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
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.