Friday, 12 June 2009

Bikes birds & blurry memories (an article written for Brit chopper magazine)

Back in the 70's we (blokes anyway) all saw ourselves as rebels and adventurers, riding the lonely highway looking cool and most of all looking good to the chicks. Off into the sunset after pulling some amazing bird, with your mates looking on jealously, is really what most of us were looking for when we were younger, and I don’t suppose that has changed much. The biker image of good looking blokes pulling stunning birds was mainly gleaned from books and movies, but for some of us it all worked out amazingly well.
Riding the biggest noisiest bad ass bikes (or so we thought) in the neighbourhood, looking hard in our leather jackets with filthy denim cutoff over the top, disgusting jeans, open faced lid and cool sunglasses. We looked like a stereotypical biker gang and I suppose that’s what we wanted to look like if we were honest, we thought we were the dog danglies, until it rained, more of which later.
Showing off for your mates and the girls was one of the more popular pastimes, but it could drop you in it, pulling wheelies outside a sixth form girls college, my chain snapped and the bike hit the deck, as I was trying to pick it up, a police car pulled up and the two cops helped me to the side of the road, I was explaining that I had fallen off because the chain snapped, when this chorus of girls piped up “Pull another wheelie mister!” The two coppers laughed their nuts off.
Later that year I tried showing off to a crowd of girls on their way back from a party, they had stopped to watch the bikers on Chelsea bridge, by wheel spinning my newly acquired CB550 Honda away from the tea stall, unfortunately during the week the council had laid down an antiskid road surface and as the rear wheel drifted on to it, the tyre bit and the bike flipped completely, landing on top of me. Mind you I did get off with the nurse from St Thomas’s hospital, so that was alright then.

We were always cruising the pubs and clubs in South London, hoping to find a good looking girl to take home, or maybe to her place, because yours had engine bits everywhere and oil stains on the sheets. I once took a girl home to my place and as we fell onto the bed she screamed, not because I was huge, but because her arse had found the Mk 1 Amal I had left in the bed, so that’s where it went.
Mostly though it was trying to find a girl with her own place, the number of times I had taken a girl home only to find she lived with her parents/flat mates/husband was, to say the least, frustrating, and daddy was always happy to see his best girl turn up at 2am on the back of a 8 foot long purple chopper, god knows how many times I nearly got caught copping a quick consolation feel on the doorstep. I was once chased down the Kings Road at 3am by some loony parent wearing a Chinese style dressing gown and waving a 9 iron, he was wearing the dressing gown, not me.

One girl I pulled in the Saxon Tavern who turned out to be barely 16 and had 3 enormous brothers who rode scooters, that went down really well as I was 28 and looked like your mothers worst nightmare for a boyfriend, she did look about 25 though and I pulled her from some bloke about the same age as me. I never did have much trouble with the girls, despite looking like a refuge from some bizarre mad max type film. I am reliably informed that I was quite good looking when I was young, long flowing hair, slim build and intense Steve McQueen blue eyes. (What ever happened to that good looking chap...) The fact that if I sat on your mums sofa she would put newspaper down first, I am not kidding that happened several times, or that daddy would take you to one side and threaten all sorts of dire vengeance etc, just made it all the more exciting and gave the nookie a bit of edge, most of the so called 'good' girls were very good in my opinion. I remember getting noshed in a doorway by a girl everyone knew as fairly quiet, near the Castle pub in Tooting, when her parents pulled up in the traffic, they looked over but did not recognise her or me in the darkened doorway, that got the adrenaline going.

My mates in the 70's used to love going drinking with me, I was one of those blokes who would check out the women and know which group to chat to, I could nearly always get everyone a bird by the end of the night, mostly by making them laugh, get a woman laughing and you are halfway there. And if we tried to pull birds that were with blokes, we sometimes got in a bit of a punch up as well, all fisticuffs then, very rarely was a weapon used and you would probably be buying each other a drink the following week.
Posh birds were best, mostly after a bit of rough, no commitment and some excitement for the evening, hanging around the Drugstore in Chelsea was a good place at chucking out time, as was the Markham Arms, a gay pub that strangely always had a fair contingent of girls in there, you used to get the posh bints in the Drugstore looking for anyone to buy them a drink (they never had any money) or score some drugs (funny how they had money for that), the amount of herbal tobacco I sold to them was amazing and no one ever complained.
A fast adrenaline filled ride was always a good precursor to a, well, a fast adrenaline filled ride, you want a wild and rampant woman, then literally scare the pants off of her, riding fast always seemed to get them going, the vibration of some bikes helped as well. I had a BSA 441 SS for a while and when I bought a CB750 four the woman I was with at the time was most put out, she preferred the throbbing of a big single, to the high revving vibes of the Honda. Yet another loved the high frequency vibes of a 380 Suzuki I despatched on, sometimes we had to pry her off the seat with a crowbar.
After the first time a girl out rode me on the road I spent weeks trying to pull her, I had been on an Export Bonnie and she was riding a Ducati 750SS. It had had a lot of money spent on tweaking and handled like a dream, I drove her mad trying to get her to go on a date, but I think she enjoyed the chase more than I did, when we did get together we were both a little disappointed, we ended up as friends for quite a few years though.

There is a downside to all this, and it was rain, when it rained and it does quite a bit in this country, you have no chance, unless a bird was really drunk or stoned you could not get them on the back of a bike for love nor money. Trying to pull a bird while dripping water all over the floor tended to put them off, for example arriving a bit late at the County Arms one night I found my date getting in a Capri with some bloke dressed like something off Starsky and Hutch, when I queried this she told me in no uncertain terms "No way was she getting on a bike in this fecking weather" as she was getting in the car I asked her rather loudly if she needed anymore of her penicillin tablets. Chummy got most upset.
Looking like a drowned Roland Rat does nothing for your image as a biker, yet that is how we spent a lot of our time, I was a London courier for about 15 years and spent a fortune on the best waterproofs, it did not make a lot of difference, "Alright love, put all this stuff on." "'ere, are you kinky or sumfink?" "No, its raining outside." "Stuff that, where’s a bloke with a car!"
You cant look cool or glamorous when cold water is trickling down the back of your neck, although there were one or two girls who quite liked the feel of wet leather, 'cough' but that is another story.
There used to be an unwritten law, if you were far from home and it was raining, try to pull just so you did not have to ride home in the rain. When I was a courier I used to try and pull the receptionists at the drop off point on long jobs, if it was a Friday, so I would not have to ride home until the morning. Bizarrely the best town for this was Manchester, never failed there, I always managed to get a bed for the night, worst was Doncaster, but to be honest I never found anyone I fancied there.

Very un-pc now but in the 70's I pulled a hell of a lot of women, most were absolute stunners, or was that the acid? I did also have some horrendous episodes, like leaping out of a first floor window with my trousers under my arm, straight into some rosebushes, from which I still have scars, and having to try and keep very quiet. Or waking up one morning and staring into the eyes of the hound from hell which looked like it wanted to tear me to bits, as my eyes left the dog, I saw hanging on the bedroom door the biggest pair of pants I have ever seen in my life. As I lay there wondering what part of hell I was in, a girls voice called out, "The dogs fine, just dont make any sudden moves, I'm just in the shower." I grabbed my clothes, crept out the door and just legged it.
Then there was the weird episode where I was drugged by a bird at a party in Mornington Crescent, she locked me in her bedroom and told my mates I had gone home or so they said, thanks for the rescue guys, she turned out to be a distant relative of Princess Di!!!
The Sunday night after a heavy weekend could be amusing for my mates, "Look out, here comes that bird you pulled the other night." "What bird?" "Hello Jake, buy me a drink then?" And I would have no idea who she was, so it was pretend to have a bad hangover and bluff my way along until I sussed out if they were bunny boilers or worth another go.
We were in a pub called the fountain one night when this stunning bird walked in, we were all completely gobsmacked, not the usual girl you found in Tooting at all, she looked around, then saw me, walked over planted a big kiss on my face, put my garage keys on the table said "You dropped these in my place, thanks for Saturday." All I could do was mumble incoherently.
She then strolled calmly out the door and all my mates started questioning me, unfortunately to this day I have no idea who she was, I still suspect it was a wind up.
Or another time after a particularly stonking weekend, I was standing at the upstairs bar in the Music Machine in Camden when in walked ******** ****** (famous 70’s 80’s female singer, I am not going to name her) as she walked past she looked daggers at me, then disappeared into the crowd, I was completely puzzled, a few days later I found her name and phone number in my little black book and after questioning them, was told by my mates that I had spent a whole night buying her drinks until I had no brass in pocket. I remembered nothing of it and felt that there was a missed opportunity.
I once wrote Debbie Harrys name and phone number (made up) on a piece of paper and left it in a mates wallet, we had been drinking in a club sitting next to her band Blondie the previous evening, he never had the bottle to ring it and boasted for ages that he had got her number, I never told him what I did because he was so chuffed about it.

The 70’s were a very hedonistic time, everyone was experimenting with life, drugs and values. There was a lot of perceived freedom and some very liberated women, I felt that although they had women’s lib, most women still wanted to be dominated and looked after, but they also wanted excitement and fun, the restrictions of previous few decades had been lifted and they wanted to get out and experience the world in their own way. This made it a lot of fun for people like me, good looking and not looking for any commitment. After the first time a girl out rode me on the road I spent weeks trying to pull her, I had been on an Export Bonnie and she was riding a Ducati 750SS. The Ducati had had a lot of money spent on tweaking and handled like a dream, I drove her mad trying to get her to go on a date, but I believe she enjoyed the chase more than I did, when we did get together I think we were both a little disappointed, we ended up as friends for quite a few years though.
Most of the 70’s is actually blurred for me, I do remember that we did a lot of drugs, drink, built CB750 Swedish style choppers, BSA cafĂ© racers, Z900 streetfighter (we didn’t call them that then) with reversed Ace bars, a 400/500/550/750 four Honda with Vespa badges on the side panels (that one really screwed with the brains of the police as they checked it out), a bike built from left over bits in my mates attic and from 1972 until 1979 I clocked up well over quarter of a million miles, I suspect it was nearer the half million mark but cant be 100% sure, I was a courier for most of that time.
I look back on the 70’s with genuine affection and more than likely rose tinted glasses, the summers were hot, the winters snowy and it rained a hell of a lot. Those were good days.

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