*This blog post takes in one of the maddest weeks of my life. A week many of us were fairly lucky to survive. A week that has gone down in folklore among students at Jewel & Esk Valley College and put a swift end (to this day) to any more “cultural exchange trips” the college had planned. This is my account of the first 36 hours or so of that trip…before shit got really out of hand*
The year was 1992….I think….
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. A cultural exchange trip between two colleges. The brightest young musical talent Scotland and Italy had to offer, playing wonderful gigs in each others capital cities. What could possibly go wrong?
Almost everything, as it turned out.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we?
The place: Edinburgh Airport
The time: Some ungodly hour of the morning
And so it is, that a group of around 30 young Scottish musicians assemble sleepily, but excitedly in the airport bar in preparation for their impending 7 day tour of Rome and its surrounding areas. It is barely 8am, and everybody has chosen nice refreshing pints of lager for breakfast.
What happens over the next 14 hours or so is a tad blurry, but what memory I still have of the journey out to Rome involves changing airplanes, spending hours stranded in a strange airport getting absolutely paralytic until all 30 of us boarded our connecting flight in a state of some serious disrepair. It felt like days!
But my overriding memory of the journey was the conversation I had with the (poor poor) woman sitting next to me. I was determined to show her that (despite the horrific behaviour most of our group was displaying) not all of us were rude, obnoxious, loud pissheads. So I made it my mission to improve her journey by talking to her. Constantly.
*Of course, there was the small matter that…if anything…I was in a worse condition than anybody.*
Me: “Sho…what do you do for a job and stuff?”
Her: “I study the behaviour of apes in the wild. I’m actually writing a thesis about their social development.”
Me: “Monkeys are great eh!”
And so it went on for next 4 hours or so. I didn’t give that poor woman one minutes peace. I could tell she hated me. I could tell that sitting next to me was like Chinese water torture. It just made me try all the harder. In short…she was a professor or something or other, and I was a moron, and I made sure that was a plane journey she would never forget.
When we eventually arrived at our city centre hotel, I think it was late…or very early….it’s quite hard to tell. What I do remember was that we were all split into band rooms, which upset our bass player greatly because he suffered from OCD…..and I totally don’t. This meant that rule number one, was that me and Hud (I’ll get to him later) were not allowed across the invisible line that separated our half of the room from his, for fear we might move one of his shoes or wrinkle his pillow. (Thankfully he never found out what we really did to his pillow)
We made the executive decision to ignore that rule.
As I recall, the first thing I did when we entered the room was crack open my bottle of duty-free vodka and throw my only guitar, headstock first into the wall, creating a lovely headstock shaped hole next to the door. (In my defence I was merely trying to thow it onto my bed but rather overshot the mark)
Start as you mean to continue n’all that…
That very night, we were all due to play a gig in one of Romes legendary nightspots. Word on the street was that Jimi Hendrix had played this hallowed venue and it was quite the hot spot. The sound check had gone well and we all trotted off to the restaurant where we would be served all our meals during our stay. Nice little place…just about big enough for 30. Turns out all the food was free. It also turned out that all the wine was free as well. In fact, they had their very own vat of wine that they poured into empty bottles. Lovely stuff. Went down a right treat. In fact…it went down so well, I think I drank around 3 bottles of the stuff before we headed off to the gig.
And I wasn’t the only one.
And so to the first big show. The venue is packed. The vibes are good. The first band has gone down a storm and it’s our turn next. At this point I should explain that me and my mate Hud had very quickly thrown a punk covers band together for the purposes of making this trip. The idea being…we wouldn’t have to practice very much. We’d recruited a couple of Metallica fans as our rhythm section and (much to their dismay) decided to call ourselves THE COVERGIRLS!
To be fair…we were pretty rubbish anyway…..but after 3 bottles of wine and whatever else I’d been chucking down my throat….we were UNBELIEVABLE!
And by that I mean…fucking awful.
We were due on in 10 minutes, so me and Hud (he’s the singer by the way) retire to the toilets to put a bit of make up on….as you do. Hud decides to give it some Alice Cooper style doll’s make up, while I…..well, all I can manage are two enormous black panda eyes. Literally like a panda. That was my look. BIg black moons around each eye. Idiot.
We totter on stage and it is fairly apparent from the first chord that things aren’t going well. I’m holding my guitar, but I have almost completely forgotten how to play it. Our rythmn section (bless them…and I really mean that) soldier on through our set….stone cold sober….while I spend most of the gig leaning against a post so that I won’t fall over, cracking out the odd chord here and there and whimpering some god awful excuse for a solo in whatever key took my fancy, while Hud jumps around like a loony and basically abuses the audience.
At one point I have to sing a couple of songs….trouble is….I’ve forgotten ALL the words. The song in question is C’mon Everybody by Eddie Cochran. I figure nobody speaks any English so I can probably just make up the words as I go along. Unfortunately this didn’t go exactly to plan either. Such was my inebriation that the only words I could formulate at short notice were expletives….and so it was that I sang the entire song like this…..
“Well, I’m fucking up my fuck fuck and all the other fucks are fucked. Think I’ll fucking fuck a fuck load of fuckity fuck. C’MON EVERYBODY!”
Turns out everybody could understand that….inlcuding the promoters elderly parents….who were sitting in the front row….unimpressed.
Mercifully, after around 25 minutes of white noise, we finished our set with Hud (and I quote) screaming
“WE WERE SHITE! YOU WERE SHITE! WE WERE ALL SHITE! GOODNIGHT!”
…at what was left of the poor audience before throwing his mic into the monitor (creating a splendid racket of feedback) and then launching himself across all the tables in front of the stage and straight to the bar while absolutely nobody clapped.
Hud’s moment of genius aside, I was mortified….embarrassed doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. The shame of my woeful, pissed up performance was overpowering. Plus I looked like a fucking Panda. I found out later that people were taking bets at the bar to see how long I’d last before I fell off the stage. That’s not good. So I did what any sane person would do, and ordered another drink.
Thankfully most of the other bands were great that night and even when one of the drummers fell asleep behind his kit midway through a song….he was quickly yanked off and replaced without much of a fuss.
To be fair…anything was going to be better than us.
At this point I was feeling pretty low…I was ready for the bollocking of my life in the morning and felt it was totally deserved.
Little did I know, that fate was about to hand me (and not a moment too soon) an absolutely stonking Get Out Of Jail Free card! A Get Out Of Jail card of such unimaginable magnificence that my piss poor, venue emptying performance would barely even be remembered 12 hours later.
And that was just the start…
To be continued….