Monday, 24 March 2008

Dads on Drugs

The band were playing in Stockton on Tees last night. I stayed in London and celebrated Easter by helping my daughter and nephew find chocolate eggs in my dad's front room. Fortunately, I had hidden most of them in the first place so got to them early, "Oh hello! Here's another one!" I would say. They would get all excited and then reward me with one of the already discovered eggs from their little bags. The mugs! I must have eaten about 50 before they realised.

I spoke to Jack from the band, after lunch, telling him where I was.
"You're such a family man, Ben, aren't you?"
And it's true. I do like a bit of family action, particularly at Easter. But part of me felt bad at not being with the guys up in Teeside, and, the day before in Carlisle. I wrote about being paternal towards them in the last blog when I was talking about booking hotels (and boy, did that ever polarise people) and there is no way around it, a manager is the band's dad. For example, I got a text yesterday from one of the guys telling me that the rider was boozeless - not in a moany, whiny way, but asking if this was some clever Machiavellian plan to force them to have a sensible night before the following night's gig when they would be appearing in front of a man who might be investing in us. If only I had thought of that! Frankly, that sort of forward planning surely only happens in novels, and besides, if a band wants to get fucked up it will manage it regardless of the quality of rider.

I'm glad this band are fairly sensible. I mean, don't get me wrong, they love a drink - the drink the sort of amount, which if drunk by me renders me a hiccuping, slurring fool who hates himself in the morning. Crucially though, they don't appear to have any really worrying vices. But would I notice? Just as Maddy managed to sneak in at least a dozen mini eggs yesterday without me noticing, the band could actually be crack-dealing under my nose and I would just think they had some weird friends. I say this based on all my years in the music business without noticing people having drink or drug problems. OK, so when I was A&Ring 60ft Dolls, even I noticed that there may have been issues when the drummer tried to shoot me in the studio with an air pistol and the bass player seemed fond of red wine for breakfast. But on the whole, I honestly didn't see anyone really losing it. And it wasn't that I was far away it - I mean, I drove Elastica to their first handful of shows! Yes, that's me at the wheel of a Transit with a seasoned heroin addict in the back introducing enthusiastic newcomers to Mr Brown - or so I'm told, at least. Me, I was wondering if we were at Membury Services yet. My first Head of A&R actually had Talcum in his nickname, but did I ever see him doing coke? In fact, did he ever offer me any? No. Bit annoyed about that, come to think of it - maybe it was just a rumour, maybe he just used a lot of baby powder after taking a bath. Then of course came the full-on Britpop years - where everyone was supposedly on coke. My main memories are of people trying and failing to buy it in the small hours - like a teenage boys trying to lose their virginity - more energy being expended on talking about it than actually doing it.

There were eventually some dark years when I worked for a indie label whose owners did a lot of drugs. But again, I had to be the organised one; I had to be the 'dad'. It was annoying really because most of them were my age or older and yet they seemed to be having all the fun while I had to be the one who was together and reliable. I remember one time where I had to pick up the singer - a very famous British TV actor - for a live TV appearance. He was also one of the owners and therefore my employer. He'd been out all night and I'd failed to get hold of him on the phone all afternoon. With about an hour to go before the show aired, I drove round to his house in Tufnell Park. Eventually, he answered the door. Naked.
"Oh hello, love - what time is it?"
"It's 5.30 - you've got this show at 7."
"Oh right," he said, totally unfazed,"Hang on a tic..."
When we got to the Whitehall Theatre, where they filmed the daily Jack Doherty show, we had 20 minutes before it started. We raced through the stage door entrance and up the back stairs to the dressing room. Without pausing to hang up his jacket, make himself at home, or even take a breath, the singer b-lined it to the loo and started chopping out lines with the door wide open behind his crouched frame.
"You want a line, love?" he asked over his shoulder.
"I'm fine, thanks."
"Not a great drug taker are you, Ben?"

I'll never forget that line. And frankly, I'm glad it's that kind of a line and not the other sort. But I love the use of the word 'great', as if it's a heroic and noble thing to be able to do. Still, it must be said, he actually was a great drug taker: he went on stage 15 minutes later and completely charmed the audience. I drove him home afterwards and as far as I remember, he fell asleep in the car - just like a toddler being taken home after a nativity play.

The band did a great show in front of the money guy last night apparently. In fact, since the Nottingham show, I described last week, they've been going down rather well. I feel - yes, you guessed it - like a proud parent. Chocolate eggs all round!


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  2. I know the band you are talking about and let me tell you it's been a nightmare scoring crack in Glasgow since they started playing in exotic faraway places. Their delivery service is a thing of legend. There's more coke to be had mind you cos they're not there to take it all. Which is a bonus.