Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Let The Grass Grow

A while ago, I mentioned in a previous post that I had been the drummer in a rock 'n' roll band while in high school. This band was called The Grass, not a monicker I was particularly fond of, and we were not exactly the tightest combo that anyone ever heard. True, we had a few hummable ditties, but most were very derivative, and a lot were covers. We were led by Alastair, who was heavily into '50s and '60s rock & roll, and so several of his songs had that Eddie Cochran/Bill Haley/Gene Vincent feel to them, very out of fashion at the time (early '80s), a time when bass player/rhythm guitarist Nigel and myself were listening to Bauhaus and The Boomtown Rats. However, since Alastair seemed to own most of the equipment, Nigel had very little say, and I had even less.

Why am I telling you this? Because this afternoon I put on a couple of old rehearsal tapes (yes, I still have them, 28 years on. All of them.) and I was staggered at (a) how bad some of it was; (b) how there were occasional - note, occasional - flashes of brilliance; and (c) the fact that I had forgotten some of the songs. Let me just run through the track listing of one of the tapes, a tape entitled "Grass Live Charm Wood" (Charm Wood being the name of Alastair's house). The dates on the label indicate that these rehearsals took place on February 24th 1982, and July 17th 1982. One of the things that makes me squirm about these tapes is the fact that at 16 years old, my voice still had not broken and sounded all girly. It did enable me to punctuate the songs with high-pitched squeals though, as if some flock of adoring teenyboppers were about to mob us and rip our clothes off.

Side 1:

  • All Shook Up
  • That's Alright Mama
  • Stand There - a song written by Nigel which eventually became 'You Need Grass', a tawdry bid to have a signature tune, containing such verses as 'You cram your head with books/ You're not aware of your good looks/ You're beautiful but you're stationary/ You just can't get off the hook'. We had another two songs containing the word 'Grass' - "Let The Grass Grow" and "GrassFunk". We had been called The Urge previously but then discovered there was another The Urge out there, and they had appeared on TV, so we changed it. Shame really -  I thought the Urge was a good name. Years later there was another The Urge who did 'Jump Right In' - remember that one? Look it up on YouTube.
  • Great Balls Of Fire
  • Sarah - one of Alastair's ballads. One that I had somehow blanked out of my memory.
  • All Shook Up (again - as I say, this was a rehearsal)
  • That's Alright Mama again
  • Stand There again
  • Great Balls Of Fire again (God, how I hated playing that song)
  • Wild Thing
  • The Blues Bug - a song of Alastair's which, if he'd had a more bluesy voice instead of the smooth balladeer voice he tried to adopt, would have made a fairly decent blues jam.
  • Get Off Of My Cloud - this was just a very loose jamming version which stopped and started and contained a very vocal argument about how the song should be played - Nigel wanted to remain true to the original, while Alastair wanted to try different tempos. On the tape, Alastair says, "We don't wanna BE like the Stones, just want to nick a Stones song, that's all." Nigel's reply? "Yeah, but you need to play it how it's meant to be played though, I mean that's a good song." So how did it end up being arranged on our first demo a year later? As a reggae-tinged pop song. 
Side 2 - This was a rehearsal for a thing called 'Stalag 82' which was a reunion of sorts organised by Alastair's parents and held in a marquee on the back lawn over a weekend in September of that year.

  • Great Balls Of Fire again
  • Stand There again
  • Death Valley - a song of Alastair's about a ghostly battlefield - "I could hear the distant screams all around me..." ooohh...spooky. Also contains the line "I turned my head and saw a fallen soldier/ I turned again and saw it was a log." Lyrical genius.
  • Get Back
  • Get Off Of My Cloud
  • Rolling Down The Highroad - my favourite of all Alastair's songs, this had a lovely loping groove and a great simple riff.
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Rolling Down The Highroad again
  • Life's OK If You Drink - best thing about this was the title. "Paralytic beyond belief / You're the cause of so much of my grief."
  • Yo Yo Woman - one of Alastair's, about a woman who "sees all the young guys hanging around, ties 'em in a loop and slips 'em on her finger, then she winds ya up, and starts to spin ya...Up and down, around and around, up and down... she's the kinda woman that treats ya like a yo-yo." Yeah, we've all been there.
  • That's Alright Mama again
  • Wild Thing again
Our first actual gig was in Nigels' Grandma's back garden one summer day. Most of his family were there so we had an audience of about ten or so. I had not been able to afford a full drum kit at that point, so I had two snare drums side by side, one with the snares off, and the other had a small cymbal on the side. One of the nice things about this setup (which was to be made cool in 1985 by the Jesus and Mary Chain) was that it afforded me the opportunity to move around and dance, much to the delight of Nigel's Gran, who shouted out between songs "Can we have more dancing from the drummer, please!". I was happy to oblige. Apparently there exists a video which contains footage converted from a home movie camera of this gig. I have yet to see it though, but as soon as I can, I will attempt to post some to this blog for your amusement.

::UPDATE:: Here it is!!

It was not until late 1982 that I finally had enough money to buy a cheap second-hand Premier Olympic kit with a cracked crash cymbal that sounded like a tin tray, and a hi-tom that had a drumhead so beat up it looked like it was about to bust through any moment. It eventually did during an after-school rehearsal. That was fine though - I had been given some spare drum parts by my dad and so I had a nice blue Evans head waiting in the wings. I got a nicer kick pedal too.

We gigged in various pubs throughout the area in 1983, and eventually broke up in early 1984. But the buzz I got from being in the band, which we formed in 1978 at school during a German lesson, I will never forget. Just the feeling of being in front of people and performing is amazing, especially when you get a positive reaction. But even just jamming in someone's front room is something I think everyone should experience. Creating your own music is fun, and when other people like it too, that makes it all worthwhile.

There have been moments over the past few years when Alastair, Nigel and I have talked and jokingly mentioned doing a reunion gig one day. But if the truth were known, I would love to do it. Maybe one day, who knows...?


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