My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who thinks the Kardashians are a tribe of brutal aliens from Battlestar Galactica.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal."
MENK 27: THIS PLACE IS HELL WITH WALLS
I should have gone straight home when he answered the door.
In 1987 the Baron’s brother lived in the old gardener’s cottage in Taylor Park, St Helens. This was a rather grand title for a small house on the lip of a park usually frequented by glueheads, duffers, truanting schoolies, perverts and people who had given up on life. The Baron’s brother worked in local government by day but was in a John Peel approved indie band by night, and he would throw top parties which were like the exact opposite of something out of The Great Gatsby. He answered the door naked with his long-suffering cat draped across his erection. The orange glow from a sodium light overhead made his large, smooth belly look really odd.
That cat always looked pissed off. The Baron’s brother lived with a complete lunatic. I don’t mean that he was angry, zany or unpredictable but actually clinically insane. Once sitting in the kitchen having a brew, the Baron was outraged to see the cat walking out of the lunatic’s room with an especially dour look on its face and its tail pointing bolt upright as the non-writing end of a bookie’s pencil stuck out of its anus. To be fair, the lunatic directed his quivering madness at everyone, not just the cat. I had it on good authority that he had guests round for tea once and he cooked their shoes. And by that I mean he put two shoes in two frying pans, fried them to a crisp and then served them up on plates to their respective owners. He then sat staring intently at them while they figured out what to do – eat their own shoes or make a run for it. The Baron’s brother was pretty normal by comparison. Although if you took the knock in his presence he did have a habit of pouring a bottle of poppers into your mouth.
The Baron’s brother was part of the mid-80s UK indie circuit, and he often put touring bands up when they were playing Liverpool or St Helens, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Paul Heaton of The Housemartins at the party. This was the night that Heaton met Jacqui Abbott, a girl who drank in my local pub, The Royal Alfred. She must have impressed him as some years later he phoned her up out of the blue while she was working at Wilkinson’s home improvement shop selling shitty mop heads, paint rollers and plastic buckets and asked her if she wanted to be the new singer in his group, The Beautiful South. She left the shop before the end of her shift and didn’t look back. A dream come true. Unless you hate The Beautiful South, that is. In which case it’s more like out of the frying pan into a throbbing grotto of fucking pain.
It wasn’t just a significant night for her, though.
I’d only ever had drugs once before and that experience had been brilliant. When I was 15 I interviewed one of my favourite bands, a terrifying avant-garde industrial rock band called GNARL for a St Helens fanzine. They were kind of like the local Spice Girls, in that you were supposed to identify with a different member of the group depending on what kind of St Helens man you were – you could pick from the angry drunk journalist, the angry drugged psychiatric nurse, the angry drunk garage worker, the angry drunk and drugged dole claimant, etc. They sounded like Killing Joke crossed with King Crimson and used to punch each other in the face before they went on stage. Sometimes they had tape recordings of Hitler’s speeches or choice snippets of dialogue by Darth Vader playing under their hellish grooves. (They were a genuinely fantastic band, but then St Helens had more than its fair share. Ask anyone who saw Those Naughty Corinthians or The Volunteers play live. Those Naughty Corinthians achieved local notoriety by insisting on watching a football match on TV that they didn’t want to miss while playing a gig. They played their entire set at a 90-degree angle to the audience, facing a portable set on a bar stool. This may not sound that surprising to you, but that kind of unorthodox behaviour was less common in those days and it was kind of like St Helens’ Bowie and Ronson on Top Of The Pops moment. Only 15 people were at that gig but at least four of them went on to form bands themselves.)
I’d been pretty anti-drugs up until the interview with GNARL but when I got to the singer’s flat I didn’t want to lose face when they kept on offering me joints. When I got home I sat on my bed watching lots of little red people climb out of the cover of a Sisters Of Mercy album sleeve and start doing suggestive dancing all over my duvet. “If this is what pot is like, I’m never taking acid,” I thought to myself. I went to bed and had spectacular dreams. (When I next saw the guitarist he said to me, “So, how did you like that opium?”)
In the old gardener’s cottage, the Baron’s brother said: “I’ve got mushrooms in the kitchen. There are trays of them drying in the oven. You lads, don’t have too many. Or if you do, fuck off somewhere else.” I’d had four cans of Special Brew and half a bottle of Thunderbird so I didn’t give a shit about anything. I ate hundreds of mushrooms and drank about a pint of soup. Before too long it became apparent that me, and two other idiots, needed to be walked somewhere a bit quieter where we could calm down. The walk through the park was amazing. All my friends were talking in fluent Russian. There were neon luminous insects crawling everywhere. Everything I touched retained bright green hand or finger prints. That was the best bit of the night. It lasted for 20 minutes which flew by. By the time I got to my friend’s house I had become discombobulated. Possibly with no chance of return to normality, it seemed. They tried playing soothing music but album after album of Bob Dylan just made everything worse. Clocks going backwards. Demons from overspace. The smell of black holes. Spiders in my brain. The extra person in the room with chattering teeth. The whistling nuns at the window. The conviction that I was in a coma. And "Lay Lady Lay". I still can’t listen to that mumbling cunt now without a shadow passing over my grave.
I remember one bit of it really clearly. I was standing in the bathroom trying to urinate looking at the bath. Then I was looking up at the moon. Then I was looking into the toilet bowl which looked uncannily like a duck’s gaping mouth. Then back up at the moon. Eventually I just fell to the floor, curled up in a ball under a tree and started gibbering. The carpet felt like grass. My friend’s parents were having a downstairs bathroom fitted and had left a bath, a shower unit and a toilet in the back garden. She had told me this several times, apparently, but I was incapable of understanding even the most simple of sentences.
There was one lucid interval. I remember laughing and saying: “I’m alright!” And then the waves of horror came slowly back over me. Another seven years of madness. Eventually they put me behind the couch and threw a blanket over me. When no one else was looking, one of my friends would bounce a tennis ball on my head and laugh to himself.
And then, at 8AM the next morning, it stopped. Just like that.
And when I got home, I nearly cried with relief when I saw my front door.
And when I got into bed I said to myself: “I will never take drugs again under any circumstances.”
Previously: Menk, by John Doran - Hands Up Who Wants to Die?