April 29, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 10/12/01 - The University Of Leicester, Leicester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 3:04 pm

If you’ve spent as much time as I have at poorly attended gigs one phrase you will have heard a LOT is “Well, it’s good practice.” This is generally said by the bass player (or whoever else is de facto band leader) in a semi-desperate bid to persuade the rest of the band that it wasn’t a complete waste of time and that they should not, PLEASE, spend the next week moaning about it on email and blaming ME for the fact that nobody turned up.

As I say, I’ve heard it a lot. Unfortunately the statement is usually true in that it’s very good practice for loads MORE poorly attended and/or disappointing gigs. The only decent thing to do in these situations is NOT to think of these sort of gigs as anything else but an excellent an excuse to stay out and get HORRIBLY also BRILLIANTLY DRUNK. Only very rarely is there an occasion when this sort of experience is of any real value.

This was one of those occasions. I have spent my entire “career” working for Universities because, basically, once you’ve worked in Higher Education for more than a few months you’re pretty much ruined for proper jobs forever. THUS most University Departments tend to contain a surprisingly large amount of aspiring actors, musicians, novelists, poets and so forth (”layabouts” is the collective noun) who started working there as a temporary job while they waited for their “real” career to kick off and woke up one morning twenty years later to find out they suddenly knew a surprising amount about the Research Assessment Exercise.

Like all University Departments ours would occasional get all ENTHUSIASTIC, as someone decided - hey! - we hardly ever get together, so let’s mix a social occasion with a chance to swap ideas and have some fun!! Whoever decides this is usually NEW and so don’t realise that there are MANY GOOD REASONS why University Departments tend not to socialise (e.g. alongside the layabouts there is an equal number of LOONIES) and rarely have much grip on what constitutes “fun”. One year it was decided that rather than the traditional 12.30pm Pub Crawl on the last day we’d have our Christmas Do a fortnight before Christmas, in the evening, in our LECTURE ROOM. A bottle of wine was purchased, two packets of crisps, and someone borrowed their daughter’s cassette player. Good times and festivity failed to occur.

The NEXT year it was decided that we’d try again, with a RESEARCH DAY followed by a GIG! Yes, a GIG! One of the Professors had noticed that several people played instruments and so we were asked/TOLD to do short sets at the end of the day whilst everybody tucked into the sausage rolls. Now, if you’ve read any of the previous 49 instalments of this, you’ll know that I’m a shy retiring person who really would prefer NOT to be the centre of attention, but after a lot of gentle persuasion (Professor: “Who shall we get to play?” Me: “ME! OOH! OOH! ME!”) I agreed to perform.

Come the big day I wiled away the hours of FASCINATING LECTURES (NB SARCASM: I work in Medical Statistics, which while worthy, does not exactly set the world alight with glamour) thinking about what I’d play. Should I stick to covers and quiet songs, or dare I do one of the songs I’d written SPECIFICALLY about my job? Should I keep it low key, or maybe - RADICAL NEW IDEA - show off a bit? My decision was made almost IMMEDIATELY when I gathered at the back of the room with my co-performers, BOTH of whom were very much of the Folk Music Persuasion.

They looked DISMISSIVELY at my - admittedly CHEAP, but fully functional - guitar, and spoke together LOFTILY of how they were going to “EDUCATE” the gathered crowd. “I’m planning mostly traditional blues” said one. “Mmm, yes, I thought I’d try out some instrumentals” said the other, and THIS is where my YEARS of “practice” came into play. If there is one thing I have learnt about playing to people who have NOT come specifically to see you, it is that you have to GRAB their attention right from the start. Pissing about with blues or instrumentals is a one-way ticket to DEAFENING CHATTER TOWN, so I quickly volunteered to go on FIRST.

They both seemed to view this as only right, bearing in mind my clearly inferior finger picking techniques. I guessed that they were the type of folkies who only EVER play at folk clubs, where most of the audience are other FOLK ARTISTES who are probably playing later on, so have an INVESTMENT in clapping and saying they are GOOD, and so unlike me had never felt the wrath of An Audience Bored.

This sort of thing applies to ALL forms of music of course (”Experimental” Music is especially prone to it), but having an acoustic guitar meant I had come up against a LOT of 4×4 Nick Drakes, and so - I am slightly ashamed to admit - I decided to make an extra SPECIAL effort to get the audience as excited as possible before the other two got onto the stage. THUS was The Uber Set prepared.

The Uber Set! This is my own personal term for [as near as I get to] an ALL WINNERS set, where every song in it has been tested to breaking point at MANY MANY gigs and found to be, if not a crowd PLEASER, at least a crowd LISTENER. These are the ones with light SWEARING, JOKES, and SINGALONG bits, the ones that I can usually rely on to make and audience shush up a bit and, at appropriate moments, even CLAP. As well as showing me which sort of songs produced this effect, the years of rubbish gigs had actually caused me to WRITE more of them, for precisely this sort of occasion. I rallied my songs together, and prepared to ROCK.

I took to the stage and immediately launched into “Work’s All Right (when it’s a proper job)” a job EXPLICITLY about my job and the people I worked with. They LAPPED it up, and when I then did “Clubbing In The Week” (largely about having to go to work when hungover, and thus a GUARANTEE of RUEFUL SMILES) I knew that I HAD them. It was one of those rare occasions when the stars align and years of practice actually PAY OFF, so that the shouting and singing was making SO MUCH NOISE that the people in the next lecture hall COMPLAINED.

One of our Deputy Heads Of Department was TOLD OFF at some length by Estates, and so just before my last song he had to nervously approach the front and say “Er… Mark, the Estates Department have had some complaints, and wondered if we might just turn it down?” I looked at my audience. “Are we going to let THE MAN tell us what to do?” I bellowed. Thirty over-excited academics shouted back “NO!”

It was totally utterly completely BRILLIANT, and I strode off stage to applause and a whole buffet table of FREE WINE! That pretty much NEVER happens!

I felt a little guilty about so brazenly BARN STORMING, as in real life they were actually perfectly nice people, especially when the next chap came on to do his set. He had clearly NEVER played outside the folk clubs, and so was visibly upset when, two minutes in to his first six minute display of vocal free finger picking, people realised there WASN’T going to be any singing along this time and started chatting instead. As stated previously, he WAS a nice chap in normal life, so I went and hid behind a series of Research Posters so as not to be seen chatting. The Professor after him, the one who’d been preparing some educational blues, could be seen hastily re-setlisting. When she came on 45 minutes later she began by saying “Here’s a cover version”, and launching into The Beach Boys.

I do love a good singalong!

April 24, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 6/12/01 - The Casbah, Sheffield / 12/12/01 - Blue Cat Cafe, Stockport

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 10:26 am

People in the Music “Industry”, they don’t half talk a load of old bollocks. One of the CLASSICS of Utter Crap they spout is “If you’re any good, you’ll be discovered.”

This is meant to convey the message “HANG IN THERE, The Kids! If you’ve got talent, we, the mighty and ENTIRELY BENIGN Music ‘Industry’ will find you and help you. No need to try and do anything without us.” What it actually means is “We are too lazy to ever go and see a gig outside the M25 and even then only if it’s to see something somebody ELSE says is good, but we would like you to think we somehow KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING, so if we’ve not heard of you it must be because you are rubbish. PASS THE COCAINE.”

For LO! I have seen many many MANY utterly GRATE bands in my time, and approximately NONE of them have gone on to be Signed Up by The Majors. This great ROCK NATION of ours is constantly producing AMAZING bands who hardly ever get heard of by anyone outside the city they live in but those who DO hear them never forget. The MOST GRATE of these sort of bands that I ever saw were The Frightened Prisoners Of The Kraken, from Darwen in Lancashire. They were a trombone-led BARQUE POP outfit with a baritone lead singer and band members who looked, variously, like teachers, club bouncers, an uncle, and the owner of a music shop. It was like a school reunion in a junk shop

They came into my VIEW when they sent a Demo to our record label, Artists Against Success. We used to get LOADS of these when we were in our pomp - we eventually worked out that this was because AAS tended to come near the TOP of the alphabetical lists of independent record companies, so people from all over the world sent us stuff without ever bothering to listen to the sort of thing we put out - if only people who sent us demo tapes BOUGHT even ONE of our records we would have TRIPLED sales figures!

THUS, when we had our monthly meetings there’d always be a PILE of terrible terrible tapes to share out between the three of us which we would dutifully go home and listen to. When we started the label this was FINE - you’d have a gentle LAUGH at the more ridiculously bad tapes, smile hopefully through all the Oasis copycats, and return to the next meeting waving the WORST of the MANY Working Man’s Club Band Publicity Photographs we’d been sent. After a while though you started to realise that these were people’s DREAMS we were fast forwarding through - every tape was the culmination of HOURS, sometimes WEEKS of EFFORT and LOVE, and every single one was sent out with the hope that someone, somewhere, would hear something in it to love, to cherish, and to make famous. And they were nearly all RUBBISH.

Every once in a while, however, you’d get something really GOOD, at which point whoever’d got the tape would copy it for the others. This happened with The Kraken (as we came to call them), when Frankie came to a meeting RAVING about them. Me and Mr Whitaker got cassettes, and the next time the pair of them RAVED together. I couldn’t see it myself - it sounded like a tuneless Experimental Soundtrack to me, all wind noises and glockenspiels, but they were so ENTHUSED that I went back to have another listen. It was only at the next meeting when they started SINGING the entire tape that I realised I’d been listening to the wrong side…

SO, we signed them up, put out their record, and dragged them down to Derby to play at our fifth birthday gig. We’d never met them in the flesh before, so were a bit worried about what they’d be like, and were a bit worried in case they turned out to just be some fey indie types playing at being A Bit Northern. We needn’t have worried. They took to the stage GRUFFLY, SEIZED the gig in both hands, and UTTERLY BLEW THE MINDS of everybody there. At the time, DRUNK, I told everyone that it was like listening to Bob Dylan recording “Blonde On Blonde” but BETTER, also A LOT MORE FUNNY. It was a huge whirligig of SOUNDS and ACTION and FUN and TUNES and just UTTER BRILLIANCE, and the three of us were jumping up and down with GLEE at how GRATE they were.

They were just as brilliant at these two gigs, especially the Sheffield one where me and they played to nobody AT ALL. The other band who played with us were all about 19 and reminded us that not just Pulp, but also DEF LEPPARD had come from Sheffield. There were a few more people in Stockport (many of whom were still doing that irritating late-90’s pillock’s affectation of swaggering around with their legs far apart going “AAraaat?” in a bad Liam Gallagher impersonation) but the main thing I remember about it is that the Cafe seemed to still be in FULL MOURNING for George Harrison.

Those three gigs were the only times I saw The Kraken - not long afterwards their bass player, awfully, died, and shortly after that there was a family-related falling out between the two band leaders which meant that The Kraken were no more. There’ve been various promises of reconciliations and the remaining members getting together again over the last couple of years, but not much has ever come of it. If they ever DO manage it, I will be STRAIGHT on the train to Darwen!

April 22, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: In The Studio

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 2:36 pm

If you’ve kept a close eye on the dates for the last few entries you might have noticed that there were suddenly less gigs going on. You would be CORRECT to think this, and there were several reasons for the sudden Rocking Downturn, not least of which was the fact that I had started COURTING! And let me tell you ladies, when I am courting, I go to COURT!

Does that sound sexy or just weird? I can never tell.

Anyway, there were plenty of other Other Things taking up my time too - for instance, I absolutely HAD to go JAPAN for a week on Work Business to do a webpage. You may not know this, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to do a webpage without being in the actual physical offices of the people who own it, and there is certainly NOBODY in Japan who knows about that sort of thing. My boss was quite surprised to hear this, but agreed that, in that case, I should go over and help out. I thought I was DEAD CLEVER until it turned out our flight was on the VERY DAY that Afghanistan was invaded by the USA. On the plus side, I DID get a whole row of seats to myself, though remember realising that the only other person nearby was a NUN, and suddenly saw the news reports saying “Even… a NUN… was caught in the cross fire” just as we DIRECTLY ABOVE THE BATTLEZONE.

More happily I also went to see two great British Legends: the Loch Ness Monster and David Essex. Both of them were disappointing. One had a massive museum dedicated to whether they were real or not, the whole THRUST of which was “No. It isn’t. It’s probably a STURGEON” (although there weren’t many cuddly STURGEONS or STURGEON mugs on sale in the gift shop), whilst the other did disappointingly flat versions of the Old Classics and a LOT of terrible new material. But which was which? CLUE: when I went to see David Essex I a) didn’t buy any merchandise and b) got EJECTED from the AUDITORIUM for standing up - ROCK AND ROLL!

The MAIN thing that was going on, however, was recording sessions for our second album. That’s right - we had a SABBATICAL from LIVE WORK in order to concentrate on THE STUDIO, and it was BLOODY GRATE! The sessions for what would become “This Is Not A Library” took a long long time because I’d decided that THIS time around if there was a sound I wanted then I would GET it, and not give up just to make things go a bit quicker. This led to a LOT of overdubs - one time I was asking our Engineer/Producer Mr Kev Reverb if he didn’t think the electrical guitar was a bit quiet. “No”, he said, “I think it’s just being hidden by the acoustic guitar. And the lead guitar. Also the bass, drums, 3 violin tracks, 3 backing vocal tracks, the lead vocal and the EUPHONIUM.”

Kev was BRILLIANT throughout these lengthy sessions, and his immense PATIENCE was an inspiration. He put up with ANYTHING I could throw at him, especially my singing. “I think you have set yourself a challenge there” was one of his MANY codes for “bloody hell, NO”, and once he even ended up having to SING one of the BALLADS for me, like a GRUNGE SINATRA, so I could copy the Proper Notes.

His GRATEST moment came when we recorded “One Last Party”, the EPIC track that was to become the album closer. In my MIND I saw this as performed on a parade ground by a MASSIVE marching band, accompanied by The Women’s Royal Naval Service, a Welsh Voice Choir and hundreds of schoolchildren so, in accordance with the new RULES, that’s what we set out to record.

I explained to Kev that we’d need to record the sound of hundreds of people marching and he looked at me long, hard, and silently. It was a look I knew meant (because he’d VERBALISED it enough times) “For fuck’s sake Hibbett”, but which was always followed by ACTION. After a lengthy pause he said “Right. I’ve got a bit of marble I like to use for that sort of thing” and out of the Cupboard of Unusual Equipment came a huge slab of marble which did indeed make it sound like a huge CROWD when we marched on it.

We double tracked EVERYTHING for that song, including huge banks of us all singing in various silly voices to sound like WRENS, xylophones, trumpets and euphonium and… well, you get the idea. The night we did that was also Emma’s first night in the studio with us, so I guess everything since may have been seemed a bit calm, which was lucky really as a LOT of other sessions involved my Phil Spector-ish Record Production style: opening the door and shouting “Do it again, but LESS SHIT.” In my defence I had just started drinking STELLA and as soon as I realised this was happening I STOPPED, but not until I had leaned through and shouted the above at Emma, who was eight months pregnant at the time.

The guilt has not diminished over time.

Other little bits of the sessions stick in the mind, like Tom FEEDING BACK on his electronic violin for the first time and not realising what it was, or him and Rob being physically restrained from doing Harmonies when they were supposed to be shouting, or the night we spent an HOUR getting Emma to sing ONE LINE a certain way and, when she did, me and Kev looking at each other and doing THE NOD, like you see in FILMS, when The Producer thinks “It’s a HIT!”

There were plenty of other reasons, apart from The Quest For Perfection, that prolonged the sessions. Kev’s studio was part of a complex whose reception staff were PUNK KIDS - not OLD PUNKS, who are THE MOST RELIABLE PEOPLE YOU WILL EVER MEET, but annoying teenage “punks” who think The UK Subs were the best band EVER and have pierced ELBOWS, and feel that WRITING DOWN a BOOKING in THE BLOODY BOOKING BOOK is, like, boring, and who cares anyway? It got to the point where we’d book sessions in The Booking Book and then go upstairs to interrupt OTHER sessions to tell Kev himself.

There was also Kev’s DELUXE ROADYING sideline - one time he rang me to say he couldn’t do a session because, and I quote, “I’ve got to go and buy some Limes for Andy Williams.” You can’t really argue with that can you? The studio itself was slightly less deluxe, with several sessions seeing me and he CROWDED over a single heater in the control room whilst a BEGLOVED Tom froze in the live room, one time even BLOWING UP the electric socket. There were ACTUAL FLAMES! ROCK!

By the time it was all over I had read about five year’s worth of Viz, the complete Alan Moore Swamp Thing and most of the Asterix Books, all of which lived behind The Disgustingly Stinky Sofa which became a second home to me, and we’d recorded an hour long MASTERPIECE of lunacy and ROCK KRAZINESS. I thought a few people would like it and, eventually, I’d be proved right, but there were a LOT of ridiculous gigs to get through first.

April 17, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 3/10/01 - The Victoria Inn, Derby

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:25 am

You may have noticed something of a PATTERN emerging recently in these articles, with other bands being awful, taking ages to soundcheck, and then nobody coming to the gig. It didn’t ALWAYS go that way - on many occasions we’d play with DELIGHTFUL people who we would go on to become GRATE PALS with, have a marvellous evening in front of a large well-fed audience and go home full of nice beer and happy thoughts.

This wasn’t one of those evenings. For a start it was at The Vic, a lovely pub for which I have GRATE affection BUT one where the beer will turn you inside out SO violently next morning you will find broken teeth in the toilet basin. My suspicions should have been raised by the way they’d pour your pint out of a big jug, rather than from the pump, and then disappear into the back to get some more. I ENVISION a gigantic BEER BEAST, OOZING Dodgy Bass out of its pores - mostly because that’s exactly what I’d always turn into next morning.

The other band were ALREADY soundchecking when we arrived and continued to do so for over NINETY MINUTES! They were one of those “Hot” Bands who always crop up about in the wake of A New Exciting Band who have suddenly “broken through” when witless frightened A&R men sign anyone who sounds vaguely similar. The “Hot” Band is always suspiciously OLDER than the New Exciting one, so are BITTER that it’s taken so long but CONVINCED their rightful time has come at LAST, and are always surprised when, after a year of being “styled”, they release a dodgy rip-off of something that was fleetingly fashionable 18 months ago and are roundly ignored for about a week before being unceremoniously dumped, left only with a massive clothing bill and a happy memory of being nodded at by the bloke from Bush once in the toilets at Koko.

That’s pretty much exactly what would happen to this particular bunch, but at the time of the gig they were at the very PEAK of their World Conquering Arrogance, having just had their one and only play on daytime Radio One. We could only watch AGHAST as they played song after song, occasionally stopping to ask the poor old sound man if he could “make the vocal monitor sound a bit more crisp.” This was The Vic, where there WAS no specific vocal monitor, there was just some black boxes at the front, mostly for decoration, which could in an emergency be made to go “WUMPH” but, in their minds, they were ALREADY at Wembley.

By the time they’d finished soundchecking it was past the time when we were due to finish PLAYING, but happily our audience was unaffected by this rescheduling. This was probably because they both lived in the same house, and didn’t need to get home for a while. We played our entire set to two people, Moo and Anne-Marie, who seemed to quite like it and didn’t mind that we cut it a bit short so we could go back to our drinks.

Afterwards we sat around and had a HIGHLY enjoyable and - amazingly - PRODUCTIVE band meeting. They’re usually one or the other and, if in a pub, almost always the former, but this time we decided that YES, we WOULD release another single soon, especially as it had got a 100% positive response from the audience that night.

As the evening progressed we’d occasionally look in on the other band in the gig room - not out of interest, but because that was how you got to the toilet. Over the course of an hour they played with all their professional ability, ROCKING OUT, dealing extended guitar WORKOUTS hither and thither and introducing every song as EITHER “our new single” or “a new one”. And ALL of it, with the exception of bladder heavy Validators, to ABSOLUTELY NOBODY.

I take no pleasure at all from that. Well, almost none.

April 15, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 14/9/01 - Think Tank, Leeds

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:32 am

Traditionally HISTORY is taught on The Great Man theory - we learn about the likes of Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Churchill and so on as a route into the great events of the time. Many modern historians, however, think that this is inherently PATERNALISTIC, CLASS-BIASED and DECADENT - true history, they say, is the story of the movement of ordinary men and women, THEIR lives and how they effected, and were in turn effected themselves, by movements in population, changes in industrial technology and…

Oh I’m sorry, I LAPSED INTO A COMA for a moment just then. This theory of History, in my experience is a) all well and good but b) INSANELY BORING, and I say this as someone who has completed not one but TWO year long courses about The Agrarian Revolution. Aah, The Agrarian Revolution! It’s like The Industrial Revolution except without the THRILLS, HILARITY and INSANE GLAMOUR! After a year of Crop Rotation Analysis one YEARNS for the BERZERKER EXCITEMENT of The Spinning Jenny and The Growth Of Cities.

HOWEVER, I DO think, now and again, if properly applied, there is space for these sort of stories, as a bit of LOCAL COLOUR, if you will. For instance, it’s at least VAGUELY interesting to know what your fellow human is up to at times of Great National Consequence, if only to see whether the media reports of the time were TRUTH or PROPAGANDA, and in that vein I would like to tell you what it was like for me and MINE during 9/11. We know what our gallant leaders were up to, we’ve seen the films and conspiracy theories about what happened on the plane, but what, future historians will ask, was happening in Central Leicester?

The answer is fascinating in its simplicity: We were CRAPPING ourselves.

To be fair, I was talking to people who, like me, had grown up during the height of the Cold War, when we fully expected to be VAPOURISED before reaching the age of consent. The FACT that we’d had ten years of RELAXATION meant that, once the possibility arose again of NOT living to retirement age, we got ourselves in a bit of a TIZZY. It wasn’t helped by the fact that THE INTERWEB appeared to have gone into a state of utter DERANGEMENT and crashed, or by the telephone calls I was getting from my Oldest Mate From Home (Peterborough, near at least 3 US Air Bases) who was in an even WORSE state. “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” was his first, sober, comment on the situation. His second was “AAARGGGHH!!!”

A few days later, with no nuclear warheads spotted but things still looking a bit bleak I wondered really whether I ought to go and play the gig I’d got booked. Was it not a little tasteless to go out for fun and rock and roll good times when the world had suddenly changed for the worse so DRASTICALLY? As mentioned previously, I had recently embarked on a RELATIONSHIP and so was able to DISCUSS the matter with my young lady, and we agreed that if we DIDN’T go to the gig then, frankly, The Terrorists Have Won, and so off to Leeds we went.

The fact that I STILL haven’t received a medal for this HEROISM has not, I have to tell you, gone unnoticed.

We arrived to find the promoters in an even more heightened state of alert that the rest of the country, as it was the first time they’d ever DONE a live gig - the NIGHT was a regular discotheque, but they were planning to branch out. Unfortunately this meant they had yet to work out some of the BASICS of Live Performance, like if someone is singing AND playing guitar then they will be using BOTH hands on the guitar, and so will need a microphone stand. It’s surprising how often people forget that, but in THIS case we had a ready solution: right in the centre of the tiny stage was a MASSIVE iron pillar, holding the building up, so we gaffer taped the microphone to it. Gaffer tape isn’t really the BEST adhesive for the situation, and so the whole apparatus tended to shift about during the set, giving me the appearance of a plump man doing YOGA as I struggled to align my mouth with the microphone.

The whole gig, in fact, was slightly odd. I tried to ACKNOWLEDGE EVENTS with a MINI-SPEECH at the start, saying how important it was, when the likes of Al Qaeda AND the US Government were trying to turn the world into a place of HATE, VIOLENCE and GREED, to come together for lovely daft drunken FUN. I understand both George W AND Osama were shaken by this statement.

Shockingly, despite my Mandela-like DIPLOMACY I still got heckled. Now, I am EQUIVOCAL about Heckling. It CAN be a really good thing - when someone makes a Witty Remark or Humorous Observation it can really enhance the evening, allowing The Performer to acknowledge their own foolishness yet BUILD upon the remarks to make things even better. When it WORKS it is a brilliant example of the potential synergy between performer and audience. However, most of the time it is EITHER a drunken twat who doesn’t like the fact that someone else is getting some attention OR someone well meaning who’s thought of something humorous but either says it too quietly and gets slightly flustered and takes FAR too long to get to the point and tails off into mumbling embarrassment. THIS time it was more the latter than the former, as a crowd of people who’d come for the disco were INEXPLICABLY slightly annoyed to find that they were first forced to watch a fat bloke wriggling around whilst shouting at a large metal pillar, like a POLE DANCER in WEEBLETOWN. “Play some Belle & Sebastian!” they shouted.

Just in front of them were a clutch of PALS who felt they had to be supportive of ME whilst simultaneously acknowledging the heckler’s good taste in music and so, just as I was about to say something WITHERINGLY ELEGANT and HILARIOUS (honest) they shouted back “Go HOME and listen to your good music!” Because, they implied, that’s not what you’ll get here.

It was a LITTLE deflating. Afterwards we watched Ricky Spontane, the other band, MANFULLY deal with the situation through leaping around and Good Times, before giving my aforesaid Romantic Partner her first GLIMPSE of the Proper Indie Disco, a gathering she had been unaware of before. “Why isn’t anybody dancing?” she asked. “Er… that IS them dancing” I replied.

Like this.

April 10, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 2/9/01 - Firebug, Leicester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 3:53 pm

Soundchecking! We’ve heard a lot about it in these little articles, but what IS it? How does it work? How long does it take? What would be the best way to go about it, and is it possible to get small children to do it for you instead?

The answer to that last question is “You’d think so, but the so-called ‘parents’ OBJECT to you BORROWING their children, plugging them into a keyboard, and then nipping to the pub whilst they try out the PRE-SETS. IT IS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD.” The OTHER questions have slightly longer answers, as follows:

It’s a chance for the sound guy to check that everything’s working and everything is roughly the right sound level. It’s also a chance for the guitarist to wander out in front of the stage to show everybody that he has bought EITHER a radio-mike (which theoretically allows him to dash out into the audience but ACTUALLY just means he can get the local bhangra station as soon as the gig starts) OR a really really long lead that he will fall over any minute… NOW.

The time it takes depends upon a number of facts. Partly it’s to do with how fenickity the sound guy is - some will spend HALF A RIDICULOUS BLOODY HOUR making the drummer go “BANG BANG BANG” on each and every drum, cymbal and Big Hitty Thing, TUNING the SKINS so it is JUST right for when the gigs starts and he hits EVERYTHING AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. Partly it’s to do with how complex your set-up is - a solo folk act, for instance, will usually take considerably less time to work out than a fifteen piece ska band with backing singers and BRASS section. MOSTLY it is to do with how many, and how MASSIVE, are the wankers in the band concerned. If LOTS then it can sometimes take longer than the gig ITSELF.

The reason I bring these questions up with reference to this particular gig is that they are questions that the then owners of Firebug seemed never to have asked themselves. They had obviously SEEN gigs before and despite have absolutely no further involvement that that had decided HEY! it looks easy, it looks sort of COOL (which is why I say “seen” - it’ll have been “The Commitments” or a Live DVD or something), and, according to the ROCK BOOKS they had read, you could make MILLIONS OF CASH MONEYS out of it, so why not have a go?

THUS it was that the owner and lackey got us to do an entire soundcheck BACKWARDS. We started to set up our gear as we normally would, Tim sticking the drumkit together while the rest of us looked for sockets and plugged in, but were stopped by the HUGE and HUGELY POMPOUS proprietor. “No no no”, he said, “you sit over there while we get everything ready.”

By this point we’d played, between us, about half a THOUSAND gigs, but we POLITELY assumed they had some knowledge we didn’t, so sat back and watched in growing amazement as they spent about 45 minutes setting up and testing all the microphones. This may seem SENSIBLE, but bear in mind this was before we’d got out the things we’d ACTUALLY BE PLAYING like, you know, THE DRUM KIT. Still, we continued to hope for the best, and when they got me up to do my vocals I thought maybe it was an TEST.

Next they got Frankie to set up his bass amp, which involved the movement of several microphones and some extensive twiddling before they could get him to play. He played quite a LOT of stuff before grinding to a halt and then looking around a little hopelessly, CONFUSED. “Could you hear yourself on stage mate?” asked the lackey. “Well, yes,” he said, “there was nobody else playing.”

He then got the bass players from the other two bands to do THEIR soundchecks. This was somewhat perplexing.

And so it went, with each of us being called upon individually to set up, each time necessitating a LOT of moving things around (especially when the drums were FINALLY set up), with our counterparts in the other bands then doing the same. By the time everything was DONE we prepared for a full band check, only to be greeted with DISDAIN. “We do have to open to doors at SOME point you know!” said the fat wanker, who then wandered off for half an hour leaving the bar unopened so we couldn’t even get a drink.

Needless to say the gig started VERY late indeed, and when we DID get to play the only reason the stage wasn’t INVADED by OUTRAGED Validators fans, appalled at the shoddy sound, was that we didn’t have any. What audience there was was made up of confused Goths who’d wondered in thinking it was the Heavy Metal Disco night and about eight people I’d known several years before who I’d fallen out with. THUS I decided that we would play a set made up ENTIRELY of new songs that we’d not played live before from the new album which nobody had ever heard through a sound system that made only one noise, and that noise was “WAAUUUGGHH”.

HA! We showed THEM!

April 8, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 25/7/01 - Chambers, Taunton

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:11 am

Sometimes I do gigs because people ASK me to and sometimes I see a gig going spare and, like a deranged Auntie at a car boot, LEAP IN and GRAB it with little thought to whether that might actually be a good idea or not.

This is very much an example of the LATTER. Someone on a mailing list announced that they were about to start putting on gigs and wondered if anybody fancied playing. Now, with hindsight it is fairly easy to spot what might be dodgy here. The fact that they were just STARTING putting on gigs is generally a warning to the wise that, if they’ve not really done this before, they might not do it WELL, and the OTHER fact that they don’t know any bands and so are asking strangers might ALSO lead you to suspect that they’ve not got much experience in the area.

And also, of course, the gig was in Taunton. Taunton is a LONG way away - wherever you are, it’s a LONG way from there. Even if you’re in Taunton.

Still, they seemed like nice lads, I had some annual leave left to take, and I REALLY liked the idea of playing a gig somewhere that sounded like a Star Wars Action Figure (with fully openable BELLY), so onto the train I hopped and spent a happy three or four sunshiny hours speeding Southwards and when I arrived I wandered through the DESERTED Town Centre to find my B&B. I think this may actually have been the first time I ever booked a B&B - previously, if I wasn’t going to be able to get home after a gig, I’d've found someone whose floor I could sleep on but I knew NOBODY within about fifty miles so decided to take the plunge and book myself in. It was all a bit weird, we’d never stayed in B&Bs or hotels or ANYTHING when I was growing up so my entire knowledge of The Procedures came from FILMS, and so I spent half my stay thinking “DON’T go in the cellar!” and the other half waiting for the daughter of the proprietor to make ADVANCES.

Sadly I remained both unmurdered and unmolested, so at about seven o’clock headed back through the sleepy streets to the venue. It was locked. After a lot of KNOCKING the proprietor came and let me in - the bar was actually OPEN, they just didn’t like letting in people they didn’t know at that time of night. OK.

Inside I discovered the two chaps who were running the gig trying to assemble the PA system. We had a good old chat and it turned out they WERE precisely as nice as they’d seemed on email (VERY), and also rather innocent of the ways of ROCK PROMOTION. I asked how the publicity had gone for the gig and they showed me some rather good flyers. “We’re just off to start handing them out now!” they said.


Now, in MOST places, 7.30pm is NOT the busiest time in a city centre anyway, as people who work there have gone home and it’s not time to come BACK for the pubs just yet, but in Taunton it was DESERTED. And even if they DID find people who were amenable to being flyered and didn’t already HAVE plans for the evening (and if so, why were they in town?) and who liked The Indie Pop and (even more unlikely) wanted to see ME doing it, if they weren’t know to the nervous venue owner they might not be let in anyway. Not that it mattered, as they returned half an hour later having only managed to unsuccessfully badgered some students and lightly scare an old lady at a bus stop.

There was supposed to be another band playing, but they’d not shown up, so we sat around in the bar having a chat until it was SHOW TIME, and as I’d travelled this far and as they seemed so KEEN it seemed a shame not to play. I began the set, playing to the pair of them and, as nearly ALWAYS seems to happen, people started to come in. Maybe it is the MAGIC of MUSIC, or maybe it’s just that the venue owner came down to see what was going on and left the door unlocked, but gradually people started to trickle in.

Now, in the FILM VERSION the trickle would have turned to a flood and led to three encores, crowd surfing and a WHOLE LOT OF LOVING, but in THIS version it only led to about eight people sitting around, including owner and promoters, and me only getting any appreciable applause when I played “Boom Shake The Room” which the two girls sitting in the opposite corner who’d CLEARLY come in by mistake recognised and liked.

Everything finished shortly after ten o’clock and I toddled very slightly drunkenly across the quiet streets to my B&B where I was too frightened by the GROWN-UPS/B&B LOONIES to make use of the bar. I thus found myself in bed alone, early, almost sober, having just ROCKED over five people. Other people might feel disappointed in such an outcome, but I’d been somewhere I’d not been to before, popped my B&B cherry and met some nice people - I know it’s hardly Hammer of The Gods, but it WAS a lovely day out!

April 3, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 29/6/01 - The Charlotte, Leicester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 12:40 pm

Some people may consider my approach to ROCK to be a bit NAIVE, a bit DAFT and a bit HOPEFUL. I would probably agree with them - it’s all well and good being COOL and CYNICAL and SNEERY about it all, but it isn’t really a whole lot of fun, and if you’re not going to enjoy the LUDICROUS aspects of This Krazy Circus Show, you’re going to find yourself not enjoying ANY of it.

HAPPILY I am not the only one who goes running PELL MELL into the waves of ROCK hoping to learn to swim as he goes. Another Constantly Hopeful DOYENNE of this MILLEUE is Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey, who used to build up MASSIVE levels of OPTIMISM for every single he released. INDEED, when I used to drink in his pub many a night would be spent hearing of his plans for, say, the next Dalmatian Rex record, and how THIS would be the one to break through into daytime radio, and what he’d got planned for when they were on telly and, by the end of the evening, we would have to PHYSICALLY RESTRAIN him from ringing up the manufacturing plant and ordering an extra THOUSAND copies, before the first 500 had even been delivered. Nearly every time he’d end up with about 200 of them still under his kitchen sink, but he’d still get FIRED UP with the same enthusiasm for the next time.

My favourite story of Dave’s LURID ENTHUSIASM, was when he decided to have a tidy up of all those records beneath the kitchen sink and found a STASH of 7 Inches from the first record he ever released, in 1980. It was the only non-cassette release by an punk band from Bournemouth and in this country was extraordinarily obscure. However, for YEARS Dave had been telling us that these singles were selling for a FORTUNE to Punk collectors in Japan. The box he found had no sleeves, but if he gradually LEAKED them onto the market he could have made a FORTUNE.

Instead of that he got all excited and decided that he’s RE-RELEASE it… by photocopying some new sleeves and selling them at a FRACTION of the collector’s market price. I don’t think he even mentioned that this “new pressing” actually contained the ORIGINAL singles, and I don’t know if anybody realises now, but he flogged THE LOT at about a tenth of the price he could have got, just because he got a bit excited about finding them. I think that’s GRATE!

Another example of this sort of thing was the Havock Junction album, which came about due to ANOTHER rifle through the massive piles of unsold records (and, by the way, please don’t think I’m pointing at DAVE’S PILES as if they’re something unusual. Really, they’re not - mine are MASSIVE). He thought that if he put out a NEW album featuring tracks by loads of the bands he’d released before, and sold it at a BARGAIN PRICE, then loads of people would snap it up, become INTRIGUED, and buy up the back catalogue. BRILLIANT!

Of course, it didn’t happen that way - Dave is the sort of person who is MAGNETICALLY ATTRACTED to the “Various Artists” section in the dark corner of Indie Record Shops and LOVES skiffling through to see if there’s anything cheap and/or interesting, but sadly a) most people don’t bother and b) even if they did, the “Various Artists” section in Indie Record Shops is ALREADY full of CDs nobody wants, so they don’t tend to order new ones. THUS the GRATE plan to shift piles of back catalogue became another pile under the kitchen sink.

We didn’t know that at the time (although many of us had a sneaky HUNCH), and so we gathered at The Charlotte for the official ALBUM LAUNCH GIG! I’ve not been to many Album Launch gigs, largely because the first one I ever went to would be hard to BEAT. It was for the second Prolapse album, and a LOAD of us piled on to the train from Leicester to London to join in the fun.

We EXPECTED celebrities, free booze, and KRAZY TIMES.

We GOT The Drummer From Salad, one crate of beer which had been drunk by the time we got there, and a DO so lacklustre (they didn’t even play the album, let alone do a gig) that everyone, including the band, went to the pub next door instead. It was so dreary it got MENTIONED as such in the NME! We DID have KRAZY TIMES - we played PLATFORM CHICKEN (every time the train stops you LEAP off and run down to the other end. ZANY!) all the way home.

Anyway, the Havock Junction Launch was pretty much the same, except there were NO members of forgotten BritPop Conference Leaguers but there WAS a gig. The only audience for it was an INCREDIBLY drunk man who appeared to have wandered into The Charlotte by mistake and who didn’t quite understand the concept of a GIG. All through my bit he stood right at the front of the stage and tried to have a CHAT. “All right?” he’d ask, “What are you up to then?” “Er… doing a gig?” He was very friendly, but wouldn’t leave me alone, asking questions during songs as if I were just telling him the stories and looking slightly confused that the choruses weren’t an answer.

Afterwards Dave was a bit disappointed at the low turnout and the fact that nobody had bought a CD (as everyone there apart from Incredibly Drunk Guy was ON it) but still, a few weeks later, he was BACK on the trail of ROCK. He’s still at it today, with a NEW Dalmatian Rex single. Maybe THIS one will be the HIT!

April 2, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized, editorial, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 5:12 pm

02 Apr 2008

Current mood:
Category: A little lost & found
Writing and Poetry


So then… did you miss me? I didn’t mean to leave y’all dangling… time flew by and here we all are in the now. So you last time you saw me I was in the Metro club covered in some unknown girl’s sick while a foreign girl called me rude for resisting her dance request… it’s now a year later and I should really write a blog entry called “PXPL & The Missing Year” but I’ll leave that for the vultures to compile with various message board posts after my death like that sh!te Pink Panther film made with Peter Sellers outtakes after his death.
Anyhow, Don’t cry for me my dear reader… the truth is I never left you.
Let the second season begin……


Despite the many wise lessons I learned growing up there are huge gapping gaps in my development thus far. These tend in be in situations that are very easy and obvious for other people. Two huge examples of these gaps are ”Family / Circle Of Friends gatherings” and also Religion.
Regarding the “Family / Circle Of Friends gatherings” thing… well despite being lovely friendly people my parents tended to keep themselves to themselves and thus our household was place of natural calm and individuality. I’ve barely met most of my uncles, aunts, cousins etc. and we never did things like throw parties in church hall for landmark birthdays / engagements / passing driving tests etc etc or hire out a villa for a shared holiday with another family.
This has meant that due to lack of practise (and to be more honest; embarrassment) I find it very hard to switch into what I call “introductions/anecdotes/conversations mode”.  This is where people act ever-so-slightly-different in the company of others… for example it’s where people say things like “You should really see this play me and Julian went to see the other day..” and get measured responses like a hushed  “Oh really?” instead of “You’re wrong… you’re f*cking wrong! I really shouldn’t go to see that play… I have no interest in plays and neither do you really… if we we’re all being honest we’d all much rather be sitting in our front rooms in our underwear scratching our itches!” Naturally even at my worst I wouldn’t go that far I’d just say “No way it’s sounds boring…” before trying to enter a flawed (or should I say Phlawed) argument about how wrestling is better than Shakespeare. Naturally I’d end up walking home alone devising an apology as each sobering step I took reminded me how much of d!ck I’d just been.   
Most people can do this “introductions/anecdotes/conversations mode” with natural ease (during the few instances I saw my parents socialise I’ve seen them be masters at it and pondered if they had secretly practised in their bedroom before hand).
I’ve learned to live with it being a social norm but it used to really annoy me at 6th form college… all these fun little boys who used to have in depth conversations about things like “if you were in Neighbours who would you try and sex first?” and would laugh at girls crying over spilt milk suddenly turned into wannabe-smalltown husbands discussing doing up their motors with the Saturday job money and they would do the concerned boyfriend act when girls (that they weren’t even going out with) left their purses somewhere stupid and burst into tears. Naturally I got damned for not evolving and took my leave of their friendship. I remained a virgin for two more years.
Which leads me to the next one: “Religion”. It’s not that my parents are “not religious“… more that they don’t really care. I mean, they like Christmas and I was baptised but apart from that we never went to church or anything and my secondary schooling wasn’t religious AT ALL. I never had the whole guilty thing that apparently exists about growing up with a religion… I have a conscious and a moral compass but I’ve never got that guilt thing that people go on about. I understand why some people feel the fear of a god’s wrath but I can’t really relate. With that in mind, to my ignorance I never really felt the importance of any religion.
I respect people’s wishes to follow a religion (as long as it causes no harm) but sometimes my distance from needing a religion can lead to a Phaux-pas…. possibly with me entering a flawed (or should I say Phlawed) argument about how Kiss’ 1981 concept album “(Music From) The Elder” helps me more than the Bible ever could. Again, I’d end up walking home alone devising an apology as each sobering step I took reminded me how much of d!ck I’d just been.  
So as I’m sure you can understand, what my troubles with “Family / Circle Of Friends gatherings” and also Religion, I have been known to “do wrong” at the celebration known as a Wedding.
Up until my Twenties, I’d only ever been to one wedding. I was 9-ish years old and I wore a brand new sweatshirt from Sittingbourne market that featured a counterfeit image of the Chicago Bears football player William “the Refrigerator” Perry (what I wore comes into play a little bit later so pay attention please). It was my older cousin Anthony’s wedding and all I remember about it was…
1) Seeing the poster for “Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home” on a London bustop during the neverending car journey there and thinking “Oooh they’ve made a new Star Trek film”.
2) The seemingly never ending church ceremony in which I endured like a good little boy… no need to for my mum to grab my hand and attempt to smack me as I wailed and tried to escape justice (a.k.a “Grab-Hand-Runaround”) thank you very much.
3) A lengthy discussion with my similarly aged cousin James about Transformers. He got the comic every week.. he knew EVERYTHING.
4) Me and my cousin James finding the fact that you can sing not only “Vanilla” but also “Aston Vila” over the chorus of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” hilarious.
5) Me sliding around on my flecked trousered knees resulting in a quick spot of “Grab-Hand-Runaround” when my Mum caught me.
6) Ending up sitting in the back of my dad’s car driving home devising an apology as each sobering turn the tyres took reminded me how much of deck I’d just been.   
The next wedding I went to was a friend of mine’s and it was my job to be ”the usher” (and not in the “R&B singer that does outrageously camp dancing” way… unfortunately) anyhow I ended up letting his three year old son eat some peanuts and got a telling off from all manner of his relatives.
Then the next wedding I went to after that I fortunately had no official role so I went in a shirt and jeans only to have to fence a barrage of “nice to see you made an effort” snotty remarks.
Now then, I know right now that loads of you clever clever smug people out there and tutting and sighing about the last two Phaux-pas BUT in my defence, I have NO FRAME of reference regarding “children”… I know via the much missed Public Service Information Advert bombardment of the early 80’s that Children shouldn’t play with matches, go off with strangers, climb an electrical device to retrieve an orange Frisbee and shouldn’t pick up a finished sparkler by the hot end (or you end up in a never ending “Ground Hog Day” style advert as a little blond girl with bandaged hand who is constantly patronised by your mum and her hag friend in the high street*) BUT I never saw an advert in which Charlie the Cat gargled a hazard warning about children of a certain age enjoying a peanut or two.
As for the not wearing a suit to a Wedding charge… I was sat at the back with no obligations. Again nobody ever constantly told me when I was growing up that if I was to go to wedding that I’d have to wear a suit. My only non-usher experience of a wedding was when I wore a brand new sweatshirt from Sittingbourne market that featured a counterfeit image of the Chicago Bears football player William “the Refrigerator” Perry… nobody complained then why would they now? The way I saw it is that all I had to do was avoid skidding abound the floor and I’d be home and dry BUT NO! People had to surprise me with this sudden “people always wear a suit at a wedding” finger wagging. I mean it wasn’t like I crawled out of bed and turned up in a t-shirt…  I had a shirt on… just not a suit. If it’s so important to wear a suit then the dress code should be printed on the bottom of the “invite”… even better put nightclub bouncers on the door so they can send me home with a  ”not tonight mate” and I can spend the day playingstation in my pants instead. And then have Co-CoPops for my tea. Oh yes!
So with all this anecdotal evidence ganging up against my confidence, I must declare that I was a little nervous when my fiancée Laura advised me that we had been invited to her cousin’s wedding… in Belfast no less! A different country… I could wax lyrical at length about my PhauX-Pas abroad but these are different stories for different times. 
All I had to do to survive was make sure that previous phaux-pas were avoided thus I devised a Ten Commandments / Gremlins-esque set of rules in my head
1) Thou SHALL wear a suit. Thou shall check suit for stains and creases a full FULL calendar week before the event and consistently make sure with Laura that it’s the right thing to wear almost to the point of getting a written confirmation / “get out of jail free card” that I can show any “finger waggers” on the day.
2) Thou shall blank out whatever religious / traditional things are going on around me. And just sit there politely smiling. Thou shall not ask questions or do traditional niXian activities like pointing and laughing at any statues with penises (note to self: I don’t think that churches… nay, cathedrals have statues of Jesus with his winkle out but it’s best to be on-guard in case they do).
3) No matter how much they cry. No matter how much they beg…. thou shalt not feed peanuts to a child. In fact, thou shall just keep away from children. No good can come from being near them. They are a walking Phaux-Pas hive.
4) Thou shalt not “entertain”. There is too much at stake to take the “humour gamble”…tis better to be seen as a “gob-shy” rather than a “gob-shyte”.
So fast forward to the big event, I have a suit on and I have made it to my place on the church spectator’s bench with relative ease. I was closer to the front than I expected so I quickly drafted a Fifth rule to my Commandments in my head as I fumbled for the hymn sheet..
5) Thou shall make an effort to look alert and fixated on the ceremony. Though shalt not drift off into a daydream and then laugh out loud at unrelated thoughts that pop into thou head.  Though shall remain alert and fixated… possibly act a little moved… maybe force my eyes to “well up”? …no that’d be too much just remain alert and fixated… even anyone glances at you just do a polite smile and then look away quick. Mercy! this is as intense as the Pod-Racing bit on Star Wars Lego.
So anyhow, the wedding was a Catholic affair held in a vast Cathedral. The Priest used a microphone to help convey his message, this proved to be more of a hindrance as the sound quality of the P.A. was very poor so what we got was a booming muffled sermon a bit like when Pirate Radio DJ’s yell nonsense during drum and bass tracks. 
As long as I sat there and concentrated on the Commandments I’d be fine, there was one challenge to overcome however but luckily it was challenge that most people (even “the finger waggers”) struggle with. This challenge was the most dreaded part of any Church service… the part known as “Hymn Time”!
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the concept of “Hymn Time” is amazing. it’s good to have a bit of a sing-along HOWEVER it’s never “the hits”…. if the Priest screamed ”All right you crazy people it’s audience participation time… I wanna hear everybody in the church singing this one… THIS ONE’S CALLED “ALL THINGS… BRRRRRIGHT & BEAU-TI-FULLLL” everybody in the church would scream “YAAAYYYY!” before draping their arm over their best mates and loved ones before singing along with gusto. The Priest would then pace the stage mouthing the words while holding his microphone out to the crowd like Robbie Williams singing Angels at Knebworth. Or picture this… a sea of lighters being held aloft during an acoustic version of “Morning Has Broken”.
BUT NO! We don’t get “the hits”…we don’t even get well known “album tracks” like “When I Needed a Neighbour Were You There? Were You There?”. We get hymns only known to the die-hards and the bootleggers, hymns with seemingly made-up titles like “Thy Love Is God O’ Glorious” and “Praise Be Thy God With Compassion Unbounded”. I always feel like the Priest or Vicar might take a perverse delight in breaking out these rare hymns, you can almost see him give a little nod of appreciation to the proper Christians and a bitter smirk out to the Weddings & Funerals day-trippers.
So with the Priest suddenly requesting everyone to sing an unfamiliar song, the crowd get a few rusty parps from the church organ to stand up, shuffle their hymn sheet, attempt to learn the words and guess the tune… if innuendos were allowed it could be a game on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”. Luckily each row in the church tends to have at least one diehard in it and they tend to bellow out the lyrics as if to spite the day-trippers.
Unfortunately most of the die-hards tend to be a little a bit elderly so they run out of gas halfway through the second verse leaving a remaining two minutes of  non-committal guessing of the tune / whispering of the words over a never ending cascade of chords tiredly parping from the church organ. The sound of which fills the church the same way that damp spreads up a bedsit wall.
With both hymns out of the way, I thought I was home free BUT an unexpected challenge arose… “The Body Of Christ Communion Buffet”. I didn’t think this would be a challenge as I thought that only Catholics were allowed to go up BUT NO the Priest offered it open to “anyone who has been baptised”. I have been baptised AND I have always been curious to find out just what does the “body of Christ” bits taste like ( I imagine that they taste like Snack-A-Jacks without the bumps and ridges) BUT the whole concept of me going up there had Phaux-Pas written all over it. I mean, I’m not mad-keen on wine… imagine if I found the wine in the ancient goblet (that represents Jesus’ blood no less) a little too sour and I gagged a bit… I’d be apologising and explaining through a nervous dry voice all night. The problem being was that I was so close to front that as I was pondering what action to take I found everyone in the two rows in front of me going up. My time was running out and I didn’t want to hold up the queue with my panicky um’ing and erring. Nor did I want to be the first person to say “No thank you please Jesus” …knowing my luck my Baptism certificate would be found and I’d probably get “finger waggers” coming up with “So you’re good enough to be baptised but too good to take communion”. Unlikely I know but with my history of upsetting people accidentally I have to be so careful sometimes.
Luckily for me, two people in the row in front of broke the chain of people going up so I relaxed back in my chair and counted the minutes until it was all over and I could finally have the pee that I’d been bursting to have as soon as the Priest started his “Dearly beloved…” opening address.

The cathedral was a drafty one and by the end of the ceremony it seemed that Jack Frost had whipped everyone’s bladders up into quite a frenzy as everyone darted towards the disabled toilet on the right hand side of the toilet. It was while I was standing in the queue for the toilet I first observed
The Cathedral Matriarch. She was a woman in her late 40’s / early 50’s busily pacing back and forth, glancing at wedding guest with suspicious looks that would suggest a slight anger that none of the guest’s had offered to help her tidy up.
So anyhow, the Cathedral Matriarch was darting about as I stood their queuing I desperately tried to avoid her accusing looks. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” I said to myself, “I’m just a man waiting for the toilet”. After a while, the queue diminished leaving just me, Laura and her sister Jemma waiting in line. The Cathedral Matriarch suddenly appeared and in a broad Northern Irish accent proclaimed “The Woman’s Toilet down stairs is open if you want to use it”. She sternly looked me deep in my trembling heathen eyes as she emphasiesd the words “Women’s toilets” like a warning. 
Laura and Jemma followed The Cathedral Matriarch down the steps to these toilets and I was soon joined by some of Laura’s cousins in the Queue who asked “Oooh where did Laura & Jemma go?”
At which point safe in the knowledge that I had a suit on and there were no children or peanuts around I decided to quip, “They’ve been allowed to use the secret toilets down stairs!” I emphasised the words “secret toilets” in sarcastic manner indicating that the huge queue I’d waiting in was unnecessary and cruel.
All of a sudden like Carrie’s hand emerging from the grave, The Cathedral Matriarch appeared and came at me with a fully fledged finger wagging vengeance…
“THOSE AREN’T SECRET TOILETS… WE DON’T HAVE SECRET TOILETS. THEY’RE WOMAN’S TOILETS!” she said in a stern fashion. Feeling small and still shrinking I backed against the wall my face full of embarrassed blushing and went to utter an apology but The Cathedral Matriarch decided to go for her killing blow, “THOSE TOILET’S WERE BEING USED BY THE CHOIR BOYS TO GET CHANGED IN… WE DON’T ALLOW ANYONE IN WHILE THE BOYS ARE GETTING CHANGED…” she then glanced at the cousins witnessing this berating of the nix before disgustedly looking me up and down before declaring, “….ESPECIALLY NOT MEN.” She said the word “men” in uncertain tone as if to attack my masculinity.
And with that she was gone. I had done so well up to this point but once again found myself in an embarrassed silence. As if by magic the Disable Toilet opened and I crept inside. I stood inside the booth alone devising an explanation to Laura as each stream of pee I squeezed out reminded me how much of d!ck I’d just been.   
Oh this lamentable life!

Bonus Materials:

* with reference to the reference of the little girl with the burnt hand. I was talking about an frequently shown series of TV ads warning about firework safety. An edited shorter of the version of the ad can be found here;


  • Kiss’ 1981 concept album “(Music From) The Elder” was supposed to be major cross over masterpiece (via a planned plot-revealing sci-fi movie) and to win them some of the critical acclaim they had found hard to find (via having Lou Reed pen some of the lyrics and Bob Ezrin’s cinematic production). However the mix of a strange new image (keeping the make-up… but short haired and satin clad?) and sheer OTT’ness of the music proved too much even for Kiss’ diehard fans and it ended up a massive flop for the band. It has however provided PXPL with moments of counsel in his most self-doubting moments.


”Elder: Morpheus, you have been summoned here to offer your judgement of the boy. Do you still deem him worthy of the fellowship?

Morpheus: I certainly do my Lord. As a matter of fact, I, I think you’re going to like this one. He’s got the light in his eyes. And, the look of a champion. A real champion.”

Dialogue from Kiss (Music From) the Elder

April 1, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 11/05/01 - The Bull & Gate, London

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 3:39 pm

Another trip south to that glittering MECCA of all that is fabulous and metropolitan: Kentish Town. Kentish Town! Where even the litter is coated with gold, the dog turds are gilded with gemstones and the tramps talk LATIN.

By now I was quite used to the giddy whirl of our nation’s capital and almost impervious to the charms of its celebrity culture or the terror of it’s busy transport system, but I was on special alert this time as it was the first gig for our newest member, Mrs Emma Pattison. All the way down I was making plans for the inevitable moment when she PANICKED at the prospect of having a MASSIVE audience like ours (15 people, at its peak) LOOKING at her occasionally.

Annoyingly she was completely calm throughout the whole experience - unbeknownst to me she was PREGNANT at the time so probably had more things on her mind - so instead it was ME who got the collywobbles and THE FEAR, while she looked on sympathetically.

THE FEAR, by the way, is the an Actual Medical Term for the DEEP DREAD that you sometimes get before a gig. When I first set sail on the seas of ROCK I was IMMUNE but, like an old lag occasionally being land-ridden by bouts of inexplicable sea sickness, I have since gone through PHASES where’ve I got it at nearly every gig. The symptoms are always the same - a massive rush of blood to the FEET, heart palpitations, shaking, and a complete CONVICTION that everything will go terribly terribly wrong. It’s like that dream where you realise you’ve got to stand up in front of an audience made up entirely of your NAN and be in a play where you’ve no idea what you’re meant to say, and you are in the NAKED NUDE. Or is that just me?

I combated the problem in the Traditional Fashion (CLUE: self medication) and the gig itself went off pretty well - so much so, in fact, that we even got an ENCORE, and STRODE back on stage to do the BAND version of “Stan” which we’d rehearsed. True Things In ROCK: NEVER rehearse a special encore, it will ALWAYS go wrong, as The Gods Of ROCK frown upon those who expect such things. This time the song started up POWERFULLY and I gripped the microphone and LAUNCHED into the words… only to find the soundman had turned it off. You’re not allowed encores at The Bull & Gate unless you’re the last band on. We slunk off stage, TOLD OFF.

Afterwards it was all VERY glamorous. Not only did I have a long conversation with the drummer from Ween (most of which was spent with me being confused - I thought he’d said he was the drummer in WINGS) who was in the building for some reason, but also got into a long conversation about submitting songs for use in NEWSROUND. It seems a bit rum, looking back, but at the time I just assumed that was what HAPPENED in That London.

A couple of weeks later I was down again to see Frankie do a SOLO gig, Upstairs At The Garage. Once again there was CELEBRITY, as The Warm Jets were playing. In case you’ve never heard of them, The Warm Jets were a Corporate Indie Band hyped up quite a bit around then purely because one of them was going out with Zoe Ball. The band seemed a bit peeved that they were getting attention because of this, as they were ABOUT THE MUSIC, but personally I think they would have been better off pursuing a career as Celebrity Boyfriends, as the music was pretty unmemorable and once she met Fatboy Slim they slid out of view quicker than a skateboarding spaniel down a slipway.

We’ve spoken MUCH of soundchecks as an INDICATOR of the WORTH of bands, and The Warm Jets did nothing to disprove the relationship, as they SO LONG on it (and, again, it’s not like they were an ORCHESTRA) that we ended up queuing outside for HALF AN HOUR after Official Opening Time waiting for the doors to open so we could get in.

Frankie was on first, and had to start before most people had even got up the stairs, and after he’d finished we proceeded to DRINK, also to discover that all our preconceptions about the main band were happily borne out. After their set I decided to show HOW unphased by celebrity I was (and, coincidentally VERY phased by BOOZE) by lurking around backstage TUTTING QUITE LOUDLY and occasionally saying “Hmm, didn’t think much to them” when there were passing NEAR BY. HA! Even the presence of Dennis Pennis Off The Telly in the backstage area would not put me off, STILL I folded my arms and said “Mmm” reasonably loudly, before going to get a pint.

Me, London, and Celebrity: we just GO together!

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