Guest Blog - All Men Have Secrets...So Let It Be Known
Babs liked Wouldn't it be Good by Nick Kershaw. It's a classic, I suppose. An eighties motif. Back then, I used to find it funny that he thought the synth bit in the middle was a saxophone solo, and he used to act it out at the side of the Coach dancefloor with his thumb to his mouth, and eyes closed. I thought it was OK. But a bit middle of the road for me. Because I wasn't middle of any road. I was off the road, hanging out in some old, unused graveyard in a red stripey teeshirt, bondage trousers and boxer boots with a feyg hanging from my lips, and my hair sculpted into some sort of architectural masterpiece somewhere between Robert Smith and Ian McCullough.
My friends were outsiders like me. We weren't the centre of any sort of attraction until we met in The Coach Inn Banbridge front bar at the weekends, and we would, by force of needy numbers, take up a huge area at the window, in front of a video jukebox screen, which we controlled. Three videos for 50p… and we'd have all on it from Bob Dylan, The Adventures, U2, The Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols, Echo and the Bunnymen, Wah! Joy Division, Stiff Little Fingers, Big Country, The Cure… and when any of my tunes came on, I'd take myself out of the craic to get my money's worth and listen…
The carryout of a few beers first in Solitude Park or somewhere hidden from passing police, would set us up if funds were low, and we'd either go straight in to the disco, past the ever doubting "security" Davy Preston and in to the dry ice and deafening sounds Robin the DJ had selected to get the crowd going or top up with a pint in the front bar, each drink bringing more into our ever increasingly confident circle.
In early 1984, I found it difficult to get past Joy Division and early New Order. There was little else that came up to scratch. I liked music, but classics... important favourites had a difficult personal security to get past. There was good, catchy… but there was also masterpiece… forever. And that spring, a new song just crashed in to my psyche, and it's whirling riffs and ironic delivery and lyrics caught me. A new masterpiece.
"But still I'd leap in front of a flying bullet for you…". It sounded as darkly romantic as "A loaded gun won't set you free…".
Davey wasn't impressed by the leylandii branch sticking out of my back pocket as he took our money, but he was assured by Miles, the owner's son, that this was the latest thing. And Gladioli didn't grow so readily along the banks of the river Bann where we'd chugged our cans under a clear, but chilly early spring night. We sang songs and argued about whatever interesting piece of culture we'd decided to get angry about that week- anything from music through to our immature view on the Troubles. I really don't know why I was allowed to bring the branch in with me. But in those days, freakishness and the very antithesis of Northern Irish civic conservatism happened in The Coach. It had that name. Everyone knew sex, sexuality, gender, fashion, political and religious Northern Irish norms were left on the street outside the Coach, watched over by the police station, then right across the road (when I was pissed after a carryout, I'd sometimes do a wee dance for their cctv cameras, to a chorus of "Fuck off," from behind their pill box, bulletproof mirrored glass).
The town itself was divided by the Coach along cultural lines. There were those who said it was full of weirdos; it was a den of iniquity; full of "trendies" (used as a derogatory term). The Belmont at the other end of town, also had a nightclub, that was not just as big, but still held quite a few hundred (as opposed to the heaving, sweaty, multi coloured thousands of The Coach). We sometimes did both… depending on our mood. But the Belmont was definitely the more Conservative, countryish (cultchie), protestant.
A great night in my early days at The Coach would be getting to the front bar early, a few pints, craic with many, then getting escorted free "up the back," to the club by Miles or one of the barmen who knew us, downing copious amounts of Pernod and black in the cocktail bar and meeting a girl I was going out with and dancing, "coorting," and then afterwards depending on the girl thing, either walking her home or seeing her off as she was taxied or picked up by her parents; or along with Babs and others, tucking in to a supper box of country fried chicken, which we found out, only tasted great when you were pissed. In latter years (I would say the last time I went to The Coach would have been circa 1998… fifteen years after the first time), I'd usually hit a "lock in" with a friend, Tish, Paul McP, or Ian, or others and depending on how that went, stagger home anytime between 3am to days and a few parties across the country later.
But this night in 1984, Babs had us laughing at his Wouldn't it be good Nick Kershaw thing, and then straight after the opening riff of What Difference Does it Make? had me running to the dancefloor, twirling on one foot, doubling over and then twirling on the other with that branch sticking out of my arse pocket in my exaggerated Morrissey act. The dancefloor cleared a space and I reeled, sang and flailed to the whirling lights, and blurring singing, laughing, dancing crowd, jets of dry ice; and Babs and the others laughed until they cried as a bouncer grabbed my arm, and relieved me of my River Bann Gladioli.
I remember that night, a beautiful girl with bleached blonde hair and amazing eighties heavy, gothy Siouxsie Sioux makeup standing with me as the lost Captain Francis Crozier stared at us from his plinth surrounded by polar bears, under the streetlights by the "Big Church" across the Road from the melting pot of everything that was that glorious Coach, talking about Joy Division, New Order, Siouxie and the Banshees, Robert Smith's latest project, and The Smiths new album. A woman who really could talk about serious music as nerdy as I could, and I was totally smitten. I remember telling her she really needed to buy it as it was an album that felt as Unknown Pleasures had all those years before, but with a few more up beat things on it. And she understood. And she promised me she would definitely buy it, kissed me on the cheek and climbed in to her father’s car, and I staggered up the road feeling that the future was going to be amazing.
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