Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
Love and Carnage part 1
Autumn going into winter of 1979 was a lovely autumn but a bit of a ghastly time for me. After getting back from the gig-finding mission to Germany, I see from my diary of the time, that two gigs were cancelled because, I was ill. I must have been ill to have cancelled gigs. The rock tradition round my way is that you have to be practically dead, not to do a gig. I also note that as soon as I was off my sick pallet, on Sunday we played Southend, on Monday we played Thames Poly and then onTuesday, at Hitchin. We had a day off and then went on to play the Swan in Hammersmith, a gig in Ipswich and another in Upminster. Six gigs in seven days.We were fairly battle-hardened. I remember that the Swan was always extremely hot and had quite a high stage, with a big mirror behind it. Here I would leap up and down, run back and forth and generally end up wringing wet with sweat, while I raged between numbers, berating rock critics, agents and anyone else in the trade that I could think of. Then we'd help the roadies load the 3-ton boxwagon, get in the other vehicle and head back to East Anglia. I recall that I was always glad, once we got past Gants Hill and into Essex proper.
This dues-paying business, though; as a young band, you live on the legend that if you just keep doing loads of gigs, as we did, you'll eventually build a following that will propel you to glory. The truth of the matter, however, is that you could probably do gigs 365 nights a year in all the pubs, clubs and little halls that you wish. But if nobody's handling your p.r, timing your record releases, getting you airplay, or putting you in the gossip columns, you'll only be there to make up the numbers. At best you'll be a band with a good live reputation-- and a familiar name in the gig guides. You'll be stuck on Level 2. And eventually, you'll get older and sometimes, iller. In your hometown, you'll only have a half-life. Marriage and kids will be more or less out of the question and if you have a girlfriend, unless you have room in the van and she's mad enough to come out to gigs with you, it can be hard to hold onto her. She won't know that you're not picking someone out of the audience every night. Even if you're being a good boy, which in this case I was, she won't necessarily believe you. Oh and besides, if you're the local rock singer, there are certain blokes in town, especially other musicians, who like nothing better than comforting another singer's woman while he's away.
It can be pretty horrible, sitting in the back of a tour bus in the dark, going to some far off gig, when you've just had a bust up with a girlfriend. But you're still someone's Friday night out, so you'd better look cheerful. Then you wait around for the gear to be set up. You wait to go on. You do the gig. You wait for the punters to clear out. You wait for the van to be loaded. You wait to get home. Then you get home. Then you feed the cat, make a bit of toast, pour a beer, smoke a joint and go and lie down in a double bed all by yourself. Of course, no one makes you do it. You can always quit, can't you? But then on Friday and Saturday nights, you'll just be some punter down the pub talking about what you used to do and how you could have been a contender. And you'll still only be twenty four years old. And the band will find another singer and you'll be sick as a dog about it. So .......you get back on with it, essentially.
I mean there was a period, after a couple of months of being by myself, that this idea occurred to me. It went,"Hey, hang on a minute. I'm the now-unattached lead singer in a rock band. There are women down there..." You know, I'm a country boy really and these sorts of notions do take a little while to percolate. So I went through a few gigs of taking someone home every night. It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that. The van would drop us off at my house, we'd have a drink etc etc and indeed, ya de da, then, next morning I'd give them breakfast and I'd rarely see them again. They all seemed to know what they were doing anyway. I think in nearly all cases (about half a dozen) they were less fussed about it than I was. Ultimately though, as winter set in, it became a pretty melancholy and empty sort of experience, so I gave up on it and took to coming back home by myself again. And do you know what? I felt tons better about everything. I was cleaning up the kitchen one Saturday morning and I heard Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward. I don't know why, but that became the soundtrack of the time. I never even owned the record. Later on, someone gave me an old rickety piano and I started teaching myself how to play that.That passed some time. And the gigs rolled down to Christmas. Stevenage. Ipswich, Bishops Stortford, Norwich, Cambridge and round and round...
Until, suddenly, we were in the dark of the year. I was sitting at home one weekend drinking cheap port when she came back...