Had a chat with someone the other day about the 70's, they were not a friend and I do not remember meeting them at the time, but we moved in similar circles and appear to have known the same people at one time or another. During the conversation she mentioned a few clubs and pubs that we used to frequent and the phrase “Up, down or sideways?” came up and that got me thinking about the past. I must warn you though, I have a few memory problems so I may, in fact probably will, get some of my facts mixed up, essentially though what you are going to read here is true, maybe with a bit of artistic licence throw in.
I was brought up in Battersea, about 5 minutes walk from the park, as a matter of course I started my drinking in the pubs around Battersea park road, nice pubs and easy staggering distance, I wasn't really one of the 'bad 'uns' as my mum loved to call them, but I did know most of them. I was one of those youngsters that was badly bullied at school and a bit after, until I started to fight back, that old adage about bullies will back down if you stand up to them is utter rubbish! Most kicked the crap out of me until I learned how to fight... in a slightly different way.
My first experience with drugs came after I got a pasting by two blokes outside the Prince of Wales pub, a mate had helped me back to the my flat and on the way a bloke handed us a joint saying "You look like you need this more than me...", my first puff didn't seem to do anything, but it did take away the pain by the fourth or fifth, I have no idea what was in that joint and cant remember ever seeing that bloke again.
By now I had acquired my second motorbike, my first at 16 was a 1968 BSA Bantam, I had since moved up a notch and got a BSA 441SS (NPP 70H), on this I started riding around with some bikers I had met at the County Arms in Wandsworth and had started riding it up to the Chelsea bridge tea stall which was a common meeting place back then. I had been to Chelsea bridge a lot previously to watch the bikes, as I lived 10 minutes walk away.
Most of them smoked some form of cannabis, my mates and myself mainly stuck to types like cheap nasty soap bar (Cannabis mixed with.. well anything really.) or if it turned up and we had the money, Lebanese gold and a really nice type we called squidgy black, of course these memories may be a bit rose-tinted. We used to smoke either sitting outside pubs in the summer or if the weather was bad, back at a mates place, there were a few pubs you could get away with smoking inside, but most kicked you out if you were caught, nightclubs or music venues were better bets. Speed was another popular drug then, it was the party drug of the 70's from our point of view, it kept you awake all night no matter how much you drank and sex could last for ages, giving you a bit of a reputation with the ladies.
Around that time my friend Clive and I went to a party in the Mansions along Prince of Wales drive, I think we were invited by two very posh sisters, not really sure now, I was 17/18, had very long hair, deep blue eyes, blue velvet jacket and black satin loons (Very tight trousers), finished off with a pair of not very genuine cowboy boots. Well.. this was 1972/3.
We had not been there long just drinking vodka, when a joint was passed to us, cool we thought, of course by now we were now experts on the stuff!
I nearly puked my lungs up! Then my head felt like it was about 4 foot above my body, the room span around and I fell to floor freaking out. What the hell was in that? It frightened the life out of me, everyone was laughing and I could not controI my legs, I later found out that it was something called Banano (Cannabis mixed with cocaine? if I remember right) enough for four rolled into one joint apparently. The rest of the evening, once I calmed down, was a blur, I do remember laughing a hell of a lot and snogging some bird for hours, there is also a vague memory of someone threatening me with 'I'll cut your eyes out with a knife' I think it may have been his girlfriend I was having fun with.
The following Sunday I saw the person who's flat had been the base for the party, someone had told him my age, he could not apologise enough to me and he asked if I had got home ok, they had also told him it was my first time 'taking drugs' and he was mortified. He was quite a famous actor in some long running 70's drama (No more clues), but because I rarely watched television I had no idea who he was at the time, he bought me a pint in the Duke of Cambridge as a apology and it was then that I twigged he was gay! It was no problem once I made it clear I was not interested though. Pete (not his real name) and myself went to a few parties in the Battersea and Chelsea area in the early 70's, I think because I had long hair and blue eyes he liked to show me off to his showbiz friends, I never did ask if they thought I was his lover, I was a bit naïve then . It was certainly an eye opener, within weeks I had been introduced to a world very different from the one my bikers mates were in and the best thing is I don't ever remember having to pay for anything. Drugs were everywhere, coke was freely available and along with cannabis could be picked up anywhere we went, I met a lot of famous people at this time, but none really made an impact on me, although I was young and impressionable I thought most of the actors and big rock stars I met were twats. Worst of all were the managers, producers and hangers on, all riding on the coat tails of the famous and handing out drugs just to keep in with them. Some of the well known people I met were unpardonably rude to others, yet people treated them almost in a godlike way.
Now at this time heroin was rearing its ugly head in my world, a lot of the parties in the Chelsea seemed to have the same men at each one handing out 'free' samples and offering to show you how to take it, most started by smoking it off of tinfoil (chasing the dragon) I did not bother trying it after watching the state some of them got into taking it. To be honest I think I was too scared to try it.
There were always lots of very pretty and very stoned girls around, as a young man with normal urges it was a great time for me, although I did tend to wake up in strange flats miles from home on occasion. Once after getting completely mashed at a party in Kensington, I woke up in a very big house somewhere in Surrey with a gorgeous girl in her late 20's. I was still very high and crept out of the house to find a Rolls Royce, big American car of some kind, an Aston Martin DB3(?) and a couple of rare motorbikes parked outside. Must have walked for miles until I reached the A3 and then thumbed a lift, not a clue where I had been though, neither do I have any idea why I did not hang around or wake the girl up, Pete later thought that the girl was related to Keith Emerson, but I'm not so sure even though it was apparently one of his parties I met her at, I do not remember ever seeing her again.
I kept that part of my life separate from my other friends as I had started on the road to being a 'proper' biker and mostly we had drank alcohol, but now I started making inroads into what drugs were available in our circle, all of them as it turned out.
One of the pubs we frequented was the Fountain at the bottom end of Garrat lane in Wandsworth, I think it was Mondays we mainly went there, a rock and roll band called CSA played on a regular basis and were quite good, we scored a lot of dope there.
There were also back patch members in there, I had never really had any dealings with back patch club members until the Fountain, and to be honest I never really had a problem with them, one lived in Merton road and helped me a lot in finding bits for my BSA441SS, it was him that found a four valve CCM head for me. Can I remember his name? Nope, but that's probably not a bad thing.
Outside one particular pub in Tooting, there was always this skinny very long haired bloke hanging around, I think he was barred from entering the pub because I never ever saw him inside, someone would always take a drink out to him though, rain or shine he would be out there and he seemed to have loads of friends.
Of course, he was a dealer, and he would ask people “Up, down or sideways?” like a kind of catchphrase, when I started buying from him, I learned very quickly that whatever the first price he asked for, just turn and walk away, "15, go on you know its good stuff!" "Taking the piss mate, forget it..." before you had gone 3 steps the price had dropped to around half what he originally asked. I think it was just a silly game he enjoyed, everyone did it with him.
One day he wasn't there any more, I was later told he had overdosed on heroin, he was 32 and I never actually knew his name.
As I started to move in more exciting circles, I also started to learn which drugs were available and very quickly which to avoid, my favourite was speed, preferably in the form of small tablets called blues.
Weekends were this strange round of popping loads of blues on a Friday night, and then somewhere between 2am and 4am, depending on where we ended up, we would switch to moggies, (Mogadon or Qualudes in the US of A) so we could sleep, if we did not have Moggies, the next best thing were Tunial (I think we called them traffic lights) but they had a much harsher effect on me, if I had had any alcohol and took one I would go nuts before falling asleep wherever I was.
We also called moggies 'wobblers' as we played this game sometimes where we would drop a couple at home and then try to get to the pub before our legs gave out, they always seemed to work from the feet up especially if you had had a drink first, after about 15 minutes your knees felt like they were on the wrong way round. They were a barbiturate and we would have to pop some blues to make sure we didn't fall asleep, this led to some strange sights as the evenings wore on, I remember Gary outside the County Arms (by Wandsworth prison) he would be chatting away then his head would fall forward and he would start snoring, then after a few minutes his head would snap back up and he would carry on as if nothing had happened, he would repeat this for about an hour then collapse.
Mostly though we took speed, the downers, Moggies and Tunial, stopped us from riding, speed did not.
My first experience with acid happened outside the County, some hippies we knew had just driven back from Amsterdam (again) in an old Commer van, it had been sort of converted to a camper, well it had a mattress in the back and camping stove. We were all sitting on the grass outside the pub, when the van pulled up, two of the hippies, Mickey and Tarquin the poof (he wasn't a poof really, but come on, what would you call a hippie called Tarquin? We always though he was called Bob, until we all got pulled up by the police one day and he had to give his real name) Mickey was floating about 4 foot above the pavement, he seemed to glide over to us, he was laughing at the lamp post and talking to someone who wasn't there, Tarquin just stared at everyone, one after the other, then started asking if one of us was really a dragon in disguise, and they had driven to the pub!!!
We got them sat down and poured a few drinks down them, this seemed to help. Then Mickey started handing out some small bits of blotting paper with little faces printed on them, possibly fat Freddies cat? They were about an 1/8th of inch across and looked completely harmless, I stuck a couple in my wallet.
I had been given a lift up to the pub by Dave, for a big bad biker, Dave looked like a big cuddly teddy bear and was really quite a quiet bloke, we were chatting and he said why don't you drop a blotter and tell us what happens. I agreed and took out one of the blotters, putting it on my tongue I was now watching Tarquin, he was crawling around and muttering about living in the jungle and giant ants??? Er......
A took a big swig from my pint glass and sat back and waited for something to happen. Nothing.
This is a waste of time I thought, as I finished my pint about 20 minutes later, then stood up to go to the bar, I looked down and.. fucking hell, the ground was miles away, I grabbed Dave and started shouting at him to help me down, he just looked puzzled and a bit scared. He helped me sit down again on the grass, which was trying to pull me to one side, I was now getting really scared, I looked up at the parked cars outside the pub and one started winking at me, another looked at me disdainfully, as if it knew what foul illegal substance I had been taking.
Then a giant hand reached for me and a voice boomed inside my head "Are you alright Jake?" "Fuck no!! What's going on!!!!!!" Cars passing by on Trinity road seemed to take hours to go past, then they would accelerate until they were blurred streaks, the blurry streaks stayed there on the road, slowly fading away upwards into the starry sky. Oh, big mistake, I looked up into the night sky at the millions and millions of bright flashing stars, stars which had started flashing a secret message, but the drug was messing with my head and I could not understand the message, the stars started to flow into words, gradually they started to make sense.
Then a loud voice startled me and the stars went back to normal, Dave was calling to me, what was he saying? “Get out of the road??” Then a gorgeous angel appeared, it floated out of the pub, took me by the hand, walked me back to the grass outside the pub and sat me down, it talked gently to me and explained what was happening. The angel was actually a mates girlfriend, she had known a few people flip out on acid and found that talking calmly helped to bring them down again, she also poured loads of orange juice down my throat, vitamin C did seem to help.
Once I had calmed down the rest of the evening passed on cloud 9, I felt like I was wrapped in cotton wool and that at one point everyone was speaking in perfect German which I understood with no problem at all. The best bit was the ride home on the back of Dave's bike, this is one of the few things I remember very clearly about that trip, everything was the wrong colour, there was even a new colour, although I don’t quite remember what it was now.
Acid always had one strange effect on me, every time I took it I knew that there were green beavers hiding somewhere nearby, but I never managed to find them, this obsession with green beavers became quite a joke with my friends. Some people think of acid as a mind expanding drug, I never thought this, it was just fun, I never had any 'revelations' or suddenly understood the inner working of the universe like some people, it just made things different.
I didn't really bother going back to Pete and his group of friends after getting into the bike scene a lot more, I found the 'Chelsea' set rather boring and most were so far up their own arses it was just annoying being around them, especially after knocking about with the bikers I identified with now, you could not compare drug fuelled runs through the night with listening to some fancy actor telling you why his director was a gay little shit and that he could do a much better job. Yawn.
One of the bikers, who's name I'm definitely not going to use here, used to bring coke in direct from Columbia, I picked him and his girlfriend up from Heathrow once, you could not miss them in the crowd. Not realising his suitcase had around 2 kilos of coke in it, I only found this out after the second time I picked him up using his BMW (lets not mention I didn't have a car licence...) he would come to my house I'd drop them at the airport and collect them about a week later. £100 in my bin!! Easy money for the 70's. Last I heard of him he had been shot and wounded during a deal in Bogota around 1981. I never got into coke, the first time I tried it, it did not do anything to me, although every one of my friends insisted I never take it again, not sure what that was all about and I never did. Lots of people I knew were into coke though, I think it was more a psychological thing with coke, most was cut so finely I would have been surprised if any of the stuff floating around in the 80's was more than 5% actual cocaine.
Most of the 70's and 80's I spent working as a motorcycle courier, this was because I could work mainly when I wanted and if you put the hours in the money was really good, in 1975 when some of my mates were working as clerks or engineers for £40-50 a week, on a good week I could take home over £500, although in reality we never worked a full week, Hangovers and getting to bed at 5am put paid to that, usually though I would still clear £250 to £350 easily. Extra money could be made running gear for dealers, I had a nice sideline in delivering weed and coke to the money guys in the city of London, some times 10 -15 drops a night at up to £10 a drop, easy on a motorbike and hard to catch! You would not believe how many famous people were also on coke... or maybe you would. My best weeks were during the postal strike in the 80's, over 2 grand in the second week of the strike and maybe another £500 from the 'special' evening deliveries, but I do not think I got more than 3-4 hours sleep each night, I did a lot of speed those weeks.
I mentioned earlier my favourite drug of choice were blues (Speed), I was never a big bloke and looking like a bad ass biker meant living up to the perceived image, if you didn't, you quickly got made to look like a fool or worse, much much worse. Speed made me invincible, on speed I had no fear, was dangerously aggressive and could stay awake after ridiculous amounts of drugs and drink. After being awake on blues for 3 days some friends once took me up to the music machine in Camden, it was a punk night and the queue to get in had around 300 punks and us 5 bikers!! I was later told I terrorised the whole queue, pulling at spiky mohican hair and at one one point undoing this girls 40 odd zips on her clothes 'looking for the way in'. Once we did get in, after Benny the bouncer warning me sternly to 'behave' and took my knife off of me, I kicked off a massive fight by diving down the stairs into a group of around 12 punks coming up them, I remember nothing of the night at all, my mates told me about it all the next day, I also had a black eye and had lost two teeth.
I took speed for years up until one morning in 1981, when I got up out of bed and walked past a full length mirror, I nearly had a heart attack, I looked like a Belsen victim. I had to go weigh myself and found I was 6 stone 8, just over 44 kilos. I never touched it again.
Over the years my drug use just sort of faded away, I just did not bother with it any more, I suppose the fact that nearly 40 of my mates have died from drugs in the last 30 years may have something to do with it. Far more mates have died from drugs, or drug related incidents, than crashing motorbikes. Now that is a scary thought.