Working Class Love Songs from the Moseley Border
Spencer started out with a horrible semi-acoustic plank, that was supposed to resemble a Gibson 335. It was every bit as bad as the guitar I owned. Spencer and I had much more in common musically than I had with The Broken Stand: Aztec Camera, The Cure, Talking Heads, Lloyd Cole. We’d roped in Ashley on keyboards, primarily because he still owned a keyboard. Early rehearsals in Spencer’s kitchen were fairly basic. We’d muddle along, doing instrumental versions of the few Echo & the Bunnymen songs we’d worked out the chords to, attempting vainly to keep time with the primitive drum machine on Ash’s keyboard.
Somewhere along the line, Spencer decided to become the bass player. This delighted Keith, his dad, as he’d played bass in a band himself. He even helped Spencer to buy a fairly decent bass from Green Lane music in Small Heath. Of course, being an ex-muso (if, indeed, musos ever loose their muso-ness), Spencer’s old man had to frequently butt into our rehearsals. Unusually, for a parent, this wasn’t to tell us to keep the noise down, but to offer us his expert advice. This usually meant telling us we should jam / improvise around some simple three chord 12-bar boogie. Which, to me, was the polar opposite of where I wanted the band to go. It’s a musical evocation of working men’s clubs and technically proficient pub bands whacking out the same tired cover versions. Despite the fact that I don’t think, at this point, I’d seen a single band who trod this dreary path. I wasn’t going to waste time or talent pissing about with this sort of tedious nonsense. Keith had a point, looking back, that we’d have quickly become a much “tighter” band. But, short of telling him to fuck off – which you don’t do to your mate’s parents too often if you want to keep your rehearsal space – we simply ignored him.
The next drastic change to our guitar-bass-keyboards-no vocals line-up filled me with the sort of envy I’d often experienced at Christmas when one of my mates got something I know my Mom could never afford. Calling for Ash one Saturday I was ushered into his living room, his face betraying an excitement I’d never seen before. I was confronted by a brand new gleaming Fender Telecaster. It was a horrendous looking guitar, covered in a pink paisley pattern, but that didn’t quell my envy. Ash had gone for a Tele because of the Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant. But it was still a bit of a surprise that he’d decided to be a guitarist instead of our keyboard player. I muttered something to that effect, barely keeping the jealousy out of my voice, but it was a half hearted attempt to persuade him to stay on keyboards. I did feel compelled to mention, however, that he’d never played a guitar before and his hundreds of pounds outlay was a bit of a risk. Within a few weeks he was a better guitarist than I’ll ever be.
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