New Year’s Eve 1980. The dark and dangerous disco night. A scruffy camper van. ODC 500G. Bed in the back. Sit up front or behind. Orange lights on the motorway. Three men. A silver shell suit. Glasses with a trimmed beard. Backcombed bush with quiff. Three friends. Three horsemen. The end of times. The end of future times. One day these faces will not be watched anymore. Unplaced. Removed. Gone forever. Missing. Taken. An unholy Rapture. Down instead of Up. These faces are all. Everywhere. Packed lunch. Pillow case. Vinyl sleeve. Hardback. Comic. Television. Radio. Summer Roadshow. Disco. Dream. Nightmare.
Driver talks. I know everyone. Lords. Ladies. Ministers. Doctors. Nurses. Police chiefs. Psychiatrists. Princes. Producers. Fund Raisers. Runners. Rotarians. Bands. Directors. Dancers. Dolly Birds. Dreamers. Donators. Children. I get around. Everyone knows me. Got a key for every lock. Bed in a hundred different bedrooms. I know the length of every midnight corridor. Doing my rounds. The hum of the morgue. The sob of the chapel. Everyone knows me. Always moving. In plain sight. Full view. Out in the open. Trusted. Valued. Feted. Asked to arrange. Make things happen. Well versed in the art. Haughey wanted me to fix it.
I have visions. First passenger speaking now. Riding shotgun. Cleaning glasses. A huff and a handkerchief. Broad brushstrokes. A paintbrush or a marker pen. Landscapes as a way of life. And suns arising. Limitless horizons. Speaking as I paint them. Showing them slowly. Can you see what is it yet? Questions. Cartoons. Caricatures. Kangaroos. Command Performances. Comedy. Singing songs. Little boys. Little toys. Wooden legs. Extra ones too. Pegs. Didgeridoos. Entertaining. There’s room on my horse for two. Kind to animals. Family friendly. Suitable. From Outback to living room. Someday I’m gonna paint a portrait of the Queen of England.
Second passenger. The crowd roars. Leader. Leader. Leader. Of the Gang. I am. Not Blockbuster. Not Metal Rex riding swans. Rock and Roll. Parts One. And Two. All glitter and alliteration. All glam and hamming it up for the punters. On stage. On the road. Road shows. Seaside Specials. Chat shows. Pop charts. Ballrooms blitzed. Platforms. Posters. Problem pages. Tee shirts. Sleeves. Smash Hits. Jackie Magazine 1 March 1975 No.582. Lots of pop star stuff always. Girl on the cover in the cap. Is she screaming or shouting? Drawing attention. An early warning? Look it up. See for yourself. Decide.
Radio On(e). All sing. If you want to I’ll change the situation. Right people, right time, just the wrong location. I’ve got a good idea, just you keep me near I’ll be so good for you. I could be so good for you I’m gonna help ya. Love you like you want me to I’ll do anything for you I’ll be so good for you. I could be so good for you I’ll do it like you want me to Love you like you want me to There ain’t nothing I can’t go through I’ll be so good for you.
Where we going? What’s our plan. Gonna gather the lads. Express orders from the Iron Lady. And his Highness. The country is in danger. Going down the drain. Strikers. Unions. Radicals. Rock Against This. And That. Times are changing. Entertainment too. Music isn’t like it was. Disco wasn’t killed by Punk. It swallowed Glam instead. Old television all gone. Formats have changed. We need strong ones who know. Who remember and stand firm against the tide. We all do our bit. Me and You. And You. But we need more now. The country does. Churchillianesque, chaps. We must muster now.
I need a piss. Pit stop. Comfort break. Little Boy’s Room. Wee-Wee. Number One. Not Two. Me too. Good to stretch my legs. Driving is a different kind of marathon. Standing on the dirty forecourt. Watching the late night world go by. Country needs a wake-up call. We’re gonna ring the bell. Wake the nation. Get back to what we did. What works for us. And then for them. Form a new cabinet. They were her words. You know the world, she said. And what needs to be done. And who should best do it. I’ll leave you to it.
A shadow cabinet she said. In the shadows. Set apart but central to the plan. Backstage. Behind the scenes. Undercover. My people are useless she said. Know nothing. He agreed. We need chaps who know things. Who can do things. Chaps not afraid to make the hard choices. The right choices. Chaps who know their way around. Take the hard roads. The dark roads. The roads less travelled. People want different things now. And we don’t want what they want. We want what we want. He’s right she says. Listen to Him. Choose your chaps carefully. Only those you trust.
First chap. Speeding down the M5. Like a bubonic Santa. Junction 12. 25 Cromwell Street. This one never sleeps. Always on the job. On the fiddle. Know him from way back. Good lad. Handy with his hands he is. Dependable. Don’t make many like this one. Knows what’s what. We’ll wait here for him. Here he comes. Jump in. We got things to do. Told ‘er I were working I did. She do get angry. But I tolds her I were needed. Natural emergency. National. Brought me tools and all. Just in case like. Just in case. Let’s be off.
Why ain’t you on telly tomorrow morning like? Doing things in hospitals? Silly children smiling. Singing. Prerecorded, my friend. Pre-recorded. Great fun on set though. Stories. Stories. Stories. Birds galore. Standing where the cameras aren’t looking. Waiting to meet a star. Or two. Turn it up. Love this song. Grandma, we love you Grandma, we do Though you may be far away We think of you There’s no one quite like Grandma And I know you will agree That she always is a friend to you And she’s a friend to me There’s no one quite like Grandma. Love it.
Dennis next. Off to Muswell Hill. 195 Melrose Avenue. Known Dennis for years. Keeps himself to himself. Bit of a loner. How do you know all these people? I get around. I have travelled there and back again. Round and about. The highways and the fairy paths. I never had time for sightseeing. Too busy trying to earn a living. Every gig a different girl. Screaming. Crying. Overcome. Overwhelmed. Easy pickings. Tell me about it. Almost too simple. Don’t knock it, lads. Girls and gravy, gentlemen. Girls and gravy. We have it all ahead us for ever and ever. Period.
Dennis quiet. Pensive type of chap. Sitting silent in the back. No-one minds. Each has their personal bags to carry. Filled to flowing with blackness. Vapours odorize the camper van. Pouring from a million different damaged dangerous darkly pores. Spores. Paint. Sweat. Old Spice. Cigars. Blood. Sebum. Sperm. Dead skin. Cosmetics. Hair spray. Rum. Roll ups. Farts. Brightly coloured invisible clouds all mixing in real time. Mutating and rotating. Taking on new hues. Chemically reacting. Filling an alternative sky with trails. A heady cocktail of deadly death and dark desire. Psychopathochemologicology for Beginners. What a book to read. To write.
Surrey next. Like happy pilgrims. Heading for God Boy. The Son of Pop. Been around since Time began. Amen and forever. Timeless. Like the little boy tapping on the window. Brings a touch of class, he does. At tennis games and concerts where HRH reigns. A decency to him, I say. What the country needs. What it deserves. Values are fast eroding. We’ve all seen it happening. Each felt in our ways that things are not what we want. Or need. Things have fallen. We are charged with bright returns. Bringing it back to where it needs to be again.
Behold, the Son of Pop. Figure detaches from the shadows by the large gates. Everybody shoves up to make room for him. Hi, guys. All set. Got everything we need. For the midnight mission. Not a question of faith. More like Faith itself. Cleaning with a Holy Fire. With tongues aflame. Burning with a religious light. The country will be born again. Borne upon the tide of a newness. Like lambs led before the Altar. Anointed anew. One country united again. One Faith. One Father. One Voice. No Choice. All obscenity removed. All stains. Only the Blood of the Lamb.
Only Himself left now. Off we go. We’d better hurry now. We need to be at Chequers by sunrise. Everyone thought that I was him. But he wasn’t me. Contacts made. Conversations over murky tea in sweaty rooms. Handshakes and all agreed. Turn a blind eye. Everyone has something about them. The trick is to know exactly what. Save it. Store it up. Waiting. Take your time. Eventually you can claim what’s yours. A quiet word. A statement. Letter sent and copies made. Kept hidden. Threats made. Hints. Revelation. Blackmail. Then the country owes you more than it can pay.
Tower blocks at night. Stand tall. Sullen. Filled with hate. Touching the dirty clouds. As they slowly stain all beneath them. The littered poisoned ground around them. Car parks. Underpasses. Walkways. Tunnels. Street lights help to hide the horror. Our lads feel no fear. The camper van parked. Everyone standing around. Like a football team getting ready to play away. Keen for the kick off. But all experts here. Nothing part-time this time. Or any other time. Serious business saving the country from itself. Silent appearance. The light of a drag. Beard and long coat. Alright lads. Waiting for someone?
Drinks and chat. Mince pies and plans. Her chin’s shadow huge on the wall. Eyes burning fierce. Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Thank you so much for coming. And him. Big ears and weak grin. Yes. Thank you chaps. One is touched. Now then. Now then. What’s the plan? How can we fix it? All sturdy lads here together. Ready for the pop apocalypse. Got to hit the country hard lads. But sly. Keeping lids on things. With help of course. Why yes, indeed, she says. Name it and you have it. Anything. Anyone? Yes, anyone. Quite! Everyone? Knighthoods all round? Indeed.