Before I became Johnny Bottleneck, I was known by my given name, Les Metcalfe. I was born, in Sheffield in 1948 to Audrey and Seth. It was clear from an early age that I was going to shake things up a bit. Back when I were just nine years old, I wrote my first song, “Fangs for the Mammaries”. My teacher sent the lyrics home to my mother and she flew into a bloody fit. Not once did she notice how creative I was. She just bloody yelled at my Dad, “Seth, our Les is in t’ league with bloody Satan”.
It’s been the story of my life since. When I left school and became a steel worker like me Dad, I started a sideline, doing piercings with bits of swarf I’d fashioned into spikes and skulls and such. Seventeen employees lost ear lobes, four had problems with their nostrils and one guy’s nipple fell off so I was sacked. My mum couldn’t afford to keep me if I wasn’t paying me way, so I was turfed out of home too.
I went to live a friend of mine, Bill Gascoigne, who was part of a skiffle group, called Freddy and the Handy Locals. They were a popular band and they also did odd jobs around Sheffield during the day. Roofing and a bit of gardening. Bill played guitar with the band and, while he was out during the day, I would mess around with it and it became clear before too long that I was going to be the greatest guitar player ever to come out of Sheffield; probably the world. It wasn’t too long before Bill recognised my talent but he was a bit worried about my raucous style. Nevertheless, he got me an audition with Freddy and I were excited about being in my first band.
I was hired on the spot and Bill was sacked, the daft bugger. He was a bit miffed about the whole thing but I got him a job in the steelworks and he seemed to like that just fine. It was 1967 and things were really beginning to kick off. Freddy and the Handy Locals released their first single, “Pocket full of love”, a song that was lifted from one I had submitted called, “Scrotum Full of Love”. It did ok and I was suddenly exposed to some different musicians. In November ’67, I left the Handy Locals and formed a band called The Black Raisins, with Dougie Braithwaite on drums and Benny Freeman on bass.
Our first album, a psychedelic effort called Subways of the Soul, was slated by the critics. They said that from title track to the last track, Little Monkeys from Mars, the album was noisy and contrived. Feminists like Mona Van Dyke lambasted my now famous use of sexual innuendo and we had regular protests outside our gigs. It seems that the song that offended them the most was “I’m gonna love ya til your furry cup runeth over”.
We were immediately told to remove this from our set list and future pressings of Subways of the Soul would go out without this song, which was ridiculous because it took up the complete B-Side of the album. So we became famous for having a one sided album. The B-side had paper glued to it so that you could make notes. Crazy really. There was a 26 minute solo on the end of that song that I was really proud of but we were no longer allowed to play it. I was getting a lot of hate mail at the time. Normally that kind of shit wouldn’t bother me but I decided that I needed a name that wasn’t so synonymous with hate, so I changed my name to Dirk Himmler.
Things eased off for a while after that but I couldn’t win the critics over. When our second album, a darker effort called Slaughter in the Slaughterhouse, was released, the critics said it was just more metal devil worship and it wasn’t breaking any new ground. They also wondered what happened to some of our sexual connotations. Ok, so it wasn’t as bad as the first review we got but it still wasn’t great. Yeah, it sold eleven million copies worldwide, but I wanted to be critically acclaimed. I was passed over for award after award. Our third album, Crimson Scrotum of The Damned, was completely panned. One critic said, “Dirk Himmler seems to be confused between his love of Satan and his love of sex”. They just couldn’t be fucking pleased. How could I get a happy medium? One night after the final gig of our, 77 world tour, I broke up the band. The eighties were coming and I needed to be ready.
Yeah, ok, The Filthy Vampires had some critical success but only with Harangue magazine. So here I sit, a Rock God, a man who has defined the face of Rock, a founding father of Rock and I’m still misunderstood. Yeah, there’s countless albums left in me but my search for Rock perfection seems yet to be recognised. Have I written the perfect rock song? Many times. It seems the lot of the Rock God to be misunderstood. Maybe when I’m not longer with thee. Maybe when I issue my final pelvic thrust in the name of RAWK, I’ll finally be understood. For now, I remain Johnny Bottleneck; Rock God and sexual Adonis.