The Tale of the Third City
The summer holidays of 77 came to an abrupt end for me on the 18 th July. A day full of nervous tension; you know the feeling, as though you were being thrown to the wolves, cast in at the deep end of life to fend for myself. I know……….It all sounds a bit melodramatic; but back in the day………To a sixteen year old school leaver faced with the trauma of his first day in a controlled, working environment. That's exactly how it felt to me that first morning. To say I was petrified as I took those “final steps” from childhood to adult life is putting it mildly. I was naive, and at the same what is commonly known in “plain old Belfast terminology” as “a mister know it all who knows fuck”. Who was then faced with the most daunting task of his life.............Having to enter the realms of manhood “all by his lonesome”……..
Yes; that was me alright, still wet behind the ears and thinking I knew everything there was to know about life. Although I can assure you that my attitude quickly and dramatically changed as the day progressed. That feeling of being out of my depth really springs to mind here. As I truly didn't have a fucking clue as to what this transition “that we all have to make at some point of our lives” had in store for me; and I am not a shamed to admit that either. After all its just all part and parcel of growing up is it not?
In hindsight; if I knew then what I now know; well…….. Things would have been a hell of a lot different; I can tell you. To be honest, if I had known how that day was to unfold when I got out of bed, well.......... I would have realized straight away that it wasn't a day to be worried but one to get excited about. I would have embraced my day of liberation for all it was worth, stood proud, and rejoiced out loud for all to hear, but instead, I shit myself as I made my way to work that day. Ah…… to have had the powers of hindsight back then would have been a wonderful asset, a true advantage but there again; if only such a thing actually existed in this world!
Looking back I can now see; I wasn't simply cast into the big bad world to fend for myself. I had been let loose, allowed to fly from the nest to discover the many joys, as well as the many the pitfalls that life had to offer me; and by fuck I enjoyed myself, I have no regrets. Today I laugh about it but back then…….. You can rest assured as I left the family home that morning, neither of my darling parents would have envisaged the dramatic twist my life was about to take, come to think of it neither did I. I mean who in the right mind would have seen those changes coming, given the situation; the surrounding in which we all lived in? Although you would have thought the fact that my life had already started to change long before the 18 th July 1977, should have – would have softened the blow, but it didn't, and you know what. I wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way. This was my pinnacle “my coming of age” so to speak, from that day forth all the past changes started to make sense. The events of the previous twelve months leading up to this date; had all been elucidated in full!!! Leaving me with no doubt at all in my mind as to which road I wanted to follow.
It may have started of as a day of nervous tension, but it quickly turned, leaving me with such wonderful memories; and the knowledge of knowing that not only did I grow up playing a part – my role but, that I belonged to a generation who actually made a difference to this ailing society. Although I must confess, it wasn't until some years later that I was to realize the true importance of the era in which I grew up.
To be precise; it was during a lengthy conversation I had with an old friend ‘regarding this sub-cultural world that we both grew up in'. That's when the lights suddenly flickered in my head. I first came to learn that day, that my friend ‘even though there is five years between the two us' but still his memories collided with mine. We; the conversation went from Punk Rock to Young Americans, form Harp Bar to the infamous Viking in Bangor, and before we knew what was happening, we were coming up with all kinds of conclusions.
At first I was amazed, no really, because I did not think for one second that my friend Stephen knew anything of these Young Americans, let a lone remembered – knew them, but I was wrong. As we talked; he began to describe the way they dressed, and before long he was naming names of ones that he knew, which once again coincided with some of the names that I knew. Suddenly the era that I believed I had been apart off for so long, was starting to show an entirely different side. Which made the pair of us think; and before we knew it. We “in our own minds” had realized, or should I say; we had discovered that the story we both knew, or thought we knew, wasn't exactly the truth as we knew it at all.
We began to dig; talking, asking questions to whomever we thought would know the answers, but at first; we simply hit brick walls. No one I talked to at first wanted to open up, never mind divulge their secrets of those Golden Years to me. In fact, when I first disclosed my theories ‘they all politely smiled, and dismissed my claims with such replies as “we didn't change anything” or “we were only having fun”. Yeah right, so was Charles Manson but his actions didn't go on to change the world. Doubt had started to enter my mind; I began to think that it was all too good to be true, that we were just getting carried away in our own imagination. Then suddenly “out of the blue” a break through came; we had found an old TV documentary on the internet that was made by BBC 2, made for the Arena series. The programme was called “Punk and the Pistols” and was aired to the nation sometime in the 90's me thinks, and I can tell you it simply blew us away. Not so much the documentary itself, although it was good; it was interesting, but what got our juices flowing was the statement made by the one and only “Jordan” the Queen of Punk herself, as she described what life was like to work in “Sex” on London's Kings Road in those early days. It was her words that got us excited not the program.
The statement was clear to me; and I quote “we had kids coming from all over the place, and there did seem to be any limit as to where they would come from to visit the shop. You know we had kids coming from Northern Ireland and stuff, buying a load of things all in one go obviously, but mainly the suburbs” meaning the suburbs of London "obviously". Now don't find it funny there was no mention off kids from Manchester or Birmingham, from Liverpool or Leeds, and as for Scotland and Wales, well they never entered the equation. So believe me; from the moment I heard those words, I knew that we were on the right track. She was talking about 1974 - 75, a time when the IRA were blowing the fuck out of London, and they "the English" didn't see a difference between "Ireland and Northern Ireland" to them we were all the same just murdering scum.
There was no longer any doubt in my mind, what we thought “NO fuck it” what we had believed to be the truth was turning out to be a fact. Can you believe it; a simple discussion leads us to discover the truth, which will all but correct the narratives, not only will it put this story, the one that we thought we knew “straight once and for all”. Think about it; it has brought the story far closer to home than we had ever imagined. So on that note; I bring too you “The Tale of the Third City” the understanding which is “The Punk Trilogy” and what really happened.
I hope you enjoy, and feel free to leave your comments.