England is DIFFERENT (or SPECIAL if you want to be polite) to everywhere else for many reasons, but one is because our music “industry” (it’s not an industry – making baked beans is an industry, and nobody does THAT in their spare time, writes fanzines about it or has them poured over themselves at weddings. Usually) is SO virulently centralised. Bands in, for instance, France, do not all dream of moving to Paris the SECOND their first tape demo is posted to Le Fanzine De Pop!, for example, but here it sometimes seems that London Is Everything – the major labels are all there, and the “professional” “music” “press” is too, with its “journalists” unwilling to venture past the M25 when new bands can be discovered simply by asking their idiot friends what group they’re in THIS Friday.
ANYWAY, the GOOD thing about this is that we get to have the LOCAL BAND, “local” here meaning “not from London” – bands from Scotland or Wales are, of course, labelled Scottish Bands and Welsh Bands (in that order). That’s not to say Local Bands are the same throughout England – for instance, Derby Bands will want to ROCK, Leicester bands will never have anything resembling a singer, Bristol bands will think they are much cooler than anyone else, and Birmingham bands will own a Stereolab record – but the Basic FACTS about them will remain the same. And here they are for you to learn and enjoy.
LET’S CALL OURSELVES FREE BEER
One of the first things a Local Band needs to do is think of a name, and for many it is the ONLY thing they will ever do. It is the LAW that EVERY band, local or not, MUST attempt to think of a name one night in the pub, and the first idea will ALWAYS be “Let’s call ourselves ‘Free Beer’! Then we’ll get a really big audience!” Other suggestions will be “The Band With No Name”, “Cancelled”, “SEX!!!” and “To Be Confirmed” before it moves on to the bass player (who will be The Organised One) saying “What about Beermat? Table? Floor? Pint?” before they think of something stupid that has to be changed after the first gig.
THE FIRST GIG
The first gig will be a ROCKING TRIUMPH, because all the band will force everyone they have ever known to attend. 90% of these people will never have been to a gig ever in their lives, and will be impressed by the fact that the Local Band are even on STAGE, doubly so if they managed to stop the songs at roughly the same time as each other. After this the Local Band will book 15 gigs at the same place in the next two weeks, not put any posters up because they are now famous, and nearly split up during gig 3 because the man from EMI (who the singer’s sister’s friend’s cousin knows because she cleans the offices next door) didn’t turn up. Then they get a Manager.
This will EITHER be the most hopeless friendless berk that the bass player knew at school, or one of the Sad Old Twats who always goes to local gigs. All Local Bands MUST have a manager, because it said in an article in Making Music that it looks “professional” and will help them in the contract negotiations that will never come. The Manager will be responsible for having ideas, and promising to get gigs out of town.
IDEAS AND GIGS OUT OF TOWN
Local Bands and their Managers have some SMASHING ideas. These include:
- Putting “appearing live” on all posters, just so people don’t think you’ll be appearing on a Vidi-Screen or by Hologram or something.
- Having a Shit Logo, drawn by the guitarist on his computer.
- Putting large copyright signs over EVERYTHING, to stop other Local Bands nicking their shit logo.
- Playing gigs that are “a bit more than just a gig.” This will ALWAYS mean that The Manager owns a slide projector.
- Playing a gig out of town. This is the DREAM of all Local Bands – Local People just don’t understand, it is time to take the message elsewhere. Usually they will play the Rock Garden in London, and discover that their three mates who always come to their gigs in case there are any Groupies there this time look a LOT smaller in a big venue than they do in the back of their local pub. Also getting there will be a NIGHTMARE beyond comprehension, and will usually involve the drummer and his Fiat Punto.
I KNOW A DRUMMER
It is a FACT proved by Scientists (using Science) that in any major European Conurbation you will never be more than three feet away from a Guitarist. This is why if you ever see an advert saying “Guitarist Wanted” you should NEVER ring, as the person advertising will have no friends whatsoever, possibly for good reasons. However, there will only EVER by 3 drummers in any city, and one of them will be a scary old bloke who plays in the jazz band on Sundays. This is because drummers are funded by the council, or something. They will always be in fifteen other bands, and be a bit older than the rest of the band, and will always drive a Fiat Punto, though the older ones may still own a Maestro. They will be the first to leave the band, at which point the singer will say “Why Don’t We Just Get A Drum Machine?” and the rest of the band will reply “Because We Like To Jam.”
WE LIKE TO JAM
Despite years of evidence to the contrary, Local Bands always think it is a Good Idea to “JAM” during their gigs, or rather, to play the end of a song over and over again forever. You can differentiate the “JAM” section from the tedious monotony of the rest of the set by looking at the singer to see if he is even more confused than usual. This usually takes place at the end of the set, followed by another GRATE Local Band Tradition – Feedback.
Despite having been around since Henry VIII first left his lute standing too close to the cupboard, Local Bands still think Feedback is a) revolutionary b) daring and c) a Good Idea, despite it being only d) annoying. Rather than try and USE feedback to make an actual noise or something, Local Bands prefer to use it as a “dramatic” end to the set. During the “JAM” at the end of the last song, the singer will walk off. The bass player will soon follow, and then the drummer will finally give up, leaving the guitarist to enjoy his ONLY moment of Getting Any Attention. He will eventually tire of this, prop his guitar against his amp, fiddle about forever until it feeds back, and then storm off. This looks COOL for about 30 seconds, at which point the illusion will SHATTER when his DAD walks on and switches it off, smiling benignly all the while.
OH NO MY PARENTS ARE HERE
The true Local Band will have Proud Parents – they’re the ones who paid for the expensive amps, in the theory that A New Hobby would be much more educational for their progency than the previous Hobby i.e. Perpetual Masturbation. THUS they will insist on attending a “concert” (and insist on calling it a “concert” and not a “multi-media experience). You can always see them stood at the back, clutching a pint (or gin and tonic for mum). They can be differentiated from the Sad Old Twats because their jeans (worn in an attempt to fit in) will be slightly cleaner.
THE SAD OLD TWATS
Every Local Venue will be supplied, by the Council, with a smattering of Sad Old Twats, who add ambience by standing at the back for most of the gig, then entering the “dressing room” (also known as “the Toilet”) unannounced and saying “Great Gig Lads!” They will probably also work for the Local Listings Magazine.
THE LOCAL LISTINGS MAGAZINE
This will think it is The Guardian, and be full of book, record and cinema reviews that no-one ever reads but are there so the writers can get free books, records and cinema tickets. The rest of the magazine will be full of rave reviews of Local Bands using words and phrases long since made illegal in the Real World e.g. “Rockin'” “Competent” “Committed” “Raw Professionallism” “Bitchin'” “Kick Ass” and “Powerful Slammin’ ROCK.” For some reason all Local Listings Magazines have the “g” removed from their keyboards. They will think they are important because Local Bands put bits of their reviews on their posters, because the Local Band has been told of the importance of the Local Listings Magazine by the Sad Old Twats, and so the circle spins, unto its doom at the End Of The Road.
THE END OF THE ROAD
After about six months the Local Band will play a gig organised by The Manager, perhaps in conjunction with The Local Listings Magazine. Posters, featuring many Good Ideas will go up and there will be MUCH EXCITEMENT, but no-one at all will come. The Parents will have a Round Table Meeting and the Sad Old Twats will have now moved on to the next Small Thing. The Drummer will leave, the bass player will go to college, the guitarist will form a band and the singer will moan about it to his girlfriend FOREVER.
And that’s the way it is, the natural life cycle is SHORT but for good reason. Only one Local Band has ever “made it” and been on the telly, and that was The StereoPhonics, and we wouldn’t want THAT to happen again, now would we?