another country: words

Another Country

Whatever happened to my old home town
used to set off for the bad side when the sun went down.
Down these ghostly streets I stole my first fumble
Came out of the barber’s and she’d snuck off home.

Surgical goods and the left wing book shop
a rock’n’roll hellhole where we damned ourselves nightly
in the sweat and piss of summer ’76
we laughed we loved and never could get off

But if the past’s a different country
I must be living on the moon
and if ghosts are all around us
how come I feel so alone?

Whatever happened to my old home street
where I used to wander in my two bare feet.
Gone the smiles and the old gold sunshine
gone the crewcuts and the Five Boys Chocolate

Pennorth of Bullseyes – you can get it down Old Hags
do you remember – crisps in proper bags?
do you remember – watching how girls go?
do you remember – the Pinky and Perky show?

But if the Past’s a different country…

If I’m lonely I can talk to
Dog fighting papers on the street
concrete colonnades, Mammon’s sterile temple
and the halogen groves are all in flower

Echoes on the avenue, you heard them too
where lights are perched on jets of frozen flame
it seems a mile away, so near and yet so far
more time than time can tell of, more than time than time can tell

hear the song

Notes:
The cityscape is Cardiff, where I lived from about 1973 to 1987.

The inner city was very much in decline – dingy and dangerous. Now it’s shiny bright, newly developed – the setting for Torchwood and Doctor Who. Is it still dangerous? – I couldn’t comment.

’76 was a hot summer with a drought.

The ‘rock’n’roll hellhole’ was the Moon Club. a shabby music joint that would (if it had windows – I don’t remember any) overlook the Hayes fruit market. It was brilliant and quite disgusting. One evening they were having problems with the licensing. I was queuing on the stair and as I got to the top where the Management were taking the fifty pences off incoming punters I saw that they was a small heated display unit on the table and each punter was getting a lukewarm pasty thrust into their hand.

Some were protesting and being told that they would have the f****** pasty or get out. There was an issue with the authorities and the Moon Club were trying to pass themselves off as a restaurant to get round a point of law.

The pasties were, of course, absolutely inedible and were dropped on the floor. As the evening progressed a layer of pasty mush got churned across the dance floor. Fair enough – and then some bright spark realised you could skate on this stuff. And fall over in it. And have thirty pissed bikers pile in on top of you. Skating in Cardiff started at the Moon.

The music at the Moon was brilliant. It attracted the very best Welsh musicians: the late great Tich Gwilym, Mickey Gee and bands such as Eager Beaver and Singapore. Mickey Gee was guitarist with Shakin’ Stevens, having previously worked with Tom Jones and Dave Edmunds. I stood at the front and took it all in. As time went on I got to play at the Great Western (the other music joint) regularly but I never made it to the Moon Club.

Anyone of my about my age cannot but be staggered by how much life has changed. When I was little you really could buy bulleyes – served by weight from a jar – and get a quite a few for a penny. Crisps used to be sold in waxed paper. Five Boys Chocolate was made by Fry’s. It showed in relief a range of five emotions crossing a small boy’s face as acquired/consumed the chocolate. There’d probably be issues with it nowadays.

hear the song

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2 thoughts on “another country: words

  1. Of course, that wasn’t pasties on the floor, unless they had been regurgitated, and the Moon was never as bad as it seemed. And yes, it was the music that made it happen, not the cheap Newcastle brown “dans la bouteille”. Pasties were optional IIRC, and you /could/ dodge the bloke getting 50ps on the door in several ways.

    Out with PJ a couple of years ago to see Robert Plant, and somehow ended up at a pre-gig in the Old Vulcan (there is a new vulcan, in Cathays, as well now, which is A Bad Thing, in my humble opinion) and there I was spotted, a bunch of old Moon Clubbers at the bar. They were happy, though in my case often inebriate, days.

    The Shiny side of Cardiff is /much/ more dangerous than it ever was. I still have my “Psycho Aura” to protect me, but even that is wearing thin. Never mind what the council and their shills will proclaim, the centre is now little more than one big binge drink, and you don’t need to be inside anyplace for free skating. Wear wellies, and a stab vest.

    • Yes it was, at least on this one particular occasion – pasties – not regurgitated but hastily rejected. I remember the flakiness of the pastry underfoot – surreal. You were not with me on this outing as I recall.

      The story is as published, including the coercive provision of pasties.

      As was explained to some punter who was insistent he didn’t want a pasty, they were pretending to be a restaurant for licencing purposes. Maybe when they saw the ensuing carnage (appropriate word? the pasties presumably had some meat in them) the relevant authorities caved in.

      Ah, my memory is returning. The following week or night the heated display was on the table by the entrance and you could have a pasty if you wanted one – this provision satisfied licensing requirements. Anyone who did get a bit peckish was hopefully directed to Caroline St (Cardiff’s “ChipShop Alley”).

      It would be interesting to hear more stories about the Moon, and indeed to have this episode validated. And the other horrible night spots – The Mont Merence – any volunteers?

      Your comments about Cardiff old and new noted. The Moon was never bad for violence – the only time I got beaten up in Cardiff was outside the Moon, not inside.

      Many thanks for the comment.

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