You never forget your first gig. That was certainly true for me.
The year was 1977, the venue was St Joseph’s church hall, just outside Bradford town centre, which was also where the band rehearsed. (At that time, local churches were an unlikely benefactor of the UK’s grassroots rock scene.)
Named ‘The Dark Town Strutters’ (after an old ragtime tune that one of our fathers liked), the quartet comprised Tony* on drums, Paul on guitar, Chris on bass and the baby of the band, yours truly, on guitar.
Since we were all still in Sixth Form, it wasn’t too hard to get an audience. Virtually everyone in the school came along to see us fall flat on our faces.
They very nearly got their wish
Prior to our performance, during the soundcheck, smoke started billowing out from Chris’s Vox amp. He’d borrowed it from a fellow sixth-form pupil (who shall remain nameless) and by then it was a bit late to find a replacement, which was worrying.
So, we found some tools, took the back off the amp… and made a surprising discovery. It turned out that this was where our nameless friend stored his stash of what were then termed dirty mags. It wasn’t a bad hiding place, but why he left them in there after lending the amp to us remains a mystery.
So, we removed the offending items, put the back on again and the amp worked perfectly. That may sound suspiciously neat, but it’s actually true. No idea why. Valve amps were always unpredictable and it was definitely a bit tight in there. Anyway, we all had a good laugh and it helped us relax a bit.
Was the gig a success? It’s hard to recall.
I still remember seeing the audience gathering at the rear of the hall. We all took turns singing, but the set opened with me belting out ‘Rosalie’ (the Bob Seger tune that was later a hit for Thin Lizzy). It was quite a feeling to hear my amplified voice hit the back wall.
Paul was next up with his Bowie-ish take on ‘Knock On Wood’ and then there was Tony’s hilariously inauthentic ‘Lonesome Man Blues.’ (probably should have been called ‘Last Minute Revision for ‘A’ Level Blues).
The playing was probably a bit (actually very) shaky. But the overall verdict, after several rounds of hand-pumped Tetley’s bitter (a local religious rite), was that we deserved credit for having the nerve.
Years later, Chris, our bassist, burst our bubble a bit by saying it didn’t really matter about the amp because he had no idea what he was doing anyway. But, hey, it was wonderful to be young and making music as summer approached.
Any of you musos out there remember your first gig? Playing or watching? Got any good stories? I’d love to hear them.
*Tony (now sadly deceased) and Paul would go on to form the ‘Silver Screen Girls’ a glam rock revival band.