I picked this e-book up from Amazon some time ago for the princely sum of £1. Originally presented in the form of a blog written by Steve Drewett, singer and guitarist with Harlow punk stalwarts 'The Newtown Neurotics', the book runs along separate timelines which document the final days of the band in 1988 and the run up to reunion dates that the band played in 2005.
Highly introspective the book mixes Steve's thoughts on many of life's more personal events, love, fatherhood and bereavement... oh and there's a band in there somewhere. The confidence struggles described as the band prepared for the 2005 gigs was something of a surprise, not being something that you would perhaps associate with a musician who on and off has spent 30 years plus playing to paying audiences.
This book was all the more enjoyable because I was at the majority of the gigs described within it's 'pages'.
My association with the band goes back to about 1983 I suppose with the release of the 'Repercussions' album. The following year me and my mates got a first taste of politics in the latex form of 'Spitting Image' and The Miners Strike. In that year I was 15, three years away from the 1987 general election (where I calculated that the two votes cast by my friend and I accounted for 2% of the Labour vote on my ward.... that's Mid Sussex for you!), but I was taking this stuff in.
The first PM I consciously remember was Jim Callaghan.... and then in 1979 she came along! From that point onwards, politics seemed to be unavoidable, from the 1981 inner city riots to the Grand Hotel bombing in 1984, via the Falklands conflict of '82.
In the mid '80s, as well as listening to The Stranglers, The Damned and... and... I was listening to more political music. Crass and Conflict were fine, but in the music of The Neurotics and Billy Bragg I saw something that I though was more attainable.
Messers Bragg & Drewett
My first opportunity to see The Neurotics was at The Richmond Hotel in Brighton. For some reason, I didn't make it on that night, but my mates that did go reported something of a pitched battle with right wing Crawley skins intent on disrupting the gig. The next visit to the town was scheduled to be at the Zap Club, but again I was unlucky as on this occasion Steve Drewett had just had his wisdom teeth removed , so Attila did the honours on the night. And so it was that my first gig was in January 1986 at The Basement and the band proved to be worth the wait.
With a ticket price to make you smile
Two years later I found myself at Brunel University. When I got there there were still posters up advertising a gig that the band played there in 1987. This gig has subsequently been released and Steve has described it as one of the best gigs the band ever played.
Two weeks into the course and we got word that Steve was playing a solo gig at the Uxbridge Labour Club. In a scene reminiscent of 'Does Anyone Know Where The March Is?' five of us walked around the dark streets of Uxbridge looking for the venue (which it turns out was about 5 minutes walk from the campus). Handfuls of A levels and not a jot of common sense between us... that's students for you!
Next up was an anti-fascist gig at The Electric Ballroom, with Attila, Howling Wilf, The Neurotics and The Men They Couldn't Hang. Most memorable in my mind was standing next to Shane McGowan at the bar (where else) who to my disgust was wearing a Level 42 shirt!!
Last call for The Neurotics was their gig at the Fulham Greyhound.
29th October 1988
This was the bollocks, a full on celebration of the band's achievements over their then 10 year existence.
Post Neurotics Steve formed The Indestructible Beat who I saw just the once at The Camden Workers Social Club at a Cable Street Beat event. I found the flyer the other day.
The billed International Brigade speaker was ill if I remember correctly, so on the night in stepped Mensi to deliver the anti-fascist message (who was infinitely more sweary than the old man would have been!).
The years then passed during which time I moved with my wife to Bishops Stortford, just down the road from Neurotics Central.
When the band finally reformed in 2004 to mark the launch of the superb 'Stortbeat' compilation, I missed it.... I didn't even know that it had taken place, but I was ready in 2005 when the band made the decision to venture beyond The Square once again. These are some of the gigs described in 'You're Always Alone With A Neurotic'. I bounced for all I was worth, like the portly middle-aged man that I am, in Harlow, London and Brighton. The London gig was particularly joyous until I missed the last train back to Stortford. My attempts to sleep cuddled up to the bronze sculpture of evacuees near the entrance to Liverpool Street station was futile as the hangover kicked in. Pissed as I was that night, it meant a lot to me to have a brief chat with Colin Dredd, original bass player, who despite being unable to commit fully to the band at that time, clearly still shared the passion for what the band were doing.
The Neurotics are still going, albeit without Colin and Simon, but sadly nothing has really changed and the relevance of much of the material is undiminished!