Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Start One of Your Own

"Back when I was someone, I used to write these songs[1] – they used to start in G or F, and they were all four minutes long. There was Gaz on drums, Don on bass and another guy on lead[2]. They’ve all grown up and got proper jobs – they’ve got cats and kids to feed. Now I’m playing in a covers band[3], we do Taxman and I’m Down and the money pours to a superstore on the outskirts of town. When the landlord shouts at ten past time “Hey, play some Rolling Stones!”[4]  Well, if you want a band to play Brown Sugar, start one of your own[5].
They pulled down The Roberts[6] and The Mills[7], they put car parks where they stood. The Milestone[8] changed its name again and now it’s gone for good. But when we used to jam at Duke’s, no-one really cared who used to own the amps or drums, we all used to share. Now I’m playing in a covers band, we do Taxman and I’m Down and the money pours to a superstore on the outskirts of town. When the drunkard shouts “Hey - play one more before you all go home!” Well, if you want a band to play all night, go on, start one of your own.

You can play in a covers band, do country, blues, or swing; Northern Soul, rock n’ roll, whatever is your thing. But I get on stage now and them and I sing these songs alone[9]. I just wanted to be on an MP3 with something of my own."  

In my experience there's nothing quite so likely to nark a non-paying audience as the sight of a pub band putting their guitars back on their stands, switching off their amplifiers and coiling up some leads at the end of a performance, for this usually means that the evening is nearly over. Encouraging as it is that the good people wish to enjoy your company further, an entreaty to continue the performance can sometimes be expressed in less than gracious terms - for instance the spittle and cigarette breath demand that Picturehouse "...earn your fucking money" which once followed a lengthy third encore extemporisation on the theme of All Day and All of the Night in Stowmarket didn't really engender a warm feeling and a desire to resume the performance in any of our hearts. 
As you will probably have surmised, the above entry is my (slightly weary) response to this sort of regular experience, set to music and which the Songs from The Blue House band very kindly indulged me in to the point where That Nice David Booth fired up Spotify to familiarise himself with Neil Young’s Out on the Weekend and even agreed to drape a tea towel over his snare in order to edge closer toward the requisite early seventies getting it together in the country drum feel I was insisting upon.

Stephen Constable later came in to the studio and helped multi track the backing vocals and John Bennett (The High Llamas) dropped a suitably spiky guitar part in that helped tie the whole thing together with Nick Zala’s ever-sympathetic pedal steel reading on his part. It didn’t really fit with the rest of the IV album and so has been addended to our version of You’re So Vain (largely vocally performed by the sparky and delightful Canadian folk chanteuse Cara Luft) as the b-side, b/w or c/w, depending on your point of reference, of what would have been referred to in the olden days as ‘a single’. Ironically, one of the charges regularly levelled against us in our Star Club days was that we were a bit too full of ourselves.       

You can buy it here.

[1] At the Celestion Suffolk Rock and Pop competition in 1986 I won a lovely trophy in the ‘Best Song’ category.
[2] The ‘other guy’ was Gibbon – now, of course, playing bass on this particular track.  
[3] Written at the time when my main going concern was The Star Club, a Beatles specialist band. You wouldn’t believe the amount of opprobrium that can be directed at four mates who like to get out of the house at the weekends, hang out together and maybe play a few Beatles tunes for money both online and in person.  
[4] Many of these sorts of anecdotes and adventures are captured in “Do You Do Any Wings?”
[5] Not as snarky as it sounds. Many’s the occasion we’ve been entreated to strike up a stirring version of something or another so that an audience member can sing it for us, only to be berated for not knowing how the song goes. I always used to think that if someone was that desperate to perform in public then there was an obvious solution…
[6] The Earl Roberts hosted many, many of the most notorious evenings enjoyed by Ipswich’s glittering musiciarati, from our live Beatles Karaoke night (we pinned our set list behind the bar and invited guest vocalists up to front the band) to jam nights and indie gigs, a tradition now maintained by former landlady Val at her new home at The Steamboat Tavern. They really did pave paradise and put up a parking lot.  
[7] I did my first public band show and second ever solo gig at The Albion Mills. It was my local, my lock-in, my proving ground and, one particular evening, the location of a very late night game of strip spoof which put many of our royal family’s antics in perspective. All that remains now is a bus stop named after the pub that used to stand there.  
[8] The Milestone hosted our first faltering steps as Songs from The Blue House, was a home game for The Star Club and nurtured Picturehouse beyond all reasonable expectations, hosting many gigs including our series of fancy dress concerts, at one of which – the pyjama party – only one, subsequently rather self-conscious, audience member made the effort.   
[9] Obviously this is a bit of a misnomer at this point, but you get the idea.

1 comment:

John Medd said...

If you do Taxman and I'm Down then you're alright in my book. These days, I only sing my songs, but when I slip anchor I like to lob Eleanor Rigby in. And, sometimes, If Not For You.