American Girl by Roxanne Fontana

Image: Left: Joanne Triolo, Right: Roxanne Fontana

Excerpt from Chapter 4

“Ain’t this baby great, and ain’t that guy beautiful?”
 – Iggy Pop

It would be years before I’d be keen into astrology and all other sorts of divination, but nevertheless, there was something very fateful about that day in early July of 1976 when Josephine and I set out for New York City from Elmont.

I thought our mutual buzz was more about ‘going to the city’ than to see this seemingly strange woman named Patti Smith, perform. We both had no idea what to expect musically didn’t even talk about it. All we knew was what we had learned from Rock Scene magazine, that she was some sort of queen of a ‘scene’ that we never heard or read about anywhere except in that solitary publication. It almost seemed as if it was fictitious, this scene reported on with much excitement. The only reference points ever given to anything in the ‘real world’ was the occasional mention of the Stones, so of course, that was enough to get me and Jo interested, and it was enough for me to keep track of things. Plus, Rock Scene magazine was nice enough to pay attention to little me in Elmont by advertising my Brian Jones fan club. The first sign for me of this scene starting to take shape was when I saw a small mention in the daily newspaper about Central Park concerts and therein listed was the ‘Patti Smith’ show, so off we went.

It was to be the last ‘date’ in our friendship, which I hadn’t anticipated at the time; but I guess she did. She wore that open-mouthed Gemini smile I’ve learned a lot about since then ― which, although sincere, was completely detached. I don’t know whether or not Josephine really knew what she was doing, but basically, she was dropping me off and giving me away to this scene ― and a new life ― now have fun.

It was a beautiful day, and as we filed into Central Park we were excited to see that there were so many people to see Patti Smith. We wondered who they all were and if they’d seen her before; in short, how much did they know about this scene? We were pretty far back in the audience, and then the show began. It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. It was rock ‘n’ roll alright; but not exactly like the Stones; not like the 60s or 50s, and thank the good Lord, nothing at all like the day’s current sounds. Besides rocking, it was also highly emotional ― almost ‘sick’; you know, ‘mental case’ – like. I would learn in the coming months that it was ‘art’ (or art/rat).

From the moment the band got on the stage though, I was very much fixated on the guitarist on the left side. The energy I was feeling from him was unbelievable. I couldn’t see his face and had no idea what his name was. All I knew was that he had skinny legs and a big red Stones tongue on the back of his white and green windbreaker. His hair was fair and he played the hell out of that Gibson guitar. His energy seemed as sunny as the day; nothing dark about it, In fact, it was a perfect juxtaposition to Patti and her more sullen energy, voice, and lyrics, as well as to the guitarist on the right and the keyboardist―all of whom projected a distinctly moody tone.

One had the feeling though that the majority of the musical talent as well as the ‘fuck’ energy causing everybody in the place to rock ― including the band ― was all coming from this sunny guy with the dirty blond hair. I discovered this observation was truly correct as I later learned he was the Venus ruled one (Taurus) and the others, Saturn (Capricorn). Josephine and I didn’t confer that much at all; we were under the spell of the performance ― standing the entire show with the whole audience and dancing in our spots. We’d never heard a single song before except “Land of a Thousand Dances,” which Patti broke into during one of the original numbers.

It was such a cool moment for us; we couldn’t even say or scream it ― we just were part of it. Josephine, though, was really excited about the few things I did say to her like, “Who is that guy?!?!?!? Who is he?!?!?!?!” She was laughing away and then leaned back and asked some guy to borrow his binoculars. She looked through them and said, “He’s cute ― look.” I took them from her and that was it. The music blasted around us and I could hear her laughing as I was falling in love through the binoculars. His jaw and high cheekbones were his prominent feature, and he was as pretty as a prince from another age, adorned with modern rock dress and a guitar. All I knew was that I had to meet him.

Toward the end of the concert, another guitar player named Tom Verlaine was introduced on the stage. The whole audience seemed to know who he was and gave him a big hand. His name was familiar to me from Rock Scene magazine; that make believe the world was all of a sudden becoming real for me. The band did a wildly emotional song, “Break It Up,” and even though it was the first time I had ever heard it, I felt as though something was happening to me inside my heart and making me want to cry ― even though I was as happy as a lark.
Core premonition.

Our ride home was pretty quiet. In fact, it took blocks for us to even say, “That was great, wasn’t it?” My mind was spinning around with plans about locating their album and finding out everything I could about that guitar player. But I wouldn’t have Jo to share all this with, because even though she had a great time, she apparently thought it was time to break away from our friendship and try something new―discover life on her own―with neither regrets nor our once-a-year get-togethers. Our friendship was just over―Gemini-style.

Had I not had a new obsession, this probably would have really hurt me deeply. After all, my father had constantly said ― and still, does ― that Josephine “ruined me.” Whatever that means. He was referring to our mutual and intense Rolling Stones obsession, of course.

I soon bought the Patti Smith Horses album and loved every minute of it. I got ‘possessed’ by all the spirits therein, found out that the gorgeous guy’s name was Ivan Kral and thought that I wanted to dress like Patti on the cover of the album―at least as far as my senior year back-to-school wardrobe was concerned. I didn’t think it would be too hard to pull together.

I found out in the latest Rock Scene magazine that CBGB had their own recording label, and an album out as well. I thought that it would be wonderful if I were to go there late one Saturday afternoon, buy the club’s album and check out the place when it would be empty. And I knew just who my accomplice would be.

The thing I liked about Margaret’s friend Joanne, who lived across the circle from her, was that she was quiet but upbeat and liked to laugh. And even though she wasn’t much of a conversationalist, she was lively and seemed like she was into doing new things, like going into the city ― the Village ― Avec moi, Roseann Fontana! I nervously called CBGB one day at about 4 p.m. and asked them if I could come by on Saturday around that time to buy the album, and they said “Sure!”

Joanne had learned all about my magical experience at Central Park, and she was a great audience for me. She was going to be a very good friend, I thought. Lisa Uterano was really my best friend by that time; but her dad, Mr. Record Company Big Shot, had obviously seen too much rock ‘n’ roll nightlife ― 70s style ― to let Lisa explore it; especially at fifteen years old! Lisa wasn’t as rebellious in her fashion as I was ― unfortunately for her! But I didn’t have to worry about Joanne disapproving of me, or not thinking I was cool; everything I did was A-OK with Joanne. In fact, she actually somewhat idolized me.

She was beautiful ― a beautiful Italian girl with very black straight hair parted down the middle. She looked half goth, and half hippie really, and she was into all of that. She had pretty eyes and white, white porcelain skin ― very odd for an Italian, I thought. I guessed she might be of Northern Italian descent. She was only 5 feet tall and had a decent figure, but you never were allowed to notice it. She seemed to be a bit hung up about her body and her sexuality, and so she draped herself in baggy clothes of beautiful fabrics. All of her life-force was seemingly concentrated on her face. She was a fantastic listener and would let me talk and talk and talk. She didn’t ever want to contribute much it seemed, and that was fine with me. In this sense, there were times during our friendship when I felt like a bit of a vampire ― that I was draining her completely and leaving her for dead.

She was Aquarius as Lisa was; but Lisa had an incredible personality, even though she also had that Aquarian trait of not letting on too much about themselves. Curiously, Joanne and Lisa didn’t like each other at all, even though they really didn’t know each other. I thought it was an instinctive thing. Or, maybe they were just fighting over my attentions, which was probably the case. Despite all of Lisa’s affected, regretful declinations to my city invitations, she insisted on knowing every last detail of every adventure I went on… She would beam at me ― all wide-eyed ― while smoothing down her short blonde curls.
Yet for all her feminine looks, she was oddly masculine; chain-smoking as her beloved Leon Russell records blasted from her bedroom in her family’s upscale home.

Joanne and I entered the sweet-looking record shop Bleecker Bob’s on MacDougal Street. Behind the counter stood Bob, who I noticed had home-made magazines hanging behind him on a wall. I immediately introduced myself as the President of the Brian Jones Memorial Fan Club and asked him if he’d sell my fanzines. He didn’t hesitate to say yes and got into a conversation with me about Brian. He told me that at the Monterey Pop Festival, Brian and Jimi Hendrix ingested the DMT drug by putting it under their eyelids. This revelation freaked me out a little.

I then noticed hanging behind Bob a large-size newspaper called New York Rocker, with that Blondie girl on the cover. Next to her body were the words Ivan Kral. I cut Bob’s ramblings short and asked to immediately have the newspaper. I bought it and as we walked out in the direction of CBGB, we had the paper open, looking at the pictures and skimming the article. “I knew he couldn’t be an American!” I exclaimed, as I read he was from Czechoslovakia. I didn’t even know where the fuck Czechoslovakia was. I also learned from the article that it was a communist country. All this was absolute food for my romantic head. A communist! Is that why he’s beautiful? Is that what communists look like? When Joanne and I got to CBGB, we were both nervous.

When we entered, we found it looked even more dank and dingy than in the black and white pictures in the magazine. It was, for God’s sake, just a bar of an odd shape. In the middle of the place, sitting on a bench was Hilly, the owner and a girl with an acoustic guitar. He was teaching her how to play “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” I was touched by this and tried not to interrupt. My mother had gotten me a cheap acoustic guitar when I was twelve and I even took a few lessons myself. I was a dabbler and found it enjoyable; I had even written a song.

When Hilly stopped and looked up, I stepped forward and announced that I was there to buy the album―trying to sound as cool as possible. He got up with a stretch and walked slowly back to the front with a wave of his arm. In those days he was so very nice and open; he was almost too nice to be ‘cool’, but I would eventually learn that most of the CBGB scene was like that ― very nice people and very similar to the Max’s Kansas City scene; well, almost.

“Do the groups Television and Patti Smith really hang out here besides just playing?” I asked, taking advantage of his kindness.
“Oh yeah!”
“Does Ivan Kral hang out here?”
“Yeah, they all hang out here!”
“I would love to come here but I just turned seventeen; I have to wait.”
“Oh no, we’ll let you in. Don’t worry, come on down, just don’t drink.”

In those days you could do that sort of thing. I guess. I mean, it was still illegal of course; but such policies got very strict in the post-punk era when there was a lot of rowdiness with the hard-core post-punk scene and CBGB had to start staging matinees to keep everyone happy. When we walked out of there, with me holding my CBGB album containing music of more bands that I’d never heard of at all, Joanne and I were over the moon. Life was getting good, I thought.


Roxanne Fontana

Roxanne Fontana is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, fashion designer and author of the memoir American Girl. As an indie artist, she has released several CDs and download singles. She has worked with Dino Danelli, Gordon Raphael and Jack Douglas as producers. Her antique beaded necklaces have been sold in Los Angeles, and her clothing designs have been sold in England.

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August 22, 2017 By : Category : Culture Features Front page Literature Music Picks Tags:, , ,
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Author – Mark Baxter

We recently caught up with the charming, Jazz loving, hard grafting man-a-bout-town, Author Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter, to talk about what it takes to become an author and his latest book project with Ian Snowball! This is what he had to say…

01. How did you get started in the world of words?

Sadly it was two sad events in my personal life, both within a few months of each other in the year 2000, that gave me the biggest kick up the arse imaginable, making me realise we aren’t on this planet for too long and that tomorrow is promised to no one. So if I was ever going do the things I always planned, like write a book, score a goal at Wembley, or get into studio 2 at Abbey Road. I had better get cracking at the age of 37 and that I did at the start of 2001. I had an idea of the clothing within the game of football. Not just what the players wore off duty, but also what the fans wore, from Mod, Skin to Casuals and then weave in the story of the brands that mattered to us all!

02. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print?

That idea above became The Fashion of Football – From Best To Beckham, published in 2004. As I said, I had the idea but absolutely no idea to get it published. As a result of some business I was involved in, I met writer Paolo Hewitt, who was someone I admire for his writing in his NME days and after some persuading, PH agreed to write the book, with me researching and providing the ideas and eventually a bit of writing.

03. Was it a struggle getting your first book published?

Not with this first one, as Paolo had an agent who did us a deal for the book and that came out on Mainstream and would go on to sell something like 3,000 copies.

04. Can you remember how you felt the first time you picked up your book fresh from the printers?

Very hard to describe. I just kept looking at it. Me, a writer of an actual book? Crazy really. But of course, I was bitten by the bug!

05. How do you deal with potential rejection from Publishers?

I had a lot of practice with that my second idea! It was called The Mumper, and it looked at the life of 7 guys in a pub in South East London. One of the sad events I mentioned above was the death of my Dad aged 65, just three months after he retired. I was very close to my Dad and spent a lot of time with him as a kid watching him sing in pubs and clubs of the local area. Going onto those trips, aged 12/13, I started to meet loads of characters, so who would have fitted in very nicely in ‘Minder’ or ‘Fools And Horses’. Funny people, who were constantly up to something, but who made me laugh my head off. Anyway, I told Paolo I was going to write a novel about them all and he agreed to have a look at the writing and advise me as I went along. And this he did. I managed to somehow get to 75, 000 words and as I was writing it, I could see it as a film. The only problem was I couldn’t get a publishing deal, and it was rejected by over 60 publishers. So, I decided to self publish in 2007 and it took all my life savings to get it into book form. Barry Pease @ Pip! Pip!, who you may know, did a marvellous job on the cover art and off we went. It sold nearly 1,000 copies before the industry caught up with the book and started to take it seriously. It later got a proper book deal with Orion, who are one of the biggest publishers in the UK and the film rights were optioned and became the 2012 film ‘Outside Bet’ starring Bob Hoskins (RIP).

06. What type of writers excite you?

At the minute, I’m well into Damon Runyon and SJ Perelman. Over the years, most of Nik Cohn’s work I have liked, as well as Frank Norman and Colin MacInnes. I grew up reading lot of the music journalists such as: Danny Baker, Paul Morley, Nick Kent and Paolo, so they would be influential at the start of it all.

07. As an author how do you feel about reviews and the Industry mechanics?

Reviews are very important, but hard to attain, unless you have a heavyweight publisher behind you and they are to get in to. My experience of the industry is that it is a little bit like a closed shop. But having said that, if you have strong enough idea and you are prepared to graft, you might get somewhere, sometimes despite people instead of them helping from the start.

08. What’s a typical working day like for you?

I’ve been writing now full time since New Years Day 2008 and currently have 12 books published in one form or the other. Sadly, making a decent living from publishing books at my level is nigh on impossible, so I also write websites, blogs, PR copy, social media text etc, every day to keep the self-employment going. A typical day starts at 6am. I write up all the latest entries for the 12 to 15 Facebook and Twitter pages I work on until 9am. Then I might work on a film script ( I have recently made a few documentaries with my film business partner Lee Cogswell) or I will head into Soho for a load of meetings, and to do a bit of networking. They tend to be long old days, but usually interesting and enjoyable

09. What would be the title of your autobiography?

‘What You?!?’ – That was said to me by a former 9-5 colleague who heard I had my first book coming out and he uttered that immortal phrase. I was really taken back that he thought that I couldn’t do it. If I ever struggle on a job and I have many times, I always think of the plum who said that, then I smile and crack on and think ‘yes, me mate…’

10. What do you do aside from writing, where do you seek inspiration yourself?

Inspiration comes from people in whatever industry it might be, who have made a success of it. Be it in film, sport, music, or normal 9-5 work . Being around those people, and I’m lucky to have worked with some very big names, you can’t help to learn from the best and I continue to do that , every single day

11. What book do you wish you had written?

I’ll give you a couple – ‘The Affectionate Punch’ By Justin de Villeneuve or ‘Absolute Beginners’ by Colin MacInnes.

12. How has the internet changed what you do?

It has helped a lot with self publishing and then selling the book too, through the social media. With all these things, it has great sides and it has its terrible sides. If you use it right, it can only help

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

I do get asked a lot about helping with books, that people have had an idea to write. I always say just start writing and don’t worry about editing as you go along. Get to the end of the story and then read it back and then edit. After the fifth draft, if you still want to write the book, you will make a great job of it. Sadly, I rarely hear of anyone finishing the book, as it is a very tough process to do it right and most seem to give up

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please plug your latest book?

Really busy at the minute as we are finishing a documentary on legendary Ivy League retailer John Simons for release on DVD in Sept/Oct and we have three other films in various stages and we’re constantly juggling from one to the other. I have just had my 12th book – ‘A Hard Days Month’ co written with Ian Snowball – published through New Haven. It is mainly set in 1964 and follows two suburban 16 year old school girls as they stalk The Beatles at gigs and public appearances around the UK in the summer the album and film ‘A Hard Days Night’ came out. They are trying to get their copies of the album signed by the fabs and along the way they discover boys, drink, drugs, family death and all the stops in between. It is the final summer of their childhood and time to grow up.

*Well done to Millwall Football Club on their recent promotion!

Feedback so far has been great and you can order the book at Waterstones, Amazon or Barnes and Noble in the States among many other places: GRAB A COPY HERE. or at WATERSTONES HERE.

A Hard Day’s Month
‘A Hard Day’s Month’ by Ian Snowball and Mark Baxter follows two surburban Beatles obsessed teenage girls, ( Sandra and Cynthia) as they go on an adventure attempting to get their copies of their A Hard Day’s Night LP’s autographed by the Fabs. As they trail the band all over the UK, they slowly leave their innocent world of Fabdom behind and begin to discover a world of boys, drink, drugs, family bereavement and the ‘normal’ life which seems mapped out for them. ‘A Hard Days Month ‘ is a funny, exciting and heartwarming story with music of The Beatles as it’s the soundtrackIt is the story of one last summer to be truly themselves, before they have to grow up and leave it all behind…


Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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May 25, 2017 By : Category : Culture DozenQ Eyeplugs Front page Literature Tags:, , , ,
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Author – Talcott Levy

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

01. How did you get started in the world of words? 

I didn’t know I could write until I went to university, as a mature student. I had an awful schooling where I spent most of the time trying to avoid getting beaten up. We weren’t encouraged to be academic but to find a trade. But I’d always loved reading. My granddad was an antiquarian book dealer in the East End. I read mostly popular fiction when I was growing up. However, when I was 13 years old I worked in a kebab shop in Ilford washing-up. There I met this amazing guy called John who knew everything about everything. He decided I would like George Orwell. I did and I read every book in a year. After that I swallowed up literature. I even read Dostoevsky at that age, although I didn’t understand it! By the time I applied for university I think I’d absorbed so much good writing that when it came to essays the tutors were struck by how well I wrote. I had no idea. I was just thinking, ‘How would Orwell say this, in his plain English’. So I guess from feedback at college I knew I could write, that gave me the confidence to try fiction.

02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published? 

‘Weekend Dancer’ was always going to be a niche book. The themes of Jewish identity and youth sub-culture were not going to have a mainstream appeal. However, it is also a fairly standard ‘rites of passage’ tale so I did have some hopes that a literary agent might like it. First I sent drafts to the Writers Association. This was a paid for consultancy service that offered advice. It sounds like a potential rip off but it wasn’t. They were full of integrity and fantastic help for a first time writer. Nick Russell-Pavier looked at my work and was incredibly detailed and most importantly, honest. You have to be able to take criticism and be prepared to, ‘murder your darlings’ (cut what is unnecessary), as he put it. The book would never have been written without his help and I owe him an enormous thanks for making me understand what it takes to be a writer of fiction. I then sent a sample and synopsis out to a random set of agents listed in the Writers Handbook. I did get one very positive response. The agent really liked my writing and the whole premise of the book. However, he wanted me to change it in a way that I wasn’t comfortable with. I understand why, it would have potentially given it a more mainstream appeal. Perhaps stupidly I decided against re-writing and just sat on the book for a couple of years. Then I stumbled upon Old Dog Books and its owner Paul Hallam, who thankfully liked it and was willing to publish it as it was. In that sense I have been very lucky. Without Old Dog Books I am not sure there are too many other pop-pulp fiction publishers out there!

 03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel? 

At the time of writing my novel hasn’t been published. However, I have written or co-written five academic books. There’s always a real thrill when you get the proofs. It was the same with ‘Weekend Dancer’. When you see your writing set out like an actual real book, it’s a great buzz. It sort of seems very personal and private until that moment. Then you realise that something you have written is going to become public and read by all these strangers. It may sound daft but when you are writing you might show bits to friends and family and so it feels as if you are just playing at being a writer. But when it’s set down professionally and you have to do the final edit it becomes an object that you realise is now out of your control. It will have multiple lives of its own. It’s an amazing thought, really.

04. What was the main reasons that you started to write seriously? 

I’d written academic books and I wanted a new challenge. I took Woody Allen’s famous advice to authors and chose something that I knew about. I am lucky enough to have a job that gives me time to write and one where you are constantly writing and expressing yourself. Lectures, seminars, essay feedback, it’s all about articulating yourself in words – oral and written. In a sense, ever since I was an undergraduate I have been engaged in writing of one kind or another, non-stop. So it wasn’t about suddenly taking writing seriously. It was always part of what I did. The difference was to fit the extra writing into my routine. Again I always have writing deadlines and marking deadlines so it wasn’t hard to set up a schedule. I think writing is a discipline. You have to be organised. You have to stick to a plan. That worked for me anyhow.

05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing? 

I like to write in public. I spent a lot of time in the mornings in cafes around North London: sipping cappuccino, eating croissants and writing. I loved it. I liked having people around and a bit of chatter. For lunch I used to wander into central London, to Soho and Bar Italia. I have been going there since I was a teenager. I knew I could stay there working on my laptop as long as I wanted. It helped with the novel too as some of it is set around that area. I often went to those parts of London that I was writing about. While I was writing about the Elephant and Castle I went over the river to sit in a caff nearby. I sat in the parks when I was setting events there. I went all over, even to Leytonstone and Gants Hill. It’s a London novel and I wanted to capture the feel of the city so it helped being situated where I was writing about. I also didn’t try and write too much in a day. But at the same time I always wrote something. Little and often was my motto! It’s amazing how much you find you have written if you just do a few hours every day.

 06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset? 

Obviously the Mod years were seminal. It is where I and my friends did our growing-up. Those years were very intense. Friendships were at the centre of our lives. They meant so much. It was in the context of the Mod scene that we learnt how to negotiate relationships. It was where we learnt that even if you like the same music and clothes people are different. It may sound obvious but as a self-centred 17 year old you just think about yourself and that if people don’t agree with you they must be wrong. It takes some time to be sensitive to other peoples’ feelings and situations. Going to clubs, starting to get exposed to girls and politics and different types of people with diverse backgrounds; Mod was a great place to learn all the stuff of negotiating difference. It wasn’t smooth or easy and I for one acted like a right Muppet a great deal of the time. But all the wrong things I did to people – letting them down, not taking their feelings seriously, talking stupid dogmatic rubbish – it was all done in a safe environment. There was the safety valve of dancing and posing about town together! We had something that bonded us so all our stupidities never lasted too long. I’ve realised that some people never go through that. But you need a testing time and a stimulating environment to find out who you are and appreciate other people’s points of view.

07. What was it like to be young and involved in Street Cultures, what were your pointers and outlook?

It was exciting. It made you feel different and a part of something special. It was also myopic and suffocating. Sometimes it was a bit dull. It was many things at different times. It all seemed so important. We were so thirsty for Mod knowledge; to learn more about the styles, the music the lifestyle – to be pure Mod. It absorbed us, it was a total passion. But it made anyone who wasn’t part of our world simply ‘squares’ and they were dismissed. It probably wasn’t great for our parents either. We set ourselves apart. We judged people on their clothes and musical tastes. We were total snobs!

08. What was that period like for you as a young man outside of the Music world?

I guess no different to anyone else. Trying to find out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I hated work. I drifted in and out of dead-end jobs. Luckily there was lots of work around in London in the early to mid-80’s. I basically dossed around at work until I got found out and then sacked. Then I’d walk into the jobcentre and get another job and do the same again. There were, of course, recessions and lots of unemployment in the country. But London was actually going through a boom period for most of the time. It was the North and the old heavy industry areas that really suffered. I did eventually find my feet working for a children’s’ publishers, Walker Books. They had recently been started by a very enlightened guy, Sebastian Walker. He ran the place in a very humane way. Everyone worked flexi hours, there was a cook that came in to make fresh meals for the staff, there was no real management structure other than Sebastian the owner and an equally nice general manager. It was the first time I had worked with really middle-class people and it was an eye-opener. They all talked about the theatre and art and books. There was a real commitment to the work but they were mainly creative types who didn’t think in straight lines. When their kids came to help out in the summer I really liked them too. They seemed so bright and happy and they were all planning to travel. When I found out that they were at university I had no idea what that really meant. When they told me about the things you could study I decided that was what I wanted to do, go to university. I didn’t have any ‘A’ levels (or ‘O’ levels!) but I managed to enrol in an evening course that led me to college.

 09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?

I don’t think it did. At least, not in the way that Stanley Cohen set out when he wrote about the moral panic over ‘mods ‘n’ rockers’ in the 60s. We were largely under-the-radar for the mainstream press. Most of the articles were written by NME, Melody Maker and other music magazines. They were mostly interested in the music and the journalists were young enough and knowing enough to get it right. When there was reporting of mods as a sub-culture it did tend to focus on the stereotype ‘mod’, all mirrored scooters and parkas. But even then it was quite sympathetic. There certainly wasn’t any outrage about mods. Britain was so full of tribal youth that by the 80s youth subculture was not really demonised. I think this changed with the 1990s club scene and when new drugs like Ecstasy appeared. Then it was the same sort of headlines and social construction that Cohen writes about. But we existed in a sort of tacit truce period between the media and youth culture. I am guessing that if you were involved in a predominantly black youth sub-culture it was probably different.

 10. What music, films and books helped you to the pathway of all things alternative? 

There is no doubt that Paul Weller and ‘The Jam’ was our biggest influence. Weller looked fantastic as a mod and we followed his lead. When he formed ‘The Style Council’ French and Italian looks became important. So too did hanging-out drinking cappuccino which was a constant theme in The Style Council lifestyle they portrayed. We used to go to watch French movies like, ‘A bout de souffle’ at the old Renoir cinema in Brunswick square. The French Lycee in Kensington and the ICA on The Mall also used to show foreign films which we watched but wouldn’t always understand. Europe represented modernism to us, forward thinking and youth. Britain seemed grey and Victorian by comparison, at least in our imaginations. We were very pretentious, without any substance! I tried to learn to speak French using Berlitz cassette tapes but didn’t get anywhere. Despite the superficiality of it all on our part it showed we were searching for something different, eager for an alternative culture and lifestyle.

11. What other books do you wish you had written? 

I based ‘Weekend Dancer’ on The Jam’s lyrics for their song ‘Absolute Beginners’, which was itself taken from Colin MacInnes’ novel of that name. I love his London trilogy. I wish I could write a similar one. ‘Weekend Dancer’ is an attempt to take that story but put in a 1980s context. The main character remains nameless like MacInnes’ early modernist. His best friend, ‘The Wizard’, is ‘Smiler’ in my book. ‘Crepe Suzzette’ is Tina. They aren’t exact fits but there are lots of references to them and other characters and incidents in, ‘Absolute Beginners’. It’s also a character driven rather than plot driven novel. This isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea. I know there are critics and avid readers who can’t stand the London Trilogy because they are weak on plot and heavy on style. But I like what MacInnes does and wish I could think of similar themes. I may have an idea for one!

12. How has the internet changed what you do? 

Well it brought about the contact with the Word Association and Old Dog Books so that was important. It makes professional connections for authors much easier. It also makes research much less time consuming. Everything is out there. For example, when I wanted to set the book over the weekend of PW Botha’s visit to London, I found a wealth of photos’ from the protest march that day in the London Transport Museum’s photo archives which are on-line. You Tube is great as every Northern Soul record ever made seems to have been uploaded. There’s old adverts, pop shows, gigs. You can do everything from your armchair! But it is also important to engage more directly. Which is why I went to the places I wrote about, to get the visceral feel too.

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors? 

When I was writing ‘Weekend Dancer’, and a few times since, a lot of people who have said they too are writing a book have told me that they, ‘just write’. That somehow they hate to be shackled by a plan or a routine. That it will all just intuitively come together from their creative endeavours. This is the biggest mistake anyone can make. Writing is all about planning, as detailed as possible. It needs discipline and a schedule. And you have to be prepared to edit, edit, edit. As Nick at the Word Association taught me, even if what you have written is the best prose ever, if it doesn’t fit the story, if it doesn’t contribute to the direction of the plot, it has to go. Being a ferocious critic of your own work is very important. Trying to take the readers point of view is also crucial. With ‘Weekend Dancer’, I broke this rule here and there, which is why it’s more a niche book, but I know I am doing that. I wouldn’t do it in the future if I was aiming for a more mainstream market. I would advise that anyone writing a novel first writes a general synopsis. Then a detailed chapter plan. And finally in one sentence write down exactly what their book is about. If you can’t do this after the synopsis and the plan then you have to review them until you can.

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book? 

‘Weekend Dancer’ by Talcott Levy comes out just before Christmas on Old Dog Books website (see the buy now link below) & Amazon. Old Dog Books hope to have a distribution deal in place in the New Year that will take it into book shops. My next idea for a book is a second London novel but this time with a bit more of a mainstream appeal. It is called, ‘Art and the Ottoman’. It is a ‘rites of passage’ story with a difference, the main character is 118 years old and has decided to kill himself (a one sentence explanation!). There has not been a novel set around the London Turkish immigrant experience and I am going to have a go at writing one. I have studied quite a bit about the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. I want to use this for the background of the story which involves deep political rivalries and Turkish criminal gangs. I hope I can pull it off as I am not Turkish!

15. What has been the re-action so far to your first book? 

It has only just gone on sale, so I will have to wait and see. Anyone reading this who wants to ask me anything about what I have said here can contact me via Old Dog Books. Or if you do read the book and want to let me know what you think please do get in touch too.



Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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November 29, 2016 By : Category : Culture Eyeplugs Features Front page Interviews Literature Music Tags:, ,
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Author – Pete McKenna

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

01. How did you get started in the world of words?

In the winter of 1995 I was laid off work on the Brighton station job 3 days before Xmas. Talk about a depressing time for me. Back at the flat I found my old Casino diaries and then the idea hit me to write Nightshift. Sold two of my best saxophones and bought a word processor. Stocked up the grub cupboard with beans and pot noodles and got down to writing the book. Finished the book in 3 weeks and started sending it out to publishers and agents. Over 40 no’s later, ST PUBLISHING gave me an offer to publish and Nightshift came out in 1996. Job done. Well received all round, the book quickly became a cult classic.

02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published?

Nightshift wasn’t exactly a struggle. Once I’d decided to write the book it was just a matter of getting it done. The rejection was tough to take but one thing a writer has to do is shake off rejections because they are all part of the game.

03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?

Talk about a buzz when I saw the book actually in print. Yeah there’s nothing like the smell of fresh paper in the morning. Top buzz.

04. What was the main reasons that you started to write seriously?

I felt I had something to say about the 70’s northern soul scene that hadn’t been said before warts and all. The beauty of Nightshift is that it tells the whole truth and nothing but about England’s longest surviving dance culture that’s bigger than ever these days.

05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?

I do have a daily system which entails me getting up early, boiling up a pot of Lavazza and getting stuck into 2 to 3000 words a day depending on mood. I write everything in longhand and then when it feels good. I blitz the computer adding and subtracting where needed.

06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset?

My teenage experiences shaped everything. The clobber, scooters, good mates, northern soul, drugs and soccer agro. A non – stop riotous roller coaster. Thanks also to my old man, former detective sergeant John McKenna who knew a thing or three about personal style and attention to detail which has rubbed off on me even to this day.

07. What was it like to be young and involved in Street Cultures, what were your pointers and outlook?

Hedonistic, exciting, dangerous, diverse, you name it and it was on the menu apart from anal sex of course. The sole reason for breathing was going against the social grain and it felt electric convincing me that it was all going to last forever. Oohhh err!

08. What was that period like for you as a young man outside of the Music world?

Unbeatable, unbelievable, unrepeatable, when we were young sharp hard and cool and the impossible was anything but. Great days and nights with me to the grave.

09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?

The 70’s was a diverse mental decade. The buzz of football aggro was everywhere, massed Saturday battles on terraces and in town centres as opposed to the more underground streamlined casual firms of the 80’s and beyond. Same attitude with a different uniform. The media slagged Wigan off big time describing it as a drug fuelled den of iniquity frequented by vampire like young kids off their heads on drugs. And then Granada television set the scene straight with the best documentary on Wigan ever made thanks to the drive of the late great Ray Gosling RIP. Brilliant documentary that still holds its own today.

10. What music, films and books helped you to the pathway of all things alternative?

Jazz, soul,  Bowie, Ferry, reggae, ska, the king of 70’s pulp fiction Richard Allen AKA James Moffatt, Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Burgess, Christopher Isherwood Hunter S Thompson, Clockwork Orange, Lord Of The Flies, Quadrophenia, If, Alfie, The Ipcress File, Bond, The Servant, The Night Porter, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Godfather, GOD the list could go on forever.

11. What other books do you wish you had written?

I don’t but to be honest. Football Factory comes close. The best insight into the murky violent world of the soccer casuals penned by a man who to me is England’s finest. John King, top bloke, top writer and a vegetarian as well. Maybe I should think about knocking meat on the head.

12. How has the internet changed what you do?

Ease of information with a worldwide audience at the touch of a button. A brilliant useful tool for research and getting the word out there in seconds. Couldn’t do without now.

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

Yeah. Forget it. Take comfort in your day job, live well, be happy, get married, buy a house and a car, have kids and grow fat, bald, toothless slowly and die happy convinced you did your best for those you love and care for. However if you do decide to march down one of the loneliest paths imaginable then write about something you know that will appeal to your readership and I’m not talking about Knitting Jumpers From Pubic Hair and be prepared for rejection after rejection until – and this is only a slim chance – you finally get your work accepted after which the really hard graft begins.

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?

Currently working on two novels – UP NORTH and AUTUMN LEAVES that will complete the Frank Wilson trilogy. Also my long overdue baby JERUSALEM which is a dark violent wade through contemporary England’s slashed and torn social fabric seen through the eyes of the main character Johnny Hodges a lifelong skinhead who goes out in a blaze of glory for reasons that will become apparent. ‘ Police confirmed that they received a telephone call seconds before the triple suicide bomb attacks in London Leeds and Birmingham from one of the three men who carried out the bombings dressed in burkas claiming that they were members of the ultra – right group Patriots Of The Cross and the attacks were reprisals for the beheading of three young men in a secret London location by Jihadis with more attacks on the way.



Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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November 28, 2016 By : Category : Culture DozenQ Eyeplugs Features Front page Interviews Literature Music Tags:, ,
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Author – Paul Hallam Part 2

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

01. Tell us about Sleeping Dogs Books an offshoot of Old Dog Books?

Old Dog is focussed on Pulp Fiction. I don’t want it to deviate from that and become just another book imprint. But Garry Bushell had this great idea of putting out 2 books with me. So I thought let’s do something as a sideline and call it Sleeping Dogs (that name was actually invented by Danny Decourtelle).

02. What about Streetsounds, whats the set up and who is involved?

About four years ago The Bushell said the music press needs a new title. Something that is about what we did then but also about what is going on right now. A voice for the bands who can’t get in NME or Mojo. And that’s how it started. I went along with him thinking this will last 2 issues at best. 4 Years on and we are the biggest selling music magazine in the UK. We got some great writers who do it all for love not money.

03. What type of stuff do you cover within Streetsounds?

It’s mainly all the old stuff that Mojo may not want to talk about – so lots of Oi!, Punk, Mod bands etc, but also we are also covering current stuff. Plus all the specialist festivals – Punk Rock Bowling, Skamouth etc, that are getting thousands of people though the doors so to speak, but will never make the pages of the mags on the shelves of WH Smiths.

04. Tell us about you latest offering for Sleeping Dog Books?

20 Shades is a compilation of short stories written by regular Street Sounds Contributors. We have Left-Wing poet Tim Wells, Football Factory author John King, the legend that is Mr Bushell himself, Old Dogs author Craig Brackenridge and Joe Pasquale amongst others. A real mix as they say!

05. What is peoples re-action to the Streetsounds growth and spread?

It still amazes me. Street Sounds is a chaotic affair – down to me, not GB. And if we are a few weeks late with the quarterly issue people get on the case wanting to know where it is. It is a real labour of love and we need help from our readers. We need people to be helping us getting it into independent shops around the country. We have a piece on this next issue.

06. How can folks get a copy of Streetsounds? and also in good record shops up and down the country. You can even find us on Social Media too!

07. Do you have more follow ups planned for the ‘20 Shades of Psycho’ format?

Not yet. We really want to do a book based on Garrys’ heavy metal articles from Sounds this year. Like the 2-tone one and the Mod Revival one. That will go on Sleeping Dogs.

08. How about your own Book that you recently released, how is that doing?

It’s basically a book of my old mod photographs. It’s quite insane really. I was 16-20 years old and took my old Olympus Trip to mod clubs. 30 plus years on I’m being told this is History. You can buy it HERE! Later this month I’m doing a thing at the Photographers Gallery in Soho. People like David Bailey do that – not me…

09. How will England do in Euro 2016 in France?

Quarter Finals. I’m a North Korea fan and as they aren’t allowed to enter the Euros I’m not too excited.

10. Where can folks grab a copy of the ‘2O Shades of Psycho’ Anthology?

From the excellent Old Dog Books Website and The Pip! Pip! Amazon page.




Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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June 11, 2016 By : Category : Culture DozenQ Features Front page Interviews Literature Music Tags:, , , , , , , , ,
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Author – Craig Brackenridge Part 2

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

Scottish writer Craig Brackenridge has been writing about movie sleaze and demented Rock ‘n’ Roll since 1995 and has written for the magazines Street Sounds, Total Film, Bite Me, Best For Music, Dog Eat Robot and Mad Music For Bad People along with a number of album sleevnotes for Cherry Red Records.

His first book ‘Let’s Wreck’ was a part-biographical look at the Psychobilly scene from the early 1980’s to the 2000’s. In a bid to continue to record the history of Psychobilly for posterity he launched ‘Vinyl Dementia: The Psychobilly & Trash Record Guide’ in 2004. ‘Hell’s Bent On Rockin’: A History of Psychobilly’ followed in 2005 and was an attempt to chronicle the entire Psychobilly genre for Cherry Red Books. After the mammoth task of ‘Hell’s Bent…’ Craig decided to move into fiction as he has been a long-time fan of exploitative pulp paperbacks from the 1970’s. Short snappy novels filled with bikers, skinheads, teddy boys, boot boys, youth gangs, randy window cleaners, sexually frustrated housewives and ruthless characters from the old west are what he enjoys the most and his books ‘Psychobilly’ (Old Dog Books), ‘Glory Boys’ (Caffeine Nights Publishing) and the blood-spattered Western ‘Apache Gold’ (Stormscreen Productions) are his contributions to the genre he loves.

01. Tell us about you latest offering for Old Dog Books?

‘Rave On Scooterboy’ is about Terry, a young scooterist in North London, 1988. He’s a committed scooterist but also curious about other underground scenes. Along with his workmate Stevie, he gets immersed in the growing rave scene and it starts to take over his life fairly quickly. Things move into overdrive when they start to promote their own illegal raves but along with the money, drugs and easy sex that come their way there is also trouble in the form of local hoodlum Ricky ‘Dodgy’ Harris. As things descend into chaos and bloodshed Terry realises that the only people that can help him are the ones he has let down the most.

02. What was the Scootering Scene like in the 80s?

There were far more committed scooterists than me about but from 1987-1991 it totally took over my life. It was one long blur of two-stroke engine fumes, pilot jackets with patches, army trousers with beer towels, great music, booze and bunk-ups (occasionally!!). The most amazing part was leaving your home town behind whenever possible and going to places where there were (literally) thousands of people that shared similar interests. The experience of keeping the same pants, trousers and boots on for three days straight was also unforgettable.

03. What began the change towards folks seeking new things like the Acid House Scene?

I think the attraction of being part of some underground scene must have attracted a lot of people who had not previously been part of any subculture. Mainstream clubs in the late 1980’s were mostly fucking awful – shirt, slacks, no trainers, no entry with a funny haircut, girls dancing round their handbags to Stock Aitken & Waterman then all out for a fight outside the kebab shop at closing time. Raving all night in a loved-up atmosphere must have seemed like nirvana to a lot of people.

04. What about new drugs like MDMA and ‘E’ becoming available to more and more people?

I’m not sure if the drug was created to enhance the music or the music enhanced the drug but it’s fair to say they both came together at exactly the right time. People that would quite happily knock lumps out of each other if they were on cheap speed or pissed up seemed to be happy to congregate with a ‘dove’ down their neck.

05. How did people react to the vastly different music on offer at the Rave type events?

I’m sure the drugs must have played a large part. If you were ‘on one’, as youths of that time used to say, it was almost like an epiphany and the music, the lights and the whole experience made sense. If you weren’t then it probably seemed like a sweaty hell-hole in a disused building with someone’s car alarm going of at ear-splitting volume. I don’t think there was any grey area with the music – you either got it with a semi-religious fervour or thought it was shit.

06. Was the ‘Rave Culture’ partly responsible for the end of tribalism in Youth Cultures?

I honestly don’t know what happened but it did seem to ‘blend-in’ a wide range of punters. I’m sure there are still hardcore ravers out there somewhere but I suspect that any Mods, Punks or Scooterists that drifted on to the acid house scene have long since drifted back to their original style. I think the warehouse rave scene got so much national publicity that many people just got involved out of curiosity and then got kind of swept along by it for a few years. There’s no doubt that things did change around then. Before 1988, subcultures were fairly insular and there was not much crossover but I’m not sure if rave was totally to blame. It could have been grunge, the internet… I don’t know? Thatcher?

07. What was it like to ‘mobile’ on a Scooter in huge numbers and take over Seaside Towns?

It always amazed me the buzz that emanated from the big coastal runs. You started of with a few mates from your town, met a bundle more in the city then the numbers slowly grew with every mile that you got closer to your destination until all you could see were scooters. The first time I went to Scarborough, in 1987, I was shocked by the numbers that were there, it felt like scooterists had taken over the town completely.

08. What types of bands were popular with 80s Scooterists?

So many styles of music were part of the scene and that’s what attracted me to it in the first place. The majority of the events I attended were from the Midlands up and my booze-soaked memories certainly recall Northern Soul, Motown, Ska, 60’s Garage, Psychobilly, Punk, revival Mod and even some Glam Rock. Psychobilly bands that played quite a big role at runs, scooter do’s etc. were The Meteors, King Kurt, The Coffin Nails and The Highliners and no matter where you were someone was always playing Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’ and Billy Ocean’s ‘Red Light Spells Danger’.

09. How does ‘Rave on Scooterboy’ compare with ‘Psychobilly’ your other ODB title?

‘Rave On Scooterboy’ is a real step forward for me, with a lot of research behind it to build up the story. ‘Psychobilly’ was basically autobiographical with names and places changed to protect the guilty. Generally though, I strongly believe that the experience of belonging to a street culture, or movement if you like, is a pretty shared experience. That feeling of being part of something is an unbeatable feeling, so this book should have a pretty wide appeal. If you were there you can remember the feeling, if you were not you might wish you were.

10. Where can folks grab a copy of ‘Rave on Scooterboy’?

Straight from the folks who are putting the boot back on the bookshelf with modern pulp fiction –





Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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June 10, 2016 By : Category : DozenQ Eyeplugs Features Front page Interviews Literature Tags:, , , ,
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Author – Roger Marriott

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

Roger Marriott was born on a council estate in West London in 1967, and grew up in the 70’s and 80’s with a whole heap of bad music around me! In 1979 I discovered sixties soul which became the main soundtrack of my youth. For a big chunk of my career I strove to become a decent graphic designer. Later I had the chance to run some quite sizable marketing agencies, which I very much enjoyed. Now, I’m a London Taxi driver, which gives me great material for my main passion which is writing and enough head space to do it.

01. How did you get started in the world of words?

One day I asked my English teacher if I could use swearing in an essay – she said that if it was relevant that I could. At fourteen I made sure that I made it relevant just to get it in without a detention. She taught me that writing didn’t need to be stuffy to be considered good, which was inspirational.

02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published?

Well, my first one was in 1994 – and that was a struggle for many reasons. Over the last twenty years it has got harder for authors, there is no doubt about that. Most publishers generally won’t read work that comes directly from an author; it seems that everyone needs an agent now.

03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?

My first novel, Waterstones – Tottenham Court Road in 1994. It felt surreal.

04. What was the main reasons that you started to write seriously?

I felt the need to tell a story, and believed that I could do it. I love the challenge of sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper, knowing that within a certain space of time, you as a human being can create something from words that no one has ever seen.

05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?

I’m up pretty early and getting the coffee down me. Then I’ll scope out what I need to achieve that day. Usually I start with the good old pen and paper, that’s how I work creatively – nowhere near a laptop for this stage. Sometimes I’ll fire up my old Lambretta and go for a spin to a local coffee shop and do some work there. Then once I’m happy with the sound of it creatively, I’ll start crafting it on the laptop, chipping away or adding bits to make it flow nicely.

06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset?

There are so many, what a question! I guess a chunk of them are in my novel East of Acton which is semi-autobiographical. But I think the resounding one was that at fourteen I loved graphic design, like a lot of young people at the time I was into The Jam. I’d done some very rudimentary illustrations and cover designs and decided to phone Polydor records up and tell them about my work. I ended up going to their offices and meeting their creative director which had a lasting impression on me: If you want something and think you can add something, then do it, you have nothing to lose.

07. What was it like to be young in the 80s involved in Street Cultures, what were your pointers and outlook?

It was quite dangerous, but brilliant at the same time. There were so many youth cults out there that seemed to exist all at once – very exciting. I was seriously into the Mod thing which very much promoted a positive stance. It was all about progression.

08. What was that 80s period in London like for you as a young man outside of the Music world?

Busy and very positive. Outside of youth culture my work was my passion and at that time progression in the work place for working class kids wasn’t so much of an issue. Social mobility was possible. With a lot of hard work and some talent you could get somewhere.

09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?

Apart from big names like The Jam, the media more or less ignored the Mod thing – a flash in the pan 79’ revival and then silence. We were invisible. I think the media always promote their agenda no matter what era. That’s why having the internet now is such a bonus – people can see and connect with what they are into, it can’t be hidden.

10. What music, films and books helped you to the pathway of all things alternative?

Wow, how much space have I got? Films such as Taxi Driver, Meantime, Nil by Mouth, The Long Good Friday and obviously Quadrophinia to name but a few. Books, Brighton Rock, 1984, On the Road, To Kill a Mockingbird, City of Spades, Iron in the Soul… just too may to list!

11. What other books do you wish you had written?

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, it was his first novel and is amazing and Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, it just moves at such a pace, you feel like you are in Monterey Bay with him.

12. How has the internet changed what you do?

Great for research and connecting with likeminded people, a real bonus.

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

Write from the heart and just keep going. Write because you enjoy it, not because you want to become a millionaire, because it’s odds on that you won’t.

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?

I’m writing the beginning of two new novels at the moment because I can’t decide between their concepts. I’ll see how they stack up after a chapter or two and then shelve one for later.

East of Acton has just been published and is available at: and

15. What has been the re-action so far to your book?

Well, it’s just about to be published, so we will have to see.





Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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June 10, 2016 By : Category : Culture Features Front page Interviews Literature Music Soul Tags:, , , , , , ,
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Author – Howard Baker (Sawdust Caesar)

Sawdust Caesar: Omnibus Edition by Howard Baker (HB Publishing)

For those of you fed up with reading yet another 60’s memoir from the once-famous, Howard Baker’s complementary volumes, ‘Sawdust Caesar’ and ‘Enlightenment and the Death of Michael Mouse’, are now available in an omnibus edition from HB Publishing. The author asserts that the first volume is basically a true history, although the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

The casual book-browser may not notice that the stereotypical shot of the scooter-riding mod lad on the cover is superimposed on a landscape of opium poppies and their pickers, the land and sky an angry red. It’s an early hint of what is to come, and a better summation of the two books’ contents is hard to imagine.

I admit I wasn’t immediately taken with the writing style of ‘Sawdust Caesar’, feeling that the wide awake, adolescent, motor mouth ravings were overdone, and his misadventures all a little desperate to shock, but I’m glad to report that persistence pays. So long as you’re willing to tolerate the protagonist’s speed-crazed narrative, near-psychotic self-absorption and sheer contempt for everyone he meets, you may be on the way to appreciating the second volume, if not the first in itself.

This two-book set evocatively traces the frankly sordid life of a dyed-in-the-wool mod, through pilled-up days and nights, serial girl misuse, money hustling and petty crime, and then pulls off something of a coup, in putting our protagonist on the road to spirituality, in an epic journey to Afghanistan. Swapping amphetamines for dope and opium, and his wardrobe of cool street threads for the barest minimum to ensure warmth and decency, our narrator journeys across the poverty-stricken, unfriendly Afghan terrain, encountering druggies and drug barons, drifters and prophets, seekers after spiritual peace and charlatans only too pleased to sell you a simulacrum of it.

It’s a fast-paced, foul-mouthed, self-obsessed narrative that never lets up, but as our narrator turns his attention from his id to ego and to super-ego, the balance of his life undergoes a seismic shift, before being brought back to reality by the mundane world he thought he’d escaped.

Scenester 2016

Meeting with Aoratos 

Buy Sawdust Caesar now: on Amazon


As a Londoner, Howard Baker is the first to admit that he was fortunate indeed to have not only experienced those amazing years of the Sixties, but indeed to have survived them: from gang warfare to drug abuse and sexual emancipation, the opportunities for disaster were endless. The wise of course saw the period as one to be savoured and many are those who feel somehow blessed to have been part of that particular generation moulded by events now recognised as unique in our cultural history.

After the Sixties Howard jacked it all in and went off to explore the world feeling, like so many others, that life was there to be lived. On his return he found it impossible to re-enter the stuffy confines of conventional life and went to live on a farm in Wales where self-sufficiency was the order of the day. But as is so often the case, fate stepped in and he found himself on the road living among the gypsies with a young family to feed.

Years later and back in the mainstream, the chance to live in rural France arose. Now an organic farmer he lives the idyll which had earlier eluded him.

01. How did you first get started in the world of words and ink?

I was always good at telling stories apparently. Then my English marks, notably from an imaginative essay, helped scrape me through an otherwise unremarkable 11-plus examination.

02. Was it a struggle getting your first book published and out there?

It was long-winded and fraught with chance: the work was originally a screenplay and a close friend managed to get it in front of Stevie Wonder’s agent, but they deemed it too violent for his image. So it came back and was passed on to an editor at X, a large, well-known publishing company, and he read it, thought it a potential best seller as a book, and asked if I could re-write it. But by the time it was finished the guy had moved on. So off it went to another smaller publisher known to another friend and they snapped it up. Despite promotion not being their strong point the first print run sold out and I wrote the sequel which hit the bookshelves the same day that the World Trade Centre was taken down and by the time the dust had settled the world had changed. Timing’s everything.

03. Where did you see the first piece you had written actually in print, how did that feel?

A letter to The Eagle comic when I was a kid. And it made me realise that each of us has a voice in the great communal scheme of things.

04. What was the main core reasons that you started to write seriously?

I read a Hemingway book about his early life struggling as a writer in Paris, sitting in cafes, scribbling notes. And I was hooked.

05. What’s a typical working day like for you as a writer?

Living on a farm doing the self-sufficiency number, I have to be quite methodical, that’s to say, I write when I can. But when I lived in town I wrote nine to five, finding that easier than burning the midnight oil – although I do that if there’s a deadline.

06. What were your childhood experiences that helped to shape your later views and mindset?

What a question! Where does one start? Probably resistance to authority caused by shit schoolteachers.

07. What was it like to be an early Modernist, what were your pointers and outlook?

Dangerous, given the mass of bikers ruling the roost so to speak. But great when up the West End together; the recognition and camaraderie. And the beautiful chicks. Clothes and music were the two prime factors. And clubbing.

08. What was that early sixties period in London like for you as a young man?

Difficult. A mass of mixed emotions, school-leaving, adolescence, and shortage of cash. Parents who didn’t understand the changes going on. ‘64 onwards was better. Late Sixties superb.

09. How did the Media distort what was going on at the Seaside Towns and Resorts?

Some reporters staged scenes to photograph using cheap actors. They paid us for exaggerated stories of an offensive nature, constantly seeking a controversial headline pay-off day. When my first book came out I was approached by a well-known ‘social reporter’ looking for dirt to dig up.

10. What was the discovery of the ‘hippy trail’ and the druggy period like at the time?

The ‘hippy trail’ began with the Beatniks of the early Sixties and was followed by a few enterprising characters who bought clapped-out buses and vans to provide an overland to India service. But the main overland thing started around 1967 just as Flower Power began on a large-scale. It was an unbelievable time, hitching around, meeting others on the road, in cheap doss houses and hotels across Asia. Living on beaches in faraway lands long before mass tourism and politics came along and screwed everything up.

11. What other books do you wish you had written?

I still have a few on hold in my head, but I’d like to have written Hesse’s Siddhartha which is sublime. Or Gibran’s The Prophet; wisdom, beautifully written.

12. How has the internet changed what you do?

It provides a quick basic research tool and helps you get things right. But as a real research facility its benefits are limited, everything being old news as it were. Real research is a belt and braces, hands-on job. You have to get out there and discover stuff for yourself.

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

Keep a note-book. I’ve thought of so many startlingly amazing things and forgotten them. It’s gut wrenching to think about it.  Next thing is actually writing and sticking at it. And remember that the old saying ‘everyone has a book in them’ is actually a load of bollocks as inspirational advice: everyone may have a book in them but actually getting it down on paper’s another thing.

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?

Latest work ‘Meeting with Aoratos’ is a departure from the uncomfortable realism of my earlier work and focuses on New Age philosophy and its pitfalls. Another work is a collection of tales relating to the many varied and sometimes bizarre meals I’ve eaten and the circumstances around them; from dining alongside a famous film star to snatching a bite to eat at a roadside eating house with a murderous Pashtun tribesman and a wild dog for company. Other work in progress includes life in Wales as a drug-fuelled freak, and ‘On the Road’ – life with the gypsies; a sort of antidote to Ken Kesey’s vastly over-rated (imho) version.

Web Links:

Meeting with Aoratos 

Buy Sawdust Caesar now: on Amazon


Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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February 23, 2016 By : Category : Culture Eyeplugs Interviews Literature Modernist Tags:, , , , ,
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Author – Steve Piper

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

Who am I?

Good question. All I do know is that I was born in the glorious year of ’69 among the royal hunting grounds of Epping. Born an accident but thankfully loved enough by one. The other only seemed to love himself. A sister soon followed me and then he upped and followed his own dream soon after, leaving us with our mum, nanny
and grandad.

Mum did well and I remember being a happy child. Mum met Al, a real diamond with a ‘70s moustache. We all moved in together on Chingford Hall estate, mum, me and Jo; Al, Adrian and Elaine. A ready-made Waltons! If only things were that simple. Always having to play catch up throughout my childhood was exhausting. Money was hard to come by but somehow I blagged it. I was a tearaway, ripping around the estate, vandalising, setting fires.

My oldest friendship was formed on that estate; a bond that was initially made through music, fashion, circumstance, tolerance and understanding; I was a hard one to get along with. We are still in touch today. A move to Walthamstow accelerated further forays into fashion, music and occasional criminality. And there I remained for the best part of 14 years, eventually leaving school with 4 cse’s, finding work as a carpet fitter and spending my evenings and weekends with mates, listening to music, fighting, riding scooters, drinking, visiting seaside resorts with hundreds of others, taking drugs, meeting girls; one of whom, Melissa I eventually settled down with and had two children, Charlie and Rebecca.

Then came the wilderness years; long hair, beards, surfing, camper vans, grunge, US punk and rock music, all resulting in a move to Cornwall where we lived happily for 14 years. Renewed and newly formed friendships made by chance and through the ‘net softened an aversion to all things past and we began exploring the revitalised scene that had once been our life. It was fun.

Kids grew up, moved up to London and Brighton (no work in Cornwall, poorest county in England by all accounts), we followed. And here I am…

01. How did you get started in the world of words?

I’ve always had a hunger for the written word. As a kid I was an avid reader, a fantasist; I played out stories in my head. The first proper books I read were probably ‘The machine gunners’ by Robert Westall; I love it and still own a copy, and the Enid Blyton books. I would imagine that I was part of the gang; Secret Seven, Famous Five. Most of my early reads tended to be about belonging.

As time went on I suffered from a lack of parental persuasion that meant that I never got to explore any talent that I may have had for the written word despite my English teacher at senior school singling me out for praise and encouragement. I loved English at school. I was also a good actor but these things didn’t seem to matter in the East London of the ‘80s.

My first writing in print came about as part of the ‘80s mod movement. I produced a fanzine called ‘Listen here’ with my best mate Darin Gosling. The title was a nod to the Brian Auger track on ‘Befour Befour’ (Forget the release date; it’s a great mod club dancer!).

LH was a London-centric rag but I think it was well put together. It ran for 4 issues. I would be interested to know if anyone has any copies. I have none. After this initial dip of the toes I didn’t write for a very long time.

02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published?

Soul destroying! I’ve never thought I was good enough to be worth anything so I took any perceived ‘rejection’ badly. I wrote ‘Too Much Too Young’ approximately 10 years ago after a difficult period in my life. It was initially a very naïve attempt, full of typos, timeline errors and poor grammar and yet it got some interest from mainstream dealers.

Feedback was that I had something that was commercial and interesting but that they were unsure how they would market it despite me explaining why I thought it was marketable (The Specials had reformed and were touring, Amy Whitehouse and the Ordinary Boys were name checking them).

One lady found my prose too ‘street’!! All those who expressed initial interest lost their bottle. I lost heart and put it away, got on with paying the rent. This summer just gone, my daughter Rebecca completed her journalism course and we were having a chat in the garden. She asked if she could get it out and have a look. She encouraged me to punt it out again. So I sent Paul Hallam a proposal which he liked and bob’s your carbuncle as they say.

03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?

I once wrote a piece about the London mod scene for Teletext in the ‘80s. That was my first experience of how hacks can take something and weaken it. The finished article was a very watered down version. It was edited to death. I was embarrassed by it.

I wrote for mate’s fanzines but this didn’t feel like ‘real’ writing although I felt I had a knack for it. I also wrote some pieces for George Marshall’s
‘Skinhead Times’.

My first proper piece in print was for Scootering magazine. I wrote a piece about a very eventful journey to Exmouth mod rally. I think I still have a copy of
it somewhere.

I find it anxiety inducing to know that a piece I have written is about to be scrutinised by many. I have a tendency to focus on what has been edited out rather than the fact that they have decided to use it. It’s a natural default of mine. I am getting better at enjoying the exposure. An old friend Guy Joseph once told me ‘even bad press is good press’. I’m not convinced. We live in an ultra-critical age and it takes strength of character to absorb some of the diatribe that can be
flung around.

04. What were the main reasons that you started to write seriously?

My overactive imagination and noisy brain is my driver. I have tons of ideas with lots of gaps to fill. I like to use a very expressive, descriptive style of writing; I visualise as I write. I can taste, smell and feel when I write. I also found a lot of writing about youth culture, fashion and music was too intellectualised and analytical. I am not convinced that this is how it should be. What is there
to analyse?

It was what we did; it was exciting, inspiring, violent, heart breaking, adventurous, brave but mostly it was just good youthful exuberance. Through my writing I try to get those feelings across to those that weren’t there and to remind those
that were.

You can’t rewrite history, though many try, but you can use it to make a very enjoyable story. I believe that any observational piece about bygone eras, fashion, music, whatever, is ‘a truth thy own’; disputable but hard to disprove.

05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?

Real life gets in the way. I write in the evenings and at weekends mainly as I have to hold down a day job. I carry a notebook around with me and try to write ideas, thoughts, down as I go. I’m not very consistent to be honest and often kick myself if I forget something later on. I get frustrated if I start something and it loses its flow. I have tons of unfinished bits and bobs lying around and I am my own harshest critic.

06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mind set?

I would suggest that my old man fleeing the nest when I was 3 years old had the biggest impact on my teenage years. This shaped me in many ways and caused me to seek out qualification through association. I was drawn to the company of others, gangs: the more ‘on the fringe’ and tougher the better.

Adopting rudeboy fashion in the early ‘80s helped fuel an early interest in Jamaican music: a flame that was initially ignited by finding and listening to Prince Busters ‘Al Capone’ from my mum’s collection of two 7” singles at a very young age. Bravery of curiosity and exploration rewards those who step outside
the lines.

To choose a different path to others, through deliberation or circumstance, takes effort, dedication and often courage; strength of character to continue doing what you want to do despite negativity, abuse or ridicule from those who would never understand. This was a long lesson I learnt from those who I hung out with as a teenager and all through in to my adulthood.

Many of the most creative people I have met have interesting and often chaotic stories to tell about their formative teenage years. They were those
curious explorers.

07. What was it like to be involved in ‘80s Street Cultures, what were your pointers and outlook?

Tribalism; and it was great. The lines were drawn and obvious unlike nowadays. It made the world an interesting and often violent place. I have been a rudeboy, casual, mod and skinhead. I loved them all.

The most important thing to remember is that the fashions and movements I got involved in were without question created and promoted on the street. Wearing the wrong or inferior item could create hell for you. We had no internet to guide us. Specialist shops were exactly that. We watched the older lads and learnt. Word of mouth was the key.

It was innovative, even the casuals; a happening that surprisingly seems to be so fondly remembered by many nowadays, were creating and evolving all the time. I have a memory of two lads with the same size feet buying Adidas Gazelles in different colours then swapping one over so they could wear one burgundy and one ultra-blue at the same time!

As far as my mod influences went: the East London and Essex mods were top (I know others will dispute this). I liked the fact they dressed smart but weren’t prissy. They weren’t scared to fight back and I liked that. They also promoted R&B sounds rather than the glut of Northern Soul that was doing the rounds at clubs. R&B felt so much more authentic to me, so much more mod.

I was lucky to have a cousin Jim Watson who edited a fanzine called ‘Right Track’, another London-centric ‘zine, with Garry Moore. He used to send me copies which I initially found confusing as I was a Who/Jam mod at the time. What I read though influenced me greatly. I have loved hard, sharp styling, dark well-fitting mohair, great shoes and the blues ever since. My mates used to joke that I was a skinhead in mod clothing.

I loved the mod scene but jumped ship when it became too ‘Austin Powers’ for me. I had always admired the smart and sussed skinhead styling of the Camden crew and this just seemed a natural progression for me as I was already mixing with them. This was the period that had the biggest impact on me without a doubt. Collecting reggae records, wearing good gear, great friendships, drinking hard and having a rep: it was the best and most influential time for me.

08. What was that 80s period in London like for you as a young man (outside of the Music world)?

Despite high unemployment in Britain at the time I never felt the impact. I lived in London. I left school and got a job the next day. It was a busy time. Most of my mates and me were well employed and flush. And we spent it like water. London was evolving as it always has done from the beginning of time, not always for the better (I worked on the Docklands developments) and as always it was a hive of activity. It was easy to take it for granted.

What we also took for granted was the gradual degradation of the estates, areas and community that we grew up in. Funding was squeezed, leaving maintenance and repair short. Thatcher’s reign seemed intent on destroying the working class and our environment. I’m not entirely convinced that she didn’t succeed in this. Violence was a regular occurrence. I witnessed a murder of a youth I knew in my home road and lost a couple of school mates through the ‘80s, stabbed and hacked to death.

I was partial to a scrap myself, never spiteful or malicious but it became a habit. I found myself in serious trouble in the late ‘80s, three court appearances in one year. I narrowly avoided imprisonment. It was a big turning point for me. I knew I was not kitted out to do bird. My favourite place to hang out in the mid to late ‘80s was Camden Town. It’s hard to explain how youth-driven, how creative a place Camden was. There were punks, rockabillies, skinheads, metalheads, blacks, whites, French, Italian, Spanish; all sharing the same space and it was okay. Fights happened as they did everywhere folk happened to drink but the next weekend we went back. In the ‘80s I worked to live. Now I often wonder if I am living to work.

09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?

Mods were seen as a joke by anyone but mods. Even scooter boys took the piss out of us. When the media cottoned on to something we were doing they always made it look like a boy scouts movement, too soft, insipid, twee. Being ‘revivalists’ allowed the implication that we were rehashing something that had died a natural death. What they could never see was how any cult can be reinvented and
enjoyed further.

You only have to look at the second generation skinheads in the late ‘70s to see how far any re-shape can go and though it is not everyone’s idea of progress or improvement, politics aside; it was their own creation and their right to do it. Any exposure of youth culture through the media was usually poorly researched and/or edited. It was always trivialised and made to appear quirky or presented as idiotic and anti-social.

Those I knew who were part of any youth cult, whatever that may be, took it very seriously and tended to demonstrate a distrust of the media. Football violence was harder to distort. It was real, in their faces, and after the ‘70s skinhead crews, came the ‘80s casual firms but the media never really caught on to this movement. Casuals are probably the least documented youth cult of all times.

10. What music, films and books helped you to the pathway of all things alternative?

I love my sounds deep, dark, heavy and gritty; organic and real. As a young teenager I was surrounded by reggae, 2 Tone, new wave and punk. I was immediately aware that you could dress in a way that told those in the know where your allegiances lay. Madness and The Specials were without any doubt my earliest fashion influences. Those brogue shoes the Nutty Boys wore! The MA1 flight jackets, Fred Perry’s and sta prest trousers! 2 Tone introduced me to early reggae; Trojan, Pama, Studio 1. This was an almighty revelation leading on to further exploration of roots, dub and version galore.

The Clash, Ian Dury, The Jam and Joy Division among others set me up for alternative sounds in turn leading me on to heavier sounds; American ‘hardcore’ (read punk) bands such as Fugazi, Bad Religion and Jesus Lizard. Proper, original blues and R&B continue to season my senses; Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Freddie King are favourites and get regular spins in my home. I’m also listening to a lot of R.L.Burnside and Junior Kimbrough at the moment. It’s all strands of the same web.

Image-wise I have always had an affinity with outlaws, oddballs and the hip whether in film or music. Quadrophenia was the film. Not the most original influence I know but the most honest. Although to be fair I was already exploring pastures alternate by the time I saw the film. Remember we did not have the vast media that youngsters can access nowadays. Richard Barnes ‘Mods’ and Nick Knights ‘Skinhead’ were books I stole from the library.

At the time these provided the best, if not, the only reference to the original styles we sought. I was surprised when I met Richard recently that he was quite unaware of the impact his book had on second-generation mods and if you check out the pencil drawings in Nick’s book too, you will get it. Dicken’s Christmas Carol and MacInnes ‘Absolute Beginners’ ‘City of Spades’ are books close to my London heart. If you read them you will understand why.

11. What other books do you wish you had written?

The one’s still in my head! I have something in the pipeline which I am hoping those Old Dogs will like! Watching the first Rambo film ‘First Blood’ lead me to read the novel of the same name by David Morrell. This read highlighted the power of descriptive writing for me. The novel is a darker and more claustrophobic tale; more dangerous, more tangible than the film it inspired.

12. How has the internet changed what you do?

It hasn’t much to be honest. I am still quite a novice regarding formatting, promoting and things like that but I have a lot of support. What I have found the net invaluable for is research. When I proof read ‘Too Much Too Young’ I was able to cross check and ensure that details were kept as accurate as humanly possible. The instant accessibility is something we all take for granted. Before the ‘chip it was a trod to the local library for referencing.

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

Find your own style and be confident in presenting it. There are many copyists and only one you. If the writing works the right person will notice it. It happened to me.

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?

‘Too Much Too Young’ is a fictional story set in East London of a friendship between two very different lads who are brought together through a love of 2 Tone music and the associated fashion of rudeboy. Set in the early ‘80s it explores their coming of age in parallel with Thatcher’s first term in office. It’s a good mix of teenage naivety and gritty realism; a strong blend of dark and light; black
and white.

The aim is for the first press to be released in December all things being equal then I am looking to get out and about promoting it with plans to get to Brighton, Bristol and hopefully the Midlands.

Following this I intend to get my head down and complete a novel I am in the process of writing; a crime caper set in the ‘80s that provides an intimate insight into that elusive cult; the casual. It’s going well and I hope it will be a well-received follow-up to ‘Too Much Too Young’.

I am also thinking of approaching a well-known ‘80s band member with a view to co-writing his biography. I cannot exaggerate the stories he can tell. This chap has lived a life!

I am also writing articles for publication. One of which will be in the next edition of ‘Street sounds’.

15. What has been the re-action so far to your first book?

Paul Hallam at Old Dog Books has shown belief since I first presented him with the proposal for ‘Too Much Too Young’. His enthusiasm is an antidote for any doubt or lack of motivation one can experience. My favourite email from him (of which there are many) is the one where he said that a scene in ‘Too Much Too Young’ gave him vertigo!

We have already received interest from the 2 Tone museum in Coventry and shops have already put in advance orders. I can’t give too much away as Paul would feed my knackers to the old dogs but ‘Two Much Too Young’ has already got the stamp of approval from very special quarters.



Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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November 30, 2015 By : Category : Culture Front page Interviews Literature Tags:, , ,
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Author – Matteo Sedazzari

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Old Dog Books

01. How did you get started in the world of words?

I was inspired by Acid House. I attended clubs and warehouse parties, and was overwhelmed by the energy and passion of those nights. I was too young for Punk and even with the Mod revival of the late 70s I was still a school boy in short trousers, figure of speech. So this was really my first counterculture, I was old enough to be an active member. It felt like a revolution, dancing with attitude, passion and style, I loved it. I was reading a lot of Ken Kesey, Hunter S Thompson, Jack Kerouac at the time, and my then girlfriend was studying journalism at the Elephant and Castle, so I was surrounded by words, if you get my drift. I was reading the back of a Ken Kesey book, Demon Box and it included the words Positive Energy of Madness, I loved it, I thought let’s do a fanzine called Positive Energy of Madness.

Using the photocopier at work, I knocked it out and sold it around clubs and record shops. But in hindsight Acid House was too hedonistic to be deep, in a nutshell it was all about losing the plot, but I had fun, interviewed a lot of the DJs like Danny Rampling, Andy Weatherall and even got to interview Paul Weller, as he was dabbling with house music at the time, a lot of people forget that.

02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published?

I have to give a little bit of history to answer that question. Paul Hallam is my publisher , and before I wrote Crafty Cigarette, Paul and I were friends, still are, plus I was and still am doing an online fanzine called ZANI. I emailed him an article which I had written about a forgotten band from the early 70’s called Jook, a terrace band from Scotland and London that sounded like The Who. Paul loved it, really loved it then I saw an article in his magazine, Street Sounds, about Richard Allen, author of the Skinhead books and youth pulp fiction. It dawned on me I could write a youth pulp fiction.

I called Paul and told him I had a novel ready called A Crafty Cigarette about growing up in the Mod revival in the suburbs during the late 70’s and early 80’s, would he like to put it out, he paused for a second, and said yes. I hadn’t even written a word, let alone had a plot, just a title, but I knew I could do it, so I started writing it and bingo, Crafty Cigarette was published. I know this sounds easy, but I spent many years writing as a labour of love, meeting new people, so I applied my trade in the evenings, and my time had come to get a book out and hopefully go further as a writer.

03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?

My first interview in my fanzine Positive Energy of Madness was with British Rapper Dizzie Heights, he had a club track out called Would I Found Love, it was an anthem back in the day. I was very proud, looked at it the other day, it’s naive and badly written, but so what, I was driven by passion.

04. What were the main reasons that you started to write seriously?

To be creative, that simple, and be happy, sorry I really can’t go deep on this one, because I just write because I love it, better than going down the pub or watching X factor.

05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?

Same as a day job, start at ten in the morning, finish at six in the evening. If I write in the evening, it will from six to nine with the phone on silence and in a drawer. I have a schedule and keep to it, I don’t need inspiration as I am full of ideas and energy all the time and I don’t get writer’s block, just sit in front of the PC and hit the keyboards. For sure some days I will be more productive, I am disciplined.

06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset?

A lot. I think school and my hatred for teachers, then discovering The Jam’s All Mod Cons via my brother’s record collection when I was 12. Seeing all these exciting bands appearing on Top of the Pops, Madness, The Specials, The Beat, Secret Affair and hearing about a new film called Quadrophenia by a band I hadn’t heard of called The Who. Getting back into The Beatles, then calling myself a Mod before I owned or wore one item of Mod clothing. I became a Mod, as it gave the outsider a voice and its own rules, different from school, parents , the police or the church, I am pretty much like that now as then, as I ain’t corporate culture, do not trust the police, don’t go to church, but now I don’t belong to any tribe, just make up my own mind, I like to be me and…. Free

07. What was it like to be an 80s suburban Modernist, what were your pointers and outlook?

It was good fun, remember we were still school boys, so we were school boys in Parkas causing mischief and mayhem in our town centre, we didn’t have the money nor allowed to go into London due to our age, so we created our own world, even made a role-playing game called Mods and Rockers, based on Dungeons and Dragons, we should have patented it, I would be a rich man today. I suppose The Jam especially Paul Weller and Ian Page of Secret Affair were our pointers, as they offered debate in their interviews, they were stylish angry young men from two good bands, they gave us an insight as well as making us dance. Richard Barnes Mods! book was our bible, from that we learnt how to be different as Mods, drop the Parka be daring with our clothes, so my outlook was to be different yet to belong to a gang, like any gang we had our own values and rules, good or bad, but they were ours.

08. What was that 80s period in London like for you as a young man outside of the Mod world?

I got into London when I was a late teen, well after the Mod thing. During the heyday of the Mod revival, we would only venture into London, well Carnaby Street, to go shopping during the school holidays, it was an adventure and could be dangerous, due to the Skinheads who liked to pick on kids. Then a few years later a good friend of mine worked in a clothes shop in Fulham, so we, well me and two others, started hanging out around there and ventured into the Kings Road, it was the days when Levis 501’s and other fifties type clothes were big, along with slick back hair or fifties style hair cuts. London was fun, still is, we just did what any 18 to 19 kids did, or some, dressed up, went to clubs or bars, drank, smoked weed and chatted girls up. But not the depth of Mod, and I was missing that as I am, and was back then, a deeper thinker. I was living for the moment, so I wasn’t studying what was going on, all I can say is that we left suburbia and found that London had more to offer than the local pub, and I still feel like that now. I could go into detail about certain things, but that would be like Uncle Albert from Only Fools ‘n’ Horses with his war stories.

09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?

The media love a scapegoat and will distort it, of course they will as the journalists will see things at face value, not go deep and want to scaremonger the nation, create panic and hatred. The original youth culture, The Teds, faced the first wrath of the media. There’s an excellent book called Teddy Boys a Concise History by Ray Ferris and Julian Lord, that really goes into detail about how the media distort the truth and exaggerate events. I experienced this more with The Sun and Acid House in the late 80’s. I was attending a few ‘raves’, how I hate the word, that made The Sun headlines, and what they reported and what I experienced were two totally different things, in lay man’s terms, why couldn’t they write 1,000 plus or whatever the figure was, about kids dancing in harmony until the early hours, they were having fun, no trouble. No they wanted to make out it’s evil, cos it sells papers. But I suppose it all adds to youth or counter cultures being rebellious cos if the parents or the establishment get it and like it, then it ain’t worth doing.

10. What music, films and books helped you onto the pathway of all things Modernist?

OK I will answer in terms of which of the above influenced me during my time as a school boy Mod, otherwise the list would be endless. Music: The Jam, Secret Affair, Motown and Atlantic Soul, The Who, Small Faces and even they were not Mods, The Beatles. Films: well not Quadrophenia as I didn’t see that until late 1982 on video, but Midnight Cowboy, Blackboard Jungle, To Sir With Love, Ealing comedies, Z, Saturday Night Sunday Morning, If, Unman, Wittering and Zigo. Books: George Orwell, was reading that before Weller name dropped it, as my brother gave me Animal Farm when I was 11 years old, Jack London, loved his work, 101 Dalmatians, loved the feel of London in that book. Wind in the Willows, Emil and The Detectives, both magical books, James Herbert The Rats. I would like to say music was more of an influence In terms of the pathway to Modernist, but the films and the books did shape me, and all I have mentioned are still important to me now.

11. What other books do you wish you had written?

Harlan Ellison’s Memos From Purgatory, he wrote this when he was 19, with no publishing deal, saved up and went to live in Hell’s Kitchen in the 50s, joined a street gang so he could research them, that shows a true writer with a lot of courage. Dostoyevsky Notes from Underground, a great narrative of struggling but a lot of black humour, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, pulp fiction at its best and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, an amazing thriller written in two first person accounts, how she switches from the male and the female and develops the plot is overwhelming, first book in years I read in one reading. Loved them all.

12. How has the internet changed what you do?

Yes and for the better, no printing costs, that’s if you have your own website, and especially with blogging platforms, you don’t need to be an expert web designer to get an article published. You write it, lay it out, hit publish and bang it’s out on the net, then plug via FaceBook, Twitter etc. I love the Internet, not just in terms of self-interest, but information and films, music that are there 24/7, but I make a rule, I don’t surf after ten pm, do people still say surf ? I like to watch a film, then read a book.

13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?

Just do it, set yourself an agenda and timetable, keep to it, with no excuses and have fun.

14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?

Well I am plugging Crafty Cigarette, which is fun, enjoying that, learning about marketing, trying to get some reviews, which will happen. Penning a collection of short stories, under the working title of Love Is?, which is influenced by Harlan Ellison, Hunter S Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk , gonzo and insane short stories about everyday life from love to work, need a break from writing about Mod and want to test myself as a writer.

15. What has been the re-action so far to your first book?

Good, been on London Live radio and BBC Surrey, getting plugs all over the social media, even getting fan emails, been trolled, but too draining and boring to talk about. But got a long way to go before I can give a real answer, as it’s early days, but I am loving it.




Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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November 30, 2015 By : Category : Culture Features Front page Interviews Literature Tags:, , , , , , , ,
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