‘I never even liked punk’. I said.
‘Cover your ears Carmen’. Said Ticker.
Louise was in the kitchen making a cup of tea. Ticker and Carmen were visiting. It seems like it was ten years ago but I bet it was more like twenty.
It’s true actually – I just didn’t like a lot of punk when it came out – particularly the southern thicko bands. I liked some of it though and lets face it, a lot of the early punk bands were ex proggers who got haircuts over night and joined the bandwagon – they were already accomplished musicians. Some of it though, I adored – particularly the stuff that came a bit later like Gang of Four’s Damaged Goods.
I was sixteen when punk came out, with a mental age of ten. I didn’t have a clue about anything. We were more feral in those days – we played out and spent large amounts of time away from our parents. This carried on into teenagehood.
I discovered music when I was about 12 and it was a bit of a saviour for a gormless dick like me, struggling just to survive in some pretty turbulent times.
I don’t think it would have mattered what music was in fashion at the time – it just so happened to be punk, which smashed its way into a tired, floppy, proggy music scene.
Roger (Rawlinson) and I started to play together and write songs. He had a Welson electric piano and I had a Zenta guitar. Early songs were Gutter Girl and Heart Attack, which we never recorded. Roger wrote most of them after that.
‘That’s not sensible’. Said my dad one day as we traipsed through the house in our aspiring punk attire.
We were in the right place at the right time. We joined Northwest Musicians Collective in Manchester. We got our first proper gig at Band on The Wall in Manchester on a Tuesday night. Boff and I invited Jon the Postman on the strength of an address on his record. That led to our first single, and once John Peel played it, we were away.
We started our own Collective and our venue was upstairs at The Railway Workers in Nelson. At its peak, there was music on four nights a week. Spider was the DJ. All the latest punk got aired, hot off the press.
Ticker, a bit younger than me, was there from the start. Nelson had its own self-contained punk scene and he was at the centre of it. We all had nicknames in those days – mine came from my initials and Ticker’s from his surname.
After the Railway Workers went and the first phase of punk fizzled out, The Carlton in Burnley became the heart of the ongoing punk scene. Ticker was a regular. I remember seeing Dean’s Bedroom there, one of his shambolic punk bands. They didn’t rehearse – they just got up and played – they were fucking awful, but Ticker loved it.
He became an encyclopaedic fountain of knowledge of all things punk and had a memory like an elephant. Not only punk though – all music – garage, psyche, rock and roll. Like me, he was a pure muso, not tainted by football thickness.
Ticker didn’t just like punk and rock and roll – he lived and breathed it and the associated lifestyle – pretty much all day every day. He was always impeccably dressed.
He knew everyone who was part of that scene and everyone knew him. His razor lateral high-intellectual wit was unique and often flew high over many peoples’ heads. He spoke in a low soft quick voice and those who didn’t know him couldn’t tell a word he was saying. That’s the point. You either understand Tickerspeak or you don’t. He didn’t give a fuck and never changed.
I remember one NYE’s party at our house, I was taking the piss out him, then he was taking the piss out of me taking the piss out of him. To the observers, it was an incomprehensible drawl, but it made us laugh. We had this thing where we would pretend to shake hands, then at the last minute put our left hands to our noses and waggle our fingers.
Behind his gruff exterior, was a gargantuan intuitive intellectual wit and an unparalleled kindness and compassion, tempered with street-wisdom – hence his vast network of friends. He loved animals. He was genuinely interested in people and always took the time to enquire – ‘How are you doing’. By the same token, he had no time for cunts.
Ticker and I shared a love of 7″ singles, guitars and 60s valve amps. We compared notes often. He was one of the few people who you could ring up any time of the day or night in any state and he was always up for chatting. We DJed together a few times and did gigs together. He joined us a few times on guitar, playing The Telephone Rings Again. Naturally I wrote about him in the book.
I remember Elias and I bumping into him in The Bridge one day and he made a hilarious joke about the yuppies of Hebden Bridge paying a hundred quid a pop to get their cats’ beards trimmed.
Festivals are for fools, louts and youths. Last time I went to one was over 5 years ago. I gave myself a quiet ‘never again’ talking to.
That changed when Lindsey and Mog came into The Tapsters in Colne when I was DJing one Saturday a few months ago. Chatting afterwards, Lindsey said ‘Come to Beatherder Sage.’
‘No chance’. I thought to myself.
Fast forward to July and I’m really not comfortable. I’m under a piece of cloth in a field surrounded by loud people. It’s traumatic for me, because I ditched camping many years ago in favour of the comfort of my old VW van. Of course, on this outing, I’ve maximised the glamping elements (it’s not glamping if you can’t make toast), but it’s just not the same.
It’s mitigated by camping with Mog and Emily and our offspring. Us mother hens cook and cluck whilst the children (all grown up) play out.
The duo have a somewhat comedy air and I appear to be a catalyst. It’s not just any comedy, it’s smut comedy of the highest order. Mog augments my naïve vernacular vocabulary with ‘clunge’ and ‘growler’, in turn taught to her by Emily. It strikes me that Clunge and Growler is a perfect name for their comedy duo. ‘Which one am I ?’ Enquires Clunge. ‘Which one am I ?’ asks Growler.
The first night is a dark black hell on earth. ‘Donk donk donk’ from The Fortress shaking my chest followed by inebriants shouting loudly all night long. My recently purchased high-end self-inflating mattress and luxury sleeping bag offer little comfort.
I don’t sleep. I’m up at 7, faced with the horror of having to go for a shit in the vile festival toilets, which all feature stenching pyramids of turd, piss and toilet paper.
‘Is that the sound of the coffee grinder?’ Says Mog who is also an early riser.
Despite the harrowing circumstances, breakfast is a most convivial affair. On the first day, I make avocado and halloumi on toast.
There’s an advantage being camped next to two posh birds. Their standards approach my own and there’s a useful overlap. I have proper wine and G&T glasses (don’t fret, we have the ice shipped in) and they have proper cups and a coffee percolator.
As the weekend progresses, despite my best intentions, my curmudgeoness begins to dissolve, to the extent that on the Sunday night, I dance to Fraser like a fat old cunt in just my shorts. The weather is searingly hot – so much so, that the English press turn it into an emergency. 2 sunny days ffs? It’s hotter just about everywhere else most of the time.
Bodie remembers the original Notsensibles graffiti on Manchester Rd. He asks me to do some at Trash Manor. Happy to oblige.
Ticker was always a fan. The band split up a while ago, but we’re still around. Gaz is just up the road and we play together with Tyler on drums, doing my stuff and the occasional Notsensibles song.
When Peach phoned me and kindly invited me to help out at Trash Manor, I mentioned playing with the band, doing something punky. I’ve never played at Beatherder before or at any other festival for that matter, but The Strange have a couple of times.
Gaz and I decided to play (the rarer) first version of Instant Classic in its entirety. We realised that the three of us would struggle to do it justice, so we look round for a singer and keyboardist.
Oops – it’s 3/5 The Strange and 2/5 Notsensibles.
I’ve changed my mind about covers bands. I wouldn’t dream of calling ourselves Notsensibles – we always agreed that none of us would use the name without 3 original members being in the band, still there’s a lot of interest and love out there. Pat Trash and I were chatting outside Peter’s caravan and he pointed out that reggae artists become increasingly venerated the older they get and that there’s a similarity in punk?
Ticker is there as usual. Backstage at Trash Manor, we have a few of our customary chats over the weekend.
‘Can I play guitar with you on Telephone Rings again?’ He asks
‘We’re not doing it, but you can play on Thatcher if you want?’
As the gig approaches, Sam and Tyler point out that it doesn’t really matter a fuck and we should just enjoy it. We do. I’d thrown my dressing up bags in the van at the last minute. Sam puts on a mullet wig and big star glasses. The rest of us wear my old scrubs and I wear my Park Keeper hat. Sam gets into front man mood and it goes well. Ticker joins us on guitar for I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher, resplendent in a white pinstripe jacket and cocky hat.
The whole journey of revisiting the Notsensibles has been a bit weird and spiky and I didn’t quite get it at first. Now I do – its Sage, Gaz, Elias, Sam and Tyler – our sweet little family band. We chose the first version of the album – something that Ticker approved of wholeheartedly, and we played it for him as he watched from the side of the stage and joined us on guitar for Thatcher. There could be no finer tribute.
Ticker hadn’t been well for a while, but he never let that stop him.
He fell into a last peaceful sleep when he got back from Beatherder.
I didn’t expect to be so knocked sideways but I am – those Burnley boys are right soft arses compared to Nelson boys.
The love for him is immense and far reaching. He championed the renegades, the mavericks, the fringe-dwellers, the disenfranchised.
For us veteran musos and alternative highway travellers, the division between friends and family blurs to insignificance. Love binds us and we’re all family, so I’m grateful for our little family camping trip.
Sooner or later we will all gather in celebration (he really wouldn’t want any snivelling and whining) and our little Hebden, Tod and Burnley valleys will throng.
Punk as fuck for ever and ever.