The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
20 May 2002
We thought we were going to be part of something much bigger. You tend to at that age, when you've spent your whole life in a bubble, from the tight confines of your family semi in Welwyn to those first days at boarding school, always sheltered and shielded by those that love you and the people they pay to look after you. All the Falklands meant to us was that we got to stay up late to watch the news on BBC One; we never imagined anything infringing on our perfect existence. Then, when we hit seventeen, there was a Damascus moment when we saw a glimpse of a bigger world for the first time, and we wanted in. Or out, depending on where you were sitting.
It was a surreal beginning, in a lot of ways. I'd be disappointed if the likes of Radiohead had started off the same way; the glamour, the mystique would be nastily tarnished. It was some time around the end of '86, two-thirds of the way through some shitty excuse for a party (total headcount twelve, of which the four girls and their three boyfriends had already left) and most of the way through the contents of Al's parents' drinks cabinet. We'd made it as far as the cherry brandy, and were singing out of tune to the Clash as Jon bashed away at the piano. Rock and Roll.
How we got from there to the idea of putting together a band got lost somewhere in the dregs of the Polish vodka. But when we all collected ourselves in the early afternoon, draped across various pieces of furniture, the floor was covered in scraps of paper full of barely legible lyrics, most of which had seemed clever at the time, and The Septic Foreskins were born.
The name had been the only source of creative discussion the whole evening. We knew we wanted to sound angry, but we weren't that bothered about anything in particular. Fucking Thatcher's Arse was an early favourite until we realised that we agreed with all she stood for and were sat in a country house she pretty much helped to build. On top of which, it was a better name for an album anyway.
The next hour was spent sticking drawing pins in every book in the house on the off-chance of hitting on something apt. Then Al caught his cock in his flies, and Rob made some comment about gangrene. One of those great epiphanous moments, you might say.
We trundled along for a month, the four of us. The minor problem that we were shite was dwarfed by the fact we had no place to practise. But we still knocked up some corking numbers - my favourite was the seasonal 'I Believe in Father Christmas', with its stunning opening lines 'Santa Claus is coming / His balls are in his sack / Santa Claus is coming / Up your anal crack'. Went down a treat with the pupils at the school open air concert, I can tell you. But it took the intervention of Jon's older brother, Sam, to take us to the next logical level. He was the only one with a garage, after all.
He could sing, too, which was clearly going to help. So I had to step aside and concentrate on playing rhythm guitar in the background. I was more relieved that bothered, to be honest; I found that playing and singing at the same time wasn't as easy as people made it look. No, the real problem was that our clever name (there were four of us - geddit?) was now royally fucked. Until we just decided to sod it and go with the Fiveskins instead.
And it worked, for a while. That whole summer holiday, we played gigs in pubs and clubs in our various hometowns and round Sam's uni. There was never any chance of hitting the big time, we realised that soon enough, but there was still a certain buzz in getting up on stage and even supporting the odd slightly-famous band that happened to be playing in town that night. Seeing their fans going mad as we played was one of the highlights of our time.
And as always, it all stopped as quickly as it had begun. Three of us were at the same uni, but we were far too busy making new friends and drinking away our maintenance grants to get together that often. So we unofficially called it a day, with nothing but a couple of dodgy recordings from Sam's garage to remember our time together.
And that was it, until a few weeks ago. The news came as a bit of a shock, but we knew Rob hadn't been exactly well. The biggest surprise was that his parents asked us to play at his wake. Apparently he'd kept a big box full of memorabilia from our time - photos, flyers, all the tapes from every gig we played. They said he'd never been happier than when he was on stage with us. So, fifteen years on, a collection of early thirtysomethings (one accountant, a chef, and two suits) squeezed into the old outfits and put on a show for friends and loved ones of the deceased.
We opened with Father Christmas. It was beautiful.