Once upon a time there was a man called Pete Johnston who had a dream, put on an event to raise some money for Brentford football Club. The club being in debt for many millions and apparently already bought by George Wimpey and Co, who'd employed and sacked me back in the nineteen sixties and intend to pull the stands down and build luxury homes. And one day someone gave Pete Johnston my phone number and he called to ask if there was anything I could do to help. "I could host a sort of alternative cabaret evening, or something," I said, "why not get onto Waterman's Arts Centre, who had employed and sacked me back in the nineteen eighties and ask if they'll lend us their theatre or foyer for the evening?" He did. They said "no."
"Then what about the Brentford Football Ground Club bar?" I asked.
He asked. "Of course," they said.
So, we were on. But the trouble was that I didn't actually know any bands or anybody who might come and perform for free.
But, the world is a wonderful place and people are wonderful people. The now legendary Billy Sterling lined up Robert Johnson (not to be confused with the other Robert Johnson). And a chap I am proud to call my buddy, Andi Evans, offered to bring the band he plays drums in, Soliloquy, all the way down to Brentford, for nothing. Amazing. And then there was my mate Colin, lead singer for the now sadly defunct Brighton Nu Metal band Q Tones. Colin seems to know everybody and he persuaded two Brighton bands, Berserkus and Flat Pig to appear. And so we had music.
But of course none of that was easy, it took months, many phone calls, few of which were made by me and a lot of good natured persuasion.
Of yes and there would be one other band appearing, Robert Rankin and the Rock Gods. Not that I was to know that yet.
We got to Brentford around five on the 22nd November, a night that Brentford will long remember. We were greeted by the jovial bar lord who informed us that no band, nor indeed any musician had EVER performed in the club bar during its entire history. This would be the first time. There was something in the tone of his voice that told me, that to his mind at least, this would probably be the LAST time also. But he was jolly and up for it as seemed everybody else.
The first band to arrive were Soliloquy, it had taken them four hours to drive down and they were going to sleep in their cars for the night. Which in my opinion was a pretty Rock 'n' Roll thing to do and I was pretty impressed.
Next to arrive were The Rock Gods, although I didn't know they were the Rock Gods yet. They were Sally's brothers, Kevin and Jonathan Hurst. Kevin does have Rock God status, he played in Spanglehead at the Woodstock Reunion. Wow! Kevin had been driven up from Wiltshire by Steve Wikes, an ace lead guitarist.
I thought they were going to play a few numbers to start the show off. They were, but they didn't have a lead singer. They wanted me to be the lead singer.
Well, many many years ago I did have a band, we died ungracefully, I hadn't sung with a band for over a decade.
"So, what do you think?' said Kevin.
'Lead me to the mic stand,' I said. 'What numbers are we doing?'
Tricky. What numbers did they know? What songs could I actually remember? We settled for Johnnie B Goode, Hey Joe and All Along the Watchtower. We were also going to do Blue Suede Shoes and My Generation, but I felt that if we could actually get through three then we would have achieved something.
And of course there was something else to think about here. Brentford Football Club had never had live music on before. This would be the first time. We would be the first band on. I would get to sing the first ever song in there. It HAD to be Johnnie B Goode.
And it was.
Of course, if this was to come true, we would need a PA system. Soliloquy hadn't been able to bring theirs, they only had so much room in the cars. Jonathan had brought his drumsticks and Kevin his guitar. I could feel the seeds of panic beginning to…..but no, in came Flat Pig and Berserkus and in came big Marshall speakers and all those wonderful bits of Rock'n'Roll paraphernalia. We were rockin'.
And we were.
I won't dwell upon just how truly great Robert Rankin and the Rock Gods were. It was a bit like Woodstock. You were either there to see it, or you weren't. But even if you weren't, the legend somehow touches you and I'm sure that many who were there will tell their grandchildren, "we were there".
The Rock Gods played a blinder and I only got a few of the verses wrong and came in at the wrong times and sang in the wrong key and did my harmonica solo over the top of Steve's lead guitar solo by accident and…
It went pretty well and the charitable crowd clapped.
We left them wanting more.
It was a pretty full house. Pete had done a good job advertising the event and getting bums on seats.
Next up was Robert Johnson, not to be confused with the other Robert Johnson, a man and a guitar. A singer songwriter, an all round good bloke. Robert writes songs about football, he writes songs about going along and supporting Brentford, the crowd loved him, I loved him, he was absolutely brilliant and apparently he plays every Sunday lunchtime in the pub on the right (that I can't remember the name of) outside Brighton station.
Robert entertained, he had everyone laughing and cheering. He went down a storm.
This is all working out rather well, I thought.
So I sang the Two by One song and encouraged people to buy raffle tickets. A signed England shirt and a signed Brentford shirt and some signed Robert Rankin books as prizes. The crowd seemed keen about the shirts.
And then it was Soliloquy.
And what can I say about Soliloquy? Well, I can say that I'd like to manage them.
Soliloquy are, Pete Morten, vocals and guitar. John Beech, keyboards. Andi Evans, drums and Pete Waldock bass and backing vocals. Let me start by saying that this band has hair. Real hair and lots of it, apart from Pete Waldock, who doesn't have any. And the lead singer has cheekbones. He has better cheekbones than James Marsters. And he sings somewhat better. Sorry James, but he does. And can this band play? It was awesome, some of the rhythms, particularly the piano parts have the hair standing up on the back of your neck. I don't quite know how to describe the music, sort of Goth/metal, but in a class of its own, they describe their music as Progressive/Power Metal and that will do for me. And the very best thing about this was that the sound system was so good that you could actually understand what the singer was singing and the lyrics are right on.
This band is definitely going places and I was thrilled to actually watch them play in Brentford. The other bands were damn fine, but Soliloquy were undoubtedly my all night favourite. They are producing a CD and I can recommend that you get yourself a copy. Email Andi Evans on firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell him I recommended you to write.
After a blinding set, which was very well received by the crowd, who clearly didn't know what had hit them, but knew that it was good, it was time for me to draw the raffle. I didn't win the Brentford shirt. My brother in law won one of my books and so did my mate Gareth. They didn't hate me too much for it.
And then came Berserkus. When the lead singer, Alex Ray came into the bar earlier in the evening, I thought, he looks famous. Some people just look as if they must be famous, he did.I thought he was the geezer who used to be in The Damned. Colin had told me that one of the blokes in Flat Pig used to be in the Damned. Brian James. I thought that Alex must be Brian James. But then I always was a prat. Berserkus regularly play Brighton, they are 'Live spontaneous unpredictable', so look out for them. Peter Carson, drums. Jules Cullen, bass. Danny Brown, guitar and NOT Brian James on vocals. Berserkus are loud. Berserkus are Punk. I loved them. And boy did they work up a sweat. Even my beer glass worked up a sweat. The guitarist, Danny, stripped off during the set to end up looking like a young Iggy Pop. This band really know how to look famous and they are professional musicians to boot. The total package. Alex likes to chat with the audience between numbers, He got the audience to clap themselves and he likes to rush about during numbers and sing into people's faces. I have absolutely no idea what the crowd thought, but I can only conclude that they must have loved Berserkus as much as I did. Because they stayed and they clapped.
And then came Flatpig. Austin Gayton, guitar/vocals. Dave O'Brien, vocals/drums. Chad Doolan, bass guitar. If Berserkus were Punk and played fast, Flatpig are Punk and play faster and louder. Austin Gayton, lead vocalist, spectacles gaffer-taped to his bald head, plays a blinding guitar, even when upside down or in the foetal position on the carpet and concluded the manic performance by attacking the drum kit with his guitar and all but destroying it, which must have been costly as they weren't getting paid, but added a truly Rock'n'Roll moment to conclude an incredible evening. Flatpig perform numbers with names such as 'Tony Blair is a cunt' and 'We're all drowning in shit'. They said their hero was Father Jack from 'Father Ted'. Everything at a thousand miles an hour and with more energy per hour than I've probably expended during the entire course of my lifetime. Flatpig regularly play Brighton and I'm looking forward to their next gig. If I can find out where any of these Bands are playing, I'll post it up on the Sproutlore site and if it's near you, go and see them.
All in all it was more than just another brick in the wall, it was a truly blinding evening and I would personally like to thank, again, all the musicians who gave their time and their energy to make the evening such a success.
And it was a success.
I said to Pete, "Well, there you had it. Do you think that you'll ever do another one?"
"As soon as possible," said Pete. "Let's make this a regular event."
God bless Brentford.