Myself and The Validators recently played a gig at De Montfort University Students’ Union, and were AGHAST at what we saw. Everyone seemed CLEAN, WELL FED and - shockingly - NOT DRUNK. The car park was full of CARS, belonging to STUDENTS, there was an ESTATE AGENT’S within the building itself for students who would rather buy a house than live in the luxuriously appointed (with EN SUITE BATHROOMS) halls of residence and the young people were discussing what JOBS they would accept when they left.
OH HOW DIFFERENT it all was when I was a student there, back in the dog days of Thatcher. The clientele of Leicester Polytechnic Students’ Union wore clothes drained to a uniform GREY through over-wearing and poor laundry, lived on a diet of cheap tinned food and were DRUNK OUT OF THEIR MINDS on pound a pint “wine”. Nobody had a car, we all lived in run down terraced houses, four to a bathroom, and the idea of there being ANY jobs going when we left was laughable.
But - and I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear this - we were happy, THOUGH WE WERE POOR. I had some of the MOST GRATE times of my young life living in a little terraced house on Paton Street in Leicester with Neil, Cathy and Gaynor, eating own-brand foodstuffs and staying up late drinking (and occasionally attempting to smoke) TEA. We didn’t even have a telly - eee, tell that to The Kids today and they won’t believe you - so we sat around talking a LOT, and one of the things we talked about most was ROCK MUSIC. When we’d moved in Neil and I had both claimed to have been in PUNK ROCK BANDS. If you’ve read recent entries you’ll know precisely how close to the truth this was in my case, and Neil was being similarly creative with the facts. His gigging career to that point amounted to, in his words, “hitting a tree in the playground and shouting ‘PUNK ROCK’”. Once we’d confessed this to each other it wasn’t long before we decided to form a real band ourselves.
This new band, at that point unnamed, was a major step up the musical ladder for me, as Neil could actually play an instrument. All right, he wasn’t the MOST tutored player of all time but I challenge ANYONE, even now, to play a Bar Chord with as much PUNK COMMITMENT as he could. I’d recently given up entirely on playing electric guitar myself as it was too HARD and asked other friends what instrument I should try. They gave me a choice - if I played Drums I’d never be out of offers for gainful employment, but would need to learn to drive a car, whereas bass was… well, playing the bass was a piece of piss.
Thus we ventured out to the local “second-hand” store and part exchanged the guitar Mileage had played in The Masters Of Nothing for a bass guitar which seemed to be made of two different instruments bolted together. That very afternoon we learnt TWO songs - “Freak Scene” by Dinosaur Junior (a song I loved so much I played the recorded version to my NAN… complete with SWEARS) and “New Year’s Day” by U2.
It later turned out that these were the only two songs Neil knew how to play so we very quickly progressed to writing our own material. Our first songs were from our “previous bands” - Neil had a tune called “Morgue Dancing” and I worked out a proper tune for “Rather Spooky” by The Masters Of Nothing - but we soon started writing songs together. We couldn’t afford to go out that much, and it wasn’t like there was any point studying was there?
The first fruits of our collaboration was a song called “She’s A Spaceman”. We LOVED this song and, I must say, I still do now. It’s all about someone going to see their girlfriend, who is a spaceman, and discovering she’s busy, so spending an afternoon drinking tea and eating biscuits with her mum. The biscuity section of the song takes up a surprisingly large amount of the song, almost as much as the chorus which went:
She’s A Spaceman
She’s A Spaceman
She’s A Spaceman
She’s A Space PERSON
It was very much a song of its time. We played and played and played and, before too long, we were ready to go and do so in front of other people. But where were we to make our debut? There were all sorts of gig venues in Leicester but we had no IDEA how to go about getting gigs at any of them and were far too scared to ask.
If only we knew someone who ran a club - a comedy club, say, where the booking policy involved inviting their friends to come and play…