It’s Only Rock & Roll Part 9
So, we had a band that I had managed to put together single-handed. My intention was to play ultimate party music; everything from the 50s to the present day, something for everyone. They say that variety is the spice of life, and when it
comes to hearing a covers band, I fully believe they should give as much diversity as possible.
Although I thought the practise went well, there were question marks raised about Jennifers vocals, mainly by the guitar player. I understood what he meant, but sometimes not playing a tuned instrument, like the drums, you sometimes need
to be a guitar, bass or keyboard player to spot if a vocalist is singing completely in-tune or not. It was mainly noticeable on the Heart song, Alone, a great song, but I have yet to hear anyone but Celine Dion pull that one off.
After a while, we all resigned ourselves to the fact that she wasn't really that bad a singer, and carried on building up a 3-set repertoire. A lot of the stuff she did was quite good.
As I have mentioned before, putting together and running a band is hardly ever plain sailing. Unless you are on the Thai/Filipino circuit (more on that in a later submission), you cannot just call another musician or singer at short notice,
if anything happens to one of your "team" (a word used instead of "band" or "group", not only by Thais, but a great many non-native English speakers, including Europeans). After a few weeks, our keyboard player informed
us that, as he was not an English teacher, he quickly need to start earning money, and had been offered a job with a full-time band playing at the Londoner. He ended up playing in the house band at Spasso's a few months after that.
A couple of weeks later, our Italian bass player, Simone (one of the nicest guys I have ever worked with) was told by the tour operator he worked for, that he was being transferred to Laos, and had no choice in the matter. Luckily, shortly
after placing an ad on the internet, another Italian bass player contacted me, and everything was back to normal. He was a 50 year-old named Ciccio (pronounced Cheecho), who owned an Italian restaurant.
I had heard on the grapevine that the ex-Associates singer, Rik, was back in town, after having played solo gigs for 3 years in Phuket. He had finally got bored with what they call "low season blues" and was heading back to Bangkok.
Rik joined the band and added some versatility to the set. Now we were able to play male vocal songs and I really thought this had potential.
We played a few gigs around the Irish Pubs in Bangkok, but the landlords all basically told us that we were welcome to come back – if we ditched Jennifer!! Now, even if you are a bandleader, hiring and firing a member HAS to be discussed
with the rest of the band and, although we all liked Jennifer as a person, we took the decision to let her go. Now firing an arsehole is easy. In fact, it's a pleasure, especially to see the back of a musician who causes problems, but this
was going to be very difficult. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in a band (apart from trying to copy Simon Phillips' drumming in certain Toto songs). I can vividly remember calling Jennifer and breaking it to her as
gently as I possible could. It didn't help, she was devastated. She thought everything was OK. Although we had talked to her many times about holding notes and breathing properly when singing, she was still under the impression that nothing
was wrong. I can remember walking around Sukhumvit soi 33 after that phone call in a daze. In fact, I must of looked so bad that, after stopping in at one of the bars there, one of the girls asked me what was wrong and, after telling her, she
then promptly asked the French owner if he could buy me a drink – which he did. Amazing Thailand!!
After a while, the Irish pubs had decided to hire 2 Welsh singers at a cheaper price and the band ended up folding.
About a week later, I was contacted by an Aussie guitar player (who I met at a rehearsal studio a while back). He told me that his band had parted company with their rhythm section. I mentioned that myself and Ciccio were available and we
joined their band, Southern Cross. This band was a Classic Rock band, playing songs by The Beatles, Stones, Free, Clapton, Cream, The Who etc. The band had a great sound, but yes, you guessed it folks, there were already tensions in the band involving
their Kiwi singer (sorry Stick!) I remember a couple of months after joining the band that, after a rehearsal, we were all sitting outside the studio at CoCo Walk in Ratchatewi, admiring the view, which mostly consisted of very young hi-so Thais
(didn't spot Jayson or Korski among them though – ha!). These kids were literally between 15-20 years of age, ordering Johnny Walker at the bars – and getting served. Apparently, they tell their parents that they are going to a friend's
house (wearing respectable clothes), but carrying a sports bag containing short skirts, crop tops (for the girls) ridiculously tight drainpipe jeans for the guys (circa Metallica 1984) and stupendously huge sunglasses (at night!!!), which they
get changed into en route to CoCo Walk, and then get blind drunk.
Anyway, our then Kiwi singer slammed his hand on the table declaring "I'm only prepared to learn 1 song a week, and if venue managers want us to play longer then 1 hour, we will have to postpone the gig for a few months". I
don't think he understood that THEY tell YOU how long you play for, not the other way round. He unfortunately wouldn't budge on the issue and was promptly shown the door.
One evening, I was in Bangkok Beat (the old Absolute Bar), and got chatting with the house band's female singer, a Filipina with a big voice and an even bigger heart, a real diamond. She mentioned that the venue was looking for another
band and an audition date was set. We managed to get a very feisty Scots girl (Nicola) and a Canadian guy (Ray) to tackle the vocals. We passed the audition and all seemed to be going well until Nicola decided to screech the high notes she clearly
couldn't reach. This was pointed out to me by the management several times. As this was not my band, it was the guitar player's job to sit her down and talk to her. But there was no improvement. I felt at the time that a Classic Rock
band was not really right for that venue, which mainly had bands playing Top 40 stuff with a bit of Rock thrown in to keep the older mongers happy. The other problem of course was that Ray only wanted to come in as a temporary member, but still
tried to take over the song choices. Although he had a great voice (a bit like Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company and more recently, Queen fame) also had the annoying habit of standing on stage with his hands in his pockets and looking straight
at the lyric sheets, rather than the audience. Nicola also wasn't interested in singing songs in her vocal range, and tended to go for "guy" songs that were well out of her range.
Eventually, Nicola went back to the UK and Ray left the band after the New Year's Day 2010 gig at Nomads in Silom soi 4.
We continued our search for a new singer and, about 3 or 4 weeks ago, after a rehearsal, I had a craving for Indian food. The best way, I was told, was to drive from Ratchatewi to Sukhumvit, via Siam Paragon. So, after turning left, I noticed
that, although the road had barricades across it, cars were being allowed through. I must have driven 200 metres down it and noticed that it was getting thicker and thicker with red shirts. After about 5-10 minutes I found myself stuck. There
was a big truck in front of me, clearly stationary. I could not move forward, reverse or turn round. There were people banging makeshift drums with sticks, motorbikes parked up, people lying on the floor and lots of shouting through PA systems.
These people were clearly NOT happy. What the hell was I going to do? A farang encroaching into an area that had been clearly occupied by red shirts. I opened the door, slowly got out of my truck and hoped for the best……
This really is a very nice series indeed!