I was browsing the internet the other day, pretending to do some ‘research’ for something I was writing, when I came across an amazing account on X called NME 80’s. It might sound like a site for the collectors of personal number plates but in fact it celebrates the music paper the New Musical Express by reprinting articles from the 1980’s; I glanced at the pages and, to my surprise and delight, I was in the live review pages!

It was a review by me of a gig by Electropop pioneers Soft Cell at the (fairly) glamorous Retford Porterhouse Club in the very early 1980’s. As I read the review I was transported back to the front room of the house we lived in down Low Valley when we were first married and an image of me with dark hair and beard hunched over a clacking typewriter (rather than being hunched over a laptop as I am now with my white hair and my clean-shaven chin) desperately typing my piece against a looming deadline. I’m writing this column against a deadline, of course, but these days when I’ve finished writing and rewriting I email the column and it flies through cyberspace and somehow through a process of magic that I don’t quite understand ends up on your pages.

In those far-off days of writing for the NME the sending the piece to the editor wasn’t as simple as it is these days because, and I know this will come as a shock to my younger readers, there was no such thing as the internet in those black-and-white silent movie times. I’d have to write and rewrite the piece and the rewriting would involve using a thing called Tippex which essentially meant that you painted over the words you wanted to alter with a kind of miniature Artex and then wrote the words you actually needed on top.

I would then fold the article up and put it in a strong envelope and write the address in my neatest writing. I’d then go outside and wait for a bus to Wombwell. I’d then catch a bus to Barnsley and walk quickly to the railway station where I’d go to the Red Star Parcel office and arrange for the strong envelope to be sent on a train by to London St. Pancras station where a motorbike would meet the strong envelope (the NME having told me what train the parcel needed to be on) and take it the NME offices and then, again by a process of magic, the piece would appear in the following week’s paper.

I used to get a small fee for the pieces I wrote for the NME which was almost all taken up by the cost of sending the envelope with the piece in down to That London on the train, because the NME didn’t pay for Red Star. Still, the excitement of being in NME made of for the poverty. More or less.

I noticed that most of the reviews in the paper were for bands in London, of course, because nothing never changes, and that meant that the London journalists could just wonder to the office and drop their pieces off, thus keeping much more of the fee than I could. I was determined, however, to send in reviews from the north and many of them did get printed.

One that didn’t, mind you, was by a band I saw in the long-demolished George Hotel in Low Valley that was on the corner of Pitt Street near The Drop and The Sportsman, a trio of oases there to slake the thirsts of the pitmen coming off a shift at Darfield Main. Sadly I can’t recall the name of the band but I saw them in a back room at the George one Friday night; it appeared to be a totally unadvertised gig and I may indeed have stumbled upon a rehearsal, as there were only a very few people there, many of whom seemed to be relatives of the band.

They played like a kind of Barnsley version of seminal New York punk band The Ramones, loud and fast and rhythmic and I remembered I’d read that in the early days of The Ramones they played to tiny audiences in clubs in the Lower East Side. I wrote the review, comparing the band to T’Ramones and comparing the Lower East Side to Thurnscoe East. I was proud of the piece and posted it first class because I couldn’t afford to Red Star it. I never saw it in the hallowed pages, though.

In Text Promo Image

Must have got spiked for something at the Albert Hall!