Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat

The rain is spluttering down outside and keeping the kiddies away from my door. I've had no takers for my half a tub of leek and potato soup; what a pity. I'd been imagining the joy on their little faces all day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Geek Express

For geeks, geekettes and geeklings to dance to:

Helen and the Horns CD Launch

Soon it will be time to dust off the bit of my brain that remembers the Helen and the Horns songs- and also to arrange a rehearsal (or two if we need them).
Martin will be playing at The Lexington with us and so will The Antipoet; and I think Offsprog One will be taking to the decks and spinning a bit of Northern Soul.
Tickets here:
Advance tickets:
Door entry £7.00

Numan Ate My Calculator

Here's another!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Elektronik Niteride

Bit of retro, this one. I think inspired by cheesy cop shows; it has an abrupt ending and I don't know why. Photo from the induction to the new University of the East.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Busy Exchange, 3 a.m.

I just found a load of soundtracks that I programmed in about 1999 in my lunch hours at work. I had been asked for some demos for a football series; they got rejected but this one was used on TV for an animation about ginger-haired people. It's the jolliest one- the others are rather dark.
I've really enjoyed transferring these to Logic Audio this evening because I could only remember doing about two of them. There are six altogether, I think, and I'll upload them after I've EQ-ed them and compressed them (they sound a little lively).
It was such fun making this sort of music and at the time I never dreamed that I'd pick up a guitar again; I'd been doing loads of soundtracks and eventually stopped even doing that because I was teaching full-time and lost all my networks of film-makers; I just couldn't do all that and be a mum to two little girls as well.
This tune makes me feel ridiculously happy even now and I am deeply tempted to set up the JV1080 and have a week of playing about. The Logic edit pages have changed but I am sure I can remember how to do it.

Tons of Toadstools and Millions of Mushrooms

Bad Fairies, Nursery Rhymes

It's so lovely and sunny outside!
To prevent stir-craziness, I went for a walk and photographed toadstools. There are hundreds of them on the common, all shapes and sizes and colours.
I got it into my head that I wanted to photograph a Fly Agaric (the red spotty Bad Fairy ones) but couldn't seem to find one, even though I retraced last year's places.
But I did, eventually; it was hiding in the undergrowth, festooned in swarms of tiny flies.
Now I'm taking a break from recording nursery rhymes- frustrating, as they are so short and condensed.
Back to zero, back to zero..
 I've resorted to powdering my finger's with Lentheric's Tweed talcum powder (special offer at the chemist's) to stop them shrieking on the strings, which they are doing even though I have changed to a Spanish Guitar.
Strange how a difficult song is easier to play on a difficult guitar.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


The wind is rattling the windows but I'm not sure if I believe in the impending hurricane. Am I doing a Fish? Tomorrow will tell.
I have a few new songs on the go and a set of fancy chords waiting for the song to arrive. I've been singing.
I've had a day off today although I did spend an hour preparing Monday's lecture.
I read the newspaper from cover to cover, bought a new crime novel in the British Heart Foundation shop, where the books are arranged in alphabetical order of author's surname and are therefore much easier to browse.
I spoke to Martin for a time on the phone; he's playing in Cumbernauld
I hauled the Dyson round the house (aren't they heavy?) and I did some laundry. I went into town and bought a birthday present for my sister, dodging raindrops as I hopped between shops.
I saw how many times I could write 'I' in a blog posting while listing semi-boring activities.
I watched back-to-back Come Dine With Me and then Inspector Montalbano.
Now I'm looking at the book pile, because tomorrow I start to organise my next large research project in earnest.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I love working in Stratford.
Docklands could be beautiful, especially in the early morning when the docks were swathed in fog, and dim silhouettes of cormorants stretching their wings to dry would materialise out of the woolly grey dawn.
And the planes- taking off left to right, then right to left.
Who decided when they should swop over? Why didn't they collide?
But Stratford!
A huge old steam engine sits on the pavement, splendid in dark red and black livery and stranded far away from rails and grime: looking a bit silly really, but charming nonetheless.
I went into Westfield yesterday- and won't go again. It's horrible, cheap and nasty and too big and greedy.
My fave bit of Stratford is the Stratford Centre- white cotton old-man vests for two pounds each or three for a fiver- a whole stall of them!
African vegetables- plantain and breadfuit; a reggae stall and a seafood stall.
A branch of Tiger: hooray! Cheap and cheerful!
Sports Direct, Fabric Direct.
People bustling around all shapes, ages and sizes, with those plain mid-blue plastic carrier bags that have slithered under the branding radar of the big supermarkets, and that declare 'We bought cheap stuff that is just as good as the branded stuff and we're Going Home to Eat it Now!'
You can't glide though the Stratford Centre: you have to waddle at a snail's pace to avoid bumping into people using walking frames, or with people pushchairs and swarms of children. There are people from so many different cultures, all with different life paths and different destinations.
I bought some lilac canvas shoes there last summer for four pounds and I wore them every day; they were perfect.
Do I need an African kaftan? Probably not, but you never know. It's handy to know where to get one from should a situation arise. Bright red nylon net curtains... or black? No thanks: but I'll have a coffee while gazing at the punters riffling through the slithery nighties on the slithery nightie stall.
Oh nylon, nylon, pyrex, plastic! Here you are in all your splendour. I love your artificial authenticity; stuff cotton, linen silk and wool, just for once! Let's hear it for acrylic: honest, cheap, harsh and temporary, free from Good Taste Rules and Designer-ness.
Stratford Centre, a million miles from focus group concepts and global corporations; it's an urban microcosm of unselfconscious co-operation, unmeddled-with and unforced.
Three cheers for cheap!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I've been spending the afternoons after work transcribing interviews that I've undertaken in the past eighteen months. This week it's one of the most substantial ones, the mastering engineer Mandy Parnell who worked on Bjork's last album. It's slow work; it has taken about five hours to transcribe 5000 words and there's still more to go.
It's motivating though: the interviewees are fascinating and have amazing life stories. I become completely absorbed in what they have to say and it rivals kitchen recording for losing track of time.
It's a knackering time of year. This morning on the way to work I realised that I do three quarters of my year's work between now and Christmas!
I leave debris around; I left my hat on the stairs in the new building today and had to leave a meeting in order to retrieve it, being accosted by some students on the way. The students are full of energy at this time of year (those who have not succumbed to Fresher's 'flu) and you get carried along on a sea of their enthusiasm while trying to out-dodge their dodges (some of them).
I'm so tired that I can't even be bothered to watch Poirot. What is the world coming to?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

News from Barbaraville

Barbaraville records has been very busy- Eliza P's CD Eclectic Kettle has been released and has started to get good reviews; Acton Bell, now rechristened Amy Corcoran (rechristened is correct- it's her real name) has been on an Awayday to Darlington to record at SkipRat Studios and has turned out some wonderful, refreshing-sounding tracks.
California Star is selling steadily and will soon make a bit more of an impact!
Meanwhile Martin is busy recording more artists and is just about to produce a very special act from Warrington- watch this space!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Grandpappy with Mandolin

I remember you as a solid, serious and sometimes grumpy man, with wispy white hair and a waistcoat. As a child, I didn't believe in your grumpiness and made you play in the sand-pit with me with a little bucket and spade, as I thought that would cheer you up. I believe the assembled company held their breath.
So here you are before the First World War stole your joie de vivre, looking (I must say)  a trifle camp and very jolly, with a lustrous head of hair and a happy smile. That war was a steamroller of misery (as they all are), destroying a generation and stealing the lives of even those who managed to 'survive'.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Old Cinema Launderette

So is it a cinema? Is it a launderette?
Tonight it is neither, although washers and driers are lined up along the back and side of the room and there are price lists for dry cleaning and racks of garments swathed in polythene visible through the door behind.... the bar.
The Old Cinema Laundertte is what you could call a boutique venue. It only holds around 30 people, some of whom have brought their own stools to sit on, although there are a couple of rows of  mongrel chairs sitting expectantly as we arrive for a sound check.
Jim Hornsby is already there with his Dobro at the ready. Mr Wishy Washy offers us a cup of tea.
I plug in the little amp and take it to a volume that I can sing over comfortably without a microphone.
Mike and June have set up the CD rack next to a rail of vintage dresses. People start to arrive early, all excited by the idea of watching a gig at their local launderette. There's no hiding: it's eye contact from the get-go, but luckily it's a friendly crowd.
I do the first song sitting down but memories of carpet time at primary school make me stand up and do the rock and roll thing. It's almost more like talking directly to people than performing especially for the song Lover When You Leave Me which feels unexpectedly direct and emotional.
Afterwards I claim my second cup of tea of the evening and settle down to listen to Martin and Jim. They are perfectly synchronised tonight as always, and the people in the audience are real aficionados- they start singing from the start and join in intermittently all the way through as Martin and Jim stroll past the machines from one end of the launderette to the other. Martin is playing the Dobro which rivals the little Yiari for sound and soundscape. They finish with a rousing version of Will the Circle be Unbroken, with everyone joining in.
With hindsight, given the nature of the premises, perhaps this should have been 'Will the Cycle be Unbroken'.
It's a beautiful gig in a beautiful little venue; magical, in fact. At the end, a stylish woman unpacks her bag and coat from a vacant drier that she's stored them in for safe keeping and we all go home.
Jim, Martin and Mr Wishy Washy

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ruts DC and Wilko Johnson at Koko, Camden

Tall blokes in front of me, blokes with big tummies squeezing past behind me...
Last time they did this they were sylph-like, but no longer; I sucked my own tummy in self-consciously.
The Ruts were already playing Staring at the Rude Boys, their singer Molara powering through in her Ruts t-shirt. The sound was crystal clear and more than did justice to their songs, whose nod to their 1970s origins was perfectly updated to 2013. Dave Ruffy, their brilliant drummer, sings too and the effect was that of complete commitment- and boy, were they well-rehearsed! The bass-lines had that melodic characteristic and particularly came to the fore (or the under-fore?) in the song Shine On Me.
'A lot of these songs are 30 years old but they sound as though they were written about David Cameron' observed Molara. And they did; and when Babylon's Burning drove into the building, the crowd erupted. Jangly chords, the driving bass, that Peer-Gynt-on-the autobahn thing. I wore out my vinyl copy on my tinny Woolworth's stereo; it even sounded good on that. Live, it was incredible!
The band looked absolutely great and the crowd loved them. They could have easily encored, but they had good manners and vacated the stage swiftly and neatly so the technical crew could set up for Wilco's lot.
By this time Chris Carr, who is a gentleman, had hoisted me up out of the crowd and into a box at the side. I watched the change-over with interest. Looking at it all from the middle-aged perspective is so different from being a rookie, I almost think I could mic up a drum-kit myself now. I have been on a big stage and I know what's behind it. What a pity I missed out on the rich and famous bit though!

After a few minutes, the anticipatory yell-chatter increased in volume. Everyone was very excited and the venue seemed to be packed to the gills (or maybe we are all just bigger!). Was it morbid to come along to this?
Not really- I'd heard that he is doing fantastic shows at the moment, and the double-whammy of Wilko Johnson plus the Ruts... well, who could miss that?
And his occasional lapses into misogyny in interviews are balanced out by his amphetamine strut.
In this perhaps I join the black women who get a kick out of listening to Gangsta Rap 'in spite of...'.
I am here not only 'in spite of...', but also: '... because the guy is brilliant'.
Suddenly, he's there: white-faced, black-clad, whacking the sh*t out of his guitar, face in an Essex snarl. He's in great voice and jerking like an automaton.
The feeling from the crowd is touching: they are there in support of an iconic musician of their era, feeding him energy and goodwill with an unusual degree of tenderness from such a lot of blokes (and some Significant Women too).
Same face, same glare; he used to look more ill when he wasn't ill. His sharp, harsh guitar playing is to the forefront in this minimal line-up. Was that the glimmer of a Canvey Island smile I caught between him and Norman Watt Roy, the bass player?
'THANKYU', he barks at the end of each song. He buzzes round the stage like a rock'n'roll bee, attached by a thick coiled red lead to his amplifier. Is it that that is stopping this strange dark rock'n'roll angel from taking off?
Norman mouths the words... 'I'm tired of waiting for her and I'm going back home!
The audience swells up with love.
WENGACHACKA WENGACHACKA WENGACHACKA WENGACHACKA.. his right hand pulsing up, down, his left gripping the guitar neck. Somehow he is simultaneously relaxed and aggressive. Wilko Johnson is elegant!
In When I Was A Cowboy, the guitar clucks like a demented electric chicken and we nod our heads in affirmation.
'HUYU': the song has ended.
I crane my neck to look at Norman Watt Roy. He's an act in himself. Grey and shiny, he hunches over his bass, singing along in a world of his own and puzzling over the instrument as if someone has placed an elephant in his hands and told him to play it. His rumbling bass lines form the perfect foundation for Wilko's spiky guitar activity. Booble-oop, booble-oop, booble-oop, he rumbles; boom-thwack, boom-thwack, boom-thwack drums Dylan Howe, who is getting younger every day.
'I may be right, I may be wrong...' Wilko machine-guns the crowd, much to our delight.
He is feeling his songs: he breaks off playing occasionally to make a point with his hands.
Meanwhile, Norman Watt Roy's hands, enormous and spider like, arch over the bass as his fingers flutter and pluck. One song has shades of Bolan lapping away inside it... which I could remember which one...
In Don't Let Your Daddy Know,Wilko delivers the lyrics to the headstock of his guitar, which he has turned to face him, body nestled into his crotch. He's still playing it. 'I love you', he grimaces and coos to the machineheads, much as an exotic countess would address her miniature Pekingese.
Boy, rock'n'roll sure creates some alien men!
Back in the Night is a mass singalong, sliced up by searing guitar chops.
I'm singing too! What am I?
Not a rock chick... I'm a rock tomboy!
More high-speed Wilco-walking ensues, followed by two encores called for at deafening levels:
Louder than his guitar, even.
He was gracious enough to remember to thank the support bands, and he sang Bye By Johnny so the crowd could say goodbye to him, or rather, roar goodbye.
Wilko Johnson does that proper rock'n'roll thing of simultaneously sending the whole thing up and venerating it; at times his persona is comical, at times powerful and scary; as he always did, he is playing out his defiance, challenging God to take him mid-thrash so he can go out with a BANG!
What a night.


Looking back over the past month I can see that there are considerable gaps in my blogging. This is to do with what I shall euphemistically call 'change management'. The blog weeks have been concertina-ed into a series of pleasant events but the reality of life has been rather stressful.
Prior to the wonderful experience of Vienna at the weekend, I'd spent every weekend writing lectures and presentations and trying to think of a way to fit 40 students into rooms designed for 10. The sound of my head banging the wall might not necessarily make for a good posting (well, perhaps it might), but a solution is under way thank God, and I also have a short respite from writing academic stuff.
I have also been ill for three weeks. I can not shake off a cold and cough that landed as soon as I started  lecturing again and I have emptied the local pharmacists of remedies. Illness is not good blog-fodder either, so that's enough of that.
I had a great night out last night which, added to the Vienna conference, has restored my belief in music and discourse and all that. It has been good to get out of the kitchen cell in which books are piled on the chairs and the route to the kettle is marked out by a furrow in the lino!
Some gigs are in the pipeline which is a very cheering thought.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vienna: Music, Gender and Difference Conference

 After the delivering the morning lecture on Thursday, I headed over to Heathrow to catch a flight to Vienna. By the time I got to my hotel I was more than wilting and glad to sleep. I have never been to a conference anywhere outside the UK before so this was a daunting adventure. Next morning I get severely lost on the way to the University. Asking a policeman was not a good idea. He gave me a guttural mouthful and almost reduced me to tears; but a kindly woman on her way to work phoned her flatmates and between her and a kindly street-sweeper, I found my way there in time to present the paper. The conference itself was extremely well organised (shouts to Rosa Reitsamer for that) and as Sheila Whiteley pointed out, it was a stroke of genius to have a two-hour lunch break which was not only reviving but which also allowed us to speak to each other about our work and our research interests. There were a lot of interesting papers: Alenka Barber-Kersovan's paper about string divas was fascinating (I wondered if she'd heard of the Medieval Babes), and the new researcher Paola Medina delivered a heartfelt paper about the lot of female trumpet players in Colombia. Teja Klobcar's paper about Slovenian singer-songwriters was also very interesting. Star of the show, however, was Sheila herself, who is a brilliant writer and editor. I had been recommending her book The Space between the Notes to some students the day before and I'm using Sexing the Groove myself at the moment. Sheila has an overview of the way that pop music works in several different European countries and the attempts that governments and other organisations are making to create a fairer division of labour in the music industry. The statistics are depressing and they threw into relief issues that have come up within my lectures recently. I can't discuss that here, but I felt that the research I've been doing is valid and it's probably about time that I took proper steps to publish it. Vienna on Saturday was beautiful in the sunshine. I'd love to go back.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Graphic Scores at LSO St Luke's on Sunday Night

Intrigued by Offsprog One's link, , which she sent because of my own graphic song scores (although mine are Low Art and the others are several notches Higher), I decide to go to LSO St Luke's on Sunday night to see what the beautiful scores sounded like.
St Luke's is an extraordinary building which has somehow retained the spirituality of churchness while adding the most perfect acoustics.
I am not used to attending concerts like this, so arrived early to 'get the feel' and enjoy a coffee in the ubiquitous crypt caff. Would all those old bodies be rolling in their graves at the sound of Espresso machines' enthusiastic whooshing? Perhaps they would, or perhaps they would enjoy the company.
It was interesting to observe the audience, who were also observing the audience; it was impossible to work out from their uniforms if they were artists, musicians, classical music fans, experimental fans, or the purely curious like myself.
In this it was quite definitely different to the average rock gig.
The concert started with Joanna McGregor's solo interpretation of John Cage's Water Music. With a combination of tuned radio, water-filled jugs, a duck call and a piano, she followed the score faithfully as it scrolled above her on a screen. Joanna is a mesmerising performer whom I last saw many years ago performing Rachmaninov in a sparkling and dramatic Zandra Rhodes dress! This was a much more formal occasion but she still had the sparkle, only this time emanating from within her performing persona; at the conclusion of the hectic piece, she smiled at the audience and was met with appreciative laughter and a round of applause.
The Cornelius Cardew composition, Treatise Pages 34-39, was not so appealing for some reason. In this piece, the formality worked against the format. What should have looked like fun looked like hard work (in every performance genre the hard work is there: the trick is to hide this from the audience). There were a couple of personal taste issues here too: the muted trumpet reminded me of the worst of Ian Carr's Nucleus, whom I loved apart from the too-much-muted-trumpet bits, and the laptop.
Am I the only person in the world who is a tiny bit fed up of laptops? Too many laptop musicians are completely un-engaging to watch and Cardew himself couldn't possibly have written for laptop as they hadn't been invented. I love audio machines and technology, all the more so when their workings are visible. These scores are extrovert and visually loud; it doesn't matter how loud a laptop is, it's still quiet!
Everything came to life again with Fred Frith's Zurich and Bricks for Six. Zurich's score was a pitted snowfield, which Joanna McGregor played as a fluid and dripping soundscape, trading licks with the cellist, Oliver Coates. Coates, like policemen, seemed to be getting younger every day but he was putting an appreciative amount of effort into sounding just right. Bricks for Six utilised the ensemble perfectly as they translated a brick wall into audio, even the by now un-muted trumpet and the laptop finding their place in the audio field.
Tom Phillips's scores were breathtaking and again, the ensemble leapt straight into them rather than skittering over the top. The Lesbia Waltz in particular was brilliant and humorous with a tongue-in-cheek approach to the complex instructions. It must have been hard because Tom Phillips was actually in the audience- he seemed very pleased with the interpretation and stood up to take a bow at the end.

By this point my full-on cold was taking it's toll and I started to cough uncontrollably. Thank God I saw Cathy Berberian's Stripsody before I left. This was sung by Elaine Mitchener and was the aural equivalent of The Beano, consisting as it did of a series of expressive sound effects in a dramatic construction that could have been any Comic graphic story depending on the interpreter. This was a real tension-breaker and was the most engaging piece so far: The audience seemed to be willing her to get through the complicated and dynamic instructions and at the end she garnered a huge round of applause.
I had to leave at half time to cough, which was a shame as the concert format had started to win me over by then. These glorious visual scores are open to interpretation and at first I had been wary of the formal black clothing worn by the performers and the stiff format which seemed to be working against the visual exuberance of the projections above. But the scores are for everyone and anyone to perform; there was something relaxing in the silent formality of a Sunday evening and in watching a performance that paralleled a child's experience of learning to read. Who's to say that our system of writing signs and symbols could not have evolved utterly differently and that the relationship between how we read them and the way we make them sound as speech, or indeed the way we communicate with sound, could not have been entirely the opposite to that which we have mutually agreed to use?
Watching classically-trained musicians grapple with spontaneity and fight with their instinct to make perfect sound according to a perfect plan was absorbing in itself, and the actual sounds were intriguing. As interpretation, this was a really rewarding evening and most of my negative responses were entirely to do with my own prejudices, which I am working upon as we speak!

Thanks to Marc Riley!

Brilliant news: BBC 6's Marc Riley is playing one of our Helen and the Horns sessions this week- different song each day, next to the Monochrome Set last night which is interesting because Lester Square wrote the sleeve-notes for our forthcoming Peel Sessions CD.
I have arranged a gig at the Lexington to celebrate the release, with Martin Stephenson and the Anti-Poet also performing. I am really looking forward to it!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Short Northern Soul Playlist

Popcorn Charlie: Charles Spurling
Gonna Get Along Without You Now: Viola Wills
Our Day Will Come: Ruby and the Romantics
You Got To Prove It: Dan Brantley

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Conference Paper

This is another working weekend; the two previous ones I've been writing lectures and troubleshooting, but this one I am revamping a conference paper, tidying it up and updating it.
That meant three hours this afternoon and probably the same tomorrow; but in spite of the fact that the world of music is clamouring at me from it's bubble, I have to do it and it's rather absorbing.
I've lost my voice anyway. I tried to sing last night but presenting three-hour lectures and workshops means that the vocal chords need a rest and that's just what they are doing.
My house is collapsing under piles of books. I don't know how I've managed to amass quite so many (well, I do: the free bookshop and the fact that so many of these titles are not too popular and the cheapest one was a penny!)
I feel like a pressure cooker. A new song is bubbling away but I'm not letting it out till I'm ready. I keep playing guitar so the ends of my fingers stay tough and don't soften up, but it's the stuff that's already there and not new compositions.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

A Cautionary Tale: The Really Good Band

I was told this story by a musician friend a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I've changed names and so on, but it's something like 70% true. It stands as a warning to those of us (myself included) whose offspring play in bands.

There was a really good band, once.

Ned was 15 and was an amazing bass player. He had learned from his uncle who'd been in... well, I can't remember their name but they supported U2 on one of their tours back in the day.
Yes, he'd learned from his uncle, and he'd also had a great teacher at school who really encouraged him. This teacher had taken him under his wing and had told Ned's parents that he was really, really talented.
Tommy was the drummer. He was 18, a bit older than the others but he'd bought his kit himself- saved up from his job helping his dad in his haulage business on Saturdays and also from his inheritance from his Grandparents (he was saving the rest of that for a flat). He had already had some success; he had played with his school at the Royal Albert Hall for an event that featured talented children from all over the UK and he had auditioned for an earlier version of Chvrches, before they changed musical direction (but he didn't get the job, although he reckons it's because they changed direction).
Sam was the guitarist. Like Ned, he was amazing- practically a child prodigy. Sam's dad had always wanted to be a guitarist but wasn't musical at all so he'd poured all his encouragement into Sam. Sam's sisters were a bit naffed off that their dad had spent so much money buying guitars and amps for him, but Sam's dad told them that Sam really had something, and when he made it and became famous, Sam would buy them all clothes, ponies, cars: whatever they wanted.
So just be patient!
Lastly, but not leastly, was their singer Damian. Damian had a proper rock voice, raspy and loud: not unlike Rod Stewart's, his dad's friends said, and he got a bit annoyed having to do Sailing and Maggie May at all their karaoke parties. But the book his mum gave him, How To Be A Success In The Music Business, said that you had to think about everyone as a potential audience member, so he always wheeled the songs out when he was asked to sing.
He really rather liked Charlotte Church, but he kept that quiet.
People had told them they should go on the X-Factor and they had actually auditioned but not got through (please don't tell anyone I told you that!).
They had everything they needed- a van (from Tommy's dad), equipment (parents had pitched in and bought what they needed), photos (Damian's girlfriend's aunt was a professional wedding photographer and had taken some moody shots down by the canal), and now they had a proper gig!
A local promoter had booked an artist that he'd liked since he was at Uni, and he knew that at least 150 people would come to the village hall to see him play.
Would the band like a support slot?
You bet they would!
Playing in front of 150 people was an opportunity that They Could Just Not Miss.
It was the school summer holidays and they spent days rehearsing in the Scout Hut, getting quite grumpy when the Scouts actually wanted to use it themselves and making some of the Guides cry (in fact the Guide Leader complained to Ned's mum when they were both having their hair done).
The night of the gig came round.
The promoter let them into the venue early (Ned's father had a word with the promoter because he owed him a favour) and they set up and rehearsed in situ to make damn sure they sounded good.
The sound engineer had been at school with Tommy's big sister and he took ages making sure everything sounded just right.
It was a bit annoying when the headline artist rolled up and tried to get on stage for a sound check. Didn't he realise that they were a Really Good Band, and not only that, they had A Lot of Local Followers?  (well, all their mates said they'd come along if they could be on the guest list and between them they had eleven family members coming along, if they could be on the guest list).
Eventually the headline artist gave up and went off to get something to eat, which meant that they could just carry on playing as the hall filled up and play their entire set of 20 sh*t-hot cover versions.
They cranked it up to the max, and the family asked for encore after encore. The audience loved them so much that they played for an hour and a half, even though they were only supposed to play for 30 minutes and the main artist was supposed to be on after that.
The main artist was standing by the stage looking a bit naffed off. Couldn't he see how Good they were? They must be, because the audience (or at least their family at the table at the front) were asking for more and more and there wasn't really any point in stopping between songs as a medley seemed like a good idea, building the atmosphere and getting the crowd going, especially when Sam played the solo from The Boys Are Back In Town absolutely note-perfect (and it's not easy!).
Eventually, when they were completely exhausted, they played their last encore.
Sweaty, laughing and triumphant, they left the stage, waving at Tommy's girlfriend at the back of the hall.
The mums and dads were standing up clapping frenetically- a standing ovation!
The main act went on. He'd had to set up in front of their gear but he'd said he didn't mind even though he looked a bit cross.
To be honest, although the audience seemed to like him a lot, he wasn't half as loud as the Really Good Band and when the mums and dads were having a laugh during his set, you could hardly hear him at all. He seemed to get quite annoyed at one point when Ned's father was telling them all the story of Ned dropping his guitar in front of a lorry in the High Street one night when he'd had his first ever pint or two. Hilarious! They couldn't stop laughing. It was a pity that it was during a song that the main act seemed to think was emotional: his audience were singing along with him but that didn't necessarily mean anything, did it?.
Some of the songs the main act played sounded quite good and the audience was clapping, but he wasn't as good as the Really Good Band, not by a long way. What was the point of playing songs he'd written himself? The people who had come to see him seemed to like them, but that was all. All the guys in the band were pretty sure they'd blown him off stage and the mums and dads agreed.
Finally, it was all over. It was dead annoying that they'd just had to sit there while the main guy was on, and wait to get their equipment off stage, because it was behind him.
Damian's dad had gone up at half ten and stood by the side of the stage. Between songs he'd asked if the guys could get their gear off , but the main act wasn't having any of it, which was a bit mean of him really. The band was knackered: didn't he understand?
But no- they had to wait right till the end.
Yes, that was dead annoying, but all in all it had been a good night.
Goes to show that by playing a set of standards really, really well (and I mean well), a Really Good Band can blow even an experienced solo artist off stage and show the guy's audience just how Good they are.
You might want to know the name of The Really Good Band because you might want to catch them if you're in their area.
They are called The Cuckoos.