The bass drum was a bastard. Picking it up was one thing. Walking with it was another. But carrying it the 1/2 a mile up the steep hill to Chris’s house was an undertaking that required about 6 stops, huge lungs, bulging biceps and a clear head from the night before. I could manage the 6 stops but, this sunny, Saturday morning, none of the rest.
Saturday morning meant band practice. Chris’s parents would always go out, until mid-afternoon, so their large front room was our rehearsal space. We ( my younger brother and I ) lived at the bottom of a quiet cul-de-sac, in a leafy, Surrey town. Chris’s house was at the very top of said cul-de-sac. This meant that guitar amp, guitar and drum kit had to be carried, bit by bit, piece by piece, up the hill.
Set-up took forever. Bloody ages. I could set up the kit in 20 minutes. Quick? Clever? Naah! Tiny kit. But the rest took for-bleeding ever. Amps wouldn’t work, guitars wouldn’t tune, mics wouldn’t work.
I had no knowledge of how any of them worked anyway. Phil, my 14 year old brother, knew how stuff was wired, how stuff should be connected, how stuff worked. 16 year old me could assemble my kit and then drink Pomagne.
These were the early days of Allergy. Rehearsal was a slow blues, All Right Now, a couple of Bad Company covers and Honky Tonk Women. And repeat. We were a four-piece; Phil & I on lead guitar and drums, respectively, Chris and his younger brother, Steve, on rhythm guitar and bass. These Saturday rehearsals attracted a few friends, a couple of girlfriends and the odd person who would sit in the corner, drink cans of Skol and, after a couple of hours, be confronted by Chris because no one in the room knew who they were. It happened every week. They were also some of the happiest days of my life.
I fucking loved being in a band. Four years later, when we were called Whiskey Bottle, we had a rehearsal in a mate’s flat, and played The Faces’ Stay With Me, over and over. Several times, it was fantastic. I mean, really bloody amazing. I had become a very good drummer. Simple, uncomplicated but solid as a rock. And dynamic. I understood how to drive the band, how to push the rhythm and the speed, how to slow things down. We had supported Frankie Miller in a pub in Guildford once and, after our set, I had gone downstairs to the bar. Frankie was talking to Chrissy Stewart, his bass player. I was standing behind them, trying to catch the barman’s eye. Frankie said,
‘No bad, those kids. Drummer sounds like Simon Kirke.’ I walked away, my ears buzzing, my face going red, my feet slowly leaving the ground as I floated, levitated, with the praise. Simon Kirke was my hero, the drummer I had copied, had spent hours listening to, the drummer that I had taught myself to play drums to.
We rehearsed. We played a handful of gigs. We got support slots with Frankie and Bebop Deluxe, and a few lesser known names. It lasted four years, until I left home, moved to Nottingham and gave my kit to Marty, my even younger brother. I think about those four years constantly. I am a much better drummer now, but only in my head. I haven’t sat behind a drum kit for 38 years.
Do I miss it? Not every day. Just most days.