Tuesday 12 January 2010

An evening with a Heretic

As I don't pay for the ESPN football coverage and as my team, Manchester City were playing Blackburn last night, I decided to take a trip down to my local to watch the match. The economics are quite simple. I could pay X to watch the game at home, or I could pay a lesser amount for a couple of pints of beer and watch it in the pub. Not a difficult choice.

On entering my local - The Bridge Tavern - I was rather surprised to see a group of my old Schoolmates from my days at Orange Hill. I left Orange Hill in 1981, so it is quite interesting to see how various people had weathered. I was shocked to see one guy, Russell. He looks at least 20 years younger than the rest of us. I don't think I've seen him since I left school. I was just about to ask him how he was and comment on his youthful look, when he started to tell me of the rotten time he's had. He was the victim of an industrial back injury and for several months couldn't walk. Over a period of recuperation, he progressed to a zimmer frame, sticks and now he can just about shuffle from his house in Blundell Road to the pub and back.

He told me how, when he first suffered the injury, he went to hospital and they said he was OK. No scan, only a few pain killers. Within a couple of days, he had to summon an ambulance as he couldn't walk and it turned out that a slipped disc had damaged his spinal chord. As well as being unable to walk, things such as going to the toilet and having sex were not possible. Fortunately he's not a down sort of guy and he's making the most of the situation, but as with all of these things he's had a rough time.

He wasn't really keen to dwell on his problems and talk went back to our school days. Russell was in the year below me, in a band called "The Heretics". As you can probably guess,, they were a punk band. In my year, there were three bands of note - The Polecats (who had a couple of top 10 hits and feature Boz Boorer, who is now musical director for Morrissey), The Ron Lewis Partnership (a Dr Feelgood style rythm and blues band) and my band The False Dots (we liked to consider ourselves experimental Punk Rock). Strangely all three of these groups are still functioning in some shape or form. I was amazed to hear Russell tell me last night that he wanted to attend a gig The False Dots played at the school, only to be told by a teacher that he shouldn't listen to us as we didn't play "proper music". There were quite strong links between The False Dots and The Heretics as when Pete Conway left the band, we recruited guitarist Craig Withecombe from them and later the drummer Mark Barnett joined for our 1982 tour of Sweden. Craig was one of the most talented guitarists I've ever known. He took our music to another level and I still listen with awe to the solo he played on "Not all she seems" on the bands second demo. It's fair to say that there was constantly tension between myself and Craig and we never hit it off personally. I actually think this served the band well as a creative force. I'd never let him play the songs he'd composed with the band, which I guess was always a constant source of annoyance to him. He finally split when our singer suggested that he didn't need me to keep the band going. Craig, the singer and the drummer formed a new band, and we recruited mega talented Vanessa Sagoe on vocals and got a new, far superior band on the road.

I've no idea how Craig felt as events transpired, as we parted on a pretty acrimonious note, but I've always wondered whether he got another band together and realised his musical potential. I used to rather arrogantly dismiss him, by saying he was a great guitarist and a rubbish song writer. In retrospect his songs were OK, but we always went for a darker, though slightly more humorous tone.

By an odd coincidence, on the Orange Hill theme, I'd spent the day in the studio with Boz Boorer. I'd asked him to remix a dance track we'd recorded with a great singer we've been working with. I mentioned that Craig was one of the most talented guitarists I've known. Boz takes that prize. He is a musical genius and well deserves the success he's achieved. It was quite funny that as we were talking he told me that he'd put another schoolmate of ours on the guestlist for the recent Morrisey shows in Brixton. He said that he'd received a text and to quote Boz "Perkins said he weren't coming because he couldn't be bothered". Many people would die for a guest pass to see Morrisey, but Boz found it hilarious that Perkins was so blunt. He said that usually people just make a lame excuse and don't show. Perkins was one of the assembled crowd at the pub last night and we discussed it. He said "Oh yeah, it was raining and I didn't feel like it".

Picture :  The False Dots circa 1980 (L-R - Paul Hircombe Bass, Mark Barnett Drums, Craig Withecombe Guitar, Rog T Guitar) recording a video at Harrow School of Art

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