My stint in club bands was very interesting but it took a toll on my psyche. It imposed the endless routine of similar travel, similar places, similar audiences and similar gigs playing mindless chart oriented, rubbish covers, over and over again. On the other hand, as a sideline, it was lucrative and gave me the money to buy equipment, instruments and transport. So it paid for itself. I bought my first ‘Flying V’, an instrument I still use today as my primary guitar, an Orange Graphic 120 and 2 Orange 4x12’s, from the proceeds. With that rig I could fill just about any venue we played. I also made a lot of good contacts along the way in terms of other musicians, agents venue owners etc..
The first club band I joined was called Midnight Hour and a nicer bunch of lads you couldn’t wish to meet. I am still in touch with some of the survivors now and have great affection for them. However, they did play a set composed of extremely middle of the road pop songs and standards and for someone who was used to working on the edge of the blues, heavy and progressive rock genre, it was a huge culture shock. A musician friend of mine once said ”every club musician knows exactly what the club audience wants, but they are too proud to give it them”. Midnight Hour did give it them and as a result it was extremely successful in term of audience response and bookings. It did give me an excellent work ethic. When I joined the band I had a week to learn the full set and rehearse it with the guys before we played our first gig; no pressure there then. I also started to see the audience as an entity needing to be fed rather than just laying material on them. Useful instruction.
After the newness had worn off of the situation and I started to catch my breath, it became apparent that we needed to update the material for the band’s set to cater for the currency of the pop material and also to play to the strengths of the band members, whilst keeping the interest for us all. I did gradually push the material along a more edgy and rock-oriented direction which altered the niche the band sat in and the venues gradually changed with it. The material we were playing was new and a little shocking to some of the Bingo loving audiences, but it did become standard for that type of venue within a few years. Even with this progress it was inevitable that eventually I would need a more formal vehicle and market for my writing.
I returned to the Pig’n’aif format in parallel to the band and when a replacement set of musicians with a different talent set came together, I left the club band and put the new outfit on the road. We still needed to earn money so the clubs became a primary target alongside the Pig’n’aif project and Diamond Jack was formed using some Pig’n’aif musicians and my good friend Barry from the old club band. Diamond Jack was a little more cutting edge but still went through regular and constant change. The cross fertilisation with the Pig’n’aif project musicians led to me working with a number of other bands in parallel and eventually led to the formation of Phoenix Rising. This gave me a welcome full-time return to my Heavy Rock roots, and another outlet for my writing. Of course, throughout this whole period I continued to do session work when I could get it.