That’s me in the picture: Justin Semmens at an Adam And The Ants gig at the Marquee Club, London, 1977

‘Someone asked whether it was children’s night, but the truth is no one bothered to check your age back then’

People used to say they weren’t going to see Adam And The Ants for the band, but for the audience. We were so taken in by it all that we used to throw ourselves into each other. For a 16-year-old who had no experience whatsoever of dingy nightclubs, it took me to another level.

I got into the punk scene quite late. Two girls at my sixth-form college got me interested. I was studying sciences (my mum thought I was going to be a doctor), and they were arts students who had dyed hair and dressed unusually. I was drawn to eclectic characters, so I got chatting to them in the canteen and they invited me to gigs at the Roxy Club. One of the first times I went, I ended up on stage with a bass guitar around my neck just banging the strings with a Coke can.

My first Adam And The Ants gig was the most incredible, life-changing experience. The band were into bondage and sadomasochism; one of their songs was called Beat My Guest, and I got drawn into how physical it was. I used to come home covered in cuts and bruises, and my mum worried I had been mugged or run over. I used to say, “No, no, I’ve just been dancing and having fun.”

This photograph was taken at the Marquee Club at the height of their popularity. I knew the other people in the frame from the scene. We were all so young. I was 16 and the guy next to me, Duncan, was only 14. I saw him last year at an Adam And The Ants concert at Wembley Arena; we didn’t have much to say to each other. Someone once asked, on seeing this photo, whether it was children’s night, but the truth is no one bothered to check your age back then. They just wanted your 50p, which is what it usually cost to get in.

We didn’t take drugs in those days or have any other stimulus beyond some watered-down lager. It was the music and the power of the performance that made us behave like that. It was like a performance of fake agony. When you had someone screaming “Beat me, beat me”, you entered this trance-like state. We were trying to express ourselves.

It was very rare for a photographer to be at these gigs, largely because of the potential damage to their camera. Many punk rockers hated having their picture taken, so if they saw a photographer they might attack them or destroy their camera. I certainly don’t remember anyone taking pictures that night, but he must have gone incognito to get intimate shots like this.

The first time I saw this photograph was around 10 years ago when someone on Facebook contacted me about it. Apparently it has been used in various punk magazines and featured in a history of punk by the NME. In 2010, it was used in an Alexander McQueen campaign.

I am 56 now, and looking back, I feel proud of the fact that I was there for a momentous occasion in British culture. We were helping to break down barriers and create something new. It’s a point in my life I shan’t forget in a hurry.

• Interview by Abigail Radnor.

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