The Music Machine 1979


 

 

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I've got my parka on. It's got a Union Jack and an Irish tricolour on the right sleeve. I never did play the game, me. I'm proud of it, the parka. Sort of.

I've had it a couple of months. Someone told me it was original, though I'm never sure what that meant. Whatever, it fits perfectly over my two-tone suit, the one I got at Second Time Around. And if I had a scooter, it would keep me warm. Only trouble is: it's not right. I know it's not right. It doesn't have a fishtail, the back of it just cuts straight across. The fur on the hood is too... furry. And the colour is too green. You know what I mean? It's a bit that-awkward-kid-at-junior-school green. Bright green, pretty green.

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The best parkas are darker. The best parkas are darker. The best... Ahem. No-one's actually mentioned my parka's a wrong 'un. But I know they know. And they know I know they know. I'm the bloke who tried for a Weller haircut and got a Foxton. I'm the bloke who got a white Ben Sherman that turned out to be some Taiwanese knock-off.

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I'm the bloke who likes Be-Bop Deluxe. The atmosphere here is electric. Loud and free and fuck-you. We've taken some blues that John brought with him, said he got from that bloke down at the Green.

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We've been taking them like Smarties. I think they may actually be Smarties. Who cares? In the pub over the road we've had vodkas, ciders, beers. And we're going to see The Jam. It's half-six. We show our tickets, walk in. A bouncer says, 'Hand your coats in over there, ladies.' I shove my way through to the cloakroom place.

 

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There'a a girl behind the counter. She's stunning. She's wearing a white jumper, red leather mini skirt, has one of those feather cuts the skin girls had a few years ago. She smiles, gorgeously, and waits. I stare. And stare. 'Oi! Dopey! Give us your... parka'. I can hear the inverted commas in her voice.

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I take it off, still can't stop staring. I push it over the counter to her, she takes it and hangs it up on a rail that's full of a hundred parkas, next to a hundred other rails of a hundred parkas, comes back and gives me a little plastic counter. I look at it. It has '69' on it. Honestly. Sixty-nine. As I'm staring at it, staring back at the girl, someone barges their way in next to me, nudges me out of the way. I turn, angry, see he's a foot taller than me, and head off for the bar to find my mates.

I think to myself it's funny none of them are wearing coats at all tonight. Not one. I'm the only one. We have a quick drink and then make our way into the hall. We get right up the front. There's about ten of us. They're all looking good. So good.

The stage is a couple of feet above us. We crane our necks upward, waiting. There's some crap backing band, a half-hour of shuddering frustration, and then The Jam come on. The place explodes. Like an A Bomb. Christ, they look good. Weller looks fabulous.

They create a sweet, sour, heart beating, brain pounding noise that makes us each feel naked, exposed, tough, vulnerable. At one point, a girl who's with us falls over while we're dancing and Weller notices, stops playing, leans down and checks if she's OK, then starts playing again. I wish, just for a moment, it had been me. And we sweat and we lust and we collide and we feel the rage and joy of being here, now.

And then it's over. I tell my mates I'll catch them up and -eventually - get to the cloakroom. My girl - the one I just knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with - isn't there. There's just some hippy in a Pink Floyd teeshirt. I scrabble in my pocket for the counter. It's gone. I look everywhere. Shit. I say to the hippy, 'Um...I haven't got my counter. But mine's the parka.' He turns round, looks at the thousands of parkas, turns back again. 'Which one?' I can see mine. I point at it. He sighs, walks over to the rail, takes a dark-green, fishtail parka with a Who badge on the right arm off the rail and brings it over to me. 'This yours?' he says. 'Yep,' I say. And I put it on and I walk out, proud and guilty, into the warm Camden night.

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