Anyway, this, maybe the last episode for now, backtracks and picks up the story at the time in 1965 when the Moods had just started to rise from the ashes of my previous band, the Trackmarks.
The Disque a Go!Go! was a damp smelly cellar underneath a shop in Holdenhurst Road, just up from the Lansdowne, accessed down a steep fire-trap staircase. The club was run by an enthusiastic entrepreneurial Italian amateur impresario called Tony. The Disque was configured, I think, on the model of the Cavern in Liverpool – low ceiling, soapbox stage, minimalist refreshments up back supplied by Tracey, sweating walls, illegal electrics and fire hazards – but a million miles away musically. At the Disque, r&b ruled. Zoot Money, Geno Washington, Tony Colton, Herbie Goins, they all played there. (So did The Who, once, but that’s another story.) I suspect the atmosphere was very different too. Sure, it was sweaty, smoky, tactile and intense, but there wasn’t much dancing. These fired-up kids were there to listen.
After a while, we somehow managed to take over from The Night People in the Saturday late-nighter slot.
There’s nothing like a good regular job like that to forge a band’s intuition into a tightly honed piece of well-engineered machinery, powered by telepathy. Though I’d always known about crochets and quavers, and how they represented rhythm, I’d known it in my head but not in my body. Playing together with seven other people, without a score, improvising a lot, the whole band working to the same metronome – that’s where the telepathy comes in.
(A few years later, a professional Italian musician articulated this for me – ‘le divisioni’. A bar is divided into as many bits as it takes – three, six, eight, twelve, sixteen, thirty two. Once you grasp this, it’s simply a matter of hitting the required note at precisely beat 14 out of the 32. Easy!)
Hard work, and not just the music. We’d turn up at eight o’clock, hump the kit down the very narrow stairs into the firetrap and set up on the narrow platform stage, repair to the Lansdowne pub across the road for a few pints, then return at ten to play our expanding repertoire through to the early hours. I know we had other local gigs, but try as I may I can’t remember a single one. Maybe we played the Bure Club, once. The Disque late-nighter was all it took to get us fired up and honed. Every single week the place seemed to be heaving with action, but at this stage I was entirely ignorant and innocent of any drugs stronger than beer and sex. In fact, I can honestly say that, although I’ll make a few confessions if pressed, classic rockband debauchery hardly figured in my musical career. When it did crop up, it was mostly a distraction, something you had to pretend to do because it was expected of you. And there certainly wasn’t very much of that in Bournemouth. Above all, the music was what mattered.
After we’d moved to London, in the midwinter of 1966 we got a return booking at the Disque, on a Wednesday night. We arranged it directly ourselves with Tony, our manager waiving his ten per cent in generous recognition of our rights to nostalgia. We knew our way to the venue – but we hadn’t allowed for access. We all had a lot more kit than the last time, especially Bob’s massive B3. A certain amount of demolition had to take place before this huge organ could be got down the narrow stairway into the firetrap. I wondered at the time how Zoot, Graham Bond and co had managed this, and only years later discovered the sawn-off split Hammond, which you could dismantle, transport and then put back together with a bit of alignment and a couple of wiring plugs. But Bob’s didn’t come in half. A door halfway down the stairs, and one side of its frame, had to be removed (and reinstated next day). But it didn’t matter – this was our triumphant homecoming gig, local talent made bigtime, fresh from the Flamingo, the Marquee, all the fabled London hotspots, our loyal Bournemouth fanbase from the Saturday late-nighters showing up in droves. We were on £25 plus thirty per cent of the gate.
That afternoon, after we’d got in and set up, it started to snow. Within a couple of hours there were two or three inches on the roads. About twenty people bravely turned up. Toni paid us our twenty five quid, mostly out of his own pocket. I never went back there again.