Sunday, 9 March 2014

February 1979

The night I became a proper ochinko

The foyer had been full of girls when I returned to the hotel with some of the band and their entourage after touring Tokyo’s hot spots straight after the gig and meeting some real, live Yakuza in a club full of semi-naked women and malt whisky.

Many of the fans are actually staying at the hotel after booking double rooms months in advance and sneaking in some of their friends to keep costs down without the management’s knowledge.

We went to the bar where the girls giggled at tables in corners. At around three a.m. we decided to call it a night and strolled to the elevator followed by a bunch of around eight girls, and we all squeezed in together.

I’d been drinking solidly since 6pm and I was pissed. Really pissed – a gallon of sake, beers, brandy.

And that’s why, as the elevator stopped at my floor, I shouted, for a laugh and for the first time in my life, ‘Right, who’s coming back to my room, then?’

‘Yes, please.’ Softness is a thing called comfort. Her voice sounded miles away. And then, there she was, suddenly, magically, standing next to me in the corridor as the elevator door closed to the sound of applause from the roadies.



‘What’s your name?’


She wore shiny red boots with high heels, a shiny red mac over a shiny red mini skirt. Her shiny black Stranglers t shirt was as shiny as her shiny black lipstick.

Her eyes stretched into infinity and beyond, I was pissed. When she smiled my heart skipped a beat, I was pissed. She was gorgeous, I was pissed.

And now here I am, outside my door, fumbling for the key. I may be pissed but I’m as nervous as hell. What if she thinks I’m Jet Black? (After all, we are the only two people with beards in this travelling show, maybe in this entire country). Do I play along?

When we get inside I don’t quite know what to do. Does she expect sex or is she just being polite?

Then she starts to cough.

Shit, it’s a nasty one. And it’s persistent. And it’s a bit wet. Knowing my luck, the only time this happens to me I get someone with some weird oriental flu for which there’s no known cure for westerners. Why isn’t she wearing a surgical mask like everyone else?

I convince myself she’s okay. The gallon of sake has distorted my judgement.

‘Bad cough,’ I say, pointing to my throat, like a fucking jerk.

‘Sorry. Very sorry.’

‘That’s okay.’ I tell her I’m feeling tired and indicate by closing my eyes and resting the side of my face on my clasped hands, like a fucking jerk. I point to the bed and start to undress. Like a fucking jerk.

‘Would you like to sleep here?’ I ask. Like a fucking jerk.

‘Yes, please.’ She removes her clothes and we both get into bed, my pants still firmly intact. We kiss. She coughs. We kiss again. She coughs again. I feel like Benny Hill.

‘Sorry. Very sorry.’

‘That’s okay.’ I tentatively touch one of her breasts – and immediately feel a lump. She coughs. No! Japanese flu and fucking cancer? Maybe you get the cancer as a result of contracting the flu. Oh my God! Infectious cancer! You’ve got to be kidding me.

Then she starts to cough again. I convince myself she’s at death’s door and whatever she’s got, I’ve probably got now. I’ve just signed my own death warrant, and all I did was kiss a Japanese girl in the dark.

I have to get her out of here.

‘Are you staying in the hotel?’

‘Yes, with some friends.’

‘Look, let me take you back to your room. You’ll feel more comfortable.’

‘Yes, please.’

We both dress and before we leave the room I give her a signed copy of the band’s
X-Cert live album. She starts to cry. ‘Thank you so much. Sorry. Very sorry.’

My heart breaks.

Her friends welcome her, and me, with open arms, and Haroko sniffs, and coughs, as she proudly flashes the signed album and they all go, ‘Oooh!’

None of them has a cough.

I’ll never ask anyone back to my room again, and even think twice about asking myself.

‘It’s amazing,’’ says the normally diffident Jet Black the following day, on the bullet train to Tokyo. ‘The girls are everywhere. We get off the train and they’re there. We go to the hotel and they’re there. We go to our rooms and they’re waiting outside. Sure, that happens in England – but there it’s not girls, it’s the fucking police!’

I know what he means – not the police, the girls. It’s like being an eighteenth century European sailor in the South Seas greeted by a bevy of lei-bearing beauties with Bali Hai’s to die for.

Jet admits he’d rather think than talk. ‘I leave all that to Jean and Hugh. If I wasn’t an introvert we’d probably be fighting all the time. I’m in the classic drummer mould. When bands try putting the drummer up as a front man they fail.’

Dave Clark Five, Genesis, 10cc?

‘The only thing that gets me annoyed is incompetence when we tour. I’ve come across people who can’t organise a bunk-up in a brothel.’

About the disparity. ‘We have all the ingredients for failure. But the pressures, all that we’ve gone through, have given us a mutual respect for each other. We’re all very strong individuals. That’s why we’ve got so much more to offer than anyone else.

‘We’ve been managing ourselves for the last six months, although things on that front are improving. I tell you something – show me a good manager and I’ll show you a Martian.’

It’s raining in Tokyo. The coruscating skyscrapers are wet yet still they gleam, still the cars are meticulously polished, still there are no stains on the pavements, still the women out walking their dogs bend down to sweep the steaming damp turds into polythene bags to deposit in nearby litter bins, still the victims of flu wander around in surgical masks to prevent spreading their kamikaze germs.

Tokyo is straight out of The Shape of Things to Come. It’s more advanced and consequently more civilised than London or New York or any other major city on earth.
Wells envisaged the vertical aspects perfectly. He just didn’t latch onto the horizontal aspects of the inhabitants.

The magnificent metropolis of the east is dripping and glistening in the glare of a billion neon lights while the Stranglers prepare for the show. They’re pretty pissed when they find out it’s an all-seater tonight at the Korakuen Hall.

‘You two keep playing,’ Jean says to Jet and Dave in the dressing room, like someone planning to break out of Colditz, ‘while Hugh and I jump into the audience and start wrenching up the fucking chairs. If that doesn’t get them going, nothing will.’

They did. And they did. Result – the most immaculate Stranglers’ show this side of the Nashville.

When you see them perform it live, you realise just how underrated
Black and White is. No More Heroes was merely a stepping-stone, a transition between the singalongastranglers of Rattus and the psychopathic delusions that course through the veins of B&W. There’s death and night and blood in Toytown tonight.

In the band’s dressing room after the gig I start talking to the very glamorous Kato, who insists she’s not a groupie. She’s bright and sassy and twenty-one with a bullet and no bra. She taught me oppai (tits), shakuhachi (blow-job), senzuri (wank), omeko (‘girl’s one’), ochinko (‘boy’s one’) and omekoshiyo (fuck). That’s all you really need to know to get by in any language.  ‘Before they came, Japanese girls thought the Stranglers would rape them,’ she tells me. ‘See, English bands often make fun of Japanese girls, but this band seem more friendly than most.

‘Also, in general, English men have bigger ochinkos than Japanese men. It frightens the girls, y’know. They had to make a slightly smaller condom especially for the Japanese market.  
‘There’s no doubt we are hampered by our lack of English. Usually the only thing a Japanese girl can say to a guy in a band is, "Can I come to your room?" That doesn’t give you much of a start! And the girls then get very sad because they know the guy will leave shortly, Barry.’

When you get right down to it, rock stars are just singing sailors. It’s all in the game and many a tear has to fall.

I love hearing Kato pronounce my name -- not only is it sexier than a French accent, it also makes me feel kinda important. Kinda big and crisp and tall.

I find Haroko sitting outside my hotel-room door when I get back from the gig. She’s followed me to Tokyo. I can’t believe it.

Then I start to worry that she’s some kind of mad stalker. That she’ll stab me repeatedly, mercilessly and tomorrow in the Tokyo Daily Bugle under the headline

‘Coughing Killer Strikes Again’, they’ll report that Jet Black was found stabbed to death in his hotel room.

Fate has decreed that Dina is my last, my everything.

So I tell Haroko she can keep a-knockin, but she can’t come in.

Next: Motorhead bite back
Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013
Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:


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