Monday, November 25, 2013

Music Monday: James Maker and Morrissey in Bermondsey

In his recently published 'Autobiography' (Penguin, 2013), Morrissey mentions spending time in Bermondsey before forming The Smiths. The teenage Moz was an obsessive New York Dolls fan, and a letter of his published in a 1977 music paper led to another young Dolls fan from South London getting in touch with him. James Maker lived with his parents on the now demolished Bonamy Estate SE1 - in fact Morrissey gives the precise location as 91 Redlaw Way, 'a maisonette of ramps and grey slabs on the corner of St James' Road and Caitlin Street'.

The young Stephen Patrick Morrissey
Maker and Morrissey became close friends travelling between Manchester and London to see each other. Morrissey recalls making 'this journey many times' - 'The bus rattled down the Old Kent Road - away from the overdeveloped pink blob of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. Each inch of the road has spent itself in other eras... I jump off the bus at the Civic Centre, where Tommy Trinder fell from the rafters every Friday night and told it his own way to those unlucky people'.

James Maker photographed by Morrissey on the Bonamy Estate with his
New York Dolls stencilled denim jacket.
Morrissey doesn't tell us too much about what he and Maker got up to other than listening to the New York Dolls and going 'swimming at a typically pitiful public pool in Peckham'. But it is clear that the two had a great influence on each other. While by his own account Morrissey struggled with sexual intimacy with men or women for many years to come, Chaser seems to have been clearer that he was gay (though this is not a word that Morrissey uses).

Other sources say more about this time. A letter Morrissey wrote at the time, quoted in Tony Fletcher's 'A Light that Never Goes Out: the Enduring Sage of the The Smiths' recounts that he and Maker spent time on the balcony of the latter's flat watching what they believed to be UFOs: 'At one point I stood on the balcony and stared directly into one hovering ship, and it STOPPED in mid-air above me'.

A teenage James Maker - think those are the tower blocks of
the Tustin Estate on Old Kent Road behind him
Maker almost became The Smiths 'Bez' - at their first gig in 1982, he danced along with the band on stage complete with maracas and high heels. Maker went on to make music himself as the lead singer of Raymonde, who released the 1987 album Babelogue, and then RPLA - who caused consternation at rock magazine Kerrang when they realized they'd put a 'gay metal band' on their cover.

James Maker in RPLA period - 1993

He also put out under his own name the fine 'Born that Way' in 2004.

I'm aware that Maker has published his own memoir, Autofellatio (2011), but haven't read that yet.

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