THE NAKED LUNCH-TIME GIG

 

Some years back when I was a firm, healthy, energetic, young, acne ridden, self opinionated, little squidling, I was earning a living as a drummer in one of Manchester’s few religious cover bands. When I say religious, the connection was simply that we crucified the hits of the day.

 

After we had completed our first European tour, we travelled back to the UK hoping for a few weeks off over Christmas 1984, however, our beloved agent, Norris “Sharkey” O’Butt-Thrutch had booked us into several consecutive weekend’s entertaining the good people of the North East of England and Scotland. So, with our recently acquired Spanish tans, the ensemble crammed, once more into now fragrant tour bus and sallied forth to the frozen North.

 

Now, those of you who have enjoyed the heady delight that is entertaining the good folk who frequent the average Working Men’s Club in the North East, will know what a “character building experience” this nearly always is. Remember the gig in the Blues Brothers with the chicken wire? There’s nothing wrong with “Geordies”, but they have a quite natural skill for reducing hardened musicians to tears without actually doing anything other than staring at the band whilst they’re playing. So, whilst negotiating our way across the snow-capped peaks of the Pennines, we perused the itinerary scrawled out on an opened cigarette packet in Sharkey’s distinctive, yet infantile handwriting.

 

Okay, Friday night; 4 forty five minute sets at the Middlesbrough Quarry Blasters and Cabbage Growers Labour Club, Saturday night; another 4 forty five’s at the South Shields Shipping and Tug Boat Restorers (Affiliated) Social Club and Sunday night; 3 forty five’s at the Newcastle and District River Wideners and Pigeon Fanciers Associated Dance Cooperative. No problems there.

 

But wait, what’s this? Another date for Sunday…huh? How can we do two gigs on one night? Closer inspection of Mr. Butt-Thrutch’s spidery writing confirmed that the ‘other’ Sunday gig was to take place on Sunday afternoon! We were in awe of the idea that people would want to see a live band on a Sunday afternoon! What a great bunch of forward thinking, music loving people the Geordies must be, thought we.

 

The Friday and Saturday night gigs went without incident, with many of the audience members staring impassively at us throughout the performances transmitting the telepathic message; “We’ve paid good money to come here tonight and you bunch of shandy drinking southern ponces think you can come and entertain us – well you can think again you collection of soppy wet tarts…” A really warm welcome, you know the sort.

 

So we get to the “mystery Sunday afternoon” gig. We arrived nice and early and introduced ourselves to the venue manager. A very nice, affable and helpful chap who, if anything seemed a tad over enthusiastic about the day’s entertainment – given that most venue managers appear to absolutely despise live music, young people and all the other elements you would expect to be part of a working band. After the introductions he quite bizarrely said that our lead singer wouldn’t be needed for the performance. Brows furrowed, Mandy the singer grinned and headed to the bar. Before we could question the sense in his re-structuring our band he asked if he could have a copy of our set list so the girls could have a look at it. Still not quite sure what was happening, we handed over a copy of all the songs we could play and Mr Sweaty, venue manager disappeared.

 

Thinking no more of it, we assumed they probably just wanted gentle instrumentals in the background whilst the patrons enjoyed a few Pimms with their light luncheon. We set up and retired to the opulence of our dressing room cum bathroom and started to compile the set list for the gig, at which point, Mr Sweaty arrived back on the scene announcing that “the girls” had picked which songs they wanted us to play.

 

“Oh, so it’s a bit of a request type gig?” Dave the guitarist enquired. The smile drained slightly from Mr Sweaty’s face and he replied “Er… sort of.” The conversation continued in a slightly disjointed way until I decided to go on stage and see how the venue was filling up. I peeped through the curtains to find the venue was indeed filling up nicely but I was slightly disturbed at the total and utter absence of women. “Who are the girls who have picked our set?” Thought I. “They’re not in the audience, that’s for sure.” I turned to Muppet, our sound engineer and asked him to have a look at the audience. He did so and turned to me saying, “What? There’s an audience, big deal!” “Yes, but look again…. No women!!”

 

“Oh yeah, so I guess you’re not going to pull today, eh, Mike?” I wasn’t really getting anywhere with him so I returned to the dressing room to see Mandy in fits of uncontrollable giggles, Pete, the bass player struggling to contain his laughter, Dave looking composed and professional and Phil – keyboards, looking a little ashen faced. Mr. Sweaty was looking considerably more nervous and unsettled than when last I saw him and I overheard Dave saying in his “complete and utter liar” voice, “Yeah, that’s no problem, great, that’s cool – leave it to us,” as he guided Mr. Sweaty out of the room.

The room fell silent, even Mandy had managed to compose herself. “So what gives?” I inquired. “Mike,” Dave began, “The ‘girls’ are strippers.”

 

“Oh yeah, so I guess you’re not going to pull today, eh, Mike?” I wasn’t really getting anywhere with him so I returned to the dressing room to see Mandy in fits of uncontrollable giggles, Pete, the bass player struggling to contain his laughter, Dave looking composed and professional and Phil – keyboards, looking a little ashen faced. Mr. Sweaty was looking considerably more nervous and unsettled than when last I saw him and I overheard Dave saying in his “complete and utter liar” voice, “Yeah, that’s no problem, great, that’s cool – leave it to us,” as he guided Mr. Sweaty out of the room.

 

The room fell silent, even Mandy had managed to compose herself. “So what gives?” I inquired. “Mike,” Dave began, “The ‘girls’ are strippers.”

 

More silence. Broad grin spreads across Mike’s face, everyone except Phil, collapses in fits of near hysteria. Phil was getting quite distraught at the prospect of sharing the stage with “nekkid” ladies, “We can’t do it! We weren’t told we had to back strippers!” Short pause whilst band members take in what he’s just said and then resume hysterical laughing. Phil’s protests fell on deaf ears as we resigned ourselves to discharging our professional duties in backing the “exotic dancers”.

 

The first girl came into the room shortly thereafter and introduced herself. We were expecting some doggy-like slappers who would get their fun bags out at the mention of double vodka. How wrong – she was absolutely gorgeous. About 25, natural blonde and went in and out in ALL the right places. She said “Hi” to everyone and asked who was drummer.

 

I said “Me!” Well, I think I said that but it probably came out as “Flibble Flub dribble drool….” “OK, I’ll be doing ‘Physical’, the one by Olivia Newton John?” she said. “Dribbly wibbly dibbly flubbly flopple,” was my considered reply. She went on to explain that once she had finished her performance, she would turn to me to give me the cue to wind up the proceedings. “Durrrrrrrhhhhh – I mean, yep, okay,” I said.

 

It was stage time; on we went and scampered through a few instrumental versions of songs in the set to a largely indifferent and totally silent audience. Until that is, the lovely Janine was wheeled out to entertain and amaze! We had already agreed to act like consummate professionals, no leering, and no giggling – behave as if this is a perfectly normal thing to do and we’ve been doing it for years anyhow. Yes. Quite. No problem. Professional. Totally professional.

 

All went well until Janine’s bra came off. To avoid any attack of the giggles, Dave opted to stare off into the middle distance and concentrate on the opposite corner of the room, Pete had tears of laughter immediately streaming down his face and Phil’s eyes shot about 10 feet out his head a la Tom & Jerry. I was staring intently down at the feet of my hi-hat stand, like Dave to avoid the imminent giggles. I glanced up briefly after the first chorus to see Janine’s underwear launched out into the now baying and raucous crowd, at the same time as Pete very nearly lost all grip on reality and Phil was in danger of toppling over under the weight of his extended eye balls. I returned to the absorbing hi-hat stand feet and remained in this position until I became aware of a naked lady standing over the front of my kit with her ample “rack toms” muffling mine.

 

I stared her straight in the eyes and she told me in no uncertain term to “Finish the ******* song, NOW!!” In my quest to remain totally ambivalent to the cavorting of a beautiful, naked, blonde, young lady about three feet in front of me, I had completely forgotten about paying attention for the cue to end the song. Once poor J had divested herself of her flimsy garments, she was forced to keep jiggling around whilst trying to get the attention of the drummer. Eventually, she went for a “full frontal” attack to bring me back into line.

 

I don’t think audience were particularly bothered about her extended performance but I did make the point of immediately going to see her and apologising. Whilst she was still naked.

 

The remaining two performers completed their acts without any hitches and by now, of course we were seasoned professionals at not noticing a pert, female behind undulating around directly in front of us. We thought this would be an experience to end all experiences, but little did we know, just a few short months later, we would be backing live sex shows in Hamburg.

 

But that’s another story.

 

Mike Ellis wrote this article. The “really interesting” bits were edited out and are not-to-be-mentioned-again but are available upon receipt of cash payments. All persons mentioned in the article are/were real people and Janine really did have nice puppies!

 

August 2002