All I Want Is Out of Here
At the end of 1971, shortly after my 17th birthday, certain seismic events in my life forced me to go ‘off radar’ for much of the following year. All I Want Is Out Of Here is the story of what I did in 1972. It is a working-class auto-didact’s guide to self-education, a love letter to the rejuvenating powers of LSD, public libraries, record shops and much more besides. There are walk on parts for Syd Barrett, Daevid Allan and Gong, Nick Drake, Steve Took, Mervyn Peake, mass poisoner Graham Young, the Munich Olympics, Gurdjieff, Quintessence, the Velvet Underground, Sparks, German space rock, Hatfield and The North (both the band and the road sign) Hawkwind roadies, future glam stars and a host of counter cultural paraphernalia.
Most of the action is set in Bedfordshire, Cambridge and London. Merrily trip and go my side in Grantchester Meadows, Red House Records, Compendium Books, the Notting Hill Free Shop, Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove and the featureless flatlands of East Anglia. Join me as hitch hiking becomes the dominant mode of transport with all the perilous and eccentric encounters that entails. Sprawl with me on the beanbags in the newly opened Virgin Records or on the patch of W11 waste ground that eventually became Meanwhile Gardens. Press your noses to the sweet shop window of the alternative society as we visit BIT, Release, Gentle Ghost, Clapham Common Buddhist retreats, and the last lingering remnants of the Underground press. Scan the outer reaches of the short-wave band as we eavesdrop on the mysterious ‘Numbers’ and inhabit a cold war world where Callan is a documentary not tv spy fiction, and the World Chess Championship between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Iceland is a forum for paranoia and accusations of bugging.
1972 is not a year that has been over saturated with pop cultural coverage. and this isn’t a conventional music-based memoir. Sure, Ziggy Stardust, Silver Machine, School's Out and Virginia Plain are all in there - with all their attendant ramifications – but so too are The Last Poets, Lol Coxhill, and what was soon to be known as Northern Soul. Music is there in abundance but it’s all part of a fast-moving backdrop of sub-cultural events.
For all its hedonism and weirdness there is ultimately a moral tale at the heart of this book. It says, if you are going to effectively drop out for a while you still need to get your education from somewhere. You still need a Plan B. All I Want Is Out Of Here is the story of where I got some of that education, an inventory of all the things I encountered and absorbed during those strangest of days. They call them gap years now. It felt like more of a gap life at the time.
At the end of 1972 I said to my sister “I don’t know if this has been the best year of my life or the worst.” Such prescience in one so young. Writing this book was a journey of rediscovery, to see who I was and what I was trying to be. As I was writing, I frequently had to pinch myself and say this wasn’t a dream, this actually happened. And O wot a dream that was.