You’re my only friend, and you don’t even like me – sometime in April 1994

I don’t like no-one, well except for you

A wild and willing 16-year-old, somehow I got into town and searched out like-minded comrades in teenage delinquency, knowing they would be gathering at Capones, a hotel room situated atop a dirty multi-storey car park in the centre, up from the church where you’d find green-haired youths sitting on gravestones with their bottles of Merrydown. Like joining any cult I knew no one but was accepted immediately as a member because I had already made the choice, they recognised the signs, the ripped clothes, the safety pins and messed up hair, so they joined me as much as I joined them.

So I talked to someone who had patches on their sleeves of names that I recognised and made friends. I told of my knowledge of American bands of this hardcore genre and this guy suggested I meet his friend and so started at long close friendship, that very night him being recruited to play bass guitar in the band Shock To The System and me later joining them when they changed their name to Atrox (shock); all through this friendship that started in that dim hall.

Young and rebellious we rejected the ways of our parents (ha!) and strove for a better world (in our ignorant teenage minds). Through dramas and drugs we were close in outlook and preferences, taking trips down to Bournemouth in the evenings of our early twenties to look back and wonder where this new new generation was going wrong. (I later realised it was us who were going wrong but that’s a longer story).

Proud and cynical we thrived off each other’s dark outlooks, revelling in the glory of life’s disaster. Myself the more adventurous of the pair I took initiatives when needed and we helped each other through several bands and a couple of publications. To look back now and see the tiny streams of change is easy, though I didn’t recognise them as such then, they soon turned into rivers which would not be turned back and this year would be the crucial year in our separation as friends.

The emotional heartache I went through was tough but I realised that by trying to remain friends was like paddling the canoe against the tide, no matter how hard I tried to make it up the river I was always pushed back, and what kind of friendship is that, when all effort is countered? I turned the canoe around and found myself in the vast oceans of love and warmth that others offered me. Myself as Mr Cynical was no more.

pic: screenshot from this video taken in January 1984 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNll6PtC9qM – where I bounce around in front of the band Confessions of Sin, proudly showing off my hand-made Better Youth Organisation t-shirt. I thought I was really something – I was really something else.

Atrox – West Indian Club, Southampton – 19th September 1985

12th Feb 2021 – A Thursday night, no less. Not being too familiar with Southampton after having only been there a couple of times, we often got misdirected by the locals, whether by accident or folks not appreciating these scruffy young punks in their city.

We did establish many life long friendships from these times though. The West Indian Club was a magical place (in my mind now) though I had no real idea of the workings of organising shows or even understanding how sound was mixed in a live situation. I just stood on the stage and shouted as loud as I could and hoped I could be heard. Folks seemed to enjoy it, either way.

Cult Maniax, Screaming Dead, Butcher, Self Abuse – Capones, Bournemouth – 26th November 1983

The Cult Maniax bass player was so drunk he had to play slumped in his chair, often also with his girlfriend on his lap. A dedication to alcohol, that was a key part of the UK punk scene at the time.

I found Butcher a little bit one-dimensional after a while but loved Self Abuse. Shock To The System were my favourites though. They just had something a little special that separated them from the rest. I was soon to make friends with them.