Five-minute memoir: Philip Hoare recalls being catapulted into a world of punk and rebellion

'I was about to be admitted to a place out of my dreams and nightmares'

The boy in the queue for the Roxy Club asked someone for a light. He wore a black leather jacket and had blond spiky hair. His voice was a New York drawl – all the more remarkable for the fact that we were standing in a wet, dreary winter street in the blasted, semi-derelict streets of Covent Garden, a Suffragette City by one remove. He probably came from a London suburb not dissimilar to my own in Southampton, but he was the very embodiment of what I wanted to be. A sunken-cheeked London Lou Reed, wreathed in the acrid air of decadence.

I was wearing a pink mohair jumper I'd found at a jumble sale – the source of my fashion statements now for two or three years, product of another, entirely different nocturnal queue, outside a scout hut or school hall, to rummage among the sharp-elbows of smelly old women and pull out some period treasure from under the pile of cast-offs. The jumper was embellished with little rubber monsters which I'd safety-pinned to the wool. I hoped the effect was suitably surreal. My jeans were skinny – itself a statement of rebellion against the flapping Oxford bags I had so recently sported. Everything was tightened and tapered and taken in. I was ready, after all the rehearsals, after all those different costume changes I'd already undertaken in my short teenage life to date, for my debut: my first real-life nightclub.

My social life until then had been comprised of illicit visits to local pubs with my best friend Peter, dressed up in the satin cast-offs of early glam. My nearest point of contact with nightclubs was an imported American magazine called Rock Scene, which published paparazzi-style photos of Davids Bowie and Johansen spilling out of CBGBs in satin and tat. It was an ambisexual other world to which I aspired yet knew I would never attain. I'd seen a glimpse of it earlier that year, when I witnessed Bowie on his Station to Station tour in Earl's Court, a Berlin cabaret singer lit by white fluorescent lights and morphed through some future dystopia. But here in blackened 1970s London, in a city I feared and loved, a blacked-out place of strikes and disarray, I was about to be admitted to a place out of my dreams and nightmares, a place from which I might never escape, nor ever want to, either.

I paid my money at the box office-like window, fearful I might yet be rejected at this gate as unfit to enter the den beyond. The walls were painted black; a narrow corridor led to the stairs that descended to the basement below. No going back now. Indeed the physical crush of bodies – young bodies, dressed like me or much better or even worse – meant retreat was impossible. We were like eels in an eel-trap.

Downstairs was utter mayhem. A heaving mass of those same bodies, pressed even tighter together here, unholy worshippers to the electric crackle and roar that reared out of man-sized speakers. The sound itself was the place. To indiscriminating ears it was one long blur of buzz-saw racket, more feedback from a black hole than music. To me it was the sound of insurrection. The Vibrators were onstage, or were soon about to be, their lanky frontman in white plastic sunglasses, taken-in jeans and platform boots. There was barely any delineation between the tiny stage on which they were performing and the crowd which reacted as one to the noise they were making. That barrier had been breached. For me, the glamour was intensified, rather than destroyed, by that removal.

I went back, week after week. I was at college in an outer London suburb – where I might as well have been translated from one place of confinement to another, from my home to another version of home, for all that it was so lonely. Now I'd found a new home, via the slam-door train into the city, the dark walk over the river, and the forbidding warren of streets that lay beyond. It was my real education. Rather than volumes on 18th-century naval warfare, Sniffin' Glue became my preferred reading.

I saw The Jam and The Damned again and again, and in that scuffed corridor my way was once blocked by a sneering Johnny Rotten, demigod of the new order. I jumped onstage to shout into the microphone, brandishing a water pistol. My hair was cropped short, and coloured with the same red dye my mother used, bought in cheap silver foil sachets from Boots. My transformation had begun in earnest. I was used to hearing music in my box bedroom through the single speaker of a cassette recorder, and dressing up in the mirror. Now the volume had been turned up, and any sense of responsibility overturned. No going back now.

'The Sea Inside' by Philip Hoare (4th Estate) is available now, £18.99

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

    Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

    But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
    Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

    Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

    Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

    Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

    Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

    England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

    In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)