Friday, July 13, 2007

"Just gimme some of that rock n' roll muzak!"

I have a fear of corporate gigs. It’s not just that the idea of being the background to a bunch of company drones trying desperately to neck as much expense account vodka and feel up the girl (or boy) from HR as is conceivable in as short a time as is humanly possible, no, it’s based on pure, true, human experience. Back in the day when I was in a Beatles specialist band called The Star Club we generally had a whale of a time. I recorded at the BBC’s studio in Maida Vale, doing the same songs the Fabs had done, and eating in the same canteen that Jimi Hendrix had presumably got a similarly poor full English fry up after his session, and I’d met the original bass player from The Quarrymen who told us we had the spirit of the band. We also had a couple of stalkers, and a matching set of polo neck sweaters (to each other, not the stalkers). We were, however, a working band and as such were once booked as company entertainment at a corporate do in Ipswich for a firm I’d worked for previously, wherein was promised fun, frolics, a disco, and a little surprise cabaret turn. Once we’d got over the astonishment and indignation involved with the caretaker putting out the chairs being Ipswich Town F.A.Cup-winning goalscorer Roger Osborne, we settled into our role for the evening, that being to provide two sets of rollicking early-era Beatles music and not being too obvious in hoovering up the buffet. At our first break, we realised quite early on during the cabaret interlude that this was to be a home-grown affair. Three lads from production lined up on stage and the telltale strains of Tom Jones’s version of “You Can Keep Your Hat On” powered from the PA like a doom-laden harbinger of excess and, sure enough, half way through the first chorus, the climactic scene from The Full Monty was being replayed before our very eyes. The thing is, Randy Newman writes a good song, and he takes time to get there, and so having peaked (as it were) quite early in the number the lads were desperately looking for somewhere to go to take their performance higher. Stage left, the one who looked like a slightly out of condition Frank Carson (hello Jamie!) took to the idea of grabbing one of our guitars and miming along to the song with it. Backstageleft, our John shuddered visibly and looked around for a towel (later to be discarded for ever) with which to wipe it down before he had to strap it on to play the second set. I took a break from proceedings to visit the toilet and was intrigued by the dozen-strong queue outside the disabled toilet. “ has promised blow jobs as long as her knees don’t give out!” announced one chirpy temp, happily sinking another gratis Stella. When I came back from the Gents I noticed that the queue had gone down by three. As it were. Fun, fun, fun you might think as, indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, I do. But when you’re completely straight-down-the-line sober on lime and soda, and wondering whose cock has been wiped up and down the back of your 335, it’s no party, I can tell you. And at this point I’d already been told that my mic had been up Max Splodge’s bottom at a previous engagement by the sound crew. Still, we’d seen Backbeat, and somehow this seemed just a validation of our quest for authenticity - drugs, hookers, seedy characters, cup-winning goalscorers.... Still, we were all grinning during the first chorus of “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” after the break. But that ain’t unnecessarily so.

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