Jacques Morrell – How I Discovered David Bowie

Whilst producing the recent episode of Psycho Killer podcast, I was reminded of my first childhood memory of bikers and Motorcycle Clubs. This was when a ‘Hells Angel’ appeared on our street.

It’s not that I remember him personally, or what bike he rode. I don’t remember whether he rode a Honda CB400 or Kawasaki KZ400. I don’t even remember whether he was a Blue Angel, a Road Rat or an Outlaw.

What I do remember is that he inadvertently got me into the music of David Bowie.

In 1975, Britain’s youth discovered their music in two ways.

The standard method was by listening to what the BBC controllers decided we should listen to from the Top 40 singles chart. This was fed to us on the BBC1’s Top of The Pops show and also Radio 1’s Sunday afternoon Top 40 Countdown.

The other way to sample music was broader and much more exciting. It was discovering music though the other kids on the estate. Older kids would already have a collection of singles that they decided weren’t cool anymore, so these would get passed around. Those of us with older siblings were lucky in this regard, as they would have already got to know the music of their sister’s favourite artist. In my case my sister had moved on from David Essex and was now listening constantly to Queen.

I had left junior school the year before. At the school leavers disco we had jumped around to Tiger Feet by Mud, a band who ‘hedged their bets’ by combining teddy-boy rock n roll with a hint of glam rock. The lads at ‘big school’ were now talking about Northern Soul, whilst the girls were into The Bay City Rollers, but I was ready to discover something different.

‘He wore dirty jeans and a leather jacket that smelled of trouble’

There was an older girl called Susan who lived on our street. We didn’t see much of her because she had a boyfriend. Not just that, he had a motorbike and a beard. To compliment this, he wore dirty jeans and a leather jacket that smelled of trouble. Our initial interest in his motorbike was tempered by talk that he was a nasty piece of work. There was also a rumour he had a shotgun. It was probably the parents who made up the shotgun story, but it was enough for us to keep away.

He must have impressed Susan though, because one summer evening, when we were all hanging around on the street, Susan emerged with a holdall, and rode off into the sunset. I was lucky to have been there to witness it. Eloping with her biker beau meant she had to give up a lot, including any records that weren’t by Black Sabbath.

Before she roared off, Susan handed me something in a carrier bag and said ‘You can have this’.

I still have it now.

Diamond Dogs by David Bowie changed my musical appreciation to another level. It was an escape, not just from teenage boredom and anxiety, it was an escape from everything. The album created imagery of a future apocalyptic world. It even had a track titled 1984, which then of course was nine years away.

Bowie’s words included:

Someday they won't let you, now you must agree.
 The times they are a-telling, and the changing isn't free. 
You've read it in the tea leaves, and the tracks are on TV. 
Beware the savage jaw, of 1984

Going back to the Podcast episode that prompted me to write this. It is ironic that Tony Hobsons’s crimes started in the same year, 1975. I don’t know any more about the biker who took Susan on a stairway to heaven, but Hobson, with the devil in him, rode his biker gang along a highway to hell.

THIS AIN’T ROCK N ROLL – THIS IS GENOCIDE

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