‘I think it would make a great 10-part Netflix series – I’m waiting for them to come to me’

Jane Clinton talks 70s fashion with author Martin Silverstone

Thursday, 5th May — By Jane Clinton

Martin Silverstone

Martin Silverstone in that jacket

IT’S 1971 and Mark is a Jewish teenager living in the London suburbs trying to navigate the choppy waters of love, sex and friendship.

Throw in his determined effort to drop acid, the burgeoning glam rock scene and the huge importance of music and fashion in his life and you have the intoxicating ingredients of Martin Silverstone’s lively and humorous rites of passage debut novel, Budgie Wore My Jacket.

Its title is a nod to the 1970s TV series Budgie starring Adam Faith.

And while the show brought Faith a whole new fan base, for many it was the clothes he wore that made a lasting impression: notably the “Budgie jacket”.

Trawl the vintage websites and the zip-up, two-tone leather (or suede) number with its large rounded collars is still sought after and remembered affectionately.

Dedicated followers of fashion will enjoy this novel which is very much a love letter to the clothes and music of the period.

There are Mark and his friends regular trips to “Kenny Market” (Kensington Market) and Mr Freedom as well as references to the latest sartorial obsession from Afghan coats to Biba peppered throughout.

Sharing top billing with the clothes are the sounds. The early days of Bowie make an appearance, and Mark regularly offers his own mini critiques of the latest bands and music – you can almost hear a 70s soundtrack while you’re reading.

For anyone with a penchant for those patchouli-soaked, cannabis-fogged days, Budgie Wore My Jacket is a Technicolor nostalgia trip that doesn’t disappoint.

Another kind of trip, however, preoccupies protagonist Mark, and the book’s cover with its rolled-up joint and smiley face makes it a not-so-subtle hint as to a dominant theme in the novel.

And with its rich dialogue, flashes of comedy and huge potential for fantastic costumes and a great soundtrack it feels like a natural fit for a TV treatment.

“I think it would make a great 10-part Netflix series, I’m waiting for them to come to me”, Silverstone says, half joking.

“When I was writing it I was thinking about the chapters almost as episodes and I could see the characters, it felt very cinematic.”

Silverstone, who is Jewish, grew up in Gants Hill, east London and was a teenager in the 1970s, is keen to stress that is where the comparisons end. The novel is not based on real life and he is not “Mark”.

“There are some composite characters but it’s fiction,” he says.

The title for the book came to him “while walking the dog” and he’s created a Budgie Wore My Jacket soundtrack on Spotify.

Promoting the book during Covid, however, has not been easy, but since lockdown restrictions eased Silverstone, who is retired, gave book readings, The performances, which also incorporated visuals and music, went down well and he is toying with taking a version of it to the Edinburgh Festival or on tour.

“I’d love to get the book to a wider audience,” he says from his home in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Silverstone certainly has a showman’s air about him – a skill possibly honed through decades working as a salesman at IBM.

But in the meantime he has another novel idea as well as plans for a sequel to this novel.

“A lot of people who read it said to me ‘so what happened next?’,” he says. “So we will meet the characters again and there may be some surprises.”

Certainly it felt like the characters still had a lot more to say.

And with its cliffhanger ending there was definitely a whiff of “to be continued”.

So will Mark conform and leave his Budgie days behind him?

We will have to wait.

And what about the famous jacket?

Silverstone bought his own one (a reproduction), based on the original jacket featured in the Budgie TV show.

He slips it on and admits he has now taken to wearing it not just for his book readings but out and about.

So not just a period piece after all.

Budgie Wore My Jacket. By Martin Silverstone, The Book Guild, £9.99

Related Articles