Wednesday, 31 August 2011

It had to be the drummer

Now I am not going to be disparaging or needlessly rude about anyone, but it does have to be said that if there is ever anybody in a band that seems to break wind as a form of artistic expression then it has to be the drummer.

CJ is a genuine virtuoso at this.

It could be because of his fondness for spicy food. It could be that he excels at growing his own vegetables and has a healthy level of fibre in his diet.

What ever the reason, in every school class, there was a kid that sat at the back with a self satisfied grin on his face as everybody else was hanging out of the windows. I genuinely believe that CJ was our man on the ground in those situations.

This has been a long standing issue for the band, especially when we were locked in the studio together recording our first album.

When you are locked in an air tight, sound tight, generally claustrophobic space and CJ decides to ‘relieve’ himself of built up pressure you have two choices, die, or invent ever creative ways to subdue the gaseous beast that had been released.

It was on this occasion when yet another ‘take’ had been abandoned and the guitarist, Matt and I had gone a strange shade of green that our producer introduced us to the concept of the candle.

Candles were lit in the studio not in order to induce a new aged ambience but as a means to ‘eat’ the methane gas that was emanating from the drum booth.

Keep this thought in mind.

Over the years we have not been plagued by this ‘creative’ expression too badly although it is always wise to have one finger poised in readiness over the window button in the car on the way to a gig.

Performing in a myriad of pubs, clubs and bars had not been a problem as anything CJ could produce was soundly disguised by cigarette smoke. This of course changed dramatically with the introduction of the smoking ban and we suddenly realised that our erstwhile drummer was not alone with half the cliental ‘farting’ for England. To be honest the average Saturday nights public house smells more like a packet of dry roasted peanuts.

At least we have a small bank of electric fans to blow anything acrid or noxious back at the drum kit.

In our practice room we are not so fortunate and I knew we were in trouble when CJ proudly announced that he’d had a particularly fiery and spicy curry for lunch.
An hour into the practice all went south when CJ could not contain himself any longer and ‘let rip’.

As the singer I have to gulp in more air than the other two. This quickly became a distinct disadvantage as the result of CJ’s lunch time frailty caught me soundly in the back of the throat. I nearly introduced them to what I’d had for tea at the moment as I gagged violently into the microphone.

Even CJ got caught violently off guard within the full force of his own creation and nearly fell back off his kit.

Knowing that this could quite probably put a crimp on the whole evenings work he threw open the sliding doors and disappeared into the labyrinth that best describes his garage.

He returned with what could best described as a flame thrower.

As a sheet of flame shot out of the end of the metal rod and canister he held ominously in his grip into the room where Aaron and I stood, memories of those idiots you see on Youtube who seems to think that girls are thoroughly impressed by somebody who can actually light their own farts came to mind. Methane gas is highly flammable as far as I can remember.

Our little practice room has an emphasis on small and Aaron and I had no place to hide and we had visions of the opening scene of Die Hard 3 being re-enacted in Bristol.

Thankfully, nothing exploded but we were left with the gaseous stench of the fuel that had produced the flame in the first place.

It just had to be the drummer.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I am officially getting old!!

I am officially getting old!!

I don’t mean in terms of advancing years (although it would be helpful if they too could slow down a little). No I mean in terms of the things I don’t understand.

This is a musical blog entry but on a slightly different vein.

I got a call from my guitarist son Aaron asking what I would be doing on this coming Thursdays tea time. I am always suspicious of this question from either of my two offspring as it invariably results in me having to drive them somewhere.

This time it was not a transportation request but something of a more interesting nature.

His wife, my daughter-in-law, is a primary school teacher (that’s kids up the age of 11 yrs if you are reading this from outside of the UK) and they were due to hold their annual leavers disco on that Thursday.

They had sadly received a call from the grieving widow of the chap that normally did the disco for them who had reportedly and rather tragically had a heart attack and had dropped down dead whilst on holiday. I wondered why they had used the services of such an elderly gentlemen any way for entertaining young un’s when I was informed that he was exactly the same age as me….gulp!

Aaron phoned and asked if I could pull the bands PA and lights together so that a disco could still go ahead. I enquired if he would like me to do it with him. His response let the colour fall from my face when he said “no, not me, I’m working….you”.

Now, like most people I have always fancied being a radio DJ. I even signed up to be one on hospital radio in Poole, Dorset, but they closed the station the week before I was due to go on air (some would say a lucky escape from the already suffering patients).

The idea of spinning the discs whilst indulging in some witty but none the less gentle banter has always appealed to me. I have always enjoyed my stints of being interviewed and performing on radio.

However; running a school disco for about 60 ten to eleven year olds was an entirely different prospect indeed.

You have to remember that these kids were now the biggest in their school. They were way too old for this place now and they knew it. Cocky beyond reason they would strut around the place as if they owned it and in their pre-adolescent minds…they did. The only solace for the weary battled fatigued teaching staff struggling to maintain control was that these Billy and Belinda ‘know-it-alls’ in just under two months time would once again be the smallest kids in another school and would have those smug expressions whipped clean off their faces.

Anyway, it was for these little urchins that I was being asked to provide an evenings entertainment.

I’m not too proud to admit it but I panicked.

What did I do when I am in similar situations…..I called CJ that’s what I did.
Primarily I phoned him to see if he could drag our kit out for me to collect and to ask him for a few suggestions (he has school aged daughters one who is also leaving primary school so in his role on the PTA he has himself provided several discos).

I have always maintained that CJ is a diamond geezer and one of the most helpful people I know but this time my gratitude went onto a new plain of thought when he chirped up. “Tell you what, I’ll come and do it with you”.

This was going to be a new experience for me I can tell you.

Thursday arrived and CJ and I met down by the school (in case anybody out there is wondering both CJ and I are in receipt of CRB certificates in relation to our employment….we are considered ‘safe’ to work with children. Besides, there were teachers everywhere. Even so it didn’t stop a growing sense of dread building in the pit of my stomach.)

It was here that the first incidence of my aging comprehension had its first bite of the cherry.

Bearing in mind that we are talking about children here. Little un’s….kids that still perhaps wearing Barbie Doll/Action Man or High School Musical pyjamas to bed, I was floored when a whole fleet of stretch Limousines turned up and out poured a throng of giggling school girls dressed like they were at the opening night of the Oscars.

What the hell was all that about???

Now I know that the fascination for the American High School leaver’s ball has entered our shores, perhaps a couple of decades ago. And I know that this has attracted the use of Limos for the arrival.

But 11 year olds?....oh come on!!!

Shaking my head in despair we decanted the PA and lights in to the school hall and prepared to…’rock’!

Now the modern disco is really a thing of beauty as no longer does the poor struggling DJ have to load in massive speakers and case upon case of Vinyl records or CD’s (if you are that little bit younger).

Nowadays, the speakers are far more efficient and smaller in size and both of us carried in our entire record collection on a couple of Ipods and a laptop computer (God Bless the inventor of Itunes).

I was all for downloading the last three editions of ‘Now that’s what I call Music’ but CJ promised me that he had it covered.

And then THEY arrived.

I love the difference in the maturity of boys and girls (something my wife insists never changes).

The boys all bounced in, decked out in sports clothes with perhaps the initial attempts of spiking their hair up…..just a small nod towards the fact that give it two or three years and they would be thirteen and it would begin….bring it on.
The girls however; were a completely different kettle of fish.

Many of them clearly wanted to be 19 yrs and dressed as such. I didn’t know where to look……I bet their dad’s didn’t see them going out like that. Why can’t kids just be kids??

Ah well, nobody else seemed to be bothered by it and so I elected to get on with the job in hand.

This is really where I left reality.
The kids started to pour up and ask for their favourite tunes….all of which were a total mystery to me. I hadn’t heard of one of em!!

Perhaps if I listened a little less to Classic FM and Planet Rock and little more to Radio One and Heart FM I might have a little bit of inkling as to what they were asking for.

As it was I felt like I was working on the reception of a specialist Emporium for the more discerning weirdo!!

“Do you have any S&M”?

“You can’t ask for that!! You’re 10 years old!

“It’s a song by Rihanna”

“Is it?.........whose Rihanna?”

The boys kept asking for a track by a band called LMFAO. CJ had to explain to me that this in fact stood for ‘Laugh my ****** ******** off’ (you can fill in the blanks) I was stunned.

When I was 10 years old we had ‘Gimme Dat Ting” and “Bridge over troubled water” for heavens sake.

The funniest thing was being terrorised by a mini Emo in the making.

At the beginning of the evening this sullen rather rotund child stormed up to us with her arm outstretched clutching some sort of dance CD. I asked her if she wanted us to play a track off of it. She replied “No, all of it” and stalked off.

Now neither CJ and I had any idea of what any of it was on the CD and we were not about to take any chances given that the kids were already ‘getting down’ to S&M, it could have been wall to wall sex for all we knew. So we stuck it to one side in the blind hope that said child didn’t notice.

She did!

You’ve heard the expression ‘if looks could kill’….well I got one of those… withered me where I stood. 28 years of marriage and I have done some stupid things in my time, but I have NEVER had a look like that from my beloved…..eech! I’m surprised I could sleep that night.

However; taking CJ was the coup of the century. He played song after song after song that the kids loved….I hadn’t heard of one of them.

They would have eaten me alive if I had gone on my own. I’d considered playing a song from the Wombles, you know, just for a laugh, and of course I would have had to have put a bit of Status Quo in there.
Thankfully the evening was a short one, which was just as well, as by the time I got home I was in desperate need of a large glass of wine. My level of respect for my daughter-in-law and her colleagues has risen through the roof.

CJ was a proper trooper and I was once again utterly grateful that he had saved my back side.

However; in the words of the immortal Terry Wogan

“Is it me”