Saturday, January 27, 2007

Harmony in my head

My friend Dr Beatrice has directed me to the new Myspace page of her legendary goth-funk combo The Souls of Dead Librarians, which flourished long enough for them to release a demo tape (remember them?) in 1986.

I do wonder whether there's some sort of mathematical constant, similar to pi or the Golden Mean, that lays down the ratio of bands that actually make it to a debut performance, or even just rehearsal, and those that retain the purity and enthusiasm of conceptuality. About 1:5, maybe?

I was in at least two conceptual bands, as far as I can recall. Around the age of 14, I was a founder member of Yeux Bleus. The name came first, then the logo, which I happily etched onto my army surplus rucksack and several exercise books. I even concocted some lyrics, all scrupulously marked "© TJ Footman 1982".

The music wasn't so easy. My friend Alex had taken a few guitar lessons. Stephen liked the idea of the bass (John Taylor and Martin Kemp were the babe magnets of their respective combos at the time, remember), which left the drums for me, on the basis that they required the least talent. (Apologies to any drummers out there: it must be dreadful for you.)

Before any of us actually went out and bought proper instruments, Alex went off the idea, but by that stage Stephen and I had become increasingly enamoured of various synth combos, so the loss of the neophyte axeman could be presented as "creative differences". Moreover, "Yeux Bleus" (we'd briefly been The Morons, but returned to the original name after becoming a two-piece) would look better on the posters when we landed that crucial support slot with Depeche Mode, or even Classix Nouveaux.

But Stephen and I had both fallen under the spell of the mighty Trio (famed for the glorious 'Da Da Da'), and pledged fealty to their less-is-more philosophy, which applied as much to expenditure and ability as to any specifically musical concept of minimalism. Spurning even the cheap-and-cheerful accessibility of the Casiotone keyboard, Stephen announced that he would build his own synthesiser, a device that turned out to be little more than a joy buzzer glued to a piece of balsa wood. Confronted with this, I announced that I would play my own analogue drum machine, which was a single maraca from a pair that my grandmother had brought back from a holiday in Spain.

I think that was the moment we both realised that it was time to go our separate ways. Stephen eventually went off to be a bank clerk and a devout Catholic, in that order. Alex currently manages all the property for the Anglican Church in Wales. And I went to university, where I was a founder member of equally conceptual Geschirrspülmaschine im Arschlock (which translates as "Dishwasher up the arse", if I recall correctly). All the songs would also be called 'Geschirrspülmaschine im Arschlock', and they would consist solely of the barked phrase 'Geschirrspülmaschine im Arschlock'. In a terribly elliptical tribute to Roxy Music, the line-up would consist of a fluctuating number of bass-players, with no other musicians present.

I can't remember what stopped Geschirrspülmaschine im Arschlock from moving from conceptuality to actuality, let alone Madison Square Garden. A combination of idleness and tequila, I suspect. But hey, enough of my yakkin'. Tell me about your own bands, real or imagined. Or somewhere in between. Because aren't those always the best kind?


Geoff said...

We never got as far as names but our heavy rock combo was dashed when I tightened the bass player's strings too many octaves high and snapped them.

A few years later I bought a Gnat synth (the cheap shit version of the Wasp) and lent it to my prospective synth pop partner. He then went and killed himself and I didn't have the heart to ask his family for my Gnat back.

I still have dreams of getting a keyboard and doing "something". It'll have to wait till I'm retired and have a bit of time on my hands. I'll call myself JJ Cale.

Annie said...

I narrowly avoided being recruited to a friend's psycho girlfriend's band - I don't recall any mention of instruments (apart from those klaxon things that clubbers used during acid house) but she was very firm on the image and stagewear, which was to comprise of dayglo parkas and nipple tassles.

What's the J for Tim? We must know.

Anonymous said...

Dear me ...

Junior high school, circa 1979, I was in a Styx/Supertramp cover band called Eclipse. I was supposed to be the singer/keyboard player, but the band's lead had this idea that everyone should swap instruments every few songs, so I learned t o play dreadful guitar and worse drums.

High school I was in a rock band for about five minutes. The lead won the National Science Fair award for discovering the cause of the Elephant Man's disease (neurofibromatosis) and that was the end of that.

I played a steady bimonthly gig at a folk club for three years in the late '80s.

In grad school I was in my friend Dan's band Moist, which was ostensibly a blues/R&B band. It broke up for the usual reason: the guitar and bass players wanted to kill each other.

Now I sing with a couple of guitar- and bass-slingin' friends in a band we call Onion Patch Defect. Next week we'll graduate from rehearsals to the great excitement of Open Mic Night... That may be as far as we get :-/

Spinsterella said...

I can't sing, so I always thought Rock God Status was beyond me.

Then, years later, I read that the keyboard player from the Dandy Warhols was just some waitress chick that the singer liked the look of and he taught her to play in 5 minutes.


I failed my Grade Piano twice y'know, I had the talent...

Anonymous said...

I was in a touring VE-Day tribute band, the summer of 95. Apart from that it's usually just me, providing a lonely but enthusiastic accompaniment to jazz, soul or torch singers. On which, er, note, balsa-buzzer and maraca sounds like pure heaven.

Anonymous said...

RE: "What's the J for Tim? We must know."

I reckon it's James. It has to be James, what else could it possibly be?

My first band was called Dynamite. I was eight years old and I wrote the lyrics to one song which I called "I love you" because I couldn't think of anything else to call it.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me, sorry. I keep doing this. Having two blogs is confusing.

Tim F said...

These all sound glorious, especially Valerie's AOR swap shop.

And I was debating whether to claim 'Jabberwocky' as a middle name, but Annie R (or her Nordic simulacrum) gets it right.

Anonymous said...

I've been in several bands that had a few rehersals and that was it.

One was called Les Frotteurs and I believe they found someone who could actually play bass and not just lurch around with it and even played a gig.

I actually worked out a bit of bass later and played with a band who made it to eight or nine rehersals.

As a result of this, I was invited to play in the band it was a spin-off of, on the keyboards.

We played one gig in Bishop Sutton and then I was sacked, although it was apparently the instrument not me getting sacked.

If only I'd learned the guitar.

Joel said...

-Woking College
-Three other members
-Became singer because couldn't play any instruments
-Band liked Ocean Colour Scene and Oasis: Wanted to call selves Riverside.
-I, at the time, liked Sixties lounge mambo. Wanted to call band Hairy Baby.
-Split after first rehearsal.

FirstNations said...

posts like this are precisely why you presently lead the field in the 'John Steed of blogdom' nominations over to my place.

(bandname - 'Critical Point'. song - 'Condominium Nightmare' lyric:
big white man in a big white house, got a big white dog and a big white spouse, big white man gonna kill you till your dead, big white man gonna f***you in the HEADHEADHEADHEAD'*much thrashing of hair ensues* and yes I am ashamed.)

Tim F said...

Billy: But lurching is the most important aspect of bass technique! Were you a Hooky-style, down-by-the-knees bassist, or a Mark King, thumb-in-the-armpit kinda guy?

Joel: HAIRY BABY!!! Love it.

FN: Is the fucking in the head intended to occur after you have been killed until you're dead?

Anonymous said...

Low-slung, flinging it about occassionally falling over or slamming it into a wall.

rockmother said...

I went to 6th form college with most of the Brand New Heavies and was asked to play keyboards for them. I turned them DOWN mainly because the founder member kept sending me pornographic letters (which I still have)! Then my best friend ended up sleeping with the guy that did take the place I'd turned down and apparently he did it with his socks on! Oh how we laughed.