THE LEGEND OF MOONDANCER – How There’s Often More To Some Things Than Meets The Eye And Why That Can Be A Bit Of A Let Down
Don’t fret; this isn’t some sort of homage to G P Taylor or J K Rowling or any of the long dead writers whose ideas they both nicked. (No direct insult to GP or JK intended there; all writers steal ideas.) No, this is about a rock bar in the mid nineteen eighties. I’ll grant you there isn’t an obvious logical connection between a mullet infested drinking den slap bang in the middle of Thatcher’s Britain and this post’s rather twee Sword ‘n’ Sorcery title. We stop at many places to link the two, so allow me to start joining the dots.
Every fourteen year old boy has a special place he hangs about in; usually a place populated by like minded young chaps. Mine was a place called The Handyside Arcade. It’s not there anymore. It was knocked down to make way for a soulless extension to an already charm free city centre shopping mall.
The Handyside was a run down Victorian arcade, falling to bits and full of weird clothes shops and coin shops and various other establishments that the rest of the city refused to accommodate. It was re-branded in the 60s as “Newcastle’s Answer To Carnaby Street”. Here’s a publicity shot from that re-launch.
Walking through The Handyside Arcade in the 80s, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that if it was “Newcastle’s Answer To Carnaby Street”, then Newcastle didn’t hear the question correctly. But every Saturday, I would make a beeline for it, and in particular for the only place in it of any interest for someone of my youthful tendencies : The Kard Bar. This is an arty photographer’s vision of The Kard Bar :
This is how I remember The Kard Bar
The Kard Bar was a teenage Rock fan’s Aladdin’s cave. It was so full of so much cool stuff it would make want to weep a little bit if you didn’t keep a grip on yourself at all times. It stank of damp and patchouli oil and hormonal desperation and we loved it. There were 1960’s posters – actual ones, not replicas. I think the proprietor had bought a job lot at the end of the decade and still hadn’t managed to shift them all by 1984.
There were bullet belts, spiky wristbands, bongs, pipes, swords, machetes, poppers, back-patches, outlandish hair dyes and, taking pride of place in the front window, a genuine Hitler Youth dagger. Not that any of us were interested in the Hitler Youth dagger. The closest we came was admiring the use of umlauts on the latest Motorhead t-shirt. All very fascinating, but what we were really interested in was lurking in the back room. The video game room. We were there for the Gorf machine.
This may sound a bit quaint now, in the age of the X-Box, but to us the Gorf machine was amazing. The Gorf machine talked. As you progressed from Space Cadet to Space Avenger, it heckled and harangued you without mercy : “Bite the dust, Space Cadet. Ha ha ha”, “Some galactic defender you are, Space Cadet” etc, etc. It was a hard game, so most of us never got beyond Space Cadet. Though there was always some games genius who could make one 10p coin last for hours, so for the most part Gorf was a Saturday afternoon spectator sport.
As entertaining as this spectator sport was, it couldn’t hold our attention forever. Eventually and inevitably, we moved on from the Rock Arcade to the Rock Bars. There were many to choose from in Newcastle city centre back then. The City Tavern, The Percy Arms, The Haymarket. But the one I often ended up in was Trillian’s.
The reason I went in there had nothing to do with Rock. The reason was science fiction. As far as I knew, it was the only business in the country named after a character in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. (The London estate agent Hotblack Desiato doesn’t count. Douglas Adams stole the name from them, not the other way around.) I was a massive fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The fact that Trillians was also where all the prettiest Rock Chicks hung out may also have been a factor in me choosing to drink there
As young apprentice drinkers, we used to hang around the older, more experienced metal heads and try to ingratiate ourselves like little court jesters. A pain in the hole for the oldies, but at least they got to impress us with stories about how much more drunk/stoned/rebellious they were when they were our age. They like that kind of thing, the old folk.
During the old folks’ reminiscences – and bear in mind some of the people telling the tales were as old as twenty seven- one name kept cropping up. Moondancer.
Moondancer was a local hero of a previous generation. And seeing as us apprentice drinkers were 16, “a previous generation” meant “about eight years ago”. Which in this case meant the mid 70s.
Moondancer got himself into all sorts of scrapes. He dressed like a 1960s hippy, with loon pants and a gentleman’s necktie knotted around his knee. He endeared himself to many and those who knew him talked about him often. To me, as an impressionable teenager, he sounded like a wild-eyed poet. A wandering warrior shaman who lived life by his own rules, backed up by a lifetime of mystical knowledge. I mean, the name says it all doesn’t it? Moondancer.
I held this opinion for many years. Then I discovered how Moondancer came by his unusual moniker. Before Trillians was called Trillians, it was called The Jubilee. And before it was called The Jubilee, it was called The Man On The Moon. Moondancer used to go in that bar of a night time, get ripped, and dance in front of the juke box all night. He was The Man On The Moon Dancer. And seeing as that’s a bit unwieldy as nick names go, he became Moondancer.
This was a bit disappointing. Not hugely disappointing, though. I’m well aware that the likelihood of finding a bona fide Shaman Warrior Poet in Newcastle upon Tyne was always going to be pretty slim. It was just kind of nice to think that some people I knew may have met one in the form of Mr Moondancer.
In the unlikely event that anyone who did know the man reads this, it would be nice if they could come forward with some support for him being a bit more JK Rowling and GP Taylor than Hunter S Thompson or Irvine Welsh. I’d like that.
Post Script :
Since originally posting this, I have found some old photos of Moondancer on a Facebook group. So, without further ado here he is. The man himself. Moondancer.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015
Tags: 1960s, 1984, 80s, Aladdins cave, Bullet belts, Carnaby Street, douglas adams, Gorf, Handyside, hippy, Hitler Youth, Hotblack desiato, hunter s thompson, irvine welsh, J K Rowling, JK Rowling, Kard Bar, Legend, Margaret Thatcher, moondancer, Motorhead, Newcastle, old folk, Patchouli, poet, Rock chicks, shaman, Shopping Mall, space cadets, Thatcher, The Handyside Arcade, The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Kard Bar, Trillians, victorian, video games, warrior, X-Box
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