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Not Enough Monkeys

Logo (size=22 KB)
Words and Fotos by Steve Drury, Copyright © 1998

CONTENTS


Swinging Monkey (size=4 KB)

(Excerpt)


INTRODUCTION

All the best ideas either start with a glass of lager in your hand or that early morning inspiration, fortunately, this had both. I was at Martin's place getting an earful about his band and his ideas for its eventual fame and glory. I was unaware at the time that I was being set up. I had helped him before with one of his earlier incarnations. Now several months later, and with a few more musical styles under their collective belt, the band had a new name and a much sharper outlook.

Martin was talking me into it, or did I do it myself? I can't quite remember exactly. "Don't dream it - Be it," sound advice at this hour.

I've always had an interest in the backstage part of pop music, and as an avid reader of the business, well besides the usual music press, I'd read Simon Napier-Bell's 'You don't have to say you love me', admitted to admiring Malcolm McLaren and the much earlier clown Prince of Fakery, Justin de Villeneuve. I'd even clung onto the words and wisdom from the Rock Follies TV series. So I realised that there was either no hope for me or it was only natural that at some point I'd manage a band, and this seemed like the right moment.

However, I still had not forgotten the last time I'd helped Martin, all I'd got for my sins was a criminal record for Bill posting. Who the hell gets caught for that!.... and he still hasn't paid me back the 10 I'd lent him for his fine. Nevertheless, I ignored my senses and agreed to be the band's manager. Also my enthusiasm had led me to become their roadie, driver, publicist, photographer and sound engineer. I drew the line at making the tea. This meant that I now had two fulltime jobs, and that one of them would initially pay for my increasing addiction to the other. Still, dreams can be worth any price. I knew that it would be a tough job and I couldn't delude myself on the size of the mountain we were about to climb. Though I knew that Party Day could become one of the best bands in the world.

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The following Monday I went along to their next rehearsal. Every Monday and Thursday they practised in an upstairs room in a nearby pub, The Ship Inn. Party Day had been together for a few short months and had gone through various changes. First they thought they were The Jam, then Joy Division, then Public Image and when I last saw them play, they were all three.

The band consisted of four likeable likely lads. First there was Mick, an excellent drummer, whose kit was the envy of any self-respecting heavy metal thunder god. He was still in his teens and had probably been playing and irritating his parents for years. A lean man; short hair, stubble and was too damn confident for his own good - if he didn't know what was cool or happening, he would bluff it out. Sometimes not always that successful, like the time he got 'high' drinking some Poppers!

Carl the bassist, at 17 was the youngster of the band and also the cutest. His idea of rebellion was combatting his asthma by smoking. Carl's shy and unassuming brother Greg, could be a doppelganger for Paul Weller, in looks and guitar play, and could turn a few girls heads if need be. Finally Martin, the joker in this pack, and a genius with a guitar. He had the look of a Jim Morrison on heat.

Together, Party Day were a vibrant group with visions of greatness, an air of confidence surrounded them and they worshipped banality. It crossed my mind that if anybody wanted to re-shoot the film 'Help', then they need to look no further.

Party Day had plenty of ability, but they were short on money. Martin was a park gardener for the local council. Greg was an engineer in a steelwork's. Mick was at the Polytechnic and Carl had plenty of free time on his hands. What equipment the band couldn't buy they built between themselves. Fortunately Mick was a technical genius and he had recently built a massive bass bin, which gave Carl's bass a lovely full-bodied sound that was the perfect counterbalance to Martin's earthy Vox combo.

Their rehearsals already had a timetable. First it was the general warming up/messing around, where they tinkered with their troublesome songs and hammered together new ones. Then it was the band's therapy break with a pint or two. Afterwards it was back to working on their latest set list for the next eventual gig. The therapy break was the least productive, what with the range of chatter from gossip to even more gossip. Then sometimes they would annoy each other: Martin would begin by bashing about on the drum kit and then Mick would retaliate by thrashing out on Martin's guitar. I guess this would come under the heading of 'Youthful exuberance', provided they didn't smash the gear to bits. Here I could get my say across to them and hopefully I'll have some ideas for the way forward.

"So what are we gonna do?" they asked me. I was ready. First they needed more gigs to build up their stage confidence. The last time I had seen them onstage, they had been visually disappointing, although the music had crackled like Chinese firecrackers on New Year's Day. My initial target was to get them a gig-a-month with which to start the ball rolling. I thought that this would be easy enough to aim for and it should help to keep the band's momentum and enthusiasm going. Obviously we would be running up losses for a short time, but that wouldn't be too hard on our combined incomes.

Secondly their image was currently non-existent and if they are going to be noticed then they needed some cohesion. Mind you I wasn't suggesting them for the next teen wet dream either.

Finally the band needed a new demo tape, as their latest was already out of date, even though it was only 2 months old. This tape was too bleak and depressive and I thought, no longer representative of them. Everyone agreed on this and I was to arrange a November date for a new recording. This gave them 3 months to sort out which songs they would want to record, and who knows....they might not have written them yet.

Almost as a postscript was the forthcoming Sheffield Star's Talent Contest, which I thought would be a good idea for the band to enter. The Contest consists of six heats held over the Summer at the Top Rank Club. The winners' would receive studio time and . . . 'recognition'. I sold them the idea and they were very keen. We would get at best; fame and fortune, at worst some good exposure. As I didn't know what the judging criteria was, if we managed to get accepted then we could notch that up as an achievement. I just hope that the newspaper likes the current 'dull' tape. The band agreed to do some new photos on the following Saturday for our entry. This was to give me enough time to think of something to photograph.

Our first meeting had been very productive and it felt, to me, that this whole project was the start of something major and that I should keep a record of it from the beginning. No doubt that if I'd left the recording of it until later, I'd probably wouldn't remember who, what, where or how anything happened. As I was already using my diary, well actually just carrying it around as there was hardly anything worth writing about and or being referred to. So I could use that for the work-a-day diary of Party Day, of their hopes and successes (I hope).

There are times in your life when confidence can overcome any obstacle that crosses your path, and with this in mind, I fully believe that if you add up all the bands attempting to ply their trade in this country; that for every thousand that are trying to make their mark, only a hundred of them will be of any good. From each hundred, ten of them will have a moderate level of success, but only one will become a pure major league star. I believe Party Day can climb this ladder successfully, obviously avoiding all the snakes on the way.

17 JULY

We had an excellent photo session today. They enjoyed the importance that the camera gave them and the session was OK. I hope their 'men-in-black' look doesn't come across as too bleak. Is it wrong to smile in a group shot? The trend in the music press seems to be 'dark and gloomy'. Still, neither am I looking for saccharine coated pop stars, just something in between the two.

20 JULY

Photos now printed, so I sent off our package to the Star. I hadn't realised how much these dark images of them would reinforce the atmosphere of the demo tape. I really don't hold out much hope for our entry. However this wouldn't really be a set back, let's face it, a talent show can be the kiss of death and fortunately the band agrees with me on this one. I really must do something about their image. Well, it's still early days and it will be better with that much needed 'brighter' tape.

01 AUG

Carl Alive(size=121 KB)
Mr. Charm
When I arrived home tonight from work, there was a letter for me from the Star. It's the moment we had been waiting for.... and.... we've been accepted, we're in the competition. They've given us the date of our heat and they want to interview Party Day. Tonight is rehearsal night, so it's gonna be good news for them. Or so I thought, I hadn't noticed that Carl had been very quiet all night. Finally he told us all that he couldn't play on that particular week.

"What holiday?" He then tells me that he's off to a caravan park in Norfolk for that week. Hadn't I told them to keep me informed of things, so as to avoid this sort of problem? We spent ages talking ourselves in circles, until the answer finally presented itself: Carl could do both. Carl was to go to Sheffield for the day by train, play the gig, then after we had unloaded the hire van, I'd drive him back to Norfolk and still return in time to get the van back within its 24 hours. This was not exactly simple but Carl didn't want to lose another day's holiday by travelling, whereas I'd only lose my beauty sleep....and I guess it's too late for me to worry about that.

Everything's fine again.

02 AUG

I rang the Star's reporter, who sounded most agreeable. She wanted to interview them at their next rehearsal for the accompanying feature. I thought this was excellent as I'd half expected that we would have to go to her office. I guess she must be on expenses.

05 AUG

The Interview. The plan was for the band to arrive at The Ship at the usual time of 7pm and to begin their rehearsal as normal. Meanwhile I would meet her at the train station and drive her to the pub. We would probably arrive at 8pm, so that she could 'catch' the band playing and then they could break for the interview. This went like clockwork.

Although at the station, neither of us were wearing a pink carnation, she was easy to identify, as we both looked like we were looking for someone. So I approached her and introduced myself. Actually she was very tasty looking and naturally, my mind wandered a little. Nevertheless, I managed to stay with the job in hand.

First single promo shot (size=38 KB)
Time for a break
At the pub I showed her into the rehearsal room, got the drinks order and then left them all to it. I went downstairs to get out of everyone's way. Although I would like to be in on the interview, I don't think it's really the place for a manager. I certainly don't want them to appear as puppets and could I keep quiet if I disagreed with them. I'm secure in the knowledge that we are a 'group of five', and why should I interfere with their moment. Anyway I trusted them not to cock it up, they're not that stupid.

The interview seemed to go OK as she was most enthusiastic about them. I asked her about the other bands she'd interviewed for the contest and she was very dismissive of a few. Apparently some of the groups had ego's the size of Old Trafford. At least we weren't suffering from this virus, still it's early days yet. However I did wonder what she really thought of us.

I drove her back to the station. On the way, I mentioned that I worked in Sheffield and spent much of my time there. I asked her what she did in the evenings and then the penny finally dropped, well not actually, I did have to ask her straight out but without success. She was already seeing someone, but thanked me for my troubles! We parted amicably enough and she said she was looking forward to seeing the band in a few weeks time. On reflection, I think that it all went rather smoothly tonight.

Afterwards I went back to The Ship and found that the band had already packed up early for the night. Tonight had been a very positive session and now we were all second guessing the write up. Later, Martin finished off the night with his annoying habit of cleaning out the one-arm bandit with the aid of a single coin. Some people....

19 AUG

Martin Sings! (size=123 KB)
Martin in full flow
Martin had decided that Party Day needed a warm up gig for the contest, so he'd persuaded the Ship's landlord to let them play in the main room. Although there really wasn't the space for it, they had managed to shoe-horn themselves into a corner. In fact there was more room for the pool table, but then again, it did earn more money than the band.

I didn't have to do much for this gig, it being a local one for friends. But we still had a poor turn out. I daresay in years to come it'll be likened to all those multitudes who claimed they saw The Pistols at the 100 Club, or then again maybe not!

Martin had started his preparations early for the gig, so by the time Party Day were due 'onstage', he was well pissed. And with his latest toy, a strobe light, he managed to peak early on the irritating scale, by shining it directly at what little audience they had. It was no small understatement to say that they could've been better. I just hope Martin's state tonight was only a temporary aberration. At least it was very easy to pack up the gear.

25 AUG - TOP RANK, SHEFFIELD

The Battle of the Bands heat, today. I collected the van from a cheap hire place I'd found in Barnsley. Cheap but not cheerful, the van's back doors wouldn't lock properly and the odour within it was fresh from the farm. By the time I'd arrived at the pub, I was already high on methane. Loading up the gear turned out to be a little tricky and it was like taking part in the Krypton Factor. . . "Turn it around to see if it fits any better the other way," "No. Try it again" . . . Soon we should be able to load it blindfolded.

As we arrived at the venue, I noticed that Carl was on the doorstep waiting for us. He was looking fresh from his 3-day holiday and was as keen as the rest of us to have a good day. Once inside the venue, it soon became apparent that Mr. Chaos was in charge. All the bands had arrived and everything seemed in disarray. At the epicentre of it, was the PA company, who were slowly sorting out each of the six bands. The PA crew should've been a blur of decisive action, after having staged several of the heats so far, but this was not to be. Then the organisers told me that the band could only play a short set of four songs and not the original six as requested (due to the lack of time). It hadn't even started yet. Then a little later, the organiser said that there wasn't anytime for the band to do a sound check, but that the sound guy would sort it out during our first song. I began to think that this contest was now in the hands of Mr. Cockup!

At least it couldn't get worse. Well I was wrong. The next blow came from the Star's two page feature on tonight's contestants, in which they had described us as the 'Fascists from Hell'! Where did that come from? What had the band said to her.

Set List - Battle of the Bands
Party Day were fourth on the bill. With minutes to go before they were due onstage, I'm running around as if my arse is on fire. I want everything to be ready and perfect for them, as I hate to see a band wander on and proceed to sort itself out as if they had never seen a guitar lead before. I would much rather have them get onstage, relaxed and raring to start the first song. So I make sure both mikes are set at the right height, Martin is a little taller than Carl. Also I tell them where I've put their individual Set lists for ease of view and a drink of whatever they fancy. We can't pay ourselves yet so it's the least I can do. Finally I re-check the amplifier settings, which I'd noted earlier, and I left them switched on in standby mode. Simple, but effective.

Carl was the only one to have made any effort with his stage clothes. He's wearing a white waiter's jacket that contrasted with everyone else's work-a-day attire of black T-shirts. I hope this 'Fascist' thing doesn't stick. Back stage Greg had been passing the last few moments by re-tuning all the guitars, while Martin and Mick made prats of themselves.

Mick with sticks in hand(size=118 KB)
Drummer Boy
There is a short announcement from the organiser, and then the band shuffled on. From the start, Party Day were far from happy. Mick began pounding out the beat to the first song which would overlap the rhythms from his drum machine (shades of Joy Division), suddenly the drum machine disappeared entirely from the mix. This surprise threw out the bands' timing. The tampering was to continue intermittently throughout all the four songs as the sound guy attempted to sort out the levels. The band came across as a shambolic mess, which I found very depressing. We didn't win any fans tonight. As for the night as a whole, if it wasn't for the fact that the eventual winners, a dead ringer for 'ABC -complete with a full brass section- had an uninterrupted perfect sound, I would have said said that we were just unlucky... but as it was! After the judges gave their scores, we finished with 'Nil-point' and came last in this debacle. Definitely a blow to our morale but we're riding high on credibility!

Our night still wasn't over. I was driving around Sheffield's one-way system and at one point I began to go down the wrong road. So I quickly reversed out before I was seen, Unfortunately, I scraped down the side of a taxi that had just pulled up alongside me. Tonight I was in no mood for an irate cabbie and certainly didn't need any points on my licence, which would stop me hiring any more vans. So to calm him down I gave him the 20 we'd earned tonight for the merest of scratches to his taxi.

Meanwhile the band were having a good old laugh at my expense, until I told them it was actually at their expense. This had quite a calming effect on them for the rest of the journey back. At home we put the gear away and now all I had to do was to drive Carl to Norfolk. Martin came along for the ride, which would help me to stay awake at least. A few hours later I'm driving on the plains of Norfolk, we were trying to forget the previous nights' calamity. We found the caravan park by 6am, the caravan took a little longer. Carls' dozing mates greeted us with an indifference, but gave us for our troubles, a greasy breakfast.

Later that afternoon I bought a copy of The Star to read last night's review - which we should best forget. Not one of our finer moments. Back to more rehearsals and phone calls.

10 SEPT

Getting a gig can be a difficult process. The promoters aren't too keen on originality. You can't get anywhere without first having to pigeon-hole yourself, as everyone always asks quot;So what are you like?quot;. You really want to say that the band are totally original and unlike anything that's gone before and they have to be seen. But finally, you end up telling them that they're a cross between The Jam and Joy Division.

I'm continually 'phoning promoters, and now the pockets in my jeans are beginning to fall apart, as I'm forever carrying loads of small change for the phone calls. These calls keep me very busy either during my lunch break or after work, and sometimes both. Once they've taken the bait of a cassette tape, a brief biog' and a bit of flattery, then I'm on the way to getting that essential gig date. Nevertheless at the moment, I don't have any real say on the chosen date, right now It's a 'take it or leave it' situation and I can't be too fussy. Which is why Party Day will be playing two gigs on the same Friday in different towns!

The first will be a highly prestigious afternoon gig at the grand re-opening of the Leadmill, which is part of the Festival of Unemployment . Then, it's a self-promoted gig in Barnsley, which I'd arranged earlier.

Fortunately, this appealed to the band's sense of humour.
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Time to move on to Part Two....

"I'll carry you home, put you inside my pocket"

Part Two

Part Two
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