The Worst Band in the World

In which The Author has a flashback (or a flashforward)

Way back in 2009 I was in the White Lion in Aberdare, having taken Stella the crazy labrador for a long walk. It was a Sunday evening, and the band were getting ready to start their set. The subsequent events (and a chance overheard remark by my pal Jeff C.) gave rise to several ideas, not least my Doctor Who/Torchwood fanfic story ‘Pit Stop‘.
I’ve explored this particular alleyway at length already – primarily in The Great Valleys Songbook – but also at various points in my blog. If the tags and categories are working properly, you can read my opinions without too much difficulty.
Anyway, tonight in the Lighthouse it was Rawk Night again. I hadn’t planned to stay there, but one thing led to another and I was still there when the band started bringing their gear in.
One of my earliest posts told you about my failure to see the late great Elton Dean, on a rare gig in London. I’ve recounted that story several times to friends of mine, and it’s been lost on them all.
I missed out on seeing Jimi Hendrix, and Visage, and Throbbing Gristle. I was too young. I caught up with their music later on.
My good friend Olly missed out on Crass by a fortnight or so. I was there. I knew them by reputation only, and (I’ve said it before) that gig changed my fucking life.
This really wasn’t where I was going – except that my pal Geraint B. has just come over and derailed my train of thought. It still makes me angry that very good friends of mine, people whom I’ve known for twenty years or more, can’t realise when I’m busy.
A friend of mine owns a guide dog. Flora wears a little harness with a sign that says something like Please don’t distract me, I’m working.
It’s very fucking tempting to make something like that as a shield for when I’m in the library (or the pub).
Anyway …
The point I was aiming at was the terribly narrow window the rawk bands play. I did this a fortnight ago, and still managed to go there tonight for yet another flashback to the 1970s.
The first song they played was ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ by Led Zeppelin.
‘Nothing wrong with that’, I hear you say.
And you’re right – except that said song was the first track on Zep’s debut LP in 1968.
The next song was a little bit more recent. 1972, perhaps.
The band were young enough to be my children; I didn’t get turned onto this music until I was about fifteen. By then I was also turning on to Talking Heads, Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Human League …
See my 100 Songs in 100 Days project for the full range of music which I was getting into when I did my O levels, then my A levels, and then when I was in university and beyond.
I was listening to Led Zeppelin and Hawkwind, sure, but I knew there was a world outside that as well.
I outlined the contents of Static Shock to my friends Sharon and Kevin while the band were setting up. Sharon mentioned a TV channel called Scuzz. It seems to fulfil the gap left by Metal Hammer, which we used to watch on the big TV when we were drinking in the Carpenters. I had a quick look at Scuzz while the band were setting up. It’s given me a whole new project idea.
But the main project is back on the front burner.
I’m lucky enough to know pretty much every musician in Aberdare and environs. I’m not talking about half-decent people, either: I could write down the names of thirty or so top-class guitarists, half as many great bass players, at least a dozen extraordinary keyboard players, and enough great percussionists to make the fucking drummers outside Waterstones every Saturday run away and never emerge again.
I know brass players who’ve played at the Royal Albert Hall. I know singers who could be (and have been) on the West End stage. I’m not shitting you when I tell you that I could bring together the finest line-up of performers that’s ever been on stage in the whole of South Wales.
‘So, why don’t you do it?’ I hear you ask.
Simple.
We wouldn’t be playing the Great Valleys Songbook.
We’d be two songs into our set, and our audience would have legged it to a pub with a fucking jukebox.
Tonight I told my very good friend Adrian T. about the time Sam and I didn’t see Elton Dean’s Newsense, nearly twenty years ago.
I’d love to bring together all the musical talent I know, for a one-off gig. I’d love to publicise it far and wide, and pack everyone in for the event.
Then I’d love to spend twenty minutes or so with the rest of the musicians, tuning up and fucking around, like most bands do.
Then I’d announce, ‘This is our final number’, do some more tuning up, and walk away.
Fred Frith did a set on Radio 3 a while ago which made Elton Dean’s Newsense sound like Beethoven. Opinions were mixed, to say the least.
But what I’d really like to do is a project for another decade. I have the music; I have the musicians.
It’s still early days. But at least we’ll have left the 1960s.
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