Jeremy Allen Recalls How Drinking With Saxon Put Him On A Putney Grave

Jeremy Allen remembers a night outdrinking Lemmy from Motorhead with Brit metal loons Saxon. He nearly reformed Genesis, but soon realised he needed to reform himself.

Trying to get some shut eye on the tombstone of some unfortunate cadavar in Putney cemetery at 7am was not where I was expecting to end up that freezing winter morning. Work was beckoning, as was madness. This may happen to you too, if you drink with Saxon.

Writing about bands is the perfect foil for anyone who doesn’t fancy a trifling thing like a job getting in the way of a good days drinking. After the devil invented booze, it would take him many millennia to come up with the perfect occupation to accompany the bibulous pursuit. Eventually, though, Satan’s chief careers advisor goblin came up with the idea of music journalism. Rock stars are distracted by all that travelling and performing. Music writers, on the other hand, get to do all the fun stuff without the responsibility. And what’s more, it’s easy to get into, providing you can navigate QWERTY while off your sausage, and have the innate ability to make stuff up – nobody is going to want to see a degree certificate. Right place right time, that’s easy enough to engineer. Being a thirsty autodidact, and a world heavyweight dilettante, I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner.

Few people are prepared to admit it, but there are worse things you can do with your time than hang out with bands whilst getting pie-eyed. Musicians are no more interesting, and quite often more arse-achingly dull, than anybody else; the difference is, if you’re hanging out with a band, the chances are someone is paying you to do it, and the band’s record company is going to pick up the cheque at the end of the session. Ah, the free bar. It’s amazing, when the booze is flowing, how easy it is to make friends, and how long they’ll put up with you for.

It was one of Motorhead’s shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. I’ve been to many of these, but I think this one was special for some reason. Maybe it was the 30th Anniversary, which would probably make it a December. Details details. I knew it was going to be a strange night when the PR introduced me to an Icelandic fan whose body was being slowly devoured by tattoos of Motorhead; 70 per cent or so of his muscular derma-membrane decorated in Lemmy. I was already seven sheets to the wind when introduced to Mickey Dee (Motorhead’s new drummer of 18 years), a lovely fellow; and Fast Eddie Clarke, the Ghost of Christmas Past. The first aftershow party, upstairs at the Apollo was getting a little messy by the end, but I could handle it; it was the second party where things really started to unravel. That’s when the drinking began in earnest.

I understate the case when I say I’ve sunk gallons of ales, whiskeys, ciders, and things with umbrellas in them with a myriad or musos, but none could hold a candle to Biff Byford from Saxon. Saxon, a band that have managed to keep going for over 30 years, despite the fact nobody ever wanted them to. They are the group Spinal Tap modelled themselves on; they are Motorhead’s perennial warm-up outfit, always leaving a path of distraction in their wake. Saxon, I salute you, you impeccably British institution.

So I’ve no idea how I’m there, but I’m sat in a hotel somewhere in West London, with Biff Byford and a couple of other members of the band, the PR guy and a bloke from FHM, and a tired-looking barmaid who, in this company, is run off her feet. We’ve just decided to put Genesis back together. Someone says they’ve got Fish’s number and just as they’re about to ring him and beg him to return to Collins and the boys, somebody thankfully remembers Fish was never in Genesis. And then blackout.

There are only two things I remember about the next couple of hours. One is Biff’s evil cackle. It still haunts me to this day. A baleful Bradford born Beelzebub with bellowing laughter like one of Old Nick’s hyena thingys guarding the gates of Hades, or maybe one of its tool sheds, to look upon Biff’s visage is to stare into the eyes and face of a demon. A very nice demon, but scary nonetheless. From this point on, which way I fly is hell; myself am hell. If you look very closely in the bottom right hand corner of the great painting Dante and Virgil in Hell by William Bouguereau, you’ll see me rolling off Biff onto Simon Weston.

The other thing I remember is that Motorhead have gone to bed. That’s hellish in itself. And then I suddenly remember I have work in the morning.

I head for the toilet for approximately the 181st time of the evening, and on my way back I decide it’ll be a good idea to hide under a drinks trolley and get some sleep there, but it soon occurs to me, with my feet sticking out of the bottom of the metallic wheeled quad, that I’ll be spotted without question and slung onto the streets. So I slope out of the front of the hotel and head for the tube, which is thankfully open now. The next thing I know I’m awake, and sitting at Putney Bridge station with the train heading for Wimbledon. I bolt upright, and jump out of the tube doors, and stand fatigued as the District Line service rolls away. I’m not sure whether it’s the goth in me, but I remember there’s a graveyard nearby. I’ll sleep when I’m half-dead. And so I make a beeline for the tombs and crypts of this mumsy and tedious district of south West London to encroach on its deceased. It could have been worse, I could have remembered that BMG’s offices were just around the corner and tried to break in. Instead I ghoulishly drag myself over the railings of the cemetery, nearly impaling my gonads as I topple over into a hedge on the other side.

And there I find my bed. A tombstone, erect with legs like a stone age monument, I clamber on and lie there on my back for ages. What goes through my head in that time I’ll not bother to relay, because I’m very pissed and I don’t believe in the supernatural, but even without that abject insanity, this was surely one of those warning signs that things were getting way out of hand. After an hour I decide I’m not going to be able to get any sleep, I’ve probably gone mad, and I should go to work. The only time I ever got to work that early was when I’d stayed up all night. Sitting at my desk half an hour, I suddenly break down, weeping like a nutter, I make my excuses and get the bus home, where I arrive and sob pathetically into my girlfriend’s arms.

Jeremy Allen is teetotal these days.

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