The Corner Hotel, Richmond, Show Day Eve, 1987
This moment had been years in the making.
It had been dreamed, over and over, played and replayed at full volume in amphitheatres inside a silent imagination. Now, at last, this moment finally announces itself.
Six strings on a blood red, Pearl guitar are bought to shimmering life by a single downward strum.
One clarion chord, a strident D, is held, force-fed through distortion box and amplifier until the sound rings out into the sticky, smoky, cavernous air of the Corner Hotel. Boosted by the twin black stacks of the house PA, the guitar’s volume stuns momentarily.
In the suspended space of the chord, a bass guitar rolls down three descending notes and lands on the tonic before the drums propel the band into the first verse of their opening song.
Here I stand with head in hand
Turn my face to the wall
If she’s gone I can’t go on
Feeling two feet small
My first band. The opening number. Our first gig. And, to paraphrase Stephen Stills, on stage at Woodstock, “I’m scared shitless”. Tightness grips every sinew: My fingers and hands feel like they’ve been pulled out of an Antarctic ice hole, my arms are reinforced concrete, my throat is encircled by an angry boa constrictor and my body is involuntarily levitating six shaky inches above the stage.
I am dissociating.
Despite this, the song rumbles on.
Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can hear them laugh at me
And I hear them say …
When The Beatles recorded this song they strummed soft acoustic guitars to a gentle, 6/8 time signature. They even inserted a flute solo. Tonight, the folkiness of their original has morphed into a crunchy, crusty, staccato, post-punk waltz. And despite my stage fright, a dodgy monitor and a handful of fluffed lines, my little trio are sharp enough and together enough to sound OK.
Our 40-minute set seems to pass in a quarter of the time.
Three decades later, during a house move, I came across a VHS video tape with the words “BIG BRONZE CAR” scrawled on the spine. I knew immediately what it was. We had recorded a gig a few months after our debut.
I sent the tape out to be transferred to disc, then nervously loaded it into the DVD player. There’s Greg, the melodic, bow-tied bass player, and there’s my boyish brother Richard, drumming like a drowning man, and there’s me, cradling the blood red Pearl, singing and playing with the conviction that our band, Big Bronze Car, are the Next Big Thing.
And as I watch us race through our opening Beatles cover, and on to a handful of originals, I’m struck by surprise and then, pride. We actually sound pretty good. Big Bronze Car are on fire!
I watch my imagination manifest. I smile and hear myself singing along with myself.
Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away
Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away.