Fame, Part 4

Fame: Part 4

I slept on a sofa requisitioned from a rubbish tip and all would have been fine were it not for numerous bottles of head de-louser, flea repellent and other assorted bug-busters.

I started to itch uncontrollably from toe to head…Christ especially my head.

If Barnsley has a claim to fame, it’s that it is one of the few places in Britain where you can get an authentic curry, served in authentic surroundings. In times of dire need, a Brit craves two things…a good cup of tea and a damn good curry…and I was assured that the place we were to visit served the best curry to be found anywhere outside of the Indian sub-continent.

We headed along various side-streets, down an alley and was somewhat nonplussed when I found myself being ushered into somebody’s front living room.

I won’t dwell on this unimportant episode other than to say that I took a couple of mouthfuls of a flavorless gravy containing a few specks of unidentifiable animal and some badly cooked basmati rice, put the plate to one side and suspected that these so called ‘experts’, this ‘cool’ mob I was hanging out with, actually knew **** all.

We arrived in London on a drab Sunday afternoon. Trepidation and travel sickness vied for priority in my senses, but at least the itching had stopped. Our driver parked outside a side entrance with some difficulty since the street was taken up by a luxury coach and two large lorries. That would be Simple Minds’ stuff I figured.

Somewhat furtively and feeling very small and out of place we walked in, expecting to be thrown out at any minute. To my surprise we were greeted politely by one of the gig’s promoters and shown to our dressing room, two flights up some very dark and twisty stairs. The sound of merriment could be heard from the dressing room next to ours, and the various “Two, One Two’s” of a sound check two floors down. We had even been given a rider on our contract, that is a list of unrealistic and unreasonable demands that demonstrate your importance…..our requirements had been half a dozen bottles of white wine and a couple of cases of Stella….and **** me…there they were!

We sank a couple of beers/wines then went downstairs to unload our van. It all seemed rather pathetic compared to the colossal stacks belonging to Simple Minds, it was even put in the shade by what we saw of Wasted Youth’s & Martian Dance’s rigs…at least Music For Pleasure, the first to go on seemed to be working on a similar budget to our own.

We hauled our inadequate instrumental possessions inside and waited for Music For Pleasure to finish their sound-check. We had arrived a little later than intended and so everyone was a bit pushed for time. MFP wandered off-stage and we set up our gear.

My God the place was huge…so many empty seats soon to be filled by people who I strongly suspected would loathe us. I comforted myself with the knowledge that in actual fact, the smaller the audience, the more intimidating it is for some reason. I guess it’s because you can gauge the reaction on every face….plus they tend to be nearer and you are an easier target for beer glasses, salad rolls and most hurtful of all ribald, disparaging comments.

Our sound-check was a brief, dispiriting experience enlivened only by the sight of Tom Robinson (Of 2-4-6-8 Motorway fame)giving us a cheery wave from the wings…The drums inevitably took the longest to set up, followed by the girl’s mikes and making sure the on-stage monitors were loud enough for them to hear themselves. The guitars and bass were given a cursory chord or two before being told “Yeah that’s fine.” The fact was I couldn’t hear a thing I was playing, but I didn’t feel it was my place to argue with sound engineers who obviously knew what they were doing…(Or to be more accurate, knew they wanted to get us off stage as soon as possible.)

We wandered back upstairs and the dressing room door next to ours was wide open. The air was thick with hairspray and we looked on enviously as gleaming lines of white powder were divided up on mirrors and snorted with alacrity. Officially we frowned on drugs, or at least Bob and lead singer Hilary did. Unofficially we, the rest of the band weren’t rich enough to afford coke and only had a small amount of amphetamine sulphate left. There was only one thing for it, send the straightest looking member of the band out to score some Do-Do tablets.
I of course was deemed the straightest looking, if only because I was the only one who hadn’t gone crazy with the day-glo hairspray….mainly coz I didn’t actually have that much hair to spray.

Maybe I should explain. Do-Do’s were the poor man’s speed. Packed with ephedrine…a relation of amphetamine, they were an over the counter cure for bronchitis and general wheezing. They also gave a pretty good kick up the **** if you took three times the recommended dose in one go.

The only trouble was that chemists had got wise to the misuse of said medication, and anyone under the age of about 40 asking for a packet was invariably met with looks of mistrust from the counter assistant who would then hold a lengthy and furtive discussion with the pharmacist as they assessed you. It was all hugely embarrassing. Fortune was on my side however and I found two chemists who were happy enough to supply me with enough to see the band through the day’s adventures…more than enough in fact. By the time we hit the stage we were speeding like particles in an accelerator.

The next few hours passed slowly. We bickered briefly over the set list…as if it mattered. Fraser the bass player managed to break a string tuning up….an achievement since bass strings only break once every six years. Of course he didn’t have any spares so he was sent off to beg one off the other bands. We the guitarists attempted to tune up and found that for some reason Scottish guitars refuse to play in tune south of the border. Hilary and Trish warmed up their vocal chords whilst the rest of us wished they’d shut up as Simon the drummer calmly sipped white wine and read The Sunday Times. There wasn’t much chat and even less laughter until the unmistakable tones of Led Zep’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ emanated from next door…..as one we jeered and catcalled, shouting out witticisms and criticisms…”call yerself new wave ya bunch of ******’ hippy dinosaurs”…that kinda stuff….(to be continued…)

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