Mick ‘Skinner’ Baker on the left with Chris Almond.
The five books written by Mick ‘Skinner’ Baker; guitarist of Virus V1 are about growing up in the late seventies and early eighties.
From Mick’s school days, through to his obsessive interest in punk rock, eventually forming the band Virus V1 in 1982. There are many of his teenage experiences written in a humorous prose, about a punk misfit living at his parents in a small village, who goes out with the same friends to meet at the same pubs. Hanging around church graveyards talking punk and mischief. Mick writes of various clumsy attempts getting his first girlfriend, parental pressure, various labouring jobs, attending yuppie parties with awkward responses from the group of young punks, going to that ‘London place’, specifically the Stokey ‘Frontline’ to buy some puff, some light fingered thievery, getting into trouble with some of the locals, and with the local bobby on the beat, and much much more.
All these experiences might be recognisable to some, but punk rock being an outlet for his frustration and boredom, THAT, I am sure most readers might recognise from their own experiences.
Mick aged thirteen – a Bored Teenager off to school sporting a Sex Pistols badge.
Mick – a Bored Teenager sitting on a red spider climbing frame similar to the one in the Tale of the Clash where he almost got stabbed!
1/ Tales of the Angelic Upstarts – In 1980 mainstream punk is dead but underground punk not only survives, but it’s also thriving. Skinner and his mates want to be a part of this, so they set about forming a punk band of their own. To succeed, they’ll have to survive draconian Richard Hale School, N.F. skinheads, and a family of ex-boxers. Come and join Skinner and his mates on their quest, as they take the piss out of anyone and anything mercilessly, drop a breeze block on an unfortunate frog, and find out that using soap to spike up your hair with isn’t such a good idea.
2/ Bad Brain Tales – Skinner has left school and despite a few setbacks, Virus V1 are nearly ready to play their first gig. To succeed, they’ll have to survive a dose of full-time employment, a self-important policeman and a psychopathic Vicar. Once again, it’s time to join Skinner and his mates as they still take the piss out of everyone and everything mercilessly, play their first gig, and top up people’s drinks with piss at a yuppie’s birthday party.
3/ Tales of Disorder – In 1982 Virus V1 are playing gigs, moving towards their new objective of getting themselves a decent fan base. To succeed, they’ll have to survive Christmas, a snakebite-induced burglary, and a dangerous liaison. Andy, Skinner, Whiff, Dave and their mates have been busy since you last read about them in Bad Brains Tales. It’s time to re-join them on their quest, as they destroy a nativity scene, receive an unwelcome visitor to their houses, and discover that Dick out of The Subhumans isn’t a wanker after all.
4/ The Tale of the Clash – Virus V1 have played the gig of their lives, had the time of their lives, now their new objective is to get a record out. To succeed, they’ll have to survive Irate Street Dealers, The Red Spider, and ultimately, themselves. Once again, it’s time to catch up with Andy, Skinner, Whiff, Dave and their mates, as they discover Hackney Frontline, search for cassettes in the wilds of Harlow town, and discuss the difference between a knobhead and a knob-end.
5/ Savage Circle – Skinner moves to notorious Sele Farm Estate in Hertford. He’ll have to toughen up and learn quickly. There’s plenty of characters to meet ‘down on the farm’. Violent criminal Robbo, smackhead Dirty Den, and a bloke who uses dogs to keep warm at night.
“Based on the author’s own experiences, the books chart the highs and many lows of being a young punk rocker trying to form a band. Nothing is missed out, it’s the complete memoir. From finding band members, the first practices, the fights, parties, loves lost and found. It also takes in, breaking the law, home visits from the police, arguments with parents, job interviews for dead end jobs, and finally the gigs, the good, the bad and the hilarious. It’s all here”.
Stig – Amebix
CXNTERBURY TALES books by Mick ‘N’ Baker that are available so far are:
Book 1 – Tales of Angelic Upstarts
Book 2 – Bad Brains Tales
Book 3 – Tales of Disorder
Book 4 – The Tale of the Clash
Book 5 – Savage Circle
All books are available from Amazon but also directly from Mick ‘N’ Baker on Facebook, Instagram or contact him on his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mick with snooty relatives Uncle Jack Auntie Evie and his old man.
Mick on the left with Chris Almond.
Mickey ‘Penguin’ in 1981/82 in the photograph above and his words below.
I remember seeing Mick’s band, Virus V1 three times. Once at Richard Hale school in 1982, with Onslaught, another local punk band who would be the only local punk band from our area to eventually release a 7” single! And very good it is too. Through reading the book I found out that the Richard Hale school gig was actually the debut Virus V1 live performance, a detail I either did not know at the time, or perhaps I had forgotten about though the years.
In 1983 I saw the band at Ware Arts College and at Stevenage Bowes Lyon House supporting Subhumans.
Weirdly, in 1983, according to the book, Virus V1 performed a gig in Hoddesdon, a fairly grim town, somewhat industrialised, and situated on the Herts/Essex border, and where I lived with my parents and brothers. In the book, Mick describes Hoddesdon thus: “Hoddesdon is a big town with a decent punk scene easy for both the North London punks and our mates in Ware and Hertford to get to as well”. I actually have no memory of that gig at all. But it is in the book, so I am sure that I would have been there with my younger brother, at this time playing guitar in Necro, another of ‘our’ local punk bands. Necro are mentioned in the book in the same chapter, so I must have been there if Necro were performing. So, either my brain has blocked the gig out due to some trauma, seeing Virus V1 and Necro would probably traumatise anyone! Or maybe I was ill or something, and I never showed. Weird.
Mick on the left with Richard the original Virus V1 bass player.
Virus V1 did not actually perform too many times until the members called it a day, and started other musical projects, or gave up due to drifting away from music altogether. I was surprised at how few gigs Virus V1 performed in the band’s short existence. Another detail that I learned from the book!
Back to Bowes Lyon House and undoubtedly the highlight gig of the band’s performance history, and probably the only time the band performed with a decent P.A.
Anyone that went to Bowes on a Sunday evening for the punk gigs held there (organised in part by Jon Thurlow of Chron Gen I think) would know the size of the hall in this council community building. A well run venue (for punters anyway, I do not know if bands were mucked about), clean, a great sound from the P.A set up.
The gigs were generally very popular, if not pretty much full. All the gigs that I went to throughout most of the eighties there were full, except perhaps King Kurt first performance there, which I think the messy food fights put some local punters off. Strangely I saw the Fall there and that wasn’t full, which was strange. I did see Mark E Smith hit a heckler with a microphone stand though so that was worth seeing. Anyway, I digress, NORMALLY Sunday punk gigs were full.
You had to be a member to get into the venue, which wasn’t a problem as I recall. The staff did not seem to care about any age limits, or rather ‘underage’ limits. The first time I went to Bowes, I think to a UK Subs gig, my name was written in the book, and I was handed a paper membership card that I would have to take to any gigs at Bowes on the future visits there. I called myself ‘Richard Sole’. I made the name up as I hoped when I got my paper membership card that it would come back with ‘R.Sole’ written on it. To my joy it did! That is ‘arsehole’ to anyone who is confused with my choice of moniker. Interestingly, the UK Subs gig that might have been my first visit to Bowes, had some of us teeny-punks ended up on the side of the stage, as Deptford John who was a roadie for the UK Subs at the time, saw us getting squashed, well certainly myself and my younger brother. When ‘Stranglehold’ was about to be played Charlie Harper placed the microphone towards us, and Andy, the soon to be singer for Virus V1 a year or so later, and I think an old primary school friend of mine, Stephen B, got to sing the intro and the choruses throughout the song. I am sure I was wailing into the microphone as well. We were spat on by the odd punk in the crowd at the front. Hopefully in appreciation rather than annoyance!
There were a lot of skinheads rocking up to most of the gigs at Bowes. A fair few of them were racist, given away their allegiance by the T-shirts worn. I would assume that most would have links to the National Front or the British Movement. Harlow, an Essex new-town nearby was a hub for the National Front, similar to Welling, Hoxton, and Leicester. The skinheads sometimes caused a fair bit of trouble, I guess the same theme as any other venue in the U.K around these early eighties’ years. An example was after the Addicts performed there (with Newtown Neurotics supporting), some chairs came raining down the stairs as the crowd were exiting the second floor hall to get out the venue at ground level. One chair narrowly missing my younger brother! Crass performed at Bowes in 1980, and although I was not there, the gig has gone into local folklore as one of the most violent and scary events that the venue hosted. Some members of Crass were actually arrested and taken down to Stevenage Plod Station!
I hadn’t realised this at the time, but due to the gig being on the 2nd January 1983, Virus V1, who were first on, were the very first band to perform at the Bowes Lyon House in that year, 1983. Not an important point, but cool nevertheless, if anyone asks a question about the ‘first band performing at Bowes Lyon House in 1983’ on a primetime TV quiz show!
Below are words from lifted from the third Cxnterbury Tales book in the series entitled ‘Tales of Disorder’ and added to this post with the permission from Mick himself.
Mick / Dave / Whiff at Stevenage Bowes Lyon House.
Virus V1 walked out onto the massive stage at the Bowes Lyon House, the blinding lights showing the nervous smiles scrawled onto all of our faces, and we quickly did a few last-minute checks.
Andy drew the mic up, “Whey! Good evening and Happy New Year!” A couple of cheers came back from the crowd. “This one’s dedicated to all the arse-licking Tories out there; it’s called Everybody’s Boy” he announced. Dave hit the intro, and at the end of the bar, his full kit roll brought us all in perfectly on time and everything clicked. It was incredible, it was lift off, the massive sound vortex of the PA system engulfed the hall, smashing our music and our message into the faces of the audience who responded by jumping, tearing into each other, and seeing the chaos we were creating from up on stage, we reciprocated by throwing everything we had into it. Whiff was off to my right, his fingers surged, ripping at his bass strings, bending, and weaving like he was having a fit. Andy centre stage, was upright, possessed, stalking the stage, a figure of anger and full of energy. Dave, our captain of the beat, laying into the skins and me? I was hammering the chords onto the fretboard, revelling in every fucking second of it. In the middle of ‘Everybody’s Boy’, when it came to my mini solo, the solo I had fluffed live so many times before, I felt like I couldn’t fail, everyone in the venue was willing me to get it right, and as I smoothly went through it, I wondered why I had a problem with it. It was as easy as F, G#, B. I looked at Dave as my guitar faded away at the end of ‘Everybody’s boy’, and he beamed back at me, giving me a more than-satisfied nod.
“Cheers, this is for all the people who celebrated Christmas this year, it’s called Christ Fuckers,” Andy said to the rapidly growing audience. Dave slammed into the opening beat and once again the audience started bouncing, pushing into each other in anticipation of the raging guitars they knew were about to come. Andy Chanted, “Symbol of religion, a man in pain, Jesus died well what a shame, so that we might be forgiven, sin is what you live in…… You can fuck your own Christ.” Dave lashed into the snare, Whiff and me brought in the raging guitars, the now sated crowd jumped, clawed, pushed, laughed, and pumped their fists in the air. I was amazed at the sound being produced by the P.A system, it was incredible; I could feel the air being forced away from us, our music, and our message roaring, like we were standing behind a 747-jet engine and, right in the firing line stood the audience. I felt a massive rush of adrenaline course through me as we all connected in the disorder, up on stage and in the audience, it was a beautiful kind of chaos, I couldn’t have stopped even if I wanted to, so at the end of ‘Christ Fuckers’ to keep the rush going I launched straight into ‘Protest’, I couldn’t help it. ‘Protest’ came and went in a savage one-minute thirty-second blur, the audience showing their approval.
On our next number ‘Public Enemy’ a supposedly slow track, we started off slowly but as adrenaline pulsed through us all, ‘Public Enemy’ soon took on a whole life of its own and began to speed up with each and every passing verse, I thought we’ve got to get a grip here; I got myself under some sort of control, made myself slow up a bit, playing the track as it should be.
On ‘Private War’ our next track, my adrenaline came back with a vengeance. In fact, it took over completely during my intro and I set the tempo way too fast, and once we had all come in, although it was hard for us all to keep up, and stay in time, we all rose to the challenge particularly Dave, whose arms became a blur as he venomously lashed into the skins. I nervously looked up and around at everybody, and was relieved to see that not only, did nobody care about the speed we were playing at, the audience were lapping it up too.
‘S.S.P.G’ came next, a medium-paced number about the notorious Special Patrol Group, the Tories answer to low-level inner-city crime, who were basically a bunch of bullies with badges, and the knowledgeable crowd reacted by singing the chorus of ‘S.S.P.G’ back to us, cheering and clapping as it faded at the end.
Whiff / Andy at Stevenage Bowes Lyon House.
Intro duties were back on me for our next track, the ultra-fast ‘No More Genocide’, and thankfully, this time I kept my rushing adrenaline under control, setting the right tempo. It was a good thing too, as Dave was at full capacity on that one, and after my intro, he hit the drum roll bringing Whiff and Andy in, and we watched the floor explode in front of us again, as our sound blitzed the audience squeezing out the silence, filling every part of the hall. In front of Whiff, there were a group of goth and punk girls at the front of the stage, and when he did his solo bars after the second chorus, some of them pointed screaming lecherously at him. I thought; “You lucky bastard”, then, my old man’s cautionary words came back to me about the dangers of groupies, the gonorrhoea, the syphilis, and before I knew it, my mind filled with images of the weeping sores and pus-filled buboes. I pushed my guitar hard into my groin in anticipation of the inevitable umbrella treatment that would follow such dangerous liaisons, then I laughed to myself and thought, you really have got to stop listening to him.
‘Gas Chamber Nursery’ and ‘Suffer Little Children’ followed: I hit the intro, sending the place into bedlam again, Dave and me exchanged a grin as we saw our first crowd surfer being passed jauntily from shoulder to shoulder. I nodded at Dave thinking, groupies, crowd surfers, yep, we’ve made it now, and we both creased up, as he was unceremoniously dropped to the floor, only to re-appear at the front of the stage with a big smile on his face. Andy was enjoying himself too as he passed the mic out into the crowd and his mates bellowed ‘Suffer Little Children’ on the chorus back at us.
‘Horrors of Belsen’ was up next, we hadn’t played it live before, so I felt a bit nervy when Whiff began to pluck out the intro. I need not have worried as ‘Horrors of Belsen’ with its sound of creeping death went down well with the Bowes audience, it encapsulated them in a way that was almost hypnotic. I watched as their heads slowly nodded, their eyes telling me that they were miles away, and I thought that not only our music was hitting home, but our message is also too.
Whiff / Andy / Dave at Stevenage Bowes Lyon House.
Intro duties were on me again on our second new live track ‘Auschwitz 84’ with a single note on the guitar, which undulates and builds, waiting for Whiff to come in. It undulated and built, built, and undulated, undulated, built. I thought, where the fucking hell is Whiff, he should be coming in by now, only to glance over to his side of the stage and there he was, exchanging air kisses with his little Siouxsie lookalike in the front row. I couldn’t help but laugh, that is until my bollocks cramped up, as the thoughts of steel umbrellas and penicillin filled my mind once again. Dave chucked a spare stick at him, bringing him back into the band, Whiff laughed, giving him a sarcastic little wave, and smiled self-consciously. I hit the intro again and this time he came in on time, followed by Dave, then Andy, and we were off. Once again, the sound from the towering P.A. system before us pulverized the audience and although everybody’s energy levels were beginning to wane, people were still smiling, laughing, and throwing what was left of their drinks in the air, some catching the splashes of precious juice in their parched mouths. In front of us, a sea of faces, crazy people with happy faces, enjoying the moment.
I wanted to stay on stage all night and just keep on playing, but ‘V1 Bomb’ was our last track, our best track, the track we wanted people to think about, hopefully, long after we had left the stage, so if we couldn’t carry on, and play an encore, then I was going to put everything I had left into this one, and looking at my mates, Andy, Dave, and Whiff, I could see they were thinking exactly the same thing I was. We steeled ourselves for one last massive sonic attack. Dave hit the military snare roll, two bars in, I hit the dampened guitar riff, Dave did the full kit roll, and we all came in blitzing the audience, and they responded in kind, finding more energy from somewhere, they jumped, pogoed, slamming into each other and on the chorus grabbing at Andy’s mic hungrily and shouted ‘V1 bomb’ back to us. It was beautiful, it was pure, it was mayhem, it was chaotic, and when the track came to its raucous end two minutes thirty later, we strolled confidently off the stage to cheers and applause.
I thought this is amazing, all of our hard work really is going to pay off after all, now that we are playing to our people. People who liked what we liked, bought the same stuff we did, people who felt strongly about the world and society as a whole.
It was simple: we got them, they got us, and together we are going to make a huge angry, energy-filled statement, that we are not like them. The Tories, The Reds, The Liberals and all their sycophantic cronies working within the government, we are going to tell them. We won’t live like you, we are different, we want to live the lives that we choose, NOT YOU – If they don’t like it then ‘FUCK THE STATE, WE DON’T NEED IT’.
Mickey ‘Penguin’ words below.
Virus V1 perform at Richard Hale school. I will admit I was not aware that this was the band’s very first performance until I read that chapter in the book. I was there, and I enjoyed the Virus V1 set, and the headliners set, Onslaught, the only local punk band that had released a 7″ single. My abiding memory of the gig is when the bassist for Onslaught, Sam, who had missing front teeth and a one string Rickenbacker bass tried to explain to a very young (14 years old max – around my age at the time actually) mixed race skinhead the irony of wearing a Y.N.F (Young National Front) shirt and hanging out with the handful of other white and older N.F skinheads that had turned up for the gig. The young mixed race skinhead, to me at least, seemed like an unknowing comical ‘golly in a white supremacist T-shirt’ mascot to the older skinheads. A real shame, I remember feeling at the time. I hope he listened to Sam that night.
Mark ‘Pepe Le Pew’ / Dave / Whiff / Gobber / Mick on the right.
Below are words from lifted from the second Cxnterbury Tales book in the series entitled ‘Bad Brains Tales’ and added to this post with the permission from Mick himself.
Richard Hale School’s main hall had certainly seen more people in the past, but as we walked onto the stage, I thought it was a decent turn-out for our first gig. Whiff checked his bass was in tune for the fourth time, Dave warmed up doing a series of paradiddles on the snare, Andy was upright, ready, so I hit a couple of chords, asked ‘OK?’ and they looked back slightly apprehensive, nodding in the affirmative.
Dave let loose the intro for our opening number ‘Everybody’s Boy’, hit a quick snare roll, and we all came in on time, and that was it, we were now playing our first gig.
A group of people down the front were nodding their heads getting into it, a few more at the back were jumping around, pogo-ing, then from nowhere there were two blokes up on stage with us, grabbing and pushing into each other. Andy rushed forward, pushed them, steaming in hard, one stumble backwards, arms reaching out for some kind of balance, the other almost fell headfirst off the stage onto the floor. Nah Andy, don’t do that mate, I thought, what’s the problem? It’s a punk gig, it’s going to get rough, if someone wants to shout abuse or get up on the stage, as long as they aren’t interfering with us playing, then fair enough. It’s angry music, people are supposed to get angry. I was proved right by the time the second chorus came, it was like something had been switched off in the audience, the people at the front, who had been nodding their heads, were now standing statuesque, staring maliciously at us, at Andy, in particular. One of the blokes who had been bounced offstage was pointing and shouting abuse at him, so I blew the little twat a sweet kiss, got back doing what we were here for, making a decent fucking racket, hoping they would get back to what they had been doing, jumping around. A coke can shot across the floor under me, putting me up onto one leg, looking up for the culprit, I saw a whole hall full of possibilities.
In amongst the tide of anger that was washing over us, I saw a lone foot tapping perfectly along with our beat, I thought oh well, at least someone’s enjoying it, then I realised that it was Dave’s foot on the high hat, and I thought you have got to get a grip here.
A massive shot of adrenaline rushed through my veins when it came to my solo on ‘Everybody’s Boy’, my hands seemed to take on a life of their own, running up the neck of the guitar like a spider, settling on four random strings.
I hit it as hard as I could; it sounded shit.
I watched the spider scamper further up the neck, grabbing another four strings.
I hit it as hard as I could; it sounded even worse than shit, I began to think that maybe the twat at the front bellowing you’re shit at me, might have a point.
Dave’s full kit drum roll brought the curtain down on my first live guitar solo, one of the worst I had ever played, steering me back to the safety of the glorious Bar E.
A few cheers, some sporadic applause, greeted us at the end of ‘Everybody’s Boy’, which surprised us, not the least Andy, who was still dossing out the attempted stage invaders, daring them to try it again. A massive shriek of feedback took Andy’s attention away from errant front row, and he switched his mic off, killing it dead.
Dave hit the beat to our second track ‘Christ Fuckers’, Andy drew the mic up, ready to start the chant, on the second bar he sang nothing as the mic was still switched off. Andy spun around, making neck chopping signals to Dave who stopped playing, quickly turning it back on again, bringing more feedback. In the whining feedback, clearly frustrated now, Andy blurted out, “Oh yes CND can organise gigs very well?”
“CND are a bunch of wankers,” I said, feeling the frustration myself, backing up our vocalist.
In the audience, the tide of anger had now turned into a wave,
“Well fuck off then”
“You fucking wankers”
“You’re shit” “Smart, that was really smart”
“Get another singer”
I thought this is just going from bad to worse, how can we carry on playing in front of this lot now, we’ve only played two tracks, and we’ve already pissed off most of the people here; we’ve got another ten tracks to play, we’re going to get fucking lynched. “Come on lads, fuck them, let’s play,” said Dave rallying us. Dave smashed into the beat, putting his marker down, showing some true grit, and for the second time that day, I thought you have got to get a grip here, this what we’ve been working towards for a year, keep playing, see what happens, maybe it’s not over yet.
Whiff gave me a nod of encouragement, clearly, he was feeling it too, I nodded back, thinking we’re right behind you Andy, it’s up to you now mate.
Andy chanted, “Symbol of religion, a man in pain, Jesus died well what a shame, so that we might be forgiven, sin is what we live in… You can fuck your own Christ.”
Dave hit the snare roll, Whiff and me brought the wall of guitars in and once again, with the music playing, anything seemed possible.
Andy was absolutely belting it out, I didn’t know it at the time, but he had been holding back at our practices, probably for moments just like these, I fed off it, I wasn’t the only one, a couple of groups in the audience were beginning to nod along too. I scanned the audience, did a double take, near the back I saw Hair Bear Harper, his face unreadable under his long black curly hair. Next to him stood Gary Walsh, along with Simon Bamford and Matt Beresford of Onslaught, their faces totally readable, they were all grinning, bopping their heads, enjoying what they were hearing.
‘Christ Fuckers’ last notes faded, giving way to a decent smattering of applause, a few cheers and thankfully no more abuse, maybe the tide will turn I thought. On our next track ‘Protest’, I played the first two bars on my own, holding down the last chord to fade and waited for Dave’s drum roll to bring us all in. “Ha, ha, you fucked it up,” one of the stage invaders shouted victoriously.
I snorted, glanced at the fool, shook my head and Dave smoothly hit a snare tom combination roll, and it was lift off, just as he had rehearsed it a hundred times before.
People enjoyed the fast pace of ‘Protest’, nodding their heads to the beat, bouncing up and down, showing their appreciation. One minute thirty seconds later, when the track came to its end, they all clapped enthusiastically. “Cheers, cheers, ta very much,” said Andy, now completely ignoring his distractors.
It felt like we were beginning to win them over. I thought thank fuck for that, we liked our music, most of our mates liked it too, but there was nothing quite like watching people listening to your music for the first time and getting into it; playing our music was all well and good, but with nobody around to hear it, it was like a tree falling over in the wilderness.
Virus V1 played another six tracks with the faster tempo one’s going down the best, so it was fitting that we finished on another fast one, our signature track ‘V1 Bomb’. Dave and me had worked particularly hard on that one at our unsanctioned Friday night practices to get it just right, both of us knowing it had great potential.
Dave hit the fast-paced military roll on the snare, building up and up in volume for two bars, I came in with a dampened guitar riff, then as the bar ended, Dave lashed out right across the kit in a full drum roll and then lift off, we all came in.
People started jumping around, the floor started pitching along with us, Andy felt the connection, bellowing our message out into the hall, pointing at some of his mates down the front, who in turn pumped their fists, pointing back at him; the tide had turned.
On the left of the stage Whiff also felt it, he lashed into his strings, exorcising the frustration that we had all been feeling, the floor trembling underneath him.
In the middle Dave was the king of the drum rolls, hitting the military rolls, building to a crescendo and me? I was loving every second of it, wasn’t I.
A massive cheer went up as ‘V1 Bomb’ ended and unbelievably, even some of the people who had been giving us a stick earlier, were asking for an encore.
I wondered if they were taking the piss, but so what if they were, some people wanted an encore, and we wanted to carry on playing now we were warmed up, so we did the first three tracks again, which went down a lot better the second time round, and we left the stage to the sound of cheering, applause, whistles and that was it, it was over, we had done it, our first gig.
Mick ‘Skinner’ Baker kindly answered some questions for me which are written out below – Thank you Mick for taking the time.
1/ When did you have the idea of writing your experiences from your school days through to your interest in punk rock and further to the formation of Virus V1 and with the many adventures in-between? Was the idea brewing over several years or did you wake up one day and just ploughed on with it?
MB/ No there was never any plan to write books. I just wanted to put together a few paragraphs to go with an old recording of Virus V1 for a feature in KYPP. Once I’d started, the memories just flooded out, I couldn’t stop. A week writing yielded thirty thousand words which became the foundation of the first four books. Sounds miraculous but it wasn’t really. Even though I didn’t read a book by choice until I was twenty five, I’ve read plenty over the years, from the pleasantries of John Steinbeck to the boot boy aggro of John King. Also, I did a couple of years as an Admin with some online comedy groups. I found I loved writing jokes, parodies, and twisting quotes for comic effect. Thankfully the feedback was good which I think gave me the confidence to write the books.
2/ Some of the experiences you write are quite raw, although no doubt important to the books, did you have any second thoughts about putting those in while naming those in question or were some names made up to protect the guilty? What did the members of Virus V1 feel about the book? Did you encounter any negative reactions?
MB/ Chaucer said something along the lines of, if you miss out the filth then you’re not telling the true story, which sounds about right to me. If you’re writing an autobiography though, it’s not the best philosophy to follow if you want to make new friends or keep old ones. One person in the books, a close friend, and a main character, has blanked me completely but that’s nothing compared to a scenario that may yet develop. There’s a bit in Savage Circle where I describe getting a blow job off an older woman. A month before the book was due to be published her son, someone I knew to have done five years in the Scrubs got in contact telling me, he loves my books and are there any more coming out. Nothing’s happened so far. He hasn’t even mentioned it!! In fact, he’s been really cool, left some decent reviews of the books including Savage Circle.
3/ You still go to punk gigs regularly, so you still have the enthusiasm for the live events. Was this always the case or were there years and years between gigs in the eighties and nowadays? In other words, if you last went to a punk gig in the eighties, did that carry on through the nineties, 2000s and up to 2023. If the punk gigs dried up in the eighties, were you interested in other forms of music? Late eighties indie or grunge. The nineties rave culture. Anything like that?
MB/ To be honest I lost interest in punk in the mid-80s. All my favourite bands were either selling out or producing the same stuff as before only not as good. What happened after that was for want of less cliched words, a musical journey. A journey that took me through metal, psychedelic rock, reggae dub, reggae, hip hop, rap, trip hop, big beat, abstract beats, and finally drum and bass. Not only did I immerse myself in the music but the cultures that went with them. I hadn’t listen to punk for years then in 2013 my partner Christy booked tickets for us to see a Clash tribute act called Broadway Clash. I was sceptical to say the least, but it turned out to be a decent night. It got me thinking about the real bands and how they would sound live. So, we went to a weekender at the engine rooms in Southampton featuring the Cockney Rejects, Vice Squad and the ANWL. It all snowballed from there…
5/ There are five books written and available right now. Is the next instalment of your life written down yet? If not are there any plans for a sixth book? The book series are available on Amazon. Can anyone get the books directly from you to avoid Amazon? If so, please leave details.
MB/ I’ve got another two, maybe three more books in me. Number six should be out next year. If people want to buy directly from me no problem. You’ll find me on Twitter, Instagram and of course Facebook as Mick N Baker. Just hit me up and I’ll send them directly.
6/ Can you remember the first couple of gigs you attended? Whether punk or not? The Ruts perhaps as they are mentioned in the book?
MB/ I remember my first gig very well – the Ruts at the Moonlight Club, West Hampstead in November 1979. Strangely enough, I’ve driven passed the place on numerous occasions, never realising its significance. The club was in a small room at the back of the Railway Tavern, the sign marking its presence, long gone. I only found this out when my mate, who’s a proper punk almanac, pointed it out to me. The gig is described in the first book, Tales of Angelic Upstarts.
Mick sitting on the steps of the Railway pub in West Hampstead (the Moonlight Club) exactly where he sat waiting for the doors to open for The Ruts gig in November 1979.
My second gig, I’m not so sure about but at a guess I would say the U.K. Subs at the Lyceum. That would have been in 1980, probably the Brand New Age tour. All I can remember is Charlie Harper dedicated a track to Nicky Garret’s family who were up in one of boxes while me and my mates ended up lying on the stage.
7/ Your parents moved away from the area you were brought up in as detailed in book four. Do you still visit your old village / Hertford town at all for any reasons? In other words, have you still got friends and some family there?
MB/ Yeah, that’s it, they were making plans to move in book four. I came back to it again in Savage Circle. Chronologically, they left the village just before Xmas 1984. Now and again, I’ll go back because my in-laws live there. One thing that strikes me when I go back is, how there’s no new houses. It’s nothing short of miraculous when you think of the amount of building that’s been done in the area. No new estates, no new streets. It’s just the way I left it forty years ago.
8/ Were you ever a bike courier, as a lot of old punks ended up being so, driving around cities delivering stuff? Some anarchos that I knew back in the eighties normally used bicycles and delivered sandwiches to business!
MB/ Yes mate, I was a despatch rider for seven years. I started with GLH out of North Finchley. My knowledge of London was limited to say the least, so I earned £22 in my first week. Luckily, GLH contracted me out to a photo lab in WC2 on a weekly wage, so I could learn. There were a couple of ‘house bikes’ there. One of them was a complete wanker but the other was a top bloke who persuaded me to jump ship. I worked as a house bike for a couple years, then hit the circuit, working for Central Express out of EC1. Then Turbo out of NW1 then finally SW6. Truth be told they were some of the best years of my life, but like everything that has a beginning, it has an ending too. It would be easy to blame the end of my despatching on Fax machines, the push bikers taking all the short drops, or even the nine points on my license, but reality of it was, I couldn’t take another winter.
9/ Your photographs of yourself in the early eighties show a whole array of punk clothing, some I would guess would have come from Seditionaries. Did you go to the shops up the Kings Road like Seditionaries or Boy, or did you get the clothes more locally? Also do you still have a box of old clothes and if so do would you imagine how much these items are worth now on the nostalgia market?
MB/ Yes and no. Like a lot of punks I made the pilgrimage up to the Kings Road – twice I seem to remember. Once to Seditionaries, where I’m pretty sure Chrissie Hynde was serving behind the counter. Then a year or so later to Boy. Both times I came away with nothing clothes wise – the prices were ridiculous. Bondage trousers cost the equivalent of nearly £100 in todays money. My paper round gave me £10 a week and my old man gave me a fiver if I’d behaved myself… I was coming up well short. There was no way I could afford to be a Kings Road punk so I did what everyone else did in the early days. DIY. Military jackets with badges and safety pins, black drainpipe trousers and absolutely no jeans. In time, luck favoured me with two Boy / Seditionaries shirts and a pair of those £100 trousers. As mainstream punk disappeared from the charts, some of the fashion punks decided to out their gear. So I was able to pick up the two shirts and a pair of Boy black bondage trousers for a fiver! Unfortunately, the trousers were too small and I soon grew out of the God Save the Queen cheesecloth so I swapped it with Chris for a pouch of Old Holborn. As you can see he’s wearing it in the picture. I still had no bondage trousers. My feeling at the time was, I was the only punk in the country not to own a pair. Then little adverts for cheap punk gear began appearing in the back of the music paper Sounds, so I dived in. None of it survived, though, there’s nothing left, not a trace. I’m not sure what happened to my five pairs of bondage trousers I had over my eight years of being a punk. However, I do know what happened to the Destroy shirt in the picture. My mum sneaked it into the weekly wash and it disintegrated…
10/ I have given you a cardboard box to put some of your favourite punk records in. What will those records be?
Top twenty singles in no particular order.
U.K. Subs, ‘Kicks’.
The Ruts, ‘Babylons Burning’.
Stiff Little Fingers, ‘Suspect Device’.
Crisis, ‘U.K. 78’.
The Pack, ‘King of Kings’.
ATV, ‘You Bastard’.
Slaughter and the Dogs, ‘Where have all the Boot Boys Gone’.
Discharge, ‘Never Again’.
Rudementary Peni, ‘Farce’.
The Sex Pistols, ‘Holidays in the Sun’.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, ‘Metal Postcard’.
Flux, ‘Tube Disasters’.
Eater, ‘Thinkin’ of the USA’.
The Tights, ‘Bad Hearts’.
The Stranglers, ‘Hanging Around’.
Chaos U.K. ‘Burning Britain’.
Disorder, ‘Complete Disorder’.
GBH, ‘Give Me Fire’.
Sham 69, ‘Borstal Breakout’.
The Buzzcocks, ‘I Don’t Mind’.
Top 20 Albums in no particular order.
Sex Pistols, ‘NMTB’.
U.K. Subs, ‘Brand New Age’.
The Exploited, ‘Troops of Tomorrow’.
Crass, ‘Stations of the Crass’.
Discharge, ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’.
Cockney Rejects, ‘Greatest Hits Vol 1.’
The Ruts, ‘The Crack’.
Still Little Fingers, ‘Inflammable Material’.
Rudementary Peni, ‘Death Church’.
Slaughter and the Dogs, ‘Do it Doggy Style’.
Dead Kennedys, ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’.
Suburban Studs, ‘SLAM’.
Black Flag, ‘My War’.
The Drones, ‘Further Temptations’.
The Depressions, ‘The Depressions’.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, ‘The Scream’.
Angelic Upstarts, ‘Clockwork Orange’.
Bad Brains, ‘Attitude’.
ANWL, ‘ We are the League’.
The Clash, ‘The Clash’.
Mick with his old man.
Four 5 star reviews for each of the five books are written below and there are many more 5 star reviews.
BOOK 1 – Tales of Angelic Upstarts
I thought Mick’s ‘Tales of an Angelic Upstart’ was one of the best openers to what was going to pan out into a first rate trilogy documenting the main protagonists Skinner and his Punk mates forming a band Virus VI and blasting the small town where they live off the face of the earth with raw ear ripping Punk riffs and highly offensive lyrics belted out into the ears of the innocent. Punk mayhem.
Vandalism. Lust. Gobbing. Pissing where no man has been before. I’ve now read all three book and I can’t recommend Mick’s really entertaining – sometimes – politically incorrect – stories/books enough. A lot of hard work obviously went into producing a ‘labour of love’. Not a Gonzo sentence in sight just tough in your face prose telling ball grabbing stories from an era where starting your own band was little short of declaring War on everything from good taste/the petrified music scene and a society on the brink of civil war and political meltdown. Anarchy in The UK’ meets Zola on solvents/snakebite, puff, and kiss of teen lips. Definitely three books to add to the top class of Punk genre books and gritty autobiography. Mick has proved that not only that we have one book in us but three and counting. Thanks for your gift and writing. You’re a great talent and your books a treat.
Everything about this book is great. It is well written and sets the scene of the early post-punk ‘80s perfectly, without being over nostalgic. The characters, who drift in and out of the book as friends do, are brought to life by the author. The characters are real and flawed and will have you rooting for them to do well – in particular the main character, Skinner. This book navigates you through Skinner’s punk-obsessed school years and reminds me of my experiences at a comprehensive school in the ‘80s. Every year had a few Punks, a few Trendies, a few Skinheads and a few Mods. Skinner’s final exit/escape through the school gates reminds me of Papillon’s dash to freedom as he enters Venezuela! Like Papillon this is a great tale told by a natural storyteller. Will I be reading any more in the series? Well, put it this way – the next two are sat on my kitchen table! I highly recommend this book.
Tales Of Angelic Upstarts does what it says on the tin. Or the book cover, obviously. Punk is Dead according to Crass and the press. But not for Skinner and his mates. It’s 1980 and they’re just about to leave school. No future was the cry from The Pistols, so the only obvious option is to start a punk band. But that is easier said than done. This book engages you from the first page. It’s funny, frank, and full of the sort of scrapes that teenage boys get up to when no one’s looking. I enjoyed this book so much that I ordered books two and three before I had finished this one. I’m looking forward to seeing what the gang get up to next. Thoroughly recommended.
I C Edwards
Love this. Reading the books in reverse order makes no difference to this tale of growing up in a boys comprehensive in Hertfordshire. With an ever expanding love of Punk music, attitude and a new band Virus V1 on the horizon. Funny, sad, coming of age and wholly entertaining. I have to say ‘sleeping bag’. I’m still laughing!! Mick Baker does not disappoint in book two of the early Baker years.
BOOK 2 – Bad Brains Tales
Book two of three. I got to confess it’s a lot easier for me to review the trilogy in total than as standalone works. But to do that one would have to read all three. So don’t delay treat yourself to a feast as opposed to a snack. Better an orgy than a blind date. Mick has written an epic masterpiece about “Skinner and his mates” and their life/love/hooliganism and Punk Music/Band. All the incendiary ingredients in this literary autobiographical Molotov are lobbed into the derelict remains of the early ‘80s. Thatcherite Britain seen through the prism of young guys growing up in small town England. More Mrs Dale’s territory than downtown New York. What does a poor testosterone fuelled teen do but form a Punk band (Punk didn’t die in 78/79 obviously). Create musical mayhem, with a sound that’s like having sulphuric acid poured into your ears while being kneed in the bollocks. Check out YouTube (Virus V1 live sets are on this KYPP post – Ed). Set against this soundtrack of musical shrapnel is the raging against the system, the establishment, the small town demigods and pillars of society, vicar, and cop (singular), “please don’t let me be misunderstood”. Well, how else when you are young and raging against the machine, music is your weapon. Anti society. Anti everything. Anger frustration love lust longing Mick hits us with the lot with all the subtlety of the opening round of a pub fight. Raw prose stripped down to give us a litany of enjoyable stories. Make you laugh/flinch tut and duck. Nothing held back.
Malcolm Paul (again)
The adventures of the punk Papillon continue where they left off in Angelic upstarts. Having left the prison he called school; Skinner is ready to sample what real life offers. As with most youths in the ’80s, this includes spells of unemployment punctuated with sporadic short-term employment. But of course, this is just to finance trips to the pub and kick-start his band Virus V1, starting with their debut gig – back at the school he just left! This book is as good as the first one, further developing the characters who remain likable despite being reassuringly offensive. Just like the first book, it took me on a nostalgia trip back to the ’80s I didn’t want to leave. This book may not be for the easily offended, but what is these days? I loved this book, loved the first book and can’t wait to read the third one. I would recommend the entire series to anyone. Best series of books I have read in years.
Matthew Burgin (again)
More more more more. More more. More more more more more. More more more more more. More more more. More! Get it wrote!
It is said that the cheapest form of travel is to read, and this book had me once more travelling back in to 1980s. Skinner and his mates are back getting up to all sort of trouble as they start to negotiate girls, the world and work experience. Particular fun had at youth clubs at the expense of the village copper. Benson the spoilt dog, and a series of awful underpaid work. Very funny laugh out loud. Not for the PC or easily offended. A***
BOOK 3 – Tales of Disorder
Once again, it was unputdownable. I’m looking forward to number four and maybe more. Nice one Mick. Keep ‘em coming.
Andy T (again)
In this, the third book of Mick N Baker’s autobiographical tale of growing up punk in Thatcherite. Britain, Skinner cannot please anyone. While writing songs and planning the next gig for his band Virus V1 he has to endure all manner of interferences designed to thwart his ambitions. His Dad wants him to get a job. Anything anywhere will do. Of course Skinner resists and rebels while his sole family ally George the Cat wisely stays out of it. Who will win this family battle of wills? Read on to find out, and also to discover a rather tortured aspect of Skinner’s personality, beautifully and sensitively detailed by the author.
I bought all three books in this series and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. The stories took me right back to my own teenage years with tales of gigs, band practice, fights, parties, booze, birds, breaking the law, home visits from the police, arguments with parents, job interviews for dead end jobs. Skinner has lead a life very similar to my own and reading these books really did bring back pangs of nostalgia, old memories resurfaced of both good and bad but all stories of life during the punk rock years in the 1980’s. A must read for all you old punk rockers. Can’t wait for book four
This is book three of Mick Bakers hilarious collection of mischievousness tales, and all three are just as good as each other. I’m not one for sitting down for hours on end reading crime novels or other books that require my full attention. But if you want something to pick up and read easily with some good laughs along the way, then read Mick Bakers collection. It’s wonderful to read and relate to some of the tales that Mick has written, with a wicked sense of his humour sprinkled all over it. Brilliant stuff and looking forward for the release of book four!
BOOK 4 – The Tale of the Clash
At 18, Skinner is realising many things about life. He still has too many hours drinking with his mates down the pub, hilariously send them up as they do him by return. But Cerys has forgiven him for previous misdemeanours, and the two are in love. One night he takes a microdot of acid; his trip is brilliantly described with ironic humour, but he also experiences a spiritual awakening. With great clarity he realises that he has to take responsibility and find a solution for the conflict within his band and spearhead some musical changes to take the band forward into a bright future. This book is a wonderfully enjoyable read – I loved every minute and recommend it without hesitation.
Irene Halder (again)
I loved Mick’s first books, so was keen to see if this would have the same edge to it and I wasn’t disappointed. Funny, brutal, sad. It has it all, and having lived in those times it was better than ever to go back in time through the pages. Witty and well told, anyone who is/was interested in the punk era, or who just wants to read something honest and real about those times, this is a must read. Looking forward to Mick N Baker’s next book…
At last book four has arrived and we are back in the ‘80s with Skinner and his mates. They have escaped the village life and are let loose in some very dodgy areas in London and the satellite towns. A very lucky escape in Harlow as they search for “cassettes”. I couldn’t put the book down, was sorry when I finished and do hope Mick N Baker has some more tales to tell.
I’ve really enjoyed the journey with Skinner and his mates from school to early adulthood. Things haven’t quite worked out as expected, but when does it ever? The Cxnterbury tales have been my holiday read for my last few trips so I am delighted there is a fifth book and hope there will be more.
The latest instalment is just as entertaining as the first three with the usual banter and rights of passage , but with a little infighting thrown in and a sting in the tail. I’ve already started Savage Circle so Mr Baker had better get started on the next one!
Matthew Burgin (again)
BOOK 5 – Savage Circle
Another belter. What a great read! Couldn’t put it down. Here’s hoping for the next instalment real soon!
Skinner has the girl of his dreams, what can possibly go wrong? Part five of this delightful coming of age series set in ‘80s Hertfordshire, the stories of the music scene at the time resonates with my own experiences. A delightful read. Come on part six.
Just finished this, the fifth book in the series about Skinner and his mates, young punks finding their way in life, loads of ups and downs and loads I can relate to as well. A highly recommended read but start with the first book and work your way up to this one.
Very well written. Whilst the author’s style reminded me a little of Irvine Welsh, in its rawness and use of vernacular, he has his own voice. I particularly enjoyed the characters in this book which, whilst many are odd in the extreme, were lent an air of realism by some brilliant observation. There was no big story in this for me, but rather a collection of smaller stories and anecdotes weaved together to chart the chaos of Skinner’s life. Definitely worth a read – it’s different than a lot of the formulaic books around and refreshing because of it.
A labour of love, this book and it’s accompanying volumes, also available to buy, are all worth reading. An autobiography of growing up a punk rocker in the latter years of the seventies and the early eighties, in a small village surrounded by small towns. The writer Mick Baker helps the reader connect to these places with ease. Descriptions of his growing up throughout his teenage years in this environment, should connect to most people, the youthful parties, first and lost ‘loves’, schoolboy high jinx’s. It’s all there with added punk rock, punk band and punk band gig antics. Marvelous stuff. This book is well worth a punt as are the other books in the series.
A very young Andy soon to be Virus V1 vocalist with Mick on the right.
Necro at Hertford Pioneer Hall late 1981 or early 1982 – A young Andy on guitar before he joined Virus V1 as vocalist – Mickey ‘Penguin’ on the far right of the photograph drinking something.
Below are some YouTube posts of relevant bands from the small local punk scene back in the early eighties – Onslaught / Necro / Strontium / Suicide Tapes / Clampdown.