This is the first of an occasional series in which I'll be laying out a step by step guide to playing in a pop group - the laughter, the tears, the bad times (lots of 'em), the good times (seldom) that an aspiring musician may encounter on the rocky road to megastardom - or more realistically, that much sought after, third on the bill support to 'Septic Death' on a Tuesday night at the Flapper & Firkin
My 'career' in the local band scene began in 1986, when one of my colleagues, a normally sensible chap called Darrall, asked me to try out for his newly formed, R.E.M. style janglepop combo. I have to point out that at this time, my Bass playing prowess stretched as far as two Thin Lizzy riffs and the intro to 'Satisfaction', but he was desperate - really desperate. It did involve a trip to the pub however so I reluctantly agreed. It was at the pub that I first met Gary, the drummer. He took one look at my tragic Motley Crue wannabee outfit and decided to get blind drunk. I later found this was not an unusual occurrence.
We finally reached the rehearsal room, (
had taken the precaution of walking twenty metres behind us so as not to be mistaken for an acquaintance of mine). Down about a million steps, we arrived at a shabbily padded door. As we pushed it open, the sound of six of the crappiest bands in the Gary West Midlands assailed our ears. Gingerly, Darrall asked which of the rooms was ours and without lifting his head from a ten-year-old copy of 'Razzle', the Black Sabbath roadie look-alike pointed to the corridor. As our eyes got accustomed to the gloom, we could vaguely make out a prehistoric drumkit and a few amps. This was not the kind of place Celine Dion would rehearse in.
About half of our two-hour session involved setting up the gear.
Gary clattered around the kit like an epileptic shed builder, whilst Darrall struggled with what was once a amp but was now little more than an electric rabbit hutch. The sound that dribbled out of its ruined speaker was like six angry wasps trapped in a galvanised bucket. My amp was about sixty years old with perished Bakelite knobs and woodworm. After much farting and spluttering, a sound resembling a forty-foot bungee rope being twanged by an arthritic pixie emerged. We pronounced ourselves ready to rock. Marshall
Darrall showed me his first tune--a pretty neat little four-chord rocker (bearing in mind this was one more than I was used to), and off we lurched. Rock & Roll history was not made. The vocal P.A. (possibly last used by the bingo caller to Henry VIII) made Darrall sound like a mildly peeved Dalek and this along with the slightly less than virtuoso playing made for what my father so rightly describes as "a bloody row". About halfway through our last "song", we were interrupted by the band vacating the room next to ours. Their looks of barely concealed mirth will haunt me forever - in fact, their drummer laughed so hard at our dismal strummage that he dropped his cymbals, which hit the threadbare carpeted floor with a resounding CRASH! On reflection however, that was probably the most musical sound to come out of that room all day