Saturday, 25 January, 2020 in Books, Culture, Music

Into Music: The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard of – Chapter 2


The true story of the greatest band you’ve never heard

Chapter 2 – Wendy, Penelope, Felicity and the First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Scheme Scum

The family living room, Orange and Brown flame patterned wallpaper. You know the type. Mismatched mugs of tea on the genuine Onyx effect coffee table. No coasters. A plate of bourbon creams, just for the priest, and definitely not for us. Our pet greyhound lies under the brown sofa, digging away at the foam upholstery that he’d liberated from its undercarriage. Like an emaciated canine Charles Bronson, the dog knew he didn’t belong one up in a tenement so he had formulated some cunning plan to tunnel his way out of the house via the underside of the couch. The mutt is as thick as a pun’ of mince but we loved him. Another dog lies beside the fire alongside two smaller, younger kids. None of them are interested in what’s about to go down. The skinny boy with the helmetic hair stands nervously in front of his parents and the spectral presence of Father Burns, all of whom are smoking.

“So you want to take the collar, boy?” barks the elderly priest. “Give me a reason and make it a good one”

“Eh…I like Jesus?”

“Anything else?”

“Of Nazareth?” replied the confused boy.

“Well, if you’re accepted, it’s off to the Seminary in Aberdeen. You can say goodbye to your family for the next six years.”

Skinny Boy’s other brother floats about the scene. Like a Hyena surrounded by killers, he is impervious to the danger. A right cheeky bastard, he pipes up…

“And goodbye to the chance of ever getting your hole.”

He receives a few glancing swipes from his parents but from the look on his face, Cheeky Bastard Brother considers the punishment worth it.

“Eh? Six years? OK, how about I just go every other weekend…” said Skinny Boy, suddenly realising the enormity of the commitment.

The priest and the parents look at him like the fucking moron he is.

“So that I can maybe learn the guitar?”

Cheeky Bastard Brother starts convulsing with laughter and naturally, we both took a heavy scudding.

But despite those punitive measures, my unholy urges grew stronger. And like that old bastard, Father Burns,  I could blame the poverty of spirit, the breakdown of family values and Protestants, as the once secure, slipped into the growing morality morass. But I won’t. I would like to say it was the fault of the stupid, pre-internet, post-decimal, non HD, 3 channel 1970’s, with its inane game shows and repeats of sitcoms with alien ‘home counties’ sensibilities, the subtleties I only now understand.

Back then, they were merely a trigger for bouts of furious masturbation over posh ladies named Wendy, Felicity and Penelope, a habit which, despite the ensuing chronic carpal tunnel syndrome, I’ve never been able to…ahem…shake. More of which later. You see, I cannot blame any of those factors for my insatiable desire to get tae fuck from the grey and the damp to become something approaching what I witnessed that day in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Disappointment. But now, I wanted more. Not just successful. Not just famous. I want really famous. To be worshipped, feted, adored. By women, preferably. Teenage girls, acceptable. I also wanted men to fear me but that would have been pushing it. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and Douglas Bader’s gotta reach for the sky? Even though he’s only three foot high. With a bottle of rye? And some Spry Crisp and Dry? Fuck it, I’ll work on my lyrics later.

This is the story of my journey from obscurity to…

Final call for remaining passengers travelling to Zurich…

…well, I won’t spoil the ending except to say, thank you and auf wiederlüge to Wendy, Felicity and Penelope for getting me through some difficult years.

The year was 1984, I’m 17 years old and I’ve just finished school. Dossing around avoiding getting a real job suited me just fine until, given the dearth of decent prospects at the time, I miraculously managed to stumble through an interview for a permanent position as a very junior Civil Servant. But any hopes my recently widowed Mum had of middle class respectability for her Number 1 of 4 were going to be tested by where I saw my real future.

Rock and fucking roll! I know Mum thought that this was just a phase I had to go through; like wearing moccasins, having a perm and wispy moustache combo or collecting European porn but this was more than a fad. This was my ticket out. I searched high and low for a band of brothers; a few kindred spirits, apprentice alchemists, keen to turn base metal into Gold records. Now, this couldn’t be just any band. An eighteen wheeled behemoth. A Herman Melville scribed monster, just one step down from Zeppelin, a couple of doors along from the Minds and just around the corner from Lou Reed’s auntie. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you… (deep breath)… The Molotov Cocktails. What a band. Gargantuan, provocative, incendiary? We were absolutely none of those things. Truth be told, we were pretty pish.

To the untrained eye, we looked like any four teenagers playing what sounded like four different songs, none of which had any measure of synchronicity and all of which were painfully out of tune.

To the few, true believers, we were indeed the sum of our parts. That’s me, caressing the microphone stand like some kind of unabashed metal fetishist. I thought it was a good look. I also figured that if I sang low, I could circumvent the need to spend actual time working on concepts as fanciful as lyrical content as my magnificent faux Elvis baritone would cover my shortcomings with a cluster of woofing swoops. Lazy? Of course. Ingenious? Absolutely.

Over on the drums is Brido, a Beatles fanatic who would have made the identikit 80’s footballer. Not that he was particularly skilful, more that he had a hairstyle that remains to this day, fashionable in downtown Tirana. That and a lifelong weakness for large breasted blondes.

“But they were fucking huge! Didn’t they chafe?” I once asked of him.
“Nah.” he said in between gulps of a lasagne sandwich. “I love the smell of nip balm in the morning.”

Brido also had a van from his job as an apprentice tradesman which made him an invaluable member of Team Molotov.

Back to the rehearsal.

The band grinds to a halt.

Brido addresses the bass player.
‘You don’t know the song. Do you?’

He turns to the rest of the band, for affirmation.
‘He doesn’t know the song.’

It was true. The bassist didn’t know the song. Understandable if we had a mighty canon. Less so when you’ve been playing the same half-formed five tunes for two years.

‘After all this time, you still don’t know the fucking song?’

The bass player stops noodling to say defiantly…

‘It’s not that I don’t know the song, I just don’t know the song.’

And that was Donny. Or Skull as he preferred to be known. 6ft 2ins of primordial profanity, obsessed with defecation and a guy who once shot an annoying neighbour with an air rifle. Fair enough I hear you say but the neighbour was only six years old at the time. Despite his inadequacies as a musician – he caresses his instrument in the manner of a stressed turkey farmer ending his last shift before Thanksgiving – and his questionable lyrics…

Donny sits on his bed with his bass and a few scraps of paper strewn about. His band mates, ever encouraging…

‘Are you still no’ ready?’

‘Just get fucking on with it.’

He starts playing a fast riff then stops at a gap to sing.

‘I shat on a cop today… so he fucked me round the head…yeah, he fucked me round the head…that cop’s a cuuuunt.’

He lets out an indecipherable roar before playing the riff again.

‘So, what do you guys think?’

Brido and I look at each other.
‘Don’t know about you, but I like it ..’.
‘Me too actually. It has a subtlety that your earlier stuff lacked.’ said Brido.

Remarkably, he has great taste in (other people’s) music and easily has the best clobber in the band. Also, an added bonus is that his Dad works in the local whisky bond, which means cloudy hooch for us every fucking weekend.

Donny is very close to his dog, Sandy and has recently started delivering coffins for the Co-op. Honestly.

One more member of the band to introduce. This corduroy and plaid wearing streak of piss is Jamesey. He is our Jangle Reinhardt. Which means he can also only play the guitar with two fingers. Like many of his asexual peers, he is obsessed with the Smiths.

We get three hours a week to rehearse, here at this school. My uncle is caretaker so when we’re done rocking like tuneless choobs, we have to stack the chairs, sweep up then lay out the tables for the following day. If we had half a brain between us, this would be the point that we’d head home and consolidate what we just learned, on our own. But…

‘’Any of you scudbooks up for a wee drinkie poo?’’ asks Donny. ‘‘Skint.’’ says Jamesey, turning out his pockets. ‘‘What about you, Brido?’’ He doesn’t look around. ‘‘Working in Falkirk at 6am’’ A collective intake of breath. “And no. I can’t give you a lift to the pub.”

“Botons the fucking lot of yous. Would Iggy Pop be in Darvel laying screed at daybreak? Would he fuck. C’mon Geo man, I know you’ve got the rock and roll spirit. C’mon…just one pint at the Rock Garden.” pleaded Donny.

‘You know I’m starting my new job in the morning. Can’t afford to turn up pished like the last time’.

The last time.

When the summer ended and we’d spunked every penny we possessed, Donny and I took advantage of the very generous offer of £27.50 per week from the government to play a minute part in helping them manipulate their statistics. We agreed to take a Youth Training Scheme – in our case, learn how to be a secretary and in return, they’d keep us off the stratospheric unemployment figures. Sounded fair. Once there though, the good folks at Sight and Sound Secretarial saw that we had little interest in anything other than figuring out what two teenage boys could get up to in an industrial sized typing pool with three hundred teenage girls. So, out on placements we went. Donny hit the jackpot straight off the bat, with the Church of fucking Scotland, no less. Big league stuff. So how did we approach it??? Disrespecting our fallen heroes by lounging atop the Lions at the War Memorial in George Square, tanking six cans of lager, that’s how. The normally unflappable Donny seemed unusually stressed.

‘’I’m sorry but I will never remember all that.’’
‘‘Then bluff it mate. Just remember to throw in the occasional ‘Well Minister, that’s certainly thought provoking’ and you’ll be alright.’’
‘‘Crack open another can, man.’’ I oblige. “Serious question.”
“Fire away” says I.

Donny opens his shirt to reveal his pentagram pendant.

“Should I mention that I Love Lucifer?”
“Your call but whatever you do, it’s probably for the best if you don’t tell him that I’m Catholic.”

The Church’s office in Bath Street was a real sight to behold. Not the kind of place two pieces of scheme scum tended to find themselves in. A dignified looking tall man approached us and invited us to take a seat in an oak-panelled room, just off to the right.

“Good afternoon lads and welcome to the Church of Scotland.”
“Nae bother!” said Donny. I keep my m dirty fenian mouth shut lest I incriminate myself.
“Firstly, you may address me as the Right Reverend Taggart.” he says.
Donny’s nerves combine with the three cans of Tennents to predictable effect.
“Naebody move! Hehehe…only kidding big man.”

Straight over the poor Reverend’s brylcreemed napper.

“Yes. As you have shown an interest in working with us, I would like to discuss your knowledge of certain tenets of the covenant before moving on to the recent missive from the Moderator about the work of the Magisterial reformers, Knox and Zwingli in the late 20th century and how this can be used as we continue to underpin the fine works we undertake as part of our International Presbytery?”

Donny looks at me with the panic of a slaughterhouse animal who has just this second had its one sentient realisation. His eyes scream help. We are so far out of our depths and we are going under. The minister stands and walks toward the window, continuing to ask questions that we barely comprehend.
Donny leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“I think we should make a run for it.”

That wholly understandable display of the ‘fight or flight’ reflex triggered the explosion of an inadvertent snot bubble from my left nostril. I desperately try to stem my sneg while simultaneously stifling the laughter that will surely bring this interview to an abrupt end. The minister’s gaze fixes on me. I turned away, to the portraits of those stern looking men, hanging from the walls. They might have been long dead but everyone of them looked as if they wanted to jump out of their frames and boot my disrespectful balls for not only making a mockery of the Church’s kind offer but for wiping my snotters over their brocaded upholstery.

I dig deep. Summoning every ounce of staunchness from the Kirk-going side of my genes, I hold it together.

Only for Donny to break ranks.

“Excuse me your very majestic…ness, in my spare time I am an agent of Satan, South Side Chapter, but my duties are largely ceremonial. Will this affect my work placement?”

By the time he’d finished his question, I’m on the fucking floor, in bits. The kind of laughter that pulls your tear stained cheeks all the way up beyond your temples. If Donny’s revelation hadn’t already made up the Right Reverend Taggart’s mind, not to worry. The clincher was on its way.

As we were being escorted from the building, Donny asked the Right Rev. Taggart for an advance from his first week’s wages. At this point, The Presbytery of Glasgow would have hired Pope Pius singing ‘Faith of our Fathers’ in a Catholic Karaoke ahead of us.

As John Knox may (or may not) have said, you’ve come a long way, baby.

George Paterson


In case you missed the first chapter…

Chapter 1
Socrates,Tony Bennett and Toblerone

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