By Jack Frayne-Reid
“Don’t take kindly to no bosses, oh no!
Money-hungry rotters, sweatshop owning tossers
That’s where they took your job to line their coffers
Now you’re headed to the…dole office!”
The beat slacked.
“I can’t be bothered…with this communist…SHIT!” the drummer bleated, his sticks clicking against the floor. Martin stopped noodling and laid his guitar against his amplifier, generating a whine of feedback. “It’s driving me up the fuckin’ wall! I ain’t never even voted in me whole life!”
“Yeah, and what you wanna play instead?” he asked “Where are your songs?”
“What about some fuckin’- some rhythm and fuckin’ blues?! I don’t ‘ave the energy…”
“You want rhythm and blues? Alright. You know what punk rock is? It’s Chuck fucking Berry, mate. It’s the form we found rock ‘n’ roll in when we nicked it off of the blacks. And besides,” he breathed “if you ain’t bothered about the plight of the working man then you’re in the wrong fucking band.” Nestra sharply prodded Martin with her telecaster; “What?” he asked.
“Typical male chauvinist pigfuckery. Are men the only ones who work?”
“It’s a fucking figure of speech, innit,” said Martin, and she jabbed him again. “Sorry, what I meant was, Terry, to clarify, if you don’t give a shit about the global struggle of the worker, just…get fucked, man.”
“Well fuck off, then, you big bastard!” Terry stroppily kicked over his bass drum. “This music is boring old shite. How am I s’posed to get a Lamborghini playing this? I ‘ear Zoot are looking for a drummer.”
“All those fucking hippies are looking for is the next score. Give ‘em a big bag of gear and next thing you know you’ll be fucking frontman.”
“And, ugh, the name-“
“Fucking hippy cunts.”
“Ah fuck off it,” cried Terry “you ain’t even a musician – you’re a propagandist!”
“Oh yeah, and Victor Jara was a propagandist, weren’t ‘e, when Pincohet’s troops were jamming a rifle down his throat in Santiago stadium ‘coz he dared to put socialism in song.”
“I don’t know who Victor Jara is, mate.”
“We start our show with a song called Victor Jara.”
“I don’t listen to the lyrics,” he paused acidly “mate. I just play the drums.”
At this, Martin screamed; “THEN FUCK OFF, RINGO!”
Nestra – whose full name, Clytemnestra, had once seen her dubbed “Kinda Middle Classtra” by Martin – idly chatted to Bill the Bassist as Terry and Martin endeavoured to lamp the living shit out of one another, limbs locked in pugilistic communion. When the scrum broke up, Martin staggered backwards, spat the blood out of his mouth, and began wielding his guitar at his bandmate, jutting the neck out like a battering ram.
“Come near the guitar and I’ll put it through your throat!” yelled Martin. Terry headed for the door.
“If these FUCKING drums ain’t all ‘ere when I bring the van ‘round, you’re a fucking goner, you cunt!” he said, and slammed it.
“Martin,” said Nestra “put your cock away.”
Martin shook off, zipped up and ambled away from the mephitic puddle amassing around Terry’s drum kit.
As they walked out, he, Bill and Nestra could hear commotion emanating from the lobby. To overhear some kind of altercation that, as in this case, involved the word “cuntbag” was no seismic event around Lewisham, but this sounded like it was coming from Rod, the generally mild-mannered owner of the only rat-eaten rehearsal space that would accommodate them. The cuntbags mustn’t’ve been budging, because the shouting did not abate.
“I thought I told you fuckers you couldn’t jam ‘ere!” a red-faced Rod was popping up and down behind the front desk, screaming his tattered vocal cords beyond hoarse in the direction of three sniggering, heavily tattooed neo-Nazis in matching red braces. “You…make…me…sick! I fought in the war against you bloody cunts, and for what?!”
“Us, mate?” grinned Boz. “We’re not German.”
“Then what the fuck do you call that?” Rod hollered, pointing at the inked-up forehead of the man self-explanatorily known as Swastika Steve. “I don’t wanna see that fucking thing anywhere!”
“Oh ‘ere we go,” sighed Boz mockingly. “Bloody looney left again.”
“Looney left?” Rod was apoplectic. “I’ve voted Conservative me ‘ole life! I just don’t…like…fascists! Now fuck off ‘fore I throw a brick at your face.”
Boz leered malevolently at Nestra, licked his lips at the subsequent V-sign, and led his compatriots out of the practise hall, boisterously singing one of the self-penned numbers by their punk group, Gentile Spirit;
“Enoch ‘ad it right,
Out ‘ere fightin’ the good fight,
Proud to say that white is right,
“Know what I call them bastards?” Rod sighed wearily. “Nasty, poor, British and short. ‘Course, one of ‘em’s a big’un, so…”
Outside on the street, each of the three remaining members of the band contemplated the loss of their drummer on an introspective level. When talk did arise, it was small;
“You know, I’m no fan of the older generation,” said Nestra. “Tories neither. But Rod’s an alright bloke.”
“You say that,” scowled Martin. “Wait ‘til we get talking about the pits.”
“Or ‘til he smells the piss…”
“Just fuck this, man, I’m fucking due on my electrics,” he continued. “I need cash by Friday. We need a fucking drummer to do this gig else we’ll sound as soft as a Tory’s silk linens.”
Something else grabbed Nestra’s attention. “Look who’s waited out to give us a warm fascist greeting.”
“Fascists? Nah, love, we’re over that.” Boz and company swaggered over. “Us lot are paid-up members of BAP now.”
“BAP,” asked Bill. “How are they with their…solutions?”
“When it comes to getting the bloody immigrants out – fucking bang on!” Boz crooked his neck to the side. “and the immigrant thing really is the dealbreaker. But BAP’s a non-racist party. Says so on the posters.”
“You’ve always been pretty into the whole racism thing, though, haven’t you?” posed Nestra.
“See, we thought we was racist and all. But then we met this geezer who told us; what he told us was that we’re not racists, aha, no, we simply ‘ave some” he repeated sententiously, drawing quotation marks in the air “’legitimate concerns about immigration.’”
The erstwhile neo-Nazis had in fact fallen under the spell of booze-swilling political rising star Michael Bunting, the man for whom every wronged-feeling right-winger had at least a bit of a hard-on. The fascists had been attracted to a rally organised by BAP – the British Autonomy Party – upon seeing a poster which proclaimed that 85% of muggings were committed by immigrants and 85% of the victims were “indigenous” Brits. The soiree sounded like a real hate-fest.
Arriving at the scene, the three of them pushed past a leaflet guy and went straight for the buffet. It looked surprisingly tame compared to far-right rallies they’d attended in the past; full of middle class people complaining about potholes.
“Why the fuck d’you name the party after a fucking bacon sandwich, you stupid fucking mug cunt?” Boz asked a party official.
“Well, it stands for…”
“We know what it stands for, we seen the posters!” yelled Swastika Steve.
“You see,” he quivered “…it appeals to that core ‘full English and a Sunday roast’ demographic; what we like to call the ‘fish and chip faceless’…”
Boz squared up to him and spat in his face; “Well I don’t fucking like you, mate, you’re a fucking little dweeb – I’ll bash you about ‘til you’re fucking faceless. Where can I find the real movers and shakers round ‘ere?”
“Oi Boz,” grunted Steve “that geezer’s got a pint.”
“Oi mate!” Boz yelled at some guy who was getting all the attention “where d’you get that pint? Get us one, mate!” he pushed past another attendee “Fuck off.” They advanced towards the leader of the party and saw he was smoking a cigarette too. He had it all. “Give us a fag, mate!”
“Hello, boys, what’s on your minds?”
“You got a fucking fag or what?”
“Yes, of course…”
“And for ‘im…”
“There you go, old chap…”
“Of course, how rude of me. Now, what’s troubling you? Anything I can do anything about?”
This time, Gilbert was the first to pipe up; “Some bloody Romanians’ve only gone and moved in next door to me Grandma.”
“And the other day I got on a bus’t were driven by some Muslamic fella. Right scared, I was.”
“It’s fucking dark times, guv. Ain’t enough jobs to go round and I’m seeing new fucking faces fresh off the boat every day…”
“My boys! You are talking about the scourge of our times – unchecked mass immigration.”
He got them all a pint and laid his philosophy out to them, and the bits that they understood, they liked. He explained that many like them had come to him, and that he had made them feel like they had a voice in society once again, freed from the hyper-PC judgements of “self-appointed moral arbiters and leftist hooligans”. Although Swastika Steve was disillusioned by the lack of actual baps on the buffet, it was largely a meeting of the minds.
“Now, I hate to get all ‘rules & regulations’ on you lads, but I’m afraid I’m obliged by party practise to ask you if you were previously members of any, uh, how should I say” he eyed the Third Reich insignia carved permanently into Steve’s forehead “– neo-Nazi parties or organisations?”
“The…band…?” Gilbert put forward hesitantly.
“Gentile Spirit don’t count, yeah?” Boz admonished Gilbert. “Nah, mate, we don’t fuck about with no parties. They don’t get fuck all done.”
“Oh?” Bunting hummed. “Jolly good – well, hopefully we might seem a little more, ah, pragmatic to you. I’ll just get the forms for you. Just something we have to check, y’know?”
Having regaled the band with the whole story, Boz was whipping his lengthy sermon on the realness of Michael Bunting to a dizzying crescendo;
“’E can feel the heartbeat of the common man! See, we found that we wasn’t racist; we was simply three of the ‘multitudes disenfranchised by the corrosive social effects of multiculturalism.’”
“Right,” said Nestra.
“I know, it were news to me too! And I found out something else as well – you know, everywhere we go people call us fucking yobs, fucking layabouts, fucking little Nazi scum cunts. But I found out something, y’know; me and the government, we fucking ‘ate a bunch of the same fucking cunts as each other. Me and the fucking old bird-nested bint in Number 10. Fucking immigrants, fucking unions, fucking poofs, and fucking shit’ouse left wing activist bastards like you. I found out that some old bollocks from the fucking thirties ain’t gonna ‘elp us now, it’s the new way, the new fucking way, my little shitbirds – you gotta follow the cunting power! So we’re with BAP now! We ain’t gonna fuck the government; we’re just puttin’ that extra bit of pressure on, reminding the government to fuck all you bastards. All you…fucking…deviants! They say I’m a yob, they say I’m a fucking thug – I’m fucking ENGLISH” he screamed “fucking St. George’s blood runs through my veins. I ain’t the fuckin’ outsider! I’m the majority. I’m the fucking everyman. And you” he pointed his finger at Nestra “are just a leftist hooligan.”
“Well…” Martin broached an utterance.
“Why don’t you fuck off to Russia if you like it there so much, you Trot cunt.”
“Wow, is what I was gonna say. I don’t think I’ve been simultaneously more disgusted and bored shitless in my life. You really are a cunt, Boz, you’re still a fascist and your band are shit.”
“You fucking what, mate?” Gilbert lunged at Martin and thwacked him across the face, knocking him onto his arse.
“C’mon, Gilbert,” Boz snarled. “Let’s get outta here ‘fore we get ourselves fucking nicked for killing these cunts.”
“They fucking say one more word about the band,” Gilbert muttered as they walked off.
“Don’t worry, mate,” Boz patted him on the back reassuringly. “We’re the best band since Skrewdriver. And they’ve got a shit name.”
“They’re right violent bastards, aren’t they?” said Bill.
“Yeah,” Martin picked himself up off the sodden pavement, nursing his bloodied face. “They’re right cunts in that way. And in all fucking conceivable others.”
“You alright, comrade?”
“Yeah, I’m alright, man. Take a look at that,” he gestured across the street. “Reckon we could squeeze a few quid outta Neville for the trolley?”
“Yeah, easy,” said Nestra.
“Are you aware of the graffiti on your front gate?”
“Graffiti? Mi doh see no graffiti.”
“It’s hard to miss. Someone’s spray-painted the words ‘fuck the police’ on there.”
When Neville turned back towards PC Andrew Mills he was grinning.
“Oh. Yeah, nah, that wa’ me.” They went inside. Neville took a seat behind his desk but PC Mills remained standing.
“The public gratuity isn’t really appreciated, Neville,” sighed the officer. “Please scrub it.”
“Mi a go get round to it inna mi own time!” He got up and put the kettle on. “Wha you wan fi drink?”
“Uh, cuppa would be nice, mate, cheers. Anyway, I got bigger fish to fry. As you know, I work the neighbourhood beat…” Neville gave a ‘get on with it’ nod. “…and I hear some stuff ‘round the way-“
“And wa’ yuh ‘ear dat concern me?”
“A number of things, actually. I’m curious about your metal.”
“What a gwan wi’ mi metal?”
“Where do you get it?”
“Mi ‘ave mi kind donors. So much I ca’ jus’ reel off.”
“You always pay them?”
“A wah yuh ask meh? You know you not get nuttin for free inna di British Isles.”
“When someone turns up with some stolen junk would you pay them even if they’re just gonna spend it on hard drugs?”
“Mi cyan say; none ‘dem ever shot up in front ah meh.”
“Well, personally, as much as it could be argued that you might be enabling their addictions, I’m more worried about the theft side of the equation than that ‘ole hoo-hah.”
“Well, meh a go tell yuh wha…” Neville kicked open the door and gestured to a huge cube of crushed up metallic items in the yard. “Any ah dem ting dey look stolen to yuh?”
“Mi a scrapman. Mi not ask, mi acquire.”
“Right.” PC Mills quietly fumed at his subject’s intransigence for a second, before electing to change the subject. “There is, uh, another matter.”
“Just get ‘pon de ting, man.”
“It’s related to immigration…”
“Now it comes out! Dis why you come to me? Me sure di whitebwai who run di scrapyard pon Grierson Road gets none of this bullshit.”
“Look, relax, there’s no racial agenda here.”
“Relax? Easy for you fi say, Frankie.”
“Look, I’m not denying the police have…been known to have some problems with race, but Lewisham is miles ahead of most forces on the Met.”
“Oh no, yuh on that sus shit like flies to shit. Mi seen di numbers – searchin’ di black bredren at twice di rate of whites.”
“It’s six times in Richmond!”
“And dat be one big white area. Wa’ dat say bout di beast? Me tink mans jus got di one brother out der who tek di rap fi everyt’ing.”
“Look, I’m actually our officer in charge of cultural sensitivity, alright. I’m putting the work in. We had a football match with the Islamic Centre last week – between you and me, we got cunted in penalties. But the boys are doing a top job with the inclusivity. ‘Ere, take a look at a snap we got…”
From the folds of his uniform PC Mills produced a photograph of himself and seven other Caucasian officers jovially sitting around an Imam.
“Mi do’ wan’ see no picture, man!”
“Your face can be up on our Wall of Acceptance too, if you want…”
“Mi do’ wan’ take no picture wi’ you!” Puffed Neville, exasperated.
“Well, ok, fine. What I was getting at has bugger all to do with your ‘eritage anyway. The other night, right, we got together with UKBA in Catford and nabbed us a bunch of Romanians. Now we’re getting orders from above to sniff around for more of the same. Don’t matter where from. You know any businesses ‘round here that happen to be using illegal labour?”
“Cyia say mi do.” drawled Neville.
“If you hear about any of that, give us a tip, yeah?” Neville was ushering him out.
“Yeah, yeah. Mi a go open up shop again, so, ah, innah de morrows, beastman.”
PC Mills hesitated. “As-salamu alaykum.”
Neville slammed the red gate in his face, the ‘Fuck the Police’ graffiti snapping to a halt a few inches from PC Mills’ eye-line. Nestled between endless grey-white two-storeys, the scrapyard was scurried away in the slither of space that joined one of the houses and a miniscule, obscurely placed public green.
“Blimey, it’s a bit Augusto Pinochet out ‘ere.”
Martin jumped out of his skin when he turned the corner and saw PC Mills. He froze stiff. Bill warily tugged the trolley to a halt as he and Nestra followed. Mills raised his eyebrow and nodded, then walked off up the road, whistling a happy tune.
“You can’t react like that every time you see the fucking bill,” said Nestra, rapping her knuckles on the gate. “I know you were at the Battle of Lewisham, but you don’t actually have PTSD.”
“And Notting Hill Carnival in ’76. I’ve always hated them cunts.”
“Them cunts would love to put the boot into you.”
“I know, that’s why I hate ‘em.”
There was a clinking of keys and Neville emerged from behind the gate. He poked his head out to make sure PC Mills had gone, and invited the band in.
“Mi a jus had a lickle tribulation wid di beast,” he explained. “Mi doh fret, nuttin much dat be vexing me. Wha mi fi do fi yuh?”
Bill pushed the trolley forward and shrugged. Neville looked at it for about a second, clicked his tongue, and announced;
“That all?” asked Martin.
“Dunno wha di fuck you expecting, man, trolleys and dis shit be ten-a-penny.”
“Look,” Nestra protested. “It ain’t as if we got it into our heads that trolleys are some kind of a scarce commodity. We’re just asking what we’re s’posed to do with a fiver between three of us?”
“Dat’s ah yah business.”
“C’mon Bill, let’s get this shit into turnaround.” said Martin. “Grierson it is…”
“Cha! Six pound!” Neville declared, gesticulating wildly. “Two pound each. You get nuttin’ better’n dat on Grierson,” his voice dissolved into a mutter. “Look ‘ow you done played me. Wait ‘pon dis spot, mi a go fetch di corn.”
The band celebrated this bartering triumph. Due to their unwavering commitment to revolutionary socialism, they were perfectly happy to have haggled for a mere pound more than the original fee offered, on account of £6 being easily divisible by three without any highfalutin mathematical skulduggery of the unsavoury variety practised in the City of London.
“‘Ey, we can divide that equally,” Martin raised his middle finger to the sky. “Fuck you, Maggie!”
“She ain’t fucking God, you know,” said Nestra.
“Yeah, she’s the fucking opposite.”
They were perplexed when, upon approaching his office hut, Neville could be seen to engage in a brief conversation with a large pile of crushed up cars and other repurposed metals. Then, one by one, a troupe of a dozen guys emerged from behind the mound; all in fluorescent jackets, all built for manual labour and none of them white.
Neville emerged, too, with a couple of cups of tea for his workers, running back into his office again and walking steadily out with more steaming mugs for those who might have thought him to be neglecting them. He approached the band with a five-pound note and a one-pound coin clasped in his fist.
“’Ere di corn. Use it bloodclaat wisely,” he winked, slapping it into Martin’s palm. “And mi? Mi a go and do mi long-ting fucking accounts. Ousmane! Come fetch di trolley, man.”
One of the workers ambled up towards the band with a laid-back sidle.
“How you doing, friends?” It didn’t seem like Ousmane was Jamaican, but from somewhere in Africa.
“I’m alright, man,” said Martin. “Just try’na make a few quid, y’know.”
“Me too, man,” he held his palms to his chest. “Ousmane.”
“Martin,” they shook hands.
“My name’s Bill, man.”
“You play the music?” Ousmane eyed the guitar cases strapped to each of their backs.
“Yeah, we’re a punk rock band,” said Nestra.
“I’m a bass player,” Bill added.
“I prefer to think of us a classic rock band. We’re the shit.” Martin explained. “Every song we write is like a bullet to the head of them fucking dinosaurs on the majors.”
Osmane raised his eyebrow.
“I am a musician too,” he began to push the trolley towards the recycling machine. The band followed. “I play the music of the Tuareg people.”
“Oh yeah; what’s that like?”
“Kind of like…Jimi Hendrix. Bob Marley and Wailers. Electric guitars. The rhythm,” he looked over at Bill. “Bass too. It is a bit like rock ‘n’ roll…”
“…but also like traditional Tuareg music.”
“What instrument do you play?”
“I’m a percussionist.”
“You play drums?”
“Deus ex machina…” said Nestra under her breath.
“Join our band,” proposed Martin. Nestra cast a scrutinising glance his way.
“You play what, punk rock? I don’t use sticks, brother,” laughed Ousmane.
“I don’t give a fuck, man. Join the band.”
“You have to dig that we’re currently without a drummer as of earlier today because him and Martin had a punch-up. It was very macho,” said Nestra.
“Fucking pillock didn’t fit the fabric of the band. ‘S’like a KGB sell or summin. And he wanted a Lamborghini.”
“Look, I feel very good that you want to play with me,” said Ousmane. “But I am sorry to say that my drums are all back in Mali.”
“Nah, we’ll get you some drums, mate,” Martin reassured him, casting a furtive glance at the others.
“It would be good to drum again…”
“Why di fuck yuh be chattin fi dem and there be none dem work getting done?” Neville shouted over.
“What time d’you knock off?” Martin asked hurriedly.
“All us lot are on the fucking dole, in’t we, so we ain’t got nothing else better to do than meet you here. Honest, mate, we’ll have a jam. Clear your schedule.”
“Alright, man,” they shook hands. Everybody said their goodbyes. “I will see you lot at six.”
As they quit the scrapyard, Bill scratched his head and asked; “Where abouts did he say this Tuareg place was, anyway?”
“It ain’t a fucking place, is it?” Nestra said. “It’s a tribe, he said. From Mali and all.”
“Oh,” said Bill. “Right.”
“How we gonna integrate Tuareg drumming into our sound, anyway?”
“Well, I’m sure ‘e can play a 4/4 beat too if you’re that fucking worried,” snapped Martin. “Or, God forbid, we could write some new songs.”
“Alright, what about the fact we don’t have a kit right now?”
“Don’t worry about it. I know just where we can get ourselves one.”
The lights in the rehearsal room were off, shrouding an awful lot of musical equipment in darkness. A rough scuffling began to emanate from the door, followed by the immortal click-clack of a job well done. The band entered the well-equipped practise space, Martin flicking on the lights whilst Bill returned his safety pin to his dilapidated denim jacket.
“Yeah, this is our gaff, innit,” Martin told Ousmane. “Shame we forgot the keys.”
“This is your place?”
“Uh, yeah, love this place like it were my own squat.”
Ousmane whipped the protective cloth off the drumkit.
“You are ‘Zoot’?” he inquired.
“Yeah, we’re Zoot; well, that was…our old name…”
“We’re not Zoot,” Nestra admitted. “And we never have been. We’re Blacklung. Zoot are a boring old bunch of bastards who happen to have more gear than us…and I don’t just mean that they’re a bunch of junkie cunts.”
Ousmane paused for a second.
“Yes, I did not think you were Zoot,” he laughed. “And…Blacklung…?”
“Solidarity with the miners,” Nestra explained.
“Right, well, let’s get the guitars out; bet they got some fucking big amps and all,” Martin began uncovering the amplifiers and changing all their settings, removing all superfluous effects. “Let’s get this sounding fucking ‘orrid.”
Everybody plugged in. Nestra connected up the PA and set up one of Zoot’s microphones. Ousmane took his seat.
“Kit alright for you, mate?”
“It’s a…long way from the tindé drum, but I think I’ll do ok.”
“Well, check this out…”
He started playing a fairly unremarkable Chuck Berry-infused three-chord progression.
“So kind of like this?”
Ousmane echoed him on the drums, but there were flavours to his rhythm that had at no point previously been evident in the composition. Martin tried to play along, slowing his riff down slightly to adjust to the altered tempo.
“No, not exactly,” Martin finally answered when Ousmane dropped the beat. “But, err…let’s…do…that instead. You lot getting this?”
“Mhmm,” Nestra gritted her teeth. “Two…three…four!”
The beat spun like a whirlwind. To Martin, his syncopated leads sounded like hard reggae. Nestra, lost in her swish-swosh strumming, felt like a slicked back rockabilly hick. But the band were not alone in the room. They careered to a halt.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Martin asked Terry.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” said Terry.
“What does it look like? We’re ‘avin’ a jam – fuck off!”
Terry took a second to process the situation before spluttering out a riposte.
“Nah! Where in the bleeding hell are Zoot? Did they give you fuckers permission to play here?”
“Yeah, what’s Zoot’s is ours and what’s ours is Zoot’s – you know ‘ow communism works – now I’m warning you, you dunderheaded clustercunt, get the fuck out this gaff ‘fore I nut you one.”
“I…can’t…” he began.
“Why the fuck not?” Martin squared up to him.
“Well, I wanted to see if they needed any…bongos…or maybe…tambourines…”
“I thought they was looking for a drummer?”
“Well, I already went to see ‘em, see, and they said they already got a drummer. In fact…they got two. Just like the Dead, they told me.”
“Oh man,” Martin suddenly felt a strange surge of sympathy. “Don’t see why they couldn’t make the stretch and hire a third.”
“They said that’d just be stupid…wait,” he looked over at Ousmane. “’Oo’s this, then?”
“Oi!” a bunch of long-haired greaseballs piled into the room, pushing Terry so roughly out of their way that he was practically trampled. “What the hell are you doing with all our shit?”
“What does it look like?” Nestra spat.
“It looks like you’re having yourselves a bloody good time at our expense,” huffed their lead singer; hirsute and rotund in equal measure. “Leeching off more established groups; well I never. We’re not your comrades, I’m afraid. I’ve a good mind to call the authorities…”
Martin grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. The rest of Zoot stumbled back tetchily.
“I don’t know where you got the idea you’re such a hip bastard. You’d be the squarest cunt alive if you weren’t so fucking round. You call the filth and I will fucking piss on you.”
“This bastard ain’t even joking,” Terry remarked.
“We’ll leave on our own fucking terms,” said Martin, releasing the singer and unplugging his guitar. “Don’t sweat it, comrades. We’ll get some fucking biscuit tins; Ousmane, you can bang on them. Everyone at the gig’ll be pissed outta their skulls anyway,” as the band marched out the room he added “fuck you, Terry.”
Terry was left alone with Zoot.
“Dude, I thought I told you,” the singer was shaking. “we’ve already got three drummers.”
Martin was sat in his squat listening to Victor Jara in a painfully earnest manner when somebody kicked his flimsily locked door right open;
“GIMME THE FUCKING WASHING MACHINE!”
“AAAAGH!” screamed Martin. “Take it! Take it all! Material goods don’t mean nothing to me!”
The guy edged towards the kitchen.
“Wait!” Martin shouted over to him.
“What you saying?”
“I don’t have a washing machine.”
“I just remembered; I don’t have a washing machine.”
“Still, take whatever you want.”
“Nah,” the guy walked back into the draughty living room where Martin was huddled on the couch. “Was just looking for a washing machine, to be honest.”
“Johnny-boy?” Martin exclaimed. “Fucking hell, didn’t even catch a look at you.”
“Fuck me, Martin; that you, brother? Been a long time.”
“Right, geezer, I don’t think I seen you since the Battle of bloody Lewisham. Take a seat, man.”
“Where can I take a leak round ‘ere?”
“You see that room off the kitchen?”
“Ah yeah,” Johnny-boy started to piss. “You ain’t pissed I was gonna mug you off?”
“Nah, mate, I got a big red heart beating in here.”
“Your heart’s still red, is it? Surprised to see you’re a Daily Mail reader, then. Toilet reading?”
“Toilet paper. Always keep a few copies of the Mail about. Soft on the arsehole.”
Johnny-boy emerged back in the living room, zipping up his flies.
“Well, fuck, man,” he said. “let’s bun a spliff.”
“This fatty ‘ere; let’s smoke it.”
“Oi, you know I’m straight edge and, last time we hung out, so was you.”
“Jus’ a lickle ‘erb man, mind if I spark it?”
“Go on; doubt this shithole’s gonna get much shittier from you smoking some shit. But I don’t like that shit. Puts yer ‘ead in a tizz”
Johnny-boy inhaled deep on the marijuana; “Man, I remember you chucking this big fuck off plank of wood at some bobby like a javelin. Out of all the whiteboys I knew, you were the one got craziest at the Babylon. Spliff?”
“Nah. I fucking burned a swastika…and a fucking England flag. Felt like two sides of the same coin to me.”
“Yeah, well, the Front was thick as a pile of elephant shit to think they could walk through the centre of Lewisham without us putting up a fight. Spliff?”
“And the fucking lice wasn’t arresting much of ‘em, was they?” Martin shrugged. “Saw more black youth in cuffs than there was Nazis.”
“‘S’the way it goes. Babylon’ll find any excuse to be hassling mans; mostly for this shit,” he waved the spliff at Martin, who began to see it as bathed in a rather anti-establishment light.
“Go on then,” Martin was struck by his own fickle nature. “I’ll have a few pulls.”
“Go on. ‘S’just the piff, innit? …it were chaos, man, the battle. What my dad would call ‘dem everyt’ing crash’ – mass social unrest, innit. Cops brought all the riot gear down wi’ dem from Northern Ireland. Proper novelty. ‘Course, we seen ‘em use it all again on the miners now.”
“We still bricked enough of ‘em. More cops got injured that day than citizens. Like seventy or summin’. I’ll never forget that. Was as good as it gets, that was. The movement at its zenith. And then, and then, there was the People’s R-”
“The People’s Republic of Lewisham Clock Tower. Fuck me, it was like we’d won.”
Martin rejoined gleefully; “Best hour of me life.”
“I feel you, man, and that’s the only way this fucking government is gonna fall. People taking to the streets and telling ’em to fuck right off. It’s the only way.”
“Right,” Martin coughed. “This gear is fucking sensational, by the way.”
“..if you pour a barrel o’ whiskey down me pretty corpse’s throat!”
As his band dragged out their final chord, Jimmy O’Carroll lurched forward into a kind of strangulated bow, threw his mic stand over and hobbled off the stage of the Piss Haven. Martin greeted him from the wings;
“Top o’ the morning to ya.”
“Oh, feck off, ya pretentious gobshite,” he straightened up his posture.
“Troubled, ‘e is.”
“I’m feckin’ warnin’ ye…it’s enough of a ball-ache keeping this pisshead façade up for all the drunk punks,” he sped away, mumbling “I hate fucking whiskey.”
Jimmy’s band headed from the stage to the bar. The next group went to take their places onstage. The compere introduced them;
“Now here’s our next group of frightening young people – Oedipus Freud!”
“FUCK THE FUCKING GOVERNMENT,
THEY’RE A BUNCH OF FUCKING CUNTS…”
Somebody nudged Martin.
“Sorry, man, are you Martin Mailer?”
“I’m with the NME. Can I get a few words?”
“What sets you apart from your contemporaries as a songwriter?”
“That I can write.”
“Is it true that you’re a progenitor of the ‘Bowel movement’.”
Martin raised his fist.
“I don’t know if that’s some sort of a joke but I’ll smack you,” he said, then wandered off lackadaisically.
“This band are such personalities…great hair,” the journalist gushed to Nestra. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too. Can I ask you some questions?”
“One question,” she said, looking around to see where Martin had gone. “Capitalist.”
“Um…ah…ok, err…what do you…”
“It doesn’t matter what you say,” she interrupted. “I already have the answer. As far as music goes, we’re the lone voice of truth, ringing like a foghorn through this misty sea of bullshit. You’re the bullshit. No further comment.”
Any other publication would have viewed this as a missed opportunity, but the NME had bagged themselves enough material to last several weeks’ issues. A few minutes later, whilst the rhythm section practised their songs with Ousmane drumming on a stool, Martin returned.
“Where d’you go?” asked Nestra.
“Piss,” he murmured, took out his guitar, and began to play along.
“We’re on in a couple of minutes. We ain’t got the track down.”
“Oh give it up,” Martin moaned. “We’re not fucking Pink Floyd, are we? I ain’t gotta synchronise my solos with the lightshow.”
“Who said anything about Pink Floyd?” she said. “if you wanna play like shit ‘cause you’re a fucking punk the trick is to at least synchronise it with the rest of the band.”
“And now,” the emcee began, “the horribly named Blacklung!”
Onstage, Nestra cut a forlorn figure, standing dead centre whilst the band skulked in the shadows. She assumed a stationary position by the microphone and announced;
“This is a song where nothin’ changes. It’s called Hope…
Hope don’t buy you true love,
Hope don’t buy a roof over your head,
Hope don’t stave off death…”
As she launched into the third verse, the band behind her maintaining a vamping, repetitious groove that teetered on the blink of oblivion, somebody jumped onstage. She turned to face them.
“1984…and where’s the change that you hoped for?
The change in the pockets of the poor…”
It was Boz. When he grabbed the microphone from her, she saw that Gilbert and Swastika Steve – now covering his tattoo with an anachronistic bowler hat – were clambering onstage after him. Gilbert ran at Martin and attempted to wrestle his guitar from him, as Boz howled;
“’Old your ‘orses, my pretties! This concert is an outrage! A fucking disgrace! I ‘ave it on good authority that the drummer in this ‘ere band of left-wing terrorists, who you can see roughing up my beloved bass player with the snare drum over there,” he pointed to Gilbert, who was taking a beating from Ousmane and Martin. “is a no good, dirty illegal immigrant who should bloody well pack ‘is bags and go home. Get out of our fucking country, you filthy cunt! I don’t want you ‘ear! We all need to vote for Michael Bunting, coz Bunting’s got it right. Send them all back! Get the foreigners out. They don’t belong here, and we don’t fucking want them here.”
A few people cheered. Most booed.
“You sound like Eric Clapton!”
“We’re becoming a black colony! Keep Britain white! It’s getting overcrowded, and Bunting’s the only one who can stop it. Get them fuckers out! What is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? Vote for Michael Bunting; he’s a great man. He’s on our side, speaking truth. Vote Bunting in the by-election! Keep Britain white, ’cause I can’t be the only one who’s sick of all the fucking ni-”
The entire band piled on Boz, punches raining down. Gilbert lay unconscious with a snare wrapped around his neck. Swastika Steve limped offstage, having lost his hat. A miniature riot had broken out in the venue.
“What by-election?” asked Nestra, over the din.
“Anyone seen my bowler hat?” Swastika Steve returned to the stage to ask, to which somebody threw a shoe at his head.
Martin was spluttering his way through a moth-eared roach when his door got kicked in again. Fortunately, it wasn’t the police but, unfortunately, rather than Johnny-boy with some more gear, it was Nestra, nostrils flaring with fury.
“What a fucking waster! Sitting on his larry tooting that gear.”
“Oi! Just ‘ad a few of me mates by, didn’t I?”
“We don’t fuck around with that shit in our band,” she continued. “You better straighten up, mate; get your shit together.”
“Fucking ‘ell,” said Martin “for a punk you can be a right judgemental bastard. Can’t I dedicate my life to the class struggle and bun the odd spliff?”
“Ain’t just spliffs, though, is it?” Nestra asked with a deadly seriousness. “The fuck is this?”
She picked up a mirror that sat on his tattered coffee table, covered in faint remnants of powdery white lines.
“You fucking hippy cunt,” she told him. “what’s punk about coke? Coke is the Eagles. Coke is Fleetwood Mac.” Martin shrugged, at which point Nestra grabbed him and pinned him up against the wall. “I’m fucking telling you, if I ever so much as hear anything resembling a fucking Fleetwood Mac tune coming from within this band, I’ll head to the noose shop and fucking hang myself. But not until I’ve fucking hanged you first!” She released him. “That’s one of many reasons you and I will never…be a thing; don’t wanna end up like fucking Fleetwood Mac.”
“Christ,” Martin sat his stoned self down. “I mean, maybe we ain’t even all that different from the hippies. Maybe we’re fighting some of the same battles.”
“Maybe you just wanna get high.”
“Nah, y’know, I’m serious. I don’t know. Maybe things were…purer back then.”
He didn’t mean the way “back then” was purer for Boz and co, but that some hope, some idealism had been lost, love replaced by an unabated rage; and maybe for good reason. You could see it in the politicians. Nobody was talking about full employment anymore.
“Oh, leave the fucking navel-gazing out, won’t you? That’s the thing with the hippies; they tune in, they drop out. And, no matter how much they brag, they got fuck all done. What we need is direct action. I got a plan for the band,” she began to explain. “with this by-election thing there’s a chance Bunting might win the seat, if he can persuade enough – let’s be straight here – tossers to give him their vote. No matter how embarrassing the shit his supporters spew out, he’s got his core angry white male fan-base, so the rally he’s doing over at Foster’s End Park should be pretty packed. What we do is stage a counter-protest. You know the Brockley reggae-heads? They’re lending us their sound system. We set up and play a bunch of fucking loud tunes within earshot of bunting, before the fuzz turn up. It’ll cause a right ruckus.”
“Mhmm,” grunted Martin, feeling strung out. “Sounds good to me. Where’s Bill got to, anyway?”
“Bill’s off doing some work with the FFI,” she used the acronym for the non-profit Fuck Fascism Initiative. “They’ll be at the rally. Shame I gotta organise everything, innit? And we think Ousmane’s gone underground ‘cause UKBA are onto him.”
“Sometimes they come from Libya. Sometimes it’s Somalia. Mali, Eritrea. All I know is there’s always going to be some bloody reason to take them in, and it’s all getting a bit out of hand – getting to the point where somebody needs to step in and say, enough is enough, we will do nothing more to assist these leeches in crossing the Mediterranean…particularly those with the AIDS virus, who wish to take advantage of our National Health Service.”
Bunting addressed his adoring crowd, his eyes popping in their sockets, leaping up and down on the spot as if he kept sighting immigrants in his periphery. Hundreds had drowned that week attempting to emigrate from Northern Africa, and it was already government policy not to rescue them.
“You can tell me all the sob stories you want; I’m afraid I just don’t care. Enough…is…enough.”
When Nestra brought the idea to them, a few members of Lewisham’s reggae community had been more than keen to assist the protest, parking their mobile sound system by the park exit Bunting was set to pass by, connecting the band’s amplifiers to their generator. With all the speakers, there wasn’t enough space on the truck for a full drum kit, but a Pan-Africanist reggae-head had contributed no less than a tindé drum on the off-chance the band would be able to establish contact with Ousmane. A crowd had begun to amass around the sound system. The FFI iconography seemed to outweigh that of BAP, but presumably all Bunting’s supporters were watching his speech.
“…and there is a new epidemic sweeping the nation: the disease of political correctness…”
“Mans a go be talking fi anoda five minutes, ‘ear me?” warned one DJ, Buju.
The band were tuning up.
“I went to see Neville,” Nestra fretted. “He ain’t seen Ousmane since Friday. You don’t think…” she paused.
“Think what?” asked Bill.
“That we’ve kinda…fucked all his shit up?”
“You think he got nicked by UKBA?”
Martin fumed; “These fucking cunts. Have you heard what that fucking nonce has been saying?” he pointed at the park. “They’re less than human to him, all the immigrants. ‘S’thoughts like that fucking kill, y’know? They kill people…”
“Alright you lot,” Terry ran up to the side of the truck, panting. “need any rhythm?”
“Unless you play the tindé drum, fuck off,” Martin told him.
“A ti…I can do that, honest!” Terry exclaimed. Martin stared at him. “Alright, I’ll do it…but no politics!”
Nestra indicated towards the park; “Did you miss that we’re picketing a political rally?”
“…oh, alright, I’ll do it anyway.”
“Right,” Martin snarled. “Now get on the truck, arsehole, before I reconsider and fucking run you over with it.”
Terry sat behind the large tindé drum. “What the fuck is this thing?” he squeaked incredulously.
“Keep up, cunt,” said Martin.
“Fascists incoming!” Buju yelled.
Bunting had left the stage, and was leading a huge mass of supporters to the exit. Police flanked he and his canvassing party members, and there were high spirits in the crowd – a lot of yelling, chanting, and pushing past others to try and get a brief chat with their messiah. Bunting led the charge, grinning his way through a pint of bitter. As the rabble grew closer, the band kicked into action.
“You’re a pasty white fucker and your day is through,
So you’re blaming every fucker who’s blacker than you.”
The street was packed. People were beginning to notice;
Police were noticing too. Nevertheless, Bunting’s massive entourage barrelled ahead like a juggernaut and there was no chance of redirecting them. They were heading for a collision.
As Martin played a dissonant guitar solo, Nestra mouthed over to him;
“Look, Martin, Ousmane’s in the crowd!”
But he was distracted. Police fast approaching the van and Bunting emerging through the park gate, taking a glug, Martin unceremoniously ripped his guitar off with a screech of feedback and pulled out a small gun. Setting his sights on Bunting, he fired two shots, which both connected, one hitting him dead in the chest. The rest of the band stared dumbfounded. Bunting dropped his pint and cigarette and began to cough and splutter, dribbling slightly. He seemed, however, to be hurt in the wrong way.
“He’s not bleeding…he’s choking!” a BAP member yelled, as Martin was placed in handcuffs.
Indeed, Bunting appeared to have choked on his beer. His party deputy rushed to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on him but, as he gripped him, Bunting’s arm shot out to the side, his eyes dimmed, and his heart jolted to a halt.
“You fuckin’ murderer!” screamed the cop who was bundling Martin into the back of a police car, away from the encroaching angry mob. “He could’ve turned this whole rotten place around.”
“I only popped the geezer with blanks. He was just an unhealthy cunt, is all.”
Chaos had erupted. The FFI alumni who hadn’t long since split got tangled up with the police and the BAP supporters, who began screaming about “wogs” and throwing bricks at the sound system. Those who were in BAP to get the potholes sorted started to feel very uncomfortable. With the heart of the charismatic leader who kept their party together having tragically given out, a few slowly began to wake up to the notion that, whilst you can put a juicy new crust on a fascist pie, it’s still going to taste of white bread and genocide.