Into Music: The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard – Chapter 11
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
The true story of the greatest band you’ve never heard
Chapter 11 – Barrowland or Bust
Disregard the rubble near the foot of my bed. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Following the Polydor debacle, we made a conscious decision to be more selective in our future vetting processes. Billy’s flatmate Stevie joined as a second guitarist following a tour of the Highlands with one of the top three freakiest bills he’d ever been on. I suppose that when you witness Ben E. King tell three younger Drifters to keep the noise down while they took turns with a diminutive TV star as her old man alternated between pulling his lens into focus and pulling the heid right aff it, being Gordon’s wingman was going to be a stroll in the park.
Young Jim finally finished school … sorry, college and joined us as our full time little drummer boy. Though it did cause him a few ructions at home.
“Now, have you got your spare pants?”, asked Jim’s mum, flattening down his hair.
“Yes mum…”, he replied, immediately spiking it back up.
“Stop fussing over him, woman!”, said Jim’s dad. “Here. Take this.” Jim’s dad slipped him a crisp £20 note.
“Just in case, son. You make sure you call your mother when you arrive, you hear?”
“Sure thing Dad.”
As her boy walked down the path, away from the family home, the strain of saying goodbye became too much for Jim’s mum. “You will write?”, she wailed, through the tears.
“Jesus wept Mum, it’s only Falkirk I’m going to, not the Falklands. I’ll be back tomorrow morning.”
By accident or by design, things were starting to fall into place again. But as we were becoming more discerning in our professional lives, the same could not be said for our personal ones.
Over the last few months, we’d each become quite friendly with the Great Western Girls. Seemingly June had a thing for a good old tramp in the woods. The Bold Yin fit the bill in that department and though he was game for most things, he did find June’s dog constantly lapping at his bare arse less edifying than most of her other horizontal rambling companions did.
Gordon knocked it off with fellow lover of all things equestrian, Jackie. If I said that the Tall One rode her like a 13st Lester Piggott, that might be construed as crass so I’ll refrain.
Under my duvet, was the third member of the infamous triptych, Jill. Working out of a large and very fashionable apartment on the Great Western Road, these lovely sirens occasionally threw us hungry dogs a bone, free of charge, just to keep themselves match fit. In the future, one of the three opened a health food store, another married a footballer from a Glasgow club that plays in blue and the third found God and moved to the Hebrides but at this point, all of that seemed a long way off. Jill was athletic, pretty and loved to play with a large latex dildo that she’d named Alberto, after a laconic friend of ours from Sao Paolo. As confident as I appeared, I found her dirty dirk of doom quite intimidating. Nevertheless, Jill was determined to find a temporary home for it, right in the depths of my disused subway. She also inadvertently introduced me to the world of psychotropic drugs…
“Go on…get back down there…”, she said, forcing me under the covers. “I really want you to do it.”
“Not a fucking chance.”, I said. “It’ll be like winching a stab wound on a gorilla’s back. Far too …weird.”
“Nonsense”, she said. “It’s perfectly natural. And besides, I’ve kissed yours, so…fair’s fair.”
“This tongue is not a spurtle, Myrtle. It’s not built for stirring porridge, you know what I mean?”
Jill sighed in frustration. “Look, what if I added something to the deal? A little sweetener.”
“I’m listening…”, I said, curious.
She reached over into her handbag and removed a small packet. She opened it and sucked on her finger.
“Right, I’m going to put something down there and you’ve got to lick it up.”
“What is it?”, I asked nervously. “It’s not Alberto, is it?”
“Don’t be silly. It’s only a powder.”
“Like sherbet?”, I replied.
“Eh…something like that.”
I’m up for a little Dib Dab, I thought. What the hell? One single, perfunctory lap can’t hurt.
“Check the expiry date on that” I said. “I think it’s gone off.”
By this point, we were both longing for a lip smacking length of licorice.
“Here…try a bit more”, she said.
Welcome to the pharmaceutical age.
Here we fucking go! Once I’d got the taste, a horse with a V8 Engine strapped to its undercarriage couldn’t have dragged me out of there. I was in, face deep, like a famished drunk tearing into a well packed kebab. It would take hours before I was able to stop speaking like a stroke victim and days before my racing heartbeat returned back to anywhere approaching normal. Ordinarily, this would cost some hapless chump an arm and a leg but here I was getting free quantum mechanics lessons from Einstein. If Einstein was a hooker with a footlong research assistant named Alberto, that is. And I have to admit, her Brownian Motion was a masters class all of it’s own but I digress. These breakthroughs aside, I had other matters I couldn’t ignore any longer.
A couple of hours earlier, we were in bed. There was a creak and a groan and suddenly, part of the roof caved in, landing near the bed with a heavy – and dusty – thud.
That was close.
As God is my voyeuristic witness, I turned to Jill and said,
“How was that for you?”
The need for new accommodation had been playing on my mind for a few weeks now. Relationships with the other tenants had become strained to say the least. The guy from bedsit number 1, directly next door to me, was a miserable, middle aged bequiffed greaser called Pat who’d decided one morning that he’d had enough of my disruptive comings and goings. So rather than talk to me about my failings as a housemate, as most mature adults would, he tooled up like he was back at some fifties fairground in Faifley, reliving his own misspent youth. Armed with a pair of scissors and a zippo lighter, Showaddypaddy came at me.
“Come here ya little bastard!”, he yelled, his ubiquitous cigarette dangling from his lips. “I’ve had enough of your fucking nonsense and constant noise. First, I’m gonna burn your hair and then I’m gonna cut your bollocks aff!”
“Arrggghhhhhh!”, I yelped, as he chased me around the house and into the communal kitchen. Caught in a trap, I can’t get out.
“Got you now…”, said the drape wearing Devil in Disguise, slowing down, savouring the catch.
Then, just as my manhood – and my mane – faced the real possibility of unwarranted modification, there was an almost comical clang of a heavy frying pan, scudding off the back of Quiff Richard’s napper, Tom and Jerry style.
His eyes rolled like they’d just got a free shot on the Waltzers. The old rocker timbered like a felled redwood, smashing face first onto the tiled floor of the kitchen. Standing behind him, circular lightsabre in hand, was the unlikeliest of heroes; my protector, wee Alex!
“Nobody hurts my Georgie.”, he said.
Oh, I forgot to tell you. One of the six inhabitants of the flat was none other than the tax office sweetie man, Alex. And he never stopped trying to get me to sample his special edition, purple Mars Bar. Listen, I have nothing against those who want to experiment with manly love but after my run in with Alberto, I decided to enforce a rule which is not up for debate. George’s Anal rule number 1 states that ‘Nothing thicker than a neatly manicured female pinky shall pass into one’s batcave during the heat of passion.’
“Thanks Alex. How can I ever repay you?”, I said, relieved.
“How about letting me give you a Star Wars?”, he replied with a twinkle in all three of his eyes.
“A Star Wars?”
“Aye, a Hand Solo.”
I laughed. God loves a trier, if not a wanker.
“I’ll give you £20…”, he said.
“Look, I appreciate your help with Pat and all that but get real wee man!’
“Ok,” he said, “How about this? Watch me shoot my load and I’ll gie you a tenner.”
What could I say to that except…
So much for the age of innocence, eh? But I can assure you, no rules were broken during the making of this scene.
Over at Nico’s later that evening, drinks had been ordered. The rooked Donny and Brido counted their coins on the bar.
“I’ll get these lads.”, I said, slapping down a fresh £10 note.
“Nice. You come into money?”
“You could say that.”, I said. “Still looking for a flatmate, Skull?”
So Donny and I started looking for a new place. But money was tight. I’d quit my job and there’s only so many times a straight man can watch a gay guy play with himself. Mondo’s Hipsway brain freeze and the Polydor debacle put paid to us supporting Big Country at the Barrowland. Word gets around in a town like Glasgow. The gig went to a bunch of fucking smily pop bedwetters from Dumbarton named Softly, Softly. Even the Molotovs were playing more than us. One thing that I’d learned was that the music business, at the level we were operating at, was just a big game of adders and ladders. People like Myra Blackman, now writing for the NME, were still flying the flag but the only high profile gig that was on offer was the All Nighter at the University, supporting Doctor and the Medics and a local goth band. But if we wanted to keep climbing the rungs, beggars couldn’t be choosers.
The All Nighter was always a popular event. The last big University party before the Christmas season started, it wasn’t unusual to have crowds in the high hundreds attending, especially when hit bands were booked. I managed to secure passes for Donny and Brido so they were delighted to swap the hard pulling graft of Nico’s for a much less troublesome combo of uninhibited medical students and vats of subsided booze. As the headliners, Doctor and the Medics got their own quarters. We were further down the hall, sharing a dressing room with the goth band who were huddled nervously in one corner of the large rec room.
What I should explain at this juncture is that our fee for the gig, £100, had been spent in Nico’s prior to the show and our rider, two cases of strong Belgian lager, had barely got us through the soundcheck. That’s why, when they were setting up their gear, we forced the door and snatched Doctor and the Medics’ supply. I have since apologised to Dr Clive so there’s no need to reopen the cold case on that particular incident. At the time though, our need was greater than theirs. All nighters were deceptively dangerous, particularly when you don’t go on until 4am. But our spirits were high and I had my eye on a very special girl. And her name was Holly.
About a week earlier, I was in Precinct Records, looking for vinyl. I picked up a second hand copy of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs In the Key of Life’. A very good looking girl approached me.
“I love that album.”, she said.
“Me too!”, I said.
“Right, after three. Favourite song on the album.”
“One, two, three…I Wish”, we said in unison.
“You’re George aren’t you? You sing with that band…”
“Well spotted.”, I replied.
“I saw you the night you supported Hipsway.”
“I liked it.”, she lied.
“We were…eh… going through a transitional phase…we’ve got some new songs now.”, I said, digging a hole.
“Cool. I look forward to seeing you again. Your band, that is”, she said, blushing.
“We’re playing the University all nighter on Friday.”
She knows? I thought. She leant forward and whispered in my ear.
“I was the one who booked you.”
She handed me a University flyer, kissed me on the cheek and walked out of the shop. I stood there with my mouth open for a good two to three minutes.
And that was Holly. She was lovely. As Stevie might say, ‘I wish those days…could…come back once more’. She specialised in anatomy. I could spoil this beautiful moment with a cheap innuendo, but again, I’ll refrain.
Back in our dressing room, Billy and Stevie were showing off, stuffing pool balls down their trousers, making the goths even more uncomfortable than they were before. Jim was completely unfazed by his impending debut and was practicing paradiddles on the edge of the pool table. Gordon was spread over a couple of benches, sleeping off the effects of a mighty session. An inebriated Devon decided that this was the right time to give inebriated me a lecture on inebriation.
“You cannot drink any more.”, he said. “That’s enough…”
“But you’re drunk…”, I replied
“So? I’m not going on stage in 10 fucking minutes.”
“I’m knackered!”. I said with a sigh. “I need another drink and I’m shiteing myself! What do you want me to do?”
Devon looked around and surreptitiously gave me a small clear packet with the word ‘London’ written on it.
“This is a one off.”, he said. “Just don’t take it all and ….don’t tell the boys that I gave you cocaine”
Cocaine? What’s the worst that could happen?
Soon enough it was showtime and the tired crowd, though not as large as earlier, remained enthusiastic. Holly, the MC, took to the stage.
“You alright???”, she shouted.
A mild cheer went up.
“I said…are you ALL NIGHT???”
The audience responded.
“I want you to give a big University welcome for Scotland’s best kept secret, Glasgow’s own….WHITE!!”
A fair round of applause later and the band bounded onto the stage.
“Where’s George?”, asked Gordon, plugging in.
“Where’s George?”, said Brido to Donny
“Where’s George?”, Holly asked Billy.
“Where the fuck is George?”, scowled Devon, off stage.
“Who the fuck is George?”, replied Donny, half caned.
The answer to the first question was standing atop a ten foot stack of speakers, that’s where.
The second was a bit more existential but here goes. There I was, shirtless, messiah’ed out my nut, ready to sonically spooge my wad over five kilowatts of ear bleeding power.
“Glasgowwwww!!!!!!!”, I shouted.
There was a cheer. Not much but a cheer.
“Let me hear you….”, I screamed. “Glasgowwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!”
Now I’ve got their attention. That’s when the crowd started chanting…
“Jump, jump, jump….”
Sober, I’m fucking terrified of heights. But pished and hitting El Diego levels of jiggerycokery, this was my ‘golden god’ moment. If you don’t want to know the score, best look away now.
I’m not one hundred percent sure but I think I yelled the words ‘Kick out the Motherfuckers!’ as I leapt from the PA – to a huge roar, I might add – down onto the stage, crashing into Jim’s drum riser, Iggy style, while simultaneously inventing Mic Stand Jenga.
Jim, unfazed as ever, counted us off and the band launched into the first number.
Come on, I thought. Let’s show these lazy student bastards what we’re all about.
I got up, fixed my hair, grabbed the microphone and prepared to give my audience the good stuff but oddly, nothing happened. Not a peep. Politely and professionally, I made my concerns known to the sound man.
“Turn it up, ya choob!”
Still no vocals. For some reason, the rest of the band was giving me the stink eye but instead of stopping in solidarity with their silenced front man, they continued playing. This was mutinous. Completely unacceptable!
Again, I motioned towards the sound man.
“You! Yes, you!”, I shouted. “If you don’t turn my mic up, I’ll come over there and kick your fucking head in. Got it?”
If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll already know that I’m a lifelong shitebag so that outburst was probably the drugs talking.
The sound man gestured towards me but I was too far gone. Dangling over the precipice, foaming at the mouth in rage, I screamed in impotent rage.
At that moment, Stevie removed his guitar and walked over to me, still frothing. He bent down and picked up the lead which fell out when I landed on the stage. With a shake of his head, he held it in front of my face before plugging it back in, instantly amplifying me. The soundman stood up, growled at me and drew his finger across his throat.
Fuck, he’s quite big. Guys back me up here…guys…?
From the look on their faces, I’m going to be facing this demon alone.
There are no words…
The next morning, I woke, in an unfamiliar flat, naked and wedged between a sofa and a cold wall.
It felt like John Phillip Souza had joined the Orange Order for a march off in my skull.
I pulled myself up and looked over the cushions. A group of what looked to the untrained eye to be students in their natural habitat, grazing on wheat based foodstuffs from ceramic bowls, which meant that this could be anytime of the day. Or night.
“Hey, he’s awake.”, said a student with a sensible haircut. “Holly, looks like your friend has re-entered earth’s atmosphere.”
Where the fuck am I? And who the fuck are you? I thought.
“Where the fuck am I? And who the fuck are you?”, I said, my filter shield still down.
“Good morning sleepy head.”, said Holly, throwing me my shirt.
I looked around the room but couldn’t spot the rest of my clothing. Just the shirt. I pulled it down as far as I could, to preserve my modesty. Damn, that was a cold morning.
“Breakfast?”, she asked.
So this is what breakfast looks like, I thought.
I nodded and took the one free seat at the table. The shock of the cold metal against my bare butt made me jump.
“You might want to take your strides off the ceiling and put them on mate.” smirked one of Holly’s student friends.
I looked up and saw my jeans hanging from the ornate light fitting.
The single worst aspect of being a drunkard is undoubtedly the following day. That ominous drip feed of information that you thought you’d obliterated the night before, returning to torment you, one devastating droplet at a time.
Being dragged away from sound man who wanted to kill me, Gordon and Billy shouting at me, Holly dragging me into a cab, throwing up in the cab, being punched by the driver of said cab, dancing around Holly’s living room, calling her flatmates wankers, flying through the air and landing on the remains of a birthday cake that was on the table, being attacked by an angry wanker flatmate and owner of said cake, stripping naked, more Iggy dancing, climbing onto the couch then falling off, knocking myself out as Holly tried in vain to lift 140lbs of a snoring dead weight. Over the next few hours, it all came back to me.
King of the World or a drunken fuckhead? The phone lines are now open. This narrow path, I will tread most of my adult life.
“Holly?”, I ask. “Can I make a couple of calls?”
“Sure”, she replied. “But first, let’s get you cleaned up. You can’t share my bed if you’re covered in blood and cake, can you?”
Spoiler alert. The cake thing will become a bit of a theme as we delve deeper into the story and I still haven’t figured out why. But wasn’t this woman a saint? Why did I not spend more time with her? I’ll tell you why. I was an ungrateful waster who, at the time, didn’t appreciate the people that passed my way, that shared a moment or two with me, showed me kindness that I rarely deserved. Especially those who didn’t turn the sky black while cursing me. I’m glad I remember them. Someone once said that memory is the treasury and guardian of all things. I like that. I’m glad I remember Holly…she was lovely. Worked hard, qualified as a doctor, then became a lecturer at the very same University she rescued me from that drunken Friday night. I heard she married a decent, hardworking guy called Alan and they had twin sons. A few years later, she was rushing to a lecture, crossing Argyle Street near the old Western Infirmary when she was hit by a car. She fought for weeks…
Holly led me into her bathroom and helped me into the tub. She squeezed in behind me, and gently washed away the sins of the previous night.
I wish those days … could … come back once more…
Later that afternoon, Holly had to go visit her folks out in the sticks so I headed back towards home. I traipsed around the Botanics for a while before walking down the Great Western Road to Chimmy’s. This is where I’d come when I just wanted to be alone for a while. The staff were cool and were quite happy to serve me up free coffee refills while I sat, listening to some jazz, pretending to know what the fuck it’s all about, watching the world go by. Like being bohemian but with a safety net, suffering for your art by just feeling sorry for yourself. Whatever it was, I needed a bit of this right now.
As I finished my umpteenth coffee, a smooth looking fellow approached me.
“Hey man”, he said. “Sorry to bother you but…the Uni last night. That was you, wasn’t it? “
Aw shit. I’ll never live this down.
“Err…Yes.”, I said, blushing.
“That was fucking awesome mate.”, he said. “One of the best gigs I’ve seen in years. Your band is really good. Have you got any records?”
“I’m going to call my flatmate. He’s going to be stoked that you’re here. Are you hanging around? Can I get you a drink?”, he said.
I clutched my cup and said, “No thanks, I’m fine mate.”
“I’m Crawfie by the way”, he said. “I own the bar. Would you guys be interested in playing here? We can’t offer much…”
My ears pricked up.
“I’m afraid we can’t go over £200. Would love to but that’s the limit, I’m afraid. We can give you beer tokens though.”
What do you think the £200 is going to be?
“I’ll speak to the boys and we’ll let you know.”, I said. This could help drag me out of the doghouse.
As Crawfie went off to call his mate, I saw Devon sprinting past the window of the pub.
I banged on the window, catching his attention. He doubled back and held a newspaper up to the window.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?” I shouted through the window. “Thatcher plans to privatise Scotland? Clive Sinclair has a robotic cock?”
Devon shook his head, and pointed to a column which said…
‘Softly Softly pull out of Barrowland show‘
My eyes lit up…Devon nodded.
I ran out of the bar to get clarification.
“I’ve been trying to call you.”, said Devon, breathless.
“I still don’t have a phone, Devon.”, I replied.
“Need to find the rest of the guys.”
“What the hell happened?”
“The big cheque they received from Polydor must have cleared because they’ve just fucked off to New York for the foreseeable. Big Country’s promoters are furious but Myra managed to find them a last minute substitute.”
“Yep. The band that after last night, everyone is talking about.”
As it was a Saturday afternoon, Devon correctly figured, that Gordon would be in one of the local Turf Accountants, standing in a munro of scrunched up betting slips. Jim would be in his bedroom, adding the finishing touches to his latest model aeroplane; a 1:48 scale MiG 21 fighter. And the Bold Yin?
“I’ll get Billy.”, I said.
I took the Number 57 over to the Pollokshaws Road, walked up the two flights and rapped on his reinforced metal door. As all the gear was at Billy’s, security was paramount. There was no answer so I put my hand through the letterbox and grabbed the key which hung on a string. What? Who’s going to fucking burgle him? I unlocked the door and tried to push it open but it appeared to be blocked.
“Who’s there?”, a voice whispered.
“It’s me.”, I said. “Is that you Stevie?”
Stevie opened the door. He was wearing a micro kimono again.
“Jesus, I thought you were someone else…”, he said.
I headed straight for the kitchen. “Sorry mate, didn’t mean to wake you. Have you seen Billy? We’ve got amazing news.”
“Er…don’t go in there…”, said Stevie.
I grabbed the kettle and filled it up
“You’ll never believe it. Softly Softly have buggered off to the States and we’re playing the…”
As I flipped the switch on, standing behind the door was Myra Blackman, naked and desperately trying to cover up her modesty.
“..the Barrowland?” she said.
Turned out Myra’s influence reached far and wide. Stevie was just thanking her on our behalf.
He threw on a pair of pants and took me up to a ladder which led through the skylight and onto the roof. It was bitterly cold but Billy, sitting on an upturned fruit crate, heating soup on a makeshift fire he’d built, didn’t seem to mind.
“Recovered from last night?”
“Kind of.”, I replied, sheepishly. “I take it you heard about the Barrowland?”
“Yeah. Myra broke it to us.”
“Bold Yin, I…I made a bit of an arse of it last night…”
“Youngster, there’s a time for everything under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die. A time to reap, a time to sow. A time to get fucked off your gourd on coke…”
“And a time to do my job?”
“It couldn’t hurt”, he said, offering me some soup. “I will say this though. After you went, the amount of people that came up to us asking about buying our records, people wanted to book us…the response was incredible. But your swan dive off the speakers…”
Billy laughed. “That was pure gold. We might be onto something.”
We clinked our soup mugs.
The winter sun set over Glasgow and the good news spread to all corners of the city. Myra and Stevie snuggled up, Gordon finally backed a winner at 15/2, Devon bought a magnum of Champers and paid a visit to the Great Western Girls, and Jim, still wearing his housecoat, walked down the garden path, into his Dad’s shed and took the covers off his drum kit. Incredible, wasn’t it? I was a few weeks short of my nineteenth birthday and I’d just crowd surfed into the biggest gig of my life, supporting Big Country at the Barrowland. Never kid yourself. Nothing is ever as you planned it. If you’d shown the celestial draughtsmen your blueprint, they’d just pish themselves laughing before taking a pair of scissors and going all Tony Hart on it. It’s still fundamentally the same, the margins don’t change but it rarely ends up the way you thought it might. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s a pain in the hole. Best to shut the fuck up, do your damnedest and throw fate to the wind. And try to treat people a little nicer. That’s not going to hurt, is it? There is no magic formula. If there is, we have little control over it. We’re merely blind men walking through a maze, with shoes on the wrong feet but with our pockets crammed full of sweets and candy. The trick is to share them with everyone you meet and hope that they let you sample theirs. That’s probably as close as I can describe this odd journey.
And fame? Is that what this was all about? I’m not sure anymore. I just like the connections. You can’t look for serendipity. Be it a roof caving in, being protected by a desperate sex elf or watching a bunch of soul fakers disappear to New York, leaving you their cast offs. It’s happening all around you. Sometimes, you prepare for the eventualities only to find yourself disappointed by an unseen, external agent. Sometimes, you just sort of hit and hope. And sometimes, as a passing pigeon dropped an unexpected gift into the Bold Yin’s broth, sometimes you’re just asking for it.
For the next week or so, we rehearsed in a mainly drink free environment, carried out our first radio interviews – with Tom Russell, no less – a greater volume of press than we’ve ever done before – thanks again Myra – and took more new bookings than Graeme Souness.
So here we were, the day of the gig, carrying equipment down to the van. It was probably the biggest occasion of my life and from the looks of things, Glasgow was now twinned with Siberia. The streets, the buildings, white with three feet of snow. Shit. Let’s get to the venue before any more serendipity shites in our soup.
We reached Barrowland and skidded to a stop. By the decrepit front door, Myra stood waiting.
“I don’t want you to get upset boys but…”
“What’s the problem?”, asked Gordon
From inside the building, Devon appeared.
“It seems that Big Country are a bunch of fucking Fifer faggots.”, he said.
“What?”, asked a confused Billy.
“They’re stuck in Denmark, snowed in.”, said Myra. “No flights in or out.”
“Shitebags.”, growled Devon. “They knew….they fucking knew we were going to put on a better show than that Softly, Softly shower of shite so they’ve bailed on us.”
“Devon, trust me, Big Country would never pull out of a show if they could avoid it.”, said Myra. “And especially not here. I spoke to their tour manager an hour ago, they genuinely can’t get out of Copenhagen.”
“What if they drive to Germany and get a flight from there?”, I said, starting to panic.
Myra shook her head.
“Well, that’s it then?”, said Devon, throwing his arms in the air.
“Hang on a minute.”, said Gordon. “Big Country might be in Denmark but we’re still here. We can still play.”
“I’d be up for that.” said Jim
“Me too.” said Billy, keen.
“They’ve been refunding fans all morning.” said Devon.
“But White fans have been buying tickets all week.”, said Myra, warming to the idea. “And in decent numbers too. If we can convince them to leave the show on, refund any Big Country fans who want their money back…”
We all made a beeline to the office of the Barrowlands under pressure manager.
“It could work.”, he said. “Anything’s better than an empty venue. But you’ll need to organise and pay for a support band yourselves.”
“I can do that.”, I said.
And with that, we were back on. But how full would it be? We weren’t willing to give up the dream of playing at the Barrowland just because of a bit of snow. OK, a lot of snow.
We popped our heads out of the still open door to the Gallowgate. The few mad bastards who were out walking in this blizzard could only do so at a forty five degree angle.
For the next hour or so, we commandeered every payphone in the Calton. Devon and Myra called Clyde, Radio Scotland and the speaking fucking clock to tell them categorically, that the show was still on.
My call mixed business with the personal.
“Yes, the gig is on. Big Country are stuck in Denmark so we’re headlining. I know, I know but listen…”, I said. “we need a support band…”
I moved the earpiece away to appreciate the full extent of Donny’s disbelieving scream.
“..alright calm down. It’s only going to work if you bring as many people as you can. You need to start calling now.”
The Molotovs hit the stage at eight. Back in our dressing room, there was more nervous apprehension than there should’ve been before a gig of this magnitude. From my customary pre-gig toilet position, I forced the narrow window open a crack. Under the orange street light, it was clear that conditions hadn’t improved.
Son of a fucking bitch. Serendipity? I thought. You can shove it up your fucking ringpiece. Of all the nights…of all the fucking nights…
I pulled up my jeans and re-entered the fray.
“Five minutes guys.” said the stagehand. “Have a great show.”
“Just treat it like any other night.”, said Billy. “Doesn’t matter who made it. Just another gig.”
“At least we’re playing the Barrowland.” said Gordon.
“Exactly.”, said Jim “What would you rather be doing? Playing here or…”
“Sitting at home pulling your pud to 3-2-1?”, I said, getting into the spirit of things. “Damn right. Let’s get into this.”
“No guts, no glory…no stories to tell?” said Gordon with a smile.
“That’s more like it. C’mon!” said Devon rallying the band.
“Fuck the snow!” shouted Stevie.
And to the tune of ‘Here We Go, Here We Go, we marched towards the stage chanting, Fuck the Snow.
We passed the Molotovs as they walked off the stage. Not one of them spoke.
“How was it?”, I said, concerned.
Brido pulled a goofy face and shrugged, smiling. Andy looked dazed and ignored me completely.
I looked at Donny. He grabbed me and said. “Fucking do it!”
I couldn’t look out towards crowd. We’d be lucky to get twenty people out on a night like this. Thirty at a push. In a big venue. What an embarrassment. I just couldn’t look…
We arrived onstage to one fucking mighty roar.
I turned to the audience and saw faces and faces. Holly, Myra, Davie, Crawfy and Wee Alex, the Great Western Girls, Mondo, big Meltin’ John, all at the front. So many faces.
By day, it might look a bit scabby but at night, the Barrowland Ballroom sparkles into life. The seat-free venue holds two thousand people, perhaps a bit more. The Stones, U2, Simple Minds, Dylan, they’ve all played here. If you’re from Glasgow, regardless of persuasion, this is your one common temple. Now ours may not have been the biggest gig the old place had seen but I’d argue dollars to donuts that this crowd of six, maybe seven hundred hardy souls was the most passionate, devoted and brilliant crowd it had ever witnessed. People came from all over the place, in snow that would make Captain Oates say ‘Fuck it, I’m staying in tonight to pull my pud over 3-2-1’.
As Jim counted us in, I thought of Big Country, stuck in Denmark. If they would’ve made the gig, it would have been a full house. But it would have been their full house.
This was all ours.
EWTRTW will return in Episode 12 – The Wrath of Grapes.
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