Why I am not a rock-god …….
This is not a review, so please don’t expect a review.
Rather it is mind-meander, a jumble of thoughts, a mind-fart if you like
As I settled in to the sumptuous Swedish leather of my up-market estate car, cocooned in blue-backlit luxury, ready to drive home to my lovely modern detached, warm, comfy house, listening to Big Big Train, I began to ponder …… where did it all go wrong ??!!
You see, although I’ve been a good Dad and a loyal husband and I have certain talents (if you consider running up muddy hills a talent), there is one thing nagging away at me that I suggest nags away at a lot of people (men, mainly) who are into music and are of a certain age.
You see, I really really wanted to be good at playing the guitar.
It all started out so well.
At 16 I got my first guitar. An Angus Young look-a-like Gibson SG copy.
In front of the mirror I was a God. Long hair, denim, attitude.
I was into Rush, AC/DC, Motorhead. All I had to do was look like them and I would be them – easy !
Then the problems started.
First problem : the strings were so far from the fret board you could drive a bus between them. Rubbish.
Second problem : I’m small, very small and my hands weren’t big enough to form chords or even press hard enough to get the strings down to touch the fret board.
Third problem : I couldn’t, and still can’t, read music so had to do everything by ear.
Fourth problem : I couldn’t hear very well because my hair was so long it covered my ears. At least it covered my eyes as well so I couldn’t see, or hear, my mum screaming at me to ‘Turn that bloody rubbish down !’
Fifth and last problem : LOFT. Lack Of F… Talent.
Anyway, persistence and a touch of youthful arrogance saw an epic battle against all odds and eventually a semblance of music was made and a burgeoning career as a talented rock-god lay round the corner.
A group was duly formed with school mates with the usual mix of who’s Dad had the most money, who had the best girlfriends and who had got the most pocket money for the pints after practice.
It somehow worked and we ended up doing gigs, yes, gigs, concerts.
We were called 4-Wheel Drive and we specialised in hard rocking and cutting edge post-rock. Actually, we thought this but the reality was we played Eagles and country and western !!
Our gigs were local pubs, Working Mens Clubs and the occasional heady heights of the local school fete.
Usually we were on before the pub disco started (so as to not get attacked by bottles and drunken women) or squeezed between sets of Bingo “Now then ladies, we’ll have a break from t’bingo whilst we listen to these lovely lads from Manchester playing some music for you all”.
One memorable New Years Eve we played at Collyhurst Working Mens Club, a bleak and post-industrial suburb of Manchester. After setting our gear up we waited for the crowds. We waited. And waited.
Our encore of ‘The Crystal Chandelier’ was performed in front of an 80 year old woman with no teeth who had got lost and a 75 year old drunken ex miner who thought he had come to see strippers ….. my guitar broke, an amplifier broke down ….. it was not a good night.
Our highlight was playing at Piccaddilly Railway Workers Club, in a magnificent club under the arches in Manchester. The steward welcomed us and took us down a swanky corridor to a changing room ! A bloody changing room, with one of those mirrors surrounded by lightbulbs. Well, we thought we had made it but then when another guy came in and said ‘Fred’s drumming for you tonight” we were made up. Changing rooms ? A house drummer ? Wow.
On we went and were confronted with hundreds of folk all looking happy and settled in a huge club.
By this time I had given up with the guitar and was sent to the bastion where ex-guitarists go – bass guitar. In other words, there are fewer strings, you don’t have to play chords, you don’t have to do solos – any idiot can play bass – that was me.
As I moved to my position I looked at Fred the drummer and saw what can only be described as a very, very old man. Well into his 80’s, thin as his drum sticks, no teeth, whippet at his feet and a pint of stout to one side.
‘Do you know Hotel California ?” I asked
‘No lad’, he replied ‘ but I’ll join in !’
Fearing the worst we played the moody, atmospheric intro as the dry ice swirled around our feet and the gorgeous girls on the front row gazed longingly at the rock gods in front of them (reality check : wizened old hags who’s bingo had been interrupted sulkily looked on whilst their husbands dutifully sat there nursing their pints…)
Just as we get to the part where the drums come in – BANG !
Little old Fred absolutely nails it.
Neil Peart eat your heart out. Gavin Harrison (had I known him them) couldn’t shake a stick to old Fred – he was fantastic, knew every trick and never missed a beat.
It turned out to be a great concert – the best we ever did !
We never went far from there, we all went separate ways into families, careers, wandering round the world. I recently found out our guitarist, who was talented now works as a Doctor in Australia and saved several lives in the Bali bombing. That makes my hill running look a bit feeble but then one of the other guys ended up as a dustman in Droitwich so that makes me feel better.
When I see the likes of Matt Stevens up close and Bruce Soord from no more than two feet away, I can only stand and gaze in awe at their talent and skill and think …
‘ … where did it all go wrong ?’