Saturday 20 April 2024

The Saturday List #437 - My Top ten fave parties

 To celebrate the launch yesterday of The False Dots new single, We All Love a Party, I thought I'd put a little list of my favourite parties. So as to not insult any of my friend, who have had some great parties, these are my own parties,  where there was some funny sort of anecdote or noteable event. I've also included, where there is one, a reference to a line in the song, which is a bit of a mash up of all the things that happened at parties over the years.

1. Let's start in 1966, I was four years old and my mum decided to have a birthday party at our house for me. She invited cousins and neighbours kids. We had trifle, crisps and sausage rolls, then played pass the parcel, musical chairs and other kids party games. It was the happiest day of my life. When all the kids went home, my mum surveyed the devastation left behind, and said "Never, ever, again". I was devastated, she was true to her word when it came to giving me birthday parties. Kids parties back then were simple affairs. These days they have bouncy castles, entertainers, etc. How times change.

That is the last line of the song, something she said on several occasions - read on.

2. Move on to 1967. My brothers were 21 years old. Much to her chagrin,  mum had been persuaded to hold a party for them. It was probably the first grown up party I went to. It was a complete riot. My brothers were great musicians and both played guitar and sang, and all their mates joined in. They loved the skiffle songs of the late 1950's, such as freight train, and Irish classic such as The Wild Rover. I think that was the moment I wanted to join a band and play the guitar. At the time, our house had an inside loo upstairs and an outside loo. My Mum didn't like men peeing on the loo seat, so she put a sign up saying "Ladies loo upstairs, Men outside", as a result, the guys, not spotting the loo, just used the bluebell bed at the bottom of the garden. The line in the song "My brothers got their guitars and played a tune or two" came from that wonderful day. Again Mum said "Never ever again". But then Laurie and Frank got married and moved away shortly after. That was really my last memory of them both living in the house together. I realised that for me, parties are the way to go!

3. We are on to about 1973. I really couldn't recall why we had this party when I wrote the song, but it all came flooding back when my sister reminded me that my Dad arranged it as a fundraiser for the Catholic anti abortion organisation Life. He invited all of the local Catholics, the priest, the shoemaker, the bookie. I think they all paid a couple of quid to come in, then a small charge for drinks (except for the priests who got bladdered for free). All highly illegal, but Dad also invited all the local coppers who came in for free as well. He was crafty like that. My folks were staunch catholics and Dad was always doing things to raise cash for the church and it's organisations. This party and what happened in some ways forms most of the song.  Once everyone arrived, it soon turned into what most parties did back then. People would smoke, drink too much, spill beer, etc. There was one little Irish fella, who always got drunk and started fighting the biggest bloke in the room. He was the Dad of one of my friends. He was a lovely bloke when sober, but used to lose the plot when drunk. His wife, a lovely lady, would usually spot him getting bladdered and claim to be feeling ill, to get him home. On this occasion, she was deep in conversation. Apart from that it was a great success, conga's up the road, my Uncle Micky doing the twist etc. At the end of the night, I turned to my Dad. I didn't really understand the issues around abortion as a ten year old. I said "That was great Dad, what do you think?". He said something that stuck with me forever. He said "What a bunch of hypocrites. If their daughter got knocked up, they'd all be the first to get them an abortion". I was stunned. I said "Why did you have the party then?". He said "I fancied a party and it was the only way I could get your mother to agree".

4. We are now up to 1977, I was 14. My sister Valerie was living around the corner in Hale Lane and was a trainee nurse. She had a party to celebrate her birthday. She had done an art degree, but couldn't get work, so was retraining. Half her mates were artists and musicians, and the other half were absolutely gorgeous nurses. For a fourteen year old boy, just into punk rock and discovering bits of my bodily functions that had lain dormant un til puberty, it was bliss. All of the family etc were asked. It was a blast. This was amplified by one of her friends dosing the punch with a huge dose of amphetamine sulphate. Until that moment, I was very anti drugs. I had a few glasses, as did everyone else, aunties, uncles, the lot. After a half an hour, I suddenly became aware that everyone was completely off their tits, apart from me(the spiking only came out afterwards). Until that point in my life, I'd always felt like an outsider, a weirdo. The effects of the drug made me feel like superman, not in a jump out of a window way. I became eloquent and confident. Everything became clear in my mind, for the first time in my life. (I co wrote a song called Fog about this, with Pete Conway - "The Fog is clearing to reveal, the last ten years I just can't feel"), My Dad, who'd been given amphetamines during the war, to keep him focused on bombing missions, realised what was going on, but kept schtum. I suspect the RAF lads would do the same things in their parties. To my amazement, he wasn't cross with Val, he thought it was hilarious. My mum took a dimmer view and would say "Valeries boyfriend spiked us all with LSD". She could exaggerate at times. I'd never known anything like it. One thing I did realise was that the drug gave me the confidence to try and chat up some of the rather attractive girls at the party. I failed miserably, but just knowing I could try was a massive turning point in my life. Many years later, I found out that amphetamine sulphate is used as a treatment for ADHD. I think I understand why.

5. We are now up to 1983. I was 21 years old. I decided to have the party, to end all parties at Bunns Lane Works, where our studios are. The idea was simple. We'd set up a PA system and do a gig in the yard. We'd invite all of our friends and have a barbeque and dance and party until the early hours. At the time, we had a great bunch of friends and we mobilised them to the full. I was going out with the lovely Lorna at the time and her sisters boyfriend offered to do the cooking, amongst others. He said that he had a special stew he'd bring for us as part of the food. We decided to play at around 9pm, starting as the Sun set. We had the rather wonderful Venessa Sagoe singing. It was her first gig with The False Dots. She'd been great in rehearsals, but would we cut it live. We expected around 100 people. As we prepared to go on, the food started to be served. We planned to play for an hour. As we progressed through the set, which was rather good, if I say so myself, an odd thing happened. I've always tried to be sober when we play, but as the set progressed, the scene started to resemble Shaun of the Dead. About half of our guests started to resemble zombies. One fell asleep with is head in the PA bass bin. People were staggering around aimlessly with blank expressions on their faces. New people were arriving who were sober, but it was an odd scene. We had no idea what was going on. As the set finished, I got urgently summoned to the M1 Motorway, which passes by the yard. My brother Laurie was doing the Shaun of the Dead impersonation in the fast lane and was about to be arrested. I hopped over the fence and there were two burly traffic cops restraining him. I looked at him and said "Laurie WTF are you doing?". He just dribbled and gibbered. Laurie is normally very eloquent, so I was taken aback, but I knew I had to think fast, or he'd be in trouble. So I said to the Copper "So sorry mate, he's my brother, he's harmless but he's not the full shilling, he must have got out", The coppers, not wanting a load of paperwork, bought the story and said "Get back over the fence and we'll help him get over". So we were on one side and they got him and literally slung him over. We then got his wife to take him home. I was still un aware what was going on, but a mate Dermot, who'd helped organise the party told us. Lorna's sisters boyfriend had laced the stew with a huge dose of opium and everyone who ate it was incapacitated. Half of them were asleep, some were throwing up. I was gutted as Lorna had a big helping and was really ill. No romantic ending for my birthday. Having said that, most of the party goers didn't have any and it was a superb party. Allegedly it could be heard in Burnt Oak. It was the first of many parties at the yard. These two parties showed the two sides of what happens when people spike parties. Luckily no lasting harm was done. By the time we finished playing the culprit was long gone! It was one of many parties my sister Caroline threw up at, but this one wasn't her fault. I got a reference in the song to this habit of hers.

6. Fast forward three years to 1986. I was with Clare, now my wife, Venessa had sadly long since departed and the band was going through a rather unfortunate detour. We'd expanded to a nine piece setup. We had a brass section. We were doing covers such as Take it Easy by Prince Buster, Low Rider by War and a smattering of Dots classics, but it wasn't a happy time for me. As was the way, I arranged a birthday party. My great mate Brian Shillibeer was working as a bartender at a cocktail bar (I think) and suggested we have a gig and a cocktail party. He got a mate to come and do mixology. We did the obligatory gig, and Dermot organised a barbeque with a spit roasted pig. We told everyone that we'd supply the mixers but they had to bring a bottle of spirit. Anyone bringing beer or wine would be sent home. It was amazing, great fun. My good mate, Ernie, made a great display of pyrotechnics, scaring the living daylights out of some feint hearted mates. Someone dared Laurie to do his Motorway trick again, but he was better behaved. It was a great night. It was perhaps the last big night like that, with the band at the centre for a very long time. No spiking required! By about 4am in the morning, a hard core was left. We started playing a card game, we called "The Barrel of Doom". There was a rusty rainwater barrel outside, and the loser had to go in and completely submerge themselves in cold water. The game ended, when Brian lost three times in a row. In the morning, he emptied the barrel and was disgusted to find several dead and decomposing rats at the bottom of the barrel. 

7. There's a bit of a gap here. We are now in 2002. It was my 40th birthday. I'd not had a mega party for a decade or so. It was time. Smiths Coffee had recently moved out of Bunns Lane Works and we had access to their unit, so we transformed it into a night club. I asked all my family and friends. The band was back together, with Paul Hircombe, Fil Ross, Tony Cavaye and me. We were joined by Huw Lloyd-Langton of Hawkwind for a jam, then we did an open mic, where everyone got up and did their bit. It was one of the last parties my mum came to. It made me realise just how much I like having a good party. Perhaps the funniest moment was when a mate took some pictures of the crowds. One picture was of a friend, sitting on the knee of our kids rather voluptuous nursery school teacher. Lets just say there was rather visible evidence that he was enjoying sitting there. Nothing happened, but I believe he had to buy the photographer a fair few beers to delete the picture and not show it to his wife.

8. Fast forward to 2016. It was Clare's 50th birthday. We got the Joe Angel band, a brilliant reggae band to perform in the back garden and asked all our friends and family. We got brilliant Sri Lankan caterers. All our friends and family came along. We did up the garden specially, installing a lovely gazebo. My daughters were 21 and 19 and my son was 16, it was great having them join in the revelry. We danced until the early hours, outside until 11pm and then inside. I have lovely neighbours. 

9. And on to 2022, my 60th. We hired The Bohemia in Finchley, one of my favourite pubs, we got Lee Thompson and The Silencerz to play and The False Dots supported them. It was wonderful. I thought a lot about my Dad that night. He was the younger than me, when he had that bonkers party in 1973. He seemed really old to me! Clare is very into a good party. I wonder how my life would have been if I'd married someone, who like my Mum hated parties? My mum hated chaos, which is a key feature of any good party.  

10. And finally...... (well who knows how many instalments of this are yet to come), about six weeks ago, I did something I've always wanted to do. When we wrote "We all Love a Party", I decided that we'd make a video where we had a real party. I wish, in some ways, I had videos of all the moments above, that could have been edited into it. But Hey Ho, only memories exist. But we had a party that went on until 4 in the morning and this was the result. Find out more about The False Dots and forthcoming gigs by clicking here.

No comments: