Category Archives: Punk

The final months of punk rocker Paul Fox of The Ruts: he never surrendered

The Ruts on the inside cover of their CD The Crack

The Ruts on the inside cover of their CD The Crack

(This was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

My chum Lou is an interesting man: he makes knuckledusters and knows interesting people. Last night, he was talking to me about Paul Fox.

Paul Fox was lead guitarist in the British punk rock band The Ruts. He died of lung cancer in October 2007.

So it goes.

“I used to bump into Paul every now and then at what’s now the Coy Carp in Harefield,” Lou told me last night. “On a Sunday, they used to have a few live bands down there. Paul was inspirational, absolutely amazing, a really sound guy. What a man! Never heard him slag anyone off. When I heard he’d got cancer, I told him: I’m your driver, I’ll look after you.

“One day he was in so much pain and I was getting pain tablets at the time but I didn’t need them any more… He was not getting enough pain killers from the hospital because I think a doctor there knew he’d had a problem with narcotics in the past and decided to keep him a little bit short.

“If it had been anyone else, they’d probably have got as much as they wanted, but he was constantly in pain. I used to say to people: When you meet Paul, please don’t squeeze him; he’s in so much pain.

“But Paul wouldn’t go Argh! get off! He’d just stand there and take the pain.

“So, anyway, I used to help him out with his tablets.

“Once, we were coming back about 2 o’clock in the morning from his sister’s in Hastings. He was groaning; he’d taken some tablets, but they hadn’t kicked in yet and he said to me: I’d rather this was over sooner rather than later. And I told him: Listen, Paul, if you want to make a job of it, I’ll help you.

“Yeah, he said, but, if they come after you and you get caught, you’ll go behind the door for that.

“I said: Stupid as I am, I would be like an Republican soldier. I would have done what I thought was right. OK. I’ll do me bird for it. But, if what I did was the right thing for that person I helped. I’d be like a soldier. I’d say I did the right thing.”

“You mean an Irish Republican soldier?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Lou, “they were very, very committed men, god bless ‘em. Brave men. They weren’t trained like British soldiers.

“So Paul said I’d rather it was over and I said Well, alright. And then I sat there thinking What have I done? I can’t go back. I’ve made a commitment.

“And Paul sat there for what seemed like ages, though it was probably only about ten minutes and eventually he said: No.

We’ll Never Surrender! - The Ruts’ Staring at The Rude Boys

We’ll Never Surrender! – The Ruts’ Staring at The Rude Boys

No what? I asked him.

No, he said, We’re going to see it out to the end.

“I said: That’s good… Don’t forget the song…

What song?

We’ll never surrender.

“And we had a little laugh about that.”

The Ruts’ song Staring at The Rude Boys includes the lyrics We’ll never surrender.

It is on YouTube.

“It was re-recorded by local band Gallows,” Lou told me. “They got big. Paul was ever so appreciative of the money they made him.

“He told me: You know, I got £19,000 and I love this government. They’ve given me this place to live in and they’ve upped me dole money.

“I said: Well, it’s cos you’re terminally ill, Paul. That’s why, mate.

“And he said I’m so happy.

Is there anything you want to do that you haven’t done? I asked him. Whatever it is, we’ll do it.

I wanted to fly,” he said.

Well, we can do that, I told him. I know a bloke with a small plane.

Nah! I wanted to learn to fly, he said.

“And did he go up in one?” I asked.

“Well, a bit of him did,” replied Lou. “His ashes were thrown out over Northolt. Some of his ashes. The rest of his ashes, I think, are with his sister in Hastings, god bless her. She told me they were going to be in a wooden box, so I got a little silver plaque and engraved on it …We’ll never surrender!…

“He died in 2007 – six years ago now,” Lou told me.

“My mother died in 2007,” I told Lou.

So it goes.

“When they diagnosed the cancer,” Lou told me, “Paul asked them How long have I got? and the doctor said Ooh, you’ve got a long, long time.

Paul Fox in final gig with The Ruts at Islington in July 2007

Paul Fox in final gig with The Ruts at Islington in July 2007

“And he asked them Have I got time to write an album? and they said Absolutely.

“A couple of days later, they told him Here, Paul, we made a little mistake. You’ve got a rampant cancer. You may have six months to live. And that’s what he had. About five-and-a-half months. Bosh. He was gone. Bang. Gone.”

“It’s almost better shorter,” I said. “My father was the same. I asked the consultant how long he had left and the reply was Three months to three years and he died almost exactly three months later.”

“We were raising some money for Paul,” Lou told me last night. “We was doing a do. We still do it every year. The Paul Fox appreciation society, mate. We get together once a year and raise a few quid.

“I don’t forget about Paul but, you know, things go on… and then that comes round and I walk into that fucking bar and there’s a picture of him that night – the last night at Islington – and… it gets to me… it’s getting to me now… oh fuck… ”

“Have you seen Blade Runner?” I asked Lou.

“Yeah.”

“You know Rutger Hauer’s death speech?”

“No.”

“When I die all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,”

“Oh, yeah,” said Lou.

Lou looks at Paul Fox’s poster last night

Lou looks at Paul Fox’s poster last night and remembers him

Before Paul Fox died, he had 100 copies made of a poster on which he printed some of his memories.

Lou has No 3 of the 100 posters on his wall.

Some of Paul’s memories on the poster are:

“I was in a band called Hit & Run with Malcolm Owen. He came and played me Anarchy in The UK. We both said We can do that and promptly formed a band. The first two songs we wrote were Lobotomy and Rich Bitch. I can also remember Malcolm giving Sid Vicious a good hiding in The Speakeasy for being disrespectful to his bird. In Malcolm’s defence, Sid was an arrogant cunt.

“I also remember Rusty Egan asking me to audition for the Rich Kids, one of Glen Matlock’s bands after the Sex Pistols. I didn’t get the job because my hair was too long and it didn’t suit the band’s image. Midge Ure bagged the job in the end.

“I remember doing a TV show called The Mersey Pirate which was the predecessor to Tiswas. (In fact, it filled the Tiswas summer break in 1979.) This boat went up and down the Mersey and turned round and come back again. The only trouble was we’d been out partying till the early hours that morning and were feeling slightly rough. We boarded at 8.00am and, when the boat turned round, we kept falling out of camera shot.

“Also appearing on the same show were the guy who played Darth Vader and the Jolly Green Giant – Dave Prowse – and Don Estelle and Windsor Davies singing their hit Whispering Grass. We were skinning up a joint and Windsor Davies walked by and said I used to smoke that in the Army. I bumped into Don Estelle years later when we both appeared as ourselves in the line-ups for Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He remembered that day on the Mersey quite well.”

Paul’s final gig with The Ruts on 16th July 2007

Paul’s final gig with The Ruts in London on 16th July 2007

On the 16th of July 2007, three months before his death on 21st October 2007, Paul Fox headlined a concert in his own honour, teaming up for one final performance with his surviving band mates and with long-time Ruts fan Henry Rollins filling in for original Ruts singer Malcolm Owen who died of a heroin overdose in 1980.

So it goes. Paul is interviewed about it on YouTube.

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I can only barely remember Malcolm Hardee’s old comedy club The Tunnel

Malcolm Hardee at the Tunnel Club in the 1980s
(photo courtesy of Steve Taylor)

In the early hours of this morning, I was talking to a friend who knew the late comedian Malcolm Hardee. She met him as a neighbour before she knew he was a comic or a club owner and she did not go to his Sunday night Tunnel Club primarily for the comedy.

“I used to play pool there,” she told me.

“Not to watch the shows?” I asked.

“I’m tired,” she said. It’s late. I can’t really remember. I must’ve not watched the shows sometimes because I was playing pool. I didn’t go there that often, because it was a long walk in the night from Greenwich, where I lived.”

“I don’t remember The Tunnel much at all,” I said.

“But you can’t remember what happened yesterday,” she said.

I have a notoriously bad memory. I have to write everything down.

“I don’t remember The Tunnel much either,” my friend said. “So you’re never going to get a blog out of this.”

“Was the stage in a corner?” I asked. “You came in the door and turned right, didn’t you? But I think there was something odd about the positioning of the stage.”

“The bar was in the middle,” my friend explained. “On one side were the pool tables; on the other side was the bar; and, at the end was the room with the show in.”

“Was it a separate room?” I asked, surprised. I remembered it being one large pub room.

“It was quite a large room,” she said. “It wasn’t pokey. That was pleasant for a start. And the fact there were two pool tables and one of them was usually free. That was great. Then there was sometimes someone I fancied there. I loved that.”

“The audience always threw beer glasses at acts they didn’t like,” I said.

“It wasn’t dangerous for me,” my friend said, “because I always stood at the back. I didn’t sit in a seat.”

“I remember standing,” I said. “I don’t remember seats. Were you there the night Babs what’s-er-name got hit by a glass?”

“No,” my friend said, opening up her laptop computer to check her e-mails.

“Look, John,” she said, “I’m too tired to remember. Phone up Lewis Schaffer if you want a blog. It’s after one o’clock in the morning. He’ll be feeling pissed-off. Is it Tuesday and Wednesday he does his Soho gigs? Phone him up and ask him how his gig was last night and say how you went to someone else’s show. That’ll cheer him up.”

The Tunnel film documentary

“People who never went to the Tunnel think it was a rowdy bear pit,” I said. “Well, I suppose it was. People were always throwing glasses at the acts. That’s rowdy. Even if they only threw them at bad acts.”

“Well,” my friend reminded me, “at that time, people threw glasses at punk bands. If you went to see a rock band, no-one was able to dance any more. Disco had vanished because people were spitting and pogo-ing.”

“The Tunnel was 1984-1988, though,” I said.

“All I know,” my friend said, “is that, in the late-1970s, there was a sudden moment when lots of pogo-ing was happening and people were spitting.”

“That was before AIDs,” I mused.

“The bands on stage were spitting at the audience,” my friend continued. “You didn’t want to sit in the front rows. If anyone danced, the floor was taken over by young men pogo-ing and bashing into each other so, if you were a woman, you couldn’t dance. That was what social nights out were turning into half the time.

“People throwing glasses at acts in The Tunnel wasn’t surprising. That’s what was happening at the music gigs as well. Musicians on stage would swing the microphone stand and whack it around with people going Whoooaaa! and ducking their heads. You would think Doh! I’m not going near the front. Punk started in 1977, but it was pretty well established by, say, 1979 and, after that, things were getting more and more seedy.

“Before then, people used to wear T-shirts saying LOVE and stuff with rainbows and hearts printed on them. After Punk started it wasn’t just ripped shirts and razor blades and studs and chains round the trousers… people had emblazoned on their T-shirts Oh, fucking hell! and Wot you looking at? and Fuck off, cunt. No-one was having Love and Peace on their T-shirts any more. So, a few years later, if people in a comedy club are throwing glasses…”

“The Tunnel must have been filled with smoke,” I said. “because people were still smoking inside pubs and clubs. It must’ve smelled of beer and fags. I don’t remember.”

“I don’t remember the smell,” my friend said, looking at her computer. “I’ve got a lot of spam.”

“Malcolm and I could never remember when we met,” I said. “It must have been around 1985 or 1986 because he was managing acts and I was looking for acts which might be useful on TV for Surprise! Surprise! or Game For a Laugh. I think I went to The Tunnel and saw Gary Howard and maybe The Greatest Show On Legs.”

“There was that guy with the dog,” my friend said.

“The Joan Collins Fan Club,” I prompted. “Julian Clary.”

“He was on at The Tunnel a lot,” my friend said. “It seemed to me, when I went, he was often on. I didn’t go that often. One time someone I knew stopped and chatted to him because they knew him from Goldsmiths College in New Cross.”

“I’ve never associated him with Malcolm,” I said. “Maybe he was around Malcolm before my time or maybe I’ve just forgotten.”

“He was there a lot,” my friend said. I remember Jerry Sadowitz too.”

“I must have seen him perform there,” I said. “Maybe that’s why I first went there. I can’t remember. I knew Malcolm around the time he released that album for Jerry – Was it called Gobshite? – It had to be withdrawn in case Jimmy Saville sued for libel.”

“I remember Harry Enfield,” my friend said. “I don’t remember seeing him perform… He was there as… someone who…”

“…who was in the audience,” I prompted.

“Well, he wasn’t in the audience,” she said. “He was a friend of Malcolm’s. I don’t remember seeing him perform. Just like Jools Holland went along as a friend of Malcolm’s, but I don’t remember seeing him perform there.”

“I remember the man who tortured teddy bears,” I said. “He was wonderful. Steve something-or-other. He had a wheel of death for the teddy bear.”

“I didn’t particularly think of it as a place to watch acts,” my friend said. “It was a chance to go out and I went along to play pool. I liked playing pool in those days. There was the odd person to fancy and the music was nice.”

“It was always easy listening music before the show, wasn’t it?” I said.

“People like Etta James,” my friend agreed. “At Last. I don’t know if Martin Potter (the sound man) used that track at The Tunnel, but he always put it on at Up The Creek.”

“Once,” I said, “I asked Malcolm why he didn’t play rock music before gigs, because that was more the audience, and he told me he played more sophisticated jazz-type stuff because he thought it put the audience in the right mood to see people perform comedy. Relaxed them. I thought Malcolm chose the music, but you told me it was Martin Potter.”

“Etta James singing Sunday Kind of Love,” my friend said,” He always played that because it was Sunday.”

“I don’t remember,” I said.

“You never do,” my friend said. “That’s why you write things down.”

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Filed under 1980s, Comedy, Music, Punk, UK