Friday, 23 February 2018

The Split Sofa Archaeology Part Two - 'Reaching For the cold moon'

Right from the beginning Turn To Red had a good vibe, with Jason's dad being our manager we were being looked after and everything fell into place

We would practice every Sunday in Stretton, overlooking the football field and we would play through songs adding more & more to the set. There was a variety of songs that we chose to do, from Elvis right through to The Beatles.

On January 18 1992 we had a gig at Sudbury prison officers social club. I had played there
a year before with ‘Shooter’, but this gig went down well they booked us for New Year’s Eve. The following week we played Willington Power Station thanks to Stoney Ground who still played there. Gigs were coming in but they were more family get-togethers, however Jason's Dad managed to get us booked for IND COOPE Sports & Social club in Burton, this was going to be big.

Keith Fletcher had done us proud and had some business cards done and the tickets were printed for the IND COOPE gig which we sold quite a few. Jason and Stret seem to know everyone so they all bought tickets and we sold over 200. Myself at the time didn’t know where all these people were from but the support was amazing and I was getting more nervous as each day passed.

We worked on ‘Start Me Up’ by the Rolling Stones for this event and it seemed to flow really well the first time we played it. May 29 was approaching fast so we had a band practice at Tutbury Crystal the night before

The day finally came and the sun shone and the sky was blue. Crystal blue. We all met up behind IND COOPE club and went backstage. It was great to see, and the stage seemed massive. The room with a big balcony which ran right around was quite intimidating. We all were nervous. We had a sound crew who started to set up and we all got our gear and set up

We could see the room as we peeked through the curtains and then suddenly we were on. It went so fast. It was such a thrill and we all played well.

Once the gig was over and all the build-up to it was fading,  we all were proud of ourselves but I had a major problem.... I kept losing my voice.  This kept happening at gigs and by the last song, it was shot. Joe & Phil knew a guitar tutor Mike Johnson, who's partner was a singing teacher and before I knew it I was going over to her house every Wednesday learning how to breathe the right way. I would recommend any singer going to a singing coach.

Most of the singers I see sing from the throat and that can do damage over time. It certainly was doing that to me. Geraldine my singing coach taught me not how to sing but to project and using my breathing technique I learned to hold back but use my projection and most of all keep some in the tank.
Within months I began not to lose my voice and not to panic if I experienced a voice crack in a song, I couldn't believe the difference it made.

In Part 1 I mentioned we had an agent called Gary Wayne.  Gary lived in Peterborough.  He was a colourful sort of a guy and if I had to try to describe him to you he always seemed to wear Hawaiian suits with a blond bushy hairdo with red or white rimmed glasses. He wouldn’t have looked out of place on the TV series Benidorm, in fact, the character Colin Hunt in the Fast Show is spot on to how he looked.

Nevertheless he was getting us gigs and they came in fast. We did pubs and small clubs some were OK some were clinical. The audience liked our songs and we always went down well and the banter in the band was brilliant. We would be always messing about with drumsticks hidden minutes before a gig or a lead hanging out it was just fun. I really cherish these moments and would keep the posters or take pics or weirdly enough broken strings. However my all-time love was ashtrays. I pinched loads of them some massive ones. Once I liked the look of a chair & before you knew it, it was in the van!

One day Gary Wayne contacted us to tell us we had a ‘Showcase’ to do at the Ivy Leaf Club in Whittlesey, Peterborough on June 3. Which was brill but it was a Wednesday so we all had to get over to the venue after work which was a nightmare through Leicester.  The showcase gives other booking agents and Social club secretaries a chance to book you for their club so the place was packed.

We witnessed some really bad acts and did many Showcases in our time, there was one in particular that went on before us on this occasion was a solo artist with guitar in hand & sang a song about taking a shit. Thanks to him we had to perform to a half empty room.....

The Showcase ran over and the time slot of our Ivy Leaf debut was 2 hours what it should
have been. With 'I got to be up at 6' ringing in my ears we finally got onto our slot. The other acts had bought a sort of doom to the room as none of them moved on stage. I could see all these people dying in front of my eyes. So when we got on that stage we blew the roof off and woke everyone up. It was like watching a magic spell dissipate suddenly there was life in the room again. It was like going to a funeral then going to a 21st birthday party straight after!

Gary was doing his disco and while we were on, he picked up his smoke machine and wafted it around like a madman. I was getting right into it and was dancing round the stage. On the last song I thought it would be a good idea to jump off the stage and did only to find that it was higher than I thought and sank to my knees. While this was not planned it fecking hurt. Luckily I skidded a bit and spun round to face four smiling faces from the band. In a moment of not knowing what was going to happen next I starting to conduct the band. This all seemed to the crowd a piece of brilliant choreography to the crowd.

Every act was videoed and I would have loved to have seen it just once but we never did. Gary was well happy with us and kept saying there surely would be more bookings for us so we had come, played and conquered.

After some time I decided to buy a van and adopted our PA. The red Sherpa was terrible to drive and It was lucky that Stret was a mechanic as he really helped get the van up and running the best he could. Over time the van got the name ‘fucking thing’ or ‘Deathtrap’ but it was our van and I loved it in a stupid ass way. 

Turn To Red still rehearsed every Sunday night religiously even if we had a gig the night before. I had started to pick up the guitar and did ‘Slippin & a sliding’ by Chuck Berry, and an Larry Williams song called ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘Matchbox’ by Carl Perkins. The set was building all the time. The one thing I have always loved is if we always tried a song and it worked it went straight into the set.

It really kept me on my toes and made me have to learn the words. Joe on one occasion made a remark about a song we were trying called ‘bend me shake me’ by Amen Corner.. He said ‘I didn’t join a band to play this shit’ and we all laughed so that song was dropped. He was right though.

So to the end of 1992 back we were back where it all began at Sudbury club. We had achieved so much in so little time. The diary was filling as our agent Gary was on the phone with Keith booking all the Saturdays and mid-week gigs. 

The first gig of 1993 was another ‘Showcase’ back at the Ivy Leaf club or we called it the Ivy Loaf club. I was going to be jumping off no stage this time and we again woke everyone up because we moved about on stage. Again all the acts stood rigidly and gave a rigid performance and because of this we got booked by the RAF

We were booked to play an officers dinner party at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland.   It was a cold night and for this gig we all crammed into the van and was met with a guard at the gate who asked us to get out the van. With a sergeant by his side, they checked under the van. We all stood there freezing and with a grin, the sergeant turned to the corporal and said ‘Shall we ask them to empty the van?’, luckily he was joking but we were ordered to follow the right direction to the Officers club

We were soon set up and ready to go. The room looked amazing all the cutlery being put
out by the waiters who wore all white with white gloves. I was sure one had a knife fetish. He kept going down the long lines inspecting and moving the knives so they were perfectly straight. I watched him do this. The cutlery would have made it into the van but as it was laid so nice I couldn’t do it!   Afterall as this was my first RAF gig, with a few more on the horizon, I thought best leave them!

We had to stay in the bar area out the way so that was ok for us. The beer at RAF base was cheaper so we all got stuck in. As the night went on we progressively got a bit louder than the speeches!

After all the speeches were done we made our way into the room full of smoke and plates of food still being eaten. We started and went down well while the catering spun into life and started collecting the plates and don't forget now back is the knife fetish guy.

Phil used to sing a few songs and now he comes up to the mic and says 

‘I’d like to sing you a song and I’d like to dedicate it to all the starving millions in the world” 

We then broke into ‘Harvest for the world’ by the Christians. I couldn’t stop giggling and I had to sing the second verse. Phil heard me laughing and he too started to laugh. It was infectious. Jason was laughing and turned away. There were a few glazed looks when we started as they had just finished a 3-course meal, but we got it together.

Phil had such a deep soul and his humour was on the ball. I would say that I was closest to him during his time in Turn To Red. He would stay over and we would play and sing songs well into the night but in a short time he decided to leave Turn To Red. I was gutted that he started missing rehearsals and I missed his humour. This gave us a headache because we had gigs coming in and now the RAF is starting to show interest in us.

Phil came to rehearsal to tell us that he was leaving the band. It was a sad time. After he had left the room there was a silence which lasted an age  

We were still under contract and we had to do the gigs that were booked without Phil.
There were also new ones to do so we never thought for a moment to end the band because of all the had work we had put into it. For a week or so a black cloud hung over us but we carried on regardless

Some of the best times can be just going to gig and coming back. Sometimes they are better than the actual gig itself. I earned my Name ‘Mr Pukka Man’ having scoffed 2 of them and chips then proceeded to have indigestion through the gig, but the fab times were coming back in the van with Joe and Stret. The flat countryside of the A47 lit up by the full moon and us just talking away and just chilling with my under the dashboard surprise.

If there were any police in the area they found us. We were pulled over numerous times because they said a van in the early hours attracts attention. Stret was always wanting a pee and one time on a long bit of road we all hopped out. Whilst mid flow a pair of headlights came into view. We were all back in the van when the police car pulled up. I was sure he was going to mention about having a piss but he slowly walked up the side of the van....
I could tell he was a young copper as he walked up to the van eating his bag of pork scratchings. The nearest thing he will get to Cannibalism. He looked around the van while his other mate went round the back:
“musicians hey?’  and went into a smile
“everyone in the back asleep?"

Luckily I had a dark grey velvet curtain behind me so he couldn’t see in. It kept it nice and dark except it didn’t disguise Stret moving which sent a loud glass breaking sound through the van.  Having just said yes my smile was broken into a what happens next moment. In my head, I was in a film trying to smuggle people over the border. The policeman now turns into Herr Flick from ‘Allo Allo’ and now because of Stret they were going to get me out the van and march me in the woods and put a bullet in my head. All because Stret liked the look of the pint glasses that are now all over the van. Talk about sitting on broken glass.

However in reality, he smiled and stepped back from the van and said “on your way” I started the van up and just about to go when he said, “one more thing don't piss where people can see you.”