the fictional adventures of a rockstar c.1970s
It’s three weeks before Christmas, 1957. Eight-year-old Randall Portcollis (named after his grandfather) is waiting in the queue for the Santa’s Grotto in his small town’s indoor market with hisbrother and twothreeyounger sisters. He’s at the stage where he is beginning to question the existence of Santa, having noticed that there was a considerable amount of variation between the different incarnation’s eyes. (From a young age he was told his blue-green eyes were unusual and he’d started looking at everyone else’s eyes to see if they were the same colour.)
His family didn’t have very much money but saved up for Christmas every year. It was £1 for all four kids – quite a bit on their budget – to go see Santa. This did include a photo of them all and his mother kept them safely.
Randall (even at this age his father and uncle had nicknamed him “Randy” but they never said it in his presence) wouldn’t be in the next year’s photograph. He had decided to wait until Christmas was over then tell them he know Santa wasn’t real. It would be a “rite of passage” for him, as his dad had said when he lost his first tooth.
(Their situation meant they didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy and Randall turned this to his advantage. He sold his teeth to other children, who believed they could summon her with the mere presence of a tooth.
“If yer stupid enough to believe in fairies, you deserve what you get” he’d smirk when they came back after failing to summon her. “No refunds.”)
The girl in front was called in and Randall was next. Patiently, he waited while the girl went through her list. She’d probably want the same as his sisters did – every year they wanted a new doll and they were allowed this small luxury because it made them happy.
He wanted a set of good pencils and some paper. One of his teachers had recently told him he was incredibly imaginative and should learn how to draw. Pencils and paper. That was what he wanted.
He looked through a crack in the curtain and he saw one of the helpers put a glass beside Santa. It was a sherry glass, the kind that stood in the display cabinet all year but Christmas Day.
The girl left and the boy was called in and positioned on his knee. Randall looked at the false Santa’s eyes and saw they were dark brown. Last year his eyes had been blue. That confirmed his belief. He said nothing about it and continued with his planned demand.
As the camera was being set up, Norbert picked up the glass. “You won’t tell anyone will you, little boy?” Randy shook his head – even he’d tried sherry and he saw nothing wrong with it.
As soon as he sipped it, Santa went into anaphylactic shock. The child on his knee was catapulted through the fibreglass grotto and into a reindeer. It knocked him out cold and sent the former jolly old boy into a seizure. He madea veryaveryquick physical recovery, back on his feet before anyone could say a word, but dangerous and armed with the three-quarters-full bottle.
Randall was only momentarily stunned by the impact, but was in an incredible amount of pain when he recovered. He recognised one of the nurses from a few months before, when he’d been brought into A&E after nearly suffocating himself with clingfilm. It had been embarrassing then and it was now when she recognised him.
In the New Year he was out of hospital. The physiotherapist recommended he learn to play the piano to help his fingers. The vicar, a middle-aged man and a skilled musician, agreed to teach him as a favour to his mother. Randall showed an immediate talent on the piano, matching and surpassing some of his older pupils in a matter of months. By the age of 10 he was completing his own works.
Unfortunately for his creativity the vicar wouldn’t allow him to learn any of the songs on the radio and his first works were rather flat and insipid. They were acceptable to the congregation – his prodigious talents meant he became the church’s showpiece – but it lacked the creative scope he desired. The frustration was almost enough to make him give up learning, but he enjoyed playing and performing too much to stop.
When he was 12 an unknown relative died and they came into quite a lot of money. His mother bought him a piano at his request and he was able to play as he wanted to. He stopped going to the church for lessons, to the vicar’s consternation, but still went with his mother on Sundays.
At the same time he was becoming interested in girls. His father’s newspaper taught him that girls liked musicians, guitarists especially. He began scoured the papers and small ads for cheap guitars so he could learn to play. His mother, still mindful of money, had told him that learning another instrument was dependant on him continuing to play the piano. Unlike with the vicar they would have to pay a teacher for him and the lessons
He did, and he exhibited the same level of ability on this new instrument. If anything, his energetic style worked better with a more mobile instrument.
His progressive parents encouraged his talent and by 15 he was up to playing in professional bands. The ones who told him he was too young were amazed by his natural gift and took him on.
It was at this time that he discovered his latex allergy. When he’d first got a condom out the pack it triggered memories of being wrapped in the clingfilm. thankfully this incident wasn’t with a girl, but on his own and with a desire to know how it felt. His first experiment with them was, for the foreseeable future, his last.
. His parents were more liberal than his friend’s. they let the hangover be its own punishment when he drank a bottle of wine he’d stolen from the cupboard on his own and gave him no sympathy when his first cigarettes made him hurl.
When he was that age he met a girl at a house party. She was his own age, she seemed nice and, being the hormonal teens they were, ended up clumsily attempting to have sex. They succeeded, but they just knew each other’s first names, not even their surnames.
The morning after, he noticed some girls gossiping in the corner of the playground. The girl he’d slept with saw him and pointed. “Randy Shagger!” she shouted. He had a choice – either he could be ashamed of the act or he could go up and be proud of what he’d done. He chose the second option and strutted over.
“Well hello beautiful, how’re you feeling?” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and the other girls giggled. She was actually a good-looking girl; not the best of the bunch but she had a nice body. “Shall we make a proper date?” he asked, and she nodded. The other girls were jealous – they all wanted boyfriends and now she was about to acquire one. “Leave us be ladies, we want some privacy.” The others wandered off and he agreed to see her at lunchtime outside the music block.
He was there before her. Now he’d fixed a kinda-date he wasn’t sure what to do. Did the little chippy on the corner count as a proper place? It was all he could afford. When she arrived he held her hand and enjoyed its warm softness for a moment. “Are you OK with fish and chips for lunch?”
“Yeah, that’d be lovely.” She had a sweet voice, but neither said a word until they were in the empty chip shop. It was quiet and the owner was so deaf you had to shout your order in his ear, the perfect place for conversations.
They both had fish and chips, but he had gravy to dip his chips in. She watched as he dipped and swirled it round, then ate it. “Are you thinking about last night?”
“Yes – it was... I’m still sore.” He held her hand. His new girlfriend, Mia, was just 16 and it had been her first time too. “It wasn’t quite how I thought it would be.”
“Not bad enough to put you off though, I hope?”
“No – it was nice despite that.” She was also the daughter of liberal parents and wasn’t too shy. “I hope we can do it again sometime soon.”
The brother of his now girlfriend challenged him. He was 17 and a fearsome opponent, but he was taken down almost unnervingly easily by the 15 year old. It took just a punch to the sternum to wind the beast. His former cronies were panicking – what did they do now their leader had fallen? Most gravitated towards Randall, who thereupon adopted Randy Shagger as his stage name.
It turned out to be apt. Mia lasted only a couple of months because his constant demands for sex were becoming too painful for her to bear – having finally been initiated into an adult world he found it was a lot of fun. After the break-up he went after her pretty friends, bedding two of them before moving on to the 6th form girls.
The music was still as big a part of his life as ever.He outgrew most of the small local bands very quickly, sheddingthree of them in 4 years.four by the time he left for university.They hadn’t been as ambitious as he and he’d found their content mediocrity stifling.
One of them was different. They were still insipid and a little tedious at times, but they matched his ambition and furious need to create. Of course, one could understand the singer’s ambition and stifled rage – an inability to grasp the more academic side of school had kept him behind a couple of years. They worked and played well, but eventually their families forced them apart by insisting they went to college and learned a trade. Music was all very well, but it wouldn’t get them anywhere in life.
In a bid to show his parents that he could make a living as a musician and delay his entry to college, he begain taking work as an itinernant musician. In his first job he provided background music in a restaurant but was fired after diners complained that the music he provided was unsuitable.
He worked in a burlesque theatre for three nights. His job description was to provide the gentle vocals for the routines with non-singing girls, but he couldn’t deal with not being the centre of attention. On the third night he put on one of the bigger girl’s dresses and did his number in drag, stood solidly centre-stage. It scared off half the audience, got him fired and inspired the opening of a comedy drag act across town. He debated joining them for the attention, but decided that while one night in a dress would be funny, any longer would damage his chances of pulling.
When they all went off to college, the group drifted apart. They had little time for group rehearsals and were in different parts of the country. They were still writing and recording their own work, but had no chance to all get together.
This didn’t mean any of them gave up on the bar scene, far from it. Randy especially enjoyed the parties that came of living the student lifestyle.
He was just at college to have a laugh and party and had chosen the suitably frivolous Music and Media course. His parents were just happy to see him leave and better himself. They wouldn’t have told him at the time, but they thought he was wasting his time and should have studied something more practical like carpentry. He’d learned how to build and repair his own guitars out of necessity and he could have been an exceptional carpenter.
It wasn’t the most stringent college in the country. Their first music practical session consisted of passing a joint round and talking about their respective instruments. There were some stupid hippies in the group, the type that never washed and would offend his ideas of music.
He started dabbling in the black arts at the same time, out of a mixture of curiosity and to see how much he could scare the dipshits. After just a little study he found that it was very interesting and could provide even more scope for creativity. His limper classmates found it unsettling and left him alone, while the ones who shared his interests gravitated towards him and they worked together well.
There was a quiet boy on the music production module. He didn’t seem to belong on a music course up until he began singing. He had a voice that Randyneededto write songs for.
The problem was, the singer was a former choirboy, both vocally and morally. It would be difficult for them to collaborate successfully.
Over the first year theyslowlybecame, if not exactly friends, compatible musical counterparts. The singer was willing to follow the other’s lead and sing his songs but his lack of drive frustrated Randy, just as his bands had as a teenager.
It was difficult for him to compile a group. They couldn’t find a reliable drummer and bass wasn’t cool enough with this crew for him to complete his rhythm section.
Another source of trouble was the singer’s unfailing reluctance to go anywhere with him. Randy loved parties and women;thesethe singer was a former choirboy, both vocally and morally. Theseweren’t experiences the other understood and he couldn’t sing convincingly about them.
At the start of his second year he took the bloke he’d started working with on a night out. His aim was to introduce him to the world he inhabited, but he didn’t agree with it. The casual sex and drinking was too amoral for him and they grew apart.
Around this time, he met back up with his old band. They had lost touch when they all went their separate ways, but mutual friends reunited them at a party and, once they’d caught up on old times, they began working together again. Randy stopped working with the previous singer, telling him he just wasn’t interesting enough. He took it infuriatingly well and Randy punched a wall on the walk home, breaking his hand.
He got a reputation for turning up to class hung-over or still drunk; once or twice he came in naked. They didn’t really notice as they were themselves strung out. If anything they envied his confidence.
He acquired a scar at this time. He would tell future girlfriends that it was an appendectomy scar. It had been from running into the stove naked while drunk, resulting in a hospital visit. He hadn’t felt much at the time, but it was blindingly painful the morning after.
He’d also missed a few classes and his place on the course was in jeopardy. He continued, doing the minimum amount of work needed to stay on the course. He was more interested in travelling away at the weekends to work with the newly-reformed group and book recording sessions. They went back to the clubs they had played at as younger boys, this time as adults, and they became steadily famous in the area. He could only play on Thursdays and Fridays, but these were always good nights at the clubs with a guaranteed audience.
After almost a year they were steadily making enough money for them to leave college and be full-time musicians. It freed up their time for touring the country, rather than just the local clubs.
Now his group was making enough of a name for themselves, they were asked to play shows in other areas. Most reacted well to him, but Hampshire didn’t. The residents were none too pleased with his act. Someone wrote into the local paper that allowing someone calling themselves such a name to perform was “senseless obscenity”.
He was called into court, fined £50 and shocked the judge by casually unrolling five £10 notes onto the desk from a cigarette packet and walking away.
Teenagers were also coming to the clubs, too young to drink but old enough for the music. The girls who wouldn’t have looked at him before now came to his shows and marvelled at him. They were at the age when their own sexuality was awakening and he inspired him. Single girls threw themselves at him and, for the most part, he accepted them. Some of them were blatently untouchable, either ugly or stinking of the clap – he had standards!.
In some way this blatant promiscuity helped raise the band’s profile. Women were willing to throw themselves on these rock stars and the idea that there was one who encouraged this got their moist knickers into the venues. He didn’t care about the objectification; he was 19 and loved female attention.
He had stopped comparing the condom to the clingfilm by now, but was still allergic to the latex. He started putting the news out that he’d only do girls who couldn’t get pregnant and there was a sudden surge of women heading to the birth control clinics. Were it not such a censorious era they would have made his endorsement into an advertising campaign, but it achieved amazing results by word of mouth they weren’t too displeased.
In retrospect, booking Randy to host the Teen Choice Awards was a bad idea. Even at 19 his entire character was based around sex and drinking, two concepts the12 – 1513 – 16year old market wouldn’t understand.The older teens, 16+, were attracted to the show by him.
He wasn’t entirely happy with the show either, but the money and publicity was much needed. There was no alcohol backstage and he realised all his jokes were aimed at adults about an hour before his first spot. He tried, but he couldn’t make them family-friendly and had to collar one of the other hosts to ask about some suitable lines. He sent one of the runners out for beer and chatted up some of the older acts.
By the time he had to go on he had sunk two cans and was half-way through his third. It didn’t make too much of an impact on his performance and he decided that finishing the can wouldn’t hurt. The runners brought him water and he’d pissed most of it out by the time he had to go out the second time.
He finished the pack by the finale and was a bit pissed when it came to the encore.He seemed steady as he took his place for the curtain call, managed to make it through it, collapsing on a sofa backstage. A runner emptied a bottle of water on his head, rolled him into the recovery position and he was quietly sick into the bucket. This sobered him up and he was soon back to his charming self.