There’s this spunky little blonde who keeps checking me out in Psychology One. She turns around in the lectures and looks me full in the eye. So I introduce myself, and begin wooing her. She leads me on like crazy: she looks straight at my groin wherever we meet, at a party, at the cafeteria, in a conversation with friends, while we wait to go into lectures. She shows me places to smoke weed. One of them is called ‘the quarry’. I do everything I can to get into her pants, but somehow this never happens. She is the most expert cock-tease I have ever come across. I learn from my new friends that I am not her first victim. Undaunted, I persist. One day in my res room she promises to blow me. All I have to do is drop my pants. When I do so, she races to the door and escapes. My pants are round my ankles and I can’t catch her. Years later, after leaving varsity, I get the opportunity to finally shag her. But I discover when we are naked in bed together, that, strangely, I don’t really want to. The hype about shagging her was all in my mind; I had created a chimera and the reality is, she actually doesn’t turn me on.
As soon as I am in my new res room, I start practising my bass guitar, playing along with my fold-up suitcase turntable, often to Jimi Hendrix. Word soon spreads and I meet up with a drummer, who is a king-size asshole, but not a bad beater of the drums. We procure a lead guitarist who sings, and form a band called The Red Sails. I can’t quite remember what this was in reference to. The singer is so filthy or ‘siff’ that when his house is robbed, legend has it that the thieves took every item in the house except his sheets. We play one gig and fade into obscurity, but I have been noticed: I am recruited into Vader Jakob.
Vader Jakob is driven by a couple of cousins from Uitenhage who are into punk and gothic music and attitude, short hair and beer and socialism. These guys, though younger than me, have been at varsity longer than me, and are more clued up on the lingo of the left. The first thing they demand is that I cut off my hair and shed my sandals in favour of boots. This is, officially, the end of my hippy era. At our first ECC gig – we were called Section 27 then – the guitarist is so shy he plays with his back to the audience. After a few months of wild and discordant gigs, we get to record with Not Even the TV in East London. The first thing I do is break the E string of the bass I borrow from them. Both recordings are done over the course of a day or two. All the recordings I have ever done have been over the same length of time, due to cost restrictions. Later, we play an ECC gig in Cape Town, which is cancelled when the entire concert is banned by the apartheid authorities. We swipe part of a PA from some rastas at our Obs house, who apparently stole it from Johnny Clegg, so it’s not a complete washout of a gig; the PA serves three more bands over the next decade.
One of the Vader Jakob band members is leaving for Johannesburg. He is to take a train, and to bid him farewell, we smoke a huge dagga pipe in my digs. We leave straight afterwards, as he is running late for the train. I had been driving around Grahamstown with no brakes in my VW Passat for a couple of weeks, using the handbrake and gears to slow down, and when that failed, turning up driveways or sidestreets. This time however I am truly fucked: as we approach the station, we are on a downhill, and a farmer stops his bakkie in front of me. I drove smackbang into his arse. A massive, irate figure emerges from the cab of the bakkie and approaches us. Suddenly all the doors of my car open and the entire band makes a run for it, leaving me to face the music. I am taken to the police station, fill in statements, face the wrath of the farmer on my own. All of this while off my head from the pipe, accentuated by adrenalin. I pray the police will not inspect where I live and find drugs. They ask me why my brakes failed. I tell them they failed just before I hit the bakkie. The look in my bonnet and laugh at me. There is absolutely no trace of brake fluid anywhere. But in the end, all is well: I phone my father, who pays for the damages to the vehicles. It pays to be a spoilt, kept brat, especially when you run into shit.
I’m driving back to Somerset West for a holiday from Rhodes with an acquaintance. We left late and it is getting dark when we are only halfway, at Plettenberg Bay; we decide to sleep over somewhere. Quite by chance, we run into the girlfriend of a old mate of mine whom I was at school with, and got bust shoplifting with. She invites us to sleep over; we are broke, and delighted at the prospect. Her friends come over. One of them is wearing tiny running shorts, and his massive schlong is almost hanging out of it. My travelling partner appears intrigued, and disappears with the lad. I end up shagging my friend’s woman. The next day I ask my passenger if he is gay, and he replies, ‘of course, didn’t you know?’ I am unaccustomed to people being out about being gay, and we have a lively discussion about it. While on holiday at home, my penis starts burning. Turns out I caught the clap from the Plett girlfriend. My father takes me to the doctor. They have a good haw-haw about it, tell me I am a ‘man of the world’ now. Years later my old schoolmate confronts me about my indiscretion, and he, too, has a good laugh when I tell him what I picked up from his ex ..serves me right, he says ..
I am taking part in a demonstration on campus. The police line up opposite the students, tapping their sjamboks against their legs in anticipation. Most of the students are white, so we won’t get shot, but they do have dogs sometimes, and they love whipping us. The warnings to disperse is ignored .. the signal is sounded … and the cops charge at us! I have a camera and I’m determined to get shots for Rhodeo, the campus paper. A cop corners a young black female student by the Journ department, and starts sjambokking her mercilessly. I shoot shot after shot, and then leg it for the newspaper’s darkroom. But I am in such a rush, and so excited, that I open the camera and expose the film before I turn the light off. My film is ruined… I manage to half-rescue one shot from the whole lot .. A few months later, as I am driving through town, I see smoke rising over the buildings and race toward it, anticipating a protest or a bomb. These are the times I am living in: PW Botha has declared a state of emergency. But it’s just a steam train pulling in to the station. Soon after, I abandon my ambitions of being a news photographer. I don’t like the feeling of looking through a lens, when just off to the side of me, there could be a cop racing towards me, and I wouldn’t even see him.
A group of us go down to the sea and drop acid on the beach. It’s dark and a cold wind springs up, and there ain’t much to do. One of the group puts his head down on the sand, in a muslim prayer position, and another starts throwing sand onto it. We watch in silent, morbid fascination as the sand piles higher, eventually almost burying the prostrate figure. Then we get paranoid about him suffocating, and dig him out. We leave the beach, freaked out, and head back to Grahamstown. On the way back we are stopped by police, who search the car for drugs. One of them finds a “head” of weed on the floor of the car. Our hearts miss a collective beat. He shows it to his colleagues, then tosses it over his shoulder. Light-headed with relief, we descend on a motel and demolish their bar snacks, after buying one drink for the entire group…
I take speed and spend almost an entire evening trying to convince a female friend of the benefits of being a communist. She seems quite taken by my diatribe. Then I drink a bottle of cough mixture to ‘come down’. As I walk home in the early hours of the morning, suddenly my energy runs out. This happens as I am crossing a road. I am frozen to the white line in the centre of the tarmac. I find myself praying that a car will not pass while I am immobile. After some time, I am able to move again and make it home okay…another time, I remember having a huge pipe at ‘Brickies’ after getting drunk, and then, as we drive up to ‘The Mot’ I am puking from the open door, while the car keeps driving ..
I am so desperate to obtain good results, to keep from doing army camps, that, after studying frantically, I get the time of my exams wrong. Beside myself, I beg my lecturer to allow me to write the exam. As I haven’t spoken to those who wrote it, he allows me to. I pass with sufficient marks to get into post-graduate studies.
My friend and I are at a party, which is on the second-floor of an old building of one of Grahamstown’s main streets. The host has been walking around handing out shots which contain ethanol – pure alcohol. The cops pull up in an armoured car beneath the windows. Drunk as skunks, we lean out of the window and hurl insults at the policemen, spitting into the open top of their vehicle. Furious, they threaten to fuck us up, but just then they get a call and speed off. My friend, who is blond, and I leave the party. We hear later the police came back, looking for a “short little bliksem” and his blond friend, and handed out ‘klaps’ freely.
The band needs sound-proofing for its rehearsal room, a house on New Street which is painted almost entirely black. One of our band members digs a hole under his room and lives in it, until it fills up with water. The plan for fund-raising it to open a stall at a market on campus. We collect all our old hippie stuff, our Roger Dean posters, our Joplin albums; we are ditching the sixties and seventies. We sell them at the stall under the roughly painted banner ‘horrible rockist junk stall’. One of our best-selling items is our lucky packets, which we fill up with anything we can find: condoms, nails, buttons, bottle-tops, stompies. Most of the clients which buy them are moms, who give the lucky packets to their kids. We actually raise enough cash to seal off our music from the outside world.
I am accosted by a beautiful woman as I leave a jol and head home. She runs up and pinches my bum. I offer to take her home for a joint, and she agrees. We have the best sex I have ever had. I am totally struck by this wild force of nature woman, I want to see her all the time, but all she wanted was a good shag, and she laughs me off. I realise that it’s not only men that use women for sex. It goes both ways. But we do have several one-night stands after that …and I forgive her with all my heart ..
The band opens a venue called ‘Club Foot’ about 5km out of town, on the road to PE. It’s in an outhouse of a motel, owned by an Indian whom we dub as ‘Fat Chance’. We see his whole family as chancers – imagine thinking that they could earn money from this venue, from us? So the entire extended family get nicknames on the chance theme – his son, who works directly with us, is called ‘No Chance’, his smaller brother ‘Small Chance’. The first thing we do before opening the venue is to paint a huge Club Foot poster over a Sputnik picture that Fat Chance commissioned for the club. The Sputnik was painted with UV paint to show up under the disco lights and cost him a small fortune. ‘My Sputnik! My Sputnik!’ he wails upon discovering its disappearance. We have a few gigs and a few fights at this venue, but as we suspected from the start, there was almost no chance of us making money for ourselves or Fat Chance.