(Article by Peter Rowe)
The Night Rick Buckler Tried To Set Fire To Me...
I first met The Jam at the Marquee in 1978 after phoning John Weller several times for a roadie job. I finally volunteered my services for no pay and John said I could help out at The Marquee, 100 Club and Music Machine that February. I was fairly inept at being a roadie, way out of my depth, but I struck up a good rapport with Bruce Foxton. Over the next few months I was invited to various gigs, studio sessions, a promo shoot at Pinewood Studios and socialised with Bruce out in Woking/Guildford on many occasions.
I joined The Jam’s road crew for a short UK Tour in July/August 1978 as a ‘gopher’ which got off to a bad start in Guildford - after the gig I snogged a girl (a friend of Bruce’s who I’d arranged to meet there) who had apparently just given roadie Nicky Tredwyn a blow job. Everybody thought this was hilarious! The following night in Torquay I was sharing a room with Crew Boss, Ian Harvie and, being a naïve 17 year old who had never been away from home, slipped into my M&S pyjamas and went to bed. The next day all the crew and band were aware of my unmanly night time clobber and I was the object of ridicule once more.
After the following gig in Plymouth I got wise....
Fortunately sober, I overheard a very (very) drunk Rick Buckler and Nicky plotting to set fire to my pyjamas! I went to bed early and lay under the covers, naked, face down....and waited. After a short while Rick and Nicky staggered noisily into the room while I pretended to be asleep. Then I heard, ‘Right, you pull back the covers....’ followed by the rattle of a box of matches and the smell of burning sulphur. To their great shock and cries of disgust when the covers were yanked off me the pair were confronted by my naked arse and I, pretending to be woken up, mumbled ‘What’s going on...? Fuck off!’ They ran shouting and laughing hysterically out of the room like naughty kids.
The following day the incident was laughed off but at that night’s gig, as I stood at the bar of The Village Bowl Discotheque in Bournemouth, Paul Weller purposely came up to me and said, ‘Alright?’. It was the first time he’d ever spoken to me! (He was not only genuinely shy and wary of strangers but at that time was usually off in a corner with his girlfriend Gill and a bottle of vodka). I asked him if he’d heard about the pyjama burning incident and he said he had. He then reassured me not to worry about it and bought me a pint. We chatted for a while and from that moment on we were on good terms.
The last gig was in Swindon and the show was disrupted throughout by skinheads. Towards the end serious violence broke out and the road crew jumped in to sort things out. Now, I'm by no means a fighter and back then was a 9 stone weakling but I felt I had to do my bit. I grabbed a mike stand and was ready to jump in when the guitar roadie Dave Liddle (bless him! Lovely fella) pulled me back and said the stage gear needed protecting. I held my ground until the ruck subsided. Standing alone on stage while in front of me fists and boots were flying, I questioned whether the life of a roadie was what I was cut out for.
When I returned home, after 5 days of crap (or no) food and very little sleep my family were surprised at how ill I looked so my life on the road came to an abrupt end. However, I had now become part of the inner Jam sanctum and I spent a considerable amount of time with the band up until late 1981, seeing them play over 30 times, hanging out at the studio, doing Top Of The Pops, being at video shoots and even singing backing vocals. Seriously good times!
(Article by Peter Rowe)