Chapter 28.

When is a band, not a band?

Perhaps we need another quick search of the information superhighway so we can all agree on what we’re talking about first?

Band.

A group of people: a band of outlaws.

A group of animals.

A company of people having a common purpose; group:

(Music, other) a group of musicians playing either brass and percussion instruments only (brass band) or brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments (concert band or military band)

(Pop Music) a group of musicians who play popular music, jazz, etc, often for dancing.

(Music, other) a group of instrumentalists generally; orchestra

A company of persons, animals, or things acting or functioning together; aggregation: a band of protesters.

An orchestra composed chiefly of brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments.

A musical group of a specialized type: rock band.

A relatively small group of nomadic people who camp together and subsist by foraging.

Obviously that last definition is the one I most closely relate to and certainly the most befitting to describe a scaled-down version of Hightown Pirates that graced the stages of some wonderful, grass-roots festivals over the summer of 2017, thanks to the support of Gail from the Something Else Tea-tent crew. We did some gigs with the horn-section, some without which basically translates as we lost some money on some gigs and more money on others.

The album had been released on vinyl, the reviews, you’ve already read, and we were already on our third bassist. There was nothing wrong with the first, far from it, Mark just didn’t want to play live. Josh Walsh from the band, Lighthouse joined us for a few gigs so big shout to him too until the very capable, often remarkable, always spot-on basslines of Eddie Wilson now became part of our, wall of sound, sonic assault.

*Note to self.*

Remember to write a lyric about assaulting someone with redemption not hatred one day, it’ll be great.

We’d filmed a couple of cool videos, (Shouts to Martin Crew and Ollie Smith) had played numerous shows in London and Liverpool, some busy some, of the ‘not very’ busy variety. More songs had been written, further fueling the flames of belief/delusion that despite the somewhat ‘late’ start in the world of light entertainment, ‘we’ might just be the ultimate, rank outsider with a rocket up it’s collective behind, suddenly coming up on the rails and racing for the line, as if from nowhere.

A support slot with The Libertines in September did little to dampen my enthusiasm for all things ‘unlikely’ (lads) either. I bundled all this together in my head, as if I were mentally preparing to make some sort of musical summoning up speech in front of the naysayers and doubters, of which there were many. Nobody was listening so I wrote more songs, once again the other musicians took my raw material and made gold, which is always the best response anyway.

I was under the illusion that a fantastic review in a leading music magazine and other online publications, coupled with the enviable, if not a little painful at the time, backstory, plus the patronage of the good ship Albion to add to the cover art already provided by PD, just might turn a few heads and ears, our way.

On top of all that, the fact that Cass Browne, was currently occupying the drum-stool and was now smashing things loudly and outrageously brilliantly, and is one of the most respected purveyors of that kind of thing in the business, suggested to me that he too, thought ‘we’ might be onto ‘something’.

Here’s where it gets confusing again though, so I might need to pop over to the internet for a second, hang on.

Here we go, the definition of ‘something’.

Pronoun.

A thing that is unspecified or unknown.

So now we’ve cleared that up, I’ll continue.

Yeah, we were definitely onto something, but the problem was that the ‘unspecified’ bit, was more of an issue than the unknown bit.

I’m always up for a bit of the unknown, it’s exciting and very much in keeping with the ‘Pirate vibe of skullduggery and adventure and lets face it, also fits nicely into the narrative of the story that had begun while sat with Mick a few years ago.

“The tramp steamer, in contrast to the liner, operates without a schedule, going wherever required to deliver its cargoes. The tramp is a descendant of the early merchant ships whose masters (who were also their owners) loaded them with cargo at home to sell abroad, and vice versa.”

And which is, therefore, another useful definition from the internet and also one that, while poetic and of a nautical fashion, also kinda fails to specify a destination. If you’re the captain, surely you need to know where you’re going no?

If you were to ask any young band worth their (sea) salt, what they hoped to achieve, if the answer is not along the lines of either, being the biggest band on the planet or to write songs that we love that resonate with other people and give us the opportunity to behave badly on a fairly regular basis, and not be stacking shelves in supermarkets (I know, I’m obsessed) then quite frankly they should apply for a different career immediately. Maybe this is just my personal preference in such matters, I’ve always been impressed by ambition like that and I still am. The arrogance of youth is a crucial ingredient in this sordid industry, and certainly the response those charged with building careers in this particular cesspit, want to see some evidence of. Surely if you don’t believe in the songs you’re writing, it’s a bit much to expect anyone else to?

I’m fairly sure, that back in the olden days, when that band from Manchester who I briefly knew, sung something along the lines of not putting one’s life in the hands of,

A relatively small group of nomadic people who camp together and subsist by foraging.”

They were in fact, very much hoping that people would do so, because surely that’s the fucking point? At least for a few hours/days/weeks/months or even years when a distraction from our own miserable existence is required. Our job is totally, to take your life, for however long you need us to, and give it a hug, or a kiss or knee-trembler against a tree on Primrose Hill, or whatever, you can have it back anytime you want, but particularly for those times when, it’s all too much, we’re here. We’re IN and if we’re not, those supermarket shelves ain’t gonna stack themselves, are they?

Are you in or are you not? Because if you’re not, then go and listen to *avoids naming names* ‘cos they’re not really into it either, they’re just going through the motions these days as well.

Surely, along with every other piece of this unholy jigsaw that’s required, you really do have to “Mean it maaan” if you want to reach the “Toppermost of the Poppermost?”

*Point of interest*

Those last two references are a mashup of a ‘Pistols lyric and an expression used by the Beatles. If you didn’t know that already, I’m surprised you’ve got this far in my book, but thanks anyway for still being here. If you are still here, it’s hopefully because you are also ‘in’ as well, you get it right? This resonates because you too don’t hold back when emotions run wild. You don’t consider putting a caveat on the feelings generated by someone or even something, you’re falling in love with, do you?

That’s not what ‘we’ do is it?

So yeah Sally, while you’re waiting as I walk on by, I just need to mention that while I am very much in love with you, I will be retaining a bit of my emotional investment just in case things don’t work out further down the line.

Fuck that.

I guess what I’m trying to say, both to myself and indeed anyone else that’s got this far, is that I very much believed in what Hightown Pirates was about, irrespective of how ludicrous that may be. Which raises another question and one I’ve been trying to find an answer to for the last few pages, question being, what was/is this all about? The likelihood of our/my ‘commercial’ ambitions ever being realised, was almost nil, even If I didn’t want to admit it, I knew it, but I was also genuinely fueled by an authentic “We mean it man” as by anything else. I was ‘in’ neck fucking deep and certainly when we occasionally managed to get onstage, so was everyone else. The fact that other people were also driven by more than just bottled water and unbridled, unrealistic ambition, had never been a problem for me, until it became one and then it was.

For a while, I looked the other way, it’s not like this is a ‘recovery’ band anyway, nobody’s personal indulgences were in any way convincing me I was missing out, quite the opposite. Besides, the small festival gigs we did were fantastic, tents full of people clearly getting off on our songs, the gig with The Libertines in Portsmouth, also similarly received as were the final London gigs of the year, and the new songs were sounding as beautifully threatening and seductive as could be. So, it’s just about the songs and the story then, nothing wrong with the songs, everything was perfect in that department, but then more of my close friends started dying from addiction and I really, seriously started to question, exactly what this was all about after all, and that perhaps, the remaining chapters of the story, however many there might be, might also need to have a different theme.

A Hightown Pirate.