For the latest date on our never-ending tour (of Stowmarket) we in The Picturehouse Big Band have decided to freshen up the set, and to this end had convened at The Drummer’s house to run through a couple of new songs. And by ‘new’ we mean “From !979”. With a nod to modernity, the other one was from 1982. No-one can accuse us of complacency or not knowing our audience, at least. During the meticulous deconstruction process at rehearsal we had discovered that the chords to the verse of the former rather neatly matched the intro to the latter, which at least narrowed down the number of different notes we’d had to learn, and the order in which to put them.
At the pop show itself we had a hearty turnout, bolstered by a number of familiar faces – The Other Guitarist wonders if, since we’d organised our diaries with each other and the landlady, perhaps the audience could do similarly, and then we’d all know where we were going to be, and when. This seems sensible, and we resolve to sync our calendars. We are also joined by a number of members of the Young Farmers Club, who are celebrating the birthday of one of their brethren and are intent on hearing some Fleetwood Mac. Happily we are able to partially satiate their needs, and relieved to learn that the acronym of their organisation is no to be applied, as so often in the past, to us collectively as a result.
Everyone is on good form, and quips and rejoinders are soon bouncing around the room in what some might consider a totally unprofessional manner. Even The Keyboard player (normally taciturn to the point of hermitry) regales us with a good one about the pair of shoes he bought off a drug dealer. I am not yet fully aware of how fortuitous this act will eventually prove. At one point there is a small issue with the input socket proving to have a Norman Collier-like effect on the growling output of the amp during my stint on the bass, and which can only be ameliorated by tippy-toeing, twisting a hip and resting the lead on my thigh. The resulting pose could probably best be rendered as 'effete Phil Lynott'. At the time I considered that this would be the campest thing I’d do all weekend.
To be honest, a couple of the re-lifed additions to the set* haven’t really worked as well as they could have done, and we are reflecting on this in the car park, post-performance. “I’m not sure” says The Singer “...that ‘Go Your Own Way’ really worked. I think it’s probably the singing”. “The playing didn’t really help pull it off” I add, remembering the solo which was probably less Lindsey Buckingham than Lindsey Lohan in its execution. The Other Guitarist wanders over. “We think that ‘Go Your Own Way’ didn’t really work” The Singer repeats. “It’s the vocals”. “And the playing” I add. There is a pause as we consider the ramifications. “The lights were good…” offers The Drummer.
In the meanwhilst I am happy that my signature big power ballad showcase - ‘Take It On The Run’ by The REO Speedwagon big haired big beat combo - has gone as well as it has.
Fast forward twenty four hours and I am outside a bar in Brighton**, about to drop into a Karaoke night organised and hosted by two flamboyantly coiffed and be-sequinned drag queens. I am unsure of where I fit into the current heirarchy in the grand scheme of things. “Am I a Bear?” I enquire of my wife, upon whose invitation the pair of us are here. “No. Phill Jupitus is a Bear”. She pauses somewhat deliberately. “At best you’re just a man with a Beard”. I think she’s doing it on purpose.
Unsurprisingly, the evening is a hoot. Toward the the end of the night, I am aware that there are moves afoot to coax me on to the stage in order that I can better be exhibited for the delectation of the throng. Mrs Skirky is being badgered to provide intel on something I might be prepared to perform for the crowd’s enjoyment. In order to try and stave off my blushes she thinks of the most heterosexual number - which they will absolutely, definitely not have in their library - that she can. “He sometimes does ‘Take It On The Run’ by REO Speedwagon” she says, which is why, five minutes later, I find myself on stage about to perform for an archly critical audience. We are, to paraphrase Dorothy, not in Stowmarket any more. I am handed a microphone, and the crowd hushes expectantly.
“So” I begin “I bought these shoes off a drug dealer...”
*We played basically the same two sets throughout our 2018 residency, but to be fair that was once every four months rather than twice a weekend straight for a year as some of our peers do.