Thursday, 12 January 2012

Dirk Thrust's second gig

I enjoyed my first four months in Plymouth. I’d finally left home. I was at Art School. In those days they gave you free money for being a student. My first grant cheque catapulted me straight down to Wants, a second–hand shop, where, for £30 I became the proud owner of a Burns La Vista short-scale jazz guitar. I’d left Guildford with a Gibson Discoverer Tremolo 20 watt amp and speaker combo, not to mention my Marshall Fuzz Face and Vox Wah Wah pedal. My flat-mate, fellow student, Bez, played violin and piano. We would smoke and Jam on occasion. We shared an enthusiasm for Jimmy Clitheroe and the Velvet Underground. Our classmate Jeff from Manchester’s Urmston [just behind the Holland Pie factory] played bass.

I met a non-student guitar player called Malcolm. Our occasional jams occasionally synchronised. He introduced me to Tim, another aspiring guitarist, whose girlfriend was one of three mates with proximate birthdays. They’d clubbed together and hired a waterfront nightclub for a party. A live band was required and thus opportunity knocked.

We would be The Mutley Plain Planet Munchers. Mutley Plain was a street on the way out of Plymouth. It was a good name…in Plymouth. Word spread, friends of friends were keen. By the night of the gig we had: - drums, bass, three guitars, keyboards, violin and flute. Our lack of material was not considered a problem.
We were by and large an Art School Band. This was the fag end of 1972 and we were going to improvise.

One other significant factor was that at least fifty per cent of the band ingested a little opium a couple of hours before the performance. This was my one and only acquaintance with the drug. We all muttered about Thomas de Quincey, though I doubt any of us had got beyond the front cover of The Confessions of An Opium Eater.

‘Ronnie’s’ was an upstairs nightclub in Plymouth’s Barbican - a waterfront area where the fishing fleet moored. The place was heaving as we all set up, some of us meeting up there for the very first time. After an interminable delay we were introduced. And off we went.

There was a huge locomotive roar, within which could be detected drumbeats and cymbals, bass rumbles, a tweeting flute, arpeggiating keyboard, piercing psycho violin, guitar chords and discords and twiddly fuzzed wahs but strictly no vocals. The overall effect was probably more industrial than psychedelic, less wall of sound more housing estate of noise.

I have no idea how long we played for. Time stood still. We were far too out of it and too far into it. We were an eight-piece paradox. It can’t have been easy to listen to. It was impossible to dance to.

Eventually after what probably felt like a month for the audience. A long-haired blond John Lennon look-a-bit-alike singled me out as the ringleader. He came slowly, gently and inexorably up to my non-fretboard side, pushed his pointy nose into my right ear and yelled in that soft Plymouth accent the unforgettable words, ‘I THINK PEOPLE WOULD QUITE LIKE IT IF YOU STOPPED NOW.’ Easier said than done. Eight out-of-it aspiring rock stars on full volume fulfilling their fantasies. We were like a Runaway Train going downhill. It took forever. I stopped but nobody else did so I started again. Then I managed to get half of us to stop, but seeing the other half was still going. Sod it we started up again. This happened three or four times until eventually, all brake shoes burnt to a cinder, we ground to a halt like a shot up Lancaster running out of runway after a heavy night over Hamburg. Next time we would have a song.

(Originally posted 20.01.2010) © Dirk Thrust 2010

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