The UK economy was in poor shape, with unemployment rates at an all-time high. England’s youth were rioting and out of work. Then punk arrived on the scene.
It changed the life of Tom Hingley, born in 1965, as the seventh and youngest son of an Oxford don. He grew up at Frilford Grange, near Marcham, and his cleverer brothers won free scholarships to Abingdon School , then a direct-grant school — but Tom was dyslexic and went to a ‘bog-standard’ comprehensive, Larkmead.
After re-taking his A-levels , he won a place at Manchester Polytechnic, formed a band called Too Much Texas and got a job collecting glasses at The Haçienda , the club which launched a youth culture that was to change the music scene. He beat Noel Gallagher at audition to be lead singer with Inspiral Carpets, launching a rock music career. The rest of the band were working-class Oldham rebels, and much of the book is devoted to the continual arguments and splits.
Tom says punk arrived in rural Oxfordshire ‘like a salvo of Spitfires’. His brothers introduced him to Dr Feelgood. ‘Shy, clumsy and slow to learn’, Tom rejoiced in the fact that you didn’t need ‘a three-year Open University doctorate’ to understand it, unlike the 1970s music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
It is entertaining to read about his first band, Albert Park and His Playmates, formed while at Garford and Frilford primary school, which had 12 pupils when he left. Rebellion started early, at Marcham church, where he rejected his parents’ agnosticism by joining the choir and learning to harmonise.
The book is structured fairly haphazardly, perhaps due to the quantity of drugs ingested during some periods. Dyslexic or not, he has a way with words (though ‘Uncle Redge’ may be a misnomer). Particularly poignant are his descriptions of his difficult relationship with his father, who spent 35 years translating Chekhov’s works for Oxford University Press.
Interesting reflections on an era which gave young outsiders an outlet for anger and a glimmer of hope.
A review of Carpet Burns in The Oxford Times with partricular focus on the Oxford days!