If you know me, you may also know I was in a band at school. You’ll know this because, given half a chance, I drone on about it with deep nostalgia and then threaten to start one up again to relive the glory days.
Our line-up was myself on vocals, song-writing partner Nick Hirschkorn on keyboards and vocals, James ‘Q’ Garelick on guitar, Jimbo on bass (too cool to have a surname according to Nick) and Dominic ‘Mini’ Rogers on drums. From time to time, we featured guests Barney Cokeliss on extra keyboards, China Mieville also on extra keyboards and vocals, and a backing singer who’s name has escaped me (sorry, if you’re out there, but I’m betting this is a long forgotten blip in your life).
The first question people ask is: what were we called? We had several names in our short lifespan. First, we were Frontline; because it was the name of Nick’s Dad’s clothing company so we could get t-shirts with the band’s name on them. We then changed our name to Blah Blah Café, which is so eighties it’s not even funny. Finally, we called ourselves The Indifferent, which is almost as eighties as Blah Blah Café and even less funny.
And we actually weren’t too bad! Mini and Jimbo provided a tight rhythm section and Jim was a truly blistering guitarist, fuelled by a heady mix of B B King and Mark Knopfler (he could play a mean Sultans of Swing solo). Nick pounded the keyboards like a Jewish Elton John and I probably laid it on a little too thick with the Daryl Hall vocal acrobatics (see blog post H for Hall & Oates).
Predominately, we were a (firmly middle-of-the-road) cover band and offered an eclectic set list including Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles (who doesn’t?), Fleetwood Mac and that ambitious Dire Straits cover – which is a bitch to sing, I can tell you (and featured me on very ropey rhythm guitar). We rehearsed on weekends at each other’s houses (apostrophe, Ruth Fletcher?) and even played a few gigs, including a triumphant turn at a Jewish charity event organised by my good friend Emma Cope-Thompson (now Spitz) at the Serpentine in Hyde Park. We even had some screaming girls at the front of the audience, but I wonder now if that had been organised by Emma – bless her!
Nick and I wrote the songs. He provided the music. I agonised over the lyrics (and I really did agonise). We were like a North London Holland-Dozier-Holland, or so we liked to think – more like Holland & Barrett (I think that gag might work for my British readers)! While Nick had a good ear for very catchy rock’n’soul; I came up with some pretty patchy rhymes betraying my crushing teen angst. Basically, I wrote songs about not having a girlfriend. I was no angry young man and I was definitely not a revolutionary poet. The songs had titles like Crush On You, Pretence and Don’t Let Me Go. My favourite questionable lyric was the song Natasha.
Natasha was a story song in which I revisited an incident that took place during a school skiing trip to Bad Gastein in Austria. One evening, I somehow found my young teen self talking to the beautiful girl behind the hotel bar. I was instantly smitten, though completely out of my depth. Faintly amused by my clumsy attention, she told me her name – Natasha, slipped me a free cocktail (even though clearly under-age) and I never saw her again. The cocktail was a mixture of French liqueur Get 27, Crème de Menthe and fruit juice. My (possibly false) memory tells me it was delicious but I’ve never been able to recreate it. And, of course, I wrote a song about Natasha. Here’s the chorus:
Her name’s Natasha,
I think I love her,
But now she’s left me,
With the recipe for a cocktail.
Come on! You tell me what rhymes with Natasha?!
Ever serious about our future in the music business, we saved up our pocket money for a studio session and recorded a demo tape. I still have a copy of it somewhere. We even sent it to top A&R man Muff Winwood (brother of Little Stevie) at CBS Records (who happened to be a friend of a friend of a friend of my Dad). He wrote back with some words of encouragement and advised us to keep touring. We soldiered on through our A Levels but inevitably fizzled out when we left school. Who knows what could have happened if we’d followed Muff’s advice…
Deep down, I have never given up hope that we’ll reform and play the Roundhouse.
See you on Monday.