Very few know the amount of work that has to be done when a band or artist goes on tour. We, the audience see the show and normally think very little about the work that has been done to bring that performance to us. It is the people, who work behind the scenes, who are collectively known as roadies, who perform the myriad of tasks to ensure a successful gig. It is these people who have inside access to a particular artist and know all their secrets. Can you imagine the tales they could tell? Some of these roadies have become well known in their own right and one such roadie is Roadent. He started out as the roadie for The Clash and later roadied for The Sex Pistols, but he is so much more than a roadie. I first met him in Trondheim, Norway in 1977. He was then working for the Sex Pistols on their Scandinavian Tour. I was fascinated by his wit and clear-sighted observations of people and situations around him, and ever since have kept in touch from time to time. I caught up with him last week in London for a little chat about the good old days and what it was like being Roadent no longer. He has swapped carrying speakers and boxes for bands to carrying an attaché briefcase and wearing a tie. He has mellowed with age and just as I think he has become a corporate man, he surprises me with his unique insight into all things punk. He has the attitude of a social anthropologist having given the punk era and what it has meant to culture today great thought. And at the same time has that cheeky wit that all who come in to contact with him find so endearing. [First lets remind ourselves of the Roadent we remember in this video taken around 1977]
TEDDIE: How did you get your name, Roadent?
ROADENT: Someone said that when I was drunk I looked like a rat. It became Rodent and then as I became a roadie, it became Roadent the roadie. It’s just silliness really.
TEDDIE: When did you become a roadie? What inspired you to become a roadie?
ROADENT: Nothing really. I met Joe Strummer at the ICA gig. I didn’t have anywhere to stay and he said I could stay in The Clash rehearsal rooms. I then said “If I carry the boxes in, can I get in to the gigs?” So I carried the equipment in and that’s how it started and went on from there. This was in Camden Town. The rehearsal rooms are still standing. It’s part of the Camden Market. At the time the market was much smaller and was just Dingwalls and fairly derelict. It was just small workshops. Bernie (Bernhard Rhodes, The Clash manager) had his Renault repair garage there. He hired the place. Downstairs was The Clash rehearsal rooms and upstairs was an office. There was a desk and a sofa. We had one blanket and about 6 sheets. We stole electricity from next door so we could have a little electric fire on and that’s how we lived. We’d take it in turns on the sofa and take it in turns with the blanket.
TEDDIE: When was this exactly?
ROADENT: It all gets a bit hazy, but I think this would have been 1976.
TEDDIE: So the Clash were, obviously the first band that you roadied for and you became their guy.
ROADENT: Yes, I was working for the Clash, but then I was asked to go along and help out on The Sex Pistols gigs as well. So I ended up working for both of them. This was handy because whenever they played gigs on the same night on the same bill I could do them both. I could do The Clash and then The Pistols.
TEDDIE: The film Rude Boy with Ray Gange was made about a Clash roadie. Was it you that they based their character on?
ROADENT: No definitely not. Ray Ganges was his own person in that film. That’s the real Ray Gange. The only good thing about the film is that some of the live footage was really good. The storyline is pathetic. The characterization is pathetic and Ray Gange as a character is sorely in need of psychiatric help, rehabilitation and education. If anyone said it was modelled on me I would resent that. I don’t believe a word of it.
TEDDIE: You were on The Sex Pistols Scandinavian tour in the summer of 1977. Were you on loan or had you stopped working for The Clash?
ROADENT: I can’t remember. I was obviously working for The Pistols, but I can’t remember whether I’d stopped working for The Clash completely. What happened with The Clash was that me and Mick Jones had a little disagreement in Edinburgh Clouds on The White Man Tour. I told him he needed a valet rather than a roadie. I got my train ticket down to London and I moved from one rehearsal room (The Clash) in to another (The Sex Pistols).
TEDDIE: My memory from back then is that you were on loan. The roadies in Norway were pretty much in awe of you, as they knew of you probably just as much as they knew of The Pistols.
ROADENT: Back in the beginning, punk wasn’t just about the bands. It was about the people around the bands as well that where important. It was about people like Debbie (Juvenile nee Wilson) and Tracey (O’Keefe) of the Bromley Contingent and you can include me on that too. It was a scene, to use a hippy word, rather than just bands. There was some continuity. There was some cohesion to it, so it was more than just bands.
TEDDIE: You came on the Scandinavian tour. What memories do you have of it?
ROADENT: I’ve got a very hazy memory of it. I remember Daddy’s Dancehall in Copenhagen and staying at The Plaza, which was a lovely little hotel. Famously I remember coming down in the morning and there was a British businessman in reception saying; “I hear you have the Sex Pistols staying here. Do you not know what sort of things they say about our Queen?” The hotel answered that they had several bands staying with them and they were no problem, except for The Bay City Rollers. The businessman checked out because the hotel wouldn’t throw us out.
When we were at the Hotel Plaza in Copenhagen I was sharing with John (Lydon), which was odd. Anyway he got on the phone and said, “Send us up a case of your strongest lager”. They said “That’s Elephant Beer” and he thought that was really funny. I said, “Get some for me” and John said, “Make that two cases”. I remember we had fans camping outside the hotel, and as we got drunker we ended up giving the fans a few bottles of beer. Well we threw them out of the window to them. [Photo: Roadent on stage with the Sex Pistols]
I also remember Bollocks-chops (Swedish promoter who had big lips and talked a lot), and his rich mate that had his own plane and flew us from Trondheim. I remember doing all the -köpings. We did every -köping under the sun. There was Linköping and Jönköping. And most of the clubs didn’t have stages. They just had ropes around pillars. I remember Stockholm had a half decent size venue, a hall at least. There was a bit of nonsense with the Swedish Teddy boys the Raggare, which was all just a bit of a laugh really.
TEDDIE: After the Scandinavian Tour, you came back to England. Where you planning on staying with the Sex Pistols and going on the US tour?
ROADENT: It was silly as I was meant to be on the US tour, but I got my visa refused. Everyone got their visas refused to begin with, but they managed to get the band visas. Malcolm (McLaren) and Boogie (John Tiberi, road manager) had already got visas so they could travel on ahead on tourist visas. I got mine refused so I stayed behind to try to sort out the next tour which was again a Scandinavian tour that was to start in Finland. Of course that was all cancelled. I got home one night, to the Pistols rehearsal rooms at about three in the morning, from the Speakeasy and The Sun phoned up saying “Is it true you have all been banned from Finland?” The Sun always knew before us what was happening. So I phoned up the Finnish Ambassadors residence thinking I’d get a sort of low ranked assistant, but the Finnish Ambassador answered the phone. I said “What’s this about us being banned from your country?” and he said “I don’t know anything about this”. Anyway, we had all been made “persona non grata” in Finland, based on reputation alone. Well it was a quasi-communist country, wasn’t it? I then heard that the band had split up anyway. Malcolm didn’t want people to know to begin with because he thought he could persuade them to continue. I had booked an English PA (sound system) and Lighting System to go over to Stockholm, and all of the crew had actually got on the plane and they were paged off and had to give back their Duty Free’s. For which they haven’t forgiven me to this day.
TEDDIE: You later went to Germany. Why?
ROADENT: That came about because of the Clash. The German film company Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen, Munich, did a documentary called Punk in London. You can see bits of it on Youtube. Anyway Wolfgang Büld (filmmaker) wanted to interview The Clash, but Bernie (Rhodes) The Clash manager said they should interview Roadent instead. So he did and he did it quite well. I was saying how punk was finished and he inter-cuts it with Alan Edwards saying, “Oh I think we are going top make some money out of this”. This happened in 1977, or it might have been 1978. All those years blur. There was an awful lot of amphetamine sulphate being taken. There was this guy who wrote for Sounds, Pete Silverton, that I met about 10 years ago and he was shocked to see me. He was convinced that if anybody was going to die through overindulgence, it was going to be me. He thought I was a ghost. We made this film, and when the Pistols split up, he contacted me and asked if I wanted to come over to Germany and do another film. It was rubbish, but they gave me 500 quid, which was quite a bit of money at the time. When the film finished I stayed in Germany and I got other parts in other films. I was a dreadful actor. Absolutely awful actor, but if they want to give me 20 000 marks for a months work, that was an awful lot of money in those days, I was quite happy to accept it. The biggest film I was involved in was Das Ding. I, with four comrades from the German army, stole 250 million marks. But it was all in 5 mark coins.
TEDDIE: The song ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’ by The Passions was then written about you. I read somewhere that the songwriter said that the song practically wrote itself. It made number 25 in the charts at one time but was voted viewers best. Where you romantically involved with the singer/songwriter Barbara Gogan?
ROADENT: Yes, me and Barbara had a bit of a thing before I went over to Germany. I thought it did better than number 25? Oh well. She never saw any of my films. I think she was a little besotted with me actually.
TEDDIE: Well you spent a couple of years in Germany and then suddenly you moved back to the UK. Why did you want to come back and give up all that money and fame?
ROADENT: The money was, sort of, a cross to bear, because my liver was complaining. I used to go to a club called The Sugar Shack in Munich. The cloakroom was downstairs and the club was at the top of the staircase. I heard later that the girl on the cloakroom used to open a book and people could bet on whether I would fall down the stairs on not. To my knowledge I never did, whatever state I got in to. So my liver was complaining and the Ian Dury Tour came to town and I knew some of the crew on it. I joined that tour and just became a journeyman road crew and sound engineer. That led to working with The Clash again at one stage. It was quite novel, as me and Joe (Strummer) had a nice fight.
TEDDIE: Can I just say that when I knew you back in 1977, one of the things that impressed me was how well you organised always were. You made sure everything ran smoothly from getting the boy’s up in the mornings and in to the van early, to making sure the light and sound worked to organising the booze for the after parties, and setting up, and rigging down.
ROADENT: Well it was organized chaos. There were things we had to be very organized about. That Scandinavian tour that was cancelled, we had two hotels booked in every town. One hotel booked under our real names, and one under false names. The notoriety by then made us used to turning up at the hotel and the hotel saying they didn’t have any booking for us, when they realized who it was. In that sort of chaos, you have to be very organized.
TEDDIE: I bet you as the roadie can tell some really good tales from back then. Have you ever considered writing a book?
ROADENT: No because there was a great deal of drink and drugs and that lead’s to amnesia. I can’t remember. Some of it comes back to me. At one stage in my life I had forgotten about the whole Scandinavian tour entirely. It wasn’t until someone was interviewing me for an article about Malcolm McLaren and showed me all the pictures that I discovered it was true. If I did a book, I would have to employ a team of researchers and then I’m not sure I’d want to hear what was happening. So no, I’m not one for the book.
TEDDIE: Have you gotten in to contact with any of the old gang again?
ROADENT: I do bump into them very occasionally, but I don’t try to keep in contact. I saw Viv Albertine at Malcolm’s (McLaren) funeral. I am going to Vic Godards Subway Sect gig at Nambucca tomorrow night. Vic is the real genius of punk rock and should be lorded as such. He’s the logos of the whole movement. I’ve always wanted to do a film about Vic. A quasi documentary, a little bit like Spitting Image, and get people like Mick Jones saying, “Yeah Vic was the man behind it all”. And get people who have been influenced by Vic. Get lots of talking heads saying Vic was great. I’d put on old footage Wolfgang Büld has from Punk in London and new stuff and just have it say how important Vic Godard was. I’m sure people would wonder who he is and they would say they had never heard of him. If you take it over the top enough it will have an element of Spinal Tap. People won’t know how true it is and they will think it’s just a piss take. But it’s true. Vic Godard was the real force behind punk rock together with Bernie Rhodes. They were a big challenge to all the accepted norms.
TEDDIE: Did you go to Lee Black Childer’s photo exhibition a couple of weeks ago? I was told “everyone” was there.
ROADENT: I didn’t know he was having an exhibition. It was probably at the Proud Gallery, I’m guessing. They do a lot of Rock and Roll photography at Proud Gallery. When Proud Gallery opened their first Camden gallery, they’ve moved since then, but in the original location in Camden, I went to the opening night. It was The Clash rehearsal rooms. I was in there thinking “what’s all this toff toddy doing in my bedroom?” It was like those things when you go back to school and everything is very small. I was thinking “this was massive when I lived here, so why is it so tiny?”
TEDDIE: Mel wants to know if you remember working at Eric’s club in Liverpool with The Clash?
ROADENT: Yes I do remember going there. The first gig we went to was Eric’s. It was a reincarnation of The Cavern that had been re-christened. It wasn’t the actual Cavern as that had been demolished. This was a couple of doors down. I remember it had this red plastic leaf with The Beatles and we insisted it be covered over and they were all a bit shocked by that. I think I did Eric’s twice with The Clash. I remember it raining indoors. The condensation was coming off the roof that it was literally raining indoors; it was that hot and sweaty. But my best ever gig at Eric’s had nothing to do with punk. It was many years later and I was touring with a guy called Johnny Cougar. He’s called John Cougar Mellencamp now. We went in to Eric’s and set up. It wasn’t an easy gig to do because it was down some horrible stairs and there was this dreadful open sewer pit at the bottom of the stairs with just this piece of wood stuck over the top of it. I’ve known people go in to that pit. Anyway, we set everything up and ONE person turned up for the gig. And that person was at the wrong gig. He thought it was someone else. That was the best ever gig there was. I also think The Clash played Eric’s on The White Man tour too.
TEDDIE: What about the SPOTS? Did they turn up at Wigan Casino as it famously says in a book by Stuart Maconie in ‘Cider With Rosie’ that they came but didn’t play and just hung out in the bar?
ROADENT: Do you mean Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly? I was on the SPOTS tour, but I don’t even remember Wigan Casino. Wolverhampton Lafayette was the first gig. Then we went somewhere down in the West Country where Julian Templeton managed to fall through the ceiling. Great hilarity and right in front of the stage. He was trying to get a moody camera angle. He was crawling over this false ceiling to see if he could get a better shot. Of course, false ceilings aren’t very strong and he came falling down on to the dance floor in front of the stage. I remember the last two gigs with the SPOTS. One was the Cromer Pavilion on the East Anglia coast on Christmas Eve and the last one was Ivanhoe’s in Huddersfield on Christmas Day. We did two gigs. One for the kids and one for the grown ups. It was probably the best Christmas day I ever had.
TEDDIE: You were in Alan Parkers documentary ‘Who Killed Nancy’ and then more recently in Mark Slopers TV documentary ‘Sid Vicious by Those That Really Knew Him’. What do you think of them?
ROADENT: Alan Parker just gives me a brown envelope with 500 pounds in it, and I tell him anything he wants to hear. I can make it up as I go along, because the man never checks any of his sources, it’s fantastic. I tell everybody that about him, I tell him too. I don’t trust any of his books. Look at the sources he’s got: ME ! My memory is dreadful. I like to say I can’t have been the roadie to the Sex Pistols because I was too young.
TEDDIE: [laughs] I tried that once. I knocked 10 years off my age, but that only meant that I was romantically involved with Sid Vicious when I was 6 years old and that makes him a pervert.
ROADENT: Well he was a pervert.
TEDDIE: No he wasn’t. I think he had a window of sanity and sobriety for the time I knew him in Trondheim.
ROADENT: He used to get up to some crazy stuff with Nancy. She was a complete nightmare. We tried to kidnap her once. We sent Sid to the dentist. We had a one-way ticket to New York for her. We were all outside the bands HQ in Marble Arch, right by the Holiday Inn Marble Arch. It was me, Boogie, Jamie Reid and Sophie, The Glitterbest (Pistols management company) secretary. Sophie was great and held everything together. We were all wearing these bluish gabardine coats that Malcolm was selling at the time. It was like this strange sort of gangster thing. All these blue gabardine coats trying to hustle Nancy in to the taxi. And she was shouting, “You can’t do this. This is kidnapping. You can’t do this,” in a loud American accent. And then she ran off to the Holiday Inn and we’d all follow her. We dragged her out and said “Look Nancy, you know it’s for the best.” And she’d be saying, “You can’t do this. Does Sid know you are doing this?” It was complete nonsense, but quite fun. We failed miserably unfortunately.
TEDDIE: So have you been to any of the reunions?
ROADENT: Absolutely not. When the first reunion happened I thought about it for a long time. I was working at a lighting company at the time and everybody there was asking me if I was going to go. But I really couldn’t be bothered. Afterwards they would come and ask “Did you go and see them?” and I would answer, “Certainly not, I’ve seen them before, countless times.” Last time I was asked, Alan Parker and Co. asked me to go along to Brixton Academy and I think it was in December a couple of years ago, and I told them I’d already seen a pantomime that year. So, I haven’t bothered. I don’t have anything against it. I can see them making money and everything, but it’s not something I could be bothered with.
TEDDIE: What do you do today?
ROADENT: I manage a PA company in London. We have a division that does concert touring but that’s not my side of things. I do installations in clubs where they batter the fuck out of the speakers and it sounds boring, but that’s what they want, because then people can’t talk and they buy more drink. It’s horrible. I enjoy the challenge of work, but I don’t go listening to my work in clubs.
TEDDIE: Do your colleagues know who you are and what you’ve done before?
ROADENT: Oh yes. I mean I can’t hide from that. The company I work for deals with some concerts and they do a lot of bands. They all know my past and they keep asking for stories, and I still can’t remember them for them. One of my directors goes on about when he was working with The Darts and I tell him about when I was working with The Pistols. I think I know which one’s got more kudos’. Probably The Darts
TEDDIE: What do you think of the nostalgia that’s going on these days, with all the punk revival and bands reforming?
ROADENT: Punk never went away and it’s really sad in a way. Back in 1976-77 we used to take the piss out of Teddy Boys because they were 20 years out of date. And now there are all these punks and they are 30 years out of date. They are worse than Teddy Boys. Stop it and grow up. They should be creative and do something for themselves.
TEDDIE: There seems to be a lot of young people today that admire punk music and want to get in to it.
ROADENT: They are being sucked up by the society of the spectacular and the marketing of a revolutionary reaction that’s the equivalent of the “power to the people”- clenched fist, that became the clenched fist holding a petrol pump, and Esso saying “power to the people.” They are not being rebellious. They are actually being anything but rebellious. The are just very much being managed and controlled. It’s all rather sad. I did once do something on the influences of punk on the thirtieth anniversary really. But I’d like to do something with punk, but not directly about punk, but more what punk has given us. I was inspired by walking through the city, and seeing bankers with spiky haircuts, and thinking that would never have happened without punk. Quentin Tarantino was quintessentially a punk filmmaker, and it would not have happened without punk and the Sex Pistols. So much graphics and advertising was inspired by Jamie (Reid) and punk graphics.
Punk, in a cultural fabric, was like a pebble that was dropped in to water and the ripples are still expanding out and they are still having a great effect on society as it has become today. It’s quite interesting that it has been so powerful and influential. If you had told us at the time just how important it was and that it would be like this, we would have laughed as we were just kids. Also when you look back and see how scared people were of punk. I don’t know about Norway and the like, but in London the then head of the GLC wanted to string us up and thought we were a real threat to the fabric of society at the time and we were just a bunch of kids. We were quite innocent in a way. It was very odd, but it has had a spectacularly wide-ranging effect on lots of aspects of culture and there are punk influences everywhere.
TEDDIE: When you think back to the music that was out there at the time, everything was just very polished and all of a sudden you had these kids out there say “Fuck off, I don’t like this!” I must admit that I had to look twice at Sid playing and was surprised he actually had 4 strings on his bass. What I mean is, they weren’t really musically good.
ROADENT: Absolutely not. Look at Sid on the Holland tour. It was Malcolm’s bright idea to send us on a Holland tour to get Sid off smack. That was a great idea. Send Sid to Holland to get off smack, where smack is an every day occurrence. Good idea..not. Sid would be playing the wrong tune and things like that, or he would be playing a bar behind. It was dreadful. But you could do that. You didn’t actually have to be good musically. It was a movement. It was music and fashion and attitude.
When you look back at the society in the UK in 1975, there were strikes and people out of work. There was lots of unrest. It was a great time I remember with a lot of colour. I think when it comes to recession it’s a bit odd. People say we are going to go through the worst recession since the 1930’s, and they don’t compare it to 1975. When unemployment hit 1 million you’d have riots in the streets. And it hit 3 million before we even had a little bit of a tremble. It was a different time and you didn’t have the escapism of today. You didn’t have phones that have games on them, the Internet. You had 2-3 channels on the TV. There wasn’t much music on the TV either. There was The Old Grey Whistle Test, which was basically this old fart that said that the New York Dolls were mock rock. He didn’t know what he was talking about. We had Top of the Pops and that was it. I think in London then, you could go to a gig every night, because that was all you had. It was a very, very different world.
TEDDIE: You have been there and done it all, so to speak. What do you do for fun these days?
ROADENT: I don’t listen to contemporary music. I think the media has moved on and it will be very difficult to find anything as unifying as punk was. Life was very simple in those days, as we just had music. Now there are games, computers and media. There are lots of other outlets so makes it much easier to control. I’m unashamedly elitist these days and go to the opera. I’ve just bought my tickets for Wagner for the Royal Opera House for next October. And then I’m off to New York to see Madam Butterfly. It’s more challenging listening and a bit different to three-minute songs.
TEDDIE: Do you have any regrets? Looking back, would you do it all again?
ROADENT: I’d try and remember some of it. No I have no regrets. It was good times.
TEDDIE: So finally have you put it all behind you? Would you ever like to go out on tour again?
ROADENT: It’s like this interview, in a way, is like living off past glories. I don’t relish living off past glories. It was just a period I lived through and I don’t think it needs documenting. It’s not something to live off. I know somebody who lives in New York and has coat tailed on The Clash ever since he was involved with it and I find that rather distasteful really. I think he justifies it as making use of what he’s done. But it’s a little bit unpleasant. It’s there, I don’t deny it, but I try not to live off it. What need’s documenting more is the rips and tears in the cultural fabric that’s held together by a safety pin……..Interview by Teddie Dahlin 09/11/11