On This Day In The Archive…

I just did one of my periodic random “ooh, let’s see what’s in the archive from this date” moments and did a double take. Just two years and both very significant moments for me.

It was on this date, May 23rd 1990 that one of the most chaotic and fascinating ventures I was involved with came to fruition. OK. I’d left school the previous July and was now at college. One of my best mates Derek was on a YTS course in a music shop and in September 1989 joined a band called Width Of A Circle. Very centered on David Bowie and furthermore, this was the infamous Tin Machine era. Derek’s band covered several Bowie songs along with various others but did some of their own material as well. I went along to three of their earliest gigs, borrowing Derek’s tape machine to make recordings of them for personal amusement. Gigs were recorded on 13th November and 7th December 1989 and one on January 10th 1990. They were OK… nothing spectacular. I knew the bassist Nick Williams well from school and I got chatting with lead singer Chris Turner as he was on another course at college.

1990 so happens to be the first proper year I documented in diary form… a gander through that revealed this…

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“We come up with an idea to make a WOAC video”.

I chatted with Chris about this on March 27th and what the band wanted was to make a promo video preferably using live footage. I asked Chris where and when their next gig would be and my heart sank when he said “Gullivers” – a ghastly nightclub which I didn’t fancy filming in. Almost as a joke, Chris suggested “we could do it back at school” as he had attended the same school as Derek, Nick and I. Nick agreed to the idea on April 2nd then on the 4th, I went to the school and bagged a meeting with the headmaster. They had 2 school halls – lower and upper school – and he suggested the lower school, so met with the head of the lower school…

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An agreement was made and the hall was booked for April 26th. To sweeten the deal and make sure we’d get this daft idea off the ground, I stated that the band would perform for free. All takings would go to the school charity. We shook hands and a few days later, I had to return to rearrange the date which was now set for May 23rd.

I was always on good terms with my ex-music teacher Mr Parker and knew I’d be able to borrow his 4 track tape recorder and his video camera. Nick was borrowing another camera. I was being ambitious – 2 cameras and a proper stereo recording! All the band had to do was turn up and play. Meanwhile I had to find another cameraman as I would be using one camera and get somebody to man the 4 track. Enter Claire Newton, a fellow student on my course. She fancied Chris, begged me for an intro so I proposed she could tag along as long as she took care of the recording for me. Deal done. My old pal Martin Hewitt agreed to man the other camera.

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It was a chaotic day. I went into documentary mode, filming the band arriving, setting up, audience waiting to go into the hall… I had the “loose” camera whilst Martin had the wired one meaning he could only film from one area so I gave him quick instructions on what to do and film. Claire however… well, she had never used a 4 track in her life. I had 4 mikes, one for each member of the band all plugged into the machine. Unfortunately, one couldn’t record on all 4 tracks at once… it had to be mixed down live to two track stereo, so I did a basic stereo mix, gave Claire headphones and showed her how to deal with the faders… and hoped for the best.

Enter the audience aged between 12 and 14 – the upper school students were not allowed in for some reason. There were around 300 paying customers in all – the princely sum of 10p each! It wasn’t everyday they had lunchtime gigs! The band were all kitted out in their suits and ties except the drummer John and in a perverse move given I spent my entire schooldays avoiding wearing uniform, I wore the school tie I rarely would wear! For 40 minutes, it was chaos central and I was having major kittens.

 

Filming the band was fun… I wandered all over the stage getting close ups and angles galore as the audience had been informed this concert was for a video project but smartarse features went and made a major blunder. I got on my back at one point to get a quirky angle of the drums. When I got up, I bumped into the mike that was recording the drums and not only did the mike position change, it ended up resting against the kit itself. From that moment on – we were only three songs in – the drums were overloaded and heavily distorted on the tape rendering it completely unusable. Claire frantically tried to get my attention as she’d heard something was wrong through the headphones but I was panicking, didn’t hear her over the noise and the issue was not dealt with. Ooops.

To make matters worse was the drummer himself. Let’s just say he LOVED himself. He thought he was the greatest drummer on the planet. I thought he was a dickhead. His bandmates got on with performing the show but several times when he noticed the camera was on him, the drummer posed for the camera. I wanted to nut the idiot. Then his bass drum pedal broke. Again. He repaired it with… a shoelace. It became insane as pauses between the songs were as long as the songs themselves as he had to make repairs between every song during the last half of the show. The rest of the band were not impressed and stood there like lemons unable to do anything as the drummer held up the show and killed the momentum. Not that it mattered to the audience as there were many female audients who enjoyed screaming their heads off. It was the biggest audience the band would ever play to and they were bemused by the maniacal elements.

The drummer also did the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever witnessed a drummer do during a gig. He was prone to dropping drumsticks… he’d get over-excited and a stick would fly but on this occasion he managed the incomprehensible – he dropped both sticks at the same time in the middle of a song throwing it into momentary chaos…

Eventually they did their finale “White Light, White Heat” and instantly following that, the lower school headmaster got on the stage and took to the mike for a hilarious closing speech. The audience were cheering away and the drummer shouted “go home!” but Chris ever the smart guy, simply announced “Time for lessons now” which got a loud groan from everyone.

I was gutted and embarrassed when I listened back to the recording as the band were expecting to hear something good but instead had a sludgy sounding piece of crap overdominated by bad drumming that was badly distorted! The video footage on the other hand was wonderful – a lot of amusing stuff though my mate Martin filmed too much of the audience and not enough of the band. Still, I had two videotapes we could try and synch up to create a multiangled video from for one of the songs.

Guess what? Yep – the drummer then foiled the entire project as shortly after following their next gig, he suddenly quit the band which therefore rendered the video project completely useless. To make matters worse I’d just booked a return gig at the school for July 18th for the upper school hall. With just days to go before that show, they auditioned and rehearsed just once with a new drummer, then honoured the gig.

Unfortunately, only my footage from this show remains. The tape containing the footage Martin shot also featured the footage I shot of the second show (which was a much better show all round and we got a nice recording of it) was lent to Chris… who then left the band and relocated taking the tape with him. In 2010, I spent a week working on the badly distorted audio recording making use of spectral audio editing where I used every trick in the book to try and repair and restore it… I did reduce the distortion enormously and was able to bring up the guitar and bass but the vocals remain barely audible.

Still… it was a fun project even if it didn’t result in anything and it still sits in the archive awaiting it’s day…

Which is more than I can say for what was recorded on 23rd May 2007 at Vulcan Studios in Liverpool.

It’s a rehearsal recording by the idiot punk band I got conned into joining the previous September. Things were not going at all well. We’d done two gigs and 6 weeks earlier had recruited a new female singer who had 10 days to learn a host of songs before fronting us for our second gig. She did well and I got on great with her, BUT the drummer – the leader of the band – for goodness knows what reason – hated her and when she fell ill, demanded a vote to try and get her kicked out the band. He didn’t get his way so orchestrated a nasty bunch of events which led to her quitting the band. Problem was, to do that, he stabbed me in the back and set me up as the nasty guy. It was all utter lies, but she believed it. Worse, the guitarist was gunning for my blood. All this went on behind my back so I arrived at the rehearsal this day for the drummer idiot to inform me the girl had quit the band and that the guitarist wanted to murder me because he was under the impression I wanted HIM out the band. The reality was, the drummer had tried to persuade me to get rid of the guitarist a few weeks earlier and I’d refused. Being the nice backstabbing bastard, he stitched me up simply so he would get his way.

I was reeling in shock at what I was being told… then the guitarist arrived for the big showdown which I handled very calmly. But time is money in a rehearsal room and we had work to do… and none of us were talking to each other. Not the best time to learn a new song. It was a song I’d brought in, a B side by a band from the late 90’s called The Bristols, a rocker called “Hello”. With barely a word, the drummer and guitarist fumbled through the basic chord structure and a few minutes later were ready to have a go. I switched on the tape and magic happened. After 50 seconds, they forgot to go into the second verse. I brought it to a halt… we started again and nailed it. It was bizarre how we managed that as the drummer and guitarist were notoriously incapable of playing anything correctly in one go. I sang my head off and it was good. We then went into the rest of the numbers we had. 24 minutes of material containing all 11 songs we knew was recorded. Another rather desultory affair with tension in the air.

There’s a lot I could write about this day and what went on afterwards as a result. It’s one of those moments where if I had a time machine, I’d go back and tell the drummer to stuff his band up his arse and quit. I should had done. Instead, I would suffer 4 more months in that band which was utterly miserable, climaxing with an awful gig at the Cavern on September 30th and I officially quit on October 16th 2007.

That rehearsal was recorded on 4 track as was usual practice – drums in stereo on 2 tracks, guitar on one track and vocals on the remaining track. “Hello” was so good, I decided to copy the 4 tracks digitally to make proper mixes of it whilst the rest of the session was mixed down to 2 track stereo as always. The 4 track cassette master of the session was junked in February 2018 but the digital 4 track master of “Hello” still exists along with the mixdown of everything else from the session.

The things I do for fun… the things I bloody archive! Two instances of DICKHEAD DRUMMERS. Drummer jokes exist for a good reason and the tales I have of various drummers I’ve encountered over the years… the tales… my GOD the tales…

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