Dave Prowse sadly passed away today. A true giant at 6 foot 6 inches tall, the man who famously played Darth Vader in the Star Wars Films.
As a young kid I remember him as the Green Cross Code Man. He taught us how to cross the road at a safe spot, and to stop, look and listen before we stepped off the kerb.
Another claim to fame was recorded at The Fleece and Firkin brew-pub in Bristol in the mid 1980’s.
The brew-pub concept was a novelty in those days. Real ale was a niche product and the majority of drinkers chose lager over anything else. However The Firkin chain had a unique selling point and that was the head splitting brew called “Dog Bolter”.
The Fleece was always a lively place, it had a big open bar and was part of the circuit of boozers you would stop in on a night out with the lads.
Today the pub has evolved into an excellent music venue and the walls are decorated with tour posters of the bands that have played there.
Back in the day the walls were hung with honours boards displaying names of those people who had drunk a gallon of Dog Bolter. It seems crazy now drinking 8 pints of high strength ale in a session, just to get your name written up on a wooden board.
There were not many names up there. A list of people where one name stood out, as it was the only one with the successful completion time written next to it.
I cannot remember the time written up there, but it must have been a record breaker. The person who drank the quickest gallon of Dog Bolter was, you guessed it, Dave Prowse.
I went to buy some bread from a baker’s shop in a smart part of town the other day.
When I asked for a small “Wholemeal”, I was told that they had none. It was a not a case of running out, but they did not sell wholemeal loaves at all. The nearest they had to that was a “mixed grain sourdough loaf”. One of three types of sourdough bread they stocked in the shop. It looked lovely stuff too.
Nevertheless I was a bit taken aback. Is this the price of gentrification?
Added to this I know the looks I would get if I asked for sourdough bread in my local bakers.
Warning – the punchline is not a typing error. Try reading out the dialog out loud in a Wurzel like stereotypical West Country accent, it might help.
Another home defeat for my football team and Dad and I are left to trudge back up the terracing to the exit from the stadium.
The ground is emptying pretty fast of fans, who had stayed to see the bitter end of another dismal performance by the team we called our own. The fans’ expectations are not high and pretty resigned in first place, but there are a lot of long faces to be seen amongst the people making their way home. Dad and I weave past the odd groups of supporters who were still stood around to boo the team off the pitch. We do not look back or say anything until we get to the top of the concrete terrace.
“Got to go for a quick leak” I tell my Dad as we passed the Gents. It is a 2 hour drive back home for me. Enough said.
The toilet is not as jammed as it can get before the match. This is particularly true when everyone piles in after a walk from the pub before the start of the match. It is quieter now. Nevertheless you can still hear the odd catcall from the enclosure below. Two old boys shuffle into spots either side of me at the metal trough that we all share.
It is a bit quirky in a way, but blokes as a rule do not look around when they use a public urinal. They just stare forward for some strange reason. This is why commercially minded pubs put advertising posters at eye level above their urinals. It is a crude form of subliminal messaging.
The two old boys are obeying the stare forward rule. Rather than look at each other they just look straight ahead and talk to the wall. Having me between them and in the way does not help, but they chat away as if I am not there.
“Well Bill, that was crap” says the bloke on my right whilst looking straight at the breeze blocks in front of his nose. He is a Bristolian you can tell by his local accent. Bill replies in an equally broad West Country drawl “Yeah, proper rubbish.” there is a pause whilst he thinks for a while, just stood there also gazing at a point ahead of him. He zips up and adds, “In fact I will go so far as to say, that is the worst side I have ever seen down here,”
Bills mate nods philosophically in agreement as he too turns to shuffle out.
They start to look at each other again as Bill finally concludes “and I can say that without any fear of contraception.” They both walk off into the night.
Newport County are back in the Football League and they play Bristol Rovers (my team) on Saturday. This brings back memories of when I went to the corresponding fixture way back on 7th September 1985. Now the date does not stick in my mind, in fact I looked it up, as I am not that much of an anorak. I see Rovers lost 3-0, but I do not remember the goals, instead I just have this blurred vision of watching the match from behind the goal in an enclosure that shaded us from bright sunshine.
The thing that I have not forgotten about that day was that I traveled from Bristol to the game on a “Soccer Special”. Older football fans will be familiar with this mode of transportation. Soccer Specials come from an era when football was blighted by hooliganism and one method used to control this and curb any trouble was by using a “special” British Rail train that was chartered to take all the away fans together to the match. The train was patrolled by British Transport Police officers, who even checked your ticket to travel at Temple Meads station before you got on the train, did everything bar mark it with a ticket inspector’s hole punch.
The rolling stock on this particular Soccer Special was ancient; the dusty and jaded slam door carriages were divided up with into six seater compartments and the whole train was pulled by a big old box shaped diesel unit that had seen better days too.
We were slowly pulling out of Bristol when all of a sudden three lads stumbled into my compartment. I had this section of the train to myself up to this point so there was plenty of space for them to come and join me. These boys were clearly up for a good day out and were in high spirits. We exchanged a nod of acknowledgement as we were now sat opposite each other. Pretty soon they settled down and chatted amongst themselves about their music scene which in turn led to a heated debate. This argument centred on whether they were Rockabilly or Psychobilly, a fact to them that appeared to be of vital importance. I just stared out at the passing countryside, silently praying that I would not get asked to adjudicate over the stand off. “Please do not ask me of my opinion on this one, I don’t want to get involved” is what I began thinking to myself as we trundled onwards.
Suddenly without warning everything went pitch black and the shouting stopped. We had hit The Severn Tunnel and the whole carriage was plunged into darkness as none of the internal lights seemed to be working. The silent pause in our compartment did not last long as it was brought to an end with a yell of “Pile on!”
This was an invitation that I refused to accept but the other lads sprang into action. The rough and tumble continued for a long time as we travelled through the darkness. At one point, just as we came out of the tunnel, a large heavy object about the size and shape of a brick flew from the noisy ruck just missing me. As my eyes got used to the light I saw what had flown my way. It was a crape soled creeper shoe that belonged to one of the boys, who were all by now well out of breath and a a little bit worn out after their play fight.
The lad missing his shoe came and collected his beetle crusher off the floor and as he bent over to reach for the shoe one of his mates gave him a quick shove from behind. This push helped the lad out of our compartment into the corridor outside, where he landed in a heap. He checked himself from charging back into the compartment and starting another bundle when he saw a patrolling officer from the Transport Police come past on his rounds. The policeman stopped. Why was I feeling guilty as he looked us up and down? He gave us a quick once over and walked on. We soon got to Newport.
All of us from the train were herded up and escorted by the local police to and from the ground. The Transport police waited in the station for us. They got the good deal and did not have to watch the match!
The journey back was quieter as I was sat somewhere else on the train. The only excitement came when the train slowed to a crawl and was lead by a series of points back to the entrance to the Severn Tunnel. At this moment a car came into view that had parked up at the side of a road which ran parallel to the track. The car could be seen clearly, as the railway was slightly higher than the level of the road. A couple of lads were stood there waiting for us in ambush. They had come prepared and had a few rocks and choice bits of masonry lined up on the car roof. We were sitting ducks!
I do not think that any windows were put through but I do remember the sound of those rocks hitting the train carriages as we finally got to the safety of the tunnel. Nice boys them.
Old photos get me thinking and I am digging some out to post as we speak.
However there is one blog that just “makes I laff!” and brought back some vivid memories of some nights out. It is the one linked below:
It was interesting to read today in The Independent on Sunday about the comeback of vinyl.
Peter Hook echoes my sentiments about buying an LP as opposed to downloading an mp3 file in the article.
Also of note is that it seems that youngsters are raiding lofts for their parents’ old rock albums and not knowing how to play them on a turntable, or even how to get hold of one! Bless!
Got this tip for a tune from Baz.
As soon as I saw the video I said that is Broadmead Shopping Centre!
How did I recognise that location?
Well I was walking through Broadmead on the way home after a day “at the office” filing planning appeals at Tollgate House when some random woman keeled over and started an epileptic fit outside BHS.
Loads of people just ignored her – stepping over her with their shopping. I put my jacket under her head (which she semi dribbled/chundered over), put her in the recovery position as best I could and waited for her to stop fitting.
So the backdrop to this video is the same view I had of the shopping centre as I crouched amongst the shoppers.
In 1984 – Talking Heads produced a concert movie called Stop Making Sense.
Now kids access music by standing in public car parks in the dark gawping over some uninsurable, souped up (ie new spark plugs) Mk2 Vauxhall Corsa with some crappy 2nd hand alloys and mean sub woofers in the boot. The ground shakes gently to the sound of some “West coast” whilst the man in the kebab van looks on glumly at the other end of parking area.
Music and the internet go hand in hand. No longer do I have to go up the steps from the street into Revolver Records and down the dimly lit corridor past the vast amount of flyers and gig posters in order to find a new band, or inspiring piece of vinyl.
The internet is a bottomless pit of material and I find that you can easily hear a tune from someone new that takes your fancy in double quick time. I remember in Raynors Records (a shop that was further down the road from Revolver) that they still had a record listening booth and at Revolver you used to hand over a 12 ” single or EP to the bloke at the desk, who would play it and probably be able to tell you something about the band in question.
Meanwhile here is the record of the week……
THE SID PRESLEY EXPERIENCE
Saw these at a “Give Ireland back to the Irish Gig” (Red Wedge Tour) at the Bristol Mecca Studio 17th March 1985. I think they all wore suits with shamrocks on their lapels and were the warm up act for Billy Bragg. The band had a punk/nihilist following who all fought amongst themselves and spat a lot at the front of the crowd. Billy Bragg was his usual passionate self – whilst stopping short of being a true angry young man. I remember Billy kept on breaking strings on his guitar as he was playing so hard and also thinking back the other support act was Porky the Poet aka Phil Jupitus.
As for the venue The Studio was a big disco/nightclub which was one of many dives around the City Centre. It was one of the sort of places that just do not exist anymore.
Nightclubs and the old boozers of my youth in Bristol are described in Mark’s fantastic Blog at twiglet.com