
9-6-81 Hammersmith Palais – U2, Altered Images
21-10-81 Pavilion, Hemel Hempstead – U2, Comsat Angels

The enthusiasm I had for U2 wasn’t really shared by my friends, U2 weren’t hip, didn’t
dress cool and weren’t from London, Liverpool, Manchester or Glasgow. The NME were
supportive of them apart from that Christian thing. I was no stranger to tutting at folk who
liked Status Quo but to be tutted at because I liked U2 made me like them even more – as
much as I was influenced by the NME, it was more important to trust yours ears over critics’ opinions.
In July there was a large riot in neighbouring Southall, where the Hamborough Tavern pub
was burnt down on the night of a concert by Oi bands. Dad worked in Southall and told me
what he’d heard from factory he worked in – the local Indian Community were peaceful
people but had had enough. We got a bus the next day to Ealing which went through
Southall and passed the charred ruins, all the surrounding walls had been dismantled for
missiles, the locals were on the street discussing the events, it seemed like things were
breaking apart and there were rumours of a riot planned in Hayes during its annual carnival.
The musical influences came constantly, Human League, Heaven 17, Simple Minds, Echo
and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Pigbag. I was biased towards the Liverpool scene
anyway and totally rated the Bunnymen. Gordon came around with ‘Ceremony‘ by New
Order, we knew of Joy Division but were otherwise distracted in 1980. We both agreed this
was a great record and would keep an eye out for their next one.
Short hair was now less desirable, time to grow a fringe or in fact anything that might look
good on a record cover. The trouble was there were so many styles co-existing, in clothes, in haircuts, even in guitars, it was a free-for-all. Ed had a pineapple style haircut by now and a long coat both based on Ian McCulloch.

In amongst all this there was a band called Orange Juice – what a bad name for a band, they came recommended though so I bought their most recent single ‘Poor Old Soul‘. At this point the lights came on in my head and soon had bought the entire Postcard catalogue including Aztec Camera, Josef K and Go-Betweens – ‘Blue Boy’, ‘Breakfast Time’, ‘Simply Thrilled Honey‘ and ‘Just Like Gold‘ were my favourites, there didn’t seem to be any upcoming gigs in London so I wrote to Alan Horne of Postcard Records requesting they play in London soon. He wrote a charming letter back thanking the enthusiasm and said they be playing in early-August at the The Venue. What a bummer as I’d be away on a lads holiday in the English Riviera of Torquay.

In August I passed the car driving test, then New Order released a fantastic set of records
first ‘Procession‘ and later that year ‘Everything’s Gone Green‘ and the album ‘Movement‘, my head was swimming with all these different strands of music that called out for attention.

The year ended with Electronic and Indie influences to the fore, also my apprenticeship was ending as the Hoover factory had announced it was shutting with the loss of all 1000+ jobs.
What was going to happen now? It seemed nothing was certain anymore other than the
minimum redundancy payment which was set at £1500 net.

Every cloud has a silver lining and I was now the proud owner of a 1968 Mark1 Ford Escort 1300 Super bought for £80, resprayed Metallic Green with white speed stripes and a cassette player.

1982 Tonight I Think I’ll Walk Alone, I’ll Find My Soul As I Go home :
At age 18 and after this musical upbringing on the Beatles, Punk, Jam, mod influences, U2 the Bunnymen, New Order and Postcard, and with a couple of years of trying to work out
the guitar lines to favourite songs, my friend Ed Moran asked me to bring along my guitar to his attic to add to his Bauhaus bass lines and the fledgling songwriting talents of David
A compilation tape appeared from David of his musical influences, music he wanted me to
like too. The tape contained ‘Transmission’ by Joy Division, ‘The Classical‘ by The Fall,
Heroes‘ by Bowie, various tracks by New Order, VU and John Peel favourites. and nothing
at all by The Jam or U2. The tape was played constantly in my car stereo, it was amazing.
We rehearsed in Ed’s attic or David’s bedroom, trying to avoid getting electric shocks from
Ed’s faulty amp. The sound that emerged varied from ‘Transmission‘ to a sub-Postcard pop, other folk were recruited in for vocals although this made it worse.

David quietly continued his songwriting and started to introduce more of his own creations. He was a year younger than me, quiet and intelligent, didn’t work other than as pot-man at the Hayes Social Club and it soon became clear he was a promising lyricist and composer.
I bought loads of records including Weekend, Tracey Thorn, Bunnymen but spent more time playing music than going to gigs now.

In June I left Hoover with £1500 redundancy and continued the apprenticeship at a different much smaller local factory that seemed to have been frozen in time around 1955. I asked one of the men there who would have been my age in 1962, what was it like growing up in that fantastic era of the London swinging sixties. He said they’d read about in the papers but had never seen any of it where he lived.

Later that year my Vox guitar was playing up so it went into a guitar shop and had all new
pickups and adjustable bridge fitted. Cost £80 but it sounded brilliant now.
My cousin Michael in Southall (he of the warped records from a skip in 1978) had a brother
Paul who was playing keyboards/guitar in synth pioneers Naked Lunch, we went to see
them uptown supporting Dr and the Medics. Maybe anyone could do this?

1983 Then Comes Pancake Factor Number One :
David and I rehearsed most Sundays at his house, I brought the Vox and a WEM amp in the
back of my recent redundancy money purchase, a 1976 Red Mark3 Ford Cortina 1600XL
with black vinyl roof and decent stereo cassette.

I loved that car when it didn’t play up.
Ed was playing bass less frequently as he had a steady girlfriend (plus a few unsteady ones
in parallel) and a life outside of music. David played a Gretsch guitar thorough a Fender
Twin amp which was good gear. He often played the Velvet Underground Live album from 1969 and VU 3rd album, I got to love them too.

We managed to get some demo’s recorded on a 244 Teac portastudio in the garage of an old guy who knew David’s parents.

It was 3 or 4 of David’s songs with bass, rhythm, lead, drum machine and vocals. It was small time but a big step up from recording a practice live to cassette. Ed soon dropped out of the rehearsals to concentrate on girls.
At this time, a girl I liked called Wendy was in a ‘band’ and she asked me to come to their
rehearsals, so now I was in potentially 2 bands. She loved Lou Reed especially the
Transformer‘ album and would usually be playing it when I came over. We sat on her bed
listening to ‘Make Up‘ while chatting as she put on her makeup ‘eyeliner, rose hips and lip
gloss, such fun’ – it was perfect. I’ve loved that album ever since.
One of our local pubs was the Brook House, it was a big busy pub and plagued by
troublemakers who’d battle it out among themselves or the manager. It ended up getting
shut by the police and remained closed for about 2 years. We started to go to another local
pub called the Queens Head, it was an alternative community of hippies, rockers, punks and drop-outs. The jukebox was generally playing Hendrix, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Airplane etc and weed was smoked openly both in the pub and the beer garden at the front of the pub, in fact most drugs were available to buy there and it attracted people from all over. Perhaps every town had a pub like this? It was later raided by the police and locked up for a very long time – it never reverted to type again.

So Gordon, Ed and I started now going to Ealing to the Queen Victoria pub by the old
Ealing Film Studios, it was lively and full of young fashionable diverse types, very
cosmopolitan in all senses and less tense and unpredictable than the working class pubs of
Hayes. We knew folk there and also went uptown to some clubs to hear more dance music.
Bands we bought records of and maybe saw live included The Smiths, New Order, Friends
Again, Bunnymen and Strawberry Switchblade. We loved The Smiths and New Order
especially, also I thought all the Friends Again singles that year were brilliant sunlit upbeat pop tunes. I was also into Lou Reed, James Brown funk, Jimi Hendrix and ‘Hunky Dory‘.
Gordon was now spending more time with a crew who followed Theatre Of Hate, they were
living an alternative existence, unemployed, squatting, music and drugs. The bonds that tied us were weakening, all those years growing up together couldn’t stop that and later that year he left his job, joined that crew full time, moved away and rarely came back – what a shame.

Chapter 3 1984 / 1985 here

(Read Chapter 1 here)

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