A random discussion with Dave Cawley over Thai food this past Sunday touched on the Golden Age punk band The Stranglers and their ill-fated No. 1 fan, Dagenham Dave - who was storied in the Stranglers song of the same name on the LP No More Heroes (United Artists, 1977).
The Stranglers: "No More Heroes" (1977)
It's an interesting song (and story) because I had never heard of this Manchester coal miner's son - who relocated to the London suburb of Dagenham and was rechristened "Dagenham Dave" by Stranglers's leader Hugh Cornwall - until I read Dave Thompson's excellent punk memoir London's Burning: True Adventures on the Front Lines of Punk, 1976-1977, in which Thompson commented:
"In many ways, he reminded me of Sid Vicious, a nice guy who couldn't distinguish the person he was from the world in which he was suddenly living...Sober he was fine, friendly and polite. But drunk - and he got drunk a lot - he could pick a fight in an empty room, and he could usually count on winning...Sid wound up cold and dead in a New York hotel room, with an armful of smack and a murder charge hanging over his head; Dave ended his days stuck in the mud at the bottom of the River Thames, after throwing himself off Tower Bridge, the final act in a tragedy..."
Dave Thompson's punk memoir "London's Burning"
That tragedy's final act occurred on February 9, 1977, though Dave's body was stuck in the mud for several weeks before it was discovered. A few weeks after that, The Stranglers added "Dagenham Dave" to their repetoire. So what led to Dave's Demise? Chiswick Charlie, Duncan Doughnuts & Bren Gun (Dagenham Dave's girlfriend Brenda - as rechristened again by Hugh Cornwall) pick up the story for web site punk77.co.uk:
"Dave liked New Wave (Punk) music but he couldn't really identify with the punters. It was about this time that The Stranglers befriended a group of punks in a Finchley pub called the Torrington, and they started to come regularly to gigs. Hugh named the the Finchley Freds, later to be known simply as the Finchley Boys.
This was the first time anyone had challenged Dave's position within the framework of the band. Suddenly, someone else was telling the jokes and playing the fool. Dave reacted immediately by picking a fight with them during the gig a gig at the 100 Club while the Stranglers performed onstage. Dave took on about seven Finchley Boys in a fight which nobody won, he broke two ribs and chipped a bone in the corner of his right eye, It was the beginning of the end.
It was now 1977 and the Stranglers had finally got their record deal with United Artists which was a great triumph for them and everyone who believed in them from the start. Dave was present during the recording of Rattus Norvegicus and didn't think twice about telling producer Martin Rushent the way he thought the Stranglers should sound. Brenda, his long suffering lady, could no longer take any more and she left Dave to live with her mother in Sussex. Dave begged her to come back but to avail.
So on the ninth of February 1977, Dave committed suicide by jumping off Tower Bridge into the icy cold water of the Thames.
Some people may think of Dave as a hero, but I knew that is not the way he would have wanted it. I thought Dave was a really great bloke and that's all that matters."
Even though he's dead, Dagenham Dave lives on - on Facebook! Check out: Dagenham Dave the first Stranglers fan.
Morrissey's "Dagenham Dave" looks a lot like Terry Venables
Just to confuse matters, another Mancunian, one Steven Patrick Morrissey, recorded a single called "Dagenham Dave" (RCA, 1995) though it doesn't appear to be about the Stranglers's fan. It was the Mozzer's first release for RCA and featured former English football player (Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Queens Park Rangers) and coach Terry Venables, who was born in Dagenham, on the cover. The song also appears on Morrissey's Southpaw Grammar LP and the video can be watched on YouTube.
The Stranglers's "Dagenham Dave" lyrics:
Dave was from outer town
Manchester's likely too
Had read De Sade to Marx
More read than me and you
Scaffolding pays good bread
It pays for drugs and kicks
Dave only had one love
Had no real need for chicks
Dave was so far ahead
But now he's dead
I'm not going to cry
I bet he hit that water high
I guess he lost control
And welcomed in the night
It was too much for him
What were his thoughts that night
The river Thames is cold
It keeps on flowing on
But it left Dave alone
It just kept flowing on
There's certainly sickness here
But now he's dead