Both John (hi-fi system) and Robert (big, fairly hairy bloke) had cars with them at college so the three of us spent a lot of time, particularly at the weekend, going on what became known as “Booze-cruises”. These involved getting in one of their cars after lunch (they took it in turns to stay sober!) and driving to the many little villages that surround Ripon and trying out the beer in as many pubs as we could find. The White Bear at Masham was one favourite where we would sit and natter to the blokes from the Theakston’s brewery next door, or on Sundays, play dominoes with the locals. A pub in a village called Grewelthorpe was another quirky gem and live chickens or sheep would sometimes wander through the lounge where we’d been served beer from a jug on the bar.
It was on another of those occasional Saturday afternoons flicking through the records on Harrogate market, that I bought one of my first pre-recorded cassettes – “The First Year Plan” from Fast Product. I don’t usually like compilation albums but it had a couple of tracks by Human League and it was cheap so I got it. However, when I played it back in my room, it wasn’t those songs that stood out. From the first track, I knew I was listening to people who’s spirit was sometimes more important than their technical ability. It was punk and new wave but new and raw and not really like anything else I’d heard before. “Never Been In A Riot” by The Mekons just manages to stay together to the end of the song and “32 Weeks” is basically a rant about modern living. The heavy, fuzzed up bass sound at the beginning of “Adult/ery” by Scars and the squalling guitar intro to Gang of Four’s “Love Like Anthrax” made me want to go and play them to everyone so they could hear how exciting music can be! I thought another song, “Damaged Goods” was so good it defined my own guitar sound (when I eventually got an electric guitar) for years to come. I didn’t have many pre-recorded cassettes but at least I could actually use my own Phillips cassette player and have it on over and over again, instead of having to borrow a record player.
As I’ve experienced many times since, everyone I did play it to, including John, thought it was rubbish. Comments such as, “they can’t play!” and, “he can’t sing!” were the general consensus. I found it thrilling and full of angry energy and, as it says on the sleeve notes, “We’re interested in anyone who’s got something to say and all ways of saying it.”