Into Music: The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard – Chapter 5
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
The true story of the greatest band you’ve never heard
Chapter 5 – Going Down in a Blaze of Pale Custard
The Rock Garden on Queen Street was just the kind of place for a cool band get together.The singer from Hipsway works behind the bar, for Christ’s sake. And seeing as we’re an in demand combo, discussing vitally important shit about our forthcoming gig, it was imperative that we boosted our public profile. But as Ethiopia was considering doing a fundraiser for us, we had to settle for the less vaunted but far more cost efficient Sammy Dow’s beside the station.
A rare beam of late spring sunshine burst through the stained glass bay window leading the innumerable specks of dust and ash on a dance around the grimy formica tables and onto the exposed wooden floors. This was about as romantic as a scabby old man’s pub got. We scoured the bar for hot and/or available women to impress but I was reliably informed that the only females allowed in this section – ‘The Snug’ – were those who mop up those manky fag covered floors at sunrise. A quick whip round drummed up enough loose change to secure us 3 halves of lager and a bottle of Sweetheart Stout for Jamesey.
“What about the Cotton Club?” he asked.
“Too expensive.” I replied.
“Dirty Dingwalls?” asked Brido
Donny shook his head. “The bouncers called me a filthy goth. Cheeky cunts. No fucking way are they getting any of our business.”
For the avoidance of doubt, this conversation wasn’t about WHERE we were going to debut our incendiary outfit. It was about where we were going AFTER we played that first gig.
Deciding where to host an aftershow party is one of the most fraught decisions any band has to make. In our case, aiming low, with Dow’s for instance, would hole our already rickety reputation below the waterline. It had to be somewhere relatively cool, yes but it must be a place where we could just go and enjoy ourselves AND listen to quality tunes. A venue where we could dance like fannies yet still be suavey enough to impress a stack of willing lassies.
“And cheap” says Brido.
We nodded in agreement.
A moment of collective realisation, light bulbs pinging on all around the table.
The whole point of getting into music back then, I reckoned, was to become famous. The level of fame we aspired to would come with a number of tangible benefits, one of the most instantaneous being the increased likelihood of hooking up with post-school age young women. Ask any rock star and while they’ll probably give you all the ‘I needed to express myself’ bollocks, the simple truth remained that odd looking, awkward kids, like us, got into the ‘business’ to empty our sacks. In the future, this would be especially true of sesame seed eating vegan nerd rock stars. I was 17 when I started working in the Tax Office and my sexual history was already pretty impressive, I can tell you. Actually, it wasn’t. You could condense the entire time I’d spent inside the opposite sex into the short period it would take to boil a dangerously undercooked egg. Or run a mile. And up against Coe and Ovett, I’d definitely come first. But it didn’t stop me and the minutemen from trying.
Take Mr Super Confident, Donny. On his own, he was a colossus. Scared of nothing. A profane, sociopathic one but a four stringed weapon wielding colossus he certainly was. However, change the ‘weapon’ from four stringed to fleshy and he was as mighty as a baldy Samson. I’m reliably told that one particular date went something like this.
Donny and girl in pub.
They sit in silence.
Donny necks his pint.
Offers the girl a pint.
She says she’s fine.
And that’s about it.
He repeated this pattern for about three hours until he staggered out into the cold night and she fucked off home, aboard the Number 64 to Auchenshuggle, thirsty and unsatisfied. But the bold Skull wasn’t alone on the cock-blocking podium.
There was this time and this girl. She was the friend of the girl Brido was podgering. As her parents were away for the night, something called a Record Session was scheduled in. ‘Record Sessions’ were the 80’s equivalent of 4 teenagers listening to some autotuned DJ sing a repeated phrase from an old song, through the tinniest speaker on a phone, all of which was tolerated in order to get a stinky finger or hopefully, something better. All systems go, we thought. Brido and his girl headed off to another quarter of the house. For me, it started off promisingly too. Loads of mutual fumbling and groping. Dancer. I was trying to get even closer and she was all…
So I was all
“Don’t you want to?”
Then she says,
“Not until we’re engaged.”
So I say
And she goes
“Not until you propose.”
“Good one”, I laugh and try to kiss her again.
She bats me away and sits up, buttoning up her blouse.
“If you’re not going to make it official…”
What the fuck?
And I’m thinking …We just met. Like half an hour ago. I’ve had a deeper relationship with my last bags of chips.
“Don’t you love me?” she said with those big puppy dog eyes, a tactic which, down the line, will no doubt work on some lucky fella but despite the desperate attempts of my action packed genitals to get me down on one knee, it ain’t me you’re looking for, babe.
“Eh…I’ll be back in a minute.” I said, eyeing up the exit.
She was scaring me off and she twigged.
“OK then. You can’t shag me until we’re engaged but … if you say that you love me, you can wank on my tits…’
Keep walking, don’t look back. My shortchanged member and I headed down the dimly lit corridor, looking for the way out.
Where is Brido? I need to tell him I’m out of here.
I opened a door and through the gloom, spot Brido lying under a large girl, on the bed. Her pale, naked rear end visible and moving, like a spotty Hindenburg. Oh the humanity!
Much as the thought of staying to splatter the pale custard on some needy girl appealed to me, there was something else in the pipeline that was even more exciting.
At night, Glasgow, like its inhabitants, changes its look accordingly. The upturned street lights illuminate the ornate cornicing in Blythswood Square, leaving the city centre pavements just dark enough for a different kind of business. The ladies are out and they’re not going anywhere just yet. The lanes behind the Square is where they’ll head, once they get a suitable offer. As Pitt Street cop shop is but a thrown bottle away, the chance of police vs pimp interplay makes the area a risky place to park our fucking van but that’s where we are. Jamesie, Donny, Brido the driver and me were all kitted out in dark clothing and balaclavas. It was time for our final checks.
“Right one more time, who’s on look out?”
Donny and Brido both nominated Jamesey.
“What?” said a terrified looking Jamesey.
“Okay Brido, you grab the tools and Donny, the bags. Remember, if we see the cops, we bolt.”
“But what if we’re caught?’ Jamesey asked.
Donny grabbed him, slamming the guitarist hard against the wall of the van. “You tell the filth nothing!”
Go! Go ! Go!
We leapt out of the van with our buckets, brushes and bags and we billpost the fuck out of every prominent place we can find, including the entire ground floor of my workplace, the local Tax Office. Smart, eh? Hundreds of A2 and A3 sized posters on phone boxes,bus stops, all over the doors of two Chinese restaurants and one parked ambulance.
Suddenly, lights and sirens!
Jamesey let out a yelp.
“Bolt ya rockets!!!” screamed Brido.
We dropped our buckets and brushes, disappearing into the labyrinthian alleys of the city centre. They tried their best to catch us but we were too young and too fast. By the way, handy tip. While trying to outrun the local bacon, it’s best to choose footwear other than cowboy boots. Anyway, the bag containing the flyers and poster splits, spilling a whole host of them onto the wet ground. An out of breath cop stopped and picked one up. The mucky poster bore the legend, “Live at the Doune … MOT with special guests The Molotov Cocktails”.
Now that we’d got the gig, and told the entire city about it, we seriously had to up our game. We moved rehearsal rooms from my uncle’s school to Sound City, home of Raw Sex Raymond and we practiced. Hard. So much so that we could almost play Status Quo’s ‘Caroline’, start to finish. On this occasion though, we had visitors.
“What do you think about George?” asked Billy
“He’s like a kitten that pisses in your best shoes. Annoying but ultimately harmless.”
“Not the worst set of pipes though.”
Gordon was unconvinced. “You think?”
“I reckon we should keep an eye on that one…”
The jam over, Billy gave me a fresh bag of flyers for the impending gig.
“Hand these out at the park tomorrow. But be back at the Doune by six for the soundcheck.”
I hit the hay that night, my head flooded with thoughts of the coming day. What it will be like, who will be there, will I pee myself on stage? All the kind of stuff that makes the nightly ‘pulling-the-heid-aff-it’ ritual almost impossible. Almost.
Next day, the weather was glorious and we were at an afternoon rock festival watched by a smallish but enthusiastic crowd. The main stage was a run down bandstand in the park.
“I love summer in Scotland.” said Donny with rare enthusiasm. “It’s one of my favourite days of the year.”
It may not sound like much but The Kelvingrove Rock festival was fucking Woodstock to us back then. All the known Glasgow rock bands played this, with occasional new acts from the States, squeezing onto the bill and upping the glamour stakes. If I got a gig here, or at the Barrowland, I’d probably chuck it as I’d reached the Scottish musical apogee. By the side of the stage, stood the emcee for the day; legendary West Coast DJ, Tom Russell. As a kid, I’d lie in bed and listen to his rock show at night, not particularly for the music – I could take or leave that – but to hear him read out the most brilliant of names in his unique, human terrier voice. Chasar, Cochise, Question the Peasant. And here he was, at our own homegrown festival. Maybe next year, the Molotovs? I dared to dream.
“Are you ready to ROOOOCCKKKK????” growled Russell
Yes we fucking are, Tom.
“Alright, we’ve got a young band here from America, let’s give a big Kelvingrove cheer for Bon Jovi!”
Blank faces all around
“Bon what?” said Donny “Look at the fucking state of that!”
“Bonjela?” asks Brido.
“Fuck knows, but hurry up with those flyers. We’ve only got an hour before soundcheck. Don’t forget, we’ve not got many of these left so it’s hot girls first, then average girls, followed by janglies, then greasers and if we have any left, the ugly girls.”
Music history lesson now. Pay attention at the back. By the mid eighties, the Glasgow rock beast was in serious danger of becoming extinct. Loud guitars and cock-rocking were seen as completely passe by the new breed. Modern quiffs, art school pop and the turned up jeans of the more stylised jangly bands were having their day in the sun. They’d all find a common purpose a few years later when Primal Scream held a sort of musical Camp David but in 1985, tensions were as high as the roadies. Having Donny and Jamesey in the band meant we had feet in both camps and could pass through hostile terrain without incident. Remarkably, for such a lame decade, the 80’s would have a revival. But, instead of the good stuff, it was mainly a bunch of synth loving, skinny jean wearing hipster fandans, hanging around cafes, smoking roll ups and bemoaning their lot. Thanks 80’s revival. Thanks a lot…
So, here we were, handing out flyers, bypassing the greaser element and concentrating on the more fragrant feminine type.
I offered a few flyers to a group of girls, slightly older than us, most of whom weren’t exactly unpleasant on the eye. Donny interjected.
“Lovely ladies, bollocks to this bonjerky pish. Why don’t you come and see a real band?”
“Like who?” said Girl number one.
“Like us, sweet cheeks!”
“And who might you be?” asked Girl number two.
Donny took a second before intoning, seriously…
“Ahm known as …the Skull.”
A third girl pointed at me.
“Me? I’m the singer. Where are you guys from?”
Girl one points to Girl three and said, “She’s from Aberdeen, down visiting for the festival. You’d better watch out. She’s got a thing for singers.”
Girl three and I moved away from the rest of the group and continued talking. Lightly curled, chestnut brown hair, sitting over her shoulders, with freckles bridging her nose to her flawless cheeks. She was a picture of loveliness and I was smitten.
“You should come to the show. You’ll like it.” I said
“How do you know I’ll like it?” she asked, teasingly.
“Because…I know these things.”
So eloquent, eh
I knew nothing, clearly, but she was curious.
“…by the way, I’m George”
“Melissa.” she smiled.
These are the days of goodness spent.
Back near the front of the stage, Donny threw his arms around a couple of the other girls. They seemed unimpressed.
“So, which one of you ladies is gonna rock with the Skull tonight???”
Girl number oe pointed towards Brido.
“Will he be there?” she asked
Donny looked at her less than fulsome chest.
“Trust me. You’re not his type.”
2 hours until show time, back in the van.
“The Skull is gonna fuck like a beast tonight!” sang Donny.
So, you’re going to wank over poor wee Sandy again?
“Hahaha, anytime we drive by the cat and dog home, he’s almost up to his full three inches.” laughed Brido.
Donny was unimpressed by the baiting.
“Fuck off ya botons. For the hundredth time, the stupid dog just jumped up on me as I hit the vinegar stroke. I couldn’t avoid splattering the daft bastard.”
Brido and I laughed so hard, we nearly crashed the van.
Then Jamesey piped up.
“What’s the vinegar stroke?”
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
Bella Bella, Billy Bremner