My first Rock gig – The British Birds with Ron Wood at the Walton Hop
It was 1965 and I was fifteen. I’d been buying singles and albums for some five years. I was mad about it. I’d discovered the Blues, Little Richard, the Beatles, the Stones, Downliners Sect, Chuck Berry and a host of others. Music had become a huge part of my life. It had displaced my pets and was even competing with girls!
That was serious stuff!
It was more than time to get a feel of the real thing. I love music on disc but it simply cannot compete with the real live deal – not that I knew that yet.
I was ready, more than ready. The Walton Hop was the only local venue I knew of and certainly the only one that I could access easily. I could walk there.
I do not remember who I went with. Perhaps I blotted them out. All I can remember is being blown away by the whole experience – not just the music. For a fifteen year old, innocent little kid this was serious mind blasting.
The Birds were on.
I did not have a clue as to who the Birds were. All I knew was that they were a British Beat group and I was told they were good.
The Walton Hop was where the rump of the Teddy Boy phenomenon was to be found. They still ruled the roost even though they were rapidly becoming an anachronism. To go to the Walton Hop was like going back to the fifties. The girls were all in those full dresses with petticoats and big bee-hive hairdos. The boys were in drape jackets, brothel creepers and shoe-string ties with greased back hair, DAs and big sideburns. They were older now – in their twenties – but they still had that air of menace. You kept to one side and avoided eye contact. We were the new generation of long-haired kids. But to them we were just kids. They ignored us. We were the teenyboppers.
The evening started with a bang. There was a knife fight out in the car park. Two Teds with flick-knives held out and one hand raised, circled each other. Around them was a circle of baying Teds. The girls were raucous – shouting at the two to get stuck in. It was like being on a film set. I stood back and watched it all with wide eyes. If someone had photographed me them I probably had my mouth open.
That was just the start of the evening.
Inside the hall it was dark and cavernous – all old dark wood – with a stage at one end and lots of people milling around.
There was an upstairs and some big old stairs leading up to a balcony. I decided to take a look. That was my second eye-opener of the night.
On the big landing, halfway up, were a group of Teds. One of the brassy looking girls with enormous back-combed beehive was being held up from behind by a couple of Teds who had hold of her thighs and were holding up her voluminous dress and petticoat up while a third was between her thighs and thrusting away to the accompaniment of lots of jeers and encouragement. The girl looked bored as if she was merely waiting for it to end. A couple of her friends looked on, chewing gum and looking equally bored, waiting for them to get it over with so that they could go where-ever it was they were heading for.
I’d never seen anyone having sex before, not that I could actually see much. It was like I was in another world.
When the band started I got myself to the front where I could see. They certainly looked the part. They had long hair, tight trousers. Cuban heeled boots, waist-coats and siddies.
When they started it was like a bomb going off. They were loud. The riffs ripped through me and the beat set my pulse going. Adrenalin rushed through my blood and from the first bars I was hopelessly caught up in it. Records were great but this was the real thing. It rocked you spirit!
They stormed through their set with someone at the back of the hall flicking the lights on and off in time to create a stroboscopic rudimentary light show. They were all over the stage. The bass thumped into my belly. The heavy chords pummeled my ears. The voice soared over it all. It was mesmerising and I was transported to another world
It was the most exciting thing I had ever experienced in my life. Even more exciting than the knife fight or sex on the stairs. This was raw, unadulterated Rock Music.
I was hooked for life.