At the end of the last Writers’ Group meeting I was told that every month they produce a short piece each (up to about 1000 words) on a theme and the latest was ‘the reunion’. So here’s mine…
Well, I know I said it’d never happen, but one day you’re a cocky bugger fêted by music journalists across the Western world and the next you wake up on your fiftieth birthday wondering where the last twenty years went.
I’d been at some friend of a friend’s party and Dave, the drummer, was there; I don’t know if he knew someone or had just blagged his way in. But that put me, well, both of us really, in a bit of a bind. ‘Cos you face the prospect of pretending you don’t know he’s there (which makes you look like a complete dickhead) or engaging in an awkward conversation (which, being English blokes, is excruciating – you’d rather put your head down the toilet than seek out that kind of social interaction). Or, and this is the favoured option, acknowledging him with a nod which is intended to be seen by as many other people as possible so they can stop bleeding well gossiping about you both.
There was a girl there that I was chatting to – yeah ‘to’, not ‘up’; she was only about twenty and didn’t know me from Adam – and when she heard I’d been in a band she only goes and digs him out of the crowd and pushes him over to me, asking if we’d ever met. Dave’s rolling his eyes and indicating that she’s not the smartest cookie in the packet, so of course I said ‘no, who is he?’
We then had a brilliant hour or so, playing on her innocence, pretending not to know each other while she’s asking questions about our other band members. I told her that my drummer was a semi-literate ape with all the creative talent of a dead sheep while he said that his guitarist was a spaced-out junkie who can barely string two words together. So, in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, we broached the sensitive subjects of his terrible solo album and my period of phenomenal drug abuse that ultimately ended the band. For the record, we agreed that our respective lead singers were tasteless narcissists and our bass players were both under-rated musicians who just happened to be bi-polar psychopaths.
We ended up ditching the party and the girl – actually I think she wandered off because we were ignoring her – and went back to Dave’s gaff for a cuppa (yeah, woo, rock and roll). Turns out his sister had died – car accident – a couple of years ago. I felt terrible ‘cos she was a lovely lass and I hadn’t heard. But he had heard about my parents (cancer and heart attack) but hadn’t known if I wanted to hear from him, or for him to go to the funerals. I told him he always was a soft sod, of course I would’ve wanted him there. But I understood why he was reluctant; in my worst days of druggie hell I was a vicious, opinionated tosser who had empathy for no-one and sympathy for no-one but me.
We sat there, in his unremarkable kitchen, with two mis-matched mugs of tea. And we cried. I don’t think I’ve ever cried in front of a mate before, apart from family funerals and, you know, when Wigan won the FA Cup.
So it got us thinking about who we are now and who we were then, back when we were playing together. Turns out not only have I got clean, but Dave isn’t the cultural wasteland we always thought he was; he only went a got a bloody degree in Music History. I mean, OK, it’s not actually composing or anything, but you should hear his critique of African rhythmic influences on early jazz. ‘So, hang on,’ we thought, ‘if we’ve changed, what about Seb and Tez?’
Turns out our psychotic bassist was now a chilled-out session and club musician – with a bloody vineyard in France. And Seb was, as far as we could see, still Seb. He’d been on some reality TV show on ITV2 or something, not even Channel 5. I didn’t watch it and he left after a couple of weeks. I don’t know if he was voted out or just walked away – probably even odds on both options ‘cos firstly he’s an acquired taste and secondly he’s a law unto himself. Which made us wonder whether he’d even consider the possibility of getting the band back together, even if for just some private jamming.
In the end it was Tez that made the surprising phone call to me; Seb had been staying at his French gaff for a few weeks during the past couple of summers and, having heard that me and Dave were knocking about Manchester together, they wondered whether we would be willing to have ‘a bit of a reunion’. I think Seb’s finances are not great so maybe the prospect of a sell-out reunion tour wasn’t looking like the great betrayal of his principles that he always said it would be.
So before we knew it we were heading out to some practice rooms near Chester. We all arrived separately but, incredibly, within an hour of the pre-arranged time, which was completely unheard of – we used to be able to miss meeting times by weeks, never mind minutes. We dumped our gear and then went to the pub because the first rule of overcoming awkwardness is to have a pint. Except I’m on apple juice these days and Tez has wine and Dave prefers a well-aged whisky. I can’t remember what the hell Seb drinks now; probably virgin goat’s milk and royal jelly smoothie.
By the time we got back to the practice room and got set up it was gone midnight but we used to produce our best sessions in that timeless dark hole between one and five in the morning. We’d nearly finished tuning up when Dave started pounding out a beat. Tez joined in with a distinctive groove and suddenly we were into the first song we’d played together in two decades. The last time on stage we couldn’t bear to look at each other. But this was how it always should have been; four mates, a bit greyer and balder and fatter but together and grinning like idiots. Except, after twenty bloody years, we weren’t idiots any more.