Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Band are on, grab the FT! Bon Jovi, Hammersmith Odeon - 1990

The concept of Born with Bass was the idea of documenting my life through music. You can document a life in many ways I suppose. Nights out, trips to Tesco, holidays...but I wanted to share the bands I have seen and more importantly, the experiences I have had at the gigs I have been to. The people I met along the way provide stimulus for character and the two hours traffic of the stage supply entertainment enough surely? But I doubted myself and thought, 'Who really cares about the gigs I have been to?' and put the idea aside for a number of years. Until recently that is and a wise old owl said to me, 'But who are you writing it for?' That is a good question and one I am still not sure I know the answer to. Either way, I hope you enjoy reading Born with Bass- dedicated to my long time love affair with music.

My father took me to my first rock concert when I was nine years old. January 10th 1990 was the date and the band was Bon Jovi. Half way through the New Jersey Syndicate Tour (a lengthy affair which led to the band's hiatus in 1991), this was a charity gig in aid of the Nordoff Robbin's Foundation. Of course all of this went over my head; I was nine years old. But I did own all of the Bon Jovi VHS and my battered tennis racket is testament to the fact, I wanted to play guitar in a rock n' roll band.  

I knew the words and the air guitar chords off by heart. I was mesmerised by the shaggy mops of hair and the different faces in the crowds. It was a completely new world to me, one far away from north-west Kent and what it had to offer. I mean, in one of the videos (Livin' on a Prayer), Jon Bon Jovi flies. Actually flies. At the precise moment in time that the song kicks in (wooaaahhh were half way there..!) and the black and white video turns spectacularly to glorious technicolor, Jon Bon Jovi takes to the air and flies across the audience. This was the life and I wanted in.

I remember little of the train journey to London but I do remember we took a black cab from wherever we arrived to the destination, Hammersmith Odeon. I had never been in a black cab before and it was again a world of excitement and allure (why was there so much space? It's nothing like the Ford Escort...) We arrived, my Dad exchanged some notes with the driver and there it was in front of me, the rock n' roll venue. Now, I don't know how many people remember the Hammersmith Odeon, but it wasn't very rock n' roll at all. I was hoping for the stadium and arenas the Mr. Jovi had shown me in those videos. After all, he had seen a million faces and rocked them all, where were they all now? 

Hammersmith Odeon was an old sixties style cinema, more in need of a facelift than a night of unadulterated rock n' roll. Put it this way, the smaller, 'intimate gig' was lost on me at my tender age. I wanted pyrotechnics and strobe lighting. Still, there were BBC trucks surrounding the venue - there must be something worth filming right? I still to this day do not know why they were there, my Dad scoured the TV pages for months after the show to no avail. He even made me write a letter to them to find out if it was going on telly; I never received a reply. But it didn't matter, we were about to see the boys live.

So we got in and I was very concerned that this wasn't just going to be a recording of my heroes, as the Hammersmith Odeon seemed more suited to popcorn-throwing than rock star posturing. But what did I know? I was only nine. We found our seats, a stone's throw from the stage and sat down waiting patiently for the band to arrive.

When they finally did, it was to rapturous applause and noise I had never heard before. Girls were screaming, men were screaming, I was crying and couldn't quite believe Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, were literally a few feet away from me. They started off with an acoustic set but ripped through some 23 songs on the night, a number of them covers of old classics.  

Sadly at my tender age, cover songs of The Supremes and Dylan were a little lost on me, but it made the Jovi songs all the more special. It was around forty-five minutes in that the full band were introduced and went electric. Cue again, mad screaming with this time, a vivid fear rising through my body.

Now I was an oddly-shaped youth. Come to think of it, I am an oddly-shaped adult, but it was more accentuated then. A big lad, all arms and legs. I had massive hands and feet and my parents used to affectionately call me a Labrador puppy as I grew up. As the rabble rose, how I wish I had the reflexes of said puppy to sprint out of the seats and into the relative safety of somewhere quiet.

People at this juncture often say to me, 'Oh yeah, it must have been really loud at your age?' And yes, yes, it was really loud, like uncomfortably loud. However, it was the feeling that really affected me. Like Godzilla and King Kong were backstage having a tear-up, a feeling buzzed through the room, through my seat and through my soul. That ladies and gentleman, was bass.

I turned to my father, like a child frightened. What am I saying? I was a child frightened! It suddenly dawned on me, my mother was right. I was too young to go to a rock concert. My Dad looked at me and smiled and assured me all was fine. I wasn't reassured, I was scared. I felt surrounded by danger. And I guess this was it for me. Because the seed was planted and I had seen a life I had never witnessed before. I looked around at the joyous faces and I started to believe that everything would be all right. 'No Trevor! You are too young, your eardrums might BURST!' Oh my god, fear again. Will this night ever bloody end?

I looked again at my father. He was now reading a paper and smoking cigarettes, (this is no joke he actually sat there and read a paper). Then I felt a warming hand on my shoulder and turned around quick as a flash, to see a long-haired chap smiling down at me. 'It's ok, relax, enjoy yourself!' He had a look that suggested he had been exactly where I was before, he knew my pain. He too wondered once, why the music was so bloody loud! He calmly turned his attention back to the music and the gesticulating lead singer on stage.

I slowly began to remove my hands from my ears. It was an epiphany, a cacophony of noise and sounds that all somehow were beginning to make sense. Every fibre of my being was telling me to run, that this was not...sensible. But I was beginning to feel the warm, comforting hands of live rock n' roll and was in the process of being converted.

The rest of the gig was a bit of a blur. I am pretty sure the bassist at the time, Alec Jon Such, looked at me and smiled but apart from that it was just a beautiful din and I left the venue a sweaty, over-excited mess.

God only knows who that guy was. Maybe it was the human incarnation of the devil securing my move to the dark side, ensuring I chose eternal damnation instead of turning back to the comfort and safety of everything I knew. Whoever he was, I thank him. 

I learnt a few things from the show. The main thing was that I liked rock n' roll. I was terrified and attracted by the music in equal measure. It was like Stockholm Syndrome; I was intrigued and needed to learn more.

I have got to thank my Dad for taking me and getting me involved, God rest his soul. Most people thought he was mad to take his child to a rock n' roll concert, but he planted a seed (and yes it was only Bon Jovi, thankfully my music tastes have changed) and it was a start. As for the newspaper...I suppose I can forgive him. I am not many years from being dragged to some derivative, drivelly, pop pin-up myself. However, another thing I have learnt, is no matter how 'above' the music I am or how much of a cool Dad I want to be; I will be sure to leave the paper at home.