Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Punk Rock Stories: Me and Mary Goodnight
One of the main reasons behind me starting this blog a few years ago was to share some of the weird and wonderful stories that I've been a part of since I started playing in bands as a teenager. And playing in a band, touring all over the place creates a lot of stories. Fucked up things happen on tour because touring is a fucked up way of living. I have many friends who have lived the life and they all have tales to tell.
Obviously playing in a band like Raging Speedhorn for ten years has borne many tales of idiocy, all of which I'll get around to telling at some point...
Anyway, as I was out walking Bonzo today, checking Facebook as he ran around the field chasing his frisbee, as we do, I noticed my friend Lucas had written that last night he dreamt he'd met Britt Ekland. And that reminded me of something that happened a long, long time ago...
I've always been a quiet, calm guy at heart, usually one to walk away from trouble rather than towards it. And to be fair, the same could be said for the rest of the guys in Speedhorn, well, Frank wasn't that quiet I guess, but I would say that even he never actively looked for trouble. None of us did. It's just, being six young guys from Corby who liked a drink or two, and who happened to spend most of their twenties doing just that, for free, well, sometimes trouble found us.
When we formed Speedhorn in the summer of 98', our one main ambition was to get a gig supporting Iron Monkey, the band that inspired us more than any other. It just so happened that a friend of a friend of ours, a fellow Corbyite then living in London, was managing Monkey and that ambition was soon fulfilled. And it just so happened that the Corbyite in question, Dave Bianchi, soon became our close friend and manager too, and things really started rolling from there. Rolling way beyond any boundaries I ever imagined, to the point where it gave me the shits if I'm honest. In the space of two years we went from supporting Monkey at the Bass Clef in Northampton, in front of sixty people, to opening the main stage at Ozfest in front of forty five thousand. I can't honestly say which gig I enjoyed more. Of course, playing in front of thousands was fun but the buzz I got when Bianchi rang and told me we could open for Monkey takes some beating...
To us, Speedhorn was just a shitty little hardcore band. The fact that the band got so big, for a while at least, in the UK and Japan at least, was really quite surreal. And things never got more surreal than the night we attended our first Kerrang! Awards...
For a fucking start, what the hell was our band doing at the Kerrang! Awards? Somehow we'd ended up being nominated in the “Best Newcomer” category, along with bands like Hundred Reasons and My Vitriol. I just couldn't take it seriously. We'd released our first album, that although sounded as rough as a hungover turd, somehow through endless touring and some top notch guerilla marketing ala Bianchi, had sold a fair few copies. That was weird enough, but being invited to the Kerrang! Awards on the back of it was just too much. I knew fine well that we had no fucking chance of winning the award, that we were just there to add a bit of drunken spice to the proceedings, but as far as we were concerned, if there was free booze all night then fuck it. Makes a change from hanging out at the Rockingham Arms in Corby.
We were due to be at the award ceremony around two pm if I remember correctly, which I probably don't. It was early in the afternoon anyway. For some reason, even though we knew there would be free booze on offer all afternoon, we still fancied a pint of two at the pub before we headed over to the venue. Bianchi was chuffed, most likely salivating at the thought of seeing us goons mixing it up with the celebrity elite of the rock n' roll world. To be honest, being near those people just made me feel strange. I know I don't belong in such circles and I'm happy out of it. The rest of the guys seemed to be up for it though, but in all honesty I was drinking a couple of pints in that pub beforehand to loosen me up for the awkward afternoon ahead.
We take a cab over to the venue, some hotel in the west end I think, and as soon as we arrive the bullshit hits you. It's proper red carpet crap. Not for us, we're hurried along it and shufftied inside the building, but the likes of Iggy Pop, arm in arm with some plastic looking woman with rock-like tits, are stood there getting their photos taken by hordes of photographers. “What the fuck are we doing here really?” I wonder to myself.
We arrive into a brightly lit lobby area, where there is a lot of mingling going as everyone waits to be ushered inside to the main room where the awards will be held. I soon find a glass of champagne in my hand. I've since learned that champagne and I don't see eye to eye. I've learned that the hard way, just ask my wife about the state I was in at our wedding.. But I didn't know about the dangers of champagne then, so there I was, stood with Bianchi, couple of pints down the hatch and a glass of bubbly in hand, already starting to feel tipsy. I really should have eaten some breakfast. The other guys have gleefully jumped feet first into the spirit of things. Frank has acquired his own tray of champagne and is walking around with it, emptying the five or six flutes that stand on it at a rapid rate as he flits between famous faces who are standing around small-talking. Darren, also already quite pissed, has latched on to Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers and is repeatedly chortling in his ear, and everyone else's in his vicinity, “Don't panic, it's Janick!” Daz thinks this is a damn sight funnier than Gers seems to.
After a while they open the doors to the main event, and we all shuffle in to our allocated tables. This main room is a lot darker than the lobby. It's just like every award show you've seen on tv, big stage at the front with a podium on it and lots of tables decked out across the floor. Funnily enough, our table is right near the back, along with the likes of Napalm Death. Unlike the Oscars though, instead of being catered with champagne and Filét Mignon or whatever other poncey crap you might find at the Oscars and it's ilk, each of the tables here display a huge assortment of booze. Bottles and bottles of the stuff. There is vodka, rum, brandy, cheap bubbly, a few crates worth of beer and of course the compulsory Jack Daniels. Every single table in the room comes with this complement. I don't remember there being any food though...
We sit down, most of us half pissed already, and scan the room. Right up front, head table are those silly looking guys in Slipknot, decked out in the costumes and all. There is this weird buzz about the room as they sit there, as if something dangerous is about to happen. Gimme a fucking break! I feel way out of my depth here.
Our award is the first up. By the time it's announced I can barely see. Most of the booze that was on our table has vanished in a drinking frenzy. We're literally like a gang of crazed, alcoholic sharks. The table looks like a bomb has hit it. Tony has fallen backwards off his chair, just lying there on his back pissing himself laughing. I remember Larry and Colin from Hundred Reasons on stage giving their acceptance speech, somewhere on the distant horizon that is that stage. Like I said, I knew we didn't have a paedophiles chance in prison of winning that award.. We barely noticed it coming and going.
By the time they're moving things on to the second award of the night, we're off in search of more booze. We spend the best part of the rest of the night, stumbling around in the dark from table to table, pinching booze from others. We are all completely fucked by this point. After an initial smattering of giggles and smirks from the rest of the room, I get the feeling we're soon starting to get on people tits. Frank is fucking bombed, he's found a punch bowl and thrown absolutely everything he can find into it and is hysterically serving it up to people. His secret ingredient being Tony's mobile phone. John is stumbling about getting his photo taken with anyone and everyone, whether they like it or not. Daz is still on the trail of Gers... I have a vague memory of trying to engage in a conversation with Lemmy but getting absolutely nowhere. I guess he's seen it all and done it all before. The whole while the awards are rolling on in the background.
During an interlude, either they turn up the lights or I'm starting to drift off to some other plane, but it seems to get a lot brighter for a while. I remember being stood in the toilets at the trough, using all my concentration to keep myself from pissing on my trainers. As I'm leaving, Marilyn Manson walks in, normal as you like, except for his mad make-up. As I pass him on the way out I'm starting to realise how surreal this night is becoming.
I come back out to the main room, lights are still on, and Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth has latched on to John. He seems to be enjoying the carnival that is Speedhorn. The singer from Muse is hanging around somewhere, telling one of our guys he loves the band. I'm starting to get weirded out again. Who the fuck are these people and where the fuck do they come from? You like our band? Really? I guess you like Iron Monkey and Eyehategod too? I fucking doubt it.
The lights go back down and the carnage continues. At some point in the night the Slipknot guys set fire to their table, or at least, something on it. I can't help thinking what a bunch of cunts they are, whilst seemingly completely able to dismiss our behaviour up to this point. It's just, with us it's simple. We're a bunch of harmless piss heads with a shit load of free booze on offer. The whole Slipknot thing to me seems like a big pose. Weirdly enough, within a year we'll end up supporting Slipknot on a couple of shows and befriending the guys, who turn out to be an alright lot, as far as superstars go.
A couple of years later, after having played and partied with Slipknot a couple of times, we're sat backstage at Full Force Festival in Germany, shamefully hungover after our shabby show, when Corey, the Slipknot singer sits down at our table. He's just played, unmasked with his grunge band, Stone Sour. “What did you think to the set guys?” As I'm pondering how to answer this question politely Gordon barks, “Fucking shite!” He's serious of course. Corey just laughs, “Why the fuck do I hang out with you guys?” Haven't seen him since though.
Anyway, back at the Kerrang! Awards. Slipknot have set fire to their table, causing a bit of a stir in the room you might say, at least for a while. It all settles down again and the award ceremony marches on. And then one of the weirdest things that's ever happened to me, actually the weirdest thing that ever happened to me, occurs.
Frank and I are stumbling about the room, going from table to table trying to pilfer booze, completely oblivious to all that is going on around us. As it happens, Britt Ekland, the Swedish actress and my favourite Bond girl, you know, Mary Goodnight from Man With The Golden Gun, is walking to the stage to present an award. Like two planets set hopelessly on a path of collision, our fates seem to be determined to meet. I hadn't even noticed her walking behind us until it was too late. I just happen to look up at Frank as he nonchalantly throws an empty bottle of beer over his shoulder. Like a car crash, the next few seconds sink down into slow motion. Just as Frank throws the bottle over his shoulder, Ekland is right behind him. She treads on the bottle, causing her to slip and hit the deck. Hard. Holy fucking shit!!! Frank and I look at each other in stupefied amazement for a second, like that scene from the Matrix where everything else freezes and it's just us, and then like being sucked down a plug hole, the silence disappears and we're thrown into chaos. And we piss ourselves laughing. There is an immediate swarm of people to Ekland's aid. I'm soon in there, trying to help her up, but she's obviously in a lot of pain. She tells me in no uncertain terms to fuck off. My response? “ But you're my favourite Bond Girl!” Frank, not really grasping the seriousness of the situation wades into the conversation, “Ah, fuck her!”
If Ekland's “Fuck Off” doesn't convince me to do so, the burly security guard who's face has turned crimson with rage, certainly does. I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out Britt had broken her ankle. Obviously it was an accident, albeit one that our tit behaviour had caused. All the credit in the world to her though, she still made it up to the stage and presented the award, before heading off to the hospital.
The rest of the night kind of peters out after that. I mean, what the fuck could top that scene? By the time the awards are over, about eight pm, I'm ready for bed. I end up passing out in a hotel room nearby, praying God for forgiveness as I drift off into the abyss. Some of the other guys make it to the after party with Bianchi. A couple of them end the night, smoking a pipe with the Deftones bass player in a back alley somewhere, and someone goes white. I can't remember who it was, but I think it was Deftones.
The next morning I feel like I've been hit by a bus, and then reversed over, and then run over again. Did that really happen last night? We rendezvous for breakfast somewhere in Notting Hill, Bianchi getting serious with us for a minute. The news is out that Britt broke her ankle last night. What's more, Cradle of Filth are claiming it. Something about a banana.. We all knew the truth. Bianchi, manager head back on, tells us he's going to have to resist what could possibly be great publicity and avoid a court case, and let Filth take the credit on this one. All these years later, I find myself wondering if it really did happen as I remember it. Maybe it was Filth with a banana. Maybe...
Like I say, we weren't wankers by nature, we just couldn't control ourselves when we were pissed up. Things could have so easily gone off the rails for any one of us. It's mental enough being that age and most young kids get into situations they shouldn't, that natural way of things is amplified massively when you're in a band touring the world. Thankfully, we all made it through to the other side, relatively unscathed. Although we had some near scrapes.
Five months later, whilst on a European tour, we'd end up spending the best part of two days in a Spanish jail. It was destined to happen. We couldn't go on thinking we were invincible forever. Reality was bound to hit us hard and throw and cold slap in the face at some point. We took a lot of publicity for that one, publicity that this time Bianchi was more than happy to exploit. Funny thing is, the cunt was in the jail with us. But that's another story..