Teenage Moonage or (How a song came to be written)

« I had a teenage dream, On moonage days,

I’d be a freak out far out, In a purple haze,

Cruising Electric Ladyland, I’d be silver surfin’

In a rock and roll band. »

« Teenage Moonage » by the Stone Purple Haze Band

So, you wanna be a singer in a rock and roll BAND?

First, find a band, or find a band that needs a singer or find a band that needs a singer and plays the kind of stuff that you want to sing. This narrows down the choice immensely, so first, just find a band, any band.

How do you find a band?

It started with an ad in the local paper

« Are you EXPERIENCED? » read the title at the top of the ad

Sounds like Hendrix cover band. Can I sing Hendrix? Do I want to sing Hendrix covers? I’ve got to start somewhere.

« Hi, I’m ringing about your ad ….

« Can you sing? » asks the laid-back, deeply soporiphic voice on the other end. A voice thick with phlegmy nonchalance nurtured on years of cigarettes and alcohol. The voice reels off a long list of Hendrix numbers to learn for the audition and once the « dictation » is over I hit the local record shop looking for a Hendrix « greatest hits » compilation.

Casting Off

So, you have got as far as the audition phase. This is the point where you physically meet your possible, future band mates, who are not yet mates and might never become your mates. Banding is not bonding. This is about music and not friendship. The band needs a singer and not a soul mate.

It hasn’t occurred to me, but I might actually need a mike and I haven’t got one. I ring the voice again.

« I’ve got a mike » it says flatly. « I’ll see you later »

Later is late. Nine o’clock on a Sunday night, when normal folks have long finished dinner and are settled down ready to snooze off in front of the TV.

The voice lives only a few streets away. I can walk. I get to the « house » and – I’m walking down a tree lined street of neat two up, two down houses all with well tended gardens, then at the end almost out on a limb, almost in another universe is this run down, shuttered up pile of bricks set in an overgrown patch of waste ground. Surely this can’t be the place. I knock on the front door and after an eternity there is the creaking and clanking as the metal shutters are pushed slowly open. A skeletal hand appears beckoning me to the window, a gaunt and ghostly face, framed by long lank strands greasy hair, emerges from the sombre depths. « Side door » rasps the voice

« Do you always rehearse this late? » I ask, entering through the kitchen and into the «rehearsal room ».

Electric Ladyland

The place is a mess. It’s a f***ing mess with a huge capital F. It’s a health hazard. Already from the outside, the house only looks fit for demolition, inside … the sink piled high with dishes, the walls thick with grease and yellow with nicotine, discarded empty dog food tins lie strewn across the floor, and stomach churning stench

The place stinks of wet dog, urine and shit – like proper shit, like faeces, like someone’s had diarreah, bowel cancer or lives on a heavy vegetarian diet and they’ve systematically crapped away their insides over days and never flushed the toilet.

Can I make it through this audition without catching something? Can I survive more than five minutes in this house without some kind of independent breathing apparatus?

So, I finally meet the voice who tells me his name is Patrick though people call him Jimmy and he bids me welcome to « Electric Ladyland » I want to laugh, but Patrick is so into Hendrix that he’s painted the name of Hendrix’s third and final studio album in big purple letters on his front door.

This is possibly the worst place that I have ever auditioned for a band, lord knows I’ve has some strange auditions. I once had to prove my vocal prowess over the phone, and another time I auditioned in a car, singing along to Highway to Hell, on a cassette player, the AC/DC classic doing it’s best to struggle out of the crappy car speakers.

Naked with strangers

Auditions are all the same. There you are in a room with four or five other guys you’ve never met before. You are finally all plugged in, miked up and ready to go, the drummer counts us in and you sing, but you’re not just singing, in a way you are baring your artistic soul. You are fragile, you are naked. You are stripping off in front of strangers. Try it some time, invite four of five complete strangers round to your house and stand naked in front of them. You don’t feel ridicule, you just feel vulnerable.

You sing or try to sing those three or four songs that the voice on the end of the phone has told you to « learn » and after twenty minutes … the verdict

Return to Electric Ladyland

There’s a limp, quivering, emaciated dog lying in a basket in the corner. There’s a fresh patch of (is that dog vomit?)

Patrick (AKA Jimmy) tells me that the dog is ill and for the moment he can’t afford to take him to the vet.

Patrick has red sunken eyes and a gaunt haggard face that has been ravaged by years of … Rock and Roll. (In comparison, Keith Richards is a picture of health.) He limps around the room, all quivering like his dog. He’s all lank greasy hair, torn jeans and a threadbare sweater held together more by the food stains down the front than any of the threads. He introduces me to three « clones » in similar degrees of frail decomposition. There’s Jean Paul the guitarist (AKA Mick) because he’s a Rolling Stones fan; Fabrice (AKA Chris) the drummer

« Chris? »

« Yeah he’s a big Magma fan » explains « Jimmy » so we call him Chris after the Magma drummer Christian Vander »

The last « clone » is Christophe, the keyboard player who logically should be AKA Chris but calls himself John, after his hero John Lord.

No need to ask the musical influences of this band of early fiftysomething, seventies survivors.

« What are you called? »

« Eh? » expressed by the three clones in collective grunt

« What’s the band name? »

A Band With No Name*

There are no hard and fast rules for choosing a band name, save that it should be, catchy, evocative, easy to remember easy to say and short enough to print on a T shirt. A band name doesn’t always need to reflect your musical style but it helps.

I am at present auditioning for a band with no name because at the moment there is no band.

« We’ve decided to get our old band back together » explains Mick.

Is this new old band or old band new?

I’ve got this bloody lyric’s been bouncing around in my head for days,

Hey man !

Gotta quit the band

Gotta quit this rock ‘n’ roll suicide plan »

It’s thumping and pounding about like a great big rubber ball on speed. It’s giving me a headache. The whole band is giving me a headache. I’ve got to get out of this band (if it’s the last thing I ever do.)

This band, this bloody song, like I’m on the verge, I’m on the edge
Once there was that teenage dream of being in a band. We all wanted to be Ziggy Stardust

I had a teenage dream On moonage days

I’d be a freak out far out In a purple haze

Cruising electric Ladyland

I’d be silver surfin’ In a rock and roll band

 

Now, flogging an old dead horse

Cranking it up Wank some life out the corpse

Drive in out Saturdays Across the land

No one gives a fuck You’re just a rock and roll band

 

No one wanna know whose shirt you wear

No one concerned about the way you are

Don’t wanna live this dream ‘cos now it’s real

My teenage moonage got a nightmare feel

 

Hey man ! Gotta to quit the band,

Gotta quit this , Rock and roll suicide plan

Our moonage teenage, Just gone white noise trash

Gotta quit, I gotta save my ass.

 

Drive In Saturday

Another Saturday night, screaming down the rafters in some far flung middle of nowhere seedy shit hole. Up at the mike, screaming out my lungs to the point of breathless implosion. Screaming to the point of physical pain, where I feel I’ll haemorrage. Got to turn up the stage amps. Dirty looks and dirty words from the guitarist, as he roars full throttle into one of his set piece solos cutting me off mid-verse.

Another Saturday night, another bloody dead beat gig for the benefit of no one around. A few pissed punters propping up the bar as we murder yet more jurassic classics. No one really gives a shit what we play, tonight, they just want noise and noise is what we do best

« We’ve got two kilos up there tonight » enthuses Chris, our lead guitarist/manager/artisitic director and owner of all the gear sitting in the two vans that we need to get the gear to every gig. The 24 track mixing desk, the wall of amps, the miles and miles of cables …

« Two kilos isn’t that a bit much ? »

« We’re going to be bloody loud. » he beams, beaming an evil beam and rubbing his hands together in a conspiratorial clasp

This isn’t Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Garden, it’s only benefit gig in a local community centre. We don’t need a wall of sound and no matter how many watts or kilos we can muster, by the end of the first set, I can’t hear myself singing above the noise.

I’ve had bands where we had no gear, old gear, crap gear, but by some miracle I could always hear myself sing, now ironically, I’m in a band with so much gear that no one can hear anything at all, especially Chris who only wants to hear himself.

It’s a guitarist thing. Guitarists are what guitartists are

Time to leave, but how can I announce my imminent departure ?

*The band did eventually get a name after I left – The Stone Purple Haze Band

 

And here is the finished song

TEENAGE MOONAGE

I had a teenage dream on moonage days

I’d be a freak out, far out, in a purple haze

Cruising Electric Ladyland,

I’d be silver surfing in a rock ‘n’ roll band

 

Wanna a métal guru, I gotta be you

Diamond dog rebel in a Stardust hue

White light white heat, need a ballroom blitz,

The boys are back in town for a little fix

Chorus

I wanna a rock ‘n’ roll band

I wanna be that special man

I Wanna live, I don’t wanna die

Maybe I just wanna fly

 

Teenage middle age, flogging a dead horse

Crank it up, wank it up gig, out an old corpse

Drive in out Saturdays across the land,

Never mind the bollocks, you’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band

 

No one wanna know whose shirt you wear,

No one care about the way you are,

Don’t wanna live this dream ,now the nightmare’s real

Teenage moonage, cold turkey feel

 

I’ve got a rock ‘n’ roll band

(Say) It’s nothing spécial man

No way to live, wanna let it die

Cracked actor babe, flown too high.

 

It’s been a long road on the road to nowhere,

(There’s) no life on Mars, I know – I’ve been there

Walking through my sunken dream,

Wake up, break up, gotta scream

 

Hey man gotta quit this band

Gotta quit this rock ‘n’ roll suicide plan

My teenage moonage, white noise trash

Gotta quit , save my God-given ass

 

Rock ‘n’ roll, so over-rated

I just wanna be sedated

Now, I’m down with who I am

I came on too loaded man

 

 

Rock In Spring and Thoughts on Bands

A Sunday morning stroll down the supermarket. God might give us this day our daily bread, but he doesn’t guarantee home delivery  so I’ve got to pull on some clothing and head out – ah, my clothing, that crumpled beer and cigarette stinking ball cast into a far corner of the bedroom. What do you expect ?  I did a gig last night and came home in that state and at that time where the last thing you do is carfully fold your clothing. So, out on the bread run. There is that unmistakable tang of spring in the air, a zest of life on the breeze, sweet and envigorating, it hits your nostrils like lemon washing-up liquid. Blosom on the trees and the first real rays of sun, defrosting the heart and soul afte motnhs of gray chryogenic torpor. I feel happy, a good gig lastb night and (wow) freshly baked bread at the baker’s . It is almost warm enough for a BBQ, and in the supermarket they are queuing ten deep at the chckout, trolleys laden with steak, burgers, sausages and bottles of rosé wine. So it is spring, it is Sunady, the air thick with the smell of grilling meat and freshly-cut grass. In my town, Spring is marked by a strange ritual – the Printemps de Bourges – France’s longest-running and largest rock festival – the first festival of the never ending summer festival season – so, here is a post that tells it all – a homsepun blog release on the festival followed by a few thoughts on the subject of bands. This is a long mispelt missive, so good luck.

BOURGES WELCOMES THE WORLD

Looking for a spring break? Why not spend a few days in Bourges? This sedate, historic, provincial backwater, nestling at the heart of France has all the prerequisite charms for the perfect spring sojourn: a medieval town centre with half timbered houses, cobbled streets and a thirteenth century cathedral classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site; chic boutiques, excellent hotels and Michelin starred restaurants, Bourges has it all, and, if you are in town from the 12th to 17th of April, you can also enjoy the delights of the spring music festival; Le Printemps de Bourges.

Now in its fortieth year, what started in the late seventies as a small, Franco-French affair, with the likes of Renaud and Higelin has now become a major international festival: Le Printeps de Bourges 2016 is six days of near, non-stop music, featuring 200 groups and artists playing in 80 concerts in venues as diverse as a circus big top, a renaissance palace (le Palais Jacques Cœur) and a medieval Church. This year, as every year, over 100,000 festival-goers are expected.

Unlike other major festivals, held on single site, outdoor locations, often far removed from civilisation, the Printemps de Bourges happens right in the historic heart of town with all concerts taking place in covered, heated and seated venues, so, no rolling around in a sea of mud, hundreds of metres from a stage, watching the concert on a video screen. For this festival, you can leave the wellies and binoculars at home.

Headlining this year’s festival is, Anglo-Lebanese popster, Mika, performing on Tuesday 12th April. Mika is familiar to millions as one of the judges on the French version of the TV talent show « The Voice»,

Other star attractions in town include the dubiously named pop duo, Lilly Wood and the Prick; electro folk rockers Louise Attaque; the enigmatic Emily Loizeau and the eccentric Dionysos. The festival closes on Sunday 17 April with a performance by French rap star, Maitre Gims. Festival organisers have also promised a 40th anniversary concert with a special guest appearance from Bernard Lavilliers. If all this is not quite your tasse de thé, Bourges is still worth a Printemps visit, if only for the unique festival atmosphere and the many free musical and cultural happenings around town

The Printemps de Bourges is France’s largest and longest-running rock festival. It kicks off the seemingly endless summer festival season. The groups and singers you see here will be performing across France throughout the summer, so, instead of rolling around in a muddy field, come and see them all first in the comfort of a covered venue in France’s historic heartland.

Festival info

Programme and ticket sales

http://www.printemps-bourges.com/

Accommodation (Office de Tourisme) from 4 star hotels to cosy chambres d’hôtes

http://www.bourges-tourisme.com

Getting here

By car – a two and a half hour motorway drive from Paris A10 to Orleans then A71 to Bourges. The A85 from Tours via Vierzon or the A20 from Toulouse via Chatearoux.

By train – direct daily services from Paris Austerlitz. 70€ return fare. Also direct rail links to Lyons, Tours and Toulouse.

THOUGHTS ON BANDS

So, it is that time of year, that my corner of small town France welcomes the world for six days of almost non-stop music. There will be plenty of bands in town, hence, I would like to take this opportunity to address the subject of BANDS.

The Essential element for a successful band

There are BANDS and there are “bands” and there those people who make music with their mates once a week in garages or cellars or any place with a reliable electricity supply, and space large enough to set up a drum kit and accessible to musicians lugging round large amps. I suppose whatever the band, longevity and success all depend on one simple and crucial factor – having somewhere half decent to rehearse on a regular basis.

No matter what your band, at some point you all have to get together and knock out a few songs – a band ain’t a band if it ain’t got songs.

Banding and Bonding

Real BANDS, rehearse all the time. “Bands” try and rehearse as much as possible, as for friends making music, well that is what they do. A few hours here and there, idly jamming away with no particular purpose, other than being together, having a chat, sharing a few beers and “bonding” because “banding” is a form of “bonding.” Tell the wife that you’re off down the local bar for a few beers with your mates and she’ll raise her eyebrows and stare at you long and hard with that piercing, “Don’t come home drunk” look. However if you tell your nearest and dearest that it is “band night” – she knows full well that you are going to have a few beers, but you won’t be getting totally off your face because in-between beers, you are actually trying to make music.

I’ve been singing in various bands for the last twenty five years. I’ve sung in real BANDS, small “bands” and I’ve done the banding/bonding thing

No Beer!!!!!

 In my neck of the woods; real BANDS are those groups made up of professional musicians, (mostly local music teachers) and motivated amateurs. Real BANDS have somewhere decent to rehearse and everyone turns up to reahearsal on time, and in rehearsal, rehearse is all you do – there is no beer, no chat, just music, and it can get very technical. (Ouch). Real BANDS don’t do banding/bonding, they just play because playing is all they do and those pros who play in the band will also be playing with at least three or four other bands. They will remain “loyal” as long as there is work. Real BANDS are not out to get famous, they work – Clubs, Dance halls, discos, private parties – you don’t get many of these bands in pubs because pubs don’t pay enough. For amateurs (such as myself) playing in a real BAND is technically speaking, good experience, but the motivated amateur (if invited to do so) should never join such an outfit on the strength that he is going to make new friends. These guys aren’t your friends, they are musicians rehearsing for the next gig. Gigs are work, gigs are money, playing a gig is simply going to work. Rehearsals though are not paid, so it’s in and out and don’t hang about.

Saturday Night Rockers

“Bands” are those groups of motivated amateurs (would-be rock stars) who want to achieve something. From the first day they ever took up music as kids (or fully grown adults in some cases), the dream has always been to play in a band (providing of course as a band you can find somewhere to play). Rather than use the term “bands” I prefer “Saturday night rockers” – the teachers, plumbers, policemen, insurance clerks, truck drivers, dentists, social workers … who will never give up the day job and will never give up the dream.

I’ve always looked on the Saturday Night Rockers as the Poor Bloody Infantry – go anywhere and play at any price all in the name of rock and roll, that vague but federating causewe all serve. Of course we also go anywhere at any price because it is a gig, a chance to play and a chance to play at being a Rock and Roll star. We all dream of being a héro, weilding a guitar, weilding a gun – rocker stars or war héros. I think the next passage sums it up

The P.B.I (Expressed in a UK English venacular)

“The poor bloody infantry, that’s us . The heavy- smoking, hard-drinking, under-paid, under-rated and over- abused Saturday night rockers and rollers . Lugging our gear from pub to club through the wind and rain, freezing our bollocks off, up the street and down again .

Go anywhere, play anything . All those Saturday nights when you could be home all curled up round your missus and a warm beer in front of the telly and instead, your out gigging. Sliding around in beer and broken glass on the grey linoleum floor of some draughty pub that feels like it’s a million miles from home . There you are, sandwiched in-between the fruit machine and the gents, the stink of persperation, piss, fag smoke and the sickening smell of those dodgey lavender blocks they throw into the bottom of the bogs ‘cos some stupid cunt couldn’t hold his beer.

There you are, the all-singing, all-dancing, musical side show, used by the landlord, abused by the punters, playing all night for a pittance to a bar full of wall-to-wall drunks, and loud-mouthed know-it-alls who wouldn’t know what a guitar was even if you hit them across the face with one, and believe me, you could often quite happily bludgeon someone with your Fender, and feel really good about it .

We’re just the poor bloody infantry . We’re not superstars, and never will be . We’re the guys in the corner you never listen to . The name on the posters that you’ve never heard of . We’re the ones you tell to “fuck off” when the music gets too loud, too fast, too slow, too much . We’re the ones who you want to play when the music stops, and to stop as soon as we start playing . We’re the guys that all the punters refer to in sneering tones as “the band” , as if they were talking about the scum of the earth . I’m the shit on your shoe, or your bad day at work, or the bloke who cut you up at the lights , but I’m not going to go away, ‘cos this is my pleasure, my fifteen minutes of fame . This is what I do to stop myself going crazy . You might annoy me, but I get twice as much pleasure knowing that I’m annoying you .

Hate us you might . But, I get the sneaking suspicion that all those of you out there, who spend the night propping up the bar and slagging us off . . . I get the feeling that you’d like to be up here where I am . In the spotlight, behind the micropohne, showing off to your mates . I think that deep down, you respect us, but you’ll never admit it, so your respect turns to jealousy and your jealousy to hostility and then, just like the big tough man that you’d like to be, you go outside and piss on our cars, or puncture our tyres or pour your beer on our amps, and that makes you “big” with your mates, it makes your girlfriend laugh, it means you might get a bit when she dishes out the rations after closing time, but will you still be able to get it up ?

Amateurs we may be, plying our tired tunes around every bar in town . Churning out mediocre cover versions of Sixties and Seventies “classics”, but, every so often, you get one of those gigs that makes all the hassle worth it . The gig where you don’t get slagged off, where the landlord slips you a bit extra for a job well done . The gig where you’ve given your all and you still want to give more, the gig where you’ve played guitar like tugging at someone’s heart strings and managed to make even the hardest bastard cry into his beer . The gig where you’ve had the punters up, flailing around like double jointed drunken dervishes .

Don’t ask too much of us though, you might be disappointed . Just ask us to do the impossible, because we’re the poor bloody infantry . Over-worked, under-paid and always under-rated . Humping our gear around in all weathers . We’ll go anywhere and do anything at any price . The foot soldiers of the music business . Tommy Atkins did it for King and Country , We’re doing it for kicks .