Video Saturday, July 1974, I start work and set fire to it.

George McRae, the ladies loved him and his tight pants to which he owes his entire singing career, the tight pants that is, and these days he can even afford a shirt.

Its July 1974 and having left school the previous Friday I have just walked straight into a permanent job of work in the office of a local electrical contractor – I am the office gopher, the boy who runs errands, adds up columns of figures for the estimator, and gets sent on errands upstairs to photocopy things for a stipend of £960, per year, thats £80 a month, less tax.

Photocopiers cost a fortune back in 1974, you can buy a photocopier that will do the same job now for about £3.40 + vat but in 1974 photocopiers cost more than houses, were the same size as houses, and yet were far more fragile. The company I worked for was part of a large group of building sub-contractors and we shared an office building with a plastering company and a painting company, they had the upstairs offices we had downstairs, they had the photocopier upstairs, god knows how they ever got it up there, but they had snaffled the only one that our head office said we could have.

“Do you remember back in old LA, when everybody drove a chevrolet, whatever happened to the boy next door, the suntanned, crew cut all american male ?”

First Class were a session band put together for one song by two writers from North London, none of them had ever been to LA, or America, or probably a beach, at all, “American Graffiti” has a lot to answer for.

 

It was huge, so big that it had a room all of its own, and because it gave out prolific volumes of heat when it was doing its principle job of copying whatever you’d put in it, the room had to have a huge fan fitted to the wall to prevent the room from spontaneously combusting.

Access to the photocopier was supposed to be only for a few selected specially trained members of staff, those who were considered technically adept to line the documents properly on the glass screen, then press ever so carefully the green “go” button, but most importantly only those who could be trusted to fill in the “Copies Made” book so that at the end of the month someone could tally all the copies recorded in the machines innards to the book and then charge each company for the appropriate number.

Downstairs in the electrical contractors no-one could be arsed running upstairs for copies so they sent me every time, told me to be careful with the machine because it was bloody expensive and to run and fetch someone if anything went wrong. They also told me to never write the correct number of copies in the book as well because each copy was bloody expensive, I always had to half the figure because somewhere down the line at the end of the month some robbing bastard at head office would double the numbers when it came to charging us.

Every time I copied more than three sheets of paper in that fookin photocopier something went wrong, every fooking time.

Its like it knew it was me, its like it knew I was the new kid, its like every time I walked into the photocopy room it smirked quietly to itself and decided to chew up a sheet of paper at some random interval just so I’d shit myself and have to run and fetch someone.

But after a while, and after watching someone else open up the innards of the monster photocopier and fish around inside for the tangled shredded messes of paper inside, and after having had a bollacking everytime, I eventually started to fish around inside for myself , and I got quite good at sorting out the paper jams even noticing sometimes that the sheets of paper could sometimes be scorched around the edges when they’d been stuck for more than a few seconds, it obviously got very hot inside that photocopy machine, very hot indeed.

Until one day when I was starting to really hate the photocopying job and I left a paper jam in there for just a smidgen too long and smoke started to come from the slot at the end where paper copies should be issuing forth. Seeing the smoke thicken and increase in volume I did what every office junior would do in those circumstances, I snatched up the sheets that had successfully copied and ran back downstairs, leaving the photocopier to its own devices.

Unattended, it caught fire properly and only a chance stroll by the room by one of the plasterers directors saved the whole building from an inferno, he apparently did quite a good job with a fire extinguisher but the room was smoke logged and the vast photocopier ruined.

“Adam, I’m not going out on that stage dressed in this ridiculous clown outfit again”
“Yes you are, think of my commission, erm, I mean that advance I gave you”
“OK, but the NEXT single I get to wear the curly wig OK ?”

An enquiry of course followed, I lay low, the copy book was consulted and fortunately as I hadn’t actually finished the job in hand then I hadn’t written in the book that day, someone else was indicted for the crime of setting the copier on fire, someone more senior in the plastering company who couldn’t be sacked, and the plasterers resigned themselves to replacing the photocopier out of their budgets.

Until some smart arse lifted up the copier lid and found the company letterhead that I had been copying, hoist by my own petard I was demoted to the stores for two weeks, the most soul destroying job in the whole company, worse than sweeping the yard and certainly worse than standing by the photocopier warming your hands on a cold day.

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