You have to be quite special to get a name like ‘Chopper’. Immediately two individuals spring to mind; Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris the early seventies Chelsea hatchetman who regularly took delight in embedding his studs in Georgie Best’s ankles. Then in the nineties the world became aware of an Australian psychopathic serial killer called Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. He earned his moniker after famously going one step further than Van Gogh and having both ears sliced off in a prison brawl. Sandwiched between these two in the mid-eighties and very much the ‘meat’ was a student from Tamworth, possibly the biggest, baddest Chopper of them all. I’m not sure exactly what course he did but it was something in ‘Meat Technology’ and he had a white coat, protective hair-net and a set of razor sharp butchers knives to prove his credentials. He reached the peak of his powers at a time when vegetarianism was truly starting to infiltrate the mainstream. Linda McCartney was assaulting the high street with her veggie bangers and Morrissey’s plaintive wail on The Smiths second album reverberated from bedsits the length and breadth of England. But the carniverous Chopper was having none of it. He was unreconstructed pork chops, peas and potatoes, mate and leave plenty of fat on, thank you very much. This boy worshipped at the high alter of butchery and did so with the greatest zeal. Before dinner, he would bounce his knife and fork on the table, Henry the Eighth style, his mouth slavering in anticipation of the forkfuls of succulent flesh coming his way. It may only have been a Goblin meat pudding but as long as there was a bit of gristle to get his gnashers on he was happy. I will never forget his unbridled joy at the sight of a great slab of fatty bacon on his Sunday morning plate. As he lashed into the pink quivering flesh, spurts of fat squirted across the table, his psychotic cackle and thick Black Country accent combining to make gentler souls shudder and run to the Animal Liberation Front in their droves. He was particularly ecstatic after a visit to an abbatoir and regailed us for days with blood-soaked tales of butchery, stun-guns and offal. Even Sam, as if in solidarity with the animal kingdom showed a watchful eye when Chopper was about and kept very much to his basket. I’m not sure if there were many Korean restaurants in Tamworth but the wily mutt was a master of self-preservation.
The orbit of a graphic design student in the pre-digital era was very different from the one we inhabit today. Even that giant pinboard behind Tony is less than stimulating, though at least he’s got his MANUS welfare wall calendar to keep track of things. Note the board he’s leaning on – complete with all-essential ‘parallel motion’ to make sure he gets everything lined up. These all pretty much went on the bonfire by the early-nineties. Note, that he has a tin of Cow Gum to hand. I never used this stuff, just the name put me off but even more so when I put my nose in it, the aroma being not at all dissimilar to Chopper’s bedroom. I was always a fan of the Pritt Stick but the ultimate adhesive and still in pole position today is that enemy of the environment, the royal blue aerosol that goes by the name of Spraymount. At £5 a pop it was about the equivalent cost of six or seven pints, so cans of the precious stuff were closely guarded. I also viewed them with a hint of trepidation, not so much for their effect on the ice-caps, but when Davie Crow gave himself a blast straight in the eye. Is that a metal ruler by his side? Probably not, its more likely a typescale, so he can painstakingly calculate how many words he can squeeze into a particlar space before getting Idris the Dragon, the phototypesetting technician to run out a bit of text for him. Blimey, truly another era. Take heed of that ring-bound Letraset catalogue close to Tony’s right hand. About three hundred fonts in there, all alphabeticised in upper and lower-case for you to trace out and re-size on the grant enlarger. You want colour? Well, unless you were Gene Denham and able to blow your Miami Vice takings on a handful of so-called Magic Markers, you were looking at those big coloured ones from the bargain bin in the Student Union shop, all sorts of weird pastel colours and flesh tones. Not cheap either mind, Manchester had a pound shop, Charlie Ball’s in a corner of Shambles Square, but these were well before the days when you could buy fifty crap felt-tips for £1.99.