Cool Britannia

So here we go! A fellow by the name of Nick Haines, famous now for his tete-a-tete with Philbert in the comment section emailed me with a request to do the odd post here on The Nightmare. Pro bono publico, which is a good thing, ’cause we don’t pay. Apparantly he just wanted an outlet to spout off about music and such. Anyway, I agreed, he emailed me his first post and here we are. Oh, right, one more thing: he’s British, and worried that some of his phrasings may be a little confusing to you Yankee readers. Should you require a translation, I am sure he’ll give you one. By the way, Nick is a real guy. So without further adieu, please give Mr. Haines a warm Nightmare welcome.


I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of what’s been posted on the Nightmare, and enjoyed making a few observations on one of the discussion threads. I spoke to Uncle E and asked him if I might contribute occasionally and, unwisely, he agreed and suggested that before I start, I should introduce myself. Well here goes.

Name: Nick Haines.
Location: Portsmouth, Hampshire, England.
Age: Relative
Relatives: Aged.
Pets: Some dead cats.
Life: Think the roller coaster at Cedar Point, Ohio. Plenty of ups and downs, a lot of breaking down and a mixture of nausea and relief as you near the end.

Some formative moments thus far…

My first gig. I really wish it could have been something cool but it wasn’t. Leo Sayer, 1973 at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens. Now I can hear gales of laughter at this revelation but wait, this was when Leo was cutting edge man, you know, a real street cat with an attitude and…

OK, he was none of those things but I was fascinated by how one guy, on his own, could hold an audience’s attention for 80 minutes or so. Something stirred within, but I wasn’t sure what.

Could have been the hot dogs.

Shortly after this comes a more credible moment; the band Sparks at the same venue. I had owned Kimono My House for a while, bought as a result of Ron & Russ Mael’s mesmerizing performance of ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough’ on Top Of The Pops (“Top Of The Pops” was a long running TV curiosity in England that everyone sneered at, everyone watched and few bands refused to play on. It was a pop program that your aunt and uncle might have created in an attempt to be ‘down with the kids’.)

Everyone else at school seemed to be listening to Hendrix, Groundhogs and Black Sabbath; either that, or unspeakable pap like The Partridge Family or The Osmonds. I wasn’t sure which I disliked most; the leaden footed, lame brained squawking of the metallurgists, or the screeching shrieking sugar laden pap purveyed by the teeny boppers.

None of them sounded like Sparks, though.
In an early attempt to get into ‘proper music'(sic) I swapped something of minor value for something that was of no value whatsoever. Namely Chicago VII. The demerits of this abomination can be read on this link to “World’s Worst albums”, in the comments section.

I was gratified to read that my loathing for said piece of musical excrement was shared by at least one contributor to these pages. He did however put it far more eloquently than I did. You know, he put it in a historical context, giving a thoughtful and erudite critical analysis… God I hate smart asses (Hi Philbert!)
My other love was Gary Glitter. It pains me that ‘The Leader’ turned out to be a pedophile, but it would be dishonest not to admit his work had a huge influence. He was a hero to me at a time when all pop stars were impossibly pretty. Gary dressed in tin foil and huge platform boots looking like a particularly hairy, self-basting turkey. He was overweight when everyone else was skinny; I was overweight when everyone at school was…less so. Gary was my hero and I make no apologies for saying so.
I would turn up my cheap little record player (I take it enough of you know what a record player was?) in an attempt to drown out Black Sabbath’s Iron Man…as was to be the case for much of the rest of my life. It was a vain effort doomed to failure. Tilting at musical windmills it may have been, but it was my protest …with my kind of music.

In ‘74-‘75 my almost cool English teacher scored some tickets to see the Beach Boys, Elton John, the Eagles, Joe Walsh and Rufus at Wembley Stadium. You may have heard of Wembley under its colloquial name of AWIFE0 or ‘At Wembley it finished England 0”?) Despite the promising bill, when one is sitting 40 rows back at one end of a 90,000 capacity arena, and the stage is at the other end, even rock giants get cut down to size.

I THINK I saw The Beach Boys. The microscopic lead singer wore a sparkly jacket, I think, but I can’t be sure. Visual pyrotechnics were never top priority for The Eagles, so they may as well have played a record for all the live experience there was. As for Elton, well he was as wide as he was high and he ain’t very high. I saw a piano but that was about it. The sound was pretty good for such a large venue, and I had my first toke of a jazz cigarette (as I think you hep cats call them.)
Note to self, check to see if ‘jazz cigarette’ and ‘hep cat’ are still in common use State side.

But my mind kept returning to the Bournemouth Winter Gardens; the intimacy, the heat, and I remember thinking, “Music isn’t supposed to be seen and heard like this.”
The next couple of years are a source of shame. What follows is a kind of catharsis, a confessional.

I can’t condone what I bought but I can’t deny it either.
Yes, I bought Frampton Comes Alive and the Best of King Crimson. I bought two Yes albums and owned 6 Genesis albums. What can I say? I was young and easily lead. And mislead, as well. I could claim of course that I never inhaled…sadly, though, I did. As any former junkie or recovering alcoholic will tell you, however, there comes a time when you hit ‘rock bottom’. One day I bought an album that was literally the worst thing I’d ever heard, and that includes Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. LINK How I omitted this from my ‘do not buy this record even if someone is pointing a gun at your head’ list I don’t know…. deep breath, try not to get angry….

Gong: Camembert Electrique.

I need a moment to compose myself…a glass of water…thanks, I feel better now. On the plus side it was only 50p (you’ll have to work out the US equivalent, I can’t be bothered checking the current exchange rate…probably 75 cents?) and it was pressed on clear vinyl.

I remember buying it; it had received an interesting review in Melody Maker (a comic for serious music fans, as opposed to Sounds, a comic for readers who required a ‘mind your knuckles’ sign above every door, and NME, a comic for people who despised the readership of the other two.) I also bought a large bottle of cheap white wine and some cannabis resin. I got home, filled a large glass with industrial grade white wine and skinned up. I extracted my new purchase lovingly and with growing excitement.”Oh Wow! Like, you can see right through it!” I don’t think I said “maaan”, thogh. I really hope not, anyway.

Now it may be that I had bought non-alcoholic wine by mistake. It’s also quite possible that the normally reliable supplier of reasonably potent illicit drugs had started pedaling non-mind bending gear. All I can say with certainty is that I stayed utterly sober, utterly un-stoned and filled with a rising sense of rage. Gong wibbled on about ley-lines and pixies and pouring water over policemen’s heads accompanied by archaic and home made instruments and natural sounds…………I’m sorry but I really can’t bear to relive the memory for much longer. I’m not a violent person by nature but I swear to God if a member of Gong had walked into the room when the last track finished I could not have been held responsible for my actions.

That said, there is something in law called Justifiable Homicide, isn’t there? Anyway, one track played to any court and there’s not a jury in the land that would have called in a guilty verdict. Gong’s Camembert Electrique. Check It Out kids!
Time passed, my anger subsided, and it was time to get a ‘proper job’. I was nearly 17 and it was time to cast aside such childish things, so I did what any normal middle class kid would do. I joined the police.

Yup, I was a fed, a pig, a plod, a member of the Old Bill.
Before you stop reading though, my career with the Metropolitan Police lasted all of 36 hours. Why I joined is a long and rather boring story. I left for two main reasons, one cool the other not. The credible reason is that the head honcho of the force addressed all us new recruits and proceeded to reel off a list of society’s enemies…squatters, drug users, football hooligans, etc. I remember listening and thinking, ”there’re my friends he’s talking about there!” I knew that I could never in good conscience fulfill the role required so I packed my small kit bag and on the pretext of going to get a haircut…walked away. The other non-cool reason was that I was chronically unfit, I think I set a police record for the slowest ever 100 metres. The PT instructor came up to me and said, “Haines, you’ll never make it.” Now, I may be slow on the track but I’m pretty quick on the uptake. He was right, I never would make it…not as a policeman anyway.

Life is strange, and instead of heading directly home I mooched about London for a couple of days. Spent the little remaining money I had on a cheap hotel room for one night, slept on the streets for a couple more, and on a Thursday morning picked up a discarded copy of Sounds. On the cover there was a fuss being made about a new band called The Sex Pistols. They were appearing at a venue called the 100 Club in Oxford St, London that afternoon with some other unheard of ‘punk’ groups…The Clash? Never heard of them, Siouxsie & The Banshees…who? I had enough money to get in and my plan was to buy a 100 tablet bottle of paracetamol, watch the gig and kill myself. Look, I was 16…you’re allowed to be a bit dramatic at that age!
Maybe I’ll tell you about the gig another time; it’s a good enough story in its own right.

To cut a long story short I came out of the gig feeling positive and invigorated. I headed back to Portsmouth on foot…70 miles, with what was approximating a positive mental attitude. What I saw then in September ‘76 inspired me to learn guitar (kinda, by strumming along to the Velvet Underground’s ‘69 live album.) I got a band together, Portsmouth’s first punk band I’m proud to say. I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland where I joined a band signed to the same label as early Human League, Gang of 4 and other indie luminaries and even played one gig supporting Simple Minds at the London Lyceum. Do any of these names mean anything to anyone?
I was involved in the setting up of the UK’s first indie music distribution chain…headed by Rough Trade (you must have heard of them) and became part of the organization that brought Joy Division, New Order and The Smiths to the world. Another good story, but. another time.

I ended up working for Virgin Records (I take it you’ve heard of Richard Branson? Tycoon, lots of teeth?) and spent 14 mostly good years there.
At 40 I decided that I’d reached some kind of crossroads and so I returned to full time education and studied journalism. (Not that it shows!!)
I wrote and was published a bit…enough to keep me in poverty anyway.

Uncle E asked me to write a brief biog. I’m not sure if the above is fit for purpose. I don’t know if after reading the above you are any the wiser as regards who or what I am.
I’m highly opinionated but open to debate and willing to change my views…if I make what seems to be a ‘controversial/outrageous or downright stupid remark, it can usually be assumed that there is a question mark afterwards. I enjoy having my views challenged, so if for instance I make a statement asserting that The Beach Boys, far from being geniuses were in fact a complete waste of vinyl…assume that there was a question mark afterwards….put me right, that’s what I’m here for.

Nick Haines (December, 2010)