Monday, 7 January 2013

The Punk and the Modfather (part 2)

 Maureen Barry of The Questions at the !00 Club

           Anyway, for those of you with memories long enough to remember the start of this story back at the tail end of November....  where were we...? 

          Oh yeah, we'd done the interview with Paul Weller and off we went merrily shopping 'round the West End, in the way that only people from out of town do. That was the highlight of our day over - or so we thought.

          Next thing I know I'm in a shop, queuing up to pay and gazing idly out the plate glass window at the front. My girlfriend is standing outside in the sun and suddenly I see Weller appear from nowhere, walk up behind her, put his hands over her eyes and say 'Guess who ?' ! Now if you ever wanted to see the physical embodiment of shock, desire, horror, embarrassment, disbelief and so many more emotions rolled up into one nineteen year old girl bundle - then that was it. I gave up queuing and rushed to her rescue (who am I kidding - I wanted in on this new familiarity with my idol !).

         We wandered along the street with a visibly excited Weller - he was acting like we had been not long earlier and was, he informed us, off to meet Pete Townshend to discuss publishing deals for Riot Stories. It was good to see that he could still be as much of a fanboy as I was. Then he casually asked us if we fancied going to the 100 Club that night. We'd already looked in earlier and we didn't really fancy it - it seemed it was a couple of unknown bands.

          Not so, he told us - it was actually Steve White's, the Style Council's teen drummer, eighteenth birthday and he would be there playing along with The Questions and A Craze - two of the bands then on Weller's Respond label. I'd interviewed both bands before and was absolutely up for it. Weller said he'd put our names on the door and then he cut along to meet Pete.

          So, later that night we make our way down to Oxford Street to find quite a queue already outside the doors to the basement club - word has obviously got out. We saunter down to the front only to find that there's no-one there to let us in, so back to sit on the pavement outside to the bemusement of passing tourists. After about ten minutes we get spotted - yes, we get spotted, not the other way around - this time by Mark the drummer from A Craze who was, I think, about 17 and was a fanzine writer's dream in that he was more excited to be interviewed than we were to interview him. He was great and got us down into the club straight away. We chatted for a bit with the gorgeous Lucy (A Craze singer) and various Questions. No sign of anyone else though. But hey, we were in and happy.

          After a while the club fills with an assortment of mods, casuals, soul boys and the like. We're at the bar when Weller wanders over and buys us a drink - we're invited over to meet his friends, amongst them Paolo Hewitt and a few other faces of the time. For a mod boy from the provinces this was like dying and going to heaven - heaven underground admittedly - we spent the night watching good bands, seeing Steve White do his stuff, then come over and join us, all the while just hanging out with not only Paul but with the London modernist cognoscenti. Everyone else in the 100 club was of course way too cool to approach, but all eyes darted over our way at some point during the night. It was so damn good !

          I remember getting a bit concerned that we were going to miss the last train back - Weller picked up on this and acted as my alarm call. Checking his watch periodically and letting us know when our time was up.

          We floated back home on a soft hovertrain of hipness. Even finding that my old Mk2 Cortina had been broken into when we arrived at the station couldn't burst that bubble.

          As a postscript - I sent him a copy of the 'zine when it came out and he wrote back a couple of times - each time a reasonably long handwritten letter. I didn't expect that either.

          But then about a year later I was at Molesworth cruise missile base in Cambridgeshire - stomping about in deep mud demanding that the Americans take their nuclear warheads back home with them. I think we'd been there a few hours and done the whole perimeter fence when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned 'round to find Weller behind me,

          "Hi," he said, "how's it going ? Don't suppose you've seen Billy Bragg anywhere ?"

          I stopped hyperventilating, told him that I hadn't - I didn't move in those circles. Again we chatted for a few minutes, during which Weller blagged two Rothmans off me. I was just impressed he remembered me. 

          Whatever anyone else thinks about how he's been over the years I can't help but forgive him pretty much anything. No pics of us hanging with Weller at the 100 Club that night - I was absolutely way too cool for that, well it's not what you do when you're one of the in crowd is it ?

This is the best I could find for The Questions, with Tracie Young and Weller on bongos - Not a bad take on the Isley's track - even if they look almost painfully young


  1. I have a sneaky suspicion you have some MUCH more rock n'roll stories than that !