Steerpike.

Anti-hero turned villain of the classic Mervyn Peake Gormenghast trilogy

Youthful renegade, Machiavellian plotter, false lover, killer, ugly slightly-deformed man who had suffered horrible burns in a murdering accident.

But much more than that.

Steerpike. One of the best, most innovative and influential bands – no, let us say the best, most innovative and influential bands in not just Billericay, but Wickford and Basildon as well.

Steerpike. What a name for a band! It was such a good name that, although we didn’t realise it, there was a Steerpike in Norwich and a Steerpike in Sussex as well. The former is on Wikipedia, although you should note that they are up for deletion as being not notable enough for inclusion.

I leaf through the old flyers and posters, and it all comes rushing back to me.

This was an exciting time in my life. The loud guitars, the girls, the seminal gig supporting chart legends The Sultans of Ping. And then, just as our breakthrough seemed certain, I ran over the bass player’s foot in my Reliant, and the drummer was prosecuted by Basildon Council’s Noise Reduction team and couldn’t practice any more. We continued for a while with replacements, but it wasn’t the same.

More old tickets, flyers, a backstage pass for the Pink Toothbrush club.

I take a deep breath. Dave, Iain and Simon are on Facebook. I don’t tend to approach the past that much, as the present is horrible enough – but in one email I shift away almost two decades of what might have been.

They all reply, in good humour. Simon is well; Iain doesn’t play any more but would love to get together one last time; Dave has forgiven me about the foot thing. I realise what good friends we were and how, with the Sultans of Ping, we came so close to touching stardom. Why do people lose touch like this? It is a shame.

Now Simon’s in financial services, Iain’s a surveyor and Dave works in IT. So in one way, and in one way alone, there is a tinge of sadness involved. I am the only one remaining who still lives the life, who has kept the flame of rock and roll alive. It is bitter-sweet.

Shaking my head, I switch off the PC and walk reflectively up the road to bowls.

23 Comments

  1. ‘The bravest thing you can do when you are not brave is to profess courage and act accordingly’

  2. The Pink Toothbrush? The Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh? Oh God – I remember you! But didn’t you… didn’t we… ewww! Eww eww ewww! I never touched vodka and black again after that night.

    Mind you, it was clear from the outset that you’d never make the big time. For your information Jonny, late in the day tho’ it be, the rock star is supposed to be the pitcher, not the catcher…

  3. Steerpike – that grabbed my attention. It reminded me of the first time I saw the very visually appealing Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the role of Steerpike on TV. He was the only good thing about that adaptation.

  4. All vintage rock stars become ‘has beens’ eventually but you are a ‘never was’
    Keep dreaming Jonny and you can be what ever you wanted to be.

  5. So…are you famous?

    I usually describe you to my mother as ‘the post-office song man’. Or ‘the man in Norfolk who minds chicken’.

  6. Did not see that coming. I really should have.

  7. But Ivan -it was always very dark in there.

  8. Oh it is still very dark in there. You stick to the floor, it smells a bit (well, a lot actually) and it is definitely not worth the train fare from London!

  9. Wonderful, Jonny.

    Shaking my head, I switch off the PC and walk reflectively up the road to bowls.

    There is your problem. All of the old rockers I met turned to cricket. Then they went back to being old rockers…

  10. This motivates me to dig around and see what David Bryant’s former rock’n’roll life was!

  11. Sadly my rock and roll past was being a groupie. For a band called Radical TechnoMetal. They didn’t sing, they techno screamed. I only remember two songs now – Phlegm (“I got phlegm in my voice, I think it’s really choice”) and I Want You (“Oooh, Yeah, I want you [ugh], Oooh, Yeah, I do [grunt], Oooh, Yeah, I want you [ugh], Oooh, Yeah, it’s true! [visceral techno-scream]”)

  12. Cup of tea and a hobnob, Megan?

  13. Rayleigh’s where my cousin Rodney lived – I never met him – until he had to move to Devon. DId you know him? If so, was he really a sex-pest?

  14. I think he referred to himself as ‘Ivan’ in those early days, Andy.

    megan – ‘phlegm’ sounds brilliant!!! Is there an MP3 available? They could use it for commercials, eg for cough sweets.

  15. Hang on – Lucy – the Pink Toothbrush still exists?!?

    Golly.

  16. Hmm, you have something there, AdminB… ‘phlegm’ sounds great for a cough sweet commercial [says this former ad-writing gal].

  17. Somehow I find it difficult to picture Keith Richards toddling off to play bowls after doing the washing up and ironing.

    Something is not meshing in the “Aging Rocker” universe. Arguably, KR is a dead, not aging, rocker, but still…

  18. Very dark indeed, Jonny – that’s what I keep telling myself. But you shouldn’t feel compelled to make excuses in these more broad-minded times – valid lifestyle choices and all that. No harm done that a quick course of antibiotics couldn’t clear up. That’s what I get for going after Rodney…

  19. Didn’t the Pink Toothbrush used to be Crocs Nichtbclub…hmmm…uses internet…here’s Depeche Mode playing there.

  20. Blimey – yes, and it IS still going, and is apparently full of red-hot lesbo action!!!

    http://www.myspace.com/pinktoothbrushclub

  21. Unfortunately, most of the hot lesbian action seems to be occurring in some really rather filthy toilet facilities. I fear they do not have a bi-hourly staff inspection scheme.

  22. I believe the Pink Toothbrush was called Crocs, it was the mark of the very indie to call it by the latter after it changed. I used to drink quantities of a particularly noxious mixture called snakebite and black and regurgitate it on the train back to Brentwood.

    Happy days.

  23. Thank you for all the detail! Yet another fantastic posting, surely exactly why my partner and I return for your weblog usually..

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