frank_davis (frank_davis) wrote,


I'm looking forward to seeing Firebug on Thursday. All the more so since discovering that their influences include Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

I haven't been to a rock concert for years. But I've been remembering some of those that I went to long ago. It must've been around 1976, and Pink Floyd were in town. A girl I knew who worked for the band had come round with complimentary tickets for everyone. As she was leaving, I asked if she was driving up the hill, and if I could hitch a ride. Sure, she said. So I grabbed a bag and some money, and I followed her downstairs. Outside a red Ferrari was parked in the square, and she opened its door for me. And then said she'd have to go back up, because she'd left something behind.

I settled into the passenger seat beside her driver, and we made a little small talk together. Nice weather and all that. And after a while, since the girl was taking her time, I asked him if he had any connection with Pink Floyd.

'Yes,' he replied. 'I'm their drummer.'

Ah!... I can't remember what the show was like that night, except that it was good, and they played Echoes. But I remember the red Ferrari incident like it was yesterday.

Somewhere around that time I also saw Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Beefheart was something of an acquired taste. Some people say his music is like a bad trip. And they're right. But it grows on you all the same. It took me about 20 years to get to like Beefheart. And at the time I was only about 3 years into the process.

When the show started, one of the band walked out onto the stage with a bass guitar, plugged it in somewhere, fiddled around, strapped it over his shoulder, and started to play, all on his own. But how he played! And as he played he danced. And as he danced he kicked off his shoes into the audience. And within seconds the whole audience were on their feet. A few minutes later, the rest of the band slowly strolled onto the stage - Captain Beefheart, Zoot Horn Rollo, and the rest -, and took their places. And taking their cue from Rockette Morton, the dancing bass player, they came crashing in behind him. After that, the show just got better. Particularly when Rollo hit the long hooning note in Big Eyed Beans From Venus. But it was Rockette Morton that I remembered

And there was the time I saw Led Zeppelin. When the showed started, about half an hour late, three members of the band came out on stage. And Robert Plant apologised to the audience. There was a problem. The drummer hadn't showed up. And they couldn't do the show without him. But they'd try to improvise something.

A simple wooden chair was brought out onto the stage, and Jimmy Page sat down on it with a big 12-string guitar. And he started to play. And he played beautifully. It was beautiful, beautiful guitar music. And I was enchanted.

After a while, a figure bounded onto the stage, and climbed behind the drum kit, and began to quietly beat time to the guitar. The drummer had finally arrived. After that the real show got under way. It was a good show, but I scarcely remember it. I just remember Jimmy Page sitting in the middle of the stage on a wooden chair, playing acoustic guitar.

And there was the time when I'd gone to some dance, and I noticed there was a rather strange band playing. They weren't playing music that was quite like the usual thing that bands played in those days. Theirs was a sort of wall of sound. Nobody was paying any attention to them on the dance floor. But I was intrigued, and gravitated nearer and nearer to them. I ended up sitting on the edge of the low podium on which they were playing, looking up at the lead guitarist, whose fingers were in a constant ripple of activity. He didn't look back. His eyes were closed as he played. Also closed were the eyes of the bass player. And the drummer too. There were three of them, and they were all furiously playing with their eyes closed. I vaguely wondered how you could play drums non-stop with your eyes closed. But they were all clearly completely lost in their music. Nobody else was watching them. There was just me, sat a few feet in front of the lead guitarist, studying him closely, as the dancers swirled out on the dance floor.

But as intrigued as I was by them, I didn't think that much of their music. After a while the wall of sound just seemed a bit tedious to me. There wasn't much variety. And I thought it was a bit tuneless. And the lyrics weren't that hot either. I sat watching them intently for a long time, and then eventually drifted away.

I didn't ask anyone who the band was. Their name wasn't written on the drums. So I had no idea who or what they were. And nobody else was in the least bit interested in them. I wondered if they were some garage band. Whoever they were, I thought they showed signs of promise, but that they could do with quite a lot of improvement. Better songs, for a start. Ones with a guitar break in the middle, rather than all the way through the whole darn thing. The lead guitarist looked like he might be able to manage that. Shorter songs too. Not much more than 3 minutes or so. And they could have done with a lead singer. Then they might - just might - have managed to score a hit with a catchy number like the Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over" or the Beatles' "Please Please Me". That would have been my advice for them. As things were, they were most likely going to be playing in bars and clubs and art college hops for the rest of their lives, with nobody paying any attention to them at all. Not like the Plastic Turkeys that had played the previous week, and who were clearly destined for the big time.

A few months later, I found out the name of the band. It was Milk. Or maybe it was Butter. Or Cream. Something like that. Total bunch of no-hopers, anyway.
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