1976 – Gong

1976 Gong

School lunch times were interesting affairs. I was in the Lower Sixth Form at High Storrs School and we were slowly getting to know the kids that had joined us from Silverdale School up the road. They didn’t have their own Sixth Form at the time. They were also very, very posh! The lives and homes of most of those that I spoke to seemed a world away from what I was used to – their parents were either doctors, specialists and consultants or high-powered business men and company directors. Their hair always seemed shiny and their clothes were effortlessly and expensively casual. But, I could play the guitar and when they found out that I was pretty good, I was invited in to their “inner sanctum”, joining them on Saturday afternoons at one or other of their posh houses up in Dore or Totley. I had to carry my guitar and ancient little 60s style amp (given to me by someone called David – I think he was mum’s cousin’s son or something) on the bus. They all seemed to have huge back rooms, with expensive but slightly tatty furniture, patio doors and a piano, where we would “jam” together, improvising along to a chord progression someone had come up with.

However, it was the school lunch times when we did all the talking, planning gigs that never happened, choosing the names of bands that were never formed. There was an old, derelict farm on Ringinglow Road just down from school and it was here that we smoked a crafty cigarette and did our dreaming. You had to sneak round through the overgrown back garden and push open the rickety door, then carefully go upstairs to the bedrooms with bare and broken floorboards covered in bits of curling old wallpaper. Sometimes, David Pickles, Sue Lilley and myself would go across the road instead and sit in the middle of the cemetery, talking and reading the inscriptions on the gravestones. I usually had a packet of sandwiches too, though they rarely wanted to share them – dripping was so low class!
It was with a few of the Silverdale lot that I skipped off school one afternoon to go down to town and see if we could get on the “roadie” list. Gong were playing again and we knew that if you turned up at the stage door of the City Hall, they would often let you give them a hand unloading the gear from the trucks.  If they were a bit short, they’d put your name on a list, give you £5 and ask you to come back after the gig to help pack up too. This time, they did! We felt ten feet tall and so grown up as we pushed the crates onto the stage and chatted with the official roadies. After the gig was even better! We waited until most of the audience had cleared before climbing up on stage to help clear away. We had to go through the backstage area where the band and their hangers-on lolled around drinking and laughing in a hazy drug-fug.
Eventually, we said our goodbyes and left via the stage door like proper rock stars! Andy Nesbit’s girlfriend, Helen, had come with us and, as we left, one of the roadies shouted down to Andy from the lighting rig, ” Hey, give her one from me mate!”

Something was changing. I’d seen Gong but Daevid Allen and a few others had left the band and the music had lost its charm. I went to see Steve Hillage later in the year but was a bit bored. One Sunday night at the church youth club, Andrew Sinclair was putting the records on and shouted across the room to me.  ”Hey Kev, what do you think of this?”
It was “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistol. Something was definitely changing…

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