Wednesday 15 May 2024

Rock and Roll Stories #10 - "Do you fancy a gig with......" - The joy of support slots

Bring Bring Bring "'Ello" -  "Is that Rog, do the False Dots fancy a gig with......" 

These days, it's a Whatsapp or a  Facetime, but in the glorious old days, it was the phone. I have a confession to make. In truth, that wasn't usually how the conversation went. When The False Dots started gigging in 1980, we only had landlines and I was hardly ever around. We didn't even have answer machines then. We weren't that posh. You may wonder how we ever got a gig. It was really easy in truth. The False Dots made bunch of cassettes up, handwrote a bunch of letters, then gave them to various gig promoters. I'd put my home phone number on them. 

A couple of days later, I got home from the a rehearsal and my mum said "Someone phoned for you". Thinking it was a mate, I asked "Who was it?". She replied "It was a lovely chap called Rob, who wants your band to play a gig for him". As a foolish 18 year old, who pretended I was super cool, I was horrified. The indignity. He'd spoken to my Mum! What on earth had he thought. With a rising sense of panic, that I'd completely blown it, I said to my Mum "What on earth did you say?". Bear in mind, my Mum had been my Dads secretary at their business for 40 years, working in the motor trade, speaking to people all the time, I was amazed to hear what she said. 

Her reply "Well he rang and asked for you, so I said you weren't around and what it concerns. He said he's organising some gigs at The Midland Arms in Hendon and would The False Dots be able to play". I was even more worried. I thought  "Oh Lord, he's spoken to my mum". I pressed. "What did you say?" She replied "I said that I was your booking secretary and asked what date he wanted the False Dots to play and said we'd check the bands availability and call him back". I stopped panicking. He hadn't realised it was my Mum, thank God. My mum then turned to me and said "Roger, you need to get a diary and leave it by the phone. Put all the gigs in it and any dates when people are on holiday. If there is a gig, I can provisionally confirm it and say that we'll definitely get back with a solid confirmation within 24 hours".

I realised that she was right. I wasn't in. She then said "Right, if I am going to be your booking secretary, you need to pay me". My Mum was always business minded. I said "What do you want?" She replied "Two bottles of Guinness for every gig, paid for out of the bands profits". We both laughed. She then offered to be our manager, but that was a step too far for me. I was a fool, if I'd listened to her, maybe I'd have been on TOTP, like The Polecats, who got their singers Dad, Barry Warman to manage them! But she was brilliant. She actually liked talking to people on the phone and the Dots soon had a whole slate of gigs lined up. I doubt we'd have done any without her, as the phone would never have been answered. 

When we played at the Midland Arms in Hendon, Rob Austin, the promoter complemented us on being a very professional organisation. He asked where our "booking secretary with the lovely voice" was. Being a bit more worldly wise now, I suspect that my mum had been a bit flirty to secure us the gig! I said that she couldn't make it and Rob seemed rather disappointed. The gig he gave us was a really good slot, supporting a band called Way of The West, who had Radio 1 single of the week with Don't say it's just for white boys. 

With our secret weapon, we embarked on a whole series of gigs between 1981 and 1985. Being business minded, she also managed to secure us decent money for many of them. She insisted I told her how much we were getting paid, so that if someone asked what we wanted, she had an idea. She'd usually secure a good fee. If it was a prestigious venue and they were being stingy, she'd say we'd call back. In 1985, I had a huge row with my parents and the booking service stopped. Strangely enough so did the gigs and the dosh. But during that period, we did some amazing gigs, with great bands. As The False Dots always had a good following, we'd get decent support slots with out of town bands. Our favourite venue was The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead. As I'd seen The Damned's reunion gig there, I thought it was a very special place. Our gigs there were generally fun. One exception was when we supported a band called Tokyo Olympic from Dublin. Billed as the next U2 (incidentally I saw U2 at The Moonlight supporting Modern Jazz, who we used to follow), they attracted a lot of industry interest for the night. Sadly, they were completely obnoxious towards us. They refused us access to our gear, detuned our guitars and tried to sabotage us. This was a big mistake, as nearly all of the audience came to see us. We all left after one song, adjourning next door to the Railway pub. Five minutes later, our bassplayer, Paul Hircombe showed up and announced that the drinks were on him. He'd been in their dressing room, rifled their pockets and nicked all of their drugs and cash. Normally I'd be horrifiend at such larceny, but as they were such arses, it seemed hilarious. 

Another main band that were pretty horrible were a covers band we supported at Hendon Rugby club. They were called The Chevrons. When they realised that our band were going down rather well, they went up and told the PA man to turn off our stage monitors and generally bugger up our sound. We immediately twigged, as did a couple of our mates, who were big, burly bikers. They went and told the sound bloke to sort it out. Again the word went around that the band were arses, so they got a very frosty reception. As was his want, Paul sabotaged their van. We'd decided to have a French theme for the gig. We all wore stripey T-shirts and berets and had strings of onions. Paul mashed the onions up and smeared them all over the cab of the van, as well as putting half a pound of sugar in the petrol, ensuring that the van's engine blew up. 

Such things were a rarity. Most bands we supported, we got on famously with and had a laugh with. Several of our early gigs were performed with The Vektors from Edgware School. They were a lively bunch of lads and their Dad had a video recorder, there is even a rather cool video of them playing at The Harwood Hall in Mill Hill with us on Youtube. We were promised a band video in return for booking them, but never got it.

One of the more notable bands we played with were Pulp in 1984 at what is now The Water Rats. Sadly, I have no recollection of them or the gig, other than a note in my scrapbook. I am pretty sure they were nice enough as most were and we only remembered the nasty ones. 

What is sad is that there is almost no trace anywhere of any of these bands and gigs. These days, bands are able to self publish on Youtube and Spotify, so we can have a listen and remind ourselves. I've started to put together a Spotify playlist of bands who we've shared a bill with. One of my regrets is that I never recorded the other bands in my scrapbook, so many have been lost in the ether. Here are a few of the ones I could find

Since the band started to get active again in the early 2000's, we all have mobile phones. It has made it a lot easier, as have Whatsapp etc. You  can check out the other bands before the gig. We've done some amazing gigs, supporting the likes of The Foundations and Punk legends The London Sewage Company and The Bollock Brothers. I'm pleased to say that we still occasionally fall victim to shenanigans. I won't name the poor luvvies here but last year, we played a headline at The Dublin Castle. When we arrived, the a support band were also arriving. All young, trendy, handome chaps, laughing at us old geriatrics. There were a few sniggers and snide comments. Then they heard The False Dots soundcheck. They looked horrified. I suspect they were worried that their mates might think this bunch of codgers may blow them off the stage. I mean we have been doing it a while. When we went to start the first song, I realised all of my effects pedals had been tampered with, my guitar totally detuned, my tuner knobbled. The same for our bassplayer Fil Ross. We always start with a slow reggae number on drums. Graham just played the beat, Fil tuned up, I spoke, reset the pedals and tuned up and we played a stonking set.  We'd realised what they did.They looked horrified that we weren't phased. Our revenge was not like Paul Hircombe's. We just played as well as we could. After the show, they couldn't look us in the eye. For me, it was actually the greatest compliment of all.


The False Dots are playing at The Horn in St Albans on Thursday 30th May 

You can check our lastest number out here


No comments: