FIRE IN THE HOLE

By Tony X Stanton
art by Josh Chambers 

We were playing away rehearsing for a gig that would never happen when Wiggy the bass player started to smell smoke.  As Wiggy normally appeared to be stoned into orbit most times, we ignored him and kept playing…badly.  When the dense smoke started to creep under the door of the old wooden hut we all started to take notice.  The little bastards outside had set fire to the hut we were in!  I remember us all being rather too laid back about the whole thing as this wasn’t the 1st time the local teenagers had been a professional pain when we were rehearsing.

Not that I blame them trying to burn us alive to be honest, we were back then terrible with a side order of bad enough to make your ears bleed.  The whole thing interested me as it made little logical sense, back then the band had no name.  It was just Bob Douglas on drums (who was about 15 years older and had enough lighting gear to make iron maiden jealous), myself aged in my mid 20’s and ‘Wiggy’ who Bob worked with.  Myself and Bob could play…wiggy on the other hand couldn’t play and had the worst case of stage fright I’d ever seen.  After 6 months of the local kids trying to burn us alive while we played badly, John Mcardle joined as singer and we did our 1st and only gig with that line up.

For the 1st song there we all were standing on stage playing… by the end of the 1st song Wiggy had started to drift for the centre of the stage to the side of the stage with the look of a rabbit about to be made into a pie on his face.  By the end of the song he was playing while hiding in the wings at the side of the stage and never once set foot on the actual stage ever again.

Wiggy had to go, and in all fairness I think he actually wanted to go as he had to use a borrowed bass guitar (as he didn’t own one) and borrowed amp and while he loved rehearsing he hated the actual performing part.  Plus there was the tiny detail that he couldn’t actually play bass.

As Bob was the defacto leader of this band, he decided to bring in a new bass player.  A guy who could actually play by the name of Clive.  Clive was a great guy and had a decent musical theory knowledge, wasn’t afraid of being in front of people.  He had a great sense of fun and was great to be around…most of the time.  Though he did have a strange habit of if you were discussing ‘band things’ and didn’t agree with him of going in a huff like a 5-year-old little girl, complete with the slumped body language, lower lip sticking out and walking away and ignoring you.

John our singer I’d known through my dad for a few years anyway, but I’d never actually ‘known’ him. Spending time in a band with him fast made him one of my favorite people to be in a band with.  John would give anything a bash and always give 100%.  He also had a great line in improvised crazy lyrics.  After the hut burning happening one too many times a decision was made to change rehearsal venues before we ended up a front page story about the ‘tragic fire that burnt a local band alive’.

We ended up practicing regularly at a pub called the rose and crown which had the distinction of not only being a listed building but also having 7 and a half rooms.  The place was run by a guy called Joe who always made sure the beer was flowing while we rehearsed.

Musically we were far better now that everyone could actually play their instruments although one rehearsal does stick out more than all the rest.  Bob had picked up a small smoke machine that operating by a footswitch, the decision was to let Clive be in control of it as he had least to do for one of the songs.  So we played away then suddenly Clive put his foot on the switch…all was fine…. then he didn’t take his foot off!  Inside of 30 seconds the Rose and Crown was full of dense white smoke that was now pouring out of the doors of the place making it look like an inferno was taking place inside.  Clive swore blind that he HAD taken his foot off but it hadn’t released.  our theory was he was too busy thinking about his next pint.

At this point it’s important to take a slight division in our narrative to cover the enigma that was Bob Douglas.  All drummers are clinically insane, this much is far beyond all doubt and the evidence from the history of western music more than bares this out. So whether its Keith Moon from the Who, or John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, all of them were mad as a box of frogs in their own unique little ways…yes even Ringo Starr.  Bob however was the anomaly…he was normal in mostly but crazy in a rather unique way.  Bob liked to jerry rig his own gear, something he was rather good at, even though the gear he made looked like it would explode at any given moment.

Over the next year or two we did all sorts of small gigs, some to full rooms, some to half empty places.  It was never boring and always interesting and no matter what the audience may have felt, we always had a good time. But two gigs stick out very vividly.  The 1st being at a place called Blackhill club.  Now Blackhill club is an old working mans club that is way too large for the area it is built in.  PLanned and built back when Consett still had a steel works it had one of the longest bars you’ll ever see, and was meant for all the steel workers coming in after a hard days graft.

But fate was not kind to Consett and Consett Steel works was closed by the conservative government in the early 80’s as an ‘experiment’ to see ‘what would happen if you ripped the industrial heart out of an industrial town’. I’ll tell you what happens… 80% unemployment fucking happens and stays that way for nearly 2 decades.  So it was that Blackhill club is a truly massive place but has far too few people to go there.

We spent the afternoon before this charity gig putting the gear up on a proper stage.  Now Bob had quite clearly gone batshit insane and had brought every bit of gear he owned.  There were enough lights for an iron maiden gig, a fucking drum riser, amps…cables everywhere.  The gig itself went well and video still survives of it.  About half-way through one of the sets (I can’t  exactly remember which, but pretty sure it was the first one) I was in the middle of a guitar solo when I heard a bang and the lighting rig about a foot and a half away from my face exploded glass everywhere.

Amazingly I didn’t drop a note, and was rather peeved that my ‘beautiful guitar solo’ had been ruined by an exploding light rig, it not even registering that if I had been looking in a different direction I would have been left blind and badly injured.  Trying to play and push the tiny mountains of glass off my guitar effects pedal board I played on.  John the singer during the break to the next song immediately asked me if I was ok…  So did Clive, bob looked sheepish.  This was the last time we used his lighting rigs while I was a member of the band.

The 2nd gig I remember is the last one I played with One Track Mind before I left the band.  The managed to blow the fuses at a party for some of Bobs relatives, most of pensionable age and not really into loud 60’s and 70’s rock music it would seem.  I always got the impression that they hadn’t asked Bob if we could perform, but seemed to be more a case of bob making fucking sure we were playing whether the bastards wanted us to or not. It was not a good omen.

We blew the fuses about 3 or 4 times due to Bobs gear overloading the electrics, it was the 1st gig my cousin Nigel played piano with us for as member of the band, we were way too loud for the old folks and I remember I played badly and the band didn’t ‘zing’ like it usually did.  I found out a few days later that 2 old people had died during the night after they got home from listening to us play.  So no matter how bad you may play…you weren’t in a band that played so badly it killed two old folks.  ..and that was the end of my gigging days for a while.

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About Tony-X-Stanton 8 Articles
As an artist I've worked for the biggest Games company in the world, worked at the sharp end of visual FX for Hollywood films, as a musician composed 6 albums, wrote extensively since the age of 16 and been lucky enough to have an interesting life.