Over the summer of 1980 I managed to get a job for a couple of weeks in a brewery again. This time it was at Bass Charring ton on Claywheels Lane. I had to start around six every morning so took a pack-up for breakfast and lunch. There was a canteen but not many of the lads used it. I worked for most of the time on the bottle washer, standing on a platform watching the bottles go into a machine on a huge conveyer belt and occasionally prodding and moving a fallen one with a long pole to stop it blocking the mechanism. I had the obligatory two days training, even though I’d got the hang of it in about ten minutes. Still, I got my little brown pay packet on a Thursday and a crate of twenty four cans of beer when I finished there, so that was ok.
My fourth and final year at college was a bit of a breeze too, no teaching practices, no exams and no real pressure at all. I had a thesis to write and some art work to complete for an exhibition, but that was the stuff I enjoyed so it wasn’t difficult. I had one of the biggest individual rooms in Owen House (once an inmate, always an inmate!) with what was basically my own private bathroom next door. The three of us who had always been in the house and knocked around together, Robert, Andy and myself, all had girlfriends who’d left college so, once more, we were left to our own devices. Friday afternoon was a time for gathering in Robert’s room (he had a ‘Mastermind’ chair) drinking home-brew and taking turns to sit in the chair and give ridiculous, random answers to ridiculous, random questions.
I did go home one weekend to go to the City Hall to see The Pretenders. I’d bought their debut album over the summer and loved the feel of it – old style pop songs but with a modern, new-wave sound and Chrissie Hynde’s fabulous voice. “Kid” and “Stop Your Sobbing” were particular favourites.
It was the Christmas holidays, though, when I first heard the sprawling, triple album that is “Sandinista!” I’d known The Clash since their first album and the way they’d introduced different styles, particularly on the “London Calling” album, really appealed to me and my diverse musical tastes. “Sandinista!” takes diversity to a whole new level. Stand out tracks for me are the beautiful, echo-laden “Rebel Waltz” and the dub heavy reggae of “One More Time”. Being a triple album, I couldn’t afford it so it was actually our Neil that bought it and he always preferred the more straight forward rock of “Somebody Got Murdered”. This was the song that first got us talking about the TQ (Tingle Quotient) of songs. The TQ is a score out of ten for the particular moment in certain songs that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. “Somebody Got Murdered” scores a ten when, at 0.25 seconds, the introduction breaks out into the full blown song. (Another high TQ occurs on the “Made in Japan” album by Deep Purple when Ian Gillan does the highest scream on “Child in Time”.)
There is quite a bit of experimental crap on “Sandinista!” but the brilliance of the good stuff far outweighs it and somehow, good or not so good, the songs always manage to pulse with a heartbeat rooted in punk.