music
ego I first got into music courtesy of my older sister who was a softcore skinhead girl. She was 15, I was 11. We'd listen to Motown Chartbuster and Tighten Up reggae compilations on the portable mono in the kitchen.

In the early '70s Trojan reggae was at its peak, as was the skinhead thing, which was all around me in the shape of older kids in their two-tone suits, crombies, etc. It was that or be a 'greaser', or a nobody. I guess my developing taste for smarter clothes meant I'd never be satisfied with just a leather jacket and jeans, so I became a skin eventually. Skins were it. Me and my mates would hang around outside the local disco watching them as they smoked, snogged, stood around, sometimes fighting - doing all the things we longed to do as soon as we had graduated. And the music that drifted out of the hall... 'Moon River' by Greyhound, 'Young, Gifted and Black', Bob and Marcia Griffiths... 'Monkey Man', Toots and the Maytals... dream material - the soundtrack to the sexy, stylish, dangerous teenage lives we longed to lead.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, other things were coming in - the pop music of the day, like Suzy Quatro, T-Rex and Slade, whom we adopted as the number one skinhead-boy-band because, before they went 'glam”, they were just skins from Wolverhampton. And even when they hit the big time they still made boot-stomping classics like 'Get Down And Get With It'.

When I began buying records myself one of the first was Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' album, the first to freak me out (man). The first with a lyric sheet so we could sing along to cosmic lyrics which we didn't understand. I guess my artistic side was developing, and I was writing sci-fi short stories, so Bowie was perfect. Having said that, all my friends loved him too, and none of them were 'creative”, so his appeal obviously reached beyond the creatively aspirational.

Roxy Music and their first album had a major impact too, although I was oblivious to their art school connections. It was 1972 and the twin towers of Bowie and Roxy Music rose to match the mighty influence of black pop. I had no problem with embracing art-rock and reggae. Neither, it seemed, did anyone else that mattered, ie, those elders I so idolised at secondary school. They were into Roxy Music, Stevie Wonder and Toots and the Maytals - good enough for me.

Everyone seemed to be into Led Zepplin too - what an eclectic bunch we were! The greasers had their self-imposed limited listening, but to us, everything else that was good was up for grabs. The odd thing is that, as early teenagers, we were all as fanatical as each other about music. A couple of years later my friends were joining the Trojan Appreciation Society, or sending money to mail-order addresses for obscure Northern Soul 45s. Yet today those same friends have divorced themselves from modern music. They're not buying drum'n'bass - they're still basking in the 'golden era” described above. The mystery remains: why do I know who Photek is and they don't? Is it simply because I moved to London and they stayed in a Buckinghamshire village? And the reasons I moved are the reasons that explain that difference? Probably.

Whatever the reason, I took music to heart, and it's stayed there ever since those sessions in the kitchen of our council house.


Robin Tomens, editor Ego Magazine. 1995.

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