When I was thirteen I joined my first ever proper band. We were called Special FX, later shortened to just FX because… well, I don’t really remember why but thank god we did, I mean, how much better is the abridged version? I seem to recall our fanbase tripling on the name change alone, by which I mean that the few school mates I had probably didn’t mercilessly take the piss when I told them about it. That isn’t to say that they didn’t take the piss at all, but the act of eventually stopping taking the piss is as close as a group of thirteen year old boys can get to expressing a liking for anything outside the norms of playing football and bragging about how many pubes they’ve each grown as you could hope for.
Special FX, later FX, was, shall we say, an interesting sonic experiment conducted by six, occasionally seven, kids who had very little in common musically at all. For example, I was really into Guns N Roses and Iron Maiden at the time and desperately wanted to be old enough to smoke Marlboro reds and drink Jack Daniels out of the bottle, which manifested itself in some cringeworthy attempts to try and to behave as if I was doing both. Eddie, the keyboardist, was the parish vicar’s son who was classically trained on piano and enjoyed the privilege of playing the church organ after hours. This formative experience obviously transferred itself to the band as Eddie’s Casio keyboard found itself jammed on the ‘organ’ setting and original compositions, without exception, very closely resembled a hymn or a funeral dirge depending on whether the song was major or minor.
Neil was the drummer. I was never quite sure of Neil’s musical tastes at the time but he definitely wasn’t into heavy metal and I seem to remember seeing him on non-uniform day wearing jeans with pictures of The Flintstones printed on them, which were very much in vogue in the late 80’s, so I’m guessing he was listening to cooler stuff than I was at the time. Neil was the first drummer I’d ever played along with and although we were all still learning our instruments and honing our skills, therefore not the most proficient group of musicians, one thing I can say about Neil is that he shared exactly the same temperament as almost every drummer I’ve played with since. What is it about affable, happy people that makes them want to twat things?
So, we’d meeting up in the front room of the vicarage every Saturday morning and practice carefully chosen covers that suited the venue, our age and experience, such as Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and Guns N Roses’ Paradise City, alongside original compositions with titles like ‘Teenage Rebel’ and, inspiringly, ‘Instrumental’. Listening to the few rehearsal tapes we made that still exist one thing stands out, which I missed at the time due to being too busy taking the band very, very, very seriously indeed, is how much of a laugh we were having (sometimes, quite deservedly, at my expense), at the vanguard of which was Neil.
Nearly thirty years later and Neil is still that good natured, good humoured and sociable person he was back in the late 80s when, being in a band with a thirteen year old me, he probably needed all those qualities most.