Of course I bloody inhaled. What else did you think I was going to do?
It would have taken a particular kind of idiot schoolboy to have gone to the effort and expense of finding weed and then just blowing its residue out of his rosy, adolescent cheeks. Breaking the laws of the country is one thing, but breaking the laws of rational behaviour is quite another. One is a passing phase, the other a hint as to what will follow for the next half century.
But, whilst that is emphatically not my dirty little secret, or at least one that I am prepared to share with you, it draws you towards the real one like one of those annoying coned off areas on a motorway. I inhaled because I was smoking weed; and I was smoking weed because I wanted to be cool. Simple.
(And no, I am no more proud of it now than one of those smug, middle-age, middle-class media types should be today after banging out a line of charlie in Docklands. Both are simply a bi-product of not enough real hardship in their lives.)
My problem was that I wanted to be cool in a world that was not that easily taken in by me, and I was surrounded by people who, in my book anyway, were the kind of grungy and valueless attention seekers that I desperately aspired to join. Eton may have been a privilege beyond price, but it was also a prison beyond release if you lacked basic confidence and street wisdom, as I did.
No, the problem wasn’t weed which, in any case, was an ephemeral lantern very occasionally seen flickering across the moor of my life, depending on whether I could muster the required bravery and money on the same day to acquire it. The problem was music.
Because, however much I might now bang on about what a little rocker I was in the seventies, I simply wasn’t. Whilst my peers lay in their Hendrix T-shirts on their tie-dye bedspreads and listened to Deep Purple, King Crimson, or Led Zeppelin at the maximum volume the house rules would allow, I crouched by my antique record player and quietly listened to Kris Kristofferson helping me make it through the night, or Willie Nelson, or Simon and Garfunkel, and prayed to the God of simple kindnesses that no one would hear me.
In a world that gave tacit approval to spoiled ex-public school students trashing hotel rooms and smashing up their guitars on stage, my lot was to be the saddo who was inspired by bearded Americans singing politely and melodically about God, death, their best friend or the local railroad line. I wore out my Linda Ronstadt discs with muted overuse, but I always made sure that the ‘display’ record at the top of my pile was Court of the Crimson King, or Black Sabbath, or the like. I had mortgaged myself to acquire them, totemic symbols of my insecurity though they were, and I knew before the dopamine had even drained out of my brain, that they were fated never to be listened to.
And admitting to even tolerating country music back then meant status death. Saying you actually likedit was social suicide. In the febrile adolescent atmosphere of a single sex school with 1250 boarders, it would have been far easier to have come out as gay very publicly than to admit that you liked Dolly Parton. (It still is, I guess, but for a different, much better reason).
Over the years, other external pressures intervene on our personal tastes, and we tend to deal with each of them differently. And then one day we wake up, clench our fists and assert that we bloody well are who we are, and therefore it bloody well is how it is. It is given to some lucky people to do this very early in their lives but, whenever it happens, it is of course the beginning of a real life, a life without unwarranted apology. A life that includes Emmylou Harris, in other words.
And don’t worry. I’ve done the opera phase, the rock concerts and the hours of covert counselling. I went to see Reckless Eric at the Roundhouse in Hammersmith before punk was even a thing. For all I know, I was probably at the Who Live at Leedsconcert in 1970 like the other 850 thousand people who mysteriously claim to have squeezed into the University Refectory that night. It makes no difference: I am who I am.
And, in the time it took you to read that little piece, you could have been improving your life listening, no reallylistening, to this.
Deep Purple, my arse.
Note: If you enjoy these blogs, or any particular one, please feel free to share your enthusiasm for them with others in whatever way you like. The idea is that, one day, it gets accidentally shared with an obscenely rich and powerful magazine editor who has just lost his star columnist to a freak skating accident, and thereby solves two problems at once.