.... The manager of the Marquee, Jack, an over-friendly, unctuous type sporting a shiny suit, black horn-rims and a clunking, gold pinkie ring takes a shine to me, asking increasingly personal questions. I tell him I’m going to start a rock ’n’ roll band and I intend to wipe the ﬂoor with the competition. This throws him, and it’s the moment when I get the ﬁrst indication that the term rock ’n’ roll has an entirely diﬀerent connotation here in the mother country.
You mention rock ’n’ roll and immediately English brains think of Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Bill Haley and all the rest. Brylcreem, duck’s arse hairdos, Teddy Boys, Drape coats, winkle pickers, brothel creepers and leather jackets—in short, the ﬁfties. Rock ’n’ roll in Britain is for those who never got over Elvis joining the army. Well, that’s not the way it is for me, chaps. Those guys did their bit but they’re from the Middle Ages as far as I’m concerned.
First I heard of Chuck Berry, I was on my bike crunching the gravel at Larchwood Public School, holding a Hitachi transistor up to my ear when “No Particular Place to Go” came on. I liked it. I really wanted to “park way out on the kokomo,” but not enough to go out and buy the vinyl. I was a kid on a bike. It took the Fabs with George singing “Roll Over Beethoven” and the Stones doing “Carol” for an entity called Chuck Berry to get into my skull.
As for Eddie Cochran, well, as far as I’m concerned, “Summertime Blues’ is by the Who from Live at Leeds. And Little Richard? It took Paul singing “Long Tall Sally” and the Swinging Blue Jeans doing “Good Golly Miss Molly” for me to get that tutti-frutti picture. So that’s what I ﬁnd myself up against here, elbow on the bar, at the Marquee. You say you’re going to create a new, wild rock ’n’ roll band in July 1971 and everybody thinks quiﬀs and pomade.
Midway through one night, while I’m leaning on the bar drinking light and bitter, surveying the possibilities, Jack sidles up and invites me back to his pad after closing. I came in on a Pan Am ﬂight, not a turnip truck, so I’ve seen it coming and I deﬂect the overture with what I hope is grace and humor. After all, I want to play here someday.
A pretty blonde girl, mini-skirt and white stockings, butter-wouldn’t-melt mouth, corners me at the bar, says she’s got tickets to the Tyrannosaurus Rex gig at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, and next thing I know we’re riding the Northern Line en route. I’ve heard these pixies on the radio doing some fairy drivel titled, if you can believe it, “Ride a White Swan.” What the hell does that mean? ....
-- -- Excerpted from Sick On You, the disastrous story of the Hollywood Brats—the greatest band you’ve never heard of, by Andrew Matheson (Penguin paperback, 336p).