It was October 1978. I was a stuttering, 13 year old skinny punk with a shock of orange hair. I spent every waking hour listening to X Ray Spex, Sex Pistols, The Clash, XTC, The Beatles, Queen and Simon & Garfunkel. I meant it. There was a problem though. I couldn't get to gigs. Either bands didn't come to Halifax, I was too young or I just didn't know when they were happening. It was a confusing time.
I don’t really remember being a fan of the Boomtown Rats. I guess the fact they weren't on the soundtrack to Grease or Saturday Night Fever meant they were punks too. One of them wore pyjamas all day long which I always thought was a bit silly to be fair - even as a 13 year old. I did have a copy of their single on Ensign records called Mary of The 4th Form though. I had bought it a few weeks before from my favourite stall on the market – Groove records. I was a little annoyed because the single had no picture sleeve. It was just a green bag with the name of the label on. I did what I always did with singles that had no picture sleeve – I created my own. I took my trusty black felt tip and wrote the name of the band on it in ‘weird’ writing. I probably also wrote something like ‘punk is cool’ and ‘disco is rubbish’ – important statements in my mind. The Boomtown Rats were playing at the civic theatre - a large, dark imposing Victorian theatre that was very common around northern towns back then. Most of them survive to this day - beautiful relics of a better time some would say - back then they were cold, old and depressing.
I don’t remember why I bought a ticket, why my mum let me buy one or why I was on my own but I felt like an adult for the first time. Gigs were what I read about every week in the NME or Sounds (Sounds had more punks in but NME was cooler - I bought both) gigs were where the magic happened, where it all made sense. The only downside was I would be in the same room with a bunch of 'plastic fans’. You know ‘plastic fans’ – the ones who don’t really get it, they don’t understand what its all about. They don’t really believe. Everyone was plastic apart from me. Looking back, of course, that’s complete bollocks but that’s being young for you. Even though the local ‘plastics’ would be in the theatre, so would the Boomtown Rats. I would be as close as I'd ever been before - closer to the source than ever - and boy was I excited.
I got to the theatre early and there was a massive queue all round the building. I joined the line with my sweaty hand holding onto the ticket. Almost there. Almost there. I didn’t talk to anyone. Everyone was much older than me and in groups of 2 or 3. None of my mates parents would let any of them come. Punks were bad news in the press and on TV but I was there - all smug and ready to be taken to the land of punk.
I was snapped out of my daydream by a tap on the shoulder. I looked up and there was a skinhead looking down at me. No hair, crombie, doc boots, the lot. I wasn’t bothered - there were loads of skins around and had been for years. I just couldn't work out how he knew me or why he wanted me.
'You got a ticket kid?'
'Yes' I proudly replied and fumbled in my pocket to take it out and show him. 'Here it is'. I felt part of a gang and very pleased with myself. The skinhead’s hand came out of his deep pocket and grabbed the ticket out of my hand. I stood motionless and in shock as his other hand, which was now clenched, hit me in the face. I fell to the floor and felt two kicks in my stomach. I started to cry and the skinhead walked away. The queue had started to move and I was left on the floor crying like a 13 year old boy who's just been beaten up and had all his dreams shattered. Not one person asked how I was. I got up and walked to the bus stop. When I got home I continued to cry on my mum’s shoulder. I never saw the boomtown rats live and I hated them from that day.