Into Music: The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard – Chapter 4
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
The true story of the greatest band you’ve never heard
Chapter 4 – Bella Bella, Billy Bremner.
‘Yeah, it’s going good. Listen, I won’t be home for dinner. Might be quite late. Don’t worry, I’m doing … alright, I suppose. Love you too Mum.’ I didn’t have the heart to inform her that, due to my small part in some violent squaddie bashing, her eldest was now as hard as fuck.
Approaching 6pm and the office is almost empty, except for me, Gordon and a few other lunchtime revellers waiting to make up the hours on their time cards. No one is working. Gordon, recently returned from the dead file depository with the guitar he stashed there, sits on a couch outside the boss’ office, changing its strings.
‘Wow! A Les Paul! Is it real?’
‘Actually, the guy with the dug from Blue Peter showed me how to make one out of a couple of pipe cleaners, two Fairy Liquid bottles and a strip of sticky backed plastic.’
‘Really?’ I reply.
Gordon, looked at me as if I were thicker than a piece ‘n’ whale, made with doorstop outsiders. He was starting to regret his earlier offer.
‘You sure it’s okay for me to come to the rehearsal?’
‘No problem.’ he sighed.
‘And if you want to come to our rehearsal, that would be no problem for us.’
A short walk from the Tax Office, just over the road, past the North Street flyover to nowhere and we’re on the posh end of Sauchiehall Street; Charing Cross style. And here we are, outside a reinforced door with a brushed chrome plate bearing the legend – SOUND CITY STUDIOS.
Now you’re talking. Abbey Road, The Hit Factory, Electric Ladyland? Baws. In the pantheon of rock studios, Sound City on a Monday night, sits astride Olympus, its reputation as THE House of the Holy as firm as the veiny wang of Zeus. Just look at those pictures. Lloyd Cole and the fucking Commotions…wow! With my first pay cheque, a black polo neck is top of my ‘must purchase’ list. Don’t forget the chebtastic, Kelly Marie …BOO BOO! And everyone’s favourite drug crazed midget swappers, the Krankies. This, my friends, is where rock and roll dreams come true, where legends are born. And right on cue, a heavy set man with a thick moustache appears. He sports sky-blue slacks and a gaudy, yellow v-neck jumper, the kind beloved by golfers of the day, replete with even gaudier lilac argyle lozenges, with nothing underneath. His chest is so manfully hirsute that Hercules the Bear shat a brick with jealousy. Imagine Des Lynham if he grew up on the Gallowgate.
The owner of this magnificent torso mane was called Raymond but Glasgow knew him by his sobriquet…Raw Sex. Well, isn’t it obvious? Just look at the provocative pout, the purposeful gait and those moobs…wow. This man was a 36 C sized, bona fide predator. In the future, he starts a company which manufactures deodorant and unbelievably, women fall at the feet of those who wear his scent. So dangerous does it become that legislation is brought into place to curtail such wantonly lascivious behaviour. In fact, the courts eventually introduce a register for men just like him. It’s called the Sexy Bastard Register.
‘Room 5 guys.’ he said, leading the band down the corridor and into a small room which stunk of stale smoke, sweat and dust burning from overheated exposed amplifier valves.
Mr Raw Sex leaned up against the door, suggestively. ‘Mel ….baby. Looking mighty fine tonight, so you are’
This stunningly attractive woman ignored the obvious charms of the proprietor and gave Gordon a hug.
‘I’m still shaking from last night.’ she said to him.
Oh, come on! Is big cheery, smiley Gordon a sexual machine too?
She walked over to the synthesizer and switched it on. Gordon spied me ogling and had a quick word in my shell like.
‘That’s Mel’ he said. ‘Tongue back in. And don’t be getting any ideas. She’s off limits. Her boyfriend is not to be messed with.’
Mel smiled at me and I instantly semi’ed.
If Gordon wouldn’t mess with her boyfriend, far be it from me to overstep the mark. Still, I store her image in the spank bank for later.
A young man, closer to my own age then entered the room. Gordon introduced me to him ‘Armando, this is George.’
Armando, or Mondo as he was more commonly known, was the wide boy king of the Glasgow club scene. He really was a cool dude and seemingly a big ladies man. He was also a very fine drummer, when he could be arsed. His mullet was naturally curly, not the permed Charlie Nicholas version that us non-Mediterraneans were forced to endure. In the future, he became quite respectable and pretended not to have been involved in anything remotely illicit. Like sourcing alternative rehearsal spaces in a whorehouse, for instance, and other things not fit for public consumption.
Mondo smiled at me. ‘Nice suit mate. Gordon, where’s the bold yin?’
The door opened and the ‘bold yin’ appeared. The yin to Gordon’s yang. Like a hungover ginger Yoda, wearing a ripped white denim jacket with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. It’s dark, we’re indoors, he’s wearing shades. And I can’t work out if he’s a fucking bum or the coolest guy in the entire postal district. This was ‘The Bold Yin’ and he was intense. Imagine Billy Bremner, if Don Revie gave the Leeds boys peyote and absinthe on the coach back to Yorkshire instead of oranges and bottles of Best. With a firm grip of my hand, he removes his shades and stares right into my ancestry.
‘Billy.’ he growls.
‘George’ I whimper.
Yep, I’m intimidated. I look for a place to sit as they tune up. Note to self, what a fine concept tuning is. I must remember to employ this tuning malarkey one day. Shit, they sound 20 times better than us and they’re just plugging in. Yikes! There was a brief moment of silence before Mondo counted off…
And it hit me. It was as if someone had poured molten metal into my ear drum, boring through the tympanic membrane, filtering into my jaw bone and straight into the cavities where my numerous fillings sat undisturbed moments earlier. I can honestly say that I have never heard anything louder….or cooler in my entire life. Three hours pass in no time.
‘Pub?’ said Gordon before the last note rang out.
‘Nico’s. C’mon youngster’ says Billy. ‘ Let’s pour your brains back into your head. Hehehe!
Billy’s laugh was deep and guttural. I really like this guy.
Halfway up Sauchiehall Street towards town, Nico’s was busy. A Glasgow bar in the style of a French Bistro, it was the pub of choice for the city’s arty types and a place I’d only heard spoken of in hushed tones. Normally, a skinny scheme wank like me would never get past the door, even on a Monday but the bouncer welcomed our party and in we sauntered. Within seconds, I’m confronted by a wiry, intensely aggressive man.
‘Who the fuck are you?’ he asked.
His name was Devon, a cousin of Billy’s. He shared the same fiery red hair and managed their band.
He pushed right up to me, the suit wearing interloper. I tried to ignore him but he repeated his question.
‘I said, who the fuck are you?’
Just as I’m about to answer…
‘Have you heard the new demo, man? It’s brilliant, flawless, peerless. It’s like….the Eagles but with guitars.’
‘With a bit of Floyd. But with controlled mentalness, you know?’ he pointed to his head, as if his odd description made more sense within one’s cranium.
‘Eh..yeah…I heard it today.’ I said.
He grabbed me by the lapels. ‘How did you hear it? Have you been making copies? You’d better not be selling it behind my back, ya little prick!’
‘Easy. He’s with me.’ said Gordon assertively.
‘You should’ve said, tall one.’ his demeanour pivoting to the friendly and the sane. ‘Devon Duncan, band manager, producer, impresario, entrepreneur…you’re a good looking kid …with a nice suit.’ he said, offering his hand.
I didn’t know what to say except…
‘I’m in a band. We’re called the Molo…’
‘Hawl Lloyd! What kind of fucking name is the Commotions?’
And just like that, he was gone.
That was Devon to a tee. Backed his band with evangelical zeal and took personally any slight or rejections. Imagine a filofax carrying Scientologist on Ephedrine and E-numbers and you’d be roughly in the vicinity. A one-time RAF pilot who had an accident with a waltzer in Chesterfield which left him slightly unhinged and very mischievous. For example, he once convinced me that if I rubbed certain tiny tomatoes on my lips, then I would get incredibly high. Desperate for a buzz, I jumped straight in only to find that the tomatoes were in fact, chilli peppers. An easy mistake for someone who sent his first proper pizza back to kitchen as it looked raw and not deep fried.
I would spend an inordinate amount of time chasing ridiculous highs with this man; a man who had more belief in me than virtually anyone I’ve met.
Right, back to the pub and the band take up residence in a prime spot, by the staircase. I squeeze into a spot where I can check myself in the mirror. I like this a lot. I can see me and…
‘No way! Is that Hipsway?’ I ask.
Billy, slugging back an ice cold bottle of Furstenberg, nods impassively.
‘And The Blue Nile, awww… I love them’.
Billy greeted one of the members.
Now, you have to remember that this is a bit of a jump for me. Wet behind the ears a few hours ago to sharing air with real rock legends like…
‘Claire fucking Grogan! Talking to …Lloyd Cole himself!’
This was too much. Popstar overload…don’t do it son…
I walked down the small staircase, approaching their table, and emboldened by the events of the day, said…
He draws me a classic moody look which translates into Glaswegian as ‘Get tae fuck, ya loser. Can’t you see I’m talking to Clare fucking Grogan?’
Which at this particular time, was a pretty fair point.
‘Nice suit’ said Clare, coyly and in an instant, I’ve become Gregory. Only in this version, she’s grown tired of his goofy pish and is up the town looking for some cool cunt with a black polo neck and a quiff.
Billy escorted the crestfallen me back up to the ‘band HQ’ by the mirrors. ‘Don’t worry about them. Look around. Everywhere, there are lost souls, looking for answers and a way through all of this. Just like them. Just like us.’
‘I thought they’d be cooler.’
‘Cool is subjective.’ Billy said. ‘Don’t hunt for cool. Cool will find you. You might have to lose that suit though. So, Gordon tells me you’ve got a band?’
‘Aye, but we’re not very good.’ I sigh. Full disclosure. I can’t lie to this guy.
‘What are you doing tomorrow night?’ asked Billy
‘Come over to the flat. We’ve got an old tape machine you can have, if you want it.’
‘We’ve all had to get our hearts broken. And anyway, Lloyd Cole’s a walloper.’
Night time in Glasgow…lights shine over the city as a tired but young singer walks back home.
One of life’s simplest pleasures can also be one of its greatest. I am now walking a path on which I am about to experience many of life’s great delicacies. But sometimes it doesn’t get any better than this. A bag of chips from the Chinese Take Away on a cold night. I check my pockets. 10p left.
‘Sorry…sorry..I know it’s late…no, I’ve not cut my hair yet…Is Brido…Ok thanks…No, I won’t mess this up…Bri..question. Hands up if you’ve ever got your band a gig? Yaaaaassss! Serious man, we’ve got a gig! Better call Donny and Jamesey. We’re going to have to step things up. All of us. No fucking about. And another thing. We need a tuner.’
I turn the key, to open the front door and enter the house quietly. It’s well past midnight and the chips didn’t last even one of the six miles I’ve just walked. I took off my shoes, walk up the hall and peek into the living room to find my Mum sitting up waiting for me, with two of my brothers in their pyjamas, asleep on the couch.
‘There’s my number one. How was it? Did you have a good first day?’ she said, stirring from her chair beside the fire.
I smile. ‘Yeah…it was alright.’
‘I’ll put the kettle on and you can tell me all about it.’
I untangle my brothers’ legs to make space to sit on the couch. I loosen my tie, and pull it off, over my head.
‘Did you make some new friends?’
Yep. It was alright. And the suit wasn’t that bad.
In case you missed the first three 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