The hype surrounding cocaine was that it somehow opened up the gateway to thinking brilliant thoughts but the reality was invariably more brutal: sudden jagged mood swings, dry mouth, scary heart palpitations.The first time I tried it – backstage at a Hawkwind concert in October 1972 – I almost fell down a long flight of stairs when the brain rush actually kicked in. The second time I was with the Flamin’ Groovies a month later and we all got pulled over by the police outside the dealer’s Earls Court house. If someone hadn’t tossed the incriminating packet of powder into a nearby garden, we’d have all been facing criminal prosecution.

God was evidently trying to tell me something, but I steadfastly refused to listen up. By early 1973 I was wasting one or two nights of every week snorting the devil’s dandruff in the company of other young London-based pleasureseekers. By the time dawn broke through the gaps in the drawn curtains of their basement lairs, I’d be feeling very brittle and twitchy indeed. The simple fact of the matter was that the drug didn’t agree with my central nervous system and made me plain jittery. But I was too much of a schmuck to walk away from its temptation and most of what I consumed was offered to me for free anyway. I duped myself into thinking it would be impolite to refuse and carried on numbing my sinuses whenever the opportunity arose.

At the same time I was getting ready to launch my personal invasion on the land of opportunity. By early February everything was in place: I’d drawn all my funds out of the bank, paid for an open-ended return airline ticket to Michigan and had a special US visa stamped into my passport. In the middle of the month I boarded my flight and some ten hours later was standing on US soil.

At first the customs authorities didn’t want to let me in. ‘Are you a homosexual?’ one of them kept asking me. If I’d said yes, they’d have sent me straight back to limey-land. But I simply told them the truth until they relented and grudgingly allowed me entry into the Motor City. Soon enough I’d hailed a taxi and was sizing up my new surroundings: a big motorway covered with humongous gas-guzzling

automobiles bordered by huge billboards and head-spinning changes of scenery.