Working Class Love Songs from the Moseley Border
The songs we’re writing now seem like a real step up. This, coupled with the fact that we’ve finally got a band name – and what a name! – means that we’re confident enough to secure ourselves a proper first gig. This time we swear that we’ll rehearse and everything.
“We don’t mind going on first,” I explain to Ian Gibbons, who has recently switched operations to Tamworth Arts Centre. “And we’ll only do three songs. Fifteen minutes tops.”
“Let’s see what we’ve got. “ He flicks through his diary.
Half smirking, he offers us the support slot to Wolfsbane, clearly the biggest band in Tamworth but not quite compatible with what we’re doing. He hums and hars and flicks through the weeks, scanning the various upcoming events. And then my hand crashes down on the page: Sunday May 31st, 1987.
“That one. Can we do that one?” I find myself croaking. Or begging. Or pleading.
“Already got a support for that,” Ian mumbles.
“Come on, Ian,” I plead. “Three songs? First on?”
“Go on then,” he says, after a pause that is specifically designed to wind me up. He writes Emma Gibbs Loves Badges under the existing support band. I have secured our first real gig. We’re below a band called Fetch Eddie The Baby’s Gone Blue, whoever they are. But topping the bill are The Wonderstuff.
“Malc, it’s Lee,” I say down the phone to the soon to be quite famous guitarist of The Wonderstuff. “Your fan from Tamworth,” I add, just in case he’s forgotten who I am.
“Hello mate,” he delivers in his broad Black Country tone, “we’re playing your way again soon.”
“I know. That’s why I’m calling. My band’s supporting you.”
“Anyway, we were just wondering. Would Bob mind if we borrowed his bass amp?”
“Nah, shouldn’t be a problem”
”Brilliant. Cheers, Malc. See you there.”
“Okay, Lee. Look forward to it.”
“Oh, one more thing…can we borrow your drum kit as well?”
I think Reeman got fed up with us drowning out Coronation Street and has decided to become our drummer. It started with a bit of reasonable advice (“Spencer, why don’t you play that part on the D string instead of the E?”) and somehow finished with him sat behind the practice kit in his spare room, slowly fathoming the genius of our new songs. He’s not a drummer, that’s for sure. But he can keep time and sounds a lot better than a drum machine.
I made the call to Malc from my then-girlfriend’s in Harlow. In one of those confusing relationship dominoes, I’d got off with a trainee teacher who was based at Cambridge (at a Julian Cope gig in Manchester – keeping up?) and ended up, following a drunken night in London (still with me?), getting off with her best friend back in Cambridge. The two of them had somehow, following my wandering-lust, remained friends. They had also vowed to come – along with mutual friend, Mutley – to our Wonderstuff support slot at the Arts Centre. Our first real gig, and we’ve already got people travelling a hundred miles to see us.
Our soundcheck takes place about an hour before the doors open. Wonderstuff and Fetch Eddie are done, and we have permission to borrow the headliners’ gear. Tuned up, we go through about half of one of our new songs. I make the throat-slitting motion to the rest of the band to stop. Dennis and Gary, behind the mixing desk, look a little baffled.
“You alright, Lee?” Dennis yells from the back of the room. I give him the thumbs up and motion offstage. Part of this is due to not wanting anyone to hear us before the real thing. The other part is that, to my ears at least, we sound absolutely fantastic. We’ll be on stage in just over an hour.
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