A-Z of Dead Man Singing: S

A-Z of Dead Man Singing: S

116 days ago

S is for Stirling University, which crops up in Dead Man Singing as part of the Dave ReMastered Band’s string of Scottish dates. I was a student at Stirling in the period covered by the book, and went to numerous gigs at the on-campus McRobert Theatre (the ‘McBob’), as well as other smaller student-run venues and the Albert Halls in the town centre.

My best musical memories from Stirling, however, come from Maisies. Maisies was a campus bar and bistro run by the Students’ Association, and on Sunday nights they held what was generally referred to as a folk night, but which was in reality a (mostly) acoustic play-whatever-you-want open-mic night (for a while there was a Japanese student who used to bring his electric guitar and shred for the duration of his allotted time, accompanied only by a drum machine. He’d usually end up standing on tables and leaping from one to the next as he played, much to the joy of the audience).

Highlights from my memory: A couple who often performed ‘Crash’ by the Primitives, and who I still think of whenever that song comes on the radio; guitarist Neil Winton, a Maisies regular, breaking into an impromtu trumpet solo performed across the top of an empty pint glass; Acid Pete’s freeform explorations of the battered Maisies piano (on one occasion he found himself pounding out an acoustic version of the theme from Doctor Who) which always eventually found their way round to his theme song, the title of which now escapes me but I seem to recall it was something to do with electric cheese. We used to take bets on how far into his 20 minutes it would take him to find his way there, and I wasn’t above shouting out for it when we were within my window of victory.

There was a healthy mixture of regulars and occasional performers and for a time I was somewhere between the two. Anyone who played got a free drink, so I took to bringing my African drum and harmonicas along. Most nights I could find a friend who was happy for me to accompany them after a quick rehearsal in the gents (‘the most tuneful pish I’ve ever had,’ as one passer-by commented) and secure me the coveted free pint. My first appearance came when Chris White decided to rope in an ensemble for a few tunes. After spending most of the set on my African drum, I got to cut loose on harmonica for the last number, Johnny B. Goode. Afterwards Dom, the resident folk penny whistle player – one of the most accomplished musicians in the Maisies crowd – came and asked me how I managed to bend the notes. Dom! Asking me for musical tips! It remains the second-best musical compliment I’ve ever received (the first was when some African students told me that I drummed like an African). Other performances of mine that I remember include a guitar and harmonica version of Clapton’s 'Wonderful Tonight', which just about worked, and a guitar and African drum version of 'In The Air Tonight', which was something of a triumph (from where I was standing, anyway. The audience may recall it differently, but unless you were there, you’ll have to take my word for it). There was also my debut as a vocalist, singing Richard Thompson’s ‘How Will I Ever Be Simple Again’. Let’s just say I was glad that I gave it a go, even if the audience might not share that point of view.

What regular local music nights to you remember with fondness?

 

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