Photo By Jools Thatcher

Photo By Jools Thatcher

The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “Music Stories“.

Good afternoon Jon, and greetings, once again from Coventry.

Just for a change, this week I’m abandoning rhyme.

In fact I’m abandoning poetry and venturing more into the realm of short story – perhaps reflection would be a better description – that’s it, a reflection.

To play this poem directly in your browser – just click the “play” button below:

Also have a listen to the songs on my latest ¬†album “Angel In Reverse

Music Stories

Late 1974 and I’d somehow wangled my way onto the payroll at Melbourne’s largest recording studio.

It took barely a week for my latent talents to be recognized and I was fast tracked into the position I was born for – galley slave.

Winder of leads, cleaner of cars, lunch boy, tea boy and changer of light bulbs – the shitkicker.

All tasks tackled with the enthusiasm and grace of a chronic underachiever.

As I slid round the roof cavity on my belly spreading acoustic wool I consoled myself with the fact that only I was entrusted with the key to the Coke machine.

Like Quasimodo, I looked down from my asbestos lined belfry on the comings and goings – Little River Band, Lobby Lloyd, Sports, Cat Stevens, Billy Miller, Skyhooks, Del Shannon – even Prince Charles.

I didn’t mind painting the white lines in the car park.
I had no problem shoving my arm into a blocked toilet.
But there was one job I loathed.

The company had recently purchased a brand new, bright orange, three ton mobile recording studio complete with a state of the art, chipboard mixing consul – more commonly known as an empty wooden box.

My job was to skulk round the five studios, interrupting sessions, to beg, borrow or otherwise acquire as many fader modules as I could talk each engineer into giving up, until I’d filled the chipboard consul.
Usually I’d have to repeat the procedure 5 or 6 times – sometimes more..

On those days I was hated – detested – reviled and abused.
I had sandwiches, ashtrays, even rolls of tape thrown at me.

The same wired musician, who five minutes earlier was calling me his saviour for the hot chocolate with 32 sugars would now be chasing me down the corridor screaming that I’d ruined the greatest guitar solo ever played since Layla.

Once behind the wheel I could relax – after all the vitriol, the fact I didn’t have a truck licence was a minor concern.

In 75, a one day Blues Festival was held at the showgrounds, featuring “Duster” Bennett, Alexis Korner, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Hound Dog Taylor and the great Freddie King. *

Within a little over a year, three of the acts would be dead – music and the seventies were a deadly combination.

The stage was a semi trailer, the mobile studio parked right up against the tray facing the fold back monitors – acoustically, the worst possible location, but it was as far as our miserable selection of leads would reach.

I was the interface between the van, the artists and the production crew, a position that would soon be made redundant by a set of headphones with a microphone and a flashing light.

Taking advantage of a brief lull between acts, I was just about to light a cigarette when a firm, wary voice quipped “What you doing in that van”

I looked up from my lighter. It was Brownie McGhee.

“Ummm, we’re recording the concert”

“Well, you’re not recording us, understand?

“Umm, okay”

“No, not okay. You’re not recording us. You record us and we walk. Understand? You go tell them in the van”

I walked the three steps to the van and shouted over the background music “Brownie McGhee says you can’t record them”

The engineer looked at the producer, then they both stared at me – it was the same look of resentment I received when I snatched the fader modules.

“I’m just the messenger, alright?”
No-one said a thing.

I went back to Brownie.
“All sorted, I’ve told them, they won’t record”

As a black musician, he was well accustomed to being ripped off, and his bullshit filter was finely tuned
He wasn’t convinced.
Neither was I.

“If I turn round and see that tape machine rolling, we walk off stage, you understand?”

Dutifully, I passed on his message.
I was greeted with that look again.

What did I do with that bloody cigarette?

Hound Dog Taylor was just about to take the stage with his band The HouseRockers, when one of the crew noticed a guitar string dangling.

“Hound Dog” he barked “you’ve broken a string”

Taylor turned round with a look of disdain “Hell son, I broke that string in Chicago six months ago”

Hound Dog once said of himself “When I die, they’ll say ‘he couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good!”

Before the year was out he was proved right.

Concert over, I was offered fifty dollars by the PA company to help bump out.

Given my weekly wage was ninety dollars, I jumped at the chance.

They hadn’t mentioned there were only two of us and it would take most of the night.
The bastards never paid me.

I finally understood what the blues was all about.

© Copyright 2013 Ian Bland

“Duster” Bennett, the one man band, a former Bluesbreaker and cohort of Peter Green, was received enthusiastically by the crowd, balancing guitar, harmonica, kick drum and vocal duties through a driving set of originals and blues chestnuts.

Alexis Korner, often referred to as “the founding father of British Blues” never settled, switching from guitar to piano, sometimes mid song, receiving neither the appreciation nor the respect he deserved, driven from the stage with cries of ” we want Sonny and Brownie”

Freddie King. Larger than life, confident, a showman and if there’s been a better electric blues guitarist, I’ve not heard them – can’t say more than that.

Try youtube.


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