The Beat goes on – In Search of Captain Beefheart – cont. – A Rock Memoir

The Beat goes on

By 1964 we had all grown. Our hair, in particular had grown. I was fourteen and fifteen which was a good if difficult age to be. I was full of hormones, frustration and increasing angst which was beginning to bring me into conflict with authority. Rock Music was much more important than school. The commercial chirpiness of Merseybeat had been replaced by a harder, more individualistic and aggressive sound. Seemingly every week a new band burst upon the scene complete with a new sound, image and style.

Our TV programme ‘Ready Steady Go’ (A little bit of ‘Thank your lucky Stars’ and ‘Juke Box Jury’) featured them live. The Beeb was still too matronly to put on anything so we tuned in to Radio Luxembourg. Its sound kept phasing in and out but at least you could hear the stuff you wanted. Then it was the pirate radio stations with ‘Caroline’, ‘Atlantis’ and ‘London’.

Music was our life. We lived it.

The Stones burst upon the scene, closely followed by the Animals, Them, Yardbirds, Who, Smallfaces, Kinks, and Downliners Sect. Hardly a week went by without another one showing up. These were the days of the Mods and Rockers, scooters, Parkas and layered hair.

The toilets were always crowded with boys preening their hair and moulding it into shape. I went for a distinctive look. My hair was combed back at the sides and carefully arranged to cover my forehead with a long quiff. I tried to get it to create a unique wave. That was really difficult with only greasy brylcream and none of these modern day styling waxes. But I had the longest hair in school. It hung down to my shoulders. Hat was one of the coolest kids. He had a greasy rockers hairstyle with a quiff that he could pull down to his chin.

Hat and I were into motorbikes and that made us Rockers. We liked leather jackets, jeans and motorcycle boots. Hat wore really tight jeans and long winkle-picker boots.

  Opher & Liz on my first motorbike 1967

I idolised Phil May. He had the longest hair of any of the guys in the bands. My appearance caused some consternation among some staff. My Physics teacher affectionately called me ‘Squirrel’ but the Deputy Head took me on as a project. She was determined to get me to toe the line. I was even more determined to do the opposite. We had fun and games.

I also came into conflict with the prefects. They were worse than the teachers. They tried to intimidate and control you. I developed a nice line in smart repartee and sarcasm. It infuriated them even more which was the whole point. Bowyer was a particularly snooty prat who swanned around the school like some bantam pretending to be a peacock. He gave me a four sided essay to do because I refused to pick some milk bottles out of a puddle when ordered. He was a pretentious sod who thought he was at Eton complete with quilted waistcoat. The title of the essay he set me (bear in mind I was fourteen at the time) was ‘Should psychoanalysis be used as evidence in courts’. I wrote in big letters – ‘No! But those in positions of authority should be psychoanalysed before being put in that position!’ He was incensed and wanted to take me under the school and have me caned – prefects were allowed to give three lashes. I explained to him that he could try but either then or later I would beat him to a pulp. I was always a quiet, peaceful young lad. It was out of character – but he was a smarmy geek (reminds me of Cameron) who got right up my nose. He took me to the Head. I exceedingly calmly explained to our illustrious Headmaster that the next time Mr Bowyer asked me to pick up dirty milk bottles out of a muddy puddle would be the day he would be operated on to have them de-inserted. The Head was a wise man and figured out what was going on here. He put oil on the troubled water.

I wasn’t interested in school; I was only interested in girls and music.

One week there’d be the Kinks bursting on the scene with ‘You Really got me’ and then the next it’d be the Who with ‘I can’t Explain’ and Them with ‘Baby please don’t go’, the Prettythings with ‘Don’t bring me down’, the Yardbirds with ‘Good morning little school girl’ the Animals with ‘Baby let me take you down’ and the Small Faces with ‘What you gonna do about it’. It seemed inexhaustible.

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