Monday, May 23, 2011

Get In Get Out of Lorraine

In the very late 1970s and early 1980s, I got to see some class acts - some of the cream of British music. I saw Led Zeppelin at Knebworth, Pink Floyd do The Wall at the NEC, Genesis a number of times, David Bowie at the old Wembley Conference Centre, and I also saw Adam and the Ants and Gary Numan in Hammersmith - I was just 18 at these last two gigs and I felt like I was one of the oldest people on the planet - especially at the Ants concert, where me and my companion left 2/3rds of the way through because of the screaming girls!

In 1981, I fell in with a good bunch of people who were all nurses at a mental hospital where my folks ran the social club. There's a raft of names from my past who I'd love to bump into again - Ricky, Rory, Gertie, Ruth, Jim, Jim, Gaynor, Andy the Rhodesian SAS man and Gay George. All the heterosexuals at Shenley liked to hang around with George, because George's friends tended to be all the totally fit women working at the hospital.

One warm evening at the end of April 1982, Rick, George, Rory and I were smoking some cheap weed, sitting on the terrace of the male nurses home drinking cider and chewing the fat. We were listening to some nonsense on Rory's cheap little stereo, when George disappears and returns with a single. George was from Glasgow, he was well into the new music scene, where the rest of us could have been described as borderline Neanderthal - with our denim, hair and rock tendencies. "You'll all know the A side," he says, "But check out this B side!" He played Theme For Great Cities by Simple Minds. It was inspirational instrumental madness, but I was the only one of us, apart from George, who was that enamoured.

Over the following weeks, I was introduced to Sons and Fascinations and Sister Feelings Call, a sort of double album by Simple Minds produced by ultra uber-hippie Steve Hillage. We were both eagerly awaiting the release of the band's next album. Then George announced the band were playing in St Albans and we bought tickets. The two albums I'd been introduced to were on constant rotation on my tape deck and it seemed logical to go and see them.

The only real problem I had was musically I thought Simple Minds were impressive, but lyrically and specifically Jim Kerr were not as. I didn't like Promised You A Miracle (still don't) and some of the vocal tracks on my two albums were... difficult to get into. My main concern was that with the exception of Genesis, I'd not seen a band that would deliberately play any of their instrumentals. Simple Minds were highly unlikely to play the song that got me into them or the other mesmerising instrumental called Sound in 70 Cities.

The gig started well; they opened with The American and then went into a couple of tracks from the new album which sounded considerably silkier than their earlier stuff. They then stopped. At the end of Boys From Brazil Jim Kerr seemed to disappear. He looked like he was singing, but there were no vocals. his PA had packed up!

We stood there shuffling about for about five minutes. Kerr tried the backing vocal mics, but none of them seemed to be working either. Now, the venue wasn't huge, it was June and it was hot; the natives were growing restless, so imagine my joy when the band broke into Themes For Great Cities, quickly followed by Sound in 70 Cities, which I presume they would have done the vocal version had Jim not been off trying to fix the PA with a couple of roadies and a man in a suit!

They ended up doing Somebody up There Likes You from the New Gold Dream album, and it was much more raw and noodly than the album version - like they were playing it from memory. but in all, they did 20 minutes of instrumentals and a wee bit of jamming before Jim got his voice back and they finished the gig. George looked at me and muttered something about me rigging the PA to blow up so they'd have to do my favourite songs. I do remember the frisson of excitement at hearing something I really didn't expect to hear.

The only other time that has genuinely happened was at a Porcupine Tree gig in Cambridge, in 2008. I was beginning to suffer with my back at that point and it was giving me grief that evening. I managed to find myself a bit of wall to lean against while the Tree played one of the more heavy metal styled songs they love doing on stage. Then Steven Wilson was talking, saying how they were going to play a song that isn't on an album. I never expected Half Light to be played and I stood there with the first signs of tears in my eyes - I felt as though the song was being played for me. I'd only just declared it to be one of, if not my favourite PT song and here it was being played exceptionally well less than 30 feet from where I was standing. Didn't feel my back during that 6 minutes, I can tell you.


An aside...

I get some pretty dull spam emails (although I do wonder if my PC has a trojan because it seems very well targeted), but yesterday I opened the email account, went to the spam folder to check there was nothing that crept in there and saw an email that read: Buy Pics of Sexy Older Women. There is so much wrong with this that it's hilarious.
1. Why would I want to buy pictures when I can go to a million websites and look at them for free?
2. Older women? I don't care how sexy they are. I'm nearly 50, if I wanted to look at pictures of sexy women, surely because of my age I'd be looking for the youngest most gravity defying?
3. Why? I might not have grasped the basics behind spam, even after all this time, but if it isn't a hoax designed by some malware agent, then someone obviously thinks they can make money by selling pictures of sexy older women...
4. I can look at my wife, who is sexy, but doesn't yet look like an older woman!


Another aside...

Have you noticed how the weather has been slowly changing into that constantly cloudy and cool feel? Unseasonal winds and still no rain for the south east. I stand by my forecast of the other month - the rains will come soon and we'll be looking back at April and feeling like we're about to get webbed feet again this summer.

Get in get out of the rain!

1 comment:

  1. That tour was marred by an appalllng PA. I think I saw four dates on that tour and every time the PA failed in some way or another. The best was in Sheffield Lyceum during 'The American'. Everything but the drums failed but he kept going and as the rest of the instruments came to life, they produced probably the finest 12" version they never released. Post-Sones and Fascination, I pretty much lost interest in the as they slowly morphed into U3. . .