Wednesday, March 31

Nutty Rebel

25 years ago, hand tattoos were a big taboo on a kid. And that's why Jock had them.

I spent a lot of time with Jock on the rockabilly scene in London over a couple of years in the 80s, and consequently had more run-ins with the law than at any other time in my life. He came down to the big smoke from the Highlands of Scotland when he was 16 and his first stop off the train was George Bone the tattooist. Second stop was Rock On records in Camden Town.

In those days, flash was limited to badly drawn lion's heads or 'Saint' stick men. Jock had another tattoo on his forearm that was a tribute to the rockabilly singer Andy Starr's lyrics "Rockin' rock, rollin' stone", but George misunderstood Jock's thick accent and tattooed "rollin storm".

Jock lived in a council flat in Borough, south London, which was venue to regular house parties where all his meagre possessions would be stolen and his furniture reduced to kindling. It didn't seem to faze him.

We were walking up Camden high road after an afternoon's heavy drinking at Dingwall's one Saturday, and as he lurched into the road he was hit head on by a van coming over the little hump-backed bridge by the lock. He lay in the road for about a minute, motionless, then wobbled to his feet and refused any treatment for the massive gash on his head. We got on the tube, bandaged him up that night and went out to Silks in Shepherds Bush.

He was a gentle soul who read a lot. I hope he survived.

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