Tamworth Bands - History 1960-1990

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9 - Marmion with 13th, not the Arts Centre
Lee RevelleOne of us must have spoken to someone in 13th Reunion that night, as it was agreed that we could support them again. The next gig they had was at The Marmion on George Street, a vile place even to drink in and an utterly unsuitable venue. For a start, the band played on the same level as the audience. Now a veteran of one gig, I was used to being on the stage.

We didn’t rehearse any more or less for the Marmion. Finally playing live could have pushed us one of two ways: either you think, fantastic, we know what it’s like, now let’s practice like crazy and write like mad so we’re even better next time. Or. You already think you’re in a great band, so what’s the point of working too hard? We chose plan B, the hard work not starting for a long time.

The other problem we had with the Marmion gig was the lack of a drummer. We hadn’t had time to rehearse with Rob or Mark as it was, but Mark couldn’t make the night anyway. So desperate to play were we, Ash managed to dig out a Casio V-L Tone, a calculator come ten inch long keyboard. Ash set about using it to work out which of its limited rhythms suited the songs we’d got. The drawback was in the sound it made. Listen to “Da Da Da” by Trio and you’ll understand.

To a small attendance we stepped out onto the non-stage. Rob, in his capacity as occasional guitarist, was in charge of starting the “drum machine” and was intending to join in on whichever songs he knew. Rob, however, was also so pissed by the time we started, that the simple act of reading a calculator-type display seemed a bit beyond him.

We started that Tuesday night with “A Room At A Slant”, and for the first time people (only about twenty people, including the bar staff, but they were definitely people) were listening to a song that we’d written. I was singing my own lyrics. A smattering of polite, almost sympathetic applause followed the song’s eventual conclusion. I put this down to the fact that it took Rob a while to switch the drum machine off once the rest of us had finished, and audiences generally like a song to have an obvious conclusion. It could also have been down to us being a total shambles, or that playing to twenty people on a Tuesday night wasn’t the same as being at The Rathole on a Sunday.

By the time we’d got to a particularly poor “Do It Clean” – a Bunnymen highlight live, but it probably didn’t have the same effect coming from us – Rob was so bored or adventurous or drunk that he decided to join is by playing the drums. Despite never having played the drums before. It’s impossible to describe the chaotic racket we made that night, but I remain thankful that there are no recordings extant.

I can’t remember what was said between us afterwards, but I was fairly pissed off about how bad we’d been. Out next band discussion proper centred around this and how there was no way we could afford to let it happen again. We needed to know what we were doing next time. So when we heard a few weeks later that 13th Reunion were playing the Arts Centre on a Friday night, it would have been sensible for us to have thought, “we’ll leave it until we’re really ready.”

However, something had happened along the way that made us feel like 13th Reunion’s very own support group. Who were we not to turn up? We’d be letting our new mates down, wouldn’t we?

One of us managed to contact the Herald the week before the gig to plug our slot, our first at the prestigious Tamworth Arts Centre, where we’d seen so many bands in a similar position to us (just not as good). Sam Holliday, on the morning of the gig, even gave us a bit of a write up, saying that “13th Reunion will be supported by a collection of fanzine writers and indie kids so new that they haven’t even got a name.”

We make the effort this time, in all but rehearsing until we’re good enough. We haven’t got a drummer, but we do have the Casio. We haven’t even got Rob for some reason, but that’s not going to stop us. We turn up early, even bringing some of our own equipment, including Ash’s new guitar amp, a Fender Twin Reverb. (If I’d been jealous about the guitar, this was something else. At least the guitar looked stupid.) We stroll into The Arts Centre about an hour before we figure we’d be on stage, there being no other support band and no need for us to soundcheck. Someone questions us on the way in –we go through the main entrance, not the stage door – but seem convinced that we’re the support band due to us carrying equipment. I’ve often wondered if this would work elsewhere: turn up at a sold out gig at Wembley Arena carrying a couple of flight cases, muttering how you’ve just managed to lose your Access All Areas pass, and see if you get past anyone. Probably not.

13th Reunion have finished their soundcheck and a couple of them are stood in far corner next to the mass speakers of the PA system. This is a big step us for us, particularly after the Marmion shambles. The Arts Centre only seems to get a certain calibre of band. It’s not like the Rathole where Gibbons will risk a new band, knowing that some of us punters will turn up regardless. Here, you have to pay to hire the room, get a PA in, organise the door and promote the whole thing. Big stuff for bigger bands.

Having told the local press that we were the support band, it may have been wise to have asked 13th Reunion if it was okay that we turn up again. We haven’t. Barry, their singer, spots us and makes straight for us. We’re pleased to see him, looking forward to another great night ahead. However, his first words throw us somewhat:

“Sorry, lads. Not tonight.”
“- ! –“ We respond, the three of us, with, well, with expressions of sorts.
“Look. We like you and that. You’re alright. But we think it’s time you started getting your own gigs.”

We know we should respect their decision, at least they’ve spoken about us for a start. We also know that we should do the honourable thing and stay to support another struggling young local band, assist in maintaining a thriving Tamworth music scene. The fuck we should. We’re straight out of there and we walk – three guitars and an amp – all the way back up the Glascote Road. This takes ages but is lightened up by Spencer and Ashley performing a bizarre mock chase. As they run after me, pushing the amp, they hum and sing the intro to “A Day At Home” off our first “demo.” The inference is clear. We’ve come so far that a song which we once thought a major achievement is now worth taking the piss out of. Shows progress, I suppose.

The other thing that it didn’t take long to work our about that night is this: at first we honestly thought that 13th Reunion didn’t want to share a gig with us because we were so good we were guaranteed to blow them offstage. In fact, the Marmion gig was such a mess that there could have been few bands in the history of live music that had ever put in a worse performance. That, unfortunately for us, was 13th Reunion’s only marketing plan. I can understand why they weren’t going to let us steal it.

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