Updated: Nov 25, 2018
Having taken the advice of X's handsome, terrifying lawyer brother, the day dawned when X and I turned up at the Small Claims court to face the club owner who had decided not to pay the band after promising he would. It had been a rough few weeks prior, with big blokes in cars cruising past 166 yelling imprecations and chucking stuff that never quite hit the house. Or me. Because it was me, apparently, who had grievously misled the band into willfully annoying the honest publican in regards to his socking big fibs about paying artistes. As if he would do such a dastardly thing as rip off a band! A shocking suggestion which only a deranged bitch would mention.
When we first decided to meander down the primrose path of British Law, our natural instinct had been to hook up with Igor, that man about town, socialite and entrepreneur, who aside from being a star in his own right as he frequently mentioned, ran a fanzine containing a column, written of course by Igor, of help and advice for local bands. Except us, as it turned out. Having got in touch with the great man, we turned up at his terrace house for a helpful chat. Instead, we got a lecture. How very dare we go after the club owner? Why, the man was virtually a saint. He was a good friend to Igor, and put Igor's band on regularly and Igor's friends' bands too, and if we knew what was good for us, we'd drop this nonsense immediately or it would be the worse for us, we'd never play a gig in the area again. Igor would see to that. He smirked, staring at me. Nothing good would come of stirring things up, he insisted, sucking at his tea.
I enquired as to why he ran an advice column for bands when he was in the club owner's pocket and obviously repeating what he'd been told to say by said thieving twat. X looked furious, both at Igor and at me for speaking up. We left in high dugeon. Didn't even get a cup of tea offered.
But we had the secret weapon brother, and attempting to dress like normal people we turned up at the court which was an old conference type room in the Magistrate's court, presided over by a chap who looked like an almond sucking a lemon. The club owner, being the cheery cove he was, turned up in stained trackies and a t-shirt, with his wife in similar, still picking at her now extensive cold sores and giggling constantly. The club owner spent the proceedings, which were short and thick with menace from the club people and disapproval from the almond, jingling his keys and playing pocket billiards. He practically did that fingers to eyes and then to me thing.
The almond, after hearing the very dull and common details of yet another small band being ripped off by a mendacious and venal venue owner, found that the verbal contract stood and we won. We won. Not only did we win, we set a precedent for bands and verbal contracts (not something I'd ever recommend, get it writing and hang onto it like an enraged weasel) - which was extensively publicised in the music press. Naturally, we were thanked by band members and other bands alike and praised for our standing up to corruption and given a champagne reception with balloons, flowers, cake and shouts of they're jolly good fellows and....
We did win. It was in the press. It did help other bands but the rest is wishful thinking. All I got was death threats from the club owner, no thanks from anyone and my existing rep as a troublemaker blown up to nuclear proportions. In fact, no band member of the band has ever thanked me for anything I've ever done for the band, not business, art or promotion. They just never have. And they don't like being reminded of that either. Another group I once worked for kindly gave me a lovely bouquet in thanks after a tour I tour managed for them, and I mentioned how lovely that was of them on social media. The band were furious. Apparently it looked bad for them because they'd never done anything like that, not that I'd even mentioned their name in the post in question. My response was simple as it always is - praise where praise is due, and if you have a guilty conscience, that's your gig not mine.
Igor was a good as his word, though. Cunningly, as he fondly thought, he rubbished the band and myself as an artiste to all and sundry, unaware that naturally enough they'd enjoy telling me they'd heard I was a total Diva, a talentless ugly bitch, impossible to work with, a right mardy cow etc etc. That the band were cranks who were also bad tempered, trouble causing tantrum throwers who shouldn't be booked. Oddly a couple of gigs I'd booked were cancelled without our knowledge, by letters signed in my name, but not in anything resembling my rather nice handwriting. Funny that. A genuine mystery.
It was a brave attempt to crush the band and myself, but it failed utterly, like most 'secret campaigns' designed to discredit and ruin creative's careers. Talent and hard work will triumph and the band had both in spades. With every song, X improved his writing and playing, going from a competent rhythm guitarist to a brillant one, about whom a world famous producer said he was comparable to Keith Richards. His voice over the years deepened and mellowed to the thing of beauty it became and his stage performances were literally rivetting.
I was improving all the time too, by dint of hard work and practice. 166 was a veritable hive of creativity, stuffed full of people making clothes, music, poetry, boil in a bag cod and sleeping on the sofa in dubious doss-bags. Ed's writing had taken a turn towards journalism, and when the NME advertised for 'female music journalists' he seized on the idea with glee and applied. But you're a bloke, I objected, like an an actual really blokey bloke. Ha ha! Exclaimed Ed. That's where you come in. I felt somehow, this was going to be interesting.
Ed's master plan was to get the job under an assumed female moniker, then if the NME ever rang the house - we'd had a landline put in to save freezing our arses off in the phone box - I'd have to answer as 'Edwina Smith' and he'd stand behind me hissing the correct answers. Shortly, he heard the NME, desperate for women writers for political reasons, were interested and would s/he send a photo? Desperation ensued. Ed begged me to dress him as a woman and take the pic. I couldn't be photographed as Edwina because they knew what I looked like. It was a mammoth task to drag Ed up. He really was a bloke. I did my utmost with make up, a sweater and a sock stuffed bra and a wig from the Oxfam shop, but he looked genuinely ghastly. I couldn't believe the NME would ever fall for the deliberately out of focus pic I took of Ed as Edwina posed at a table we put on the wasteground (industrial chic) with a typewriter doing what he thought was a feminine expression.
But they did. Edwina became one of their star writers, reviewing real gigs and ones for band who didn't exist using band names I made up for him, making up fake band names and fake biogs being an endless source of amusement for me. Ed was a success. It was brilliant. I did indeed answer the phone as Edwina on several occasions and Ed even got paid actual money for his reviews. It made me realise what a fucking big sham the music industry really was. From top to bottom, it's all illusion, smoke and mirrors. That made me laugh. I'd smash it to bits and dance my feet bloody on the shards.
Then one evening, as the motley tenants snarfled about sofa surfing, playing guitars, scribbling in their rank boltholes or running up a little frock on my Nana's sewing machine, Ed burst in to the living room. I'm going out, he declaimed dramatically. I am a writer, I must experience all there is in life, I must free myself of the bonds of bourgeois morality!
OK, we said. Off to the Vaults? Ed scoffed at our plebian aspirations. I'm going to a gig, he said. Poison Girls. Free tickets. And I'm going to have a Gay experience. He nodded sagely like a man who's mind was firmly made up.
Hang in a minute, we chorused. You're not even a bit Gay. You can't just be Gay for the evening. What about the lad you get with? That's not fair on him. Well, Ed said, he can learn a life lesson, as I will. Hah! You wait. And he flounced out into the night.
We all fell about. It would never happen - Ed? The butchest butch boy going? Unless it was all a cover and he really was Gay? We couldn't wait to hear what happened. Eventually, very late, Ed returned. With a droopy mohican lad in tow, and whisked the boy up to his room. We gawped at each other, then grabbing a glass tiptoed up the stairs and lay on the landing listening, via the glass, through the door. All we heard was the monotonous, muffled, faintly Liverpudlian drone of the mohican talking on and on and on.
Liam Astley had come to our house, with his obsession with Jim Morrison and Native Americans. And human fleas. And his broken heart.