As a young dramatist I made my TV debut with a play about incest called Hitting Town. It was shown on ITV and Mary Whitehouse tried to get the regulators of the time prosecuted for showing it. The whole matter was referred to the attorney general. If she had succeeded, I might not have had a career in television; and yet she was speaking for nobody because the show received the huge total of two complaints.
Hitting Town introduces Ralph (Mick Ford), a young student paying a visit to his older sister Clare (Deborah Norton) in an unspecified city. Ralph is anarchic, hyperactive, living on his nerves because IRA bombs have been detonated in his adopted town. Clare, recently single, shifts between chastising his tiresome attitude-striking, and showing delight in his manic energy.
He takes her for a evening on the tiles: they kiss passionately in a grotty restaurant, make hoax calls to a radio phone-in, walk through a hideous shopping mall, visit a karaoke disco.
Did it stand up as drama? "Seeing it again, what struck me was a rawness and extraordinary brutality. Half of it's shot on location in shocking bleakness. The anger and undirected energy were a reaction to the London bombs of the time. You expected a car to blow up as you walked towards it. But it's also about a time –punk arrived 18 months after I wrote it."
My God, Stephen, I said. You mean Ralph, with his curly hair and his childish anarchy, was the first-ever sighting of a punk? "
Peter Gill directed the TV version of Hitting Town. This would be around the time that he was turning a blind eye to the Sex Pistols rehearsing in the Riverside Studios. The legend is that they could get in on the sly because Wally Nightingale's father worked there and had a key. Yeh right, the Sex Pistols - no strangers to volume - could rehearse without anyone noticing. There is a case for PG as the godfather of punk and I intend to make it.