Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Equally cursed and blessed

Back in the '80s and '90s I was in a band called The Price. We were a good band. Well, I thought we were, although I suppose it's always difficult to be objective about something that you're involved in. But we were also an unlucky band, particularly if you apply this criteria... someone once said to me that success in the music industry was like success in any field - you needed to be lucky. But they then qualified this statement by saying that for them it was the luck of meeting the right person or persons. Without that you could be the best in the World, but no one would ever know. That's quite a thought isn't it? If they're correct about this then put simply, we didn't meet them, which I guess by this definition makes us unlucky doesn't it? 
When things went wrong for us - and they went wrong for us all the time, or at least they felt as though they did - one of us would rather ruefully refer to 'The Curse of The Price'. The rest of us would normally laugh at this, or shrug our collective shoulders before wondering if it really existed. Well, I certainly used to wonder, and on a fairly regular basis.

On Friday night I wondered about The Curse of The Price for the first time in a while - odd, because The Price were nowhere to be seen at the time. The Upper Cut were making their latest visit to The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham, and a minute or so into our first number 'It's All Over Now' I was sure my guitar had stopped working for a second or two. No, it's ok, and sounds good... oh, it definitely went off there, but it's back on again now... oh now it's gone off all together. Bugger. 
We stopped the song as I fiddled with my leads. It came back on, but went off again. Hmmm... time for a 'we'll be back in five minutes' announcement and for me to look into the back of my amplifier to see if there's anything obvious wrong. The speaker leads were all connected, although the panel that fits them onto the speaker was loose so I used some insulation tape to fit it back on - not ideal but if it fixes the problem it should get me through the show. But as I turned the amp back on something told me that a bit of tape wasn't going to fix the problem. This could be serious.
And it was. 'Under My Thumb' shuddered to a halt as my guitar stuttered off, then on and then off again. Bah. At which point what happened next is what always happens next when this sort of thing befalls you at a gig - a very drunk bloke decides that he knows what's wrong and knows how to fix it. He doesn't and he doesn't, but that doesn't stop him telling you again and again that he does and he does. As I attempted to keep my temper he insisted that I needed to try my spare guitar. I'm sure he meant well, but he wasn't making things any easier. Against my better judgement we tried plugging my guitar straight into the P.A. but it sounded bad and I couldn't hear what I was playing. Terry suggested plugging my amp into another wall socket which I somehow knew wasn't going to make a difference; when I came back from a visit to the toilet they'd already done it, which annoyed me but as I couldn't turn time back there wasn't much that I could do about it. We tried a song but the amp malfunctioned again. That's it, the gig's over. Sorry. Big Al Reed and his chums tried in vain to convince me that it didn't sound that bad through the P.A. - but I'd had enough. Let's have a pint and then go home eh? So we did, but not before Sue the landlady had insisted on buying us a drink. What a nice lady she is.

I phoned Roger the amplifier repairman on Saturday morning - I explained what had happened to my ailing and up until this point usually very reliable Fender Blues Deluxe combo, he sounded suitably mystified as he usually does when a fault is explained to him over the phone but suggested that I get it over to him and he'll have a look at it for me. Good man. He asked if I have a spare? Well yes I do, but it blew a fuse last time I used it (here's the story) and although I'd left it running at home for several hours since then with no adverse effects I now had the curse of The Price to contend with... I decided to use my (spare) Blues Deville at the Price show that evening but to take along my Blues Junior as a (spare) spare - it wouldn't be loud enough on it's own but mic'd up it should be fine. It was still difficult not to be nervous though, and my morning at Balcony Shirts went slower than I would have liked as a result. 
The Price hadn't performed together in public since last March so some rehearsals have been in order. We got together at the start of August at Ruff Rockers in Uxbridge but things hadn't gone well - the songs sounded scrappy, and overall things weren't encouraging. After much discussion we reconvened at Ivy Arch Studios in Worthing a couple of weeks ago for something of a make-or-break session - we all agreed that if we sounded bad here we would considering cancelling the projected show at The Crown and Treaty, not least because it had been intended as a warm up show for our slot at The London Punk Weekender six days later, and that show had already been cancelled by the promoters. Thankfully the band sounded good - or maybe the studio suited us better? Either way we decided that the C & T show should go ahead, although we also decided to have a few hours warm up at Ruff Rockers on the afternoon of the gig. 
There's an old adage in bands along the lines of 'good rehearsal - bad gig, bad rehearsal - good gig'. As we wrapped up an undeniably good rehearsal twenty minutes early I decided that this was definitely not a time to mention The Curse...
We arrived at The Crown And Treaty around half past six; no sign of Big Tel and Dave with the P.A. yet so I wandered down to Galaxy for some chips and a bit of time to myself. I got back to the pub just as Tel and Dave were arriving - at which point I realised that I'd left my guitar effects pedalboard at home. I'm still not used to taking it with me... when I got back to the pub with it Tel was having trouble with the crossover on the P.A. - surely The Curse shouldn't effect him too? We soundchecked with 'The Man With The Smile' and about half of 'Turning Japanese', mainly because neither were due to be in our set, Tel's not happy but it doesn't sound bad to me. After us it's Scott's turn, he's performing solo as The Chilterns with a Guild semi-acoustic guitar and a harmonica, he plays fragments of a song or two before D.J. Chris starts D.J.-ing. People are arriving, the atmosphere is good - what could possibly go wrong?
Well, as it happens, nothing. Chris played some great music, Scott played well, we played a good set, my amplifier worked all the way through our show, everyone I spoke too really enjoyed themselves and as far as I know everybody went home happy. I certainly did anyway. That's a relief. In more ways than one.

And I spent much of today in a curse-free zone, rehearsing with T.V. Smith for this Friday's show at no lesser venue than Carshalton Water Tower. We sounded good so it should be a fine evening... oh hang on, what did I say earlier about good and bad rehearsals and gigs? Well it was wrong on Saturday and it'll be wrong on Friday too... 

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