Thursday, 8 November 2012

Singing in the shower – with purpose

Last night I spent several hours in the company of Mr Steve Pearce and Mr Ernest Ballard. That may sound like nothing special to you, but to me it was very special indeed: these are two of the people who inspired composite characters in my novel Rathbone Kydd - sex'n'drugs'n'quantum stuff (use THIS LINK for Amazon US) - available on Kindle from Amazon.

Between 1975 - 77, Steve, Ernie and I were four-fifths of a rock band named Wasp. We played in the south west of England – primarily in Exeter, Devon. We were massively popular – on a small local scale, that is – and had a following that transcended fashionistic boundaries: bikers, smoothies, hippies, yippies and a few oldies seemed to love us. Or, perhaps, they simply disliked us less than some of the alternative entertainment of the day ... 

Ernie Ballard, K J (Kevin) Bennett & Steve Pearce
Steve was lead guitarist. There was some kind of rift in the band that until last night I couldn’t recall, and he parted company from us. Apparently, on the advice of our manager – a con-man – we changed our name to Riot Squad and turned punk (musically, that is: the hair remained). Steve Pearce didn’t want to do that and, as I said, I couldn’t remember it, but it did happen, and Ernie has the demo tapes to prove it. We continued as a four-piece with the occasional guest guitarist.

Steve Pearce - posing as a
Native American chief
Steve and I met up again a few years back when he traced me via my previous website. I travelled to Plymouth and we went for a few drinks. It was great fun except for the kidney infection I’d just contracted that caused me to race off to the loo every ten minutes! Then we lost contact again for a while – my fault: I had a major computer crash and lost all my un-backed up data. But Steve tracked me down again and we’ve remained in e-mail contact for a while.

Kevin & Ernie - circa 1977
I hadn’t seen Ernie since early 1980 – almost 33 years ago! I was surprised to get an e-mail from him only a few weeks ago, completely out of the blue – again, he had tracked me down via the website and followed a link that took him to Steve’s pages. Ernie was the drummer – twice. He parted company with the band when three of us moved to London to become rock stars, but he rejoined us about a year later when he answered an advert in Melody Maker. Valdis, our bassist, insisted that Ernie audition along with several others. By this time, our longstanding guitarist Steve Major had left us and had been replaced by Aussie Paul and Scottish Andy. Ernie was the best so he got the job.

Ernest Ballard Esq
Steve Pearce and Ernie both now live in Plymouth: they only reacquainted themselves a few weeks ago. Steve plays in the rock duo Bountyhunter and Ernie has just left Cornish ska band, Rudi’sMessage, after a period of 12 years. I’m not sure if there’s a difference between Cornish ska and other types, but it probably has high cholesterol, like clotted cream and pasties.

I can honestly say that last night was magical. I haven’t laughed so much in years. Look at Ernie’s eyes in the photos: pure mischief. Although dressed in his suit and tie, I can attest to the fact that he is a true rock drummer who, over the past 30+ years has demonstrated that a drummer without a girlfriend is homeless! At least he owns a van and a sleeping bag.

Now the two of them are discussing the prospects of playing together again, and the subject of me doing a couple of rehearsals “just for old-time’s sake” was mentioned ... I haven’t sung with a band since I last saw Ernie in 1980. The only time I’ve sung in public since then was a disastrous karaoke session in Scotland in 2004, when I had difficulty fitting the words of Billy Idol’s White Wedding to the music. BUT, if I can locate some of the missing three octaves of what used to be my three-and-a-half octave range, I might just do it. Be warned, singing in the shower will resume forthwith.

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