It was the Time of the Trilby. It was usual then, on walking into a club, to spot a sprinkling of trilby hats around the room. How fashions and times have changed. In those far off days I loved to hear the old timers going on about turns “getting up” four or five times in the evening, and the old dance band drummer taking his kit to the gig on the tram. But I’m not sure whether to believe the variety artiste who claimed to have been the first to mime to records with a wind up gramophone strapped to his back.
Looking back over more than 50 years of clubgoing there were certain topics of concern at different times, and some which still persist today. There was “clipping”, when the Concert Secretary drew more from the club than he paid the artiste, and pocketed the difference, a practice which has almost died out now that agents and “no pick ups” are involved. But not too long ago I came across a Con Sec taking a cut from his resident musicians, and certainly most, if not all, of the committee knew all about it. That place is gone now.
When smoke machines first put in an appearance some groups went over the top using them, obliging many clubs to bar their use. On the other hand, excessive noise has been a headache for clubs for many years. With groups competing with each other to possess the most powerful amps and the biggest speakers the problems have been getting worse. Many punters don’t seem to mind, they like it loud, but the neighbours certainly do, and if they complain to the local authority it can cause some serious aggro. One quite intelligent girl described a club’s sound limiter to me as “the enemy”. She should have known better. It’s one of the things which keeps the club open and her in work. The redoubtable Dickie Briggs, Concert Chairman at the Titanic in Rawmarsh, had his own answer. “Turn it down lads” he said to a band. The twerps turned it up of course. He closed the curtains and fetched them off. I once wrote that a certain artiste’s backing tracks were over loud. Somehow he found my phone number and bent my ear for 40 minutes, letting me know I’d destroyed his career etc. Turned out he’d not bothered to do a sound check at the beginning of the night. I’m no fan of backing tracks, sometimes they are appropriate, but a pet hate are those with a vocal chorus in them. Singers should be seen as well as heard. Fraud I call it, like the guitarist in a trio, supposed to be playing, though his instrument wasn’t even plugged in, or the “”Keyboard Blaggers”, pretending to be playing while they’re really operating the lights. And elaborate light shows do not make an indifferent act a good one. I was once sitting with a well known agent who commented, “All those fancy lights, it’s like a fairground in here and not much sign of talent”. Have things changed for the better in fifty years ? I wonder..