Yesterday (Red Loons) by Phil Barling

(excerpts from a Well Spent Youth)

Yesterday was 1971. I bought some red pants on Oxford Rd from a shop called “On the Eighth Day”. Bell bottoms would’ve been the word to describe them in an earlier “yesterday”, but, in 1971 they called them ‘Loon Pants’. I wonder why. Anyway, I had to have them. Why? Because the guys in Cream wore them, Soft Machine, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, all those ‘cats’. Red loons, cool as hell. Outside 8th day, I bought a copy of International Times and a Rock against Racism badge from a bag of bones in the sort of army greatcoat favoured by grammar school kids who drooled over Yes and Genesis and never had a girlfriend. Into the shop, past the macrobiotic counter, manned, nay, womanned by two tiedye goddesses in granny glasses and overwhelming patchouli. I went for the kill.

At the back wall, smoking a liquorice paper roll up, was the “assistant”, clutching a tape measure and pen, though a Fender Strat would’ve suited him better. He had that Roger Daltrey six pack figure and the obligatory Michael Angelo head of curls. A yard away from this buckskinned Adonis was the rack containing the red loons. “I’ll just try these” I said, and he waved me toward the ‘cubicle’. This was before changing areas were martialled by uniformed, badge wearing assistants, like prison warders, charged with guarding the rejects rail and counting the items you took in. They even had keys. This guy only wore a stoned smile

Inside the ‘changing room’ I was still nearly outside. Let’s just say it’s a good job I didn’t have a cat along for the trip. The back wall was dominated by a particularly Un-PC piece of porn,featuring a leather silver-studded neck thong. The light was brothel red. Just a thong at twilight, you could say. A poster of Dana Gillespie, something of a vamp of Rockdom, peered down from the ceiling. As I struggled with the loons, Dana’s kohl black eyes followed me round the room. “You okay in there?” breathed our guitarist from outside. “Yeah, 30. Just my size,” I lied.

These were pre obesity days, when snake hipped coolness was de rigueur for any self-respecting rock fan. If I held my breath permanently, and didn’t eat or drink, these would be just the job. Never mind that red wasn’t, and never will be, ‘my colour’. Surprisingly, just beside the bejewelled left nipple of the porn poster, was a mirror. Well, I just had to step back to admire my own rippling torso in these hipster red loons. Bad move. I don’t think anyone heard the rip of red loon above the roar of the Who playing ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, but I did. What a place to put a rusty nail.

At times like these, your brain ceases to function. I could have folded them up, stuffed them over the reject rail with a cheery “ not for me, man,” but I just had to have the red loons, rip or no rip, they’d do, my girlfriend would stitch them, patch them even, with a Confederate flag, or an embroidered marijuana plant, or Dana Gillespie’s lips. I walked out and gave the guy a thumbs up. “These’ll do great, I’ll keep ‘em on”. I parted with £3.50. It was when I took my hand away from the gaping hole in the pants that I felt it. Blood. The nail had torn more than the coveted “strides”. With a side-on dash I sped, nay, bled out of the boutique, red faced, well, red everything, into Oxford Road with a force ten gale blowing up my loons,and my back side as well as my pride, permanently gashed