(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.
“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…
“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.
“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.
“You know Rutger Hauer’s death speech?”
“When I die all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,”
“Oh, yeah,” said Lou.
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.”
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.