Watty was wearing a badge, one of the big, old kind. Probably two inches across, round. They used to advertise them in the back of Sounds, NME, Record Mirror (and I think there was a fourth member of the British weekly music press, but I can’t recall it). They always included the size, in old-fashioned imperial units: one-inch, two-inch. Probably inch-and-a-half.

In the early days we wore the big ones. My first one was almost certainly a Beatles one, but I don’t remember what design it had. I do recall a glittery Thin Lizzy one, when I went through my period of them being one of my faves. Wings, maybe? Probably.

Anyway, with punk, the badge size that was considered cool, or even acceptable, reduced. Anything bigger than an inch across would lead to mockery, for sure. Although I think Brendan’s Stranglers badge, saying ‘Something Better Change’ (‘Because I like the song and I like what it says’) was of the two-inch persuasion, but that was in the early days.

Watty’s one, the one that I’m talking about: that was probably even earlier. It was white, with the outline of what I had to get quite close to realise was a penny farthing bicycle. And a number: 6.

‘What’s that about, then?’

‘It’s The Prisoner! Do you not know about it?’ Watty wasn’t too bad in this way, but the default reaction to someone being ignorant of something you liked was mockery, back then, when we were 13, 14. To be honest, probably for a decade or more after that, too. Instead of the healthier attempt to infect the ignorant one with our own enthusiasm. Or at least inform them about it.

I learned, though, that it was a weird programme that was on late at night, and anyway it was over now, so even if it hadn’t been on at a time that I wouldn’t have been allowed to stay up on a school night, it was finished, so there was no chance I’d ever get to see it.


Of course, The Prisoner was originally broadcast in 1967-8, so if Watty was watching it ten years later, it does show that repeats were a thing. If only there were a way we could have our own copies of TV programmes. But what a fantastic, farcical idea!

I know it was the early days, because the name ‘The Prisoner’ did not immediately make me think of The Clash. The B-side of ‘(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais’ shares a title with Patrick McGoohan’s paranoid cold-war ex-spy drama. I don’t think it has anything else in common with it, but you can’t be sure.

I finally saw some episodes in the early nineties. I bought some on VHS, along with my friend Johnny, who also hadn’t seen it. But that didn’t prove very practical, as we live in different cities. And VHS was expensive. Two episodes per tape for, what fifteen quid? So that petered out.

Much later I got the DVD box set. And it’s been one of the things we’ve been watching over the last few months. Er, years, maybe. It might have started in lockdown.

Tonight we finally watched the last two episodes. Which were much better than I had been led to believe.

It’s kind of amazing, saturated as it is with sixties fears about mind control, brainwashing, hypnotism. Is anything real after the unnamed main character gets gassed in the opening of the first episode (repeated in the opening credits of almost every episode)? Maybe the whole thing is a hallucination induced by the gas, you know?

There are certainly plenty of actual induced hallucinations or dreamlike states in the series. Which is why you can’t trust the increasingly psychedelic ending.

The whole thing is a mindfuck. I loved it.