Sometime last year I started to post some reminiscences about my youthful days as a rock’n’roll superstar in that famous forgotten band Dave Anthony’s Moods. A casual conversation with a friend, an email exchange with another, and a possible yet-again resurgence of interest (there may be a vinyl 45 rpm EP out later this year) rekindled me, and I was prompted to look back in my archives and throw out a little bit more. So here’s a snippet of the beginning of my professional music career. I don’t think I’ve posted it before, but if I’m wrong, please forgive the foibles of an old man.
The Gunnell brothers were said to own the West End club scene, to have it sewn up, Kray-style gangster model. This was almost certainly not true, or at least exaggerated, but they did run a tight ship. They had most of those bands who’d been our inspirations, like Georgie Fame or Zoot Money, on ironclad contracts. Their offices were in Gerrard Street, from which their web, propelled by rumour and fear, spread across the land (or at least as far as Brixton). We were in four sets of contract negotiation at the time, and at the interview, once we’d played coy, Rik smiled and said ‘you know you’ll end up with us eventually, don’t you?’, while Johnny stood at the door and fingered his cheek scar. We smiled and trembled out of the office.
The truth is that they loved the kind of music we were trying to do, and The Flamingo in Wardour Street was their showcase and nerve centre. I’d visited a few times
There was a gig in transit from Bournemouth to London, in some kind of shed in Reading – I think we played a blinder, blinded by the prospects of this freedom we were storming into. We then got to our new home, probably dumped onto the floor whatever kit we’d brought in the back of the old van, dropped ourselves to the floor and slept. In fact, I remember that: drunk, exhilarated, falling onto the floor on top of some kind of sleeping bag package …
Then, the next night, playing our inaugural gig at the Flamingo. Support to who knows who. We were allowed into the so-called dressing room, a cupboard stage left, packed solid with musicians just come off or waiting (like us) to go on; when I went out to get a Coke I was punched in the face (not very hard) by a huge black guy who felt I’d hassled him, jumped a queue, something. I said “sorry” – why? he’d assaulted me – he said something like “be careful ‘round here”, a warning I over-heeded perhaps for a while. When I got back to the dressing room with my Coke, there was a rather funny smell in there.