The following is an account of true events: the names of those involved have been changed (including the dog’s).
My introduction to the Great Edgar Broughton started in a pub said to have once been frequented by highwayman Dick Turpin.
Aged fourteen, me and a couple of mates found we could get served in the Schooner, located—though no longer there—where Streatham High Road meets Hermitage Lane.
We’d been trying for a while, only succeeding in unscrupulous off-licences thanks to that very aspect of our not hanging around to drink in them, which we in our enthusiasm took to mean we could actually pass as eighteen, and so persevered with pubs.
Not only did we get served in the Schooner, a Suzi Quatro look-alike called Lucy walked up to us, having noticed our ‘heavy metal/rocker’ getup. She was there waiting for her boyfriend Dent, and being eighteen herself, knew we were nowhere near.
Dent, when he arrived, was a fearsome looking biker in his early twenties; shaved head, couple of missing teeth through fighting and falling off bikes; every inch a one percenter but for a patch.
They went every Thursday, sometimes a whole group of their mates, all bikers; and they didn’t seem to mind we were kids trying to find our way one bit.
One Saturday, Dent had a party; everyone met in the pub first, had a whip round for beer—two crates of Courage light ale—then piled into the back of someone’s rickety old work van jumbled with decorating gear to get there.
Dent lived up in Crystal Palace just below the peak of the Dulwich side of the hill. His place was the lower half of an old terrace; the upper entrance being up a flight of stairs, while the lower down one: it being the old servants/‘tradesman’ entrance next to the coal bunker, a trench-like gap between house and front garden providing a lightwell for the basement window.
Bare floorboards throughout, a kitchen more recognisable as a workshop due to bits of bike everywhere, Dent’s huge living room, which was down a hall, up a flight of stairs, then back down a hall to the front of the house, so making its huge window the one above the lightwell, was—by comparison at least—well furnished: couple of settees, chairs and the loudest goddamn stereo I’ve ever goddamn heard.
Beers got drunk, a couple of joints did the rounds, people bellowed just to talk, the music truly shaking the fabric of the building. Then a song I’d never heard before was put on; harsh and right in the face.
Bosh! Suddenly a different song played, the switch waaay too fast for the record to have been changed again; sounded more like someone had magically glued two vinyls together. This new song was slower, smoother and something I knew: ‘Apache’ by The Shadows.
But then it switched back to full throttle growl; Hank Marvin like he’d never even been there, only for it to be The Shadows playing again a few seconds later!
The song ‘Apache Drop Out’ (1970) is a combination of two covers: the above mentioned plus Captain Beefheart’s ‘Boogie Dropout’. Not that I cared at the time. More focused on how the instantaneous jump in pace and style was becoming evermore unsettling; the rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster it’d put me on fast heading to hurl.
If I didn’t move, it’d be arriving in a room full of bikers.
I got up, ran: down the hall, down the stairs, back along the lower hall . . . Opening the front door, vomit launched with extreme prejudice all the way down the lightwell between basement and garden to land at its end with a heavy warm SPLAT! For, as the Power of Edgar Broughton would have it, the under stair area at Dent’s had been made into a porch that placed his front door facing the long thin space.
Otherwise my vom would’ve covered a wall directly in front of Dent’s front door, putting it right in the face of anyone leaving.
It didn’t stop there, of course there was more to come; an excruciating eye-watering time of stomach acid, old alcohol, burning retches and pitiful please-someone-put-me-out-of-my-misery catches of breath . . . Staggering back into the flat and climbing the stairs, I reached the top realising that while my stomach might now be completely empty, there was still a long way to go before being ready to face the noise, smoke and smell of ale again, so sat on one of the top stairs and slumped against the wall . . .
The Top of Dent’s Stairs
Dent’s stairs had no banisters; the top—where I sat—was adjacent to the kitchen/workshop door, the hallway to get there inbetween. Looking down at it, I could see it was very slightly ajar. Something long black and shiny pointed at me through the gap . . .
Suddenly something pink swished across it.
Tintin, Dent’s dog—a friendly mongrel—looked at me hopefully; he’d been put in there due to the noise, but still wanted to join the party.
The doggie-voiced one-sided conversation that followed went on at great length: there was much to discuss; our predicaments, after all, while not entirely equal, did make us kindred spirits and best mates. That said, as I added in conclusion at the time, “Wag your tail at me like that all you want, I’m still not letting you out!”
It was then that I realised more eyes peered out at me from further back in the murky darkness . . . four to be precise, two of which belonging to a face that was upside down.
Further back in the room a couple were, well, had been in the middle of having it away, only for me to suddenly slump down on the stairs for a lovely tête-à-tête with the dog. They did not look best pleased; wagging tails the last thing going on.
A Bunch of 45s:
There was no way I could not have a song capable of that. First chance, I went to the Our Price that used to be opposite the Odeon cinema on Streatham high street. It needed to be ordered and would take a couple of weeks. I paid a deposit, took my receipt.
Before that couple of weeks was up, Dent decided to have another party.
Everything went pretty much the same as before, even the music played . . . There was no way it could happen again, surely?
If anything, this time I was up and running down the hall earlier into the song; thundering down the stairs certain of not making the front door this time. Just! And I honestly cannot express how much I mean that just.
The eruption was phenomenal, far exceeding the last; an erupting Vesuvius worthy of gracing any Olympic opening ceremony. I can say this with confidence in having two reactions to go on:
One was the big biker standing on top of the lightwell wall so he could lean across the gap and bang on Dent’s front room window, knocking on the front door having proved pointless thanks to the music’s volume (so phenomenal, he hadn’t been having much luck with the window either). While the second, his other half, stood on the last step of the stairs leading up to the front path.
If . . .
If she’d decided to carry on knocking, while he did the window, or even had just simply stood in front of the door given, after all, regardless of how successful the window banging, the door was still the way she was expecting to come in by.
Even something like he deciding to knock the door longer in the first place, so placing them both there; or someone putting Edgar on just a smidgen earlier, perhaps . . .
Timing is everything
Time was certainly on my side that night. Might not have been here to tell the tale otherwise . . .
As it was—once over the way the door opened—at least it finally had been; the other half had been starting to think they were going to be out there ‘all bleedin’ night!’
A couple of days later, I was back in Our Price with the album in my hands. At home ‘Apache Drop Out’ got a tentative play, ready to remove needle from record should stomach start to stir. True, I was drunk on both occasions, but it was still the same song that’d set the grim poetry in motion.
I can report that a) I’ve never thrown up again while listening; b) The Edgar Broughton Band became and remain one of my top bands..
Friends have more than once thought it rare/obscure Clutch being played, a resemblance (in parts) I agree with, and in reply love to point out the year of the EBB recording in question, as the go to when told it’s not is that the band playing came after.
A few years ago, I read—and could swear it was on Wikipedia—that Edgar Broughton had passed away in the 2000s, while the band, albeit not all original members, continued to gig. Then a year or so ago, Danny Baker tweeted that Edgar Broughton was on Twitter. Amazed, I followed, only to be further so when one of my fav musicians of all time followed back!
More from music:
- Bumble Bee: the Sting in the Tale of LaVern Baker!
- SÖNUS: Worlds Undreamed Of; a Space Rock Review
- The Great Rock n Roll Little White Lie
- Brigitte Bardon’t: Pink; a Review
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan
Notes on the pub:
At the time the above took place, the Schooner was part of the Berni Inn steakhouse chain (that today no longer exists), at which point it was no longer officially called the Schooner, though locals continued to use the name.
The Schooner name was itself short lived, the pub having undergone numerous name changes before arriving at William IV in 1856. It was during the 1980s that the name was changed from that to the Schooner and then became a Bernie, before the name was changed back to William IV in 1992.
The pub closed for the last time on May 15th 2003 after at least 320 years of trading on the spot; it has now been demolished and replaced with flats. More on the pub and Dick Turpin’s visiting it can be found in the Sutton & Croydon Guardian article here