Friday, September 12, 2008

Mirth and woe: Gig of HELL

Mirth and woe: Gig of HELL

Like many schools in this hip, happenin' age, we had our own rock band.

Our rock band, sadly, was comprised entirely of teachers.

Mr Kirby the German teacher was on drums, while scary PE teacher Mr Garrett formed a formidable front-line with Mr Lawson, who cemented his rock star credentials after being caught en flagrante in the stock room with one of his female colleagues.

Mr Butler pissed on Lawson's rock star credentials by actually making his bass guitar in the school workshops when he was supposed to be teaching us woodwork.

"But sir... can we use the wood lathe?"

"Sorry lads... bit busy. Just play with the bench saw for a while, why don'tcha?"

They were – truth be told – rather good.

So good, in fact, that they bought genuine studio time and pressed their own single.

And, preaching to a captive audience in the classroom, the PE hall, the woodwork room and tutorials, they told us the exact location of the local chart return shops and told us to get out there and spend whatever money we could scrounge from parents and paper rounds on their seven inches of vinyl.

It worked. They got to number 81, and we were all owners of a doom-laden piece of noodly guitar work on the horrors of nuclear destruction in Thatcher's Britain.

Number Eighty-one, back in the days when getting into the lower reaches of the chart meant something.

It was such an occasion, they had a gig.

A real gig, on a stage, with a PA, lights and everything. Students half price.

Of course we went. There was no way we were going to miss our axe-hero teachers bigging it up on stage.

Only having one song was no problem. They played it three times, and loads and loads of covers. Which would have been excellent if you were into Dire Straits in a big way, and didn't mind hearing Sultans of Swing three times in a evening.

After a while, the novelty started to wear off, and the young, bored audience started getting cocky.

We began – God forgive us – to heckle.

"Here's one," said Mr Garrett, scourge of the games field and owner of a superb 80s-style pencil moustache, "you might know. Sing along if you know it."

"It had better not be Sultans of Swing!" I shouted, King of Shining Wit.

Garrett fixed me with his gimlet stare that was the precursor to schoolyard trouble, and the opening bars to Sultans of Swing rang out.

"Sultans of WANK!" I shouted at the top of my voice, to the hilarity of my mates.

With a sound like a gamelan orchestra falling down a flight of stairs, the music stopped.

Then: silence.

I was aware that all eyes in the hall were on me. All eyes, which roughly equated to everybody in our entire school, sixth formers, teaching staff and one or two interested hangers-on.

"Coleman!" Garrett boomed into the microphone, "Detention. Monday. After school."

"Buh... buh... buh... you're joking, aren't you sir?" I blurted out, the hall now deathly quiet with embarrassment.

He wasn't joking.

"Detention. Monday. You're cleaning the cricket boxes."

My schoolchums were - I might point out - not laughing WITH me at that stage. I slunk to the back, where the mocking was all the worse, before fleeing into the night.

Well, I must say, that worked wonders for my social standing. It was something I reflected on as I scrubbed the stain out of the box that had the big dent in it, the words "Sultans of WANK!" ringing in my ears for the rest of the school term.

Having fled from the gig before they played their hit single for the third, forth and fifth times, I also missed the sight of one of my close friends actually puking on the dance floor, causing no end of mosh-pit chaos. HE, I am sad to report, was treated like a hero.

No justice. No justice at all.

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