Into Music: The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard – Chapter 10
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
The true story of the greatest band you’ve never heard
Episode 10 – Meltin’ John
In a dank hallway, a group of stick twirling men sat silently, awaiting the call.
Drummers. It’s always fucking drummers. Every joke about them, every story you’ve heard is 100% true. At this very moment, in some back street dive, there will be an old boy approaching the guitarist to ask…
“How late do you play, son?”
“Usually, half a beat behind the drummer.“
Mondo was gone and we were lost in the hickory hell of drummer auditions. That’s why when you find a good one, chain him to his kit and never let him leave. And if we don’t get one before the Polydor gig, we’re screwed.
So, in my best Peter O’Sullevan, here we are at the Sound City Sticks Handicap, seven furlong sprint. Fourteen runners and riders. The going is good to shit. Over by the vending machine, we’ve got the metal heads getting a last minute Boost. In the tie-dyed colours of the Grateful Dead, we have the hippies with flashy newcomers, the posers on the inside. Rank outsiders, the tuxedo wearing club players, wait by the toilets.
As I squeezed past the hopefuls, Gordon was having a pop at our manager.
“Really Devon, really?”
“A tenner a shot is not to be sniffed at.” said Devon, ticking off the names on his clipboard.
Billy stopped. “Wait a minute. You’re charging them to audition?”
“Overheads, Bold Yin. Overheads.”
“Fine”, I said, “That’ll mean you’ll be paying for tonight?”
“As ever”, grumbled Devon. “That reminds me, when are you two leaving your jobs? We all need to be doing this full time.”
Devon was right. It was hard to build momentum when one was expected to clock in by 8 ..ok, make that 10am.
At our neglected workstations, the sheer volume of files and cases which lay incomplete had started to attract the wrong kind of attention.
“See Kathy, what did I tell you?” said Brody, like the cat who got the ambrosia.
“I’ll take it from here,” said Kathy, our boss, seriously. “Find them.”
Gordon and I, the Lord Lucan and Richard Kimble of the Tax Office, weren’t actually that hard to find. Must have taken them all of five minutes to deduce that we’d be in the basement, surrounded by biscuits and mugs of tea, sitting on boxes of files, writing songs. Our inside man Davie gave us the heads up.
“Guys, Big White Chief on warpath.”
“Thanks Kemo Sabe.”
We finished off a tricky middle eight and a packet of Jammy Dodgers before handing ourselves over to the relevant authorities.
“Mr Moir, Mr Paterson, take a seat.” said Kathy, firmly.
Gordon and I went for the same chair which turned into a childish wrestling match forcing Kathy to raise her voice.
“Sorry Kathy.” we mumbled, suitably chastised.
Kathy put on her serious spectacles. Not a good start.
“I’ve been looking at your work files recently and I’m thinking it might be the right time for a change.”
“Promotion? Thanks Kathy”, said Gordon, giving her the double thumbs.
“Not exactly. You two are quite something. You’re the first civil servants I’ve ever met who beat the 5 o’clock rush by leaving work at noon. Perhaps you should start looking at where your true strengths lie.”
Gordon and I sit in silence.
“Because it’s clear that they don’t lie with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.”
“OK, we’ll resign then. We’ll leave right now.” I replied, in the manner of a brattish kid called out on a host of misdemeanors.
“Whoa! He doesn’t speak for me, Kathy.” said Gordon, pulling back from the edge.
“Leaving right now? That’s not exactly what I had in mind, George. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of Her Majesty’s government for you to walk out at this stage.”
Gordon slapped me on the shoulder. “See? We still have a vital role to play here.”
“Not quite. You both owe around 130 hours on your flexitime.”
And that was that. A month’s notice, unpaid. But after we’d served our hard time, we’d be free to devote our lives to the Gods of Rock, Babylon and Ting!!!!!
One month later, we were broke and sitting in Gordon’s flat with tea cups, empty biscuit packs and half-assed middle eights strewn across his living room.
“So, what do we do now?”
“Another cup of tea? “
Back at Sound City and the inexhaustible supply of drummers filtered in and out of the rehearsal room.
“This is not good.” said Billy.
Gordon replied, “Correct. We might have to do the unthinkable and…”
“And blow the Polydor gig?”, I said, shaking my head. “What about the guy in the black t-shirt”?
“Too weedy,“ said Gordon. “I liked the big bloke with the flat top.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from the Bold Yin.
“Nah. He wasn’t wobbly enough.”
“You know, he needs to be a bit more jellified. He sounded as if he was petting a burning dog.”
The strange thing is that Billy’s example made sense. We knew exactly what he was aiming at. But the Bold Yin’s bizarre musings weren’t helping us out of our percussive predicament. This could be our big chance to be stars. Not just any old stars. Polydor stars. Next to Level 42 and that cunt, Lloyd Cole. Which will mean money, which in turn will lead to power, which, if I’m reading the runes right, means not just women but a flatbed full of hot Brazilian foxes, all of whom are ganting for a cupful of my sex wee. But we’re going to make a bejewelled tit of things because we don’t have a fucking drummer.
Devon checked his list. One more name before we called it quits.
“Last one of the day, boys”, he shouted from the hallway.
“Jim?” said Devon with a degree of surprise.
Jim didn’t say a word. Just nodded and took a seat behind the kit. He seemed keen. Quiet, but definitely keen.
As he tightened his snare and adjusted his drum stool, I finally had a good feeling. This guy is promising, I thought, but can he hit the accents and make the cues?
Crash, bang, boom. He did. I smiled at him in approval while Gordon and Billy stared at him. Kept the beat perfectly, no apparent tempo variance. He was tight, no doubt about that, right in the groove. You’ve got to dig it to dig it, ya dig? Gentlemen, I think we might have a winner.
“Excellent mate.”, I said, offering him my hand. “I think I speak for all of us when I say that you’re a perfect fit. So Jim, when can you start?”
“I can start in 2 weeks,” he said, “ that’s when my school holidays begin.”
“Do what?”, said Billy
“Eh… school…college. You know what I mean.”, said Jim, looking at me for back up.
“But that’s after the Polydor gig.”
“Sorry guys. My mum..err…my tutor will kill me if I don’t finish my course.”
“Not a problem. You finish your course and you can join up with us when you’re done.”
While Jim and I were high fiving, Gordon stopped staring to address the elephant in the room.
“How old are you?”
Not important, Tall One. We’re not going to fucking marry him. We’re not going to buy him a fucking beer. I will concede though that he did look almost prepubescent. Definitely younger than most of Gordon’s guitar riffs and for that matter, most of Billy’s clothes. So, we were still in the market for a drummer, short term or the Polydor deal would be as stiff as a Leonard Cohen disco album.
Later that evening, and funded by Devon’s audition scheme, we headed down Hope Street to a cramped pub to witness the Molotov’s (Mark 2) debut their latest singer; a fellow who thought charisma and mystique came in the form of an ankle-length leather trench coat. Poor bastard. One song in and he’s sweating more than a Tory with a missing hard drive. Just as well he’s not wearing a shirt. And why would one need shades when the pub is pitch black? OK, I admit, that’s one of my moves but just look at this guy? He’s ridiculous.
Near the end of their set, the singer lifted his mic stand up and shot it straight through the low, false ceiling. Though grey flakes of stoor rained o’er him, he continued, unperturbed, to the dismay of his bandmates and the ire of the increasingly narked bar manager.
“Hoi! Bonehead. Fucking knock it off.”
At this point, I was actually starting to sympathise with the daft sod. Face it, it’s not easy following me. “This is our last song for the night.”, he said, arms outstretched like he was Christ the Redeemer overlooking Copacabana beach instead of a sodden apprentice spark moonlighting at the Alpine Lodge Bar.
“And it goes out to Winston Mandela.”
“Did he just say…?” asked Gordon
“Yep.” drawled Billy.
We took that as our cue to head to a quiet booth up the back to talk over the business of the day.
“So, we’re all happy with the drummer” asked Devon.
“You serious?”, said Gordon, still perplexed.
“OK, he’s a bit young…” said Devon
“Young you say? I hadn’t noticed…”, sarked the Tall One
“He paid his tenner and took his chance”, replied Devon defensively.
“He’s fucking 12!”, Gordon roared. “How did he get the tenner? Saved up his pocket money? Raided his piggy bank?”
“My money’s on a newspaper round.” said Billy, not helping matters.
“He’s still the best drummer we auditioned, so he’s in and that’s that”, I said.
“But there’s a problem. He can’t make the Polydor gig.”
“He’d better have a note from his mum”, replied Gordon.
Devon sighed. “Should I make the call?”
Excuse me? What call?
“Do we have to?”, groaned Billy
“Is there really no other alternative?” asked Gordon
“ No, I don’t think there is.” said Devon.
“This is going to cost us…” said Billy, ominously.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”, I asked. I had no idea. Was Devon going to call Polydor? Don’t cancel! Please! I’ve built this up so much. I’ve dreamt about this moment for ages. Walking into Nico’s, going up to Lloyd Cole, saying ‘Hi, Label Mate!’, then smacking the cunt over the head with a hard backed, leather bound, first edition of Baudelaire’s Greatest One Liners, Volume One. My mother was praying to St Anthony on a daily basis on our behalf, all other miracles were on hold. Novenas had been offered up, for fuck’s sake. Failure to make the breakthrough on All Saint’s Day of all days, could see a tsunami of doubt ripple through the entire southern diocese of Glasgow. There was a lot riding on this gig.
Gordon spoke. “Fuck it, make the call.”
Billy put his shades on. “This could get messy”, he said.
“And expensive.” said Devon, counting out the remainder of the audition money.
I headed outside to help Brido pack his gear away.
“What do you think of our new singer?”, he asked.
“Sweats a lot.”, I said, as diplomatically as I could.
“Fucking hopeless, isn’t he?”, replied Brido
He’s no’ me, if that’s what you want to know.
“Question for you”, asked Brido, “What do you think of my brother?”
“Mate, I know I looked at your baws once but that was for medical reasons only.”
“Seriously Geo. What do you think?”
“Thomas? He’s even younger than our new drummer!”, I said.
“Not Thomas. The other one; Andy. He’s been bugging me for a chance for ages. But he’s an annoying wee tit”, said Brido.
“Can’t argue with you there. Question for you. Does he have a leather jacket that stops before it reaches knee level?”
“He does but it’s brown.”
“Hmm…”, I said disappointed. “What about cowboy boots?”
“I’d loan him mine but he’s got bird’s feet.”
“Does he know who the fuck Winston Mandela is?”
Brido laughed. “No but I’m sure his wife Minnie is on his delivery route”.
“Right, tie breaker. Can he sing?”
“That’s the problem,” said Brido. “He can.”
“So what’s the issue?” Just then, Donny appeared.
“What did you think about the singer?”
I repeated my earlier assertion.
“He wants to rename the band, V1, after some fucking bomb. Told him that it was a bit too violent for a band name.”
“So we’re sticking with Molotov Cocktails?” asked Brido with a grin.
“Does the Pope shit in the woods? Is the bear a Catholic? I may be a Furstenburg man but there’s nothing wrong with a wee cocktail now and again. Anyway, I’m taking an executive decision. I say we sack the dopey nimrod tonight. Know any singers, Geo?”
“What about Andy? He can sing”, said Brido
“But he’s a wee girly twat.” replied Donny.
“True but he follows you guys around, has access to a van stocked with soft drinks, knows all the songs…”, I offered.
“And he’ll pay for all the rehearsals, isn’t that right?”, said Brido to Andy, who had been standing behind them all along. Andy was short and quite pretty with a Nik Kershaw style mullet. He nodded like an obedient puppy whose owners had just mentioned the word ‘park’ .
Donny sighed. “I suppose so.” he said as Andy silently punched the air.
“But I promised my sister she’d get a chance”, said Donny
“Backing vocals?”, replied Brido
“Fuck it. Deal. Andy, get the drinks in.” demanded The Skull.
“That was remarkably easy.”, said Brido
“Young Brido,”said Donny, placing his arm around his drummer’s shoulder, “ time waits for no man when he’s got singers to bin and birds to bang.”
On our way to Nico’s, I’m sure we saw The Molotov’s sacked singer standing alone at the bus stop in the rain, his mullet washed out, tomorrow’s paper in the pocket of his greasy trench coat, tucking into a kebab. As the fickle mistress of rock gently circles her lubricated finger around the rectum of one hopeful, she callously plants a rogue pube on the bone dry palate of another heartbroken pretender. Such was life in the incestuous bedrooms of rock and roll’s Hotel Caledonia.
As we searched for a parking space near the pub, Devon’s car is atypically silent.
“Have you made the call?”, asked Gordon
Devon shifted in his seat. “I’ve got a few things I need to sort out first.”
“You need to make the call. This cannot wait any longer.”said Billy in the driver’s seat.
“OK, calm the ham. I’ll make the fucking call. Pull over.”, said Devon
Devon got out of the car at the red call box on the corner of Elmbank and Bath Street.
“He can’t be calling Polydor. Surely it’s too late?”, I said, still none the wiser. The call’s going in. But it was not to Polydor. No, that looked like it was still on.
Devon was bringing on the heavy artillery; Meltin’ John.
Picture a large man with a curly blonde mullet, wearing a long silver coat and knee high rabbit skin boots. Heads turned on whichever street this man walked. Number of fucks given? Less Than Zero.
This was one creature who was very comfortable in his own skin. Hard to believe but this nuclear grade warhead was once a cute – and svelte – prince of pop. Hit records, tours in the States. He genuinely was a bit of a heartthrob. Until his audience hit puberty. That was the time bell for John to hit everything else. Stories about his excesses – from beating up record executives to snorting Class A drugs from the arses of naked dwarves in the Top of the Pops studios – were seemingly not apocryphal. He managed to maintain those exhausting standards until his tearful epiphany, which arrived while he was strapped to a gurney in the back of an emergency vehicle. Hence the sobriquet, Meltin’ John, a name few dared call him to his face. Those ‘summer of ‘76’ heights were never again within reach but he was able to eke out a respectable living back home as a sticksman for hire. Short term only though. With that reputation, very few bands were brave enough to put him on the payroll permanently. He was, as we were about to find out, still a man of gargantuan appetites, most of which we’d end up paying for, one way or another.
At Devon’s flat the following day, Gordon, Billy and I sat around our manager’s kitchen table, silently, anxiously, awaiting his arrival. The rattle of keys in the storm porch followed by the sound of fur-lined Cuban heels stomping down the hardwood hallway, meant that this was it. Game time. The three of us took a collective deep breath.
“Flash.”, he said to Gordon
Billy nodded. John turned his attention to me.
“Who’s the skinny poof?”
“I’m George, the singer.”, I said nervously. “ But I’m not a poof.”
“Have you tried it?”, he asked
“I beg your pardon?”, I responded.
John looked across the table, raised his silver wrap-around shades and asked,
“How do you know you’re not one if you have not experienced the exquisite delights of… the darkest of all loves?”
I scanned the room for support but all eyes were transfixed on the sexual shaman that was Meltin’ John.
Well, I’ve always wondered what it might feel like…
John slammed his open palm into the table with a bang and laughed.
“I’m just fucking with you, wee man.”
Everyone laughed. I breathed a sigh of relief,
I knew that. I was only joking too…
John stopped laughing and leant down towards me.
“But you do look like one.”, he growled.
“Cup of tea, John?”, said Gordon, swiftly changing the subject.
“I’ll take a bottle of Fousty with a white spirit and lemonade chaser. Loads of ice. Got any gear Bold Yin?”
“Right big man, said Devon, passing John a Furstenberg. “We need your skills, a couple of rehearsals and one morning’s work, a showcase.
“When’s the gig?”
“November 1st.”, replied Billy
“Who is it for?”, asked John
“It’s for Polydor Records”, said Devon.
The name Polydor seemed to act as a trigger for John as, in an instant, his face turned as red as Michael Jackson’s monkey’s arse. He slammed his bottle down onto the table in anger, sending the sugar bowl and a plate of Viscount’s flying across the room.
“I hate those swindling bastards.”, he growled. “Still owe me for a Visage session.”
John closed his eyes, inhaling slowly and deeply. We all leant back, just in case.
“What are you offering?”, he asked.
“£50 and dinner.”, said Devon.
John got to his feet.
“I’m not finished…”
John sat down again
“£50, dinner and a gram of London. But only after the gig.”
A gram of London? That better not be drugs, I thought.
“Away ye go!”, said Devon.
“Fine”, said John getting up again.
“Ok…Ok…Two. But only after the gig.”
“All of the above. And a bottle of Glenfinnan. Up front.”
“Johnny, you know I can’t….”
“OK, three grams of London, £100 cash and dinner at the Blue Note.”, said John. He knew that time was a factor and that we were running low on options. That’s why people called on Meltin’ John. He was the musical equivalent of a payday loan. Handy when you’re desperate but you’ll be paying for it for years.
“Jesus Christ big man, yer killing me. Look, final offer. Two grams of London and a ton, after the gig. And lunch at Blue Note. But no drinking before the rehearsals and the showcase.” said Devon, exasperated.
John thought long and hard.
“And you know what?”, said Devon, “ I’ll invite the Great Western Girls along to the Blue Note too. On me. Big man, do we have a deal?”
The Great Western Girls? They sound nice. I wonder what they could be.
John sat back in his chair and ran his fingers through his thinning blond perm. He looked at each of us in turn before saying…
“When’s the first rehearsal?
As Devon breathed a sigh of relief and the mood became less tense and more congratulatory, I took Gordon aside and asked him straight, “That ‘gram of London’ stuff Devon was talking about. That wasn’t drugs, was it?”
Gordon leant in close and said, “How do you think he pays for all this?”
To most good Catholics, the first day of November is not just Polydor showcase day. All Saint’s Day is a celebration for those who have attained beatific vision in Heaven. Safe to say that Devon and Meltin’ John were not going to be invited to that particular shindig and I was starting to worry that I might be joining the Tall One and the Bold Yin in the Celestial holding pen for naughty boys. Thankfully the night before our big day was Hallowe’en so we headed across the street from Nico’s to Pythagoras, a pub named after some old bubble whose doctrines included that of Metempsychosis, or the “transmigration of the soul”, a teaching which holds that every soul is immortal and, at the moment of physical death, that soul enters into a new body, presumably one dressed as a werewolf or a sexy nurse.
Predictably, Donny showed up as Bela Lugosi.
Returning to the Molotov’s table with a round of drinks, Donny handed a pint to Brido.
“This is a big night for the undead community, mate. You could’ve at least made an effort”, said Donny.
“I did”, replied Brido, pointing to his dark suit and bowtie combo.
“So, who the fuck are you supposed to be again?”
Donny shook his head, none the wiser.
“The snooker player?”
“Aye! Brido loves the green baize”, said Andy, Brido’s bro and the Molotov’s newly emboldened singer, his attempt at ridicule tempered by his own choice of costume; a crepe paper covered, Fairy Liquid bottle wearing robot. He continued, “ I once caught him in his bedroom behind Jeannie’s incredibly large arse, tucked up on the cushion not knowing whether he’s going for the pink or the brown.”
An involuntary booger bubble escaped from Bela’s beak.
“Don’t get smart or you’re walking home tonight, Gaybot.”, countered Brido.
“Holy shit.” said Donny, pointing towards the entrance. “Take a fucking look at this walloper!”
Walloper? How dare you! Skull. I thought that among a room full of around twenty Blues Brothers, a handful of Freddy Krugers and a couple of Marilyns, I would be applauded to the rafters for having the balls to attempt to raise the fucking costume bar.The whole pub was looking at me aghast but I was oblivious. No wonder. A blonde wig, a cut off shirt and denim shorts with a pair of workman’s boots. My eyes were almost panda black from the mascara, which hadn’t reacted well under the heavy October Scottish rain.
“Strewth mates!”, I said.
There was nothing but silence. They couldn’t help me now.
“I’m Paul Hogan!”, I said, patting down my soggy wig with a beer mat.
“Of course you are.”, said Brido, dryly.
My costume’s lukewarm reception didn’t stop me drinking and dancing like a kookaburra on a billabong. Whatever the fuck that is.
“What time is your showcase tomorrow?”, asked Donny
“Don’t you think that you’d better get an early night?”, asked Brido
“What time is it now?”, I asked
“Half ten!”, shouted Andy.
“Nae Bother! Plenty of time!”, I said.
Famous last words…
The following morning, an elderly lady had just finished vacuuming up the pieces of tinsel and streamers from the pub’s floor. The costumed revellers were long gone as she slowly wheeled her mop and bucket into the gents toilets, singing a cheery wee old woman song to herself as she went about her business. Inside the toilets, she opened stall after stall, spraying air freshener and squirting thick dollops of floor cleaner onto the grimy tiles. One cubicle door remained shut and no matter how hard she shoved, it stayed closed. She reached down as far as her old body would allow but still she couldn’t see under the low door.
“Is there anybody in there?”, she said, her fist, full of rings, rapping at the door.
She banged the door again. A groan. Another bang.
The door opened. From the look of fear on her face, I must have looked a wee bit dishevelled.
“G’day, love”, I croaked, straightening my wig.
Stumbling past the stunned cleaner, I picked up the nearest pint glass, to cure my drooth, and I slugged it back in a one-er, almost choking on the floating cigarette stub.
The clock on the wall read six thirty as I bounced out of the pub and onto Sauchiehall Street. Funny thing was, I actually got a good couple of hours kip in that stinking bog. Now, all I needed was a shower, a change of clothes and no one would be any the wiser.
A few hours later, my taxi pulled outside the studio and a fresher, less Australian version of me stepped out.
Billy and Gordon ran their rightly suspicious rule over me.
“You look like shit…”, said Billy
“I’m fine.”, I say, a little hoarse.
“And you sound like shit too…” said Gordon
“Trust me, I’ll be fine.”
Just then, as Devon arrived with John, Gordon whispered in my ear.
“Fuck this up and I’ll kill you.”, he said with his most frightening Jack Nicholson grin.
No pressure then!
Polydor’s A&R personnel weren’t due until midday so we had an hour or so of studio time to warm up prior to their arrival. After a couple of songs, my voice sounded more as it was meant to and less that of a guy who spent six hours spark out in a shithouse. Better still, the band was locked in, tight. And most of that was down to that big bastard behind the kit. I now see what the fuss was all about. Meltin’ John was one superb drummer. Escaped mental patient or not, he could be the difference between making it with Polydor or not.
Just before midday, Devon popped into the studio with a final word of encouragement.
“They’re here, boys. Blow them away.”, he said.
Into the studio walk a pair of Polydor’s talent scouts, as well as local rock critic, Myra Blackman.
“Hey guys. Just want to say best of luck. You’ve got this”, she said, looking around the room.
”Where’s Mondo?”, she asked.
John counted us in and we were off!
We were tight. No doubt. But there was something from the look of these guys that wasn’t sticking. And why were they staring at John? Stop scowling back at them, ya big choob. Hawl, look at me, not him. I’m the fucking star. Twenty eight inch waist, flowing locks, cheekbones. What more do they want? Even Gordon was bringing the flash. Look at the Tall One go! And Billy? Well, he’s going to stamp a hole right through the floor. We were on fire and John was driving the big red truck. Myra got it. She was already choosing which one of us desperados she was going to be using as her own personal Space Hopper but to use the parlance of the present, I was just not feeling the love from the Polydor people. What was going on?
And just like that, they left, mid song. Myra remained, as baffled as the rest of us.
What the fu…
Devon ran after the Polydor party, desperately trying to find out what happened.
“What’s going on guys? Didn’t you like the music?”
“The music’s fine.”, said A&R man number one. “We like you. But…”
“But fucking what?”
“Are you taking the piss mate?”, said the second rep.. “Do you think we we’re fucking mugs? All the way up to Jockland for this?”
“I have no idea what you’re on about?”, said Devon
“That fucking cabbage on the drums, that’s what I’m on about.”
What we didn’t know at the time was that the nickname ‘Meltin’ John’ was not exclusively about his breakdown. A few years earlier, at a Polydor Artists party, a number of the label executives were drinking and carousing with their clients and some of their more prominent acts. Behind a heavy curtain, a stage had been set up for one of those acts to perform live.
John, still aggrieved at being stiffed on that Steve Strange session, slipped a porter twenty quid and the back doors were left open just enough for one disgruntled ex-employee – and his blowtorch – to sneak in and make his way to the makeshift stage where he proceeded to melt the bass, drums, keyboard and guitar of the band, Level 42.
Soon, the partygoers were retching into buckets as the acrid stench of scorched plastic and wood filled the air before the sprinkler system kicked in, sending the crowd into a bit of a panic.
Leaving the stage area, John strode down the hallway and into the company boardroom like Clint fae Eastwood, lit a cigar and torched a moustache onto the portrait of the company’s founder which hung on the wall.
“Now that’s a Visage, ya robbing bastards!”
“And that my friend”, said the second rep, “is why you’ll never get a fucking penny from Polydor.”
Devon didn’t take this news well at all.
“Is that it? Polydor? Buncha wankers”, he roared. Record executives tend to deal with the disappointed reactions of band managers on most working days but I seriously doubt that being chased down North Street and into a passing cab by a bridge burning Scotsman wielding a cymbal stand was anything they’d ever factored in. “Fuck off back to London, ya shower of cunts. And you can shove your Level 42 up your fucking arseholes.”
After his Olympian exertions, a breathless Devon returned to the fold.
“Were you able to reason with them?”, I asked, more in hope than expectation.
Devon shook his head.
John walked out into unseasonably bright November afternoon, put on his metallic shades and reminded Devon of their ‘Foustyian’ pact.
“Don’t forget, you still owe me lunch.”
We left our gear at the studio and headed over to Charing Cross. We needed cheering up and quickly. Devon stopped outside the Blue Note, a much classier establishment than this sorry bunch were used to.
“Right guys, we’re going for a bite.”, said Devon, standing at the door.
“Great.”, said Gordon, misreading the managers statement.
“Nice one, I’m famished an’ aw.”, added Billy, following behind Gordon.
“No…”, said Devon, in vain. “Just John and I…”
“I’m not that hungry mate”, I said, “A plate of chips will do me.”
“You did alright today, youngster”, said Gordon. “You deserve a steak.”
“Good for protein.”, added Billy, “I think I’ll have one too.”
As Devon held the door, we piled into the restaurant, mob handed.
“I suppose I owe you for that review?”, asked Devon
“More bad news, I’m afraid”, she said. “I’ve just heard from the Barrowland promoter. They’ve given the Christmas gig to Softly Softly. Sorry Devon, I did try.”
Devon sighed hard.
“Let’s hold off breaking this news until tomorrow, eh? Softly Softly? Fucking hell…”
Devon ushered in Myra and like most music journos, she made a beeline for the bar.
I don’t know how much that day cost us but taking everything into consideration, I reckon that the remainder of the audition money barely made a dent. The sun surrendered to the night and the Great Western Girls – Jill, June and Jackie – arrived to get down with our lascivious locum. Devon looked at his empty wallet in despair just as Brido, Donny and Stevie showed up to partake in our wake. He might have to sell some more of that London stuff…
So our breakthrough deal didn’t happen. No biggie. Sometimes opportunity knocks and on other occasions, it presents you with one jazz funk hating, furry boot wearing pyromaniac. We just needed to get smarter at telling the difference. As a wise band once said, looking back it’s so bizarre. And bizarre it was. They also reckoned that ‘If we lose the time before us, the future will ignore us’ and that’s pretty profound for a bunch of wimpy noodlers. They did one about sons and daughters in hot water so that fucks up my profundity theory a bit. Anyway, chalk it up to experience and move on. What else can you do? The future wasn’t going to ignore us, not if I had anything to do with it. Whatever we lost that day, we knew we could earn, win or steal it back. That’s what being young and fearless meant. There will be other days, I thought, other battles to fight and win. Still, we’d never forget old Meltin’ John and his candles in the bin.
By the early hours of the following morning, Gordon, Billy and I were staggering home, through the streets of Glasgow when an old lady stopped in front of us.
“You…”, she said, pointing straight at me. “You’re that Paul Hogan off the telly!”
As Billy and Gordon laughed at the absurdity of this most mistaken of identities, the penny dropped. This was the cleaner who’d found me in the Pythagoras toilet, out the game.
“What…no?”, I shuffled evasively. “I think you’re mistaken, love.”
“Am I fuck. It’s definitely you.”, she said with an unwavering certainty. “You were sleeping in my toilet last night.”
“Right you are…”, I said, humouring her before quickly moving my bandmates on.
“What in the name of fuck was that about?” asked Billy, still howling with laughter.
“I have no idea…”
As we reached Rose Street, Gordon spotted an old bill poster with a familiar face on it.
“Look!”, he said.
“What?”, I replied
“Where?”, added Billy
“Up there! It’s Meltin’ John!”, said Gordon.
Billy chuckled. “Hehehe! So it is.”
“The mad bastard. Anyone got a pen?”, he said.
I pulled an inky out of my pocket and the lads cheered.
Billy climbed onto Gordon’s back but was so pished, he fell straight off. As I was a bit lighter, I jumped on, then successfully clambered onto the Tall One’s shoulders.
“Throw it up to me Billy”, I shouted down at my fallen comrade.
Billy launched the inky upward and I caught it with one hand.
I popped the cap and used the marker to draw a moustache, Tony Hart style, on John’s youthful ‘visage’.
“Guys”, said Billy.
“What?”, I replied.
“I think you should come down.”
“He’s nearly finished.”
With a flourish, I managed to add the word ‘Warhead’ onto John’s napper.
“Now would be a good time…”, said Billy. “Good evening officer.”
A pair of Strathclyde’s finest boys in blue stood behind Gordon, ready to critique my handiwork.
“Would you care to explain what you’re doing, young man?”
Gordon turned around with me, covered in ink, still on his shoulders.
“It’s alright officer,”, I said with a grin. “The Warhead’s our pal.”
In case you missed the previous chapters…
Socrates,Tony Bennett and Toblerone
Wendy, Penelope, Felicity and the First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Scheme Scum
Talking with the Taxman about Duran Duran, Monster Munch and the Nitshill Ball Lickers
Bella Bella, Billy Bremner
Going Down in a Blaze of Pale Custard
Freddie, Edwyn and the Unbearable Lightness of a B&Q Wardrobe
Penthouse and Payment
The Gospel According to Robert Powell, Mad Alco and the Seven-fingered Jesus of Garnethill
No Sleep ‘Til Strathaven