SOME are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them over a few beers in an Irish bar.
Well, not exactly greatness, more the role of manager for a band and the fact they are unknown to all but a select few readers of this blog – including band members themselves – suggests great seriously overplays my ability in the role.
The Mighty Badger was – and, geography, childhood issues and opportunity allowing, still is on fleeting occasions – a band producing some unique takes on well-known songs.
My first contact with them came shortly after moving to Cardiff as one of my first housemates – most notable for taping hour after hour of Jerry Springer to watch endlessly over the weekends and wearing a range of novelty animal slippers – would head off once a week to play guitar in a band.
My stay there was brief (there is only so much time you spend in your bedroom trying to drown out shouts of “Jerry, Jerry” from the main room TV), but a move across town and switch of jobs later, it came out that the new colleague leaning against the bar with me had been introduced when he popped round to visit my former flatmate.
A little more chatting and a few more beers revealed another of my new colleagues and a couple of the guys who had just joined our group of drinkers made up the band our Jerry Springer-loving guitarist had since left.
Over a considerable number of more beers across the following months, many of them in The City Arms, friendships were formed and my next move across Cardiff was into the drummer’s spare room.
As tended to be the case, one Saturday night found us in Dempsey’s, one of our revolving rota of different venues once we had moved on from our City Arms early evening meeting place.
And over the top of a table crowded with pint glasses came the question: “Why don’t you manage us?”
Quite what, apart from the contents of those now empty glasses, persuaded them my particular brand of no musical talent, complete ignorance of how these things worked and total lack of organisational skills made me the right person for the job, doubt even they could tell you.
But, for a while there, my role as fourth Badger (never officially been culled, but as the four of us now all live well apart, there’s not much call for that job to be revisited) involved a lot of ferrying and lugging gear around, arranging gigs (not enough of that), buying band drinks during gigs (way too much of that), persuading the landlord we were worth paying (and then handing most of if back over the bar) and sorting out the sound.
That last job was (drink buying apart) my key role at gigs and involved a crash course in twiddling knobs to see what worked (helped by a quick tutorial from one gig goer which basically resulted in me shifting amps a few inches and cranking the master knob up until the threat of bleeding ears became a reality).
Move around the gig listening in various spots, making occasional tweaks to the levels and somehow people assumed it wasn’t just guesswork – which it generally was, given that most of the tweaks involved turning everything up as loud as possible to counteract the drummer’s insistence on smacking everything at full whack.
Once the sound was vaguely passable – or everyone was drunk enough not to care – it was time to stand back, enjoy the gig and watch the reactions of those who had never borne witness to The Mighty Badger in full flow.
Nodding heads would be replaced by quizzical looks and swift conversations. Were they really listening to Lionel Richie’s Hello, the theme for Minder or Through The Barricades by Spandau Ballet played at full volume and flat out?
Generally, they were pretty well received once people realised exactly what was going on and we even branched out on a couple of tours – Nottingham, Skegness and Boston – alongside Truck (or Shit Truck as they preferred not to be called).
The essence of rock ‘n’ roll is surely sleeping in a car outside a venue in Skegness after watching a sizeable pre-gig crowd disappear along with the landlord to watch Stiff Little Fingers.
As I said, Badger sightings are fleeting nowadays, but they remain captured for posterity after a night in a studio to record the three-track Dirty Bristow EP. Sure some survive somewhere (we had boxes full of them), but we certainly shifted a fair few.
The tracks, Son of A Preacher Man apart, wouldn’t have been my choice from their repertoire and it doesn’t quite capture the live energy, but it also included Through The Barricades and Born To Run, which popped up in the latest short section through my iPod from NWA to Billy Bragg.
We also stumbled across Springsteen’s original – judge for yourself who does the “1-2-3-4” better – Born To A Family by The Go-Betweens and The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel, whose music first really entered my world watching a pair of buskers in the harbour at St Ives as a child.
Born In 69 by Rocket From The Crypt captures one of those moments in time from when it popped up on a C90, just as we turned up a picturesque valley road en route to a skiing holiday.
And Bottle Rocket by The Go! Team sparks memories of a friend’s trip to hospital after a mid-gig coming together with their bass player.
We’ll come back to that one, but let’s just say there was not much sympathy in the office when news of the incident came through.