Chinese Rock 'n' Roll
Back in the sixties when you had a ships dance you hired a local rock 'n 'roll band. If you were in Plymouth you had a Plymouth band, if in Portsmouth you got a Portsmouth band and so on. We were at HMS Terror in Singapore and for some strange reason we got a Chinese band turning up to play at the dance that night. Not that ship's dances were high on the amusement scale for submariners in those days, as they were not exactly our idea of a mad social whirl.
Back in the day we got paid every two weeks and the second week before payday was known as your “blank week” because you were usually broke. So we couldn’t be too picky about our entertainment. However, the Armada Club, on the base where the dance was being held always allowed us to run up a beer tab, so we decided to go along to hopefully get a laugh by watching the Skipper dance with his wife at the venue.
Now one of our mates was a guy called Norman Docherty from Glasgow. Norman’s mother came from Scotland and his father came from Nigeria and the only thing Scottish about Norman was his accent. Bear in mind this was all in the days before racial discrimination and the Race Relations Act became the big in-thing and we had nicknamed him Choc (a play on the name Jock) from his first day. His colour was not an issue with us, he was a submariner just like us who was a great character, and the bottom line was he was our mate come what may.
Deep down Norman had a split personality; I mean that we all knew he was schizophrenic because he had two lockers on the boat. The thing was that when Norman was drunk he truly thought he was Nat King Cole and the only lyric he knew all the way through was “Rambling Rose. Norman was also a very smooth dresser and that night he was all dressed up in white tuxedo jacket, white dress shirt, black bow tie, black cummerbund and black slacks. He looked great –in fact he looked just like a bloody negative.
Now by and large all rock bands in the 60’s sounded pretty much the same with their basic three chord riffs and the Chinese band were doing their best up there on the stage. The hits of the day were “Lubber Ball”, “Ruv Retters in the Sand” “My Riddle Lunaway” and “My Boy Rorripop” etc; come to think of it 1963 was not a very good year for Chinese rock ‘n’ roll bands. Things were going pretty good until about 2030 when the lead guitarist realized his instrument was pretty much muted as he tried to strum it. This was because Norman was clutching the strings of the player’s guitar until the whole band stopped playing in total disbelief. In his deep and loud Scottish accent Norman was asking them, “Do you know Rambling Rose?” The band leader was nearly having a fit and a rapid exchange in frantic Chinese was going on between the other band members. In the end the leader said, No! No! No know “Lambling Lose”. Norman kept insisting, and they kept protesting, but it was too late Norman was already on the stage with the mike in his hand and they weren’t going to get him off. They decided to compromise as Norman sang his party piece and they played along with him and it sounded pretty good. Everyone applauded and Norman took his bow and handed the mike back to the intense relief of the Chinese band. Little did they know Norman or know what the evening held in store for them.
At 2130, at 2230 and at 2330 it was the same routine; “Do you know Rambling Rose?” with the same results; Norman taking over and doing his party piece every hour on the hour. The Chinese were getting pretty hacked off with the situation by the time it came to 0030 and decided that they would physically remove Norman from the stage by force. This was a big mistake on their part setting the scene for the remainder of the night’s entertainment. They might have thought they knew a few martial arts moves but they were as nothing compared to Norman’s fighting skills all learned the hard way on the mean streets of Glasgow. Soon Chinese bodies and their instruments were flying in all directions as Norman battered them away like annoying insects.
Some gate-crashing skimmers from the HMS Terror base, always keen to get one over on a submariner, started to help out the Chinese in trying to sort out Norman. At this point all the lads off the boat piled in and started knocking seven bells out of the skimmers. The whole place was in total uproar as everyone got into the fray and furniture was getting turned into match wood everywhere you looked. The situation worsened as the shore patrols arrived with the Singapore Police and they started battling with drunken sailors on the dance floor. It could have gone on for much longer if one timid soul hadn’t decided to play our national anthem over the PA system; whereupon everyone promptly staggered to their feet and tried to stand to attention for the strains of “God Save the Queen”.
More reinforcements had duly arrived and in all forty members of our crew, including yours truly, were arrested and locked up for the night. In the confusion the Skipper’s wife, who was a beautiful Eurasian woman, had also been arrested as the police thought she was another shady lady on the game. The British Commissioner had to be awoken by Captain S/M to get out of bed and go down to the police station to get the skipper’s wife released out of jail. Needless to say the skipper was not a happy bunny and this was reflected in the punishment he handed out to us all the next morning. The only one to escape was Norman, who turned up next morning looking just like “The Great Leslie” in the movie, as immaculate as ever in his tuxedo without a mark or blemish on him. He had amorously spent the remainder of the night in the arms of a pearl of the Orient called Juicy Lucy – the lucky bugger.