The Three Malcolms

I tell a lie. There were a few more performances via rock ‘n’ roll / punk band Shattered Dolls. Goff and Lou took ‘living the life’ to excess. They were brothers, mad as a box of frogs and great fun. They would call round to my flat and say “We have a gig tomorrow. Will you come and play?” I would tell them that I didn’t know any of their songs. Their reply was always “Neither do we. We’ll get you mashed.” “OK - count me in”, I’d say. So I had a set list with the names of the songs and fast, slow or mid tempo next to them. We did some great gigs….or did we? We always got mashed before the show. Once we played a show somewhere in London. We were all in the back of an old transit van along with the equipment, and we were parked in an alleyway behind the gig. We had finished playing and had the van loaded when I noticed that Lou had the promoter against the wall by his throat. He was trying to stiff us with the money. The shaky promoter handed the cash over and ran back into the club. We all jumped into the back of the van and accelerated off up the alleyway just as an angry mob stormed out the back of the club and started chasing us. It was like a scene from an Indiana Jones film. We got a safe distance away when Lou suddenly shouted “Stop.” We screeched to a halt and Lou jumped out of the back. Now, not a lot of people know this, but when being chased by an angry mob, there is always one who is faster (not necessarily harder) than all the others. Lou, having realised this, flattened him a right hander, jumped in the back of the van and we screeched off again, all in the blink of an eye. The mob must have been only three foot from the door as we accelerated off. Lou was always entertaining. I hadn’t seen them for a few years, and I was sitting in my flat when the bell went. It was Lou. “Do you want a goat?” he said. “I live in a first floor flat. What the fuck would I want with a goat?” I pointed out. I asked where this goat was and he said “In my car”. So I looked out of the window and the goat was sitting in the back seat of an Austin Maxi, with the radio on.

In the summer of 86 Leon and I worked in a number of bars and eventually got entrusted with running a wine bar in sunny Aberystwyth. It was a beautiful bar on the quayside. The two of us, along with Paul Gibson, trundled off to Wales for a summer of madness in Paul’s Austin Princess with the keys to the wine bar firmly in our pocket. We opened the door, checked the place out….and had a few drinks. The next day, the cleaner turned up to find the three of us asleep on top of the bar. “Good morning. We’re the new management.” We found out that the regular clientele was in the 30-50 year bracket, an age alien to us. We realised that a quarter of the town’s population were students, so we set off on a mission to rid the place of old fogies and to get the students in. The Sex Pistols and The Clash played full blast soon solved this problem. We turned down many requests to lower the volume. In fact, it was our policy to turn the music up when a complaint came in - much to the amusement of the students who’d started to come in. The clientele soon changed.

For some bizarre reason, we told the locals that all of us were called Malcolm, and what a strange coincidence it was. Amazingly we kept it up for 2 months. The three Malcolms of Aberystwyth had arrived. We had a good summer. We were even extras in a movie about First World War Canadian soldiers, starring some bloke from Alien 3. Leon once walked the length of the high street inside a fridge / freezer cardboard box, stopping on the zebra crossing until the drivers left their cars to move it. Then he would run off like a version of frozen chicken. My brother Jimmy came down from Yorkshire one weekend in a minibus with 15 friends all wearing all-in-one Victorian stripy bathing costumes. They went out and hit the town, all still in their swimming attire. When they returned, some of them thought it would be a good idea to borrow a boat. They found an old rotted rowing boat and set sail up the estuary. Unbeknown to them, in deepest Wales, especially a seaside town, they don’t look upon this too kindly. So, at 2am there was this boat in the middle of the river with 5 drunken Yorkshire men in it, all in old fashioned bathing costumes, and a police van on either bank with searchlights and megaphones. “Come in. Come in”, the megaphones screeched. By now the rotted boat was taking in a lot of water. Ankle deep in sea water, the Yorkies (being good seafarers) decided to go down with their ship. All stood up rigid, their bodies in full salute, they slowly went down with their ship. We picked them up, still shivering, from the police station the next day.

We used to hold regular music nights with local bands and bands we would bring down from Liverpool on a petrol money / beer / somewhere to crash type of deal. I remember how Suicide Stars with their totally naked drummer, Stuart, always went down well with the old fogies we were trying to be rid of. My cousin Andor and his jazz band used to be frequent visitors. They would pitch tents in the beer garden, play a couple of sets over the weekend and busk on the high street in the afternoon. I would sometimes join them on bongos - my first taste of busking, and I liked it……

Throughout the next year, I went busking with Andor quite a lot. He had a boogie box he had made himself out of a car stereo, kick ass speakers and various motorbike batteries. We had drums, keyboard and bass on the backing tapes. Andor played a mean sax and I learnt percussion until my hands bled. We played jazz standards, bebop and a bit of Rolf Harris and called ourselves Malcolm and the Tree People after my Welsh name and a full size hollow tree that I kept in my flat, for emergencies. Because I had been in a band, I felt a bit weird about busking (musician’s ego and all that), so we solved this problem by busking with brown paper bags over our heads. We cut holes for the eyes and mouth and travelled the country. We played in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London; just about anywhere we knew someone would put us up for the night. We would sign on, tour the country for a fortnight then sign on again, making just enough for food, petrol and a night on the piss. Good simple times. Leon played with us in the early days on wobble board. We would always have a chair, kettle and a selection of cakes, and we would randomly pick out a pensioner, sit them down and give them a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake - all with the bags on our heads, of course. Once, in Liverpool, some kids started throwing bottles as us. We chased and caught one of them, unscrewed a bin on Bold Street, put the kid in it and screwed it up again so that just his face was showing where you put the litter. We kept him in there for 20 minutes while he put on a great show shouting abuse at us. It was like a busker’s Guantanamo Bay.

We got quite a few offers of gigs while busking and always turned up “fully bagged up”. We once got an offer from a university which wanted us for a ball. They said if we get a band together we would get £50 a person. So we rallied round and got a band together including four percussionists. The compere introduced us. The curtains came back and there we were - all nine of us in paper bags, and a very confused audience. “Anyone here from the dole?” Andor opened with…fucking priceless. It was thanks to the busking that I am doing what I do now. A guy called Dave Murrant who was the bass player with the European Boys, stopped and asked me to come down to the Ministry for an audition. So off came the bag. I passed the audition and joined a band again. Wide eyed and bagless!