We sat excitedly at a table in the Dog and Parrot on Clayton Street in Newcastle upon Tyne, a pub and live venue we’d debuted at some 10 months previously. We were waiting for the A and R man from London Records.
This had come about as my guerrilla marketing skills had paid off. Noting all of the editors of the local music magazines – and at the time there were four of them in print – were men, I adopted a somewhat enticing-sounding female nom de plume and wrote reviews of our own gigs.
One of these was published in Paint it Red, a very popular magazine at the time.
This resulted in a phone call from the editor, who wanted more content from the fictional Adele Morris, and also one from the A and R department at London Records, who wanted a demo.
We sent off the demo and arranged to meet in the Dog and Parrot.
This was it, we thought. We were on our way. At this point it was twelve years since I first pretended to be in a band, and nine since my friends and I had started taking it seriously.
This was the fourth or fifth real incarnation, and though I’m very obviously biased, we were good.
I was annoyed with the drummer, because he hadn’t worn the shirt I’d asked him to. I wasn’t sure his army shirt – very The Clash – would properly reflect our image.
We waited, and waited.
One pint turned into two, and then into three. Over an hour and a half had passed since the allotted time.
We realised the A and R man from London Records wasn’t coming.
A couple of days later I received our demo tape back in the post. It was returned along with a scribbled note on the original cover letter, telling us they weren’t interested but they wished us luck.
At least they returned the tape.
Not long after that, we sacked the vocalist, the drummer left, and the guitarist and I decided to decamp to the Middle East to earn some money and work on our music.
It all sounds rather charming now.
The guitarist departed and, through his connections, quickly set himself up with a job and a flat. To save for the airfare, I got a temporary job as a data input clerk with a frozen food supplier. Doing this, I realised the last thing I wanted to do was to transfer one meaningless job in the dark, damp north-east of England, to another meaningless job in the air-conditioned confines of the United Arab Emirates.
I saw the temporary contract out for its full six months, saved up as much as I could, bought a one-way ticket and left for Australia via Thailand in September 1992. I was 25.
Before starting this miniseries of articles about being in bands, I wrote a list of the skills I use in my business and I advise others to pay attention to.
The ticks below show the only ones that were not used during my time in bands are legal (save the copyright notice on the demo tape) and contracts. We never got one.
Since starting the publishing side of our business, we have sold more books and CDs than we have could have realistically hoped to by being in a band.
Happy Valley and the Double Deckers, our pre-school and general English brands, contain so many influences and transferable skills I learned in bands with my friends.
Very little of the checklist below lists skills taught during my schooling.
In the band, the goal was often unclear, changed often and we learned on the job, as we had to, and we were self-motivated.
This is the way to work.
This is the way to learn.
Self organisation ✔
Vision Values ✔
Goal setting, measuring, refining ✔
Publish and be damned ✔
Being in your element ✔
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