Magazine article New Statesman (1996)


Magazine article New Statesman (1996)


Article excerpt

I met my first prostitute when I was 17. After the sex, I wandered into a small church and thanked God

"Mr Marks, you have to admit that drugs make people irrational, don't you?"

"Yes, but only those who don't take them."

"Last question, please," said the presenter, obviously relieved. "The school hall has to close at eight o'clock."

Two paradigms of teenage nubilia shyly cried in unison, "Mr Marks, if you had to choose your first love, would you choose sex or drugs or rock 'n' roll?"

I was tempted to quickly fire back a smooth retort such as, "Drugs, of course, darlings; pass the Viagra," but decided that was unnecessarily evasive and resolved to give a true answer. I had, after all, just been giving a talk on how important it was for parents and kids to stop lying to each other, particularly about drug use. (This was before poor old Tom Parker Bowles was exposed as cocaine-friendly by the News of the World: I wish I could have warned him that honesty is always the best policy before you're caught. It's not quite as good to go running to Mummy with an apology after the event . . .) I looked down at the girls' expectant faces: yes, honesty would be appropriate, right here, right now. I thought long and hard. It was a refreshingly new question.

There was a time I'd have definitely chosen sex. Now I wasn't so sure: God! Was sexual disinterest yet another sign of my age? I was finding life puzzling enough as it was, trying to cope with false teeth and sudden short sight. (Surely the latter is enough to cast shadows of doubt on the very existence of selfish genes? What could possibly be the evolutionary advantage of beginning to go blind in one's early fifties, a few decades before death? Why have we preserved that gene? What use would it have been in the jungle?)

But chronologically speaking, rock'n'roll was my first love. Rock'n'roll in white communities such as the Welsh Valleys and Boise, Idaho, at first seemed very divorced from sex. Look at Bill Haley or Pat Boone, with whom no self-respecting sexy boiler would ever be seen dead in bed. There were thousands of ditties without even a vestige of a suggestive lyric: "Battle of New Orleans", "Charlie Brown" and "Elevator Rock". Even "Little White Bull" didn't get you horny. But then came Elvis. These days anyone can present his naked erect penis as an illegal offensive weapon, but 40 years ago, Elvis did the same fully clothed and flaccid. But Elvis was nigger music and raunchy and in your face. He was taboo. The warning was raised: if we let our kids give in to that taboo, they'll fuck in the streets and become animals. But they don't have claws or fur: they won't survive.

It took Elvis to get a whole generation of females to admit they wanted to make love, and would do it to music, without promises of fidelity or family. …

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