Charlie Chaplin was the first punk, Patrik Fitzgerald is his grandson, a winsome little tramp with a battered acoustic guitar and a fistful of bitter-sweet comments on the British Way Of Life 1978.
Tonight Patrik's elated. He's just walked off stage after playing a full half hour set to an audince of afghan coats, sixties hangovers and a new generation of teenage headbangers - just your typical Hawklords crew.
"If I'd played me cards right" he grins, "I could've got an encore." Well, not quite. Where I was sitting the applause was pretty evenly balanced with the cultured fuck off's of impatent space travellers. But for him to have actually finished his set...
A lot of people seems to have an inbuilt 'cool' consciuos block against admitting that they might possibly enjoy young Patrik. Like the people I bumped into at the Hope and Anchor during his recent residency there: "Who me? I always come down on a Monday"; "I was just passing by and thought I'd see who was murdering the cat"; "Nah, we just landed a plastering contract here so I was giving it the once over".
I can sympathise. First time I saw him I felt like geligniting the stage. Second time I thought hold up, a couple of these songs are good. Third time I found myself cursing the hecklers. Not that Patrik makes it easy on himself. It takes bottle for an acoustic guitar singer/songwriter to support the likes of Sham, Hawklords and, this month, the Jam.
"It's good for me. It's very easy to slip into a kind of apathy. Like those Hope and Anchor gigs I did, although to a certain extent they were really nice because it was a good atmosphere on another level I didn't like them because it's just like 'aving a party. If people chuck things they're not bothering to listen. Either way I should try and make them listen."
Patrik comes from East London, born in Stratford, raised in Leytonstone, schooled in Forest Gate. "I left school at 16 with 6 'O' levels and worked in an office for a couple of years which was really boring but, like, me dad 'ad worked in factories all his life that 'ad just done him in and I thought I ain't going to get lumbered like that so what else could I do.
"I worked in offices for about two years then I spent 3 years on the dole - I thought I'd 'ang about till I found something I really wanted to do. Last year I was doing some acting, it was good but it was like being someone else on stage all the time and I felt like being me instead.
"Music was my escape route when I used to live at home wiht me mother. When I felt like getting away from me nephew who was a baby and always screaming I'd dive up to my room and play my guitar or records."
Punk hit Patrik hard, got him interested in music again, and gave him impetus to put his poetry to music. Back in the garret? Well, a grotty little licensed squat near Bow flyover actually.
When Leytonstone's only decent record shop, Small Wonder, formed their own record label Pat nervously slipped a tape of his songs through the door. Samll Wonder liked it and the first EP was born. Performing live was the logical next step, he debuted at the Roxy last November and, as they say, hasn't looked back.
Although he shares the 'punk poet' epithet wiht John Cooper Clarke, Pat's poetry is much more straight forward, a running commentary on the world around him. Like 'Conventions of life', 'Straight Boy', 'Bingo Crowd': 'All I wanna know is eyes down leave my brains at home/The blank generation sitting in rows/Looking at numbers/Picking their nose...'
It's almost like he hates everyone. "I don't know about hate everyone. I think that the songs that are the most powerful are the ones that have a go at people. So I spose that's why I started writing songs like 'Trendy' about people I don't have much regard for, and I got a large amount of songs like that because there's a large amount of people I wouldn't like to be...I suppose it's my main influence is Ray Davies and that's why I tend to write songs like that.
"Like with 'Bingo Crowd'. I don't feel particulary sorry for bingo people. I don't have compassion for 'em, cos I think maybe that's the only kind of life they deserve."
The same disrespect for all things conventional surfaces in his latest, as yet unshowcased song 'Mr and Mrs', which sketches out a typical wedding scenario until you realise the newly weds are both brides. But although critical of the way-things-are. Patrik doesn't deal in alternatives.
"I don't really know what my ideal of life would be. All I can do is bring out certain points that I think are wrong with the society I live in and see if other people agree with me." And so he shys away from any commitment to standard political alternatives. He even seems a bit uncertain about his angries song 'Lewisham'.
"I've just had a fairly heavy period of wondering what I'm doing. Am I gonna be a big spokesman or am I gonna write songs about things I feel I should write songs about. If I did something like 'Lewisham' permanently I might as well be a politician."
Instead we got a short slightly eccentric little cockney with his notebook and pen "in case I get ideas" observing his world "like a hobby, some people do crosswords, I write lyrics." Lyrics that range from the embarrisingly trite to the provocativily enteraining. Like 'Make it Safe' a poem on punk recited without music:
'Come and get your punk in Woolworths/Bondage trousers £s, mohair jumpers sold next to cardigans/It always comes around/They turn it into a joke anything that treatens them/Turn it into a dog or a cat that couldn't bite its own tail...'
Provocative. Heart-felt. Bitter. Yeah, because he started out with punk, with his love song for it 'Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart', remember?
That shifted 'twenty thousand units'. 'Back Street Boys' sold ten thousand. The new single, a 9 track 20 minutes 12 incher has just flobbed into the shops. A Patrik Fitzgerald album is due out in February.
Personally though, apart from 'Safety Pin' I don't think he's cut it on record yet. The songs that work, work best when he's straining to be heard, when he's insulting or aggressive or just plain struggling against the hecklers. That's when he's in his element.