Luke was with us almost from the off, a trumpet playing maestro who hardly ever missed a gig and uniquely, remained a part of the furniture until the very end. Butwhen the bearded elfin hippie first walked into the stale smoke, sweat infused rehearsal room we’d hired; we had scant idea of his calibre or indeed of his catalogue.
Up until 1992 I had only ever been in original outfits, always trying to write the perfect pop song, always searching for a record deal. We were signed to an independent label back in’85 and put out two singles, an exciting time, but barely a soupcon of the major industry. The pinnacle of that foray was touring nightclubs miming to the singles and signing record sleeves and photographs given away to eager grasping hands, keen on a freebie, some of which ended up on the dance floor. This endeavour faded away to nothing, yet we soldiered on.
It was my Brother Terry, my on off bass player for an eternity, who suggested that we form a covers band after my last original line up went their separate ways. Together with a mutual friend Paul, a guitarist of some rigid ability, and James a drummer from the Watford scene we’d known for years, we booked a block of time in Basement studios with the idea of polishing a bunch of 60’s Soul tunes on the back of the hit film The Commitments. The thought of actually earning a few bob for our efforts was the main catalyst driving this bus, for it would be quite novel to get paid to play for a change.
Soul music had remained quite a distance from me, a white cracker who’d grown up listening to The Eagles, Elton John and Rod Stewart before I discovered Punk Rock, and some of the artists that Paul was proposing, I’d never heard of yet alone attempted to imitate, but for some strange reason both he and Terry had the upmost confidence that I could pull off a worthy rendition or two. It was going to stretch my capabilities as well as my vocal chords.
James knew a keyboard player, Nick, an astonishing, available, multi instrumentalist, a natural musician with a computer brain who could pick up and emulate any tune you threw at him, he also sang BV’s, a bonus.
Nick knew a Sax player, Rowan, who knew Luke from a big band they were in. and thus the first line-up was complete, seven Watford lads, who sounded remarkably okay.
Luke wasn’t a boastful fella, he revealed his mighty past achievements in small unassumed bites, like that fact that was in The Boomtown Rats and had played at Live Aid, and that he had recorded with every, I mean every major British pop artist in the 1980’s who’d had a horn section on their recordings. That brilliant classic ‘Breakout’by Swing out sister, he’s on that. He’s played with The Bee Gee’s, Peter Gabriel, Everything but the girl, Phil Collins, The Style Council, the list goes on. You’d be sitting in the van on the way to a gig and he’d be contemplatively listening to the radio and he’d quietly say “Hmm, I think I played on that.” And it would be a massive hit record. He’d chuckle his little goofy laugh and drift off to somewhere in the past. Luke had the astonishing ability to be able to tell what key a song was in just by listening to it; apparently the tone of middle C was imbedded in him and he had perfect pitch. I’m at the other end of that scale; tunes have to be steamrollered into me.
In those early days I drove an apple green Bedford Midi van; it was big enough to get the whole kit and caboodle in, including the band. Three of us could sit in the front if one was prepared to perch on the engine housing between the two front seats, sans seatbelt of course, illegal and dangerous, but warm to the buttocks. The other four would squeeze in the back with the gear, an uncomfortable ride but it made sense for a way of getting everybody to venues on time and economically advantageous, for some of the band members didn’t actually drive, Luke included.
One summer evening we were on our way to The Roadhouse in Covent Garden, a popular nightclub that hosted live music most nights of the week and extorted its customers with inflated drink prices. The pay was poor, the parking a nightmare and the staff were resentful that we got paid at all, but we did get a free meal, a crate of beer and it was a prestigious venue to showcase the band to potential clients who seemed keen to have a night out in the Smoke, a good feed and a chance to strut their wonky stuff on the packed dance floor. We secured many a wedding booking that way.
Circling Swiss Cottage on the Finchley Road, (for those of you who don’t know Swiss Cottage, it’s an elongated island of tall buildings ringed by a one way system of five lane traffic), the windows were down and the brass players and me were enjoying some laughs in the front. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the road and realised a little late that I was in the wrong lane to go on to central London, so indicated and pulled over to the right, un-detecting a detective in his patrol car in my blind spot who sounded his horn, braking sharply to allow me to pull in front of him.
I held my hand out of the window in apology at the very same time as Rowan and Luke were cracking up at some unrelated joke, they had no idea that I’d almost just refurbished a police car. Unfortunately I laughed as well, which had the copper thinking that I found the incident funny, and being a London rozzer, he wasn’t having anyone take the piss out of him.
Pulling along side me, his bitter faced shaven head was steaming, he hollered out of his lowered window “Oi, pull over!” pointing aggressively towards the curb.
Dread went through my heart, I get nervous around policemen at the best of times, but I knew that I shouldn’t have three people in the front, definitely not have four in the back, and I had a worn tyre on the rear as well, he was gonna throw the book at me.
He parked in front of me and burst out of the door tight lipped and arteries bulging in his neck. He was square jawed, ripped and looked like he enjoyed batten charges.
At the same time a police Land Rover came out of nowhere and sandwiched us in at the rear. That officer got out and came round to my passenger side.
I stepped out on to the road to a torrent of abuse from the maniac in front who was more than a little upset, calling me every name under the sun obviously trying to provoke me into retaliating just so he could have a reason to slam me into the side of the van and rearrange my freakishly good looks. I wasn’t playing ball, while he was effing and blinding and worse ( I mean are officers allowed to talk to people like that?), all I could think of was getting to the gig on time, and praying that he wouldn’t look in the back. So I placated him with overtly meek yes Sir’s, and no Sir’s, and sorry’s until he had nowhere else to go.
Meanwhile Luke, seemingly because he was wearing an African Kufi hat, an outrageously coloured shirt, and had a ponytail, apparently appeared high on the constabulary’s drug user radar, and had been removed from the van and wassimultaneously being frisked on the pavement.
Of course he had a small baggie of weed on him, possibly a sixteenth; just enough for a few smokes, but the harmless free spirited little fella looked bewildered as to why this was happening at all.
They arrested him right there, cuffed him as well, and frog marched him back to the Land Rover. I couldn’t believe it. The bone head came back to me totally smug with his conquest, yet still threatening, I expected that I was going to be made to abandon the vehicle on the side of the heinously busy road and have to accompany the officer back to the station as well, but all he venomously said was “You’re one musician short, go on F— off!”
How pleasant. I didn’t have to be told twice; I got in the van and waited for him to leave before cautiously heading off in the same direction towards gig, late and contemplating the thin brass sound without my trumpet player.
Rowan, who is the full time ultimate anti establishmentarian, was seething at our treatment from the Old Bill. Although he sat buttoned up during the event, he raved all the way into the West End, but he did pull off a spectacular coup by ringing round and finding an available trumpet dep who could make it on time, amazing, he was good as well.
The police were rather unkind to poor old Mr Tumnus (as Rowan christened him), they kept him in a cell at Paddington Green until 2 a.m. Then let him go without charge, confiscating his pot of coarse, they were just being arseholes, scoring a softgoal, and probably finding it highly amusing. Luke had to walk to Euston station, catch the train back to Watford and then walk home from there. I think I actually got home before he did just as the sun was coming up. Why he never walked back to Covent Garden to get a lift with us remains a mystery, perhaps it was just his homing instinct following a trauma, he wasn’t very forth coming with his reasoning.
Anthony Randall is fifty-six and hails from Watford in Hertfordshire. He has resided in Tucson, Arizona and Bourlens, France, but now lives in sunny Dorset on the south coast of England by the sea. He has been a singer and song writer for nearly thirty years, recording and performing hundreds pop tunes all over the world. He wrote and self published his first novel ‘The English Sombrero’ with co-author Doug Goddard back in 2005, now released on Kindle and as a paperback through KDP. This book is the first of a four part saga about the trials and tribulations of Don Simmons, an extravagant millionaire who lends himself to some outrageous adventures and sticky situations. Book two ‘The Little White Ball’ see’s Don further his journey of enlightenment and is also available on Kindle and as a paperback. Book three ‘Choice’ is under construction, as is a Thriller entitled ‘Tip of the teaspoon’ and my own novel called ‘Tales of Tucson.’ You can discover more about Anthony on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here https://moms-favorite-reads.com/moms-authors/anthony-randall/
Check out our Free January 2019 magazine