Your punk band may crash and burn, but you'll never have a better time before your dream runs aground. The Vagrants are no exception, as Ralph Heibutzki learns in 1989, in six dizzying months of playing bass with them. Like so many other bands, their story ends with the usual kiss off: "So near, and yet so far."
You've never heard of the Vagrants, who never got out of London, never got signed, never put out a record, never played more than a handful of gigs to pockets of garage-punk fanatics. Yet for these prisoners of rock 'n' roll, the dream often seemed tantalizingly in reach.
Follow Ralph around London in this short sharp shock, 28 page recollection, as he learns six and a half songs in an hour, meets x-members of the Clash, and shreds what's left of his hearing, as he and his bandmates wait for their rock 'n' roll ship to finally come in.
Well, it's taken a bit longer than I'd expected, but after a couple months of work, I've released my first Amazon Kindle Publishing, "My Life As A Vagrant (Digging For The Bones Of Strummer & Jones)," which looks back at the band I joined during my six-month stay in London (see description above), against the backdrop of what was happening at the time -- Acid House, anti-Thatcher agitation, and much, much more. Though the band didn't realize its potential, let alone release anything, it marked a special time period in my life, to which I wanted to pay tribute.
I'd toyed at various times with the subject over the last 20-odd years or so. The earliest versions go back to July 1999, which makes sense, coming a good decade after the original experience, when I thought it might make some kind of a memoir. Eventually, though, once I'd decided to give the whole Kindle thing a try, I filleted the fish, so to speak, pulled out the most relevant parts -- the Vagrants' rise and fall, plus the Clash anecdotes -- and set about writing a (relatively) compact piece about it all.
To get the various basic boring details right, like where and when we played, I dipped into my journals from the time, along with the usual flyers and ticket stubs that I still had from that era. Funnily enough, I have a live shot or two of the band, but after turning my flat upside down, I can't seem to come across it. Maybe tomorrow, as the Pretenders song says, maybe some day...
I spent a fair amount of time trying to work out the usual technical bugs, like spacing, for instance. I got additional help in that area from Don Hargraves, whose photos have appeared here; thanks, Don, for your assistance there.
"My Life Is A Vagrant" is intended as the first release in a series of short and medium-length articles for Kindle, which some pundits assert is the true "sweet spot," notably Kate Harper's book, How To Publish And Sell Your Article on the Kindle, which encouraged me to give it a go. So here we are! Time will tell how it all works out, but it seems a lot more exciting than sitting around and waiting for someone to say "Thumbs up," or "Thumbs down" -- if, in fact, if they aren't having too much success to let you know either way.
I think back on those times, and wonder whatever happened to my fellow Vagrants, with whom I spent much of those six months, scratching, clawing and scheming, as we plotted 'n' planned on taking the rock 'n' world by storm, swearing to take no prisoners along the way. Whether we did or didn't, it was a hell of a ride, which you can find out for yourself -- and buy a copy -- by clicking here: