Sometime in December ’77 I drove a green VW Golf, license number WLD 76S, up to a small house on a back street in West London, climbed out and knocked on the door. A pasty face peered at me through a crack in the door and mumbled that I should wait in the car.
Some time later I heard footsteps on the path, looked over my shoulder and saw two frail figures dressed from head to toe in black, both with skin whiter than ghosts and wearing purple eye-liner, sliding into the back of the car. I passed my gaze from the girl to the unmistakable visage of her boyfriend: Dave Vanian, lead singer of The Damned. “I thought they were sending a limo,” he hissed, obviously very disappointed by the size of the car and the get-up of the driver who was sporting a dodgy moustache and wearing flared (FLARED!) jeans. As the poster child of Stiff Records premiere Punk outfit – the first Punk band ever to release an album (DAMNED, DAMNED, DAMNED) – I think Dave expected a bit more razzamataz. He was a guest of honour at the NME Christmas Party and he and his girl were going to arrive outside the IPC building in a Volkswagen driven by the office messenger boy. Frankly I was a bit shocked – I’d expected the front man for one of the three big Punk acts (Clash, Pistols, Damned) to be the kind of person to eschew such Dinosaur Rock Group trappings as a limo. Surely there was a sub-section in the Punk Manifesto which stated that if you were going to arrive at a party you’d go by tube along with the proles? This was not to be the first time that I would be disappointed or confused when I first came face to face with one of my musical heroes.
Of course the other members of the Damned were cut from less confusing bolts of musical cloth. I remember Brian James as a nice bloke with a neat haircut and an awesome leather jacket that I coveted; Rat Scabies was a laugh and a bit of a scalliwag and Captain Sensible was the guy who yelled obscenities down the phone at me everytime I called into the office from the road. He loved the fact that my last name was DICK and would scream it at the top of his voice over and over usually prefaced by YOU and F***ING before slamming the phone down.
A couple of years after these incidents twins were born somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. They were christened Joel and Benji and in time they dreamt that they too would be in a Punk band whose name would be Good Charlotte. Joel re-christened himself Sickboy and Benji called himself Kid Vicious.
And so I find myself in a school refectory in Missisauga, Ontario with Benji, Joel and the other guys from Good Charlotte: Aaron, Paul and Billy (Sickie B., St.Paul and Lil’ Billy) having lunch while I’m making a video for them. And during our conversation Benji remembers that I’ve “worked with” the Damned (perhaps “been abused by” is too extreme a term) and he mentions that he thinks this is really cool. And I’m suddenly very grateful for that miserable drive across London on that wet winter afternoon in the 70’s with the whining Punkster in the back seat of Alan’s car: it’s given me something in common with the guys and I feel more relaxed in their company. Perhaps in time I will find myself in a situation 23 years from now with some kids who have yet to be born and they too will think that I’m cool because I had lunch with Benji, Joel, Aaron, Paul and Billy in this school in Toronto.
For Good Charlotte’s sake and mine I hope this dream comes true.