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The Singing Civil Servant (Part 1)

11 years ago

The memory, it is said, can play tricks on you. Not only that, but like an errant partner, it leads you on, lets you down, it embarrasses you in front of your friends, it disappears without warning then suddenly reappears at inappropriate moments; sometimes it doesn’t even return your calls and you begin to wonder if you’ll ever hear from it again.

The internet has been the saviour of the simple minded however, allowing instant recall of obscure ‘Informacana’, thereby making pub arguments shorter and easily resolved, with loudmouthed, opinionated braggarts like me more circumspect in our pronouncements.

The memory of my first football match is a fleeting, slippery bugger which I’ve constantly tried to grasp onto over the years. With music, it’s a little easier to recall specifics. Unlike association soccer matches, where, as with the goals, the stadium itself never moves and players come and go gradually over months and years.

In music, venues and personnel vary widely from gig to gig, which again is where the Web comes in handy. That said, as my beloved has often pointed out to me, just because history is recorded, it ain’t necessarily so – think the Warren Commission, Wikipedia and any Newcastle United club statement issued over the past 3 years.

My first ‘concert’, as I believe they were termed back then, was Buzzcock (there was no ‘The’ preface so stop bloody adding one!) at the City Hall on 4th October 1979, which means that the first proper singer I saw on stage, after my Dad, was the singer of the support band that night. By absolute and utter chance, I won’t pretend otherwise, that singer just happened to be Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, who had such a seismic effect on my life from that day to this, my memory of the evening has no doubt been distorted and embellished by time and the stuff of legend. I don’t remember the set list – the record shows they opened with Disorder and closed with Atrocity Exhibition (tragically Love Will Tear Us Apart didn’t appear until 12 days later) – but it is the sight and sounds that are as fresh now as they were then. If you were there, you’ll know why.

As I said, though, my first match is an altogether more hazy affair. One thing’s for certain, it won’t have been Dad who took me along, as he would often be spending his Saturday afternoons in the back of a transit van with his band en route to some ropey social club in a godforsaken Durham pit village somewhere – favourite quote, from a sound check around that time, “what are the acoustics like mate?”, “oh, we’ve not had that group here son”. Priceless. So Brian, top marks for not tryin’.

Instead of a football fan, Dad was a musician, more specifically a singer, although there was very often a tambourine or a pair of maracas lying around our flat in St. Cuthbert’s Village, so I guessed he had more in his repertoire than simply his vocal dexterity. Now a staple member of Felling Male Voice Choir’s Top Tenor section, Dad wasn’t professional back then – although he sometimes got paid and, with his beat combo the Tru Tones, he appeared on Opportunity Knocks in the ‘60s (“Hughie’s mate won it, we were robbed son, clear as day”!).

Thinking back now, I had naively assumed the maracas were part of his musical arsenal but whatever my mother and father got up to in our 1970’s flat back then, can stay locked there forever as far as I’m concerned.

To be continued…….


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