I did an interview over the phone a little while ago, which was quite the event for me, having not done one for many years. I think the last time before this was probably when a local fanzine - named Tiger Rag, I believe - took the trouble to invite me out for coffee and utilised the power of technology in the form of one of those new-fangled Walkmen (Walkmans?) in order to record my sage utterances for posterity. As it turned out either the batteries weren't up to it or the hubbub of the Took's Bakery & Cafe overtook the moment and my hapless interviewer had to ring me a few days later to see if I could remember anything I'd said, which I couldn't. I did mention that I'd been terribly earnest and was probably wearing an army surplus jacket.
This time around I was asked if and when it would be convenient to call me at home and was able to properly prepare myself with a pre-arranged list of questions, the answers to which were to be lovingly compiled and included in a book called The Semi-Pro Sixties. I've not read it myself, since the author declined to provide any of us interviewees with a free copy on the grounds that he was a bit skint having gone to all the trouble of getting the thing properly bound and published, but it has garnered a number of excellent reviews both on Amazon and the Waterstones sites, so it clearly turned out to be very good in the end. Obviously when I say 'a number' I mean they pretty much look like the same reviews in both places, but five stars is five stars, whatever their provenance.
David, the author, was kind enough to email me my bits to proof read, and I found his transcript of our conversation the other day. So in case you haven't got £11.99 to spare, let me guide you through some of the highlights contained within...
Shane Kirk; “We had a Dansette record player and we got given some
records by a neighbour. There were records by Elvis, Cliff Richard and even
Absolutely true, despite me being born in 1964. I am of the generation whose first frisson of excitement over an album sleeve came not while concentrating really hard (as it were) on Debbie Harry's dress on the front of Parallel Lines, but by looking through the extensive packaging of the South Pacific soundtrack. I also owned Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock EP and Frank Sinatra's version of Chicago (My Home Town) on 78. Still my favourite from this era is the timeless version of Wilhemina (is Plump and Round) which may be the first song I ever learned all the way through.
Shane Kirk; “We’d hired this van to go to a gig on
New Years Eve. It wasn’t from a very reputable company and we soon found out it
didn’t have working wipers or washers. It started to snow and one of the band
had to lean out of the window spraying water onto the windscreen in front of me
so I could see where I was going.”
Obviously if you're in a van which is hurtling up the A14 and it's snowing you don't want to be the one hanging out of the window trying to splash water (which will then freeze into a fine, opaque layer) over the windscreen. Driving wasn't much more fun.
Shane Kirk; “We were booked to play in a huge club
in Oxford. I’d written all the songs for the band and we were looking forward
to the gig. We arrived and set up. There were loads of bar staff and several doormen
all prepared for a busy night. Unfortunately nobody showed up, nobody at all. The
Manager eventually told us to forget it, so we packed the gear away in the van
ready to drive back home. We were just about to drive off when the Manager came
out and paid us the full fee. Fair play to him.”
I still carry with me the look of despair on the club manager's face as we rolled round yet another few bars of the false ending of what turned out to be our closing number. He approached the stage, we carried on playing, he backed away, we built to a faux-climax, he approached again, we carried on playing...
Shane Kirk; “We were doing a few gigs
as a 'Beatles specialist' band and got booked into a rather rough type pub on
an estate somewhere in Essex. After a rather nervous couple of sets and a few
complaints about the noise we got re-booked with the proviso that we did an
'unplugged' type set. We weren't confident about the wisdom of this, but were
assured that this was exactly what would be a winner with the clientele. Upon
our return the landlord had gone on holiday and left his son in charge, who
clearly did not quite have the gravitas and, frankly, bull neck to keep his
regulars house trained, with the result that a few of them had basically gone
feral and taken the place over - hence whatever casual passing trade there was
had deserted the place until it was safe to return. It was a long and extremely
lonely evening and at some point the toilets got smashed up - possibly after
one fellow tried to join in by singing "Yesterday" and insisted
rather forcefully that I was "...playing it wrong" for the sole
purpose of making him look stupid. We tried to lighten the atmosphere at one
point by explaining away the semi-acoustic nature of the gig by saying that the
drummer had forgotten to pack his kit. Tumbleweedery ensued.
The postscript to this is that when the real landlord returned from holiday he angrily rang us up, outraged that we'd been so unprofessional as to forget to bring drums, said that we were the worst band he'd ever had to deal with and suggested that we might like to come back and do a free gig in order to make it up to him.
Shane Kirk; “We played at the British Legion Club
in Felixstowe. I remember it well because the support band’s guitarist wore a
kilt. When we finished playing at the end of the night, the audience called out
for the support band to do an encore rather than us. It was a bit deflating.”
"They were still booing them when we came on..."