I have been regularly going to concerts for over 25 years now. I’d been taken along to shows with my parents much before this (mainly easy listening stuff like Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones, Frankie Vaughan… Vince Hill anyone?!), but I don't count these as they were not really my choice. I've been racking my brains trying to remember what my first official gig was, then suddenly it all came back to me…
My first gig was staged after hours at my senior school in 1981 (I would have been 14 at the time). I have no idea how it came about, but all of a sudden the word went round the school that a heavy metal band were to play in the main hall. Posters went up a few days later to confirm that 'Cyrus' (not Billy Ray!) were indeed hitting King John School as part of their world tour. There was a big heavy metal vibe around at that time, and I recall a big interest in attending. I picked up my ticket -- something like 50p and the school laid on free orange squash all in the deal if I remember rightly.. what a steal! Jeans were strictly banned at King John, but as soon as the 'end of school' bell went, everyone changed into their regulation denim outfits that had been brought along especially for the show. Those really into metal, pulled out rather impressive denim waistcoats covered in all the relevant patches (AC\DC, Whitesnake, Saxon, Scorpions etc). I’m not entirely convinced these kids really knew who all these bands actually were, but in those days the 'sheep mentality' was all-encompassing, and I think poor suffering mums were sent off to the market to pick up the right patches and dutifully sew them on.
I remember there was a real buzz about the show, and it was the talk of the school for several days - this was almost certainly the first live music that the whole audience had ever seen. Finally the day arrived - all the greaser kids were head banging in front of the speakers and getting all sweaty, whilst the rest of us stood around awkwardly and tapped a foot! As concert virgins, nobody really knew what they were supposed to do! But it was an initiation to live music nonetheless, and must have had some impact on me as I've always remembered it and have a vivid recollection of the evening.
But there is an interesting footnote to the Cyrus story. Some 15 or so years later, I’m at some works piss up and talking bollocks to one of my colleagues. I have no idea how the subject came up, but I think he must of asked me what school I'd gone to. I tell him and he says "oh I know that school, I did a gig there once…". A couple more questions and then I realise I've been working alongside the chief axe man from Cyrus, Martin Read, for the last 5 years! The real bonus was Martin had photos of the gig which he subsequently brought in. It was really weird to see snapshots of something that had only existed in your brain for the last 15 years. It was too much to ask that a young Piley sipping orange squash would turn up in the background of the photos, but it was really interesting to see them -- and pretty close to how I always remembered it too.
Although I no longer work with Martin, I'm still in fairly regular contact with him, so I asked if he'd mind sharing his memories of the band around the time of my inaugural gig, which he kindly agreed to do – he also scanned a few of the photos taken at that King John School bash, shown at the top of this post - Martin is the one with the long hair (click on the photos to see a larger image). Thanks for being a sport and helping me out on this Mart, over to you:
I must have joined the band in early 1981 as my friend Pete Calvert (who I had played with in my first band while we were at school) had joined a bit earlier and managed to get me in when their rhythm guitarist decide to call it a day. They were originally a Christian rock band and although they were gradually moving away from this I think we still got the occasional gig on this basis. I think this was the case with the school gig you were at. This leads to one of my main memories of that gig which was the criticism we got from certain people connected with the band when we all shot off down the pub after setting the gear up and sound checking before the gig. I think Pete and me were seen as a bit of a bad influence on this front. Overall I think the gig went reasonably well apart from me suffering from every guitarists nightmare which was hitting the opening chords of the set only to find no sound coming out. This eventually turned out to be a broken lead, so a quick change and I was back in business. That's probably about as much as I can remember about the gig. As you can probably see from the photos I sent, Pete was a lively bass player and used to throw some great shapes on stage.
The band line up at that time was;
Pete Calvert - Vocals & Lead guitar & songwriter
Pete Einchcombe and his brother Dave on bass guitar and drums respectively (not sure about the spelling of the surname)
Me - Rhythm guitar
We also had 2 people come along to help out at gigs (Andy & Mick I think). We used to rehearse at a church hall in Rainham. We managed to do a few gigs here and there and got a couple of support slots at the Electric Stadium (now closed) in Chadwell Heath. We did the obligatory 4 track demo at a studio in Collier Row (I think). It all gradually fell apart although I'm not entirely sure why. I think Pete wanted to move on and I seem to remember it just went downhill from there. It was also around then that I started to lose the plot a bit and began disappearing into a haze of vodka and valium so I probably wasn't particularly easy to deal with at the time. The band must have actually been wound up as I eventually got a cheque for £35.00 after it had all finished. I did however resist the urge to move to Jersey.
Overall it was good fun and I'm sure we had plenty of laughs along the way. A few years later I got back together with Pete and Dave (the brothers), Andy and a new guitarist but it just never worked out and that was the last involvement I had.
Martin continues to play in a couple of bands, although I understand the free orange has been knocked on the head.
Happy New Year to all