Into Music: The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard – Chapter 3
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD
The true story of the greatest band you’ve never heard
Chapter 3 – Talking with the Taxman about Duran Duran, Monster Munch and the Nitshill Ball Lickers.
It’s the morning after the Church of Scotland debacle and I’m back on Bath Street. My normally lustrous mane had been combed as flat as a witches tit and I’m wearing a grey pinstripe suit more suited to lesser Earl than a clerical assistant. I entered the ugly, purpose built block, showing my joining letter to an elderly and uninterested security official who pointed me to the area where the other new recruits had assembled. One of those fresh faced teens, an absolutely stunning girl wearing a skin tight pale blue blouse and matching trousers, immediately caught my eye so I decide to stand next to her, giving her one of the most effective smoulders that I had in my armoury.
I hummed a few bars of ‘Hello! Is it me you’re looking for?’ in the hope that she’d start to massage my face as if it was a manky lump of clay, Lionel-style, but even Mr Richie would probably concede that Monday morning’s not optimum ‘pulling time’, even more so when the object of my desire seemed inexplicably immune to a poor boy’s charm.
A rather jolly looking lady approached the waiting group. Her hair was so heavily back-combed that it looked like bleach-flavoured candy floss. The too tight jungle print trousers she wore gave her the appearance of walking on two fleshy leopard kebabs .
‘Hi, I’m Jan and welcome to the Glasgow Tax office! ‘ she said with more enthusiasm than a November morning deserved. ‘We’ll be allocating each of you to a specific floor so, please, stand in line!’
Everyone jostled for position but I was determined to get close to the girl of my dreams. ‘Out of the way wallopers, she’s with me’, I thought.
Jan counted off…1-2-3-4, 1-2-3
NO! Bitch! Son of a fucking bitch.
I get packed up and sent off to Floor 4 while my angel in azure happily floated off to start a new life with the losers on the first floor.
Little did I know, that puny attempt to score would be a life changing one.
‘OK folks, head off to your floors and ….good luck!’ said Jan.
‘Get fucked’ I muttered, sotto voce.
The lift took me to the fourth floor and it opened onto an endless sea of cubicles, workstations and filing cabinets. Most are inhabited by workers in their 20’s and 30’s. Everyone looks so…old.
A pleasant enough middle-aged lady named Kathy greeted me and showed me to my desk.’ Nice suit.’ she said, dryly. ‘I’m in charge of the 4th floor. Any problems you have’ she said, ‘Sort them out yourself. Only kidding, my door’s always open. Good luck.’
I sat at my large, grey desk waiting for someone to arrive to show me the ropes but nothing happened. There was a steaming cup of tea on the desk opposite but its occupant, my desk partner, wasn’t there.
And so I wait. A stapler is always good as a makeshift gun. If I crack it hard enough, I bet I could fire a few into that partition wall. Thwack! As I suspected. Right, I wonder if I can staple my tie to the desk??
‘You must be the new guy…nice suit’
I turned to see who spoke to me only to find that the extra staple I’d used on my tie has pretty much nailed me in position. He leaned over my work station.
‘I’m Gordon’, he said, thumbs aloft and both pointing inward.
‘I did not do that. Why did you think that I did?’
Shut up Gordon. You fucking did. Anyway, whose story is this?
Where was I? Oh right. A violent slut is how current Gordon refers to his younger self. To me, he seemed a pleasant enough chap; tall, quite old – mid-twenties or so – possibly gay. Like an athletic Eddie Shoestring but maybe that’s just the German track vest he’s wearing. Makes me feel a little out of place with my Littlewoods catalogue, £2.50 per week suit and tie.
I yanked my stapled tie free from the desk and we shook hands.
“So, what’s the plan?’ I asked, as eager as a new boy scout.
‘What am I supposed to do here?’ I ask.
‘Fucked if I know. Just pick up these files and follow me.’
I spent the next hour or so getting the lowdown on the job from my new best bud, big cheery, seems-like-a-nice-guy, Gordon. Within 30 seconds, I learn that he is, in fact, not even half gay and fully intends to procreate with at least 50% of the female staff by the end of this business week. From what I can deduce, he’s already sprayed his scent on the workstations of the other 50%. Put it this way, if there was a dolphin employed in the typing pool, there’s a decent chance Gordon would be lube-ing up it’s blowhole as we speak. He furnished me with critical Tax Office details; like who was a good cunt and who should be avoided.
Gordon nodded towards a youngish woman, dressed much older than her years
‘See her? Religious fundamentalist. From what I hear, she’s swallowed more semen than the Bermuda Triangle. Then she found God. It’s either that or golf round here. And him…don’t play pool with that robbing bastard. Alright Dan?! Here’s Davie, good guy. The Colonial at 12? I’ll be there.’
‘Nice suit, newbie’ says Davie, early 20’s wearing a David Bowie t-shirt.
What an education! The most important lesson I learnt that day was that the British Tax system was actually a cover for the laziest bunch of drunken miscreants that ever served Her Majesty. For instance, Gordon didn’t actually do anything. I mean, he carried files around but this was ‘Staying under the Radar 101’ The original Stealth Tax. If anyone couldn’t be arsed dealing with a case, it magically found its way into ‘The Code That Time Forgot’; a box file that resided under the desk beside one’s Batman comics and the latest Hustler. I tried to follow his lead during the brief time I served my nation but I could never match his bare-faced front or his floppy-haired, thumbs-aloft brio. But there were more lessons to follow…
Gordon casually dropped the files he’s been carrying onto the floor. ‘That’s enough for now.’ he said.
Back at the desk and at the stroke of 10am, it was tea time. Everyone had their own mug carrying their names printed with a ‘dymo’-type tag. Being new, I didn’t have one yet so I got a shitey old one that had been earmarked as a temporary ashtray.
‘First day eh? You wouldn’t have met wee Alex then, would you?’ enquires Gordon
And as if by magic, the snack man, wee Alex arrived, looking like the shopkeeper from Mr Benn. If the shopkeeper had a glory hole in the changing room, that is. He was offering Kitkats, Crunchies and so much more…
‘We have a fresh one here, oooh! Nice suit ….come sit on Alex’s knee and I’ll give you a finger of fudge. God, you’re lovely, like a wee Prince Valiant. I’d love to dress you up as a knight and smash intae your armour.’
There were probably many gay people around my area when I was young but I can’t say I noticed them. And there were definitely none like Alex.
‘George, meet Alex.’
‘You’re gonna do just fine here. Anything you want, anything…come see Alex.’ he said, squeezing my knee. ‘Here’s a Fry’s Peppermint Cream. On the house.’
‘Don’t worry, he’s harmless. When he’s sober.’ says Gordon.
It all felt quite exotic and grown up. The carefree world of my scholastic days was but a distant memory. Like Caesar’s army, I have crossed my own private rubicon; the boundary from adolescence to manhood. This was the coal face. No going back now. This is The Adult Age and as a responsible working man, I belong here.
‘Have you got any Monster Munch, Alex?’
Gordon interjected. ‘Are you old enough to drink?’
And as quick as you could say clocking off, it was lunchtime. We left the office and headed around to Sauchiehall Street, to the basement bar of an Indian restaurant which already had a liberal sprinkling of office staff dotted around. My dream girl in blue was already sharing a plate with some flash looking cunt with a gold chain over his tie. Shit.
Gordon greeted the bar man. ‘Two Stellas and a plate of Pakora, buddy..’
This was as close as I’ve come to being a beatnik. Hanging with the big boys, talking jive, kicking back. I feel like Jack Caramac or something. Going to the pub during the day seems so …decadent. I am man, watch me drink.
Gordon introduces me. ‘Guys, this is George. Just started today.’
A few hardy, grizzled co-workers grunt in my direction. Gordon spotted Davie and we joined him at his table.
‘Fair enjoyed yer gig last night, big man.’
‘Aye, cheers Davie’ replied Gordon
‘You’re in a band?’ I ask, simpering like a simpleton.
‘MOT ….Miles of Tiles actually, but we like the acronym’.
Not only is he cool, popular with the ladies and gets away with doing squat but he’s in a band too? By the way, what’s an ‘Acronym’? Sounds impressive. Is that one of those new Hondas? Maybe it’s a type of singer, like a soprano? Please don’t be a singer.
‘What do you do in the band?’
‘I play guitar.’ said Gordon
Thank the sweet baby Jesus, thought I.
‘And I sing.’
I’m in a band too.
‘Oh yeah?’ said Gordon dismissively.
Quick…you’ve got one chance, I tell myself. ‘Yeah, we’re the Molotov Cocktails, I’m the singer and I write the songs and there’s Brido and Donny and Jamesey and we…’
Gordon cut me off. ‘Whoa! Calm down youngster. Molotov Cocktails? Never heard of you. Where have you played?’
‘Well, nowhere as yet. Not found the right place, to be honest.’
‘So, you’re not a real band then?
‘We are. We really are. You should come see us.’
‘But you don’t play anywhere.’ said Gordon
‘Come to our rehearsal. We could support you, if you want.’
Gordon laughed. ‘Why don’t you come to our rehearsal. We could support you if you want!’ he says, half in jest.
‘Rehearsal? When?’ I reply, quick as a flash.
‘Tonight, after work. Right, shut up and eat. Jesus, if I knew you were this annoying, I’d have left you back at the office.’
I might be annoying but I bet his band takes a nightly mouthful of donkey spunk, I tell myself. My Molotov’s would fucking destroy his MO-fucking-T.
I pick at a piece of pakora. Gordon wolfs his and takes a large swig of his lager.
‘This band of yours. Has it made a demo yet?’
‘Saving up for one. You?’
‘We’ve just recorded our latest at Park Lane. Do you know it?’
‘Do I know it? Of course I do!’ I lied.
‘It’s our third demo actually. Got a few labels in mind that our manager thinks we could develop with but I’m not sure. We’ve got our sound and I’m not willing to compromise that.’
Are you certifiable? A record deal? With a record company? A real one? Listen big man, they can dress me up as a pink Steiff bear and rename us Elton Wigwam and the Nitshill Midnight Ball Lickers for all I care. I want that deal!
‘Do you want to hear it?’ asked Gordon.
I’m too fucking starstruck to do anything but nod.
‘I’ll let you listen to it when we get back to the office. We’ve been working with some companies who want to mould us into the new Duran Duran, you know? Another pint?’
Duran Du-fucking-ran? You are going to be rich my friend. Damn, right I’ll take another pint. So this is flexi time? I could get used to this very civilised way of compartmenting the afternoon. La Dolce Vita, La Belle Epoch? Guys, this could be the start of something rather special. But just as I’m metaphorically plumping up the cushions and hitching up my skirt on the chaise long, I catch my first glimpse of Gordon’s darker side.
Gordon headed to the bar, collected another round then turned to head back to our table. A boisterous army cadet in fatigues who’d been standing at the bar, deliberately bumps into Gordon, knocking the drinks from his hands.
‘What are you looking at? Ya fucking poof! You want to come ahead?’ he screams at my bespectacled workmate.
The bar goes quiet as the squaddie removes his jacket. His army issue black vest strains to contain his muscular frame.
‘No harm done mate. It was an accident.’ said Gordon
‘You’re the fucking accident, ya specky poof.’
The cadet lunges towards Gordon but he’s restrained by his friends and the bar staff, all of whom look eager to avoid an incident.
Gordon returned to the table with some freshly poured drinks, as if nothing had happened. An ominous and unmistakable air of tension fills the room.
What the hell just happened? Is the big man soft? I know he looks a bit Cliff Richard with the thumbs and the glasses but I didn’t see that coming.
‘Look, we’ve got a gig coming up…’ he says. He might have said the 25th or the 26th, but I can’t recall. Honestly, I was still a bit shaken by the confrontation but the big fellow seemed unaffected by it.
‘What I’m saying is that if your band is good enough…’ he said in between bites, ‘… we might…MIGHT let you support us. But only if you organise the bill posting. And pay for it too. Sound like a plan?’ Gordon looked around. ‘Hold that thought…’ he said, heading towards the toilets.
‘Is the big man alright, Davie? I ask, concerned about his welfare.
Davie sinks his pint, in double quick time. ‘Drink up.’ he said. ‘I think it might be time to head back to base.’
‘What about Gordon?’ I’d seen enough war movies to know that you never leave a man behind.
Davie grabbed his jacket and ushered me towards the exit. ‘Gordon can look after himself. Trust me.’
I’m not having that. ‘I’m going to see if he’s alright.’
‘Don’t…’ said Davie but it was too late.
This was one of those moments when fantasy ends and reality kicks in.
I entered the toilet, opening the first then the second door. Straight ahead, there was a bloody mark on the white tiles above the urinal and a crumpled heap of moaning khaki beneath. I was speechless.
Gordon was wiping blood from his knuckles and, as if nothing had happened, airily said,
‘Better get you back to work. Don’t want you getting into trouble on your first day, now do we?’
As I watched the squaddie struggle for breath, Gordon took my arm and assertively escorted me from the area.
Back at the office, I remember sitting at our shared desk, stunned into silence as the remainder of my first day as a Civil Servant vanished into a blur of white noise, paper and chat. While he resumed his rounds, Gordon loaned me a Sony Walkman to listen to his impressive demo which I did while demolishing a packet of Monster Munch that wee Alex left for me. Roast Beef flavour.
In case you missed the first two chapters…
Socrates,Tony Bennett and Toblerone
Wendy, Penelope, Felicity and the First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Scheme Scum