Glory Days


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In December 1976 a British punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, shocked millions of people by swearing during a live television broadcast. They brought the language of every street corner, workplace and school playground into the living rooms of viewers. The group’s verbal barrage was delivered toward the end of a “family teatime programme”, as it was described by one newspaper. Children heard words that parents used daily among their contemporaries; parents heard words that children used daily among their contemporaries.

If you are ever lucky enough to see a recording of this moment in television history, you will notice the look of cynical confusion on the face of presenter Bill Grundy as he interviews the band. (Apparently he was drunk.) He tries to ridicule them but his words are lighted matches flicked into a box of fireworks that explodes in a delightful display of sneering obscenities.

You will notice Mr Grundy, but most of your attention will focus on the Sex Pistols’ lead singer, Johnny Rotten. He looks bloody odd: a pale, wasted, buckled manikin. A creature apparently fashioned of waxy plastic and safety pins. His pale intense eyes are bleakly ancient; relentlessly mocking. It’s all an act of course, but it’s a fucking good one.

Punk leaders like Mr Rotten insisted they hated the peace-and-love mysticism and fuzzy idealism of the hippies. They thought hippies were complacent old farts. But after passing queasily through the transitional phase known as New Romanticism, many young people who were part of punk’s first wave became the New Age hippy travellers of the 1980s.

Fate is a largely ignorant god, but it knows one thing; it depends on one recurring truth: that sooner or later humanity will make an arse of itself.

If you watch the Grundy fiasco, tear your eyes from the delectable Mr Rotten and examine the small crowd of fans and hangers-on behind the group. As bizarre and colourful as a troop of circus freaks, they stand defiantly before the cameras. Among them, at the very back, are a gangling youth with orange hair and a slim girl with huge dark eyes and a rough-cut bob of black hair. They are Bob Goodey and Janice Feathers. They were good friends of mine; they still are. In those days, adhering to the fashion of the time, they called themselves Bob Hoodlum and Jan Juicy. (She had considered changing her name completely to Anna Key, but rejected the idea because it seemed too obvious.)

Bob and Jan were briefly in a band, the Garrottes, who did nothing. The Garrottes’ leader was not present at the Grundy interview. He was Trevor Cox - Trev Terrorist in 1977, when he was nineteen. His father, a wily businessman raised in London’s east end, owned a successful wine importation company. Trev was leader of the Garrottes because his father found it difficult to express love, and in place of affection liked to buy his son expensive gifts, which included all the instruments and equipment needed to form a band. The Garrottes had two rehearsal sessions in a large outbuilding that stood in the two-acre garden of the Cox family home in Chorleywood, an affluent suburb to the north-west of London.

Jan and Bob attended the second session, held on a windy overcast Saturday afternoon in late August 1977. Bob had been recruited because he was vaguely proficient on drums; Jan was there because she possessed the dying-martyr eyes and bruised-lip mouth considered the epitome of sex appeal during punk’s heyday. (In fact she was blessed with an elfin prettiness that even her cadaverous make-up and shaggy hair could not conceal.)

This second rehearsal was to be the last (I wasn’t kidding when I said the band did nothing) and the following account explains why:

Bob, his spiky orange head bowed listlessly, sat behind the drum kit and listened to Trev talk about the song he had written and how it should be played. Trev would be lead guitarist, a thin intense rat-faced punk of seventeen called Ray Geronimo would be lead singer, and Jan would play bass guitar. Another youth, known simply as Nug, sat in a battered armchair facing the band. He had no obvious role. On the grubby white wall behind his chair was a poster for the Adverts, a successful punk band. Nug’s dyed red hair was swept back from his forehead and made him resemble a cartoon bird; probably the Roadrunner. He held a rectangular box of clear plastic and was examining it intently. Inside it was a convoluted object that appeared to be a human ear. It twitched spasmodically, though how this trick was achieved – whether by invisible wires or a concealed mechanism – was not immediately clear.

Trev’s song was called I Wanna be a Pagan. Jan and Bob were the only people present who were unfamiliar with it.

Trev’s heavy, rather coarse features were set in a frown of concentration as he turned to Jan. He took a gulp from his can of lager and said: “That’s all you got: three notes. Think you can play the baseline like I showed you, love?"

“I think so,” she said.

“And also, you come in with the wooheeoo bit at the chorus.”

“Got it.”

“Coz, like, the girl singing wooheeoo, that’s like the fucking bit that sends shivers down your spine, right?” His shoulders moved uneasily. “Well, not your spine. I mean the fuckers in the audience, right?”


“She looks like Joan Jett, don’t she?” said Ray, nodding toward Jan. He grinned at her nervously. “You look like Joan Jett from the Runways, you do.”

“It’s Runaways.” Nug did not take his attention from his box.

“What, mate?”

“The Runaways. It’s got an ‘a’ in the middle of it. The way you pronounce it sounds like it’s a place were planes land. Joan jets I suppose.”

“Oh yeah. Good one, mate. Joan jets. I geddit.”

“Right,” said Trev loudly. “Let’s go over the serious stuff again. You start with the drums, Bob, then I play the intro riff, then you start with the bass, Jan. Then Ray comes in. Okay everyone?”

They all mumbled their assent, and the Garrottes began to play. If you had been standing ten or twelve feet from the outbuilding, you would not have had trouble hearing the sound they made. You would not have had trouble if you were standing several hundred yards away. But you would have found it difficult to describe it as music.

The initial part of the song went more or less as planned. Ray, eyes rolling, bawled into his microphone:

No to the police!
No to the few!
No to everybody!
And no to yewww!

I wanna be a paagaan…

As the word “pagan” mauled the air, Jan stepped up to her own microphone. The safety pins and badges on her black leather jacket glittered; her Damned T-shirt was stretched tightly across her breasts; her ripped drainpipe jeans hugged her thighs. And her expression was the expression of a dying saint: the glazed, slightly narrowed eyes, the mouth open in an exquisite gasp of agony. Positively orgasmic.



“Hold it! Hold it!” Trev had stopped playing. His hand was raised. “What the fuck was that?

“Sorry.” Jan rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “I sneezed.”

“I fucking know that,” said Trev. He glared at her and his whole body radiated menace. He occasionally claimed that his father had gangland connections and had been a friend of the infamous Kray Twins.

Jan raised her hands to her face and uttered a dampish yelp: “Yeck-chaa!”

“Bless you,” mumbled Bob. No one took any notice.

“I said wooheeoo, not achoo,” Trev growled.

“Sorry,” said Jan again. She sniffed and blinked. “I’m finished now.”

“You might ave the flu,” said Ray helpfully. “I ad flu last week. Bleedin diabolical.”

“You didn’t have flu,” said Nug. He glanced up. “You’d been snorting too much speed, you tosser.”

“I felt like shit, mate.”

“No.” Nug shook his head and returned his attention to his box. “You’ve got it wrong again. You smelled like piss.”

“Look,” said Jan. “I’m not ill. It was just – ”

“Can we get on?” said Trev.

They began again: the drums, the riff, the bass, the howled lyrics. And at the chorus Jan almost fell over the microphone as her head snapped forward.


They stopped playing. Jan staggered backward, gasping, a sneeze gathering energy inside her like the spring of a child’s clockwork toy. The key was turned, and turned again, and now the spring was ready to unleash its stored power.

“Chai! Heh-chai!”

“Are you, like, doing this on purpose?” demanded Trev.

“Of course not.”

“Bless you,” murmured Bob.

“I think it’s the guitar,” said Jan. “The bass. Those three notes – I don’t know what it is about them, but when I play them they sort of vibrate.”

“Of course they fucking vibrate,” said Trev.

“Yes. But they vibrate inside me, and it creeps up into my head and my nose until…Well, until I have to sneeze.”

Trev gaped at her. “You are fucking kidding, right?”

“No. I’m not. I’ve never played bass guitar before, but I think it makes me sneeze. Or that combination of notes, anyway.”

“I’ve got a fucking brilliant idea,” said Ray. His manic grin became wider. “What if Jan sneezed over the audience. I mean, the audience gob over us, and we’re supposed to gob back. But what if Jan sneezed back?”

“Do you know what?” Nug held a cigarette in one hand. He took a long drag and exhaled. He held up his box with his other hand and closed one eye, studying his captive ear. “It’s a long shot, but it might just work.”

“Is everyone taking the piss?” Trev glanced at each band member in turn, allowing his baleful gaze to settle on Jan. “You are doing this deliberately, aren’t you?”

“No. Watch.” She played the notes. Throb throb throbbing. And the activity began again in her body, and her features were pulled into the gently suffocating fogs and snapping silks of great, gusty sneezes.

“Hetchai! Het-chooo!…Huh…heckchaa!”

“Bless you,” said Bob, quite loudly this time.

Jan took a crumpled tissue from her jeans and wiped her nose. “See. It’s the bass.”

“You’re faking it,” said Trev. “You fucking tart.”

“Hang on, mate,” said Ray. “That’s a bit out of order. She sounded like she was really sneezing to me.”

“Three notes,” growled Trev. “That’s all she’s got to do. Play three fucking notes.”

“Wooheeoo and the world woos with you,” said Nug. “Sneeze and it makes Trev groan.”

“Shut the fuck up, Nug.” Trev approached Jan and tugged the instrument from her hands, pulling the strap roughly over her head. He removed his own guitar and replaced it with the bass. He played the three notes. Throb throb throbbing. And nothing happened. “See? She’s faking it. I didn’t sneeze; she didn’t sneeze.”

Jan’s nose twitched. “I think it only happens when the guitar’s touching me.” Her eyes filled with tears of hurt, but she pursed her purple lips and stared at Trev defiantly.

“It’s really hard to fake a sneeze, isn’t it?” Ray did not sound certain.

“For fuck’s sake!” Trev gritted his teeth, then opened his mouth in a kind of snarl. “Arghh…ah…achoo!” He glared at Ray, nodding fiercely. “Convinced?”

“No,” said Ray.

“On a scale of one to seven billion – ” Nug was holding his box up, looking at its base “ – you scored exactly zero.”

“I won’t tolerate people taking the piss.” Trev shot a look at Nug, but refocused his hostility on Jan. “You’re sacked from the band, love; I don’t care how good you look. Go on, get out. Fuck off.”

Jan uttered a cry of dismay and ran to a corner of the room where she had left the plastic carrier bag she took everywhere with her. She snatched it up – it contained make-up, emergency tampons, scraps of paper, a plastic mackintosh and two ham and tomato sandwiches – and headed for the door.

As Jan fled, Bob rose and stepped out from behind the drum kit. He was taller than anyone else in the room. With one stride he was facing Trev. He drew back his arm, bellowed incoherently, and punched Trev on the nose. The blow sounded like a steak being slapped on to a butcher’s shop counter. Trev’s legs gave way and he sat, his bottom thumping the floorboards. His nostrils gushed blood. Almost immediately he began to weep.

He put his hands to his face, blood and tears oozing from between his fingers. “You fucker,” he wailed. “You’ve made a mistake. I drink in the Blind Beggar. You know, the pub in Whitechapel where Reggie Kray shot Jack The Hat. I got contacts. You’re dead, you bastard!”

Bob leant forward and dragged the bass guitar over Trev’s head. He wrenched the cord from the amplifier. Then he sprinted after Jan, clutching the guitar’s fret in one big hand.

Nug’s box was on his lap. He was hunched over it. “Actually,” he said. “It wasn’t Reggie, it was Ronnie. And it wasn’t Jack The Hat. It was George Cornell.”

“Shut the fuck up!” sobbed Trev.

*    *    *

Rain struck the bedroom window of Bob’s flat in Dagenham. Water slapped and sighed across the glass. A squally shower had arrived as the light faded.

He and Jan had taken the Underground together, travelling from one side of London to the other. Now she knelt naked on his unmade bed, the bass guitar tucked under her breasts. It was plugged into a small practice amp that Bob had nicked from a music shop a few weeks previously.

Bob, also naked, squatted on the floor at the foot of the bed. He was gazing up at Jan hungrily but tenderly. His long limbs were layered with sleek muscle: before he devoted his life to punk rock, he had been a champion swimmer.

“Play,” he whispered.

She played the baseline riff. Throb throb throbbing. Her face, slightly raised and drenched in the window’s watery light, looked like a flower about to bloom. Her mouth fell open, and then she sneezed:


Her hair whipped forward and the smooth flesh of her shoulders and breasts shivered.

“Yetchaa!” Her erect nipples were dusted with moisture. “Chai!”

Bob watched the plume of her breath as its droplets caught the undulating light: an exotic, beautiful phantom that was her sweet essence. He slithered on to the bed and pushed her gently until she was lying on her back. He spread her legs, inhaling the scents rising from her skin, and buried his head in the darkness between her thighs. His tongue probed her clitoris and she moaned. He feasted on the wet heat that flowed from her; and the day, at last, achieved perfection.

“Cunnilingus, cunnilingus…tiny little thing,” she sang in a quiet, gasping voice. “Cunnilingus dance…Cunnilingus sing.”

She writhed, moaning, and played the three notes again – very badly this time. She played some more, still badly, and sneezed.

“Eckchoo! Ya-etchai!”

Her arms dropped from the instrument. She sighed and moaned; she groaned fiercely. Bob’s tongue was tireless and powerful; it coaxed and teased and caressed until, eventually, she reached orgasm, her awareness soaked in a wailing tide of pleasure, drowning in bliss.

Bob took the guitar from her as she lay gasping, her flushed skin slick with sweat. He let the bass fall to the floor, then he mounted her, inserted his penis, and they rocked together.

*    *    *

Bob and Jan loved each other from that day, and though their relationship has had its share of grief they are still together. They are married, have three children (the oldest is eighteen and attending university) and run a small but thriving chain of restaurants in north-east Hertfordshire. I don’t see them very often these days, but when I do we slip comfortably back into our old friendship. Bob and I share a fetish, of course, but it’s not the only reason I like him: he has an honesty and strength of character I admire. And who wouldn’t adore Jan; except for Trev?

On the most recent occasion that I visited the Goodeys’ family home, Bob and I stayed up late, talking and drinking, after Jan had gone to bed. We sat at the rustic wooden table in the big farmhouse-style kitchen. We each had a bottle of Chardonnay. Sound does not easily penetrate from the kitchen to the rest of the house, so the room has an immaculate hi-fi system that includes a deck for playing vinyl.

We listened to the Sex Pistols, of course, the Clash and the Stranglers. We listened to the Damned and to Elvis Costello. At some point during the night, Bob switched to the CD player and we heard Pachelbel’s Canon, some Bach and some Corelli. Then – and I’m not sure how this happened, though I suspect Bob selected a CD from Jan’s collection – we listened to a best of Kate Bush album. In the late seventies and early eighties, we hadn’t been allowed to like Kate Bush. She was wet; she was soppy; she was just a freakish – though admittedly good-looking – little chick who said “wow!” and “amazing!” a lot. What we hadn’t realised then was just how fucking brilliant she really was.

Bob kept resetting the CD player so we heard Wuthering Heights again and again. We sat at the rustic table with our wine (we were each on our second or third bottle), and there were tears in our eyes.

“That voice! It breaks my fucking heart,” said Bob.

“She’s a fucking genius!” I added.

“You’re right, mate. You’re so fucking right.”

“God, she was hot too.”

“Yeah. She was. A fucking peach!”

“What a fucking peach.”

We shook our heads and listened without talking for a while. Then Bob turned the music down and said: “Do you fancy some prosciutto? I’ve got some in the fridge.”

“Nah. I’m fine.” I cleared my throat. “Um, I was meaning to ask earlier. Does Jan, um, still do that thing with the bass guitar?”

Bob grinned. “She does, but only on the rare occasions when the kids aren’t at home.”


“Yeah mate.” Bob frowned and proceeded to make a series of conversational and conceptual leaps; the sort of practice that seems quite logical to drunk people. “Do you reckon we sold out? After the seventies. By the standards of the time, I mean. The whole punk thing. I sometimes think, what’s life all about? Should you follow a set of rules? Should you be able to look back at your life and say you lived it consistently? Will I be judged? Fuck, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me after I die. My consciousness – will it go on? I can’t help wondering.”

I raised my eyebrows. “I assume your questions are rhetorical.”

“I dunno.”

“I could have a stab at answering some of them.”

“Go on then. I’ve gone off the idea of prosciutto.”

“It seems to me,” I said. “That the word ‘change’ is the closest we have to an all-encompassing definition of life. Deny change, you deny life. The me of 1977 no longer exists. I mourn for him sometimes, the same as I would mourn for any dead friend. But I wouldn’t be bound by the opinions he held, or live my current life to his rules. As I recall it, he was a bit of a wanker.”

“Yeah,” said Bob. “I remember that too. He was.”

I ignored him. “As for what it’s like after you die, I reckon I can clear up that little problem.”

“You can?”

“Yep. Brace yourself. It will be just like it was before you were born. Nirvana.”

Bob stared at me for some moments: a man who has been slapped across the face and is not sure whether to laugh or launch a counter attack. He chose the former. “I bloody knew it. You always were a fucking old hippy.”

I didn’t reply. I smiled. I drank more wine. Now and forever, a prisoner of myself.

…Old punks never die: they just turn slowly rotten.