When I saw local classic rock covers bands Blue Fuses and, later, Foulplay playing gigs at pubs in Egham and Staines on a Saturday night I started to realise that ‘looking like a hardnut’ helps a workaday rock muso, in their daily grind, to get through the concert without mishap.
For example, once you ‘come off stage’ gasping for a pint and maybe a smoke – you will need to stroll through an often hostile audience, whose temperament may be ill-disposed to you because you have done such a shite show.
In these circumstances, it pays if you don’t flounce through the bar-room wearing a one-piece pink shrug and nylon leotard looking like Darkness singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins. It also helps if you look a bit more authentic (auf-fentik) wearing, maybe, a sombre pair of dirty jeans and a plain T shirt, a bit of 24 hour old fungus on yer chops and a swagger that says, “do you want some, mate?” Obviously, if there are ladies at the venue, you are likely to get a drink from one of these admirers…but this will also invoke ill-feeling from the other alpha males in the room who will, naturally, suppose you are “out to get their birds” and give you ‘a good seeing to’.
All of these complications are far more exaggerated if you are playing a working man’s club or a drinkers boozer and all the punters at the establishment have an-inbuilt and overwhelming desire to “give you a good kicking” because you are a fairy, you are are other-worldy and arty-fart and you are a general neer-do-well.
So I have come up with a strategy for all you budding rockers out there who hope to get through to ‘last orders’ without having the contents of your nose splattered all over the flock wallpaper.
I hope this short lesson helps you to enjoy your concert safe in the knowledge and belief that you will be able to go out into the crowd for half-time drinks and puffs without fear of a bottle being cracked over your head or, at the very least, being ‘accidently’ tripped-up (ha! ha!) as you head back from the bar with a tray load of drinks for your bandmates.
Before I begin on Rock Hard 101, I do need to define ‘hardness’.
To the average British geezer a person who is ‘Rock Hard’ is anyone who can give a slap, if required, to a recalcitrant yob who jogs his arm ‘accidently’ as he passes. Or who can wink at a lay-dee but who also has the good grace to nod understandingly to the lay-dee’s bloke when he notices.
A ‘Rock Hard’ Fella can drink 2-3 pints in the ten-minute interval. He swaggers to the bog like a cross between John Wayne and Dr Dre and, upon entering said shite-house, he swings the door so violently that he almost takes it off the hinges. He rolls his own. He buys his own pints (and never drinks bottles of ‘poofy’ drinks like juice.) He wears a few livid battle scars on his face and/or arms. He looks like he can ‘handle himself’ in a bundle. He talks the talk and, far more importantly, he walks the walk.
It is best by starting out on this lesson by saying that long hair is a no-no. I know you like it and you need it long so that you can headbang – but most of the gents in the quintessential British boozer either have NO HAIR or have No. 1 cuts.
Their attitude is that any man who has long hair is either 1) a hippy or 2) gay. They also have firm opinions about the cleanliness of long hair… so Bob Marley would not be welcome (notwithstanding his general ‘hardness’.) Neither would Who vocalist Roger Daltrey during his ‘Tommy’ days because he looked like a girl with a frothy head of golden bubbles. Although, Roger would be more welcome nowadays because he has almost gone bald.
[Who- Frothy head of bubbles not welcome!]
The Kinks circa 1970 would not be considered rock hard because of their long hippy hair. But, far worse, their clothes scream-out ‘dirty student scrounger’ and so they would not be welcomed. Neither do you want your clothes to mark you out as some kind of intellectual ‘arty-farty’ prat.
So Booker T. & the M.G.’s would not be welcome in any Middlesex public bar and neither would Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Your choice of clothes should either be a) understated and similar to the clientele’s own George at Asda-type choice or b) way over the top and military in attitude.
The circa 1966 Yardbirds would be very welcome because their style is understated (their hair could do with a wash and a cut though) as long as they left Eric Clapton at home- because he often looked like a bit of a hippy. Nowadays Eric looks a bit too ‘posh’ and so would be given a few smacks just for being ‘a rich city banker’ or words to that effect.
In the early 1970’s the band Slade looked the part too. In those days, before glam, glitter, top hats and stupid heels, this band looked like what they were… a bunch of Midlands hard-nuts with a grudge to settle. In those days you would offer to buy them a drink if they strolled into your bar, not just because you wanted to get ‘in’ with the lads but because you feared for your own safety if you did not.
[Slade- buy them a drink- or else!]
Noel Jones (lead singer with Blue Fuses) wore a sensible Black Pudding T-shirt to his recent Staines Working Mans club gig the other month. Last Saturday, at the Crown Egham, Noel chose to wear a sensible footie shirt. Another good choice. It is what I call a ‘camoflage’ clothing. If all the punters and punteresses in the pub are football fans you need to blend in.
Obviously, a good knowledge of soccer is also required – or you could make an almighty blunder. However, I have also seen Noel wearing a Cradle of Filth T-shirt in the past and this kind of shirt would be strictly a no-no in the saloon bar at The Crown. Not only has this type of T-shirt got witchcraft connotations, it also says ‘I am a weird beard and I need my head to be kicked in’ to all the regular drinkers.
So here are a few simple rules about your choice of shirt. a) never wear pink (too poofy); b) never wear sleeveless shirts unless you are a hip-hop star or a rapper (too poofy); c) never wear a ‘funny’T shirt (they won’t get the joke).
Fat bastards, on the whole, look mean and aggressive …but…all the geezers in the pub know that they can ‘take you’ easily because you are out of condition. They like to quote Michael Caine in Get Carter ‘You are a big boy, I know, but you’re out of condition, one hit and you’re down’. Plus, the downside of being ‘comfortably built’ is that you are less attractive to the lay-dees. So, although Meat Loaf is one big tough slab of meat, he would not be welcome in my pub on the corner because he is a fat git with long hair and stupid ill-fitting pink-hemmed suit.
However, Buster Bloodvessel aka Doug Trendle is just a normal beer-drinking fat bloke who wears sensible clothes and has got a ‘boiled head’ (i.e. a boiled egg in the place of a head of hair.) So it is how you make your fat-bosy work for you that counts. Mama Cass Elliot would also have been very welcome in The Wheatsheaf & Pigeon Staines any time because she is just a normal fat bird with everyday jumble-sale clothes and a big appetite.
Neither Billy Gibbons nor Dusty Hill from ZZ Top would be welcome in my local because they both look like Santa Claus on his night off. Your choice of facial hair should not be too gay (Freddie) or too outrageous (Frank Zappa). Frank may well have looked like a mean sonofabitch back in the day but your eyes would keep being drawn back to the dead hamsters beneath his beady eyes. In the end you would just have to ‘give him a good kicking’ because of his ‘stupid poncy tash’.
It is best to keep your choice of facial hair to a minimum. Stubble is great (remember how masculine everyone thought George Michael was back in his Wham! days with his face full of stubble?) Full-on face covering, beards (like The Beach Boys in 15 Big Ones ) make you look scary and killer-like (think Charles Manson) or, much, much worse … think Rolf Harris.
[Beach Boys- killer beards?]
Your swagger as you cross the bar is more important than anything else you do. If you sway across the room in a pink dress teetering on vertiginous high-heels and you look like that bloke Rob Davis out of Mud then – in all likelihood – you will get your face kicked in.
But you can pull this swagger off if you look like David Daniel “Dee” Snider (out of Twisted Sister) because, although you are wearing a frock and make-up, you actually look like a Polish scaffolder on his night off… and as if you mean business.
Lemmy (out of motorhead) is a man’s man. Warts, Nazi clothing, grizzled features, swagger, worn out thin build and a F*** You attitude.
He is the personification of Rock Hard.
- © Neil_Mach November 2008-