Secrets – we all have them. For some, a secret is an idea; a piece of information we carry in our souls. Others hide their secrets in a deep, dark and inaccessible emotional cavern that, with any luck, will never be found. That’s all right for some. For others, however, a secret is less existential as it is physical. And whether you hide that thing in a roof cavity or bury it in a backyard, someone’s going to find it eventually. For me, my deepest, darkest secret is on DVD.
I know how that sounds – as though I’ve been part of something truly salacious or, worse still, was once a contestant on ‘Married At First Sight’, but no. My secret is much more disturbing than that. It involves things that, all this time later, I find it difficult if not impossible to face up to. But as dark as a secret might be, there comes a time when a secret must be shared with someone else, either in the interests of transparency or to give them one last chance to get out whilst they still can. That time had arrived.
Have you ever seen that footage of the Loch Ness monster? It’s grainy and weird and it’s hard to be sure you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing. This footage is almost identical except that it includes guitars and a mullet. Or, to be precise, my mullet; in all its bouncy, resplendent glory. And a saxophone. (It was, after all, the eighties, when the law required that every emotional apex and valley had to be accompanied by the honking rich sounds of a saxophone.) Put another way; imagine if the Loch Ness monster had, rather than simply tentatively sticking his head out of the water, been a teenager fronting a band. Then you’ll get the idea.
I suppose I should just come right out and say it – I was in a rock band as a teenager. If that doesn’t horrify you, then there are some additional pieces of information I feel I ought to disclose. The first is that we were no regular teenage rock band. Covers of ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Louie Louie’ weren’t for us. Nor did we bang out sketchy versions of Australian Crawl or Cold Chisel songs. In fact, we didn’t do covers songs at all. We only performed originals.
If that’s not enough to inspire you to spontaneously stuff marshmallows into your ears, I’m not sure what would. As teenagers, we looked around at the other bands and the abysmal but crowd-pleasing covers they were doing and decided that we’d write our own songs. It was a breathtakingly arrogant thing to do. On a practical note (F# most likely), it wasn’t just that we were ambitious; some of us were limited in terms of our musical abilities and were incapable of playing the songs of others. If you can’t imitate, you must create. So we did.
The second key fact is this: we were a band that met at church and all our song lyrics were religious. No, really. To the extent that it was technically possible to accumulate cool points for being in a rock band, they vanished the moment we opened our mouths. We wanted to be cool. We thought we were cool. But by any objective measure, we were not cool and this DVD is proof of that.
Originally, it would have been shot on video. As a result, the images are somewhat unstable and, once in a while, a line of interference runs down the screen like a picture with a bad aerial. We are playing in a church hall in Cheltenham. Presumably, we were there to keep ‘the kids’ off the mean streets of Southland or similar. That said, it is also possible that our music inspired some to a life of crime. I couldn’t blame them. We were introduced by some incredibly uncool looking fellow who, most likely, was the leader of the local Youth Group. Then we hit the stage.
I was wearing a suit vest and had a mop of hair that might as well have been on loan from Princess Diana. All our songs had long, serious neo-classical synthesizer introductions, to create a suitably joyless atmosphere. We were a serious band with a serious message. That message should probably have been ‘block your ears’, but it wasn’t. As the neo-classical synth intro came to an end, the guitars and drums kicked in. As the lead singer, it was my job to be a focal point. I achieved this by reacting as though a large amount of electricity had just been directed through my body. It was not pretty.
It’s inevitable – there’s a point in any relationship where you’ve got to drag out the skeletons lest they should be discovered at some future point and you’re accused of concealing something. As I played the DVD, I’ll admit I found it difficult to watch. That, primarily, was because I was incapable of removing my hands from my face. Beside me, the footage was greeted with sensitivity. In particular, the kind of sensitivity that involves falling off the couch with uncontrollable fits of laughter. Which is fair enough.
We leave our past behind for a reason. But it’s still very much a part of us, no matter what we do. And to share that with someone else and have them accept it is a mighty thing indeed. It’s thirty-five years since that performance. It may well be another thirty-five years before I can watch that DVD again. Here’s hoping.