Updated: Nov 25, 2018
Memory is an elusive thing. It's like looking through a giant soap bubble, the view sheened with iridescent colours and distorted or wobbling. Because my life was so difficult, and a mass of compartmentalised secrets and hidden stories I either couldn't speak about myself or was instructed on pain of banishment never to mention, I sometimes find myself looking for witnesses, or asking people what normal is, because I honestly don't know.
Like many children from abusive or neglectful homes, this inability to tell if something is OK or normal, springs from the strict injunction never to disclose what's going on in the family. The burden of guilt and sense of being a troublemaker is strapped to us from an early age. For example, my mother once dislocated my neck when I was about 11 whilst brushing my long, thick hair in a temper. I'd rather have brushed it myself but she decided I was useless and went at it like a fury. Suddenly there was a click and I was in agony. Furious, she gave me aspirin and valium and took me to the GP the following morning. The GP was besotted with her so there was no question I'd foolishly done this to myself as I was so big and clumsy. He laid me on a couch and pulled my neck back into place, no warning, while flirting with Ma. He then wrapped my neck in a crepe bandage and I fainted dead. Again, stupid, clumsy, hysterical me. I have arthritis in my neck now. The cricking sound it makes reminds me of that night of pain and drugged up anxiety.
After a while, reality warped in the face of denial. I began to wonder if it had been my mother brushing my hair. Had I in fact done it myself? I dare not mention the incident to my mother, she became furious if you 'brought stuff up'. At any rate, I knew I was to blame and that was enough.
The same sense of always being to blame somehow pervaded my life. It made having the much coveted 'easy going' attitude so prized by X and the band almost impossible, especially since they attributed blame to me over just about anything that went wrong from the off. I may as well have walked about with an albatross hung round my neck. I might indeed have contributed massively to their careers, but I had a vagina. That meant everything I did was invisible, ignored and denigrated, because as a promoter once told me charmingly, cunts don't count. It's quite hard to be bright and breezy if you know you're going to be received with covert eye rolling and barely concealed heavy sighs. Perhaps I should have got myself up in more appealing outfits, pouted at the band and cried prettily when criticised, who knows, but then I've always been averse to being a suck up. More of a spit at, really.
X on the other hand, never doubted for a drop second that everyone would always be pleased to see him. That they'd love to have him stay for as long as he liked and that they'd be sorry to see him go. As a mutual friend once said, he just sits down anywhere because he knows someone will rush and put a chair under him. I admired this attitude tremendously, it seemed to me absolutely marvellous and for me, absolutely unattainable.
Especially in the music industry where I laboured under the twin disabilities of being a woman and not an attractive, available, conventional looking woman. Or in catering. The 'catering girls', professional hired cooks who travelled with the band in their heyday were always welcome, who doesn't love someone who makes you an egg sandwich on demand and produces delicious full dinners for twenty people in the back of a shitty venue?
People didn't realise how much I admired and respected X, as well as loved him. I thought him a genuine wonder. I longed to be like him and his standards were the ones I aspired to. Be easy going. Never admit to or complain about physical illness or pain. Work hard and don't want nice things so you don't mind being poor. Your physical body is an irrelevance. Never talk about personal problems such as sex, depression or anxiety. Never expect the men to do what you won't. Endure. The full panoply of a classic English public school education designed to produce men who built empires in far flung places, men who upper lips were made of solid steel.
To be fair, I'd been brought up with a lot of those edicts myself. My Dada was disgusted by hysterics who washed their dirty linen in public. I can't imagine how he'd have reacted to Facebook divorces. I was able to work hard and tirelessly, and bear a great deal of illness and pain, such as the terrible period pains I had, without complaint - but a great deal of ibruprophen - whilst doing it. I have toured with bronchitis and tattooed with broken fingers. It's the mark of a decent human being not to whine unless someone's cutting your leg off with a butter knife. On a battlefield. Then you can have a moan. Humour helps and despite his dour public image, X was very humorous and self deprecating to a fault. You have to love a man who makes you smile, it's impossible not to. Especially if he's beautiful, clever, extremely talented and finds your jokes funny too.
I have always found X beautiful. People scoff, especially English guys who get all squirmy about other men's looks. The NME and the music Press in general went to great lengths to portray the band as 'the ugliest' because the intensity of the work frightened them and that, plus rubbishing the band and the fans, was how they tried to get control over something they could never dominate. But in fact nothing could be further from the truth. X's bone structure and colouring were, from an artist's point of view, rather than a poptastic one, exquisite. I had no difficulty admiring him. The other band members, even the big drummer, were either good looking or actually handsome. In later years some were a bit, shall we say, homely, but hey. Every rock star has the golden patina of glamour to make up for what they may lack in prettiness. I should know, with my massive conk, fat arse, wierd elbows and wonky legs - I was still a pin-up to some. That old black magic of showbiz.
Back in 166, looks, of course, are purely superficial, as we told ourselves whilst we burnt toast and drank tea on tenterhooks waiting to see what had transpired between Ed and The Drippy Mohican. He didn't look promising from the glimpse we got, but he might have a dynamic and charismatic personality. And a big dick, because there was nothing else attractive on show, insisted Malc, who poo-poo'd the very idea any half decent boy would want to engage in sexual congress with the human rubber bullet that was Ed. I defended Ed rigourously. He never lacked for a girlfriend, he was obviously charming ans very funny when he wanted to be. Malc curled his glossed lip. Women! Not picky. Looook - he drawled in his flat, Lancashire accent, looook at what they put oop with! I wouldn't spare spit on some of the types they drool ohver. Duh. Oh cheers, hotstuff, I replied and ducked as flicked a tea soaked digestive crumb at me.
The hours passed in gossip and planning clothes, to the ubiquitous sound of an unplugged in electric guitar bring dummied as X picked out musical ideas. Finally, Ed appeared, spic and span as ever, a fierce glint in his eye. He busied himself with his brunch and we all sat as prim as maiden aunts, avoiding each other's gaze. Finally, Malc gathered his Westwoodian draperies around his beanpole frame.
Ey opp, you. Did you cob off with him then? He enquired mildly of Ed, who carefully put his mug down and regarded the lanky crimped, backcombed, eyelinered, lugubrious, lantern jawed Goth in front of him. We waited agog.
For your information, you disgusting shower, Ed began, in his best disdainful tones, I did not shag said individual. I have decided I am not Gay. We all erupted but Ed held up his hand. What is worse, he said, is that he bored the fucking pants off me, in a metaphorical sense, I hasten to fucking add. Here I am, giving him a roof over his verminous head, buying him drinks, feeding him and what do I get, eh? His fucking life story in fucking detail, for fucking hours. I have never been so bored. It was like being trapped in Purgatory with Crass on repeat for all fucking eternity. He's up there, asleep, worn out, poor fucking lamb. I am going out. He's all yours.
And finishing his tea, he strode out like a Pound Shop Heathcliffe brooding over the loss of his dream Cathy/Charlie.
Naturally because we were callous young people we fell about laughing at Ed's failed attempt to be a Bohemian Writer. However, the problem remained of the Mohican in Ed's room. It was getting on for dinner time and no sign. Malc, with typical cheerfulness essayed he might be dead. I wondered if he was mortified at waking up alone in a totally strange house full of people he didn't know, or scared even. We were about to go up en masse and check when the Mohican appeared.
Deathly pale, snub nosed and thin, he looked like one of those big-eyed orphan paintings, only filthy dirty with the ubiquitous scraggly mohican. He just stood in the doorway silently. I offered him some tea and he just nodded. He never spoke much as we cake to find out. Not to us at least though he could have been a veritable Chatty Cathy to others for all I know. The soap bubble of the past has obscured how it was he moved into the left hand attic room, but somehow, to Ed's disgust, he did. With his Doors records, the bloody fleas and terminal teen angst. And his life story. We all got his life story. Repeatedly, and in increasingly varied and evolving detail.
And it's his life story, not mine to tell. It was, as they say now, a difficult and challenging upbringing by all accounts that saw Liam and his brother abandoned in the UK. Liam sought comfort following bands around as was the fashion then, particularly Poison Girls who's lead singer was kind to him, mothered him. That must have meant a lot to him. By the time he arrived at 166 he was exhausted, hungry, depressed and homeless. I could no more have turned him out than a stray kitten. Having been brought up to be useful to others, he pressed the Save The Lame Duck button that was so brightly on display on my sleeve.
That's not always a good thing, as I found out to my cost.