Friday, September 2, 2016

The Life We Wanted: Another Dispatch From the Power Pop Trenches

Depleted — now we are only three! — but resolute, we drove in separate cars to picturesque Putney, and there unloaded our gear. The sound man reminded me of 1970s employees of the big Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. in glamorous Hollywood, California. It was apparently his impression that, by virtue of having worked with stars much more luminous than we, he was doing us a huge favour helping us with our sound check. It occurred to me that it would be great fun to drop him off the top of a very high building.

Earlier in the day, we had nicknamed Darryll, our guitarist, Dazza. American readers will be fascinated to learn that the Brits delight in diminutising names by lopping off everything after the first vowel and then adding zza. George Harrison was apparently called Hazza by his pals before The Beatles conquered the world. I think Dazza du Toit (with Toit pronounced in the French way, rather than as toy, as it had been back in his native South Africa) is a fantastic pop star name.

We played pretty well, though, owing to my now having to sing, I can’t play the dazzling multirhythms that used to characterise my drumming, except during Dazza's solos, when I am commonly preoccupied with trying to remember which words come next. As I am singing everything in keys chosen by the former Miss Zelda Hyde, who took early retirement from the group in the late spring, I was mortified that, in the heat of battle, I’d forget some of the strategies I’d devised to avoid notes out of my range, to whatever extent I can be said to have a range. I remembered nearly all of them, though, and nearly all the lyrics in the bargain. My golden voice brought a smile to every face I could see.

I could see no faces. Fun fact: not all of those who wear sunglasses on stage are ludicrous poseurs. You can get pretty well blinded up there in those multiple bright lights. But this is of course the life we wanted.

Before the venerable “I’m Going to Jump,” which my old band The Pits was performing in Hollywood as far back as 1977, I advised the audience that there would be a twist contest during the choruses, on which I play a twist beat (sort of like Ringo’s in “Please Please Me”), and that the winner would receive bassist Andrew Barton’s late-model Volkswagen Polo. Bassist Andrew Barton didn’t seem entirely pleased, but then I declared his lovely bride, Josie Barton, the winner, so: everyone a winner.

The 21 paying customers we’d attracted (on a Tuesday night right after a bank holiday, mind you) wanted an encore, but as we returned to the stage, a displeased little voice — that of our friend the sound man — informed us, rather sniffily, that we’d already exceeded our allotted time by 20 minutes. Which, for the record, we had not.

After our performance, many of bassist Andrew Barton’s friends and family stayed for dinner, with wine. He is no accountant, but nonetheless estimates that the pub took in something close to £500, of which we saw not a penny. We had attracted only 21 paying customers, and the Half Moon pays only if you draw at least 25. With four more fans, we’d have earned a staggering £50 (we’d get £2 for every £6 admission).

We are bloodied, but unbowed. 

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