The Wrong Outfit
By Al Gregg
Hard Cover – £14.99
Paperback – £9.99
Like a roller-coaster ride through the back pages of memory, The Wrong Outfit is a contagious read for a menagerie of (all the correct) reasons: hope and happiness, youth and yearning, love and longing. Not particularly in that order, but what better reason(s) could there possibly be for picking up a book in the first place?
Anchored in an era that has long since sunk beneath a tidal wave of cryptic cynicism – all Stars In Their Thighs and Celebratory Smear Test – the mid to late seventies were wrought with an innocence, which, unbeknown to itself and society at large, was mightily endearing and all encompassing. Fashion was admittedly, fucking deplorable, and British cuisine left a tad to be devoured – steak’n’bogie pies and a hooligans haven of violence, being the norm at most English football matches; but food’n’fashion aside, said era was quintessentially icosahedral (particularly in relation to the arts). Were it not for Morecambe and Wise for instance, we would never have had the likes of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Likewise, were it not for the lack of mobile phones, we wouldn’t have a generation of people that can actually read and write. And were it not for the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash, rock’n’roll (and quite possibly the music industry at large) would no doubt have died a slow and unseemly death, long before the sanitized warblings of Messrs. Craig David and the ghastly Beyonce.
So there you have it, along with Tiswas and Abba, The Sweeney and Queen (as in Freddie Mercury), the seventies were relatively sanguine; despite the Winter of Discontent and the eventual onslaught of Thatcherism. For a start, music still mattered. Music was still vital. Music was still something to cherish and behold and admire; as opposed to simply download, disregard and eventually dispose of like a polystyrene cup.
Indeed, the years between 1976 and 1979 spawned a plethora of important/influential artists throughout Britain: along with the aforementioned Sex Pistols and The Clash, there was Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Damned, The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Gang Of Four, Sham 69 and Magazine to name but a few. And it is amid the chaos of these turbulent yet instrumental years, that we embark on a journey with The Wrong Outfit’s prime protagonist, Adam.
Fundamentally seen through tempestuous, teenage eyes, we follow Adam from childhood to manhood, stopping off at all important stops in-between; primarily that of school (in Bristol and North London), Stamford Bridge (Adam is a colossal Chelsea supporter) and key concerts (The Clash, The Ruts and Sham 69’s farewell gig at the Rainbow Theatre). Written in a style that is both candid and conversational, the book’s author Al Gregg aligns the grit of the times with solipsistic simplicity. This is acknowledged in ‘Father Christmas’ when he writes: ”The sixties were finally giving up the ghost” and in ‘New At School,’ where the class divide is invariably brought to bear: ”All hilly fields and rusty tractors.” Whilst in ‘Punk Detective,’ the holy grail of the Punk ethos is substantiated: ”The act of doing was an event in itself.”
Moreover, it is amid the regaling and evident love of Chelsea Football Club, where the book comes into its own and truly shines. Unlike Jon King’s The Football Factory (where the act of football is essentially secondary to that of it’s implausible violent trajectory), throughout The Wrong Outfit, it is absolutely crystal clear that Adam adores the history, the mechanics and the execution of football at Chelsea FC. Replete with childlike wonderment and an aficionado’s knowledge, Al Gregg might just as well do for Chelsea (and Punk Rock), as what Nick Hornby did for Arsenal (and Bruce Springsteen). Either way, the former has written a novel that is on occasion gregarious, nostalgic and full of hope for a better future – both on and off the pitch.
A must for all purveyors of the Punk movement. An absolute must for all football fans – especially he who calls himself Roman Abramovich.