Monday, 3 November 2008

I was in a band once......

For the next six weeks from 3/11/08 I will updating weekly.
My career (?) in music
A six part confession of how I never made it.
In e-book form to download and read at your pleasure

Part 1- The very beginning.

I love music I think I’ve established that, but I’m not that great a guitarist , after 30 years you’d think I’d improve but alas I will admit I’m average, I know this because when I get drunk and try to play it comes out a horrible mess, terrible and not even close to what I think I’m playing. On this basis I conclude I could never make it as a rock star. It is a well established fact only the best can played stoned, pissed, ripped or hung out. How many times have you read or heard of Hendrix, Cobain, Townshend, Clapton, Page or Slash (all Heroin addicts) playing or for that matter not remembering playing because they were off their tits.
And because of this I think I never progressed because I don’t like drugs much and quite frankly I’m scared of needles.
But really that’s irrelevant I just don’t think I had what it took.
Oh, and as my kids keep telling me, I’m a crap singer.

Back in the late 1970’s I teamed up with some guys who shared similar tastes in music , similar being a very broad term.
We’d do the usual thing hang around and amaze ourselves with our latest discovery or get drunk and sing along at loud volumes at parties or each other’s houses.

Jim and Al were private school boys, Jim had one of those embarrassment proof personalities and fancied himself a great singer (particularly when he was drunk)
Al was a gentle giant who always seemed excited about one thing or another .
He and I shared a love of guitar, which neither of us could barely play.
Al and I would try and teach each other riffs and licks we would get off other people on our acoustics. Then one day Al come in with a brand new electric guitar, some no name band Les Paul copy, I was in love it was a shiny piece of magic, I’d only held an electric in a music shop, never played though because it was embarrassing being up staged by 12 year olds playing Dire Straits riffs.

Roger was a guy whose brother had joined a monastery and left Roger with the coolest record collection I’d ever seen and he secretly harboured a desire to be a rock star. He’d tried being a singer in the early years of High School and still had the microphone he’d bought.
Not long before Al bought his electric Roger had gone down to Tasmania to visit relatives and teamed up with a cousin who played guitar . Roger and he jammed together with Roger playing cardboard drums. When Roger came back to Melbourne he had tapes and couldn’t stop talking about his jams.
Roger’s brother in Law heard these stories and brought round an old SG copy he had in his shed from years ago to see if he could use it.

What this culminated in was me with this shitty SG copy with an action almost an inch high at the 12th fret, Roger on cardboard and pizza trays and Jim singing to Led Zeppelin bootlegs one Saturday night when we decided we should form a band. Normally these things disappear the next morning when everyone has sobered up but that next night at the youth club the excitement was fever pitch.
We threw the idea at Al who almost had a seizure.

He could get us a place to practice with amps and a drum kit. This was the ultimate wet dream and to top it off Al had just got his licence and was going to drive us everywhere. Roger was a bit coy, he knew that real drums and cardboard drums tend to have a bit of a difference in application, But this was taken care of too. The practice hall had a bass guitar as well.
Our drummer and only really talented member came in the guise of one Jessy - my Sri Lankan neighbour who was naturally talented musician who had a passion for Elvis but no one to play with.
Problem solved.
Then Jim sideled up to the guys running the youth club and advised they were having a band night in 3 weeks, the band was free.

In the course of 1 week we had a band a place to practice and a venue to play. Now we needed some songs. Honest it happened that fast.

We made a pact the songs had to be heavy and easy to play, Jessy had no say he didn’t like our music anyway , he just wanted to play. Al took care of this pretty much as well , He had written 3 tunes all re-workings of Bachman Turner Overdrive riffs we knew, I added Wild Thing by the Troggs and Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin .
Jim added some lyrics to two of Al’s tunes one about being on the dole (which we were) and picking up the wrong girl at a party (a common occurrence for Jim) while Jim and myself penned the words to Adolescence in my backyard. Our first practice was a mess due to Jessy’s insistence of bringing his whole kit rather than using the crappy one at the practice venue.

Jessy loved his drums and had two kits and a bongo set up that had morphed into one mega kit. It took forever to pack transport and set up, but boy could he play. Much of the first practise was getting Jessy to calm down, Me to try and learn bar chords and teaching Roger the basic fundamentals of Bass Guitar. Somehow just the power to make such noise was a rush and all other annoying aspects forgotten.
We would practice every Saturday morning and Wednesday night trying to pad out the gig so it would last at least half an hour.

Word was spreading that a band was playing on Sunday Night at the Youth club with a minimal door charge, and with being 1970,s Melbourne this was about as exciting as it got on a Sunday, the pubs still weren’t open on Sundays yet.
We named the band Metal Magistrate and painted two faux gothic M’s on the front of Jessy’s bass drum.

The name was a settlement of an argument Jim wanted Metal cigarette case and I wanted Mental Magistrate, so we compromised.
On the night we begged if we could use the practice venue gear and Al managed to get them all to the gig, we set up in the afternoon. We performed on a high stage in a school hall. I played out of a 15 Watt amp on one side Al with his 20 Watt amp on the other and Jim and Roger both plugged into a 30 Watt bass amp. Jessy wasn’t miked at all that would have been a big mistake. Our biggest worry was hoping we could play over him.

As the time approached the crowd grew and grew till there was 10 times the normal attendance, we freaked , even Jim was having second thoughts. It almost come to a head when some door nazi said we had to pay to get in and play and we were thinking of using this as an excuse not to play. To pad the show out we had got Jim to do a monologue with my guitar and tried a version of We Will Rock You by Queen. Due to the primitive equipment and nervous people on stage they sound was muddy but we made it through at one stage Jim being mobbed on stage when he invited others to sing the chorus of Wild Thing with him. After we finished to modest applause and disbelief, some of the crowd jokingly shouted encore, so we played 3 songs again and Jessy did a drum solo. The didn’t yell encore again.
All up it went well with most people who came thought we were a comedy act.
But we were bitten, we were going pro. Or so we believed.

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