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May 2009

Peter Wild
I was no one. Or rather: I wasn’t anyone. I wasn't anyone when everyone was someone.

We’re talking Manchester. 1977. Everyone was someone.

Me? I was mostly oblivious. There but not there.

I was at Bolton Institute of Technology same time as Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, actually think I was sitting in the refectory when they read about the Sex Pistols in the NME. Not that I knew them to speak to or anything. I think I was aware of them, incidentally, because Pete was on the National Committee of Part-Time Students and Howard did a pub rock column for the New Manchester Review. They had profile. People like that, everything comes easy. There is no sense of cause and effect. Nothing comes as a surprise. Of course they brought punk to Manchester. Of course.

My sister was working the Commercial Hotel in Stalybridge at the time, said some bloke called Malcolm McLaren kept ringing to try and get his band a gig there. I wasn’t good at math, didn’t put two and two together, didn’t know two and two went together on this occasion.

A girlfriend whose name I can’t remember (I want to call her Sloppy but she can’t have been called Sloppy) dragged me along to the first Buzzcocks gig. They lasted three songs before the powers that be yanked the plug. I hated every second but Sloppy… She was all fired up. The sex we had that night.

Later when the Pistols played the Lesser Free Trade Hall, I was out with a nurse, a feisty baggage called Sarah Sutton. We were smoking outside Cox’s when Shelley and Devoto came by, pasting shitty flyers up everywhere. They saw me and the nurse, looked us over, decided we didn’t warrant any special attention, I think.

My sister was by this point playing the Ramones’ first album over and over. I’d fall asleep at nights with it playing through the wall; I’d wake in the morning, it’d still be playing.

She was going out with some lad who worked in a mail order warehouse in Bolton. Years later, she said the lad was in a band called Solstice. Turns out they supported that night at the Lesser Free Trade Hall.

This is what my life has been like. Lots of echoes without the initiating shout.

So I missed the first Pistols gig but I caught the second some months after by which point I felt a bit sour. The sound was shit. I just didn’t get it. Didn’t see what they saw. Everyone looking around, nodding at each other, thick as thieves. What? I wanted to yell. What?

Slaughter and the Dogs supported. Slaughter and the Dogs I understood.

They sounded like Slade next to the Pistols, course. But even so.

You don’t need me to tell you who was there. All the Manchester faces. All these people who would go on to form all the bands you know and love.

But not me. I didn’t do anything. Not that I was a hermit or anything. Don’t get me wrong.

I remember standing at the bar on the Electric Circus once and having Ian Curtis bum a fag off me. There’s a photo I think Linda Sterling took that same night: Ian and John the Postman. You can see my shoulder at the back and on the left.

Funny that, being immortalised alongside John the Postman seeing as that’s what I became.

A different girl, some girl who had a name and changed it, made something up, called herself Hatchet or Ratchet or Old Tom Cratchett or something, looked like Gaye Advert if you can believe that; she dragged me to another gig by the Buzzcocks at this place called the Ranch, doesn’t exist anymore, and again they only managed three songs before the management cut the power.

These boys’ll go far, I remember sneering to Hatchet or Ratchet or whatever-the-fuck it was she was called.

I liked the pills more than the music. Was the pills more than anything that made me a punk. I was a punk by accident. I went along to everything and hated everything and was told time and again how fucking punk that was. Got so I thought everyone hated the music. It felt like a revelation. We all hate it.

There was a lot of hate to go around…

Ah. Listen to me going on like some old cunt. So I’ve got stories. So I stood next to people who turned out to be people. So I was there. I was there, man. But I wasn’t there. I didn’t feel it like those kids felt it. I didn’t get it.

You catch bits of film on TV now. How quaint it all looks.

I have a kid now. Not that he’s a kid. My boy is 22. His name is Keith. I kid myself that he was named after Keith Levene but it was his mother did the honours as far as naming went. It’s funny, thinking back. All of this. Being a punk. Being married. Being a dad. Being divorced. Being alone.

I’m 57. My sister is dead now. Breast cancer. Time marches on.

He asks about it all, my boy. Thinks his old Dad must’ve been pretty cool. But I wasn’t cool. This is what I tell him: I was never cool. I was just there is all, propping up the bar, scowling.

But what a time, he says. How fucking real everything was. This is what he says. How fucking real.

For him, punk was the last great hurrah, the last time anyone made any music that wasn’t churned out by the man or something.

Ah, I say to him, it was all bullshit. How real it was. That’s just the latest package.

I tell him, it wasn’t real. It was just history happening.

I tell him: I don’t think I’ve felt a real thing in the whole of my bloody life.

He laughs, my boy. Keith. He laughs and he says, How punk is that?

© Peter Wild 2009

This story appears in Punk Fiction (Portico, 2009)