Punk opera shows the healing power of music

)''Gosport based band Asylum Seekers are putting together a punk opera called Borstal Boy which is based on a book by David Clarke called Converted on LSD.''Pictured is: (back l-r) Gosport band Asylum Seekers Dave West, Mick Fisher, Steve Jeffery and Clive Archer with David Clarke and his book Converted on LSD at Quay West Studios in Gosport. ''Picture: Sarah Standing (1392-1700)
)''Gosport based band Asylum Seekers are putting together a punk opera called Borstal Boy which is based on a book by David Clarke called Converted on LSD.''Pictured is: (back l-r) Gosport band Asylum Seekers Dave West, Mick Fisher, Steve Jeffery and Clive Archer with David Clarke and his book Converted on LSD at Quay West Studios in Gosport. ''Picture: Sarah Standing (1392-1700)

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When Dave Clarke wrote a book about his misspent youth as a criminal, he wanted it to warn people against crime.

But after penning his autobiography, the 63-year-old former Fareham College electronics lecturer decided that to reach more people he needed to change format.

So he has teamed up with a former student’s band and is now in the process of turning it into a punk opera.

The book, Converted on LSD Trip, tells the tale of Dave’s life growing up and committing crime in Aylesbury before he moved to Fareham in 1988, and was written after his criminal brother Michael also converted.

Even a year locked away in Dover Borstal in 1967 did not make Dave stop and it was only what he describes as a ‘bad trip on LSD’ in 1970 that changed his life.

He claims that at that moment, God saved him.

That key moment forms the focal point of his book and is the central point of the opera, Borstal Boy.

He said: ‘The stories in my book are suited to punk, there’s a message in the story of hope, of deliverance, that life can end well.

’Even though I got involved with crime, I want good to come out of it, I want to teach people not to mock religion too – look how many people benefit from it.

‘I’m only telling the story because I want good to come out of it, I’m not doing it to tell of my life because it’s rubbish.

‘There’s no benefit in crime, there’s no glory, you end up in jail and once you’ve got a criminal record it’s with you for the rest of your life.’

After finding God in 1970, it Dave a year to work up the courage to admit to three years of undetected theft and drug taking, handing himself over to the police.

But when he appeared at Aylesbury Magistrates to confess to the details of 24 crimes, the local newspaper ran the headline ‘Converted on LSD Trip’ and reported the details of his multiple crimes for which he was not sentenced.

It is the coverage of the court case which gives the book its title, along with 12 other key moments in his journey from crime to conversion to preacher that he has selected for the opera.

In addition to his conversion and subsequent confession, he includes the time when he stole a speedboat, and the refusal of the head of Fareham College to write a foreword to his book.

And with the help of 51-year-old former student Mick Fisher’s band the Asylum Seekers, the 13-part punk opera is finally taking shape.

Originally both Dave and the band had planned to take tracks from punk bands and perform covers.

But last year, Dave sat down with the band and carefully chose the 13 key parts from his life story.

Dave then rewrote sections as Mick prepared to help him translate them into verse.

Mick and the rest of the band are now in the process of taking each section and jamming, coming up with music to fit the story.

When the opera is finished, both Dave and the band hope to perform it live, along with filming a performance and releasing it on DVD.

Dave said: ‘Punk itself as a means of communication is underrated.

‘So I look at it really as a punk machine and the stage where we perform is like a platform, a pulpit and we’ll teach through the music.

‘It’s a means of expressing emotion, a means of release.

‘You are pent up and screwed up but punk is a means of expressing that.’

Taking the lead on re-writing someone else’s life story might seem like a daunting task.

But bass player Mick and the rest of the band are ready for it.

Mick said: ‘It would have been really easy to associate stories from his book to songs that we’re already playing.

‘But because we changed our minds, we’re going to write original material in a punk vein.

‘From that angle, the songs can be a bit more about Dave and also be a message too.

‘The whole band are up for contributing to song writing and because we’re a well practised band, we can throw a few chords together and get a hook from there.

‘The main idea is to draw out the character of the person, equally along with the story.

‘That’s going to take a bit of time getting it right, otherwise it won’t be personal enough.

‘If it’s not personal then it won’t translate to the listener.’

Mick added: ‘As for Dave’s plan to make it a super-opera, I don’t doubt it, he can make it happen.

‘On the DVD we’ll have a bit of narration between the tracks but it’s going to be Dave’s baby, we’re just making his book in a different media.

‘I share the attitude of 99 per cent of the people we’ve told, that it is a bit bizarre, that it is a bit crazy, but that’s Dave’s life.’

The band hope to finish the punk opera by this summer.