# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Flatmates - Part 15 (Continued)

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Flatmates - Part 15 (Continued)


Chapter 29: He had a whisky drink, he had a lager drink… In Bristol a recuperated Joel joined the tour again, having seen a doctor and rested for several days. After a welcome night in our own beds

Chapter 29: He had a whisky drink, he had a lager drink… In Bristol a recuperated Joel joined the tour again, having seen a doctor and rested for several days. After a welcome night in our own beds we set off for London and a headlining show at ULU, The University of London Union. ULU holds about 600 and the gig was sold out. Our management had been cultivating interest in The Flatmates all through the tour and we knew that there was likely to be a full compliment of A&R men in the audience, quite possibly making up their minds on the strength of tonight’s show, so the previous night’s stay in our home town of Bristol was a welcome opportunity to top up on morale. With the bands profile high we were also expecting writers from the 3 weekly music papers, NME, Melody Maker and the now defunct Sounds. This was to have been another Subway showcase with Choo Choo Train and The Grove Farm supporting us. Strangely The Corn Dollies had been booked to play that night as well and shortly after they arrived we found ourselves in a four sided argument about where on the bill The Corn Dollies should be playing. Whilst they were of the opinion that they should be beneath us, the 3 Subway bands were of the opinion that they should be on first - if at all. Most of the opinions in The Corn Dollies camp seemed to be coming from their drummer, whose contribution was only stifled by the intervention of Big D. Coop and whatever passes in the Mid West for "would you care to step outside and discuss that further my friend?" The Corn Dollies problem resolved, The Flatmates finished the soundcheck and went about filling the next 4 hours or so until we were due to play. As well as the weekly music press there were a number of fanzines who wanted to do interviews at the ULU gig. I’d also managed to get a few fanzines and smaller magazines interested in interviewing Choo Choo Train. For the next 4 hours I shuttled between minding Choo Choo Train’s interviews and joining various other members of the Flatmates for interviews. Having regularly played London we had now gathered quite a regular hardcore of fans who would come along to the London shows. We tried to see as many of those as we could before the show, even helping one or two of them climb across the drop outside our dressing room window and get them into the otherwise sold out gig. Most of them would come up and say hi either before or after the gig and despite becoming familiar faces would only be known by the identifying tags we gave them. One such was Mike Oliver, a regular from the early days who had the sartorial misfortune to have worn a Viz Comics "Billy The Fish" T-Shirt the first time we met him. He was, and still is, referred to as Billy The Fish. It was only a stroke of luck that prevented him from wearing a T-Shirt featuring other great Viz characters such as Johnny Fartpants or Norbert Colon, or he would still be known by those names. With the meeting and greeting and stream of interviews going on, nobody had noticed what Tim was up to. We can only judge by looking at the rider and subtracting what was left but, he appeared to have virtually single handedly drunken most of the rider of 24 cans of strong lager and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the 4 hours between soundcheck and show time. I arrived back at the dressing room only about 5 minutes before we were due on stage, just in time to get changed. It was Joel who pulled me aside and hissed "We’ve got a problem with Tim". This is when we really needed our German customs guard. Iz a problem indeed. Rarely has the expression "legless" been used with such accuracy to describe someone in a state of intoxication. The dressing rooms at ULU are located a floor below the stage, which is accessed via two short flights of stairs. Tim had difficulty in climbing the stairs and several times stumbled over his guitar lead or strap. Tim had increasingly found a taste for drink on the tour. Myself, Joel, Debbie and Jackie would all drink on tour, but I had become much more moderate after my lost 45 minutes in Chieveley services and I know that Joel and Deb had once or twice had one too much and appreciated when to stop. Certainly a pint or two relaxed you a bit, but too many and you could screw up, making not only yourself but the rest of the band look stupid. Maybe Tim just hadn’t got the measure of when to stop when presented with copious quantities of free drink, or maybe he just didn’t care about either himself or the rest of us. When Tim walked on stage he was visibly staggering and needed several attempts to plug his guitar in. Tim was only meant to contribute the occasional backing vocal, but when we started playing he just walked up to his microphone and sang Deb’s lead vocal. Fortunately ULU’s in house sound engineer had gathered that this wasn’t in the script and had turned Tim’s microphone completely down. This left Tim standing at the front of the stage mouthing the lyrics to a bemused audience and left us exchanging nervous glances behind his back. Tim’s guitar wasn’t even approximately in tune, and if it had been when he left the dressing room he’d fallen over with it several times since then. At the end of the first song Tim took a couple of steps back from the microphone stand and wrapped his guitar cable round his ankles. As he fell backwards he grabbed hold of the mike stand and brought it crashing down on top of him. A couple of ULU’s stage crew picked him and the mike stand back up. The rest of us stood around, either staring at him in disbelief or at the floor or just twiddling with our guitars. Without passing comment Deb launched us into the second song. As well as being wildly out of tune Tim couldn’t even play the songs properly and was oblivious to the fact that his vocals were completely turned down. I hope that the sound engineer had turned his guitar down as well, but on stage we could all hear his amp quite clearly. Sarah’s amps, both the original AC30 and a Peavey bass amp she later acquired had never been over powerful so she relied on the PA for amplification. Jackie, despite having a monstrous guitar amp also played at a reasonable volume. Joel liked a lot of guitar in his drum monitor and this required my guitar amp to be no louder than was necessary for my own use. From the time Tim joined us I could often hear his guitar as loud as my own despite him being on the opposite side of the stage. Tim liked playing loudly on stage. At the end of the second song I decided that somebody had to do something about Tim. From the look on his face he was having the time of his life. It had simply been my intention to point out to him that the rest of us were not enjoying his antics as much as he was. I walked from one side of the stage, behind Deb, to the other side of the stage and having done so tried to be as discrete as possible. "For God’s sake Tim, pull yourself together" I muttered to him. He looked up and without saying anything, reached behind him, picked up a glass of Jack Daniels from on top of his amp, and threw its contents into my face. Although I was by this point incredibly pissed of with him, it was a reflex to having something thrown in my eyes that made me throw the punch that connected squarely with the middle of Tim’s face. The Jack Daniels was still stinging my eyes when I opened them to see Tim lying flat on his back on the ULU stage. Behind me 600 people in unison went "Oooooooooh". The front 3 rows started chanting "Fight fight fight fight" like 9 year olds in the school playground. Tim picked himself up and stormed off stage. Seconds later he angrily stormed back on again and taking Deb’s microphone asked the audience "Well what would you do if someone called you a wanker to your face?" People often say that after receiving bad news they’re so stunned that they don’t hear the rest of what they’re being told. Tim’s explanation of his actions had caught me so off guard that I didn’t take in the details of the rest of his "resignation speech". Essentially it was that he’d spent the last 9 months or so with us and during that time we’d all been complete and utter bastards and that he was never ever going to play with us again. ‘Well that’s going to be a loss’ we must all have been thinking. Tim stormed off again. As he left the crowd started a chant "We want the wanker, we want the wanker, we want the wanker". Deb took charge of the situation, trying to make light of the fracas and introduced the next song. The 4 of us were so fired with adrenaline that we played the remaining 40 minutes of the set in about 30 minutes. Missing the second guitar I was left with a dilemma of what to play. On the older songs where I had played both lead and rhythm guitar in the studio I had only played rhythm after Tim joined. There were newer songs on which only Tim knew what he was playing. Halfway through a song, already completely panicked by what had happened I was having to decide what to play and whether I could make up a passable version of Tim’s guitar solo at a first attempt in front of 600 people. To make matters even more difficult I was having to do this under fire. Tim was now running around backstage looking for every abandoned beerglass he could find and hurling them at me from the wings of the stage. My brain was going berserk taking it all in going "Right, next 3 chord changes are D to G and back to D followed by… WARNING WARNING incoming beerglass at 3 0’clock, DIVE DIVE DIVE… Tim’s guitar solo that goes… NME photographer in front row, SMILE SMILE SMILE… beerglass at 10 foot and closing rapidly…GET THE F*%K OUT OF HERE NOW" It may have looked like a gig from the audience but up on stage it was a warzone. When we got off that stage we were all suffering degrees of Post Traumatic Stress. Several reporters from the weeklies had got backstage and wanted to know what had happened. Our manager Brian and his assistant Simon were backstage having watched the last year of hard work been pissed away by Tim. The atmosphere in The Flatmates dressing room was bleak. It was as if we’d just witnessed a horrific car crash. Our hopes and wishes and 3 years of work had effectively just been blindfolded and put in front of a firing squad. Tim was nowhere to be seen, not that we cared. One of the Groove Farm said that he was in their dressing room and that they’d take him back to Bristol. When we were leaving we saw him sitting in a bundle in the back of their van. I heard that Tim had a glorious black eye for some time after the gig, although I never had the satisfaction of seeing the result of my handiwork. About a week later we all got individual hand-written letters of apology from Tim where he conceded that I was possibly right to have done what I did. Putting it that way it sounds like it was intentional, although it was no more than a spontaneous reaction to having his drink thrown in my face when I was already extremely wound up. We had 2 more gigs to do on the tour so we stayed in London that night. I stayed at a friend’s house but I couldn’t sleep. I think it is still the worst night of my life. All I could do was keep asking myself why he did it. Was it Tim’s intention to wreck the most important gig we would ever play, or was it absolute, incredible stupidity?

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