The moment has arrived. After three decades of retirement, I am returning to the stage. I’m not sure I’m ready. And I’m certain the gig-going public are equally unprepared for the musical maelstrom that’s about to be unleashed. Doubtless, there will yelling, screaming and thrashing about – that’s certainly the way audiences used to react to my efforts. Luckily, I have lots of experience.
Musicians are often lured out of retirement with the promise of obscene riches. Not me. My glorious return has been secured on the vague promise of a complimentary counter meal. I’m pretty sure The Eagles insisted on more than a chicken parma before agreeing to play ‘Hotel California’ for the three millionth time. In actual fact, I’ll be paying to play. Whilst shelling out your own hard-earned cash is not very rock roll, even the most hardcore musician must accept that there are reasonable administrative fees associated with these kinds of events. Rock on!
I agreed to perform at a folk club theme night. I have never before performed at a folk club theme night. But I’m going to assume that a gig is a gig and it’ll be much the same as the gigs I played in the eighties. Which is when I last performed. Suffice to say, I’m quietly confident that I won’t be the only performer on the night wearing spandex. Or who brings home made pyrotechnics. I plan to arrive early so I can attach a cable to the roof, which I’ll connect to harness so as to recreate ‘The Flying Jon’ from the ‘Living In A Prayer’ video by Bon Jovi. You can learn a lot from that music video. Or, if not a lot, then how to fly out over an audience.
The theme for the night was ‘metals’. Given my experience out the front of a hard rock combo in the metal era, this was clearly playing to my strengths. Unfortunately, the rules required that the song reference a metal of some kind rather than the band itself, completely ruining my plan to do an entire set of Nickelback songs on ukulele and washboard. We asked to do ‘Brass in Pocket’ but someone else had already claimed it. We were left with no choice – we would need to write our own song.
As themes go, ‘metals’ is interesting. There are lots of songs about gold and silver. There’s at least one about titanium. Maybe copper, too. But there are plenty of metals that never get a look in. It was time to set the second straight.
We decided to write verses that referenced other musicians and their metal songs. It resulted in lines such as ‘Bing Crosby’s Silver Bells, is a journey into hell’ and ‘If you want to keep it classy, then sing some Shirley Bassey’. That kind of thing. For the chorus, we listed less popular metals like Zinc, Praseodymium and Gadolinium, noting that incorporating them into a song could see you become ‘Tungsten tied’. We were all set to perform.
The great thing about spandex is that it stretches. In practical terms, it means I can use the same spandex bodysuit I used in the nineteen eighties for my gig. Granted, the leopard skin pattern was being forced into some pretty unusual shapes and, frankly, it looked as though it belonged to a really big leopard, but I figured if I wore it to work the day before, it should be alright on the night.
When the day arrived, we got to the folk club early. I attached my ‘Flying Jon’ harness to the roof. Ideally, the roof would be eight metres high. Unfortunately, the roof was two and a half metres tall, practically guaranteeing that when I leapt, I’d take out tables four through seven. Everyone has to make sacrifices; in this case tables four through seven. That’s showbiz.
As other performers arrived, a certain theme emerged. Namely, flannel. I began to feel self conscious. No-one wants to be the spandex cork bobbing in a sea of lumberjacks. Ironically, a leopard’s spots are to help him camouflage himself. Leopard skin print on a body suit, however, was having much the opposite effect. I sat patiently at our table and ordered my complimentary chicken parma from the bar.
Finally, it was our turn to hit the stage. The crowd fell into a stunned silence as we entered. It is, I later learned, unusual for acts at a folk club to emerge through a curtain of dry ice. As we started to strum our guitars, I decided it was time to leap into the audience. Luckily, the cable to the roof remained firmly in place. The same, however, could not be said for my leopard skin jump suit. The additional strain of the harness and cable was too much. With its physical integrity fatally compromised; table four was confronted by the sight of a middle age man bursting out of a leopard whilst strumming a ‘G’ chord. They didn’t cheer so much as scream.
To say that I hit the wrong note would be something of an understatement. I immediately announced my retirement. It suits me. The leopard skin spandex jump suit has been buried in the back yard. It’s for the best. Indeed, it may be another thirty years before I perform in public again. But when I do, watch out! Especially if you’re seated at tables four through seven.