to the first edition 2000-2002
(An overview of Steve's career and suggestions for future research)
In writing this essay, I set out to properly lay out Steve's achievements, so that the commonly held image of him as a hopeless and inevitably doomed failure could at least be countered to some extent. While one might understandably argue that any act which cannot get itself signed up after more than ten years of effort cannot be classed as a success, I would suggest that Steve, contrary to the assumptions made by disciples of the 1066 And All That approach to pop history, was able to maintain at least a certain level of demand as a live performer, that he had all the ingredients for a potentially successful pop star and that his creative efforts deserve far greater recognition than they have been given in the past. Steve might not have been able to elevate himself above the level of obscure minor cult artist, but even to have got this far required a considerable amount of talent and effort and he and his music deserve a decent level of respect. Let the truth be told, Steve might never have been able to get the breaks he needed to translate his live show into a record-releasing career (until one was started for him years after his death) but he was a superb singer, songwriter and raconteur and, as a staple part of the Pinkwind underground community, was able to accomplish a certain, albeit minor level of achievement as a live act. He wrote fantastic songs, could sing and play them well, and had a magnificently sharp wit - all of them attributes which deserve acclaim. His artistic accomplishments, such as they are, deserve to be rediscovered and told properly somewhere, and this piece is merely the latest attempt to do just that. The whole world should know just how great was Steve Took.
It has been pointed out to me during the course of writing this essay that I do not appear to have focussed very heavily on Steve's prodigious level of drug-taking. Undoubtedly this was an important element of what made Steve the man and the artist that he was - then this is certainly not some sort of attempt on my part to censor this element of Took's life for the sake of respectability. It is simply because in the past, just as writers have padded out articles on Steve with information about Tyrannosaurus Rex, so many of them have used Took's drug taking as an excuse to get out of properly telling large sections of the story of Steve's musical work, or at least as a way of getting out of admitting that they can't really be bothered to write the facts out in full, even when they are mentioned in readily available primary resources from the time. Nigel Cross and Mark Paytress have been the worst in this regard, although the latter can perhaps be forgiven, since "Twentieth Century Boy" was a book about Marc Bolan, not Steve Took.
Consider however, for example, the way in which Cross quietly wrote off the 1973-76 period of Took's career as "the twilight years", thus ignoring the 1974 band, the Cricket Star project and doomed bookings on the Captain Lockheed Tour - or how it is only recently that the full story of Steve's time with Nik Turner and the history of the pre-Thoms/Landau era of the Horns has emerged. Consequently, when one tries to focus specifically on Steve's actual musical and performing work, while the issue of his drug taking by no means disappears, it does get put in the shade somewhat by accounts of bands formed, live gigs played, the radio session and so on. In the past, writers and others have somewhat lazily written Steve off, as I said earlier, as a 'useless druggie.' Well, Steve was a 'druggie', I grant you, but he certainly wasn't a useless one!
Indeed, following on from the above points, I sincerely hope that others will be able to top my own efforts here with fresh information which they have been able to uncover and/or compile as well as any additional career accomplishments of Took's which they are able to uncover. I certainly would not wish this work to be seen as the definitive guide to Steve Took's career, at least not this current edition. I feel in many respects such a text has yet to be published. It is my intention in future to be able to update this essay with any fresh information I can glean on the subject. In the meantime I look forward with great anticipation to being able to assist with the authorship of Steve's biography "A Trip Through Ladbroke Grove". I encourage readers to read the book when it comes out.
In the meantime, I will conclude with this thought. Steve might never
have been able to achieve fame for his performing and composing skills
during his life time, but gradually, in the years since his death, record
releases and articles have helped the respect to trickle in. This essay,
and the rest of the contents of the website which houses it, represents
merely the latest step in the accumulation of a true body of respect for
Steve Took as an artist. In time as more
is written about Took, and hopefully as more of his recorded work emerges,
and the best of the existing works are able to gain greater public exposure,
that trickle will develop into a torrent. One day, away from the shadows
of Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Pink Fairies, Steve Took's star will finally
have the chance to truly shine...
The following material is all strongly advised as required reading for anyone interested in Took. From time to time during this essay, I've made criticisms of their works, but I hope I can say that I have managed to keep these broadly constructive - it's part of their jobs as writers to expect such criticism and I more than accept my fair share. None of it is intended personally - I'm sure they're all really kind to little kids and puppies! (An exception to that last rule being Nick Kent, for reasons which most of my fellow Adam and the Ants fans out there will be more than well aware!)
Articles and Interviews from during Steve's lifetime
"Steve Took: From Bolan Boogie to Gutter Rock" by Charles Shaar Murray,
NME, 14th October 1972
"Slicing Up Bacon For Baby Snakes" Larry Wallis interview by Nigel Cross,
Forced Exposure, Winter 1987
Also, extracts from the following books: "Twentieth Century Boy" by
Mark Paytress, Sedgewick and Jackson, 1991
I would also like to thank various others including Joly for advice, additional information and corrections during the course of completing this essay, Fee Warner for general encouragement and supplying a few bits from Nik Turner & Judge Trev Thoms (and to Nik Turner and Judge Trev themselves), Tim Rundall, Clive Zone likewise and for information, clarification and long phonecalls, and Colin Hill for digging around in the Pyg Track archive and warehouse so I could have "Nothing Exceeds Like Excess" (the 399th copy of 400!) and various articles.
And, of course, Stephen Ross Porter, for writing singing and playing the music, for telling the jokes and the stories, and for being Steve Peregrin Took.