Fame, Part 3

Fame: Part 3


Bob, our boss one day announced he had somehow got us a support slot at the Lyceum Theatre in London supporting Simple Minds in front of some 3000 folk.(The biggest gig I had played thus far was to some 200, so this was a big step up.) True we would be fourth on the bill, but five bands were scheduled to play, so at least we weren’t bottom!

1982 was a time when Goth was reaching its zenith. (I assume you are au-fait with the Goth movement…all dark glasses, jet black hair, jet black clothing, and pale skin and **** music.) Second and third on the bill were Wasted Youth and Martian Dance, two of the leading purveyors of said ‘music’, and whilst Simple Minds weren’t Goth, they certainly attracted the pale and sensitive sort… they were also nearing the height of their not inconsiderable, and occasionally deserved success.
There was no doubt that this was the biggest gig any of us had played and a chance to show our ‘talents’ to a wider audience. National press coverage was pretty much guaranteed and it was certain that A&R men would be there…this was big time dammit!

Deciding what to play wasn’t a problem since we only had about a dozen songs in our repertoire, what to wear was the issue. By way of explanation, the other bands on the bill would all, to a man be dressed in regulation black and purvey doom-laden songs about urban alienation. We on the other hand played an inept brand of supposed spiky pop reminiscent of the Au Pairs and Delta 5 (not that I suppose those names mean anything to you guys…no offence it’s just that I don’t think either of them registered on the musical Richter scale State-side). Our ‘message’ or ‘vibe’ was intended to be positive and upbeat (despite the fact we were all miserable bastards) and so it was we decided to wear as colorful clothing as possible….and, oh yeah, we decided to open with Ricky Valens’ ‘La Bamba’! (This chosen on the basis that if that didn’t get up the goth’s noses, nothing would!)

I recall picking out the most over the top yellow Hawaiian shirt, one that not even the most color-blind of octogenarian Floridians would have been seen dead in. The rest of the band chose variously shocking dayglo ensembles, but I like to think that my shirt was the most garish and at odds with the doom-laden garb of our fellow performers that night!

Some pretty frantic rehearsing ensued…I had only been with the group for a month and a half and still didn’t really have a clue what I was doing.

Learning to play the songs properly, you know, together, in tune and all at the same time came as a bit of a shock to all concerned when we realized that the bassist had been playing in a completely different key to the original guitarist for the last six months and that the drummer had been playing beats to choruses unrelated to the songs in question ever since Inverness.. When it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

As for me, I really didn’t know what to think of it all apart from; “Can anyone actually hear the ****** I’m playing?”

Now, just to add a little context here…

For a small nation, Scotland has produced a disproportionately large number of successful artists. The country’s two main conurbations, Glasgow and Edinburgh have both spawned noteworthy artists, not to mention the hinterland along the M74 that links the two cities, wastelands such as Bellshill & East Kilbride gave rise to talent ranging from Jesus & Mary Chain to Teenage Fanclub… and of course who could forget Sheena Easton! Edinburgh’s Sensible Records gave us the wacky sci-fi punk of the Rezillos, who were, for a while, my fave band in the world.

Their first single ‘Can’t Stand My Baby’…’rocked’, and even from my Portsmouth living room some 500 miles away I got the joke….they continued to combine hi-energy pop with a cynical brand of consumerist irony, ultimately encapsulated by their chart-busting hit ‘Top Of The Pops’ where they appeared on the show of that name and derided all that it stood for…now that’s what I call subversion!

Pop Aural were an off-shoot of Fast Product with their altogether more Stalinist approach to popular music. They spawned The Fire Engines and, masterminded by Bob ‘Svengali’ Last, soon became the regional distributor of other independent labels, The Gang of Four , Joy Division , the Human League all of whom made their débuts via the visionary label’s vision/****** 5-year plan.

Now Glasgow, some 40 miles along the motorway was a completely different scene…

Postcard Records made similar inroads to Fast with such talents as Aztec Camera, Josef K, and Orange Juice and the city maintained Scotland’s flow of exported talent, as a number of performers found success with “foreign” labels. (By foreign I of course mean English), for instance Hipsway, introspective songwriter Lloyd Cole, and the only Scottish band of this era to achieve international stardom, Simple Minds…

(There were of course Wet Wet Wet & Texas to follow, so I guess Glasgow wins on the ‘hit-o-meter’ but as a part of the ‘Auld Reekie scene’ I have to stand up for my adopted city!)
Only 40 miles separate Edinburgh from Glasgow, but in many ways they may as well have been on different continents. A fierce dislike and mutual distrust between bands from the two cities existed, an enmity only matched by the intense loathing felt by bands from the same city towards each other!

To put it more succinctly, Edinburgh bands loathed each other.
The reasons for such passionate enmity were never clear, particularly to an outsider such as myself, but the effects were all pervading and evident in some fantastically petty behavior, examples of which to follow.

The big day day was drawing ever closer and logistics became the issue.
One of the good things about having a ‘manager’ is that you can get pissed/dream and let some other ****** work out the practicalities….I was an artist fer cryin’ out loud! Reality hit when he called a ‘band meeting’ and announced ‘the itinerary… and here’s where it all became a little bit Spinal Tap’.

No luxury coach of course, we had a camper van filled with borrowed amps leaving little space for the band. The overnight hotel accommodation in Leeds had been cancelled and we ended up crashing out in a squat occupied by former Fast recording artists The Mekons. (a band I had revered some 4 years ago, so I wasn’t necessarily put out by the news)..Oh, and it was in Barnsley.

Now Leeds is not exactly Vegas, LA or NYC…but it is at least a CITY.
Barnsley by contrast isn’t…I feel sure it has many qualities but these were kinda lost on me as I surveyed our abode for the night… a terraced squat with electricity courtesy of an exotic wiring contraption more in keeping with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein than the National Grid….(to be continued…)