Martin’s always on top form when it comes to moral panics of yesteryear (see especially his writing on rabies public information adverts), so his look at the perils of glue sniffing is a real treat.
It also gives me an excuse to bang on about the eighties, as I tend to do. (Pretty morbid this week – dead music journalists and ragga producers and now this!). It was another one of those things that you found out about as a kid which made the world seem like a darker place. But it also added a bit of sinister glamour to TV dramas and John Craven’s Newsround.
I recall at least two TV shows with glue sniffing sub-plots (possibly Casualty and Juliet Bravo?). Pasty white kids shuffling tentatively into hardware shops woth doomy background music playing. Vacant looks and knackered skin around the mouth. Don’t do it kids!
The 1981 NME soundsystem splashdown special issue also featured a good piece on glue sniffing, but unfortunately I don’t have it any more.
I suppose it’s a testament to human creativity in a way – getting wasted the cheapest way possible.
I’m sure that in most classrooms across the land kids are still sniffing anything they can get their hands on to relieve the boredom of their lessons. But for the most part glue has been replaced by cheaper and better highs. Not least alcohol, which wasn’t exactly easy to get hold in the eighties even if you were of drinking age.
A google image search for “glue sniffer” shows faces a million miles away from pasty skinheads. It looks like a destructive hobby for poor kids everywhere. Perhaps that means its ripe for a revival amongst the doyens of global ghettotech / favella funk / holidaying in someone else’s misery.
The last time I saw someone with a glue bag was ten years ago in Brazil. Sao Paulo is the 2nd biggest city in the world and has a horrifically visible rich/poor divide. We were staying with a friend of a friend in a gated apartment block guarded by a man with a gun. There was really no middle ground between that and abject poverty.
Driving along a motorway in a flash car, we saw a little kid in rags who couldn’t have been more than ten. He was hanging out in the rubble underneath a bridge, lifting the tell-tale plastic bag up to his face…