View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Life
3 April 2024

Never meet your heroes – unless your hero is Jah Wobble

A close encounter with the legendary bassist leaves me giddy and unsteady on my feet.

By Nicholas Lezard

So, how was your Easter? Because of the obligations and vagaries of magazine production, I’m writing this before it’s even happened. From where I’m sitting, and looking at the weather forecast, it looks like it’s going to be grim, and anyway the only good bit about Easter is when Lord Rees-Mogg tweets “He is risen” on the Monday and the nation bursts into a frenzy of religious ecstasy. Meanwhile, what else is there for me to write about? The endless rain? My endless poverty? My latest run-in with Vodafone? I’m sorry, I can’t this week, I really can’t. So instead I’ll tell you about something nice that happened to me during my week off.

What happened was that my friend J— invited me to a gig at the Prince Albert. J— is the one who teaches music journalism at — College, and is a gentleman of exquisite taste, so when he invites you along to a gig, you go along without asking who’s playing, because you know it’s going to be good. But a few days after I signed on the dotted line, I asked, “Who are we seeing anyway?” and he replied, “Jah Wobble,” and I fainted.

You might remember my having written about Mr Wobble a few months back, when I saw that he had followed me on Twitter. This put a spring in my step. For I had been a fan of his since October 1978, when Public Image Ltd’s first, eponymous single came out, with its simple but devastating bassline, played and conceived by Wobble himself. Since then he has released several groovy records, including collaborations with the late Sinéad O’Connor and the late Holger Czukay of Can – but now is not the time for a discography.

The thing about the Prince Albert is that not only is it an excellent pub downstairs, but upstairs it is a single-room venue generally used by budding noisy rock groups. The outside wall of the pub is painted with dozens of rock stars – Hendrix, Lennon, Marley etc – and also includes a portrait of John Peel with his headphones on, so you kind of get the idea of the sort of noise that bands playing at the Albert are going to make. And the point about the room the bands play in is that it is small. There is barely room to swing a cat in there, and that’s when it’s empty. But it is a proper music venue, and every time I have seen a band there I have enjoyed myself immensely.

Now as it happens J— knows Jah Wobble (he was christened John Wardle, but “Jah Wobble” is how a drunken Sid Vicious pronounced it once, and the name has stuck). As it also happens, I get a bit giddy in the company of musicians, especially in the company of musicians of whose work I approve. A girlfriend of mine once saw me in the company of Jim Reid from the Jesus and Mary Chain, and said she’d never seen me act like that ever before: simpering and giggling and gawping like a schoolkid with a crush. Writers don’t impress me nearly as much: I know their specious ways all too well. Artists can make me go a bit silly, but then I knew Marc Quinn at university and I thought “grifter” and “he’ll go far”. I did once meet Francis Bacon in the French House and I was deeply impressed and wondered if he’d paint me if I slept with him. But I was with another girlfriend at the time and couldn’t think of a way to drop it in to the conversation.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

The plan was to meet with JW at the pub before the gig. I got into a right tizzy thinking about this. I shaved and bathed and brushed the few remaining hairs on the top of my head. It turned out Spurs were playing Fulham that evening and Wobble, who is a huge Spurs fan, as is J—, wanted to see the match. Only there was some rugby nonsense going on that night, and the only pub playing the match was a cavernous pile mostly frequented by students. I was a bit anxious: I am not a Spurs fan, which I thought would put a spoke in the wheels of my friendship with JW before it had even got moving. As it happened, he couldn’t even make it into the pub: there was a queue and he thought sod that for a lark, and went back to the Albert to watch it on his phone.

As history records, Spurs barely even showed up either, and Fulham slaughtered them 3-0. After the match we went off to the Albert. “Hurry up,” I kept saying. “I want to meet Jah Wobble.”

“I’ve never seen him like this,” J— said to our mutual friend M—, who edited one of the glossy music mags and also knows Jah Wobble. Does everyone in this stupid town know Jah Wobble apart from me? (M– also supports Spurs, poor chap.)

So we finally made it to the Albert and went to see Jah Wobble in the dressing room, which is even tinier than the room he was about to play in. I was, by this stage, quivering with excitement. And so what did J— and M— and JW talk about? Football. Worse than that: Spurs football. I’ve never been so bored in my life. Never meet your heroes, I thought.

But the gig was brilliant, and as Mr Wobble came off stage he squeezed my arm and I’m in love all over again.

[See also: Toast or a shower? My great energy dilemma]

Content from our partners
What is the UK’s vision for its tech sector?
Inside the UK's enduring love for chocolate
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International

Topics in this article : , ,

This article appears in the 03 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Fragile Crown

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU