I cannot confess to being the most prolific of bloggers; ever since my employer blocked logging into WordPress my output has practically dried up. However, I have a day off today with not much organised and I was intrigued by the Daily Prompt post entitled ‘We Got The Beat’ (I’m sure there will be a way of putting a link to that blog here but I have yet to discover how to include it). The post invites bloggers to share their experiences of being in a band, amongst other suggestions, but it was the being in a band aspect which caught my attention and offered me something to do post gym. I was in a band…
As a kid, I could never play a musical instrument although I did fancy myself as a drummer should the opportunity ever present itself to me to actually sit behind a kit and give it a whack. My music taste in my teens rarely ventured further than Rock and the first band I ever went to see was British Rock band UFO at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1978. in the years to come I would see a multitude of live bands but while most of my peers would handle air guitars I had the knack of being able to switch effortlessly from air guitar to air drum kit whenever a particular fill was required. It was about this time that some fiends and I got together with the intention of forming a band. A couple of mates had acoustic guitars, another had an electric base with an amplifier and I had a dream of playing the drums. The others hooked up primitive pick-ups to their guitars and I began with an up turned wicker basket, a biscuit tin and a couple of wooden spoons as we convened in Rick Gaskell’s bedroom and wrote our first song; Dead Dog – about Tim Farrel’s greyhound. While still at school, another guy in our year suddenly decided he was a fan of Elvis Presley and did as much as he could to look like a 1950s version of him and sing like him. He had got a gig at the annual school Rugby Show and needed a backing band and we were the only potential ‘musicians’ he could call on. At this point it was all systems go as the guitarists went out and bought the best electric guitars they could afford (Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster copies) and I borrowed the school drum kit as the music teacher allowed us to rehearse in the school music room room (in exchange for me attending his weekly Christian Union meetings!) This offered me my first chance to sit behind a drum kit and as you can imagine I beat the living Daylights out of it. Rehearsals continued and we practised 4 Elvis classics for our 10 minute slot which were: Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender, Teddy Bear and Hound Dog. The Rugby Show was a 3 night show of performances by each school year predominantly by members of the school rugby teams, although none of us by this time played any rugby. I can vividly remember these 3 ‘gigs’ and just how well they were received. Teaching staff stood at the side of the stage to watch us and people in the audience actually got up out of their chairs and danced. It was quite amazing and our singer, Gary Slack, was a great showman. For the next couple of years we increased our repertoire of songs, mostly 50s rock n roll as we added songs by the likes of Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry amongst others as well as writing a few of our own songs and I had bought my first drum kit for £30 off a guy I met working for a local rose grower and horticulturalist. By now we had a name as we became Gary Slack And The Wild Turtles, or if Gary was feeling particularly empowered he would become Garfield Tremayne. Playing music was a lot of fun and I loved it and we began to develop a bit of a name for ourselves until one day we were invited to a local recording studio in Nottingham called Sin City to cut a demo tape. This whole experience would turn out to be the end of the band as our cheap equipment was shown up for what it was in the sound-proofed environs of the recording studio and although Gary was kept on by the studio the rest of us were unceremoniously dumped.
So we were left with the nucleus of a band but no singer and we all still wanted to carry on. Tim, who had been kicked out of the Wild Turtles in a power struggle with Gary rejoined Phil, Richard and me and we recruited Dave ‘Feathertouch’ Stocker to play drums and I took over the vocals. I could sing a bit and I still do a bit of Karaoke to this day but I wouldn’t get past the first stage of auditions on X Factor even in those days! We decided to go ‘Rock’ and picked the name Abattoir (seriously) as we learned a number of standard rock songs. We did a couple of school gigs with a set list that included songs such as Smoke on The Water (of course), Status Quo’s Big Fat Mamma (now that was a struggle to sing!), and a few songs mostly written by me and Tim with titles like Suicide, Come On And Get a Down On Me (blush) and Over The Top 1916. Well, we were naive teenagers at the time! In some quarters we went down quite well but we were invited to play a couple of gigs, one on an exchange visit to a small French town called Feignies where we blew the electricity as soon as we turned the equipment on and for a charity gig at The Nottingham Royal Concert Hall where I still have memories of the first 3 rows of old age pensioners with their fingers in their ears as we belted out Smoke On The water…oh well. They were good times and for a few happy years music dominated my life…more so even than football and I still say now looking back that I would have been quite content to be a drummer in a band living out the back of a van eking out a living. But I didn’t follow my dream and due largely to parental pressure I settled for a life of what has been for the most part, taken up by dull office jobs, alas.
I don’t really see any of the guys in the band any more. Richard, sadly, died in a skiing accident – he was the real musician amongst us, Phil Wright went off to university with his electric guitar and still no doubt knocks out Status Quo riffs from time to time. Tim, or Tom as I nick-named him, quit university and grew a beard and was last thought to be gutting fish in Holland and I never really know what happened to Dave. Gary became front of house manager of the The Nottingham Playhouse Theatre and was last known to be making books for deaf people – or something similarly worthwhile. He never did quite make it to Vegas but although not actually an Elvis impersonator, as they go he was a good one. Good times and when I think the last time I sat behind a drum kit was 1983 it just shows how long ago it all was – unless you count playing Rock Band on the PS3!