Tuesday 28 May 2024

Rock and Roll Stories #11 - Don't mess with The False Dots

Over the last few weeks, I've been doing quite a few radio interviews, regaling audiences with stories from the early days of the band, such as our rather amusing experiences with Hank Marvin and the like. We had all manner of scraps, some of which I've documented here previously. Perhaps one of the reasons the band never really reached the pinnacles of success we felt we could have, was we were a bunch of troublemakers. We somehow managed to attract an audience that was very loyal and very naughty. I can't possibly think how that happened! We also fell out with a few other bands on the way. Although the vast majority, we got on like a house on fire with, some we simply hated on sight and the feeling was mutual.

As a result there were several instances of mutual sabotage. The problem for the other bands was that we were much better at it. We also fell out with one or two dodgy promoters. For some reason,they assumed that as we were just kids, they could take the mickey out of us. What they didn't fully understand was that my Dad was a pretty tough individual, who had been in the Australian army and air force, been a prisoner of war and run a motor business for 40 years. He brought me up to stand up for myself. One indispensible piece of advice he gave me, was that if someone doesn't want to pay you, do not let them out of your sight until they do and don't take no for an answer. He also taught me to box, so I always felt secure in myself.

When the band went to Sweden, we played a large show in Stockholm that was sold out. The promoter had told us that we had to deal directly with the club owner for the cash. At the end of the evening, I went to see him to collect the money. He ushered me into his office and then said "Sorry, we didn't do as well as we thought we would, I can only pay half the money agreed". I thnk that he thought this eighteen year old would simply burst into tears and walk away. I picked up the bottle of scotch he had on his desk and told him that if he didn't pay me immediately I'd hit him over the head with it. All of the blood drained from his face and he tried to pretend it was a joke. The money was instantly forthcoming. He even insisted on buying us a drink after. Sadly that wasn't the only time.At another gig, we liberated four Shure SM58 microphones after the promoter ran off without paying us. A couple of days later, he got in touch and was furious. I just laughed and told him that he should pay bands. As our fee had been £150 and the four mics probably cost £300, we did well out of it. When he said "You'll never play in London again", I invited him to our next gig. Needless to say, we've done one or two since. Whilst I never enjoyed such things, I felt that it was important to make a statement. Bands should not have to put up with such things. I'm pleased to say that these days such things are just distant memories. It is rare for promoters to pay in cash. They want your bank details and transfer the cash over. I know of a few bands that have been knocked recently, but no one has done it to us for a very long time.

On occasion we've had run ins with punters in the audience. At one gig at Harwood Hall, in Mill Hill, one punter walked up and spat in my face. I unstrapped my guitar, a Peavey T60, which is probably the heaviest guitar ever made, and whacked him around the head with it as he eyeballed me. His mates carried him away. I strapped the guitar back on and carried on with the song. Paul Hircombe asked me after the gig whether it really happened, as I seemed to do it in the blink of an eyelid. I generally abhor violence, but when such things happen, one has to do what one has to do. 

As the band were always closely associated with Rock Against Racism, on occasion we had altercations with people who were rather more keen on racism. At one gig in 1983, when Venessa Sagoe was singer, we met at a pub around the corner before the show for a beer. Venessa was of Nigerian heritage. We were having a lovely chat, and were about to go to the venue to set up for the soundcheck. I nipped to the loo and whilst I about to wash my hands, a chap of obvious right wing association approached me. I was about 21 and dressed in my gig gear rather flamboyantly. He growled "I thought monkeys like big banana's".  As he was making it clear that he wasn't looking for a pleasant chat, I punched him as hard as I could, causing him to stumble over. I made sure he got a hair wash in the traps. As we left, I noticed his three mates were looking at the door as I emerged. Their faces were a picture, as I don't think think they were expecting me to emerge unscathed.

I casually walked out with Venessa. I never told her what happened, as I was so disgusted with the comment. It is a shame that you get such idiots. Generally they are bullies, who pick on people they think won't fight back. In the world of music, you see far less than in football crowds, but they do occasionally come along. If ever the film of the FalseDots gets made (which I doubt will happen), these are the incidents that show the dark underside of the 1970's and 80's. There was far more random violence. People genuinely seem nicer these days, which, to me at least, is wonderful, it is more fun these days.


If you enjoy reading this blog, please give my band,  the False Dots a follow on Spotify and a listen to our music. If you live in St Albans, please nip down to The Horn on Thursday night to watch us. It will be fun, I promise you.

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