Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Split Sofa Archaeology Part Four - Turn To Dread

Soon we were travelling up North and the audiences were different. Some of the gigs were hard work and we all felt we were going down like a bucket of sick.  There would often be a little applause throughout the night from a packed social club and then when you came to the last song they went mad.  

Respect is earned up North but I never liked the trip up there.   The audiences we had played to before danced and went mad as soon as the Soul stuff started and got into it,  but I found and felt that maybe Soul was on it’s way out.   Maybe the Soul trend had peaked and was now a distant thing and people had moved onto something else,  but Soul was Soul and because it had been around many years so, maybe it had become the norm. 

It was this though that made me start to explore expanding the bands genre.  I wanted the band to expand into Motown, Northern Soul & Ska.  Stripping away things like ‘Happy Together’ and moving into a more cool sort of texture I guess. Keeping things like ‘Midnight Hour’ and ‘ I Feel Good’ but running them into other songs, that was always the plan I had for Turn To Red.

For me being in Turn To Red was exhausting,  mentally and physically and it drained me.   I had big songs to sing like James Brown which needed to be sung the way they were written, with power.   What black music needs most of all is passion and to sing a James Brown song or Sam & Dave song half arsed wasn’t the singer I wanted to be.  I pushed energy into the song with passion and sang it as I would have written it,  but over time I began to feel burnt out.

With the time we did get off I still wrote songs and recorded them in my home studio. I had built up my equipment and just wrote and wrote. Many of the guys would dread coming over because I would play song after song to them to get their approval. I could see the will to live drain from their faces as I had just played a double album of my original stuff to them!  However for me it was all about learning to construct songs and as basic as they were, I was taking baby steps with each song I wrote. I couldn't take any of my songs to the band to play because they weren’t Soul based.  So at this point it was really a side project that I wanted to expand in time.

In the Summer of 1994,  we were a very tight band who would rattle through the old set and really get folk tapping their feet,  but the truth of the matter was the songs we had played over and over got so clinical that the original life, that the player was putting into the songs,  had now levelled off and so the energy was false.  We were  in 'auto pilot' mode.

I felt that the band needed to stretch themselves a bit more and get out of this happy field we had grazed on for the last year.   It was at this point I try in inject not only a few songs but also a hint of where I wanted the band to head.   News had come through that at last we were to head over to Germany in August and do a Summer Ball for the RAF.  With this in mind I brought in three classic songs for the band to have a go at,  but I was told after each listen that, Otis Redding was shit, so was Ray Charles and the Four Tops were wank!!

At that point I had lost all heart in Turn To Red,  I knew that soon it would be over ,  I didn’t want to be in a band who played the same stuff for years and years.   I felt as though I would die inside if we were to carry on. Doing a second set would have been a good idea of course,  there are certain songs you need to keep in,  but you would run them into a medley to keep things fresh.   We needed to expand and we were good enough to do that,  but I have learnt as time went on you are a product that needs to evolve or you die.

There was no way on earth my van was going to make it over to Germany so we rented a mini bus from Bretby Van Hire and took some of the seats out leaving room for the gear.  We got the midnight ferry over to France and headed to Germany. I was informed by Lyndsey to head to Antwerp and rest up,  so when I got in the back and passed out I woke to find myself in a Dutch housing estate in Venlow.   Our contact was a woken by the other guys and we were left in the Van. After a coffee we were taken to a small village and given a room to share.

We had some of the afternoon to enjoy just lazing around,  the village was so quiet all you could hear was the ringing of a bicycle bell now and again. The hotel we stayed had a wooden chalet kind of vibe going on but soon gig time was on the horizon and our contact was going to take us to RAF Rheindahlen near Monchengladbach. 

The base was built in 1952 and it functioned as the main headquarters for British Forces in Germany and for the NATO Northern Army Group.  We were to play their ‘Summer Ball’ in the Rheindahlen Rooms. After an hour drive we arrived and were taken to where the stage was. It was amazing what they had done,  they had an Alice In Wonderland theme going on linking the entrances to the massive hall with tunnels,  they even had a parachute over the entire hall. It made me think of sitting in a massive tent in the Sahara!

After we had set up we were told to stay out the way and an Officer bought us all a crate of beer to tuck into & said to us.....

“Look here chaps reading your contract it says that you have a 20 min break between sets”
“Yes that’s right” I replied 
“Well I’m not happy with that at all”

After a bit of back and forth he settled on 13 and a half mins. What a complete dick he was. Another Officer had a quiet word in my ear....

“Hey listen, there’s really bigh ranking Officer who plays guitar, if you can let him play something with you it could work to your advantage, he will get you back here, so keep him sweet”

And sure enough we got him up and he played something everyone was on their feet clapping along. The gig went well and we were fed again and soon we were back at the hotel, luckily we found it ourselves this time.

Sadly there was a massive rift forming in the band,  you didn’t have to be Stevie Wonder to see that. It was them and us. A band is supposed to be a team a unit and have fun fun fun,  but the second part of Turn to Red was a real drag.....

I was starting to feel restless and I was drained after getting back from Germany. It wasn’t fun for me as I had hated 98% of it. I turned to Joe one night and said:

“This isn’t fun anymore is it?”

The death of something you love can really reach deep into your soul after all the effort you had once put in.  I had poured energy, soul and much heart into the band & watching it fade and feeling the spirit of it leave,   hurt me even more.  Turn To Red died at Barnsley Trade Social Club on a cool night in September 1994....

There is simply nothing more to add. I could go on about how I think we were ripped off with the money but I simply have happier times to write about. I am not that person who was in that band anymore. It was in such a small timescale compared to 'The Rhythm & Blues Band' which lasted 13 years. Think that say's it all, don't you?