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When things go wrong - 2

More of those moments when you wished you were somewhere else.

Contains:
A few quotable quips, Rocky Horror Wedding, Hammond, Curtain call, Groupies!, Rock out, The Randy Dogs

A few quotable quips

18/6/00

Well we all have 'em, and we've got Bruce. Some band does a crash-hot number, and after the audience settles Bruce bellows from the back “Play something we can dance to”.

Well Poppa Chris Quinlan gave me the comeback:

“Dance something we can play to”


I used to roady a double-bass player, so I tended to cop a bit of the “How do you get that under your chin?”

“If I had a mouth as big as yours it would be easy.”

A cute double-bass story was the chap who strugged on to a tram with his bass, observed by a Dear Old Lady. After he finally got settled she turned to him and said “When you get to where you are going dear, I do hope they ask you to play”.


At a gig up here the drummer took off in one number at 78 instead of 45.
When it ended a short time later the singer turned to the guitarist,
“Wasn't that a bit fast?”
“Fast? I thought I was about to be to be LAPPED!”


Overheard on a band recording taken at a party gig, from the audience;

“Why don't you play that song by the English fella? You know, Chet Atkins”.

“Anyone got a pick?”
“I've got a tuner”

“If we're such a successful band [grunt], how come none of our mike stands stay up? ”


The Rocky Horror Wedding

Merv and The Mufftones were booked for a wedding, through an agent for a change.

It's an early start for an evening gig, 6 pm, but when the boys roll up to the very basic inner-north RSL hall the guests are already well pissed and livid. They booked the band for 3pm and they have been drinking solidly and working up a head of steam since then.

They want to rip the 'tones heads off, but they also want them to play. In the end a compromise, first they play, then if they are any good they won't get their heads ripped off afterwards.

Merv lays it off on the agent and while the punters find a phone to abuse him the boys bomp in to the hall. And what a hall it is! A brick shell with a stage, a tin roof, and filthy floor with some sprung boards.

The boys start playing but something is odd - there seem to be two wedding parties in opposite corners busily emptying their repective kegs.

“Pray the widial brolce - theresoming” so Merv launches into 'Winchester Cathederal' and the bride and groom appear for the first time. He, a gangly rocker complete with Fonzy hair and Winkle-pickers, all of seventeen walking about inside his hired suit; her, a petite sixteen in full flowing white, and looking like they would spend the honeymoon in the labour ward! She is so pregnant if she lay on her back she'd be taller. Ahh, that explains the invisible Green Line on the floor.

They waltz as best they can given they haven't a clue, encumbered by his suit, her dress, their pregnancy, and trying to avoid the sprung boards in the floor. The respective rellies glower at each other from their corners.

This heartwarming scene is highlighted by the sudden arrival of a hailstorm which pelts down on the tin roof, leaking onto the dance floor and creating small mud puddles.

Under the fluro lights it looks more like Upper Bangiwallop than inner Melbourne. The hail is so loud the organist can't hear himself even with the pedal to the metal, and wonders if he is even playing the same song as the rest of the band. (Later it will turn out he wasn't, but that none of the five where playing the same song by this time anyway and nobody noticed).

After the hail subsides a bit the band is 'shushed' for the speeches. The Father of the Bride, glass in hand, climbs up on a springy tubular steel chair near the middle of the hall. Not a great choice even when you're sober.

“I'd jush like to shay...” (long pause while someone in the grooms group finishes telling a loud fart joke) “on sish awspicious okashion...” (even longer pause) Somehow 'awspicious' seems a poor choice of words at a shotgun wedding. “...hic!...”

(the ... seconds ... stretch ... out).

The organist who is watching this from directly behind with bored disinterest sees the expression of the onlookers suddenly switch from polite attention to shock and horror. 'Oh God, he's puked down his front with nerves' he thinks, but no.

What the organist can't see is that F-o-t-B is falling, slowly at first, directly away from him, chair and all, like a forest giant. F-o-t-B is out on his feet, or chair in this case, but curiously his glass remains vertical until he arrives - WHAM! - flat on his face on the floor in a cloud of dust, right at the guests feet. 'Her' group rushes forward in concern, while 'his' group turns back to their fart jokes. They get F-o-t-B up, but he's covered with blood and looks like he's just lost a fight with a stroppy revolving door.

Later the happy couple come backstage to pay and thank the band. He is still in shock, she still in white. Her mascara has run from crying, her white dress muddy up to the knees, and her huge pregnancy in front stained with so much of her fathers blood she looks like she is having a miscarrage. The band are literally agape at the scene. Totally Gothic. So agape, in fact, that they don't even look at the cheque.

Things look up a bit when Merv scores two more gigs from guests. Finally the boys bomp out at midnight as things are starting to get really tense.

In the car, when Merv finally looks at the cheque it's for only half the fee agreed with the agent, but before Merv can go back in and argue a fight breaks out that rapidly develops into an all-in brawl between the two groups. The 'tones cut their losses and beat a hasty retreat for beer and pizza.

Later the other bookings fall through.

The 'tones will go their ways after Merv marries, breeds, and takes up a career playing wedding receptions. They will play in some very odd places to some very odd people. But never again will any of them encounter a pregnant, underage bride covered in mud and blood.


The Hammond

In the early days of the Mufftones, the rhythm guitarist ('cause he couldn't play as well as the lead guitarist) is climbing the narrow stage stairs at Ringwood T.H., gear in hand.

Half way up he is met by a Hammond sandwich consisting of two gorillas wrapped around a B-3 in free-fall (belonging, aptly, to a band named Nova Express). He has had contact with a Hammond before, but never quite this intimate.

When he regains his senses he is upside down at the bottom of the stairs with a ton-and-a-half of tonewheels on his chest, while the gorillas are inspecting it for damage “narh, sheesrite”. One looks down at the 'tone under the organ. “Thanks mate”. They pick it up and exit without another word. A face appears above, the promoter, “You're on!”

Two minutes later Merv gashes his hand badly on a half-broken guitar string while fanging away on 'Apachie' to a full house, spraying blood over the first three rows of bored faces. But it's not enough and the 'tones are finally booed off stage.

At the next practice Merv, hand still bandaged, announces that he will concentrate on his singing in future, and the rhythm guitarist turns up with a keyboard.


Curtain call

The 'tones do a World Tour of Harkaway. Nice little hall, nice little gig, nice little crowd. Everything goes well. Before the last set the promotor wants to do a Big Show Ending with bows and everything using the electric curtains. Okay, fine, he's paying.

Comes the final number, wallop, finish, cue curtain. The curtain closes. The curtain opens and Merv and the 'tones step foward and take the only formal bow of their careers. They step back. The curtain closes. Then it opens again. Encore? Fame? Wow! The promotor is milking it.

The 'tones step forward again and bow. The curtain gets to the end of its track and the winch keeps on winching. There is a 'twang' from somewhere high above as a steel cable snaps, and the 'tones are felled by a ton of falling curtain, fittings and cable. To this day Doonas, and the term “stadium ending”, still sets Merv twitching.


Rock out

Merv and the 'tones are booked to play a dance in Blackburn. Sounds innocuous. At the bomp-in there are lots of pink Caddie's and black flaming Hot Rods in the carpark. Chrome City. Inside is a sea of leather, grease, bobby-sox and pettycoats.

“S'okay” mumbles the bassist “w'vgtnuf rok”, but Merv blindly follows the 70's Mod/Top-40 setlist. Audience get restive. Future Shock is setting in for the 50's crowd.

The 'tones are on a dias, but the view of the crowd for the drummer, bassist and organist is obstructed by a huge pair of leather-wrapped shoulders with the word “ELVIS” emblazoned across them is silver studs. Merv calls another slow and boring BeeGee's cover. 'Elvis' slowly rotates until he is looking the bassist right in the eye while still standing on the floor (okay, so Pixie was a short arse, but not THAT short), and bellows “WE WANT ROCK!!!”.

Three-fifiths of the 'tones suddenly burst into an impromptu version of Good Golly Miss Molly (I didn't know we knew that...), while the other two-fifths manfully struggle on with New York Mining Disaster 1949 in the face of all opposition. It sounds awful, Good Golly Mining Disaster, but they dance to it anyway. And no chicken wire.

Later the Spiv promoter tells Merv that they will only get half pay “because all the bands I booked turned up!”. This goes down the line until it comes to the drummer.

Quiet, short, beefy, can't afford sleeves, smokes Camels, typical starving med student. Without a word, stomps past Merv and picks the promoter up by the lapels and holds him against the cyce with his feet off the floor. Suddenly Spiv is waving his wallet and notes are going everywhere.

Paid in full the 'tones beat a retreat past some guy getting the shit beaten out of him in the carpark before the other bands want to get paid (or Spiv settles down and rounds up some friends like 'Elvis').


Groupies!

Bomping out after a great Old Boys gig. Comely Wench 1 asks organist if he has any space in his car. “Sure”. Comely Wench 2 does the same with another 'tone. Back at the organists place it's late night beer, Pizza, a couple of girlfriends and some hangers-on.

After a while there is a bit of a silence and the bassist asks “Aren't you going to introduce us to your friends?”
“Er, what? I thought they were with you.”

It goes right around the room until finally everybody is looking at the CW's.

“Er, no we don't know any of you actually. We're sort of groupies.”

“Oh really?” says the bassist “then come with me” and leads both of them into a bedroom, not to be seen again.

The organist sits there quietly fuming. “Both?... BOTH Goddamit!”


The Randy Dogs

[ 13/8/00. I mentioned to John, the lead guitarist/singer/songwriter of my band at the time, that I was writing to Chris Quinlan, as above. He said that he seemed a bit down, and that I should tell him about the Randy Dogs. “How will that cheer him up?” I asked.
“Remind him there is always somebody worse off. He's got the Jazz Police, we've got the 'Dogs.”
I should have asked how I was going to describe the 'Dogs. ]

Did you ever wonder about Johnny B.Goode's mates from the backwoods who didn't learn to play like ringin' a bell? You are broke and unroadworthy, and 50km of mountain dirt road away from the nearest town/pub which is populated by hostile loggers and police anyway.

So let me introduce The Randy Dogs.

Imagine a 'sugar shack' - in the mountains, back off the road, half hidden in a pocket of rainforest, tin roof with a fading hippy mandala, vertical slab walls made from sleeper backs (huge irregular D-shaped offcuts), rustic windows and doors, a tank, and a tin flue poking out at a crazy angle. This is the 'Co-Op'.

Elands Community Development Co-Op

It's also known as the Kennel, and every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night smoke pours from the flue, light streams out through the gaps in the walls, and a dreadful din can be heard for miles as the Dogs howl, and The Letter and Black Magic Woman get murdered yet again.

Dubbed by Bruce as “the most godawful band I've ever heard” The Dogs claim to have been practicing for over twenty years now and the core members are 'pushing fifty'. In that time they claim to have done three gigs. Yep, three in twenty some years, but it depends on how you count I guess. I've seen them get up and jam at local parties and their capacity for emptying a room is truly awesome, exceeding even Rolf Harris.

The core line-up.

Tab - first among equals, can play guitar, bass, sax, drums (&c) reasonably well, but chooses not to. Resists tuning, staying in key, following anyone else, fills every note space, played through a single blown speaker for last two years. Lost a finger handling cattle. Skanks a lot. Calls everyone including his cat 'rasta'. Suspected of inventing 'Bangara', a formless musical form.

Ham - stalwart mother hen and famous bush carpenter. Rhythm guitar and harp. After a motorbike accident plays three beats behind everyone else (except in 3/4 where he plays seven beats behind). Knows every Zimmerman song. Thinks Santana is very spiritual.

Norm - guitar, synth, drums, vocal. Lives on planet Zarquon. Resentment with bad Afro hair. Specialist in keyless, timeless, legless 'dweedle-dweedle' and automated music. An “artist” with no concept of enough, too much, too long, totally over the top, or where middle-C is. One arm short of a pair since a motorbike accident. Drumming sounds like randomly falling on kit, but has no trouble opening beer.

Nigel - guitar and 100 watt amp sadly in working order. Knows heaps of songs, all from the 70's, and on the rare occasion that he isn't totally legless, makes a good inclusive leader who will 'show you his fretboard to read'. All digits intact, he has no trouble playing or opening the next bottle.

Wouba - (ex?) drummer. A real Doctor of something. Looks like Catweasle on a bad hair day. Late starter on drums after twenty years warming up on clap sticks. Lost sticks, so bought kit. 'Idiosyncratic' style - metronomic timing, but downbeat falls randomly around the kit as an even number of beats are strictly divided across an uneven number of traps. Hasn't played for a couple of years now, so he may have actually left the band.

Then there are various supernumeries, regulars, visitors and 'real' musicians.

This plateau has a long regional reputation for music, so the Dogs are normally the point of first contact with the local musical scene for visitors. New musicians are given the floor and the better ones quickly 'snarfled' to jams with more serious musicians, while the hopeless and insane are left to the tender mercies of the massed Dogs, perhaps twenty people and several hundred watts in a musical version of Sumo wrestling. Interminable one-chord reggie all night in Z-flat.

If you're in the area any Wednesday, Friday or Saturday night, drop by the kennel - I'll be the one in bright red ear defenders.

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