The LIVE SOUND MIXING
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All Rights Reserved © 1994 Duncan R Fry
Where would bands be without country gigs? An opportunity to see the countryside, with first class accomodation supplied, and to be feted by appreciative audiences...NOT!
The reality was miles and miles of boring roads going nowhere, always running late, vehicles breaking down, sleeping in the car to save money, and playing to people who really were only there for the beer! No wonder that I rapidly gravitated to the production side of things and let some other poor bastard work out what on earth to play to keep the audience from throwing something.
Unlike in the Blues Brothers movie, in real life there was no chicken wire to be seen!
My first country gig as a musician was in the town of Jerilderie in New South Wales, and I should point out that timewise we're talking late Sixties here. A friend of the band came from there and had put our name forward when the locals were looking for a band to play at a Batchelors and Spinsters ball or something similar.
So, we bundled everything into two cars, and headed off to the bush.
I've never been back to Jerilderie since, but I can certainly remember the gig. I remember the amazing bright red/orange colour of the dirt alongside the road, and I also remember the bass player's car suddenly disappearing in a cloud of smoke in front of us.
It was a Simca Aronde, a quirky European import of dubious looks and even more dubious reliability.
You know how some cars are destined to be classics, and eagerly sought after by collectors? Well this wasn't one of those. It was a piece of shit! And what's more, now it was a piece of shit with a rooted engine. We towed it to the nearest town, and asked for help at the local service station. The mechanic came out to look, shook his head and said if we bought a gallon of petrol, he'd supply the match!
So, we unpacked it and put everything into the other car, a Vanguard Six station wagon owned by the singer's mother. It too was an as-yet-undiscovered classic, and likely to remain so for the forseeable future!
The singer was fond of saying that the car had been designed by Pininfarina, the Italian exoticar designer, but in all honesty if he had actually done so then he was having a really off day! Still, at that moment, it had a very large point in its favour - it would go!
Somehow we we managed to squeeze everything into it. Drums - by pulling a skin off each drum we fitted them all inside each other, and they travelled in the front on the passengers' laps; bass amp, guitar amp, a 2 column PA system from Macleans (we had lashed out and got the $5 super system with 3 mics, instread of the $4 one we normally rented).
And miraculously, we even managed to squeeze the four of us in! Even though one person had to travel lying flat on top of the bass amp, nose jammed up against the roof!
It was an interesting trip, to say the least. We had to take turns lying on the bass bin, as such a travelling position became rather claustrophobic after a while.
Still, we eventually got to Jerilderie. Our friend was there to welcome us with open arms, and who introduced us as a really big band from Melbourne. So, since we were running late after the car swap, we set up straight away and the gig got underway.
We played our normal sets, the ones that we'd play at Melbourne gigs, and the audience seemed quite happy despite the material being real mod stuff.
During the night some of the local lads came up to us and said how much they liked the band. Thanks, we replied.
That wasn't all, though. They shuffled about a bit, and then one of them stepped forward. It seemed the boys had a request.
"Can youse play 'Release Me'?" he asked.
We were aghast. Us, The Rave, a cool hip mod band (or so we fancied) with Union Jack shirts, boots and paisley flared pants, a downunder combination of The Who and the Small Faces with a bit of Otis Redding thrown in for some soul, play something like Release Me, the first hit for Engelbert Humperdinck? Back in Melbourne you'd be ostracized for life if word got out that you even vaguely knew the chords for that song.
So we turned to the guy and said 'no mate, can't play it.'
He looked rather unimpressed with this and went back to his cohorts. We could hear them all muttering as he said no, they say they can't play it. After some more discussion amongst themselves, during which black looks were flashed in our direction, he came back over to us.
"We've been talking about it," he grunted. "Either youse play Release Me or we'll job yer!" and he waved a meaty fist in our faces.
We were unfamiliar with the verb to be jobbed, but we got the distinct impression that it wouldn't be anything that we'd be able to walk away from with all our teeth!
So that is how four ultra hip young mods came to be up on stage warbling away the most appalling cover version of Release Me imaginable. Not through liking the song, or believing that we could do a better job than ol