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The International Writers Magazine:1977

Mark Cunliffe

Bryan Sutton walked down the steps into the basement club and felt awkward. If truth be told Bryan Sutton felt awkward pretty much everyday of his 24 years of life, but tonight especially, he felt awkward.

He knew that he would stand out tonight and not get it and that made him very self conscious. It didn’t matter that he was a respected music journalist; he knew that he would feel totally out of place at this live venue. Because Bryan Sutton was a hippy and this was 1977, the long summer month of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee and so far Bryan Sutton hated 1977 because it was fast becoming the year of a new music and cultural shift known as punk, and it was something he simply could not get to grips with.

Entering the club he parted his lank hair across his forehead and, tugging onto his RAF greatcoat for the kind of support toddlers get from blankets, he scanned the room for his friend, Louise Newton.

A shrill whistle erupted across the chattering of the throng and Bryan found her, whistling and waving to him from the bar. She was a perky little 19 year old with torn clothing, an oversized men’s jacket that dwarfed her elfin frame and short tufts of platinum dyed hair. In short Louise had totally captured this new ethos of punk in a way that left Bryan standing. This made Bryan a little nervous as he still remembered her as the shy teenage girl who came to the offices of Grooves, the music magazine he worked on, after school to help out. She started out making the tea for the staff and she was always hungry for news of bands and would listen captivated for hours to Bryan’s tales of all the famous groups and people he’d met like Traffic and Focus and Beefheart. Because she made herself useful and was incredibly likeable and vibrant Louise got a job helping the art dept format the magazine and then eventually she moved up to covering gigs at the age of 17, just a year older then Bryan was when he entered music journalism and became so popular. He knew how much it meant to her, that it was a dream come true, because it was the same dream that he had. They had both previously had that teenage life of poster festooned walls and constantly playing LP’s and now, as if anything was possible, they were meeting and writing about the rock greats.

Bryan used to treat her like his kid sister and always looked after her and helped her out, but lately Bryan was getting the feeling that their roles were reversing, as the more successful Louise became the more he felt like a kid brother to her. Nowadays she seemed less and less interested in tales of Bryan’s about the Yes tour bus back in 1969 or Jethro Tull, as indeed did many people, Bryan and his writing seemed to be getting ignored and instead of being an established staff member on papers was resorting to freelance and getting less and less work. He felt out of touch and impotent whereas Louise was now on the cutting edge having just that week made her TV debut hosting a youth programme entitled Don’t Watch with Mother and with a new name for herself, Lubie New, an anarchistic nod to Andy Pandy’s girlfriend, was how she explained the name change to Bryan as they greeted each other and picked up their bottled beer.
"I-I don’t get it really?" Bryan asked in his stammering soft Welsh lilt, crouching slightly to make himself heard.
"Come on Bry, get with it, Lubie New yeah, Lubie Lou was Andy Pandy’s bird right? And the show is Don’t Watch with Mother and it’s on just after the kiddies slot, it’s all very daring," she said enthusiastically.
"I suppose so," he replied taking a sip from his bottle.
"So, did you like it then?" she asked, craning her neck up to meet his gaze.
"I thought you were good y’know, g-g-great to see you do so well on the box, but the music…." He said leaving his sentence hanging to show his uncertainty in this new sound.
"Oh Bryan you really need to try. I mean when did you last get a gig to write up about?"
"Grooves won’t return my calls lately, I don’t know why," he admitted. "But they might be interested in some stuff on the folk festival next month.
"They probably won’t return your calls ‘cos no one but you still calls it Grooves anymore, I told you it’s G Force now and I doubt they’ll be keen on a folk fest either. Bryan you need to move with the times if you still wanna work."
"G Force, stupid bloody name for a music mag that," Bryan mused with disdain.
"Listen I’ve got you an appointment tomorrow afternoon round 1pm for Squelch magazine. It’s a new thing coming out of Shoreditch, Terry Hope is running it. You remember Terry he was with the NME a few years back?"
"Oh yeah, Terry, a very mellow cat if I r-remember. He was with me for that Genesis piece; we shared some great Red Leb." Bryan grinned at the memory.
"Jeez. Ok, but listen be cool yeah, Tez has changed a lot and please don’t say cat, don’t call him cat right? No one says that anymore," Louise pleaded.
"Orite dahlin!" a shout came out and both Bryan and Louise turned to see a pimply faced skinny man in a ripped tight white tee shirt and bomber jacket coming towards them. "It’s you innit? Lubie New? I saw you on tele, you was great"
Louise beamed "Yes I am, ooh thank you! You’re my first fans!"
"Yeah I liked it, I was just saying to my mate, Craig, oi Craig! Over here, mate!" he motioned to the back room and a skin headed man with a pool cue came over "I was saying that’s her off the tele, but he wasn’t havin’ any of it. Craig it is her, see I told ya, I’d know that cute little bum anywhere eh haha"
"So it is, Rob," Craig said, and then eyeing Bryan, he icily added, "Who’s this? The Pink Floyd?" causing Rob to laugh loudly and ask, "Yeah what’s with the hippy?"
"I-I-I’m not in Pink Floyd, but I do know them, well N-Nick Mason, he’s very n-nice," stuttered Bryan innocently.
"Not now Bryan please" Louise hushed.

"Oh yeah?" Craig said then, taking a step closer to Bryan he placed the pool cue up close to his nose and said "We hate Pink Floyd, and bloody hippies"
"Yeah!" Rob added his acned face looking even more red and angry. "What you doin’ hanging out with some hippy? You just a big act are you, luv?"
"Bryan’s a music writer, he’s worked on The NME, Grooves, I mean, G Force, he’s here with me to cover tonight and he’s a very good friend, just leave off lads yeah?" Louise defended.
"The NME?" Rob said. "I fucking hate the NME, bunch of wankers! Come on Craig, this bitch is just play actin’ like all them sorts off the tele."
"Oh just piss off!" Louise yelled and slowly Craig moved away from Bryan and followed Rob back into the pool room.
"L-lovely people you meet here," Bryan stammered.
"Well, thanks a lot Bry!" Louise turned to him, "I’ve not been on TV for five minutes and already you’re pissing all over my credibility"
"What?" Bryan asked dumbfounded.
"You need to try and get in with these people, punk is here to stay, Bryan, it isn’t a craze, it’s the way forward and you, you’re getting left behind. No one wants peace and love anymore, they want anarchy and noise, you need to be part of it or you’re never gonna work again Bry! I mean it"
"I-I’m seeing Rick Wakeman next week, he’ll probably let me write up some stuff and I’ll get some interest there," Bryan floundered.
"Jesus Bryan listen to yourself! Rick Wakeman’s a wanker, no one cares about all that prog rock wank now." Louise spat, her little upturned nose screwed up in bitterness, angered at Bryan’s inability to get it.
"You used to like Wakeman, you used to love my stories about touring with Yes, covering their gigs and albums" Bryan moaned
"Long ago in another time warp, Bryan" she said flatly "The sixties are over. All that Oz stuff, it’s dead. You need to realise that, admit it and move on. This is where it’s at now for fuck’s sake!" she shouted and then a look of sympathy came over her face at Bryan’s confused and hurt features; "Oh look I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is" she said softly placing a hand on his arm. "I’ll see you around" she said thickly and with some embarrassment, quickly walked into the crowd as the stage began to fill with the night’s act, a band called The Tragics.

A loud snarling "One Two Three Four!" came from the lead singer Sean Flair, and the band raced into their first song which sounded to Bryan like a badly played loud and fast version of some old swinging 50's number: Which in fact it was. The crowd were going mental, jumping up and down, forming into one big sweaty pouncing throng as they spat beer out at the band and jeered and cheered their way through the song.

Bryan felt totally lost and alone. It was like he was behind a big glass mirror, he could see everyone having fun, but he couldn’t understand it or join in. Slowly he attempted to pogo along, but after a couple of jumps up and down on the spot he stopped. He felt stupid and foolish and he decided to leave.

He never saw his best friend Louise again.
He tried to call in the days to follow, which turned to weeks which turned to months, but always missed her. Louise was riding high and loving every minute and had no time for a friendship forged some three years ago when Bryan was at his height. Now Bryan was at his low and one by one starting with Terry, magazines and former colleagues thought him past it and snubbed him.

And so 1977 and The Queen’s Jubilee came and went. Latterly so too did the Punk way of life, despite Louise’s firm belief that it was here to stay, like a bright candle its flame, enjoyed by many eventually flickered and snuffed out leaving it’s admirers as lost as Bryan had been.

Pretty soon even the tremendously with it Lubie New drifted away from the scene and reverted back to being plain old Louise Newton. In 1981 she married Sean Flair the former singer of punk band The Tragics and a couple of years later they had a daughter, Kellie. Sadly the marriage was rocky and Sean found it hard being out of the limelight, he grew increasingly dependant on street drugs and in the late 80s he committed suicide, leaving Louise alone to bring up their child. Eventually, to support themselves, Louise went back to work, as editor of a local newspaper.

Bryan Sutton had found 1977 wanting and his awkwardness grew to the point that he could no longer operate in society. The fact that no one seemed to want him or even care about him meant he had little to operate with and, seeing his dreams of love and peace collapse, he became more and more despondent and alienated to the point that, by 1979, he was admitted into a mental hospital, and was in and out of such facilities frequently throughout the 1980s. By 1992 Bryan had had enough and realising he was unable to cope in London with a so called normal life there, he decided to buy a bicycle and pretty much cycled all the way back to Wales, returning to his sister and the family farm, which he proceeded to help her run after their parents had died.

Then in 2002, twenty five years after The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the country celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and a reunion of sorts occurred at fittingly, Glastonbury of all places as Louise Newton with her now grown up daughter bumped into Bryan Sutton and his girlfriend, a local girl from his village some twenty years younger then him walking from the stages. After a huge hug the two old friends, now a little greyer and a little broader, settled down in a relatively quiet spot of field and talked of the old times together.
"I am so sorry though Bryan I was such a bitch to you back then, I mean you looked after me for years and I just dropped you because you weren’t considered cool enough to be in my gang, how utterly childish," Louise apologised.
"It’s cool, honestly, you were right, my time was over and I never saw it, I should have moved back home years ago but I couldn’t see and I ended up in such a state. But it’s tub-thumping you know, I had to suffer all that to get to where I am now, which is somewhere very content," Bryan explained
"I’m so pleased for you, and it’s nice to see you settled with someone too," Louise said, touching his arm like she had done all those years ago.
"Well thanks, but me and Sarah, its early days, she helps out on the farm, that’s how we met…but, well…I doubt she’ll want an old fogey like me forever," Bryan said.
"Stop that! She’s clearly mad about you. You have to realise, Bry, you have a lot to offer, you’re a wonderful warm person, the people that shunted you back in the 70s, and I include myself here, were very stupid to not see that I mean, it’s silly though what we went through isn’t it? All this truck we hold with what’s hot and what’s not, it can ruin lives really, and I know it kinda did for us. I’m so happy you are happy now, and you’re not fooling me, you’re still an old hippy at heart!"
Bryan laughed aloud; "Yes well some things can never change I fear."
"No good on you, I mean look at us, twenty five years on and the music and attitude you loved so much that was out of fashion back then is more in fashion now than that punk lifestyle is," said Louise swigging from her beer. "And this place proves it" she said waving her arms to take in the fields as numerous travellers, students, freaks and music lovers milled around enjoying themselves. "A bastion of counter culture hippy life if ever there was one, still going strong for over thirty years, my daughter loves it here and when she graciously deigned to consider me to be cool enough to come along…."
"I know what you mean; Sarah, my partner she’s the same, she loves music and this way of life. So I thought yes, sod it, time to get back to it and enjoy it again, and see it from her perspective. You know, looking back there’s much to admire from the punk stuff that you nailed your colours too, it got added to the pot and is respected now and all of it no matter what genre gets celebrated here as one thing; musical culture. I suppose it’s all about the music isn’t it, nothing can ever take that away," Bryan ruminated.
"Agreed!" said Louise and they clinked their bottles in unison. "So speaking of music, come on, what do you listen to now? Is it still a big part of your life?"
Bryan paused and screwing his eyes up in part mischief and part to shield the sun said; "Do you know what? My cows absolutely love Jethro Tull at milking time!" and they both laughed uproariously.
"No, no, but guess what’s always on my CD player in the car these days? Yes’ first album!" Louise said through the laughter, "Can you imagine? Reverting back at my age! And Kellie, my daughter absolutely hates it; she’s always swapping it for The Sex Pistols! Mind you not that I complain!"
Bryan laughed; "Sarah’s the same, she’s more hippy than even I ever was and she wasn’t even born then! She’s converted all my old LP’s to CD’s and turned me on to some bands I didn’t even know about"
And as the day wore on, the laughter continued as the friendship that died one significant jubilee was reborn in time for another.
"A toast; God save the Queen eh?" Louise laughed heartily. Bryan smiled and with a clink of their bottles said "God save the Queen!"

© Mark Cunliffe June 2008>

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