Wednesday, June 29, 1983

Eat people

We got up early and struggled to the bus stop with our bags for a cramped ride into Cambridge with a busload of kids and workers. Barry and I hung about near the bus-station until 10.15 when the coach left. Barry slept for most of the journey and we got to Ecclesley shortly after three; there I said goodbye to him and I was back in Easterby by 4.30.

I felt nothing particularly on getting back, none of that “thrill of recognition” I remembered after only six weeks of the first term. Nothing at all. Perhaps I even felt regret, wishing now I’d stayed down in Watermouth for the summer.

I waited for Dad in the station car-park in bright sunshine, conscious of the slightly more hostile nature of the atmosphere ‘up north.’ Soon Dad rolled up; he was just the same. The house was just the same, Mum the same, everything in fact just the same, as if I’d never been away. In one way it was terrible—total stagnation. I don’t think Mum or Dad could understand why I was so quiet. I passed it off as tiredness.

I rang Grant and he was out, but shortly afterwards he rang breathlessly back and said his band Eat People were playing tonight at the Phases club on Canal Parade. I set off at nine, a little to Mum and Dad’s surprise I think. But truth is, I had to find something to do to smother my disappointment and regret.

Phases was fairly small inside, with a bar to the left as I walked in, a smallish stage in front, and a lot of tables and seats round the corner to the right, where Grant and his entourage were camped. He came up to me shortly after I’d paid and talked enthusiastically, his hand over his mouth.

I was introduced to the band: Tim on guitar, drummer Jon, and tall, trendy blond bassist Jimmy. Grant is the vocalist. Nik Gordon was there too, plus assorted girls and silent blokes. The first band on were clones of The Jam—virtually identical songs and style—and they were quite skillful.

Eat People came on next. The long-haired compĂ©re in tux and bow-tie introduced them: “I’ve been looking forward to hearing this band for a long time.” And they began.

Grant screamed at the top of his voice, a scream that echoed endlessly instead of dying, and throughout their set his voice had tons of delay on it, so each word echoed at the end; it was quite a good effect. The drummer laid down a heavy rhythm, the bass laid another over this and the grinding guitar added to the Birthday Party-esque roar. Grant dominated the stage with his shrieks and doom-ridden moans (“What are the songs about?” I’d asked him earlier—“About people getting fucked up,” he’d answered).

On stage he stared and squinted manically, occasionally erupting into a jerky thrash. They played for about half-an-hour and got quite a good reception, especially at the end (irony not intended) when there were demands for an encore, and they launched into “Pretty Vacant,” their “token cover-version” as Grant put it, and got cheers and applause from the sparse audience.

The club emptied pretty quickly, but not before I’d spoken with some of Grant’s entourage. One of them, Jenny, was very drunk, and she held Grant’s hand while telling me about her dress-making business which she and another friend have started up on their own. Once we’d been kicked out, she announced that she “hated university students” to which I said “thanks a lot.”

After this I was conscious of my separateness from what Andrew would call the “Easterby alternative set”—I felt like an anachronism with my southern twang and American Literature. We walked back through Lockley, Grant and I in front and Nik and his friend Jackie bringing up the rear. Nik was quite drunk, Grant very tired and pissed off. We ended up at Jackie’s flat in Bavaria Crescent, a huge roomy place compared to our flat in Watermouth, for which she’s only paying £12 a week.

Jackie is 25 and is waiting for the results of ‘A’ levels she’s taken at Easterby College, which is where Grant met her. She often hung her head low, occasionally glancing up at me with dark eyes through her long black hair. She wasn’t very open and seemed to hang on Nik’s every word, curled up at his feet like a cat. We had a bottle of wine and some lethal mixture of spirits and cider and Grant sprawled on the floor gloomily.

I walked the five miles home.

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