'How I Got In A Band...' by Danny Bowes

I've told this story many times, to a great many people over the years, so if you've heard it please hit your back button or skip on to the next chapter.

Way back in 1876, a short while after The Battle Of Little Big Horn, when Luke and I were 15, we were at school together. We went to Haberdashers' Askes Hatcham Boys School in the sunny and quaint parish of New Cross, South East London. It's a bit of a mouthful isn't it? Imagine what it was like to have to tell people when we were kids! We just called it Askes. He was in a band, with one other kid from our class called Malcolm (singer), and a kid I didn't know called Paul (drums). They had another member, but he left before I got there, so as I don't know it, he shall remain nameless. I was aware of the band, but for some unknown reason, not particularly curious.

I was however, seriously into music, and spent all of my money on records and concert tickets. I sang along in my bedroom to everything I heard, and lent and borrowed records like everyone else. I wore out my old cassette recorder, building up a veritable library of dodgy hissy and occasionally wobbly sounding recordings. I had no thought of being in a band.

One Thursday lunchtime, a bunch of us went back to Luke's house for a packet of crisps, a wagon wheel and a smoke (I didn't smoke but they did, and he lived the closest). Once in his flat it became clear to me that his place was nothing like mine. His Mum was an art historian, and had sculpted a life-size model of his head when he was a child. Mine was a real Mumsy type Mum, who offered a boiled egg as the remedy to almost every ailment. His bedroom had a giant baked beans billboard poster on the wall (to cover the cracks he said), mine had a couple of Sounds front covers.

Not being a smoker, I escaped the pong in the front room, and fled to Luke's bedroom with my cup of tea and wagon wheel. That's where I saw it. It was red and sparkly, and probably very cheap, but it glowed and shimmered as I sat on the bed looking at it (probably not true, but it felt like a special moment). I was blown away by all the shiny chrome hardware, and the sheer size of it. It was magical, it was a drum kit, and I was smitten...

Now being smitten is all very well, but having no money, and no chance of getting money, it was clear to me that owning a drum kit wasn't going to happen. I accepted that immediately, but the thought of it wouldn't leave me alone, I just had to be near it again. I sat up all that night thinking about it, and eventually made what turned out to be a life changing decision...

Next day, I sat next to Luke in Economics (I never sat next to Luke in Economics, but I'm not really sure why, as we were both useless economists). Anyway, during a break from something I'm sure I found very very dull, I told him I was a singer (I played no instruments so with no money, this was the only way). He told me to bugger off (or words to that effect). Unperturbed, I gave him chapter and verse about how good I was. He listened, then repeated his earlier reply. It was not going well. Eventually, having exhausted all other avenues, I told him I had a microphone. Bingo! It worked. You have to understand that in 1876, 15 year olds had no equipment, so saying I owned a microphone practically made me a pro in his eyes. The fact that it was a poker faced lie was irrelevant. He told me I should collect some records from his house after school, learn them on Saturday, then return to his house (with my microphone of course) at 11am on Sunday morning, when he would give me an audition, and he would tell me if I was a singer or not. Job done, I was in...

So let's just recap: - I'd lied through my teeth to get an audition to be the singer in a band I'd never heard. I had to learn a load of songs I'd also never heard, and then sing out loud in public for the first time, with a microphone I didn't own. None of this occurred to me at the time.

As luck would have it my uncle had been in a band years before, and he had an old microphone (which sounded so terrible, it improved to sounding plain awful if you put a cloth over it). I told him about the audition, and he agreed to lend it to me. I learned the songs, and felt very confident when I got to Luke's place on the Sunday. We then got in a car with Paul's uncle Alf and he drove us to Paul's house in Ladywell. Suddenly, sitting in the back of the car, the enormity of what I was about to do hit me, and I got very nervous. My confidence just drained away there in the back seat, my mouth went dry, the lyrics and melodies I'd learned deserted me. By the time we got there I was a nervous wreck.

Paul's place was more like mine than Luke's, but he had a really cool attic bedroom, with the drum kit in it, and loads of Who posters on the walls. I was introduced to Tony, a black kid who was Luke's best friend and also a guitar player, with a WEM Dominator guitar combo (I was impressed). It had 2 inputs (places to plug in), and we had 2 guitars plus "my" microphone, so after doing some nifty calculations, we decided the best plan was to alternate, while Paul played drums with each combination. I sang with Luke and Paul, then with Tony and Paul, and then I sat and watched while they did instrumentals. I couldn't believe how different it was to sing out loud, and how hard it was to hear what I was singing. It was nothing like singing in my bedroom, and I thought I sounded awful. We were at it all afternoon, and I hated it. Well that's not strictly true; I didn't hate it, just me really.

When they'd had enough, I was sent to make a cup of tea while they talked about me. It's true; they said it just like that. I made the tea and fretted. When I came back with the tray, they asked if I'd ever been in a band before, and I was honest (for the first time) and said no. They told me I was really good, and I could be the singer if I wanted.

I was chuffed, but also slightly perplexed. They were musicians, they had equipment, they could play them, so logic told me they must have known what they were talking about. But I was still convinced I was rubbish, so as I sat on the bus on the way home, I couldn't help wondering if they actually knew anything about music. I came to the conclusion that if I couldn't hear what I was singing, then perhaps they couldn't either. I have no idea why, but that somehow made it alright.

In case you're wondering, Luke had a word with Malcolm, and he moved sideways from singer to bass player, and then sideways again out the door a few years later, but then returned eventually as our manager when we became Thunder. Funny old game...

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