More teenage memories of my days in the RAF from my biography 'Do or Do Not'.
1971 only had 8 weeks to go as I settled in and I was to experience my first Christmas away from home, which really hurt, but I must admit the mess did a good job on Christmas dinner, which must have been bittersweet for them as they no doubt wanted to be home too. As 1972 came in I discovered the RAF St. Mawgan radio station that was piped into every billet and selectable on a speaker above the door in every room. I didn’t have much of a private life so I decided to check it out and was doing regular radio shows pretty soon. The station controller was a guy called Keith Oliver who had a strong love of American radio stations and used to get as many radio jingles as he could from them. I had a ball as musically there was so much good stuff coming out and we used to get a lot of the latest music provided into the radio library. My musical tastes have always been a huge mixture from Classical through Soul through pop to hard rock, and this year saw some of the best music around. Argent, The Sweet, The Detroit Spinners, Carole King, The Strawbs, T Rex, Electric Light Orchestra, The O’Jays, The Osmonds, The Jackson Five, Alice Cooper, the list just goes on, and even to this day the music of the time brings back totally sharp memories of every event. I can still see the layout of the radio station with its antequated turntables and slipmats, old fashioned mixer and typical RAF Microphone and headphones, but I loved it. I even opted to do the breakfast show one day at 6am, and thought “If they wanted to be woken up this should do it” and promptly opened with ‘Schools Out’ by Alice Cooper. People left the radio switched on if they wanted it to be used as an alarm so I guess a few people got a rude awakening that day.
Several memories come to mind about 1972, the first being that it was a damnably hot Summer. I had met my girlfriend Shirley (destined to be my first wife in 1975), and I was fascinated that she was a drummer in an oldies band playing in a bar at a little town called Penryn. I remember hitchhiking to see her play one day, and she was really good, but a bit embarrassed that I had turned up. After the gig she drove me home (she was 9 years older than me as it happens) and that was pretty much what started the relationship.
Another memory was the fact that I made a huge blunder which I won’t go into details about, but I ended up spending a month at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester, and that was hard. I shared a billet with some really tough guys from all of the services, some really bad eggs as well, and the doctor was determined to slim me down so he gave me a hard diet and wrapped me in black plastic for every exercise session. Yes I lost weight in great amounts but when I got back to camp I slightly binged again and put some back on. Also we were limited to one cigarette in the morning and one at evening meal so I started smoking heavier when I got back to compensate. I didn’t have any bills to pay but was receiving a pittance of a wage which did improve when I turned 18, but I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do like buy a guitar and an amplifier, as there were a few of us who wanted to form a band and just didn’t have the capability to do it. Also we worked different shifts so all of us being available to do a gig was pretty undoubtful, but that didn’t stop us at all. T Rex’s album ‘Electric Warrior’ had been released and the image of the Marshall Stack was in everybody’s eyes. You weren’t a real guitarist if you didn’t have one of those, and courtesy of “Who’s Next’ by the Who, everybody suddenly upped their playing skills to match “Won’t get fooled again” a magnificent piece of music and some of Pete Townshends best playing. I did join a group called ‘Midas Mint’ and we started playing gigs around the North Cornwall area, my favourite being in a club in Newquay called ‘The Coconut Grove’. That was one of the favourite off camp venues, and two weeks after we played there, ‘The Sweet’ hit the stage as their single ‘Wig Wam Bam’ was released, and it was one of the best gigs I’d ever seen. For only 4 of them on stage the sound was amazing and it certainly convinced me about Glam Rock, ignoring everybody saying that Marc Bolan gave birth to the legend that it became, to me it was The Sweet and Gary Glitter who personified it in my eyes. Despite what would later happen in Gary’s life, I was a hooked fan of him and later the Glitter Band, who were always amazing when I saw them live.