Until 1994, my gigging life was, shall we say, a bit sporadic. Not to mention a bit regionally confined.
My college band Dangerous Games never dared venture outside the West Midlands Conurbation, save for one trip to play at Wrexham University for Keith’s best mate in the worst fog I can ever remember driving in – Shotgun Wedding were braver and got as far as Cardiff (at least twice), Morecambe & London, but these were one off shows rather than part of any ‘tour’ or grand design.
During the Summer of 1994, Shotgun Wedding’s beleagured members finally accepted that the band had run its course and split after 7 years of trying to get on that first rung of the rock and roll ladder. Guitarists Gray & Dave quickly formed Unfaith with our former singer John, bassist Ash joined local rockers Crisis Edge, and our last vocalist Andy did his own thing as a singer/songwriter.
I was at a loose end musically speaking, like I had been before Shotgun came along. I was still living at Gray’s house in the shadow of St Andrew’s stadium, working at Musical Exchanges in Brum City Centre and subconsciously accepting that my delusions of rock star grandeur were just that – delusional.
But I had reckoned without the intervention of the Welsh. 2 years earlier, Shotgun had played a couple of shows in Bridgend York Tavern and Llanharen RFC (a venue with a hellish reputation that preceded it more than any I’d heard of, save for Tonypandy Naval Club) as support to City Kidds, a Glam act from Cardiff who were just releasing their first CD single (which impressed us and depressed us at the same time) and asked us to play with them in return for a support slot with us at Edwards in Birmingham.
The KISS pendant I wore at the time broke the ice with singer Josh Kane and guitarist Kerry Wild backstage on the first gig night as we discovered our mutual passion for the masked wonders and we ended up having 2 great shows with the Kidds, aside from the perishing cold night SGW spent in a Luton van trying to sleep after we parked by Porthcawl beach. Never have I felt so miserable in my life trying to sleep in that bloody van.
We returned the favour and cemented our inter-band friendship as City Kidds came to Brum and support us. They came to see us a few more times in our final incarnation in early 1994, and I remember a slightly inhebriated Kerry & Josh cornering me and saying how much they liked my playing and how we’d work together somewhere down the line. I thought nothing of it at the time; not even when Shotgun gave up the ghost in the late spring of ‘94
Later that summer, I received a call one day at Gray’s house from Josh Kane in an agitated state. Evidently he’d just fired his drummer in an argument over the hair crimpers (or something) and needed someone to play for the band on a 2-song demo they were set to record at the prestigious Monnow Valley Studios in Monmouth – a place that housed the piano used for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody moment and was a regular haunt of many major players in the rock scene. I knew the 2 tracks they wanted to record well enough and jumped at the chance, although I remember feeling rather awkward telling Gray about it when I hung up and he asked who had called. The Shotgun split wasn’t awkward as such, but it was almost as though no-one wanted to put the others out by moving on to something with potential. Ho-hum.
A week or so later, I pulled up outside Monnow Valley with my Yamaha kit in tow to start recording. I was early, but apparently I missed meeting Cozy Powell, one of the first drummers I really got into via Rainbow, and only missed him by 20 minutes according to Phil Ault, the engineer on duty. Cozy was dead not long after from injuries sustained in a car crash on the M4. How I wish I’d been that little bit more keen to get down the motorway myself that morning. Still…
The view from 3 sides of the live drum room at Monnow Valley was extraordinarily beautiful – the rolling Welsh hillsides wherever you gazed, save for the control room dead ahead…and even that view was imposing, with a huge glass panelled double door that led through a second live room for guitars etc and then on into the mixing room. My drums were set up on a rubber mat as the whole floor of the drum room was marble. Thus the kit made the most extraordinary thunderous sound when I started playing, even with my limited knowledge of tuning drums to their optimum sound. This was going to be fun.
And it was. Listening to playback in the control room, my bass drum in particular sounded like falling masonry. But it was over all too soon, as by early afternoon, the boys in the band (just Josh & Kerry by this stage – the bass player had been unceremoniously fired too) were happy with the two tracks I’d laid down and I was soon breaking my kit down and preparing to leave.
Josh had been having a series of back and forth phone calls with the City Kidds’ manager, who had promised to arrive with the money for studio hire that morning but had yet to show. He assured both Mikey and the studio owner, that he would deliver the necessary cash asap. The studio boss man seemed placated by this and the session could continue as planned for the next 3 days whilst I went back to work at the guitar shop in Brum. I couldn’t wait to hear the finished product when the boys sent a cassette (remember them?) up to me the next week.
Only the tape never arrived. The songs got fully recorded ok after I left, and Phil the engineer had mixed the 2 tracks, Voice Of Tomorrow and Perfect 10 ready to commit to master tape. But the money from the band’s manager never arrived as promised and the studio boss withheld the master tapes, refusing Josh & Kerry the chance to take anything away from the sessions. The lads were understandably distraught – that close to their best ever recording, the one that could lead to so much more and it was tantalisingly taken away from them because the manager’s cash didn’t show up.
So where was he, this man of mystery? Phone calls continued, but all from Josh’s end and getting no response from the would be svengali of City Kidds’ ascent to infamy. Missing assumed bankrupt, we reckoned. How close we were to the truth, as Josh discovered to his utter shock when watching HTV Wales news ON THAT FIRST NIGHT whilst staying at Monnow Valley to see the top story centre around the largest mortgage fraud case in Welsh legal history coming to a conclusion with all accused receiving prison sentences. Imagine Josh’s surprise and utter terror to see HIS manager on library pictures entering the court on the first day of the case as one of the accused on a mobile phone. Probably saying to Josh as he sauntered past the cameras ‘Yeah I’ll get you the money, just give me a day to sort it, sorry, gotta go!!!...’
It would be nearly a decade before those brilliant Monnow Valley tapes were in City Kidds’ possession. Or Sons Of God as they became known by 1995 But that’s another story – there was still the rest of 1994 to go, and another twist in my life.
Josh was back on the phone to me a fortnight or so after the Monnow Valley debacle with an interesting proposition. The Welsh Glam titans Tigertailz were embarking on a short UK tour to kick-start their career after the disappointing reaction they’d received to their Wazbones album. 8 shows in just over a week, and they needed a support band…and had specifically asked for City Kidds.
But of course, the Kidds were 2 members light. I was asked by Kane (as he was now to be known, the Josh element suddenly dropped and never to be mentioned again) to play drums for the tour, whilst a fella whom Kerry knew from a covers band in Monmouth was coming in on bass. I had 2 weeks to learn a 40 minute set, and every song required me to play along to a click track on headphones – something I’d only ever done for studio recordings. This was because the band used keyboard parts on tape to augment their sound on stage. No pressure then.
We managed to get 2 full rehearsals in as a band prior to the tour. I had to drive down to Newport for these run-throughs at the aptly named Disgraceland Rehearsal rooms near the town centre. What a shithole that place was – Spartan would be the kindest word I could use to describe it. Infact the whole of Newport itself seemed to need flattening and turning into a patio for Cardiff, it was so run down.
But the mouldy state of a rehearsal complex doesn’t really matter when you have 6 hours together to both gel as musicians and to nail the songs ready for gigs at some of the more reputable toilets in the country. I wasn’t too worried in part, as I knew Kane and Kerry (who, confusingly, was now known exclusively as Nailz – keep up) were good musicians from seeing the Kidds live. Jonny on bass was the unknown quantity – but he was arguably better prepared than I was having sat on Nailz’s sofa several times guitars in hand for the odd impromptu rehearsal!
It would be a barefaced lie to suggest that our first get-together was sufficient for the road ahead, but we weren’t far off. The 2nd practice a week later went better still, but there we were – 4 lads thrown together by circumstance trying to forge a collective friendship as a band as well as attempting to memorise a support slot set-list and trust our musical instincts with each other. It was exciting and frightening in equal measure. Thankfully on a personal level, things were clearly going to be very easy going with Jonny – he had a happy-go-lucky nature and a highly infectious laugh, which was a great foil to Kane’s more intense mindset and Nailz’s musical creativity.
And so not long after, we met up in Cardiff with the Tigertailz boys to sort out transport on the morning of the first show up at Buckley Tivoli in the North West. There were to be 2 vehicles – a 12 seater mini-bus for both bands and a transit for the collective gear. It looked like our job as City Kidds was to drive the transit between us whilst other lounged in the relative luxury of the mini-bus driven by Mark the ‘Tailz tour manager.
Before we even set off we’d all wanted to collectively kill the promoter for our little jaunt – one Adam Parsons at Big Rock Entertainment, who in his wisdom had elected the tour to wind its way thus night after night: Buckley to Bradford then Dudley for the 1st 3 nights was just about acceptable. After that it went mental – Dudley to Glasgow, then Norwich the following night – madness. Worse still, onto Chelmsford the next night and then off to Plymouth, back to Nottingham and finally The Marquee in London. For goodness sake! It seemed a desperately random choice of venues, like the serial killer’s choice of victims in Silence Of The Lambs, but Mark seemed up for the punishing schedule. We just prayed that we and the vans’ engines would feel the same way.
We twisted our way through various South Wales B roads to collect the other 2 members of Tigertailz on our way to Buckley. Singer Kim Hooker and bassist Pepsi Tate met us in Cardiff and so it was guitarist Cy Danaher and drummer Andy Skinner we needed to pick up, but amazingly for such hastily made arrangements driving through the back of beyond, we were ahead of schedule by the time we had the full quota aboard.
I’m not sure if Buckley Tivoli is still part of the UK gig circuit, but it seemed a decent enough place to start off the tour – a Welsh/Merseyside border town with a large catchment area. I did my best to scupper the first night’s entertainment within minutes of beginning the setup of the stage by accidentally dropping one of my drums directly onto a power cable behind the drum riser, which caused a blackout for 5 minutes. However, no-one noticed my butterfingers moment and thus wasn’t blamed for the loss of power. I said nothing to incriminate myself of course – I was too nervous at the prospect of crimping my hair in time for our show. Get THAT wrong and there’d be a certain sacking in the offing based on prior knowledge…
The crimpers in question were Kane’s, held together only by ancient bits of Sellotape and were to be shared by all 4 members. It was touch and go that they’d last past the first night. At the time, my barnet was a Brian May-esque birds nest, which meant that straightening and then crimping said thatch was going to prove difficult. I did my best, which seemed pointless as the effects of the crimpers would only turn out to last 5 minutes onstage before the sweat and the lights made it ‘boing’ back into its original state – but Kane was adamant we had a uniform look.
This look was augmented by the wardrobe – specifically, a white long-sleeve roll neck t-shirt and black trousers for me, with black braces to boot. Johnny and Kane had the same t-shirt in black, whilst Nailz went for all white with his combo and red braces. Kind of Marilyn Manson meets Bobby Ball on reflection. Mind you this was fully 5 years before the emergence of Marilyn and his ‘look’ so I guess Kane’s vision was ahead of his time, especially when you bear in mind that we slapped on face powder to look suitably pale-face and rounded things off by smudging on Rimmel Black Cherry lipstick just prior to showtime. Rock and indeed roll…the beautiful people?
Another reason for bouffanting (is that a word?) my hair to improbable angles from my skull was in order to hide the headphones I was wearing in order to hear the click track. Such teasing and spraying had the desired effect, but then the headphones weren’t exactly Craig David’s in size. My concern wasn’t ever about whether they would fly off or lose connection with the click – it was more about whether I could hear my vocals above the click in my monitor to pitch my backing vox correctly. There’s nothing worse than 3 part harmonies where the 3rd part is nowhere near right.
Again my fears proved unfounded as the 1st show progressed in front of a healthy crowd. I’ve never been a ‘showman’ type drummer – the kind to twiddle sticks and generally do octopus impressions from behind the kit, but I felt duty bound to do a bit of that with City Kidds as my predecessor had been such a master at it. What came to mind straight away was the requirement to concentrate on the click in your ears whilst trying to engage with your audience by way of smiles and poses as you play. Not easy, but I got on with it.
Job done without any cock-ups somehow, and with the crowd suitably warmed up for the ‘Tailz, we retired backstage, changed into civvies and went for a wander into the venue as the lads went on for their set. I don’t quite know why I expected punters to recognise the support band’s drummer sans pale-face and lipstick but I did and such a schoolboy error was borne out by the lack of knowing glances I received. Realising KISS would have spent 10 years wrestling with this knotty problem, I bought a pint and admonished myself, then turned to see Nailz & Kane being mobbed by well-wishers. Lesson learned: you’re the drummer – accept the pecking order of importance…
Day 2 was in Bradford at the sprawling (and apparently now defunct?) Rios complex. The night’s sleep had been, well, eventful. We’d driven straight to Bradford from Buckley, parked in the Rios car park and made sleeping arrangements in the van. We’d carefully packed the equipment in such a way that 3 could sleep in the rear on top of drum hardware cases/guitar cabs etc whilst the 4th slept across the seats in the front. As it turned out, it was far more comfortable than I’d expected, but having not showered for 2 days and with a sweaty performance not long behind me, I was ready for a wash and brush-up at the earliest opportunity.
Of course, with no hotels on the City Kidds agenda (Tailz had basic B&B accommodation if I remember correctly) your chance of scrubbing yourself clean was at the behest of the venues. Following a trip to the laundrette that morning to dry our collective polo-necks, we were eventually allowed into Rios to set up mid-afternoon, and we were told there was a shower in the dressing room that could be used.
They said shower, but the power that said Triton emitted was akin to dabbing your head with a wet Vileda super mop. Pointless – and 5 needless drips into my attempt at improving my personal hygiene, I gave up and decided to stink for a few hours more. In any case, nobody went near the drummer afterwards so…
That night in Bradford does stick in my mind though. Not because of the shower though – it was the night that City Kidds truly clicked onstage for the first time and got a top response from the huge crowd who, after all, were not there to see us. Opener “Voice Of Tomorrow” was a tremendous kick-off; Kane wailing the verses into his brightly-adorned megaphone whilst Nailz’ brilliant riff drove things along. “You Against Us” and “Nowhere (Utopian Nightmare)” followed, and by that 3rd tune, the punters were unashamedly on our side. Kane’s ensuing rant about ‘fashion victims’ that preceeded “Closet Pose” further served to gain support from the masses, and by the time we’d careered headlong into closer “Broken Glass Stare” they were putty in our hands. And I’m not overstating it. For the first time EVER I was urged to throw my sticks out into the audience as I left the stage to tumultuous applause.
This, then, was different to Shotgun Wedding, who did well on various trips away from home to Cardiff & London beforehand, but never to that level of appreciation. Suddenly, stinking like a tramp didn’t feel so bad. I could get used to this lark, I thought to myself.
Another night’s kip in the Rios car park (not as comfy as the previous nights for some daft reason even though the gear had been packed exactly the same way), before Day 3 took us south to Dudley JB’s, a venue I knew very very well, but one I had yet to play despite its close proximity to home. My girlfriend at the time and a number of mates were attending (including one or two ex-Shotgun mates) and I was obviously keen to impress. Such chances of leaving a good impression were given a huge boost by the presence of a working, hot and powerful shower in the dressing room. I was first in. God it felt good…possibly the best shower I have ever had. Again, no understatement here.
JB’s was a cavernous place, and so even the 500 or so punters who paid to get in that night looked a little sparse, having so much space to stand in collectively. Still, we played well once more, my confidence improving with every song, and my friends were suitably impressed. My girlfriend wasn’t – mainly because I was going straight off to Glasgow when she wanted me home with her, which couldn’t be helped. I elected to watch the Tigertailz show more closely this night, and they were impressive. Energetic and infectious, Kim & Pepsi were consumate showmen, and Cy, although more static as a performer was a terrific guitarist filling big shoes in the absence of Jay Pepper who’d left the band. “Noise Level Critical” was fast becoming my favourite song of the set, overtaking “Love Bomb Baby” in my affections.
I have no recollection of where we (attempted to) sleep that night – it was somewhere between Dudley & Glasgow I know that much, and Tailz’ mini-bus had split from us and was to rendezvous in Scotland the next day. By now (Day 4) the patterns of sleep, eating and playing were sort of defined…you knew your stage time, but sleeping and eating were both moveable feasts when you’re touring on a budget.
Realising we had no clue where the Cathouse venue was as we reached the outskirts of Glasgow, I was asked by the lads to converse with one of the local passers-by to get the necessary info. Trust me to pick the sort of unintelligible drunk Billy Connolly makes 20-minute routines out of every time we stopped. Rab C Nesbitt is NOT a comic grotesque creation – it’s spot on. Still, I was cajoled by Jonny into asking the passers by questions in my worst possible Scottish accent - the vague bits I understood from each of their answers could be pieced together to form a rough outline of where to go, and miraculously we found it far quicker than we should’ve by rights.
This gig would be different for me as we loaded the gear into the Cathouse. It quickly became clear that the small stage there would never accommodate 2 drumkits on it, never mind one set of backline, but Tailz drummer Andy had no problem at all with me sharing his kit – indeed he suggested it before anyone else did, which was very gracious of him.
The thing I remember about Cathouse was the clientelle we encountered. Very odd folk – one young and gothy-looking couple who made their way backstage were handcuffed to one another…and not with the £9.99 furry Ann Summers efforts either. These were proper police handcuffs that were tightly attached around their wrists. I didn’t see them out of said cuffs in all the time they were backstage, but my attention may have drifted away from them at times to the malevolent figure of a raven-haired Scottish promoter who was also in the dressing room area and making very bold statements to Kane as to both the strength of City Kidds and of his connections with the very worst kind of gun-toting gangsters with whom he gladly associated himself. “YOUUUU AND MEEEE KAAAANE…” he announced at regular intervals “WEEE SHALLL RUUULE THE ROCCKKKK WORLLLLLD TOGETHEEEERRRR!”
To be fair to Kane, he couldn’t tell this geezer to sling his hook given his underworld buddies and entertained his nonsense babbling for over an hour. The handcuffed couple hung on his every word – must be something to do with masochism.
His manner was so creepy and overbearing that a 6-hour drive to Norwich through the dead of night suddenly became very, very appealing to us in order to put some distance between us and him. Jonny and I shared van duties down the A1 with the agreement that we would switch with Nailz & Kane at sunrise for them to complete the drive to Norfolk. That drive south was scary as hell, especially the rush hour traffic we encountered somewhere around Doncaster that reminded me of the Paris ring road on steroids. Thankfully we negotiated the Wacky Race without encountering Dick Dastardly and woke the others at a Little Chef on the A47 to deliver the good news that it was their turn at the wheel.
I must’ve slept for 10 hours in the back once we’d switched and awoke late afternoon to chuckles from Kane & Nailz as I sat up with my birds-nest hairdo going in all manner of improbable directions. “Geez” mused Nailz, “Who was that bloke in Charlie Brown who had the stink lines drawn around him all the time?”
“Pigpen wasn’t it?” I offered.
Cue uproarious laughter from Kane, Nailz & Jonny. “PIGPEN!!! THAT’S THE FELLA! WE KNEW YOU’D KNOW IT – THAT’S YOU SON…PIGPEN!!!”
Pigpen stuck as my (unfair yet amusing) nickname from that moment on with the lads. It was changed on occasion to variations such as Piggy, Pig-pen-us, Piggy Penster Man Not From Leominster and so on, though thankfully these were not used as terms of endearment onstage to the general public. Ian Danter, Stalking Black Panther, the beast of Boredesley Green was another title thrust upon me, but I wasn’t the only one singled out for nicknames-Jonny quicky assumed the mantle of ‘Jonny Solders’ for his ability to wield a soldering iron with great dexterity. Nailz was just known as “The Nailer” usually and Kane was christened ‘Big Arse’ by Kim Hooker of Tailz very early on. Delightful isn’t it?
What was obvious in all of this was that this wasn’t a hastily arranged City Kidds line-up to fulfil contractural obligations. This was a new band. Which would need a new name. But that was for the future once the dust had settled.
Norwich Oval was a venue run by Iron Maiden crew members if memory serves and had unique artwork done in the Derek Riggs ‘Maiden’ style. The show was to be another kit share as Glasgow had been the night before, and things were flowing so nicely in our set, we decided that this night would be the occasion we rolled out the heavy artillery – namely a cover of KISS’ “Parasite” that we’d run through once at rehearsals. 3 of us being KISS fans and Jonny being so adept at learning stuff, it was easy to suss out. There’s a tape recording of our set that night in someone’s possession and I would love to hear it again, just for the explosive version of ‘Parasite’ that we tore through as an encore (yes we were asked for one!) Kim Hooker told me some months later that Tailz were sitting backstage listening to us night after night with increasing trepidation about their own performance. “We thought you were blowing us away every single time” he offered, and whilst that wasn’t really true (Tailz were hailed as returning heroes by the crowds who’d come to see them after all, not us) it was nice to know we were doing ourselves no harm at all with this hastily arranged jaunt.
Following Norwich came something of a Brucie Bonus – namely that we were to sleep at Kane’s house in sort-of-nearby Luton before heading to Chelmsford for gig No. 6. It didn’t matter that we were on the lounge floor in sleeping bags – we were warm for once and had our best night’s sleep so far.
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned such staples of the rock and roll touring tick list as heavy drinking, intravenous hard drugs or orgies yet. Were you expecting such things? Maybe my missus in here paranoid state at the time was, but whilst drink was imbibed most evenings, it never got out of hand and affected moods, relations or onstage performances – everyone reads The Dirt by Motley Crue and thinks it’s a reference guide by which all rock bands live. Not so – it’s a guide by which most rock bands would love to live by but haven’t got the cohones. Me included. So no birds, no bongs, no bonks.
And so onto Chelmsford Army & Navy – another venue that seems to have been wiped from the circuit upon investigation now. Indeed of that ’94 tour, only Glasgow Cathouse is still happily going to my knowledge. But based on the atmosphere in deepest Essex, this place didn’t live long in my memory. Maybe I was tired - we all were in truth. It was as though a decent night’s kip was the worst thing for us in that it got us out of a routine we were somehow adjusting to.
Whatever it was, I don’t think either band enjoyed themselves in Chelmsford. I think it was the worst attended show of all (150 or so when elsewhere it was 400+ easy) and precious little sticks in my mind about the time spent there other than the desire to get going on yet another daft punishing drive down to bastard Plymouth.
That’s not to say there was a total lack of enthusiasm. With each show played, I was getting better and better at playing along to the ‘tick tock tick tock’ in my headphones, I was improving at locking in with Jonny on bass…and I was becoming a dab hand with the crimpers 6 days in too. This was progress without question.
We learned after the Chelmsford gig that the planned date at Nottingham Rock City was now cancelled, probably due to some Tap-esque reason like ‘lack of advertising funds’. This was a blow to all, as Rock City was all set to be a great stop on the tour – it meant that we’d have to go home for a day after Plymouth and then reconvene at The Marquee 2 days on.
That news, added to the long slog to the South West and Chelmsford’s general apathy meant spirits needed lifting for Plymouth Cooperage. Drinking was the preferred solution following a band meeting that afternoon, and Nailz was on balance (or perhaps off balance in this case) the most squiffy when we went onstage to play that night. I’d had a few but still felt largely in control – I remember a Shotgun gig supporting an American band at Edwards called The Toll where they’d pissed us off so much during soundcheck etc that we decided to nick their rider. I sunk 3 pints, decided I could play drums in my cowboy boots and proceded to play like a right tart for 45 minutes. Never again, I swore – Plymouth came close to breaking my vow but I just about walked that (blurred) line.
Nevertheless we and the Plymouth crowd enjoyed ourselves immensely and 2 of our songs seemed to be getting better responses than most gig by gig. ‘Generation Love’ and ‘Perfect 10’ were great examples of what great songwriters I’d hooked up with in Kane & Nailz, and the next few years proved I was right with what we wrote together – the songs only ever made it to demo stage, but how proud I am of those tunes. ‘Perfect 10’ should have been a smash hit, of that I am still utterly utterly convinced.
And how proud I was to know that the Marquee was still to come as I headed home on the train the morning after Plymouth. For years Shotgun Wedding had tried to obtain a booking at the famous Wardour St venue to no avail. Just over a week into my new gig and I was there supporting Tigertailz. It hadn’t slipped my notice that KISS were the first band to play there following the venue’s shift from Charing Cross Road in 1988 – 6 years on and I was following in the late Eric Carr’s footsteps.
Unfortunately, The Marquee was now doubling up as a night-club as well as gig venue, and so we were all warned about a strict curfew of 10.30pm which would be stringently enforced – if the bands ran over time, the plug would be pulled. Not only that, but we then had just 30 minutes to clear our gear out of the stage door and away before the night-club could open. This was a major irritant and I bet Simmons and co never got the hurry up at 10.30 prompt. But hey ho – we set up in front of Tailz gear, having enough room for my kit in front of Andy’s for a change and wanted to run through our usual couple of things at soundcheck. But time was against us due to the early start/finish and we barely got a line check to an empty venue with 30 mins to go before we were due onstage.
Shuffling backstage to change into polo necks braces and paleface, the morale wasn’t what it should be prior to a Marquee show. The mood was lightened considerably by the white unitard I’d bought on that day off in Brum at a fitness centre thinking it would fit in perfectly with the band’s image. “You haven’t got a fucking clue have you?” chuckled Nailz and the offending article was promptly burnt to remove any evidence – thankfully there is no pictorial record of it. And he was right – I didn’t have a Scooby.
Nor did we all have the faintest idea that as we ribbed one another about our various fashion faux-pas, the venue was filling up. Rapidly. Evidently there was a massive queue of Tailz fans that was snaking down Wardour Street but due to the decent soundproofing backstage, we couldn’t hear any of the hubbub front of house. None of the Tailz crew elected to let us in on the news as they flitted between stage and dressing room, and it wasn’t until Jonny casually poked his head around the door with 5 mins to go before the off that the game was up.
“Bloody hell, it’s heaving out there lads!”
In disbelief, we all charged at the stage door and saw the same glorious yet bowel-loosening sight. A sold-out Marquee. It didn’t matter one jot that we were just the support act. This was a chance to show off, big style
“Fags out boys” I said – “let’s go to work…”
We got a huge ovation as we took our positions. Which did not suck. The intro on our DAT tape that Jonny controlled rumbled and during that minute or so the test click ran through my headphones so I could adjust the volume and just be happy that I could hear it at all. My heart raced as I saw more audience members than I’d ever seen up to this point – more than Shotgun’s sell-out at Edwards a few years before. This was double, if not 3 times that. The click suddenly pulsed back into my headphones and I counted off the start of “Voice Of Tomorrow” for Nailz on the hi-hats.
The next 30 mins or so were just magic. Pure magic. The sound wasn’t ideal on stage – far from it. But the assembled glam fans were punching the air and roaring us on at every turn. Kane’s pre “Closet Pose” fashion rant was – just as at Bradford - spectacularly received and folk pressed up against the stage at the front were even singing along to “Generation Love” in the front row. For the finale in “Broken Glass Stare”, Jonny had brought along a spare bass guitar which had a split in its neck rendering it almost useless – it would last the one tune, probably, and so upon hitting the final crash out of chords that signalled our exit, Jonny swung the bass over his head in one swiftly executed movement and WALLOP! Bass bits everywhere. The headstock whizzed past my thatch and landed by the stage door, we took the acclaim of the masses and retreated backstage to make sense of just how good that had been.
Even my older brother’s admission that it was ‘too bloody loud’ when I went out to meet him at the bar 10 minutes later didn’t deflate my spirits. I was euphoric and 'Tailz rounded off the tour with a brilliant show of their own. I seem to remember we came on for the encore to join them each wearing a KISS t-shirt from my collection of spray-painted shirts made for me by Giorgio at Oasis market in Brum. Much singalong fun ensued to “Love Bomb Baby” and before you knew it thanks to the watch tapping of the management, my beaten up Vauxhall Cavalier Estate was filled up drums & cymbals and I was preparing to say goodbye to all as we went in separate directions to get home. Tailz were glowing in their tributes to the job we’d done for ourselves and for them; new friendships forged and new bandmates safely sworn in over a week or so of onstage bonding, I was ecstatic. This, I truly believed, was the start of something special that would grow and grow, giving me the dream I’d believed was mine to fulfil.
Reality first, however. The next morning, I was back at work in Musical Exchanges taking Squier Strats in part exchange for Yamaha Pacificas, extolling the virtues of Marshall Valvestate combos to 15-year-olds with no intention of buying anything other than a plectrum and trying to find out from the main office whether Blues were losing at home again whilst trying to eat a turkey & mayo baguette and serve 3 customers all at once. Naturally my deluded mind was saying ‘Ah never mind – you’ll be on tour again soon’.
But I never did go again. Yes I’ve gigged many many times around the UK and Europe between then & now, but not for more than 3 days at a time. I’ve driven through the night in a Transit or Sprinter, but not slept in one as a matter of necessity. Not a ‘tour’ in the accepted sense of the word. There’s still a nagging part of my mind that thinks the world missed out on the band once known as City Kidds who, soon after that tour, morphed into Sons Of God, were championed by Kerrang magazine and yet ultimately found no-one of that extra special influence who REALLY believed in us.
And as the Sons Of God (nee City Kidds) posthumous CD release so perfectly put it “We Were Never Really Here…” – you might find that mighty organ on Amazon/eBay somewhere, but there is the eclectic track 'Crawling Up The Wall' that you can find on the ‘Musician/Songwriter’ page of this here site in the meantime.
Reformation? Ha! I doubt it. Nor am I angling for one. I don’t have enough hair to crimp properly anyway.