To be fair to The Wonder Stuff (see Worst. Gig. Ever.) I thought I’d share my memory of the worst gig that I’ve ever done. To put things into some perspective, I’ve done maybe about 30 gigs in my puff. These range from playing for mums, dads & grannies at learners showcases when I was a laddie to full-blown “let’s try to make it” shows at Nice n Sleazy’s, The 13th Note and the like. You can see, then, that I’ve hardly got a Dylanesque backlog of performances to consider. One gig does stand out, however, as not only the worst gig that I’ve ever done, but perhaps the worst attempt ever by humans ever to distract other humans ever in an entertaining way ever.
I’d have been 12 and my brother 15. We were taught to play guitar by a guy called Ronnie. We’d been going to Ronnie for about 4 years. After the first couple of years Ronnie had suggested that one of us should take up the bass in order to be more like a band, so I switched from 6 strings to 4. He put us together with a guy called Adam and there you have it, my first proper band: Adam on lead, me on bass and my bro on rhythm guitar (we’d no name, singer or drummer, but these are mere details, although drummers are quite important, as I’ll make clear later. Singers too, now that I think about it, but I don’t cover that here). Another couple of years rolled by and Ronnie started hinting that we should be sharing our gift of music with the world (i.e. he said “What’s the point coming to lessons if you’re not going to do gigs?”). With that toe up our sphincters he then “suggested” that we do a couple of songs at a show he was putting on in a few weeks’ time. We happily accepted his threat.
The gig was to be one of those showcases I mentioned, for all the kids that Ronnie was teaching. Each band or individual would do a tune or two and that was that. It was happening at a local residential community for adults with learning difficulties (I won’t name it, as I don’t want innocent Google searches to end up here, plus it’s not their fault the gig was guff – there’s a link at the bottom of this post if you want to know more about them). So we practiced our two songs like jiminy over the next couple of lessons and then the day came: SHOWTIME!
My dad dropped my brother and I off at the wee village place and left – a wise man, oor dad – and we looked around for our Barrowland. Ronnie saw us creepin aboot the car park and called us over to a fairly hefty building. We went in and found what you could only describe as a big hall. Ronnie had fired up a stage and the bands would take it in turns to entertain the punters – think Live Aid but with fewer celebs and no expectation that Phil Collins would jet in tae dae Sussudio.
My brother and I looked around for Adam.
“Adam’s not here yet,” said Ronnie. “Just unpack your gear and practice while you’re waiting.”
Which we did.
Time ticked on. The hall filled with people and the first band got ready to go on. Still no sign of Adam.
“There’s still time,” said Ronnie. “He’ll be here soon.”
Now secretly I was hoping that Adam didnae show up. That meant we didnae have to go on, right? (I was bricking it.)
The gig was going quite well. Folk were up DANCING!
We were due on in 5 minutes. Still no sign of our elusive lead guitarist. I was starting to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Right guys,” said Ronnie. “It looks as if Adam isn’t going to appear so maybe just do one number and then we’ll get the next band on.”
Whit? Eh, naw!
My brother made noises about us maybe just buggering off, eh Ronnie? Seeing as how Adam had let us down, eh? The man was a bit under P, though, what with organising everything and doing the sound and that so he made clear in no uncertain terms that the show must go on.
As would we.
I should probably tell you the songs that we’d practiced now. Given that none of us sang, the two tunes we had were instrumentals: Albatross by Fleetwood Mac and Wipe Out by Whoever Does Wipe Out. Me and the brother were desperate to do the easier of the two (for us) so we decided to plump for Albatross. Get on stage, rattle it out, run away and hide. Aye, great decision boys. You know Albatross, dear reader, don’t you? It’s famed for its rhythm guitar and bass parts, ain’t it? And it’s a dance floor filler too! Hmmmm…
So with red faces, sweaty palms and no lead guitarist, my brother and I sought to entertain fellow humans with the rhythm guitar and bass portions of Albatross.
Now the thing about drummers is that they tell you when to start playing. Without one, though, you just go 1 2 3 4 and begin, which is what brother and I did. What a drummer also does, however, is keep time. In the absence of a good time-keeper, yer tempo’s all over the shop. Which ours, without question, was.
And the thing about the lead guitar part in Albatross, the bit that actually makes Albatross recognisable as Albatross, is that it tells you when to change from E to F# and back again. Without it, your pretty much guessing. It’s a fool’s errand.
BUT THEN ONLY TOTAL FOOLS WOULD ATTEMPT TO PLAY ALBATROSS WITHOUT THE LEAD GUITAR PART!
So that was our performance: two nervous boys changing from E to F# and back again at times independent of one another and at a tempo as unpredictable as a drunk trying to walk down the aisle of a moving bus.
That’s not all though: see the other thing a drummer does? A drummer can tell you when to stop. Ta-boom-boom-Ta-boom-boom-Ta….STOP! Without that, there’s the possibility that you keep going and going and going, only actually stopping because the only person left on the dance floor, the man shouting OH MY GOD over and over at the front of the stage, is drowning you out.
And that’s how it ended. Five minutes of two chords brought to a finish by the concise yet accurate criticism of the only person left in the audience.
I can’t remember exactly what we called Adam the next time we saw him but I believe our band split soon afterwards due to musical differences.
So, harsh though I was in that other post about the The Wonder Stuff gig, on a certain level I feel your pain, guys.
[The website of the place we played the gig is here. I apologise for associating them with this silly story: http://www.hansel.org.uk/ ]