a file called "bio", written between 13.3.92 and 20.3.92.
That's the wrong abbreviation, of course, it should be called "autobio",
short for autobiography, which is what this file is trying to be.
I think there's more of a case for the obscure to write their autobiography
than the famous. After all, if you're famous, all the facts are known
already. "Then I tried to get the country to accept a poll tax",
that sort of thing. Babes in arms are aware of what a balls-up that
was, we don't need Thatcher or her ghost writer to tell us.
So why not, the autobiography of a nobody? After all, I've now been
keeping a diary for over three years, no-one's likely to read that,
but I tap it into one of my pocket computers day after day.
An autobiography could be more worthwhile.
Born in Willesden, London, September 24th. When I saw the film "Ten,
Rillington Place" a few years ago I was truly horrified. This
was /home/. Where I started, with people wearing the sort of clothes
they wore when I was a baby. The films of that time with Montgomery
Clift or Laurence Olivier don't seem to have ever hit me in the same
way. Everybody talks in that animated way, everywhere is too clean,
||Born a second child.
My sister Margaret was three when I arrived. My parents had met when
my father was in hospital and my mother was a nurse. The same relationship
has dogged them all their lives, the sick man and the patient Christian
woman looking after him, forgiving him every stupidity on the grounds
that he is not a whole person. They were both good-looking people
and both on the lookout for someone who could provide the necessary.
My mother's case was more obvious, she was looking for a man to provide
her with a
life. That was par for the course in those days, thankfully nowadays
things have changed a lot. My father had come down from Sunderland
with the usual idea that people from outside London had, that the
streets were paved with gold, and having met my mother and got a hazy
impression of her family he undoubtedly thought that this was the
point at which Ted Close's feet disappeared beneath the kitchen table
never to emerge again. I don't suppose for one moment he listened
to the truth about the Lamb's family finances, he has never listened
to anyone. Not that the family had a cash problem, but they weren't
the goldmine that he thought.
I don't have much time for my father, you're probably thinking. No.
The truth is that after all this time I am angrier than ever about
the way he treated all of us. I have to say that I probably got off
the lightest, but it is only now, through writing this, that I realize
how much I have missed. The times in the music business when I've
lacked confidence because my father had told me often enough I was
no good, that it was pointless. Or my mother told me I was just dreaming,
that I'd do better if I became an accountant. No encouragement means
little success, unless you break away and do it all by yourself. So
at the age of 44 you find yourself in the same position as men of
20 who have been told by their parents to go out and win!
Ach, I've been over this a thousand times in my diaries, a million
times in my thoughts, why go over it again? You are waiting, wound
up to fever-pitch with anticipation, to hear the saga of How The Close
Came To Be. And who would blame your naive enthusiasm? And who would
blame your disappointment at finding that in the very first chapter
the demented writer was falling into the trap of a diatribe against
his poor, beleaguered father, (get on with it).
My parents. No, best to introduce people as they come in to the story,
tell you about them, then you have some idea of who I'm talking about
Parents desperate to move out of London, went to live in an old forces
camp in Dorchester near Oxford, lived in a Nissen hut for a year or
The local school was on the army site as well. There was an air of
dereliction about the area generally, lots of strange buildings meant
to simulate the kind of on-the-ground situations that soldiers could
maybe expect to find in warfare. There was one huge wall with a kind
of platform in front of it, we used to climb up and jump down off
it quite merrily. The disused buildings were full of rubbish, nothing
too unwholesome, maybe the odd beer bottle, this was before the Age
of Disposability, now you wouldn't be able to see the buildings for
Coke cans and sweet wrappers. I got involved in a couple of fracases
along the way, one where I burnt an Indian headdress that I been bought.
God knows why I did it, I remember looking at this charred object
and thinking "I've burnt my headdress". I wanted another,
but I didn't get it. Toys were scarce in those days and children didn't
go round burning Indian headdresses just for the hell of it. Perhaps
it was an early outbreak of personal nihilism.
Another silly incident involved a candle. I started eating it at school
dinner one day. The teacher on duty went completely gaga and sent
me to the headmaster. Needless to say I went equally apeshit and went
home. Later on the whole thing was patched up between my mother and
the school. I promised never to eat candles at school meal time again.
The rest of the time I could answer my dietary cravings as I wished.
It was too late, the moment for candles had passed, I was to never
eat a single candle in my entire life ever again.
Parents moved into a caravan in Garsington near Oxford. The caravan
site had become a red-brick housing area last time I was there.
||The caravan was much
too small. Lesley hadn't arrived yet, but it was crowded anyway. My
father was away on the road a lot of the time, thank God. To reach
the main road up to the village one had to walk up a dirt track, to
go down to the rest of the village you had to pick your way down an
overgrown muddy alley that ran with water in the spring. Almost opposite
the end of this alley was a wood where you could pick hazelnuts. At
the age of five I'd have maybe been a bit young for this activity,
but gangs of us used to stuff ourselves with nuts in the right season
in later years.
Parents moved into "Briarlea", a semi-detached on the road
to Oxford in Garsington. This house had a huge garden, at least half
a mile long, attached to it. At one stage we had both my maternal
grandparents living in separate caravans in the garden. My maternal
grandmother was a strict Victorian type, very straight-laced, while
my grandfather was an eccentric who had worked in a large hospital
in Liverpool for years raising money.
Potato picking. I must have done a few days potato-picking on a farm
on the way into Oxford. Us children got ten shillings a day. We nabbed
a few for ourselves at the end of picking, or were sold them cheap,
I can't remember. It was hard work for any amount of money.
Sometimes I have the horrors that I will end my life as a drudge for
the farms in Lincolnshire, doing potato-picking. Even in these so-called
enlightened times people still work long hours for gangers doing vegetable
picking for damn small amounts of money. What I hate about those who
enjoy the hard work of others is the way they go on about the necessity
and the sanctity of labour, so long as they don't have to do any.
I don't believe in hard work, I believe in ingenuity. Hard work is
making light bulbs that wear out. Ingenuity is making everlasting
light bulbs. But that spoils profits, kills off jobs - jobs in which
people can work hard making obsolescence-based light bulbs. And so
on, round and round.
moved to Twyford, Buckinghamshire, because the mortgage on the house
in Garsington was too high. "Sunnyside" in Twyford had no
indoor loo. I used to dig holes in the garden to bury our shit.
Started going to the Latin School in Buckingham, but was on good terms
with the village lads, Edward (Eddud) Beckett, Mervin "Rolls"
Ostracized by the village gang because, simply, I was at the snobby
Latin School and they were at the Secondary Modern. It was an act
of inverted snobbery on their part to throw me out, and it was done
Started attending the Latin School as a boarder. The boarding school,
a new venture for the school, started, and I joined.
Left the boarding school because of a row with the headmaster over
whether I should be seeing Catherine B***** or not. Catherine was
a pale redhead and I didn't like being told by the headmaster that
I couldn't go and see her at the weekends, or whenever. Mr B*****
felt that Catherine would concentrate better on her studies if she
didn't have Close around her all the time. As so often in my life,
it was the woman who was doing all the chasing, all the arrangements,
but Close was allowed or made to feel that it was his doing!
I left the boarding house, packed up seeing Catherine B*****, she
didn't do well in her exams anyway.
Some years afterwards I read in a copy of the Buckingham
Advertiser that she was going to be on the Eurovision Song Contest,
as a judge. Must have been about mid-70s or so. Anyway, I watched
it for once. She kept acting as though she was really offended to
be asked her opinion on anything. The account in the paper of how
she got the job was interesting. She'd been working as a hotel help
in Stratford-upon-Avon when "a man" told her she could
be in the ESC. Hur hur, they're so helpful, these men, aren't they?
Left school. I had spent the best part of three years in the sixth
form and I had no A Levels to show for it. I was going to training
college in the autumn, but god alone knew why. I was simply drifting
with the tide. It may have been the summer of love for some people,
I was lost. Maybe that was what hippiedom was all about, and I was
right in tune, man.
Worked at a gas plant in Bicester for a couple of months.
Worked at the Taylor Institute in Oxford for a couple
of months. Slightly more pleasant atmosphere than the gas plant.
In the autumn went to Trent Park Training College in Cockfosters,
it is now called the North London Polytechnic. Lodged with a Mrs
Widgery in Potters Bar, who fed me enormous breakfasts, usually
fried and consisting of at least four elements chosen from sausage,
bacon, egg, fried bread, tomatoes, mushrooms, bubble and squeak,
what have you.
Late in the year I left the college and wound up living at home and
working for Richardson's Paints, who were merging with Cementone.
Cementone were going to be housed in the old dairy at the top of Chandos
Road (by the now-derelict railway station) and we were kept busy knocking
down an old fridge (lots of cork filling, lots of dust) and painting
walls and windows. It was generally reckoned that I got more paint
on my overalls than anywhere else, and that sometimes when I'd done
a window you could still see out of it.
Living in Avonmore Road in Hammersmith. Worked at Ministry of Social
Security in Hammersmith, not far from the Palais. The place was full
of bigotry, snobbery, people cracking up, and that was just our side
of the counter. The other side there were always fights, sometimes
claimants hitting staff, sometimes claimants fighting each other,
always loads of rows, it was awful. After three months of chasing
folders in cabinets or on people's desks and stuffing them with incoming
letters I thought I was going mad. I had to go round all day long
with a list of case numbers relating to the sheaf of letters that
had come in, if I found a folder I put the letter in it. At night
I would see numbers marching in front of me as I tried to sleep. I
went to see the boss and told him I couldn't do the job anymore, and
Met Irving B***** in a folk club near my house, moved into the flat
he shared with Tony D***** and Grant L*****. This was in Castletown
Road in West Kensington, number 51. The house was shared by someone
we never saw on the ground floor, then a friend of the lads, Clive,
a letting agent who had an office further down the road and wore suits.
Then a taxi-driver and then us on the top floor. We must have given
the taxi-driver's ulcer a real pounding at times, we were /not/ Trappist
I lived in the hallway. It wasn't a corridor hallway, more an open
space, a large vestibule. My area was a bed, nothing more or less.
I didn't mind the comings and goings, I would carry on with my book
or my strumming. I had a rather tacky continental guitar then, made
in Holland or somewhere, it was pretty cheap in every way, I believe
Lesley still has it, she plays it from time to time.
I think the idea was that I was there on sufferance because Irving's
songs were so obviously brilliant that he would be famous soon and
then we would have separate flats dotted all over Kensington proper.
That didn't quite work out, but don't think I got on anyone's nerves
that badly. Grant didn't like it that much to begin with but then
he went into a hippy phase (lasted all of one weekend and consisted
of wearing a knitted bolero to the shops) and that was, well, cool,
man, dig it. Tony was pretty laidback about it, but then he was about
everything, and it was Irving's idea so he couldn't complain. But
Apart from the hall there were five other rooms, three bedrooms, kitchen
Left the Ministry, worked in a second-hand shop run by a Malayan called
Tony. Got ten shillings a day, plus all I could fiddle. Tony employed
a driver called Terry who lived in Fulham, and Tel and I used to work
loads of fiddles. The nicest one was when we were clearing out a basement
that Tony had filled with goodies some time past, and I found a large
oval framed print of a shepherdess and her flock, it was wonderfully
sentimental and Victorian. I put it up above my bed, and wish I still
had it, but I left it behind when I moved. The pictures of yesteryear,
where do they hang today? It was probably worth a bit as well, know
what I mean?
I bought an alto sax from another junk shop, not Tony's, further up
the North End Road.
We used to get through a fair amount of dope of one sort or another.
Most of it was very good stuff. At one stage we were getting Lebanese
Red that was cut with opium, you could get the most wonderful ideas
on that. Delusions of grandeur for the poor man who can't normally
think himself into the emperor's clothes, or something. Of course
the shits of thought came too fast and were too uncoordinated to be
truly creative, but it seemed nice at the time. Together we would
share our dope and roll joints. I wasn't into joints that much because
of the nicotine, it always got me excited, my spirit has always needed
calming. The nicest way to smoke it was in a hookah. Tony brought
one back from a holiday in Italy and also brought a bottle of Martini
to cool the smoke. That was, and I use the term suitably for once,
far out. We sat round on cushions one night in the summer and Tony
told us about his holiday and we played some records, Love, Steppenwolf,
Spooky Tooth and so on, and smoked hashish through that hubble-bubble
and life was a gas. But usually I preferred to eat the stuff. I've
always been a solitary drug addict as my father was and his father
before I expect.
At one stage I had bought five quid's worth of the
best I knew about, Red Leb with opium, and by dint of careful management
I stayed stoned day and night on that stash for a month. I was working
in the junk shop then and some days it was hard to get things done.
Everyone else was so animated and I was so relaxed
waking up and finding myself talking to a customer about their furniture,
or I'd find myself riding in the van with Terry.
One day a group of New York Jewish girls came into
the shop. I didn't work that out at once, they were just hippies.
I must have thrown in the right phrase at the right time because
they invited me to take acid (LSD) with them. That sounded OK to
me. I was probably ripped at the time. So I wound up one night at
a flat in the street at ninety degrees to Avonmore Road. It was
pretty grubby, I say that even though most of the places I've lived
have been pretty grubby, if not when I arrived than certainly later.
It was a commune, meaning everyone tried not to care about who did
the washing up and the garbage, but they all cared, though not enough
to do anything about it. The Jewish girls were all on the run from
their upbringing, but they worried like crazy over money and the
possibility of being ripped off. I can't blame them for being worried
about money, they didn't work and they liked it that way, I'd have
liked it that way. As for being on the run, all my life I've dreamt
of going to Mexico. I'd like to have lived in the Mexico City that
Malcolm Lowry knew, not for the vast amounts of tequila he drank
but because the feel of the place was generally lazy and slightly
There were a couple of men around too, on this Saturday night. I
don't think they lived there, it would have driven them nuts. I
remember their names, Bob and Enrico. Bob was an English hippy,
like me, he wore glasses and loads of black fuzzy hair, was a bit
pale. Enrico was Mediterranean, don't ask me to be any more specific
than that. They had taken acid before.
In the winter I enjoyed a period of spiritual enlightenment, partly
through strict vegetarianism and partly through a wonderful book called
"Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics" by Prof.
Through the good offices of a tutor called Holmes I wangled my way
back into the same college again. God, they must have been desperate
for teachers in those days, aren't they always?
This meant that during the summer I was back in Twyford again. I have
vague memories of working on some job at the Secondary school.
||One day when I was outside,
it must have been a painting job, Jonathan (Jonty) Ward and Wally
Rothe came to see me. They constituted two-thirds of a rock group
called Splinter. The other guy, the bass player, had recently drowned
whilst swimming in the sea. Would I like to join or would I prefer
to enjoy the same fate? I joined. We did several gigs including a
couple of lively nights at Brackley Town Hall. In honour of Curved
| we did
one of their songs, "Hide and Seek"; "Running through
the town I call your name But no-one hea-e-a-e-ars
We also did Rory Gallagher's "If I Can't Sing
I'll Cry" and a couple of my own songs, written for the sort
of approach we were taking (i.e. rock music)
Lodged with a couple in Enfield whose kitchen always smelled of
bleach. The smell seemed to get into everything, most of all the
food, which was bloody awful. I tried convincing them I was vegetarian
but no joy.
Around about Christmas I began the usual project in order to blot
out the awfulness of the festivities. In previous years it had been
poetry or making collages, this time it was the culmination of years
of trying to write songs and I wrote about twenty songs in the Christmas
At this time I also met Pete Grove and John Redshaw. They both lived
in Buckingham and had been friends for some time. Lately they had
taken up songwriting, working separately but bouncing ideas off
So all three of us began swopping ideas and rehearsing songs together.
John Redshaw was the first to give up, sometime in the following
year his other commitments took him away from any real interest
in doing gigs, taking music "seriously" (always a fatal
step). He showed touches of lyricism, of poetry in his songs. Here's
one of his;
SOFTLY THE DARKNESS FALLS
- John Redshaw 1970
"Softly the darkness falls,
dipping the evening sky.
Will we welcome Mister Sunshine
When the clouds roll by?
Will you be here with me
Feeling you hold me tight,
Will you still be here to thrill me
or gone and on your way?
Something tells me you will still be
Here at break of day
My emotions become devotions
And everything's alright."
(This quotation is incorrect)
The opening is lovely, and the tune is strong.
[John's autobiography continues in middle