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It was a searing hot Friday afternoon in Leicester, England during the summer of 1977, and in the back room of a semi-derelict, Dickensian squat in the ancient, run-down West End of town, a scrawny punk pushed a dirty, smoking pan of molten lead off the one-ringed stove to make way for a battered, black frying pan. He was hungry. Mash, cabbage and Spam began sizzling together for a rare, sustaining banquet.
The stack of rough, unfinished, cast lead badges; Motorhead, Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden, safety pins and ‘toilet seats’ and the like, lay on the cluttered bench waiting to be finished. It would take all night to get them done. Then, half asleep, with his hands, tight T-shirt and ripped jeans caked in a patina of black paint and lead dust, he would slink off down to the local pub venue to traffic his rare, illicit wares in a miasma of noise and darkness at the chaotic Penetration gig.
There was nearly enough lucre now. Together with the Giro and his chaotic moonshining he’d scraped-up almost enough cash to eat and buy an occasional hard earned pint, and saved towards buying that ferry ticket to Elysium; the Hook of Holland, to the start of a new life. Just a few more quid to go.
From the smoky darkness of the deafening and claustrophobic gig emerged a gigantic, slicked-back spiv. He grabbed the anarchic peddler’s arm from behind and shouted into his ear in a nicotine-gravel voice, “Hey kid. I’ll take everything you’ve got… for cash”. His heart thumping, the nervous and disbelieving youth, scared half to death, stared blankly back.
The bootlegger took out the biggest roll-up of dirty, dog-eared notes the impoverished punk had ever seen.
“Could you do me another thousand pieces for the same time next week?” Christ! A thousand! That would make him a virtual millionaire!
“Then I’d want at least the same again every week. Can you do that?”
(That’s bleedin’ impossible, but Jesus..!)
“Ye’h. No problem.” he answered cockily.
“Don’t let me down kid.” The bootlegger said, stuffed a card in his hand then ignominiously pushed off into the crowd.
“Listen...” the punk called his brother the next morning from a phone box, “can you call in sick for a week or so and come over to give me a hand? It’s gonna’ be worth your while, I promise.”
He didn’t take much persuading. A car-mechanic’s van driver come grease monkey, (the contemporary equivalent of child-labour), he decided it’d be a laugh for a few days and besides, he needed a break from this hell anyway.
So, on a diet of lead-dust sandwiches and next to no sleep, with lead-burns and raw fingers, and by the end of the week, looking like spent matches, the two dropouts made the thousand badges. And as the dream of escape to a European adventure tacitly evaporated, the seeds of a lifetime’s work for the fated youths began to germinate.