This song was written in 1976 for the ill-fated band Xylophone Moustache – ill-fated because they broke up before ever playing a gig. This song was never performed or recorded.
They were all Rhythm & Blues musicians, young men who had been playing for a number of years in local bands in small venues around the town and surrounding area. Tired of playing ‘covers’ they had responded positively to overtures from the keyboard player and guitarist to form a band in order to play original material only. Although some of them continued to play in other bands this move had not gone unnoticed in the local music community and when rumours began to emerge about ‘studio time’, ‘demo tapes’ and ‘looking for an agent’ there were smiles and some rather unkind comments about the town’s ‘super group.’
Rehearsals had gone well enough with everyone prepared to work on each other’s songs / bits of songs / scraps of ideas and managing to be tolerant about stuff which went nowhere and the slew of mistakes and poor playing generally. They had 6 numbers which, with a fair wind, they would be able to perform reasonably competently and were now looking for 4 more in order to make up a bare minimum of a set list. At the previous rehearsal they had agreed to go and dig out any songs that they could claim some input into for the band to consider.
They rehearsed on a Sunday afternoon in the large high ceilinged room of the bass player’s flat, which was up three flights of narrow stairs above the bookies on the High Street. In many ways this was an ideal arrangement, town centres were deserted on Sunday afternoons in the 1970s and there were few others living in earshot. Also it was free – no rehearsal studio costs. Initially there had been some difficulties with the bookies (and landlord) but an accommodation had been reached whereby no music was played during shop hours – but on Sundays……
There is some mitigation for what transpired to be the band’s last rehearsal and we can identify the more immediate ones before the story unfolds; it was the warmest and driest Summer since records had begun and it had been unremittingly hot for weeks. It was particularly airless in the flat that afternoon and they were all, to differing degrees, suffering the effects of excessive partying the night before.
It takes a while for a band to set up; a lot of humping heavy large things around accompanied by a lot of swearing; then the tangle of leads during the ‘getting all the electronics to work bit’ accompanied by wailing feedback and sometimes (and more ominously) silence. Finally there was ‘the tuning of the instruments’ (before the days of electronic boxes), during which the drummer would always be ready to test his kit to the full.
‘Shut up will you’ the guitarist shouted as he strained to hear the note from the keyboard.
The drummer desisted, but he continued gently tapping and gradually the rhythm built again. ‘Thudder’ the bass player, who treated tuning as a perfunctory exercise at best, began to join in.
‘Chrisssake!’ shouted the sax player who was fiddling with his mouth piece.
At this point ‘Shouter’ (aka the vocalist) would start ‘one, two, three’ whilst trying to adjust the volume of the PA amp, inevitably get too close to a speaker and releasing a painful wail of feedback.
‘If you don’t stop hitting those effing drums I’m gone take those sticks away from you.’
Tuning continued ……… it was a sullen affair.
Eventually the guitarist got the second of his three guitars tuned and turned to pick up the last one when some quiet brushwork on the snare drum got the better of the bass player who began to pick out a nice little funky rhythm.
‘Banger!! You still on that whizz ?!!’
‘Sorrrrry ……..’ the drummer put the brushes down and sat with his arms folded in what looked like a doomed attempt to stop his arms hitting things.
By the time the third guitar was in tune the first needed re-tuning ………
‘God’s sake why have you got to have three ? You only play one.’
‘Well the one I play has gone out of tune.’
At this point the sax player let rip huge wailing bellows from his horn and ‘One, Two, One, Two’ rang out through the PA .
Eventually everyone was happy – or, more accurately, couldn’t care less.
Then they worked through three songs from the previous session. It was ragged, starting and stopping as they lost their way and mistakes were made. On one Shouter kept coming in at the wrong point, on another the bass kept disappearing into a walk from which it got hopelessly lost and on the third the sax couldn’t play quietly enough for the guitar. The keyboard player sighed – he just carried on playing the chords and trying to give the rhythm section a hint at what they should be doing.
They stopped for a smoke (for this was 1976).
‘Anyone got any more songs?’
There was an awkward silence then the bass player, rather sheepishly said ‘I got this one, it’s an old one, I don’t know if it’s any good.’
He handed round some sheets of scrappy, creased paper with chords and lyrics scrawled messily on them. It was entitled I need some loving from you.
‘So it’s a 12 bar* …… with 2 extra bars between verses to allow everyone to catch up, get their breath and start again roughly in the same place!’
‘So the singer can get his breath.’
‘More like so you can pick up the timing again’
Ignoring the brewing row, the bass player explained ‘I saw the 2 link bars as providing a bit of a dramatic pause.’
‘Thud your idea of a dramatic pause was when you fell off the back of the stage at The Grapes!’
There was laughter, it was a favourite story and Thud joined in the smiles and chuckles. Banger maintained that he hadn’t been aware that Thud had gone missing, but the band had. Thud may have been an accurate description of the tonal range of his bass playing – but he could keep time – comments about the implications of this drove Banger mad.
Unheard Shouter grimaced ‘are you sure about these lyrics?’
But the others got the bass player to start and gradually they worked it out and built up the sound.
‘You’ll have to sing it through first’ muttered Shouter to the bass player.
‘Sing? I can’t sing and play bass, they use different parts of the brain.’
‘Have you got two parts to your brain Thud?’
‘Leave him alone,’ the keyboard looked up from reading his copy of the New Musical Excess, ‘he barely does one thing adequately, it would be unfair to ask him to attempt two simultaneously.’
‘I bet Thaddeus Morriaty could play and sing at the same time.’
Thud scowled and shook his head. He didn’t like being reminded of his one recording credit – when he had stood in at short notice for a London band. The recording engineer had miss-heard his name and his scribblings had found themselves onto the sleeve notes. At least ‘Thaddeus’ was an understandable mistake, but where ‘Morriaty’ had come from no one had a clue. Mortified, Thud had considered changing his name by deed poll, until someone pointed out that people would think he was a jazz musician and he would have to learn funny scales and stuff.
Reluctantly disengaging himself again from the NME, the keyboard player offered to play the bass line, which allowed Thud to rather self-consciously growl out the lyrics. Within a couple of bars Shouter was La, la-ing into the mic (it was a very familiar format and vocal line). They stumbled their way through the song in a cacophony of miss co-ordination, poor timing and dis-harmony. The drums thundered pent up energy in a series of crashes and thumps, the sax player played long single notes and Thud, once he got his bass back working struggled to keep in time with a rather erratic keyboard player – who was still reading the NME.
‘OK!’ the keyboard player finished the article and shouted as the shambles lurched into a 5th verse (well some of them did), ‘Stop! ….. Stop! ….. Banger !! The noise gradually subsided to a silence. ‘We know how to play these, let’s get it organised.’
The keyboard player was a different sort of musician to the others – well he was a musician. He could read music and talked about things like harmony, dynamics, tempo (the others said ‘too fast’, ‘too slow’ and often ‘you’re too loud / out of tune / off the beat ……….). This enabled him to see himself as the musical director and (most of the time), the others were happy to let him do ‘the arranging thing.’ Tired and fractious as they were, they listened.
The verses were re-ordered, intro and finish agreed and then finally the two instrumental breaks discussed.
‘Why does he always get to go last?’
‘Sax sounds better at the climax of a song’
‘That’s ‘cos you play too loud’
The keyboard player sighed , ‘OK play fours’.
‘Take four bars alternatively….. you know, call and response’
The guitarist and sax player stared at each other in panic – that would require each listening and responding to the other. Then the guitarist smiled, ‘We can’t do that it’s a 14 bar and 4s don’t go into 14!’
‘Oh please ……. Why don’t you both play together on the link bars?’
‘They can’t do that, those bars are supposed to be sparse …… full of space ….’ Thud trailed off as the pointlessness of his remark became apparent to him.
Then they played it.
1, 2, 3, 4 ………
They played it really, really well. On the first take they played it right through with no mistakes and they all ended up on the last note at exactly …. exactly! …the same time.
They didn’t really know what to do then – but habit can be a dismal thing – they worked on the song, trying out different approaches and sounds and gradually it got worse, as did their tempers.
‘Can’t we try a bit of swing on the bass?’
‘It’s not really built for swing.’
‘Well try and do something to stop it being the same old, same old thudding bass line.’
‘Let’s try some harmonies.’
‘How about if you turn down a bit?’
‘I can hardly hear myself for that monstrous horn and the racket that Banger’s making.’
‘It feels a bit too familiar’ the guitarist mused ‘Hey Thudder you sure you wrote this? You’ve not ripped this off from somewhere else?’
‘I don’t ….’
The whole band was at it now, each telling everyone else what was wrong i) with their playing and ii) the song.
The drummer hauled himself wearily from his stool and began to dismantle his kit. The arguments died away.
‘Hey Banger what you doing?’
‘I’m leaving, I’m not putting up with this.’
Band arguments are not infrequent and often result in someone leaving in a huff, which unless you are a horn player, or better a mouth harpist, can take some time. You can’t just fly out slamming the door behind you, you have to put your instrument away and then carry it and all your equipment down narrow steep stairs to your van / car. Often this involves co-operation with people you’ve just fallen out with ….
Drummers throwing a dickie fit are particularly memorable as they have so much stuff and it takes so long for them to dismantle the kit and pack it away – plenty of time for the argument to continue and if anything become more vitriolic.
‘What kind of commitment is that?’
‘Eff .. off!’
‘At least we won’t have to put up with your incessant noise.’
‘Effing Ef off! .. no one describes my drumming as a racket’
‘Ooooooooo listen to him’
‘You can’t talk blowing that horn; who do you think you are – William Effing Tell?’
The arguments and recriminations swirled around the drummer as the kit disappeared into its bags and boxes. As he zipped up the last cymbal the room fell silent again, catching Shouter unawares as he was berating the bass player, ‘I’m really not sure about these lyrics, did you really write this stuff Thud? … I’m not sure I can sing these!’
‘Hey Shouter, not like you to take any notice of the words, what’s the problem?’
The lyric sheet was handed over to the keyboard player and the others clustered round. After a few moments they all turned to stare at the bass player.
‘Hey, we’ve all been there….. even if only in thought,’ he added hastily.
Silence fell again, that awkward sort of silence when the floor gets a good looking at, when you know everyone is examining their consciences – and coming up short.
In a rather belated effort to move things on the bass player held his hands up, palms open ‘Hey let’s just not play it – I don’t mind, I’ll play any old shit.’
‘Shit is exactly what it is and I’m not playing it !’ a reanimated drummer was grabbing bags and heading out the door, returning without a word a couple more times to collect everything.
A week later the guitarist and keyboard player met in The Old Dog’s Head to talk about the band.
‘Have you seen Banger?’
‘I can’t get hold of him – he and Katrina let me down’
‘Well it’s ..’
‘Didn’t turn up at a wedding, you can cope without a drummer, but no fiddle player in a ceilidh band? …….What?’
‘You took Banger to play at a wedding?’
‘We play lots of weddings, he puts on his suit and …. What?’
‘Banger owns a suit?’
‘He’s fine at weddings, as long as he doesn’t start on the pop. He brings a little ¾ kit and plays a tidy little back beat …….’
The keyboard player was shaking his head , ‘ well I wouldn’t want him near any wedding of mine.’
The guitarist chuckled, ‘Why you thinking of getting hitched?’
‘Oh no … sorry …….’
There was an awkward silence, gay people didn’t get married in the 1970s.
‘Banger, he …’
‘Yeah where is he?’
‘He’s gone to ground.’
‘He’s not in the best place at the moment’
‘What run out of whizz again …’
‘He and Katrina have split up.’
‘What? ……split up? … split up? …..I know they’ve been rowing a bit lately.. but split up?’
‘Yes ….. well ….. it’s worse than that …..’
Katrina and Shouter …………….’
The keyboard player sighed.
‘Yes, they’ve gone off to London together.’
The guitarist absorbed this news in silence, then he pulled his face into a grimace, ‘Shit, that song of Thud’s.’
‘No wonder Shouts sang la la la through it.’
‘He said he didn’t like the lyrics!’
‘Does Thud know?’
‘Oh he knows! Banger went round and bawled him out about it ….. there was a bit of a scene, words were said, you know ……’
‘Shit ….. how do you know that?’
‘Thud came round to talk to me about it, he was really upset.’
‘They‘re good friends.’
‘After Thud left I phoned Banger and after listening to the woe of his break up with Katrina for a bit and doing the sympathy thing, I told him to stop being a pilloc about Thud.’
‘How did that go down?’
‘OK …… in the end. I think Banger was beginning to calm down anyway. He admitted that it was hardly Thud’s fault and that the breakup with Katrina had been coming for a while, doing too much whizz and all that ….. mind you he hasn’t calmed down about Shouter.’
‘Well .. no ..’
‘There had been some bother, a lot of verbals and Banger offering to sort the whole sorry mess out by helping Shouter to the floor.’
‘Banger threatened to do what? ….. I know he can be a bit wild behind a kit but ……’
‘Luckily that didn’t happen …’
‘No wonder they’ve gone to London’
There was another lengthy silence, brought to a close by the two of them draining their pints and the keyboard player going to the bar for refills.
‘Two pints of ordinary please’
‘Blimey, you look fed up …. What’s up?’
Getting no response the barman bumbled on, ‘Tache problems? …… I heard about Katrina and …..’ He was brought to a halt by a stare of such pissed-offness he found himself taking an involuntary step backwards … ‘Two pints of ordinary it is.’
Most of those pints had been drunk before the conversation struck up again.
‘Feeling sorry for himself ….. I suggested he lay off the whizz for a bit.’
‘And how’s Thud?’
‘Oh he’s OK , he knows it wasn’t his fault, just an unfortunate coincidence. He said he wished he’d never brought the song to the band – well, actually said he wished he’d never written it in the first place.’
‘That’s a shame, it was a good song, that first time we played it through properly it sounded good and tight, shame ….’
‘I told him that and with a bit of work …’
‘A bit of work?’
‘Yeah, suggested some honkytonk piano as an introduction and then maybe some Hammond to fill it out a bit’.
‘Well you would.’
The keyboard player looked a bit sheepish ‘I was trying to cheer him up .. and ….. I suggested it needed some really dirty guitar.’
‘No, just feature guitar and keyboard.’
‘Problem is the lyrics .. it starts in a difficult place and then …… well … gets more difficult.’
‘Yeah, it’s a good edgy subject … about real messy relationships, not like most of the stuff we do. Anyway I think it’s only the last verse that needs beefing up … and a change of title perhaps.’
‘Yeah, need some loving doesn’t get anywhere close ……………….. what about there’s going to be some bother?’
The keyboard player winced, ‘No’ (sigh), ‘The guy’s in a mess.’
‘No, well … yes … he was and maybe ..’
‘Oh you mean Banger? He’s in a mess.’
‘Yes but a different sort of …. No! …. I’m talking about the guy in the song.’
‘He’s caught up in something that feels completely out of control, something he knows he shouldn’t be …… well you know …… we all felt it ……………………’
‘Well anyway no one’s going to be playing that song again ……..’
‘Funny thing is Banger knew all about the song.’
‘He told me he had helped Thud write it when they were at Tech together, but they were playing in a country band at the time so they didn’t even suggest it.’
‘Banger was involved in it?’
‘Yeah’ the keyboard player laughed, ‘I even got the impression that it was more about him than Thud.’
‘I know …’
‘No bloody hell!, if Shouter’s gone to London we haven’t got a PA anymore.’
‘Yes we have, I bought it off him’
‘Day after that rehearsal he came round in a bit of a state saying he needed to sell up and move out of town .. wouldn’t tell me why, said I’d know soon enough. Offered to sell the PA to me.’
‘Did you get a good price?’
‘No idea, I just gave him what he asked … tell the truth I felt sorry for him.’
‘Where is it? there’s no room at yours.’
‘Thud’s got it, he’s got lots of room.’
They drained their glasses.
‘We need a vocalist.’
‘What about Mandy and Lorraine?’
‘From The Mutleys?’
The keyboard player nodded.
‘That would be different, change the sound completely, and they can really sing.’
‘I met them for a drink last night.’
‘Blimey, does Dick know?
The keyboard player shook his head, ‘Thought we’d try it out first, no need to create any unnecessary bother. They said we’d have to change our name.’
‘I, know ….. it’s a good name ……. but maybe it’s had its moment?……….’
‘But never gigged …… or recorded …. what a waste!’
‘They’re suggesting The Storms.’
The guitarist sat back in thought under the anxious gaze of his mate. Band names were a serious business and the guitarist was the one who always came up with them. After a good long while he nodded ‘OK, that’s a good one …. but Dick won’t be pleased.’
The keyboard player relaxed, ‘Well they’re not pleased having to sing behind Dick whilst he prances around at the front of the stage wearing that old flying helmet.
‘Year, it’s bit wacky.’
‘They don’t get to do any lead vocals at all.’
‘But they get paid!’
This time it was the guitarist’s turn to go to the bar. He stood next to a man who was paying for his pints. Waiting for his change he turned to the guitarist.
‘They keep the beer well here.’
‘Uh ……yeh,’ the guitarist shook his head in an effort to concentrate.
‘No good talking to him,’ the barman returned, change in hand, ‘him and his mate have a musical monk on.’
‘Just pull a couple of pints of ordinary if you please Rob.’
The glasses were taken, refilled and replaced on the bar. Money was offered and change given. The new pints were carried over to the table. Nothing more was said.
‘What did George have to say?’
‘Yeah, George …. George Harrison … over there in the corner with Thud’s mate’, the keyboard player indicated with his head ….. ‘the fireman, how do they know each other?’
The guitarist looked round, then back, ‘George drinks in the family pub, The Skiff ….the thing is we are going to need a new rhythm section as well, you can’t expect Thud and Banger ….’
‘Thud and Banger must play ……. They’re best mates and the sooner they …’
‘There is Thud’s rehearsal room I suppose … and Banger does make a good racket ..’
‘And Thud does keep time.’
‘Well …. If we don’t do that song ..’
‘Shame though, it was good – what about I can’t stop loving you?’
‘The last line’
‘As a title’
‘I can’t stop loving you?’
‘Yeh it’s a nod to the mess of it all …… isn’t it?……’ the keyboard player faltered aware that his companion seemed to be gazing vacantly over his left shoulder.
‘Where?’ the keyboard player swung round on his stool.
Interrupted, his mate paused and then deliberately waited a couple of seconds to allow the keyboard player to take a good scan of the now busy bar and even begin to crane his neck, before completing his sentence, ‘ …. had a big hit with that song.’
The keyboard player swung back ‘Not this song.’
‘No not this song, this song isn’t going to be a hit.’
They fell silent.
‘Elmore …’ the guitarist nodded towards the far end of the bar.
Both drained their pints.
‘The song’s a good ‘un – you said so yourself.’
‘I know but …’
‘I told Thud to put it away and forget about it for a while ….. maybe in a few years?’
The guitarist shook his head, blowing his cheeks out.
‘…… OK in a different town.’
‘Who is going to play it?’
‘Dunno ….. some blokes might.’
* A ‘12 bar’ is the dominant blues structure and is instantly recognisable. It comprises a repeating pattern around … well … 12 bars, typically using the 1st, 4th and 5th chords of a key. For example in the key of A :
A A A A
D D A A
E D A E