Mr More takes the reins again…
We may lose and we may win, though we will never be here again
By the age of sixteen I’d been playing guitar every day for four years. I had an excellent electric guitar and a top-notch amplifier. I’d already played a dozen pub gigs with my own three-piece band, doing covers of hit singles. Audiences had clapped, shouted, and when drunk enough, danced. We got paid to play. I didn’t need a panel of judges to tell me I could hack it as pub musician.
It was the summer of 1974 and the doors to freedom were opening fast. I was working weekends, drinking in public, groping girls and shouting back at my dad. The end of school was less than a year away. I was examining maps and planning my escape from Glasgow.
I was, however, temporarily bandless. My drummer was recovering from a knee operation; he wouldn’t be kicking a bass-drum pedal any time soon.
I took the bus into town and went to Biggars, the music shop where I bought all my gear and spent most Saturday afternoons, hanging around.
Biggars was the muso hub of Glasgow. They sold everything: picks, strings, amps, speakers, drums, microphones, stands. Like giant Christmas decorations, two hundred guitars hung in rows from racks that went up to the the ceiling, shapes and colours, glittering under the spotlights.
It was a busy, buzzing shop where you might bump into Alex Harvey or Frankie Miller. Biggars, like Glasgow, was crawling with talent in the seventies. One guitar whizz-kid – Brian Robertson – only two years older than me, had been recruited to join Thin Lizzy through an advert on the noticeboard at Biggars’ entrance.
Naturally, I joined the queue at the door to read the board. It turned out neither Bowie nor the Stones were hiring that week. On the other hand, Jack and the Lads – a local covers band- were looking for a guitar player. Jack and the Lads played two of my own regular gigs. I’d seen their set several times.
They were a typical five-piece: bass, drums, vocals and two guitarists. Everybody bar the drummer sang on the choruses. They were tight and had a habit of bringing new hit songs into their repertoire while they were still charting. Probably rehearsing at least twice a week, every week, and I liked that. They excelled at Eagles songs.
I scribbled down Jack’s phone number and scuttled back home to rehearse. By seven p.m. I had worked out Witchy Woman, Already Gone, Peaceful Easy Feeling and Take It Easy. There were five or six guitar parts on the records, but I’d seen with my own eyes how Jack and the Lads got over that hurdle.
I cycled the same songs till dad rolled in from work at eleven and shut me down. Sunday morning I put in an hour of refreshers, then phoned Jack to arrange an audition.
They were seeing five of us, one after another on Tuesday night. Sound Advice rehearsal studios, starting at six thirty, half an hour allowed for each of us. I was booked for eight o’clock.
For two days I divided my time between endless practice and audition fantasies. I’d never done an audition. The more I thought about it, the likelier it seemed they would judge you on the very first thing you did.
I debated this with my brother Al. Four years older than me, he too was a guitar-player, but too lazy to practise. He lacked the basic technique to get paid. He had seen Jack’s band and reckoned I was plenty good enough for them. Al was always a hyper-critical bastard where I was concerned, so I took his opinion seriousl. Depressingly, he agreed that I would probably stand or fall on the first thing I performed.
“They’ll know right away if they want you. Or not.”
“But what will that song be? I mean, will I get to choose?”
“Of course you will,” said Al, with all the wisdom of twenty whole years.
I asked him which song he thought I should pick.
“Take It Easy.”
“It’s in exactly the right key for your voice and there’s loads of backing vocals on Take It Easy. The verses are easy and you’ve got the guitar solo note perfect.”
This was high praise.
“You think so?”
“I’ve only heard you play it two hundred fucking times since Saturday.”
We took a cab to the studio – I couldn’t carry my amplifier on the bus. We arrived early and sat in reception listening to one of my rivals doing his thing, muffled through the soundproofed door. At five to eight he shuffled out with his guitar-case looking pissed off. I walked in to take my turn, Al wheeling the amp behind me. Four bored-looking guys stood on the small stage, smoking cigarettes.
“Uh, Jack?” I asked.
“That’s me. You must be…uh, Brian?”
Jack was a round, hairy guy who smelled of beer. He checked the scrap of paper in his hand.
“Oh yeah – Inigo.”
He didn’t want to shake hands or anything.
“Where can I plug in my amp?”
Jack laughed and coughed at the same time.
“You brought your own amp?”
“You brought your own roadie?” He grinned at Al.
“He’s my brother.”
“You can plug in over there.”
Al hauled my Carlsbro 200- watt combo to the multi-plug by the drumkit. The drummer nodded as I dug my guitar out of its case. I took about 30 seconds to get my carefully-researched Eagles sound together. Setting the microphone stand to my height, I twanged and whooped to get the measure of things. Eventually, Jack’s lads put out their fags and returned to their instruments. Jack gave me a thin smile and asked what I might like to attempt by way of demonstrating my musical expertise. Out the corner of my eye I saw Al grinning.
“Take It Easy?”
Jack nodded like I’d suggested The Wheels on the Bus.
“In C,” I added, knowing damn well they played it in C.
“And could we knock out a quick three-chords first so I can hear how loud we are?”
“Three, four”, said the drummer, and they swung into a simple R&B groove. I joined in, reset my volumes and waved a halt.
“Okay,” said Jack, “Take It Easy,” he paused, “in C by the way. One, two, three, four -“
The Let Down
I shuffled out the door with my guitar-case feeling pissed off. Al was rolling the amp behind me.
“What the fuck was their problem?”
“You,” said my brother, stopping at the taxi rank.
“Me? I never missed a note.”
“I know. It wasn’t that. They were old.”
“Old? They were…I donno, late-twenties.”
“That’s old. You’re sixteen.”
“So what?” I wasn’t a bloody kid.
“Nobody likes being challenged by a smartass juvenile who doesn’t know squit but comes on like he knows everything.”
That hurt. That really hurt.
“You can fuck off as well,” I snapped.
He rolled his eyes like your big brother does.
“Take it easy,” he muttered.
Mr More has written for my blog before.
Header image taken in Glasgow of My man and his brother…
And here his brother with a little song that inspired my series BARS