On a couple of occasions recently I have been asked what the first thing I ever had published was. This is a difficult question to answer, because I never know at what level the questioner expects me to begin.
For example, the very first thing was probably a comic tale about my classmates which I had published in the school magazine – ‘The Bin’ – when I was about 18. It was kind of cruel as it lampooned one or two people rather thoroughly, but at the same time there’s always a certain element of cruelty in comedy and at that time I was less inclined to shy away from it than I am now.
However, it may be that this was preceded by me having a letter published in Smash Hits magazine. As I have alluded to before, this was the premier music magazine of the time, bigger even than the New Musical Express (which at the time had lapsed into a kind of pretentious, navel-gazing, doldrums). It had never occurred to me to write in before, but for some reason I was inspired to put pen to paper after an innocuous comment by Robert Smith of The Cure to one of their journalists provoked a batch of unfriendly replies from readers.
Regular readers will remember that The Cure are my favourite band ever, bar none. In my volatile teenage years any criticism of them provoked a bad reaction from me, but this time I don’t think I went over the top. I do however have to qualify that, because I can’t actually remember what I wrote! I know that the comment that Robert made was that the cover photo on one of their albums* was supposed to show the three band members as the deceased body of Marilyn Monroe.
Now, of course, I can understand why people were not very happy about this. Monroe to many is an icon (even though she’s vastly over-rated in my view) and they were not to know that, at the time, Smith was going through a phase of telling whopping lies** to music journalists. If truth be told I was surprised that my letter was published, but I wore the small badge which I was sent with pride – right up until the time I lost it a few weeks later.
I am not sure which of these events came first, because I didn’t keep copies of either of them. It took me a long time to learn that I should do that.
*I’m not mentioning the name because it will stop this post getting past ‘naughty word’ checkers, but it is a 1982 album, the only one with three band members on the front and…well, if you need more clues I doubt you will get it anyway.
*I am not sure if this actually was a lie, but it came at the around the same time he claimed to have recorded a record of Frank Sinatra covers and to take a lamb on tour with him, so it quite possibly was.