Another Show-Must-Go-On Scar-Time: About 1975, I was doing a gig - a Goood Time Toniiiiite Rawk Vocalist. Well. some Bugger left beer on edge of stage. I’d got to the edge of the stage to work the front row. DIDN’T see the glass … stepped on it and fell off the stage. Vertical topple which tore my jeans and the skin all the way up my calf and half way up my thigh.
I carried on the song, and during an emergency instrumental, went off, gaffa-taped the guitarist’s sweat-towel round my leg, got on with the gig. I could have sung like Donald Duck … The audience had seen what had happened, and witnessed my ‘commitment’. I’d scored brownie pints.
I look back and call it one of the worst. At the time, I considered it one of the best. I’d ‘earnt my spurs’ and with it, bragging rights. I stand with pride alongside true road warriors like Justin Bieber, who broke his foot and continued the song.
Do I like his music? er … less than I like some other music.
Do I throw him respect? Yes.
Do I think he and I are both bloody idiots? Yes.
ACTUALLY … WORST gig of all … around 81. My Olde Tyme Music-Hall Show … we’d got a gig at an East London Club - Under Waterloo Bridge … to do the New Year’s Eve. We WERE culpably Naive … a bunch of AcTors, doing our time and working our way toward our Equity Union Cards. The details of that night flash by like a nightmare. Two important learnings … IF you have a lot of ‘cheeky cockney Songs’ … Stuff from My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins … DON’T perform it in a Cockney Club. They do ‘cockney’ BETTER that you, and they are not amused by your flat caps with bottle-tops stitched to them.
Jane, in full Flower-Seller Costume did a grand medley ‘Wouldn’t it be Luvvverley’ and ‘Feed the Birds - Tuppence a Bag’. Calling the bunch of cockney Wimmin in the front tables ‘Me Lubbly Jubbly Darlinks’ did not go down well. That’s that second lesson.
Third Lesson … I LOVE doing show-stoppers like Old Man River -It is one of my favourite songs - an ultimate crowd-worker. Oh the LESSON. Well, everyone in the audience was white. OK. Nothing wrong with that. Many Union Jacks. Fair enough. However, I had not bothered to cotton on to the general ‘National Frontishness’ of the group. Everybody was Soooo still and silent, I actually thought they liked it - I’d ‘won over’ the audience. Well, they didn’t and I hadn’t. I had to answer some difficult questions, and two members of my troupe were chased down the road by some of the locals.
Even if those er … faux pases hadn’t been fauxing passed … THEY’D thought they were going to be provided with a simple Knees-up. They’d wanted to get ratarsificated and Let The New year In with Singalongs. WE were a bunch of Prima Boners who were giving them a - it pains me to look back on it - Flamboyante Burlesque stage show.
We were what it would be like if the UFC discovered that their new cage-side fight-commentators were John Hurt and Ian MkKellen, and the Octagon Girls was Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. The 'audience’s communal assessment was that “none of us could tell the difference between a cork-screw and a banana”. I think that the only thing that saved us was that I’d brought my mother along, and told some of the locals, before the show, to look after her during it. To this day, I believe it was only out of respect to her that ANY of us got out alive.
I don’t want to talk about 1973 when Easy Wing, my Cover Band [Free, Bad Company, Stones etc] had been brought in as a birthday surprise at a golf club, and had set up behind the curtains and been kept hidden out of sight until it was ‘time’. So, lights went down. We were in darkness on stage behind the curtain. I was crouching, my guitar in ‘erect penis’ mode, with that worldy smile you only get on a seventeen year old. Vocalist and bassist were on either side of me … in profile and thought they were looking mean.
Drummer gives the immortal ‘dee Dink … dee Dink Dink’ and we are ready to Honkytonk Womanize as the curtains open. The birthday boy worked in an old people’s home. 5/6ths of the audience were over 65.
I’ve been asked to do a ‘My Life as a Performer’ one man show kind of thing in May. These are some of the stories which I’ll be telling. Maybe That really Will be the worst gig of my life. I’ll record it, so if I don’t wimp out, I’ll post a snippet here.
All the best