Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Inspiration Information No. 1: Part 4

Parts of Penny Reel’s review of Love’s da capo for the NME in May 1981 are quoted in the YHO publication A Moment Worth Waiting For (a book about shaping forces which remain, in a section related to the emergence in 1982 of Pale Fountains, the young Liverpool group who were evangelists for Love as well as Bacharach & David, and who probably prompted many of us to buy that reissue of da capo. That particular section goes on to refer to a July 1974 edition of the International Times (IT) where there had been another (Penny Reel) short story featuring several of the characters that appeared in his 1979 NME tale ‘The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story’. 
The IT fable is credited to Peter L. Simons (Reel’s alter ego), and entitled ‘Maximum Enjoyment: The Politics of Piss Takin’’. It is a somewhat surreal tale set in an East London school (Upton House Secondary Modern), making it almost an early 1960s Cockney Decline and Fall, where ‘failed mod’ is the biggest insult of all. The story has its serious points though: “The birth of enjoyment, like the birth of the blues and the death of hope, took place in a ghetto. Not a black ghetto, the product of racism, but a white working-class ghetto; disease of heart and mind. Neither was enjoyment a cry against poverty and oppression, although these did exist, but more a nod and a wink in the direction of fatality. An acceptance of the facts of death, squarely faced and bitterly resented. Moreover, enjoyment was never an offspring of love, but one of hate.”
Within the text there is a reference to the legendary Lennie Tyler, with his hands sunk deep in the pockets of his Kingfisher Blue mohair slacks, doing the Continental Walk and sulking. It continues: “He brushed what might have been a speck of dust or might have been imagination from his light dog-tooth jacket - cut in the French style with pleats and a double vent - and again regarded the minute stain of milk on his pastel jersey; designed by Pierre Cardin.”
Charley Steiger also appears, and it is revealed what happens to him after leaving Upton House: “The Charley becoming Chas (without a full stop), discovered Kerouac, Van Gogh and the road. He learnt that an old raincoat will never let you down, applied for Art School, ate chips and drunk beer in Parisian bistros, loved Yeats and Brecht, and later went to LAMDA. Presently he realises his life-long ambition. An out-of-work actor.”
Oddly enough there is a vague recollection here of a part missing from the online text of Reel’s 1979 mod story where Charley buys a raincoat and goes off to Paris to join the existentialists. That may be one’s fanciful imagination playing tricks. In Up The Dreary Slope Tommy Whitmer sees Charley again, performing in a production of Troilus & Cressida at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, in the early part of this century.
Beardy Pegley also appears in the Upton House tale where he is reported to have bought “a brown bri-nylon mac, a Lambretta, and joined the Mods, the most ironic blow of all”. This is the same diminutive dandy who “bought a shotgun, maimed Buttons Walsh in Mare Street, and went to Borstal”.
A dialogue between Beardy and the narrator forms the core of Reel’s 1979 story, with plenty of the one-upmanship that goes on between kids discussing music. There is a mention too of an incident where Beardy insults the singer Eden Kane (whose 1964 hit ‘Boys Cry’ would be charmingly covered by The Distractions in 1980) in the Chez Don nightclub, in Dalston. In Reel’s book Monkey Business it is revealed what Beardy tactlessly said, as part of a larger account of the incident where the greaser Buttons gets shot.
An anecdote about Beardy Chris Pegley, at Upton House Secondary Modern, stealing a Crombie overcoat from the cloakrooms, thus popularising the garment among the mod fraternity, is retold in Paul Anderson’s book. Beardy also appears in Up The Dreary Slope when Tommy Whitmer attends his first dance, which is held at Hackney Down school. Beardy’s gang of mods are present, as are the local rockers, and lots of non-partisan young girls, though reportedly the “prissy mods are more interested in each other’s clothes than in the girls”.

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