On This Day…

November 2nd appears to be a popular day in my tape and video archives as no fewer than 5 years are represented – 1993, 1995, 1998, 2000 and 2010 and cover an interesting range of events.

1993 is represented by some 20 minutes of video footage documenting an unusual event during some special week in Grimsby Library. The Jolly Arts, a venture I was involved with that year somehow bagged three spots which featured live acoustic performances. It was a complete departure from what we usually did. It had started off as the first ever open floor night in the area which saw many odd talents perform including myself. Unfortunately it ended up being overdominated by the local punk bands and soon alienated our audience and lost all momentum. The dramas we had… REAL dramas. The open floor was abandoned after a few months and we ended up becoming just another promoter of gigs, a direction I was most unhappy with. This first week of November saw three events – the 2 acoustic deals in Grimsby Library and a major gig at Cleethorpes Winter Gardens featuring 4 acts.

November 2nd 1993 saw the first event of the week, a morning performance by singer/songwriter Bill Miller who I hate to admit was a guy I couldn’t stand. As I had been filming various events on a VHS-C videocamera, I was asked to document this. I didn’t want to but thank goodness I did as it’s a lovely snapshot of the library at that time as I did various scene setting shots. The library remains but has changed beyond recognition. I spent many many hours in there so it’s a curious time capsule of my teenage years. Not a mobile phone in sight… ah… them were the days!

Around 20 minutes of footage was shot capturing about a quarter of Bill’s performance along with other odd moments which combined gives a nice impression of a rather mellow morning. It starts off with a distant shot of main organiser Arthur on the phone discovering an act who was supposed to be performing alongside Bill was not coming along then Arthur doing a piece to camera explaining what was going on. Bill then arrives along with his audience of just two people – Chris Wright and Eddie Weeks both of whom were performing at the second library session 3 days later. So with Chris, Eddie, Arthur and me filming, one could say it was a quiet intimate affair. Nobody else was remotely interested to check out the noise save for one planned interruption when a photographer from the local paper turns up to take some shots. A librarian poses behind Bill and another librarian is seen bringing us cups of tea and coffee. There’s occasional light hearted bits of banter between us all between songs.

Bill drones on and on with a handful of songs, mostly original soppy ballads. He does a cover of “A Horse With No Name” which is about as lively as it gets. Definitely not my cup of tea and despite my reluctance to film it, I am glad I did as when all is said and done it is a charming little document.

November 5th was a LONG day. That afternoon Chris and Eddie did an acoustic performance taking turns with songs. Eddie was well known on the local folk scene so did a few folk numbers and roped in an audience mostly from the folk club. Chris had a Resophonic guitar and did slide based blues. They were followed by an hour by Grimsby Guitars, an acoustic guitar ensemble who had an odd repertoire. Over an hour of footage was shot that afternoon. That evening we had to dash over to the Winter Gardens in Cleethorpes for the big gig. That was opened by Chris then Bill’s band Parody performed a set. Unfortunately Bill chose this occasion to premiere some pretentious rock opera type piece about some saga involving Doctor Eckleberg so did rambling monologues between the songs. It all died a complete death. The gig was an absolute disaster with bad attendence, a terrible PA and no vibe at all as of course, most were outdoors enjoying fireworks. I shot about an hour of that show and to this day it still makes rather grim viewing.

All the original videotapes still exist and the library footage was digitised back in 2009 whilst the Winter Gardens footage was digitised in 2017. The library stuff remains interesting and being acoustic is legible whereas the electrical nature of the Winter Gardens show coupled with constant feedback problems… let’s not go there! Not that anyone could go to the Winter Gardens anymore as that venue was senselessly demolished about ten years ago. A shame… I saw and recorded a few gigs there and it holds some odd memories for me.

Back to my archive and 2 years later on November 2nd 1995, another gig this time at Grimsby College at the Westward Ho base. It had recently been transformed into the local Art college and consisted of Art, Drama and Music students. I was a music student and it baffled and horrified me that these three factions didn’t get along. The Art students were stuck up primadonnas who viewed as music and drama students as scum. The drama students thought us music students were sex crazed morons. I made myself unpopular with my colleagues as I was the only one who got on with the drama students one of whom would later become a member of The Brian Prebble Experience.

I was now in the second year and on this day we had to do the production and staging for the first gig by the first year students. A lunchtime affair. Funnily enough, this was supposedly an “acoustic” gig and some acoustic instruments were used but amplified through a reasonably new PA system. Oh dear. Unusually, our course tutor decided not to record or film the show. Unfortunately for him and the performers I had recently acquired my very own stereo tape recorder and used that to make my own recording of the show and it’s one of the most hapless shows in my archive that’s given me a fair amount of amusement over the years along with a second show that bunch did in the same venue a month later.

The recording starts with me and my bunch waiting for our tutor in the college foyer. Irreverent banter and strange hearing those voices all these years on. There’s a brief bit of soundchecking followed by me doing a mumbled intro as the audience took their seats and awaited to be entertained. I can’t really speak for the audience save for some drama students but I was thoroughly entertained in ways I wasn’t expecting. I was supposedly dealing with the lighting… I had two colleagues Matt and Zane and they hogged the lighting so all I did was sit beside them watching over my tape recorder.

There were 4 temporary combos performing and it opened with Flashback who oddly given their name performed all original material. This was a major criteria for the show so it’s an unusual one for the era – totally free of covers. Flashback were absurd, almost Dada as they had this geeky guy on guitar who I swear was 7 feet tall. Worse, he wore jam jar bottom glasses… bless him. He was a good guitarist and a genuinely nice bloke who I got on well with but he was doomed to forever be working with the lead singer Karl. Karl… where do I start? OK. He looked the part. He strutted about the stage in some mutant kind of rock God manner and he knew how to banter with the audience. One slight snag – he was tone deaf and had a ghastly strangulated voice constantly whining and screeching bum notes. It all makes for horrific listening. The following month’s show was THE CLASSIC as Karl surpassed himself… they closed with a familiar song which I didn’t even recognise until it got to the chorus as Karl mangled it so badly and I have never been able to listen to The Police’s “So Lonely” the same way ever since… that’s how bad it was! That performance is one of the classics in my archive which can still reduce me to tears of laughter at how bad it is and worse still, I have video footage of that, but… back to this November gig.

The next band calling themselves Judge Dread decided to open with a pretentious instrumental. Their lead guitarist was Andy… he looked to me a bit like Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull and I remember him showing off some new guitar pedal and making some fuss about it. This instrumental plodded along to the big climax – Andy’s BIG GUITAR SOLO. He pushed his foot on the pedal, played 8 or 9 notes then total silence as the pedal crackled and conked out on him leaving him stranded and embarrassed for a moment before it burst back into life. I remember being sat there biting my tongue trying my hardest not to laugh as of course this was a hilarious sight and sound… all captured in pristine stereo on my tape recording! The rest of their set passed by without any further mishaps or interest. The third band Scruff was fronted by some guy called Bruno who also couldn’t sing but he lacked the hopelessness of Karl so was merely painful.

The last band Black Coffee were by and far the most professional… until the final number. They had this guy called Tim who couldn’t sing but could play harmonica. They started a song he had written. He was giving it all on the harmonica then began “singing” and as he started the chorus, the song broke down completely causing Tim to ask the audience “Er… can we start that again?” Leader Rob who sang the other songs and bashed away on the bongoes can be heard telling Tim “say yer sorry!” They start the song again and what had gone wrong before was Tim had started singing too late… and when he sings on this second take he sounds like a buzzing bee, voice much more half hearted and embarrassed!

Gig over and done with I went on to record a bunch of interviews with participants… and a group of female drama students who gave some rather damning verdicts. They were unanimous in declaring “Last band was the best… really liked the bongo man” – there were many more less kind comments too!

That bunch of first years were rather hapless all round as their second gig had a few bizarre clunker moments as well and worse for them, I was filming it for the college. There were red faces all round when they watched the footage as we had a vocal tutor at the time, a gorgeous Scottish lady called Heather who laid into them “call THAT a performance?” That did my popularity no favours as they all ganged up on me for shooting such embarrassing footage… all I did was capture what was there – THEY were the dire performers and any video would capture that fact but hey, the male ego has to lash out somehow.

We then jump forward to 1998. I was now living in Liverpool and had started making my presence known on the local poetry and music open floor scene. November 2nd 1998 saw me performing at the Egg Cafe for the first time, a place I would perform in many times to come.

This was the first time I went along to a “Poetry Girl” event. I would return just once more the following month and wouldn’t bother again as I hated it. “Poetry Girl” was essentially a University student affair. Full of student brats who would never perform at or support other events. Very cliquey. It was hosted by a stuck up jerk called John. I’m too kind to give his surname. A proper Tory voting middle class jerk as were most of the others in attendence so I immediately felt out of place. John made it oh so clear HE was the star of this event as he rambled on longer than needed between acts. Worse, he’d be sat at a table and all performers would perform in front of him so the whole time you watched other poets there would be John in full view of everyone chuckling away at their in-jokes and egos… oh, and puffing away on ciggies… blimey, yeah we could smoke in such places back then.

So… what did I do? Stole the show. I was bored out my brain as the quality of the poetry was ghastly. Most were getting up and doing drippy poems to their partners. I went up and gave them something completely different, a new piece receiving it’s world premiere called “Ah… That’s Better!” An ode to the joys of drinking tea… with audience participation. I’d wave my arm and that was the cue for them to say “AH… THAT’S BETTER!” A few days earlier I’d had my stereo tape recorder modified by a friend of mine… the microphones were now detachable which meant I could position them however I liked and most recordings from then on would have the microphones positioned similarly to human ears, getting nice widescreen stereo recordings of the shows I went to. On this occasion, I had the microphones attached to me. Only time I did that as when I listened to it afterwards it had captured my clothes rustling and other extraneous noises. But… one can clearly hear the audience well into this and as it went along, the shouts they made to my signals grew into soothing sympathetic sighs. Comical stuff. In the audience was a Bootle based guy called Kieron Deveney who unknown to me was about to unleash his very own open floor night. He was transfixed by my performance and blown away the following night when I performed in the Hub Cafe… I performed for Kieron on the Wednesday night and thus began a long association with him.

As for “Poetry Girl” in spite of stealing the show, I hated the whole thing. I was occasionally encountering students and finding them to be unpleasant morons, so I deliberately went to their December show to make a statement. That was when I gave them a blast of “Turquoise Underpants” featuring the infamous audience signal where I give THE FINGER. Audiences LOVE that and always join in with glee but I knew these student types would react a little differently. The tape proves it… initially they’re all game but the more I gave them the finger, the less responsive they became. When I ended – as always – with a triple barrage of the finger, the way I gave the finger was GENUINE. I really was giving it to them and they knew it. I never darkened their cliquey night again. Yes… both these shows (as well as the others I’ve mentioned) all exist on cassette tape and all were digitised in 2014/2015.

November 2nd 2000 reveals a recording session I did in my bedsit. What a bizarre set up I had there. Despite using this Heath Robinson-esque set up for a few years to make my own overdubbed recordings, I genuinely cannot remember how the hell I did them. I used two tape machines, a cheap microphone, a minidisc machine, a Commodore Amiga for backing tracks and live vocal effects… there were wires everywhere. I’d record on either tape or minidisc then overdub live to another machine… it all went back and forth. It was crazy… very complicated as I didn’t own a multitrack recorder until 2006.

I was working on a solo album project which to this day remains unfinished. Over the course of the year I had been writing and recording many tracks, most of them downright surreal and on this particular day according to my records I made brand new transfers of modified versions of some old backing tracks dating back to 1996 then dubbed on new vocals on “Turquoise Underpants” and “It’s 5 AM” both of which I’d performed onstage in 1996 and 1997. The original versions I recorded back then suffered from low vocal volume issues hence why I was doing them afresh for this project. There were all sorts of other recordings done round this time and I still have cassettes and minidiscs documenting those sessions so there’s trivial moments of me doing vocal overdubs, occasionally cocking them up along with the completed master takes. I did listen to much of that stuff a few months ago with a view of maybe cobbling something together by way of a finished album… there’s definitely enough for 2 albums but… it’s old, I’ve moved on and interest in this stuff is minimal… if not zero. And that’s on my part, never mind yours.

Lastly, November 2nd 2010. By then I was holed up in Lincolnshire once more having left Liverpool for good officially a few months earlier. I had some unfinished business relating to the awful punk band I fronted between September 2006 and October 2007. After my departure from the band, life had taken such a nasty turn it left scars and I couldn’t bear listening to anything I’d done with the band. There were too many bad memories. In 2009 I made a valiant attempt to put that saga to rest by compiling an album which was in three parts – one consisting of live recordings (all 4 gigs were recorded on my 4 track recorder), another of actual recordings we’d done with overdubs which we posted on Myspace for the world to hear and lastly, odds and ends from the rehearsal room.

On this day in 2010, I created a new mix of a song recorded at this session which I detailed in an earlier blog entry, a song called “Hello” done on 23rd May 2007. Unusually, it’s a mono mix and I’m guessing this was me attempting to give it a 60’s vibe as I ramped up the reverb effects to insane levels. In the event, this mix was never used and remains unheard to this day. The album was completed and sits on my hard drive again… unheard by anyone but myself which is a pity as I put a lot of work into compiling it and making new mixes which in a couple of cases used creative licensing giving the songs rather different workings to what was originally recorded. Sadly there’s no getting away from the cold hard fact that that band were bloody awful and are best left to rot in the archive!

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