Dave Attrill – Rock ‘n’ Roll Tumble


A Poetry Opera


Sheffield 1992.

The home to a whole music scene that had evolved over the years. Human League, ABC and Heaven 17 were amongst many massive names making their immortal mark on the Steel City map before disappearing into the trenches of obscurity as did their decade. One great band still survived strong as the nineties descended. Def Leppard, one the prime movers of a proud musical genre – a meaning of life for hundreds of millions of teenagers the world over.


Wade McGhee lived the life of an ordinary Sheffield lad till this day. Year Nine school life little excited him, having few close friends His eccentric personality brought him many enemies and the only people who seemed to get on with him were the fellow Sheffield Wednesday fans sitting alongside him in class. Saving him from losing the will to live was his growing fondness for heavy metal music. By the start of his GCSE age he had began to slide into a love affair with the scene, so much so that the most important years of his school life became compromised by his obsession. His parents were concerned, day by day that his life amount to little by the time he walked into the wide world outside. Only one person knew how wrong they were – Wade.

His dad was losing his patience, if not his hope into the bargain. Wade had by now boasted to the world his dreams of becoming a rock star himself, despite not yet learnt to sing a single note, or strum a solitary string.

One morning at breakfast, Dad brought Wade into the dining room and delivered him a harsh sermon on the way things work in life.


It was in the autumn of nineteen-ninety-two
Amid the worst years of his life
Wade worked his way just to see it through
Was as bright as any knife
Loved his cycling and his fishing
Greatly sold on Formula One
But some things he sensed were missing
Keeping friends from getting on

He was just fourteen
No looking back
He knew where he’d seen the door
Dad said
“Get the knack”
Or he’d get the sack
If his life didn’t put in more

His old man, a civil servant
Worked hard and brought home pay
Lectured Wade until it hurted
His life had to find its way
Played with paper and the toaster
Wade was keen to some degree.
But his thing with rollercoasters
Dad condemned as lunacy

He was just fourteen
No looking back
He knew where he’d seen the door
Dad said
“Get the knack”
Or he’d get the sack
If his life didn’t put in more

He’d not yet touched an instrument
To save his life, he couldn’t sing
Dad said he was as useful
As a wasp without the sting
That old man of Wade’s
Fin’ly gave up chase
He’d become tired of running rings
It was all a waste to tell his boy his place
Wade was old enough to do his thing

He was just fourteen
No looking back
He knew where he’d seen the door
Dad said
“Get the knack”
Or he’d get the sack
If his life didn’t put in more

Wade could hardly give less of a shit what this silly old bastard was on about. He had his dreams, he had his paper-round savings….more importantly he had a regular route through town that took him via the guitar shops.


(Wade’s Conscience: )
The boy who rules his bedroom
Will be the Baron of his place.
Shuts the door to resenting parents
Dims the light on their disgrace
You’ve got to get it out there
You need to prove yourself
For doing what Daddy tells you
Is a danger to your health
The boy who dreams forever
Never works when paid to play
That fire guitar rules his endeavour
In the window it will stay
You got to get it out there
You need to sell yourself
For most unwanted products
Stay decaying on the shelf

Wade no longer recognised his heavy metal shirts as a simple clothing item worn by many other sixteen year olds he saw around him. Like a Sheffield Wednesday strip, they had become his uniform to the extent that he wouldn’t be seen dead dressed otherwise

(Narrator to reader: )

He sees the shirt
As it hangs with an arm extended to him to take It home
To him it’s not the treat
Its the call of the street
Its the colour of conformity
Crushed by its enormity
Of the effervescent rule
He’s sworn to abide by Sucked into living this lie
“Rock n’ Roll til I die.”

He sees the shirt
As it calls out with its endearing colour
To him it’s not the name
Of the band found fame
Its like stepping into the stripes of Wednesday
Against the united foes
Who he must all oppose
Set in stone, now justaposed
Taken in by this field to graze.

He sees the shirt
He only wants it more
The poisoned parallel draws
Him to the crush of its jaws
Of the machine music, the law
He will obey
His only orxthodox ways
Abandoned at the steps he climbs
Crossing this self-made Maginot line

Too late now for looking behind.

Having failed nearly all of his GSCES, Wade went on to study a diploma in Desktop Media at Sheffield College, and also re-sat his English. It was there that he met Chris Murkhall, a buck-toothed sixteen year-old Art student with waist-length hair, a mean tassled leather jacket and a talent for pencilling caricatures of cult rock icons. Wade was pretty shy about approaching people he didn’t know but it seemed the friendly stranger welcomed people e to peer into his works.

Wade and Chris were inseparable from that day. In fact, joined at the hip didn’t even come close. Spending hours hanging around Arundel Gate every evening, introduced to Chris’s friends, Wade found a life he’d been denied from the start of his school days.


He was sat across the room with a sketch book open
Wade was watching but not yet hoping
The pictures were in pencil but they prayed out loud
He possessed his gift and it made him proud
Wade worshipped his pictures; he wasn’t taking the piss
“How you doing mate” he thanked him. ”My name is Chris.”
They conversed endless hours through the afternoon
Til the English tutor came, threw them out of the room.
Many days like it there beckoned ahead.
Wade’s and Chris’s college dreams seemed all left for dead.
Drew Star Wars pics all day on the college pcs
Stole around the canteen like two mischievous small fleas.
They showed up down at Roxy under-age for a laugh
Dodged by fighting, bottles and barf
Fell on the dancefloor, they’d help up each other
Like the same person they called his own brother
Running riot nightly down Arundel Gate
Jumped heads of the heathens that had long waits
Doorman even saw no good time was had
Unless they behaved incredibly bad
Demanded Iron Maiden five times in a row
While the DJ had them hijack his show.
Bill and Ted had nothing
On this dynamic duo
Brothers in blood, they missed the mud
Everyone tried to throw
They knew they were onto something good
They upstaged the headliner at every show
Walking, lairy, leathered wrecks
Snuck into the ruins of Rebels and Wapentake
Campaigned to get these places back
On Sheffield’s heavy metal map
Put stickers on the shredding hoards
Summoned every acolyte onto their board
Supped beer under age, and balls to the law
Wade nothing else mean much anymore
With Chris by his side they set the world to right
Monday- to Sunday became a multitude of endless nights.
Brothers in blood, they missed the mud
Everyone tried to throw
They knew they were onto something good
They upstaged the headliner at every show

Just before Christmas, Wade approached Chris with the proposal that they do a band together. Obviously aware that this would bring them closer, Chris responded by suggesting that he leave his Art group and re-enroll on Wade’s media class instead.

From this point on, the only way was strictly UP! UP UP! Placing adverts up round college, they instantly caught the response of Sean, a HND Physics student who was also something of a kick-ass lead guitarist. Wade on vocals and Chris on Bass they started meeting at Wade’s house each Thursday night. Trying covers to start with, they practiced with a programmable drum machine but quickly something took shape. Pounding on into 1995, they looked to be on fire. Rock fans round college stopped to ask them about it – pipe dreams were impossible to play down any longer.

(Chris to Wade: )

Rock n roll soldiers setting up our camp
Powering up to ten, every single amp
Buddies for a lifetime it came as little shock
When we called out to the planet, Lets get rocked!
There was no way of arguing, Any fool he could tell
That now we were headed on the highway to Hell
Living on a prayer plus a few mingy pennies
Saw us already there, raking our way above many
Light that shone colours from every club ceiling
Gave all the unsuspected just more than a feeling
They were facing a new catastrophic eruption
Of kids armed with an appetite for destruction
With strings ever sharpened we shred til it kill
Til we see Iron Maiden run for the hills
We turned in the punters, sweat in their leathers and vests
Enter ‘Sandman’ magazine plus more prominent press
Living after midnight, we lived for everything raw
While some people wouldn’t try it
Too scared of breaking the law
From smoke of our fags we saw some bad smoke on the,water
Someone in the band, didn’t perform as they oughta
With one brother amongst us
We were becoming annoyed
About his vocal style, we weren’t too paranoid
We bid a new member
Welcome to the jungle
But up, our best laid plans
One man had to go bungle
Loathe having to tell you
We run a tight ship
But some sights on board it
Are insufficiently hip
One rock n’roll soldier may soon face a court martial
Cause to your alternative ways, we aren’t all that partial

By the time March approached, it went pear shaped. Disputes over musical difference set in slowly, as also did Chris’s disapproval of Wade’s approach to the culture. Wade had an wider spread musical scope than his friends, and was partial to a little Oasis from time to time. Chris took umbrage at this, so far as storming out of Virgin Megastore when he caught Wade listening to ‘Definetely Maybe’ on the listening post one Saturday afternoon.
Relationships were strained to their limit just before Easter. Wade’s limited musical abilities came clear and though Chris and Sean let him stay on strict terms that he sorted something out sharpish, they soon stopped showing up at his house for practice. Excuses Wade believed included pretending to be on band strike. To speed it up he placed more ads up, and just before Easter got a call. Taking details down he was intercepted by his mother and during the ensuing argument, the phone went down at the other end. Wade confessed his carelessness to Chris who exploded in front of the whole college refectory. Somehow he knew this could be the last straw for them. Wade phone Chris that night and did the one thing he could do to save their friendship, by offering to leave the band.

It was too late. Wade returned after the Easter term break to find Chris was no longer talking to him. He tried to find out why but Craig’s friends and cousin obstructed him from approaching, and eventually started threatening Wade to stay away

(Wade to Chris: )

What did I do
That was so wrong
We’d been friends for only months on end
But it seemed was forged lifelong
What did I do
You so resent
The friend that followed me along
Every single road I went
You tagged along on my paper round
You worshipped the very ground
I walked on in my Doc Martens boots
With the respect of all the road
I might have made erratic turns
Spilt salt on your cigarette burns
But you soaked the pains in water
And said afterwards its life
I might not have shared your taste in beer
I might not have reduced you to tears
With every tasteless joke I told
across the whole college canteen
But what did I do
That you saw so bad
As to drop a sudden dampener
On the good times that we had?
What did I do
You didn’t like
Apart from not quite cutting it
When I climbed behind the mike?
I’d accidentally lost us that drummer
On my behest that was a bummer
I took the fall for that single fuck-up
I had felt you’d leave it there
But on the first day of that next term
You washed me aside just like some germ
As your peeps advised me in politely
That I walk on by elsewhere
So, I was not without my faults
Some things I drove to grinding halts
Still we dug so deep below we’d in the past come eye to eye
What did I do
That it came to this
It wasn’t always in your favour
Still I’d never take the piss
What did I do
Take you for a ride
To have you cross the road from me
And crawl the other side
We remained joined right at the hip.
As captains, we steered a wayward ship
Bung fell out yet you missed my shout
As I volunteered to leap the deck
Kindly I helped you stay afloat
But my good luck call only gained your gloat
Turned and swam away as if you’d sooner perish in your wreck
I tried to help you of out it
When I announced I was gonna quit
But you’d made your mind up and moved on
Leaving me now to reflect
What did I do?
I hate to think
When once we were unsep’rable
You’ve severed every link.
What did I do?
Was I the offender
If the chaos I had rendered
Saw us two defriended
What do I do
Walk right away
Immerse my head into the sand
Apologise another day?

What do I say?

Best to walk away.

Wade finally got his answer. On the last day of term, he discovered he was the subject of Craig’s vengeful injunction to see Wade stripped of his Media diploma. Finally able to confront Craig, it transpired that his former friend believed he had tricked him out of his art course, in order to assist with his doomed musical venture.

(Chris to Wade: )

I thought you were the actual deal
I saw you as genuine
You crossed the room into my realm
With open arms I let you in
Man of metal in your leather and hair
You liked all the bands
All the records
The clothes
The perfect imitation of everything I expected
But now I’ve detected
You’re a fraudster, a faker
A snake in the grass
I trusted all that you said
Seems it crawled out of your arse
You’re a fraudster, a faker
A squatter in class
You must been dropped on your head
To think this is all in the past.

I thought you were wise
Like the older twin brother
I listened to you more than my mother
I gave my art course
A degree
A career
You were the perfect imitation
Of everything I’ve expected
Til the day I detected
You’re a fraudster, a faker
A snake in the grass
I trusted all that you said
Seems it crawled out of your arse
You’re a fraudster, a faker
A squatter in class
You must been dropped on your head
To think this is all in the past

Now I’ve found you inside out
I’ve turned up your true colours
I’ll follow you the whole world about
To ward your deceit off others
I’ll ruin your future
Your life
Your lies
Smash every remnant of your reputation
I’m due at least that compensation
Do you
Have a clue
How it’s felt all this time, I’ve been taken

By a fraudster, a faker
A snake of the grass
I trusted all that you said
Seems it crawled out of your arse
You’re a fraudster, a faker
A squatter in class
You must been dropped on your head
To think this is all in the past

Wade present his diploma to his family. His father had reason to be proud of him for once; in fact it turned out he always had been after all. To Wade’s surprise he was even more so over his fall out with Chris.
Nothing ever came of his erstwhile buddy’s so-called lawsuit, but Wade found it hard to fight his own guilt as the summer weeks went by.
Wade was sitting on the back doorstep pondering the past one weekend whilst peeling potatoes for the Sunday roast Dad obviously saw he was deep in thought and decided to ask. As Wade explained the deeper gravity of what had gone off with Chris, his father laughed then sat down alongside to set his mind at rest. Wade deserved much better in life than Chris but moving on was the only way to make himself see this.

(Dad to Wade: )

You made your mistake
Don’t let it boil over you
There’s a lot on your plate
You still saw it through
Yeah, without mates of that kind you might have done better
You followed examples too close to the letter
Friends make for minefields
Scattered rich in their traps
Set wrong foot on the plate
And you swallow their crap
Pull you under the earth
Thick walls, have their layer
No way without hurt
Do you escape out of there
Routed out his weakness
When you struck his last chord
Destined, a bleakness
His ways will afford
Don’t let this dispirit
Nor disarm you in doubt
You could have so held on till the hardest way out
Dad watched you succeed to that vital diploma
I’d always believed
Never thought you was over
They can’t take away
Your rightly claimed prize
Some people will pay
For they made their own lies.
Such a life yet before you
Another great step ahead
Destroy now the memories
And leave them, for dead.

7 Years Later

Wade had moved on to music journalism by his mid twenties. He met ginger-haired glam metal freak Jimmy Wilthorpe one dusty night in the Corporation nightclub. Jimmy was about four years older than him and was also in contact with a few famous names, in his spare time. Together they formed an online Metal mag. Wade was glad to finally find a machine he could be part of in the public eye, after all these years. Sadly, all the publicity was appearing to go to his friend, and Wade McGhee was left with being a name at the bottom of an article.

One evening, he accompanied Wade down to the open mic music night at the Jolly Buffer in town. Persuaded by peers he took to the stage with a spare guitar and jammed to classics by Black Sabbath, Metallica and Judas Priest. Feeling convinced enough to try music again he decided to start over albeit as a guitarist. Jimmy however was one amongst the dissuasive – he seemed not to understand why Wade would suddenly bother beginning here at twenty-seven.

(Jimmy to Wade: )

You left it too late
To get started
All your heroes have long since departed.

All those you idolized
Now washed up or headline suicides
Shotguns, drugs or car crashes claimed them in cases
see the fans bleed with the blame on their faces
Of believing
The deceiving examples set down by their false God
Ten commandments rewritten for your lost generation, now a sour demonstration
Of why it was worth it at all.

You left it too late
To get started
Down to reckless trades so blindly bartered

All those on who you relied
Said you’re tall enough to board this ride
Yet the people who promise you the world
Turn up myths when the truth’s unfurled
You know your A flats from your C-sharps, they say
You’ll be the next big thing to Brian May
The applause on the evening, left you feeling falsely flattered
By the morning, dreams are shattered
as the awful truth flies in by

You left it too late
to get started
Now you’ve left yourself broken-hearted

Dedication starts from the age of five
They find a sweat just to keep their hopes alive
They don’t sudden decide one day they should do it
When they’ve nothing left going and go out to prove it
To every dark corner waits one more wannabe
What you sought in vain’s nothing strange to see
Your gullibility sole to blame
Move on away now from these streets of shame
Merge to the plenty passing by

Who left it too late
Just glad they departed
They couldn’t stop the ride that they had started

Wade began taking weekly guitar lessons from Eric and found him a great teacher to get on with. However when Wade bickered against some of his advice, his ulterior motives was misunderstood. Eric seemed to believe he was in the rock n’ roll business for all the wrong reasons. Someone needed bringing down to earth.

(Eric to Wade: )

When a young man dreams
He sees a pictures and scenes
Through a door set ajar
If he picks up a guitar

When a young man dreams
He sees himself as the cream
Of the crop – riding the top
Of his ivory tower
If he picks up a guitar

When a young man dreams
Its of labels and deals and a cd in the window
of tickets sold out, thanks to a few talent scouts
who swooped from afar
If he picks up a guitar

When a young man dreams
He passes streets lined with palm trees, people down on their knees
Straight into that bar that holds a space for his car
where they’re playing his single
The sound of the royalties, setting his arse well a-tingle
Is the ear candy by far
If he picks up a guitar

When a young man dreams
He sees the highway ahead
Paved with the legends either living or dead
From a dusty coach window while
Stealing other band’s beers
With no use for stoppers
And substances
That don’t go down too well with the coppers.
…if he picks up a guitar

When a young man dreams
He sees a trail of tall neon cities
With girls of the pavement so dangerously pretty
In big leather boots, he lives in the hope
he’ll find at the back of the coach,
securing more than a kiss
He only knows her as ‘miss’
Swapping her next night for another
That he might instead know as ‘mother’
Takes a two day break on the road, to help him recover
If he picks up a guitar

When a young man dreams
he sees a life for himself
Swimming in seas of spontaneous wealth
Of heated outdoor pools he has to himself
Huge flash Ferraris and Hollywood mansions
Massive fondue fountains
Set on solid gold stanchions
He’s been snapped up for movies in the role of Charles Manson.
If he puts down his guitar

When a young man screams
Its because he’s discovered things don’t last forever,
The glamour’s endeavour
Dies over a year
Hits dry up overnight,
As his name once in lights
Shines not so bright
There’s a new trend in town, mowing everything down
and his biggest gig today
is a half hour matinee
at Butlins, Skegness seafront.

Do you still want that guitar?

Athough Chris agreed he was right,Eric’s true colours suddenly came to light one afternoon in 2004. He was becoming ever more insistent that Wade was using an unsuitably low quality instrument for learning on and threatened him with an ultimatum. “That guitar goes, or I go”

Wade, neither wanting to hurt his friend or hunt for a possibly less trusted tutor, agreed to let Eric help him choose a new axe. City Road had the best shop in town – Academy of Sound. Having tried a tan-plated Telecaster for two hours, Wade’s tutor sounded determined that was the guitar to go forth with and finally convinced Wade to parting with five hundred and fifty quid. Wade practiced for an hour to two every night and believed Eric was right- it handled and sounded beautiful.

On Wednesday lunch he phoned Eric to ask if the lesson was on. Eric irately informed he he was too busy with having having formed a new band of his own.

Wade never heard from him again.
He later learned from Jimmy that Eric had settled down in London as a studio engineer.

(Wade to Eric)

To put money in your pocket all these years
So addled
My mind, now moving up the creek with no paddle
You made me think that you always knew best
“To succeed in this life you need to invest”

Took me down to the store, and showed me the weapons
Left me to walk by myself, watch me savour your heaven
Picked up this gift to see part of your bargain was kept
But you turned without a goodbye and just left

Took the money you made out of me and you ran.
You were the one who said “grow up man.”
Now cosy in London, you are creative and sly
You finding your new glories while I fell for your lie

Yet your arrogant face, single side out of two
Moves with the muscle of dreams to come true
Well If by this Christmas it all comes crashing down straight on you
I’ll be no longer one who waded in without clue.

Once was the time, I’d trust any deal on the table
Lost I became to the fly-by- night fable
Looking now into the mirror, you’re magically gone.
No lesson till now has made me strong.

Wade had now reached thirty and was now working as an admin assistant. With little to prove in the life he lived outside it was time for change. He did the hardest thing he had done in his whole life and ditched his metal image, including his goatee. Within a month he walked the street sharply dressed in designer label shirts and shiny shoes. He was still kept his old Iron Maiden apparel for going down to the Corporation once or twice monthly and mingling with his old friends. However as the new look Wade came clearer his older friendships in the rock fraternity began to flounder. Was Chris Murkhall a one-off?

(Wade, in conscience: )

Their eyes see that tragic ill-fitting lost face
No longer an item of their Neanderthal race
No longer the smell of leather or beer
Wafts round the air as I walk by too near
A rocker I see still in the reflection around
But not a cool blender in current surrounds
Proper clothes and haircut now spells a new meaning
From their unmaterialistic one-sided leanings
For the new man one has always endeavoured to be
While the leather-clad army say don’t expect me
To follow you over
Far away from your field
For the extend of betrayal’s now completely revealed.

Wade was now thirty seven and an absolute shadow of the scrap-heap-destined mess he had been once. Suited and booted, he now settled into life as a successful survey analyst for a Sheffield city centre firm. Mooching through the subway, from Flat St to a city less and less recognisable than he’d become, the latest busker to grace Arundel Gate underpass sent up a stark reminder of how things might have panned out, had he not opted to walk away when he did.

(Wade to world: )

Look I do as I ascend the steps, directly into its danky, square mouth.
The blue tiles beckoneth, if my eyes forget enough,
to follow.
To stop looking round.
At the beggar on the ground, the beleaguered busker at last on his break
he has today had to wait two hours whilst strummering – longing for someone to discover him
He has shared twenty years of struggle with me, still he’ll take the trouble to entertain
As I satisfy to be entertained – fame once got to my head
Others knew only alcohol instead, chip suppers left for dead
Like decaying faces on the faded posters around me
Of the bands I’d once worship twice yearly religiously, in a dusky downstairs room that comfortably held seventy five
Today like these people, I’m pleased just to be alive
as the next shadow who passes me behind
Who puts in a few coins for that Guns and Roses tune he didn’t mind
Hearing for the first time
Since he was sixteen
As I look longer and listen
To what I could have been
Now twenty years on
Like the smell of urine
Still lingers the lust , that laces the air
Like the ailing leather jacket that once belonged to his dad
and I reach the end of the tunnel –
that tiled cavern that took me
from one side of Arundel gate, to civilisation.
Now’s the time to fill it in and cement away past temptation
Now’s the time, once again to ignore

Wade was happy for the first time in thirty seven years. Secure job, home and a life he loved. Turned a born-again Christian, he had the advice of another father at hand when needed. And just occasionally he needed reminding.

(God to Wade: )

You haven’t got to get it out there
You don’t need to prove yourself
For yesterdays fallen idols
Still end up rotting on the shelf

All poems © Dave Attrill 2014


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