Me and Fatty Ryan knew this guy called Joe who was a bit of a nutter – gave the impression of being a bit unstable but he had this distinctive way of strumming, opening the strings on the third beat and then coming up across them and then down-up-down on the fourth, which swung along quite nicely and he could sing.
We thought he was a bit of a nutter because whenever we pretended to fight – sort of harmless sparring, messing about really – he always seemed to get carried away like it was all serious, which it never was. Also if you went ‘round to his house just to chill on the doorstep, he was one of those people who seemed always to stand too close like his face was invading your space. Didn’t matter – he always dressed the part and had this kind of flop of yellowy blonde hair.
Anyway, being under the legal drinking age we had a way of sneaking into this pub in the village – it was a suburb really – ages ago it had been a village before the city swallowed it but the name stuck.
On certain nights there would be live music. Apart from the music, we went mainly for an illicit beer and in the desperately empty hope of meeting girls, which never ever happened, not even once.
Getting in without being challenged by the manager – who wasn’t the sort of geezer you would want to argue with – was a matter of timing. On ‘music’ nights naturally enough the place would be more crowded so if you timed it to perfection you could sweep in with a group of people you didn’t know whilst there were still empty chairs and tables near the stage.
The first act I ever saw in there was these three guys singing mainly a cappella anchored in places with a bit of acoustic guitar, very good they were too. That was the night that Frankie someone-or-other got in a fight outside with three guys from Speke who decided it wasn’t such a good idea after all and leapt onto a passing bus, one of those tall red double-decker jobs. Not being local they hadn’t realised that the bus stop was just a few yards ahead and that the bus was about to stop.
Frankie gave chase. Frankie liked a drink and was not what you might describe as athletic, by the time he caught up with the bus it was starting to move off again, but as a token of his displeasure Frankie head-butted the back of the bus whilst it remained within range. You could still see the dent as the bus crested the top of a slight hill in the distance.
We were pretty impressed, even had we needed a reason not to have a go at Frankie, which we absolutely did not, no-one did, not locally anyway, that would have put us off.
Joe had an older brother of dubious pursuits who it turned out knew the manager of the pub and suggested to this manager that Joe and his band (that’s me and Fatty Ryan) could fill a slot there. Fatty had a drum kit – pretty minimal as I recall – Joe had his guitar and access to the venue microphone and I had a guitar, a semi-acoustic ‘Rosetti’ white cut-away.
It was a long time ago, I can’t remember all the songs we were going to do but in general I think they would have been of a ‘country’ flavour, Joe was good at that.
It’s amazing to what degree the enthusiasm of youth can persuade you that you’re capable of things clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, you are not.
Despite a flagrant lack of any serious rehearsal, we presented ourselves nice and early on the night for a run through. I was much the youngest but tall for my age; twelve. On letting us in, the manager bore that look of prior knowledge but without the fine print.
The room where the stage was didn’t open until a bit later; we were there to set up.
After a bit Joe started losing his temper as he felt Fatty was taking too long.
Fatty was experiencing difficulty with his drum kit, bits of it kept moving away as he played but it didn’t matter. Within a very few moments of running through our opener, ‘Your Cheating Heart’, the manager came in to ask if we were tuned up yet, followed by several concluding generalities regarding the quality of our performance.
The exit was that way…..