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Long way to the top

Long way to the top

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Saturday night 4th October Surrey, St Mary’s Hall Byfleet. At the last moment, the kids start pouring in. The smooth blues music of our support band “Buzet Blues” named after a French wine, is wafting into the cool autumn night. But the band the kids are coming in to see, is a local Rock ‘n’ Roll band called, “Tearaway.”

A band of their peers, their school mates. The four young guys are all local and all aged 14. Oz the wild drummer, Steve the Irish country boy on Bass, born to be a rock star. John, my son and the reason I am out front taking the entry money, checking the tickets. Ready to work the magic on his purple left-handed Squire Fender. And Dan the brilliant lead guitarist. There would be other nights and other concerts. But St Mary’s was the first ‘Big Gig.’ In a packed sweaty hall of kids. The Gig, “Rocking for Darfur,” was in aid of ‘Kids for Kids,’ a charity that helped the children of the Sudan. So it was a win win situation.

I just wanted John to be better at Maths. To be better at school. So we went looking for a guitar teacher. I found Joe online and living on his Dad’s houseboat, floating on the Basingstoke canal. Joe was an intense young man, still chasing his dream of a being a working musician. He’d just started waiting tables in an upmarket Italian restaurant in West Byfleet. But music was his life and teaching guitar put some extra bread on the table.

In the smoky, gypsy styled houseboat we discussed payment for the lessons. I said John was left-handed but I’d get a right-handed guitar, as that surely had to be the way to go. Joe would have none of it and flatly refused to teach him, unless he was using a left-handed guitar. Impressed, I agreed as soon as we had a guitar, the lessons would commence. I bought one online via eBay. And John started his lessons.

Steve turned up at John’s school one day and they clicked. John’s Irish links melded with Steve’s. Steve was looking for a band, so they set out to create one.

Oz was pulled in as the drummer and they were nearly ready to rock. Oz’s Dad, was giving Dan electric guitar lessons. So it was a no brainer to stick them all together in a band.

The first time I heard them play was at Moseley youth club. To see the name of their band, on a poster, was a big heart stopping Dad moment. The first couple of bands where guitar loud and squeaky voiced. They also spent an age fiddling with their instruments and cables. I was dreading my son’s band being just as bad. But wham bam, they rocked the house. John sang ‘Ace of Spades’. Then Steve’s version of ‘Pretty Vacant’, which was very punk-raw and very violent, shocked me. ‘Born to be Wild’ brought the house down. Dan’s guitar strumming and Oz’s drumming hammered the music together.

The screaming adoring crowd consisted of about 12 people and their kids and dogs. Plus the youth club personal. It was a big hall but they had a big sound and they kicked ass. The crowd for what it was, went wild.

Next day, Oz’s Dad asked, “What next.” The boys wanted to play a gig for their mates. We all agreed they ought to play a local gig in Byfleet. I went all Bob Geldof and said, “Let’s do a big charity gig. Show me, the fuggin money,”

So it was a done deal. Oz’s Dad would handle the music setup. I would handle the charity, hall, and tickets.

So how on earth do you create a charity Gig from scratch? First you panic a lot. Then you Google. I found a charity we could get behind, “Kids for Kids,” helping kids in Sudan. Collecting money and then buying goats and sending them to Sudan.

With the charity sorted I went with the big message everybody could get behind, “Rocking for Darfur.” Then with Johns help, we created a poster with some Devil worship looking Lemmy goat’s heads. We just hoped the clergy who ran the hall we booked in Byfleet, wouldn’t notice and pass it off, as just rock ‘n’ roll.

Tickets would always be a nightmare. The little shits would forge them if they could. It’s second nature. But I had a master plan. Forge proof tickets. One of my many jobs, included working for the first ICANN registrar in the UK.

ICANN control the domains that run the internet. My company registered domain names by the thousand. And I made sure everything was registered as it should. In those early ‘Wild West Internet’ times, I was the man. If somebody could convince me their domain had been stolen or misappropriated. I could snap it straight back. Back then, there was no million dollar a minute, “Domain Dispute Resolution Service.” Just me, working out of a tiny office in West Byfleet. I was, “Judge Roy Bean,” on the Wild West Net frontier.

Part of the work generated thousands of registered domain names, printed on reams of A4 paper. My eco-friendly plan was to create tickets on the blank side. One side had the Gig details and ticket price, the back was covered in domain names. Turning the ticket over would confirm if it was a valid or a forgery. Simple.

Next up was a budget for Cola & Sweets, lots of surgery sweets. To get the kids bouncing off the walls. Security was provided by John’s brother and his three mates. Dressed all in white, like enforcers for a hard line christian sect. They looked the part. Steve’s mom, dad and sisters and even his granny would work the shop.

The band meanwhile were practicing four nights a week in the black arts of, Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was about this time, someone pointed out, if the Gig started at 8pm and ended at 11pm, it would mean the band would be playing 3 hours without a break.

We tried to get other bands, but to no avail. All these fucking bands practicing away in their bedrooms. But too scared to get up on stage. Like a scene from Top Gun, with Maverick, as he backed off from a dog-fight. “No, Uh… It’s not good.” No, it’s never good or the right time for the bedroom Hendrix wannabes.

A friend’s son decided to do us a favour. They turned down a paid pub Gig to come and play for charity. Buzet Blues were on the bill. The gig, as it was panning out, was Buzet Blues playing for 30 minutes, 30 minutes break and then the Tearaway boys playing for 2 hours.

Shit, could they play that long. We were in the land of, nobody knew what the fuck they were doing. This was their first real Gig and we would be asking them to play 2 hours of Rock.

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Would anybody turn up? Had we fucked up not getting some support in?

I had joked with John about , when he made it as a rock star. If he could handle the music, then I promised to keep the groupies away. At 14 years of age this seemed like a pretty reasonable deal.

Their first band name was “Phrostbite” which morphed into, “Bizarre Grannies.” This may have been influenced by my story of, “Granny’s Intentions” One of the first big Blues/Rock ‘n’ Roll bands to come out of Limerick and head for the big smoke of Londinium. When they promptly evaporated, the next band that tried it, were more successful. A band called Thin Lizzy.

Tearaway appeared on stage and started to rock and the kids started screaming. They played 2 hours of hard solid rock and the kids got their money’s worth. Tearaway were on their way to local stardom. Legends in their own lunch time. The boys became a feature on the Surrey youth scene but never, ever, after that night, played for more than 30 minutes. And always on a bill with about 6 bands.

With their new front man Jordan. They played some amazing gigs in youth clubs up and down Surrey. They played Woking, Chertsey and Guildford Festival. Their morph suits turned their act, into a type of Ziggy Rock Theatre. But that gig, that October night in St Mary’s, when they played pure Rock ‘n’ Roll for nearly 2hrs straight, to an audience of their peers, has to be one of the experiences of any dad’s lifetime. They were 14 years of age for Christ sake and they fucking rocked. Luckily, “Tearaway Byfleet,” have been somewhat immortalised, with clips on YouTube.

There was to be no happy ending. No manager or record producer came slinking out of the smoky shadows to sign them up. The band broke up.

But, they know now folks, it’s harder than it looks, there’s a long way to the top, if ya wanna rock ‘n’ roll.

To see Tearaway’s biggest gig then watch it here.

Cover image courtesy of Misha Moloksher via Flickr

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