This is an extract from the 1983 chapter of ‘Eighties’, with Jamey Jones being introduced to London life by his old hometown buddy Steven Lynch
The first stop was a club on Tooting High Street, a proper Sarf London hole, characters from the annals of roguery on the door with cheap Saint tattoos on the backs of their hands, a sprinkling of conmen and cut-throats inside, dolled-up girls and Only Fools regular guys, SOS Band and then ‘Body Talk’ by Imagination setting off some writhing on the dance floor. It was more tame than Leeeeeee but Jamey found himself spellbound watching a couple of girls’ self-absorbed moves.
‘Is this you slumming it, Lynch?’
‘Admit it, mate, it’s a right fackin’ larf.’
The following morning Jamey had his first experience of the Tube, couldn’t seem to pick a spot to stare at without freaking someone out. They emerged into the light at Tottenham Court Road, wandered through the fruit and veg stalls and sex shops of Soho. Books, films, mags. Live shows. Raymond Revuebar. Hollywood Love Shop.
‘This is a good spot for a photo shoot if we ever get that Hollywood Saints thing off the ground,’ said Lynch.
Around a corner they caught sight of the GPO tower, by now a phallic symbol looming over the London streets after what they’d just seen.
‘You ever been tempted, Lynch? See a film or a live sex show?’
‘Done both of ’em, mate. You gotta do ’em once. You fancy it?’
‘I’m not that desperate. Yet.’
Over to Bond Street for a pint after work scene in The Hog and Pound.
‘What have we come here for?’ asked Jamey, echoing Grasshopper in ‘Kung Fu’.
‘Take a look around the room.’
Wall to wall go-getters, or people playing at being go-getters.
‘See this lot, mate. There’s a word for them you might not have heard back in Wolverhampton. Yuppies. You’ve got a few hard-faced clean-up men who are probably worth a few bob but the rest are probably doing the same type of job you’re doing in that bank.’
‘What, like sorting out misdirected cheques? Franking the mail? De-icing the step in winter?’
‘You got it, mate. Not that they’re about to go telling anyone that. Of course the females are a bit of a turn-on but all the same, know your enemy.’
Sardined in a carriage on the Tube again, Lynch saying ‘all we’re missing is the tomato sauce’ to almost total indifference apart from smiles from two lone females he would have made a move on if there’d been any possibility of moving.
On to a pub in Bethnal Green with a fella playing some ‘Up Yours Galtieri’ stride piano, punters who looked like they might be persuaded to head out of The Smoke to do that bank job Jamey had talked about. Even Lynch was unnerved by this scene. He suggested a hop across to The Pied Bull in Islington to catch a band. All very London, both of the acts. Angular, barely competent, treated the audience with disdain. Music for journalists.
‘You reckon any of this lot are better than you, JJ?’
‘They’re worse than I was when I was sixteen.’
Back into the Tube, a beyond-merry Jamey sitting on the moving hand rail of the down escalator. Twenty yards from the bottom Lynch shoving him, Jamey sliding down the metal central reservation, just managing to fade back to the right before his testicles could meet the two nasty protuberances at the end, landing on his feet and taking a bow.
‘Bloody hell, Jage, sorry mate, I didn’t mean that.’
‘Don’t worry about it. Man, what a rush.’ It was a watershed moment, the first time Lynch had seen him that euphoric since 1980.
Next day an unassuming pub in Earlsfield. Middle-aged couples there for two-for-ones, a handful of pensioners. The landlord put ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on a brittle-sounding record player, a thirty-something skinny brunette emerged from behind a curtain and fell into some dance school moves. Then she took her blouse off. The guy in the song already had one foot on the train by the time she was turned away sliding the zip down on her skirt and she had to rush the rest of the show. She ended up picking up every last stitch of clothing at the coda and retreating behind the curtain. Half an hour later it was ‘Lady Marmalade’ and she was taking the act to the next level. Lynch preferred it when she turned her back because he didn’t have to see that can’t-believe-I’m-reduced-to-doing-this look in her eyes. No one was fazed, apart from one fella whose glasses had steamed up like Tony Curtis’s in ‘Some like it Hot’.
‘Do you think people would talk about me if I went to the toilet?’
‘I’d save it, mate.’
Later they trekked out to Kingston-on-Thames for an Indian Summer evening drink by the river. That turned into a crawl and soon they were following some Poly students heading off towards a party. They didn’t manage to sneak in behind them because of some jumped-up Ents Sec type in body-warmer and Kickers who stopped them at the door saying sorry fellas but that look went out last year.
Not to be deterred they sneaked round the side of the house. Jamey moved the metal bin and stood on it, Lynch climbing on his shoulders and tapping on the bathroom window.
‘Oh hi.’ It was a girl and she was thinking she ought to be remembering him.
‘You couldn’t come down to the back door when you’ve finished and let us in, could you?’
‘Yeah, no problem.’
She was true to her word and they were in.
It wasn’t the most happening scene, a combination of Sloane Rangers and posey art students, with a light dusting of earnest types. Most of the girls belonged in the first category, the boys in the third. The second was an even split. Jamey and Lynch got lumbered with a couple of lads who insisted on doing the voices of characters in ‘The Young Ones’. Great programme but that was tedious. Almost as tedious as the fella banging on about Politics. He said he supported Militant but his cover was blown when someone asked him if his uncle still had that crash pad in Westminster.
The last straw was him getting into full World War Three mode, all four minute warnings and Protect and Survive. Lynch had no qualms about saying right in front of him,
‘Fuck this for a lark, we might still make the train.’
On the way home. ‘Bit of a boring night that one,’ from Lynch. ‘Bet you’re glad you never became a student.’
From Jamey, ‘I ask you, crash pad in fucking Westminster.’
The next evening was another warm one and they strolled around Tooting Common across to Bedford Hill, studied a couple of prostitutes in their regulation high heels short skirts low-cut tops. Maybe it was the bucolic surroundings but Jamey was tempted for a second. It was Lynch who ruled that one out.
That night up to Dingwall’s in Camden Town. Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and The Ronettes on the screens, later a Rastafarian guy singing with a blues band of all things. They chatted up a couple of American girls, Lynch doing most of the chatting. They dressed real wild but turned out to be real straight, kept staring at Lynch like he was irrational at best, mad, bad and dangerous to know at worst.
‘Here’s to drinking, eh, lads?’ said one uneasily.
‘Here’s to drinking too much.’
The girls gave it two minutes before making their excuses and leaving their glasses half-full.
‘Yanks, who needs ’em?’ said Lynch as he watched them go. ‘You’d think with Maggie and Ronald Reagan getting it together they’d be up for a bit of Hands Across the Water. They’re rubbish in the sack anyway.’
‘All of them?’
‘Every single last one.’
‘So how many American girls have you had, Lynch?’
‘Just two. There’s no flow to ’em. The one made me shower first and the other kept saying things like ‘would you like to take off my pandies now?”
‘Never mind, let’s try those two over there.’
A couple of Welsh girls, usual attitude.
‘So who the fuck are you then?’
‘I’m just a symptom of the moral decay that’s gnawing at the heart of the….country,’ said Lynch, singing the last word.
‘And I’m his brother.’
‘They’re talking about that song by The The,’ said the friend. The Sinking Feeling. She was spot on but the name of the band sounded more like The Thurr on her.
‘I know that. I’m not stoopid.’
‘Steven Lynch. You can call me Lynch. You two living in London?’
‘We’re up here for a few days,’ said the friend. ‘Going back tomorrow.’
‘Spray that again.’
Lynch made a few attempts at getting his tongue round her hometown. Even the bolshy one’s face cracked at that.
‘I know Llanelli,’ said Jamey, getting half-marks for a ‘CL’ sound at the start. ‘Phil Bennett. Ray Gravell. Nine three against the All Blacks.’
‘Im-Pressive. At least one of you’s got a bit of culture.’
‘I’ve been to that part of the world too I’ll have you know,’ said Lynch. ‘Swansea and that.’
‘Can’t stand Swansea.’
‘Big city for you, innit? Where you staying?’
‘I bet you can’t move for Aussies over there, can you?’
She gave Lynch a stare that could strip paint. ‘What’s it to you where we’re staying? I know what’s going on hyur. You boys have just been blown off by those two by there and you thought you’d come over and give us a go.’
‘Any time you want to blow me off that’s cool, cariad,’ said Lynch.
The sauce, the cheek, the bare-faced effrontery.
It worked like a charm. Lynch and the bolshy one had proved they could take each other on and Jamey and the quiet one had been assigned their supporting roles. After they had done with Dingwalls the four of them got into a taxi and headed for Little Australia.