Friday, April 08, 2005

"Two, Two... One, Two"

On Monday I played five-a-side football for the first time in four months and wrecked my left knee.

On Tuesday I deleted “play for Celtic” from my ideal occupations list.

So on Wednesday I turned to the second great love of my life.......... pizza... no, I mean music.

Way back in the glorious decades of the 80s and 90s, I was a singer in a band. As far as I know I’m still in the same band because I didn’t resign and I wasn’t sacked – we just sort of stopped playing. The band was called The Signals and in our day we thought we were the dog’s bollocks, mainly because we were. Nobody in the greater metropolitan area of Falkirkshire could play loud, pub rock’n roll like we could, delivered, as it was, with a hint of folk, a dusting of country and just the merest hint of pop. We wrote our own songs, we covered other people’s songs and we copied other people’s songs and called them our own.

There’s just nothing in the world to beat driving round the country in a rented van, lugging equipment into scary looking bars and starting to play your music wondering whether the reception’s going to be favourable or downright ugly. Most of the time it was the former and the drive home would be elated and fuelled with hoarse laughter and beer.

It’s a long time since I’ve had that buzz so this week I got in touch with my musician cousin Franc (which is short for something French and exotic) and we decided to go and play at an open mic night in Glasgow.

Open mic nights are what music is all about; you just never know what’s going to be served up in the name of musical entertainment. They’re usually hosted by an enthusiastic and dedicated (and extremely caffeinated) musician who’s only reward for all the hard work and hassle is to play a couple of songs at the start of the evening to get the showcase started. And they’re attended by an eclectic gathering desperate to make the leap from superstar in their own bedroom to real, live performer.

I’m always thrown by the unexpected songs people will deliver. Last night, a thin, gaunt, long-haired guy, no older than 21 or 22, strode to the stage resplendent in a Ché Guevara t-shirt. Franc and I exchanged glances thinking perhaps we’d hear Nirvana or Radiohead and almost fell off our seats when he launched into Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy”. Infused by the warm applause, he then announced he was going to play a couple of his own songs both of which sounded remarkably like Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy”. But it didn’t matter because they were well sung and exuberantly played on the guitar and he seemed to float back to his seat when he’d finished.

Even when the musicianship isn’t out of the top drawer, the entertainment quotient remains high. I once saw a Glasgow punter stagger up to take his slot, grab a guitar that he clearly couldn’t play and launch into a drunken, dramatic poem that he’d written thirty years previously. Eyes tight shut throughout, he ended the speech with a dramatic Springsteen punch in the air and strode off purposefully as if he had a limo waiting, engine running at the back door. Brilliant!

Last night Franc and I were a bit rusty but it didn’t matter and we didn’t care. Beginning with Paul McCartney’s “Every Night”, I managed to turn Franc white with shock (“scared him shitless” is the more appropriate phrase I think) when I launched into an unscheduled, deafening harmony towards the end. He reciprocated in the next number, Crowded House’s “Better Be Home Soon”, by choking off a high note that was clearly out of reach and just when we were hitting our stride with “It’s Only Natural”, another Crowded House song, he broke a string during the final, face-melting solo. No matter. People clapped, people smiled and we had a great time. And next week we’ll be back and we'll be the dog’s bollocks.


At 8/4/05 7:20 pm, Blogger carl said...

Makes my singing off key in church...because our Worship Leader wife had a baby and he couldn't make it to service...seem so damned pathetic. Maybe a pint or two woulda loosened the pipes a bit, eh. And when is the album due out?

At 8/4/05 8:43 pm, Blogger Neil said...

Red wine is the key to loose pipes. The Sutherland Cousins album is some way off but stay tuned to learn of an exciting new retrospective collection!!!

At 9/4/05 5:37 pm, Blogger ropedncr said...

as usual, your post lifted my spirits. in more ways than one, you're the dogs bollocks (the best part of the dog).

At 11/4/05 8:29 pm, Blogger DC said...


I presume you have intentionally left out details of the Euro Gay Disco influence - short lived though it was.

Yours in FMR.


At 18/4/05 4:52 am, Blogger carl said...

Actually I understand the best thing to use is Brandy to 'loosen the pipes.' My difficulty with this detail is talking Brandy into such a situation.

At 28/4/05 10:15 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not joking when I tell you our company was going to call its product "the Dog's BolloX"....
You made me laugh outloud with your interpretation of the night.
Sai x


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