Blog 003 - My Citroen, two fifths of the Go Gos and a drum kit.
If you read Blog 002, you’ll know that in 1983 I was playing drums with Carlene Carter, Johnny Cash’s step daughter and wife of Nick Lowe. Following a couple of weeks rehearsal at Nomis Studios in Hammersmith, we played a warm up gig for Carlene’s upcoming European tour at the Brentford Red Lion - a well known but completely charmless, west London music venue.
This was my first ever professional gig as a drummer so it was a big moment for me, although to be honest Carlene’s material didn’t do much for me. It was a bit indie and a bit country and didn’t seem to have the best attributes of either genre. Our set went down fairly well though and there seemed to be a few people in the house who were fans of Carlene.
Afterwards as I started to pack up my drums, an American girl came up on stage and started talking to me. As a naive lad still living on a farm in Hampshire, I thought, ‘Ah, this must be one of those groupies I’ve heard so much about’ but then this girl started asking me about the size of my snare drum - which surprised me a bit. I did have an extra deep Pearl snare, but I’d never imagined that groupies would have the technical knowledge about such things! After a fairly brief and highly technical discussion about drums, the girl left the stage and one of the other members of the band came up to me and said ‘you know who you were talking to just now right?’. I said ‘no, no idea who she is’. He said ‘That’s Gina Schock - the drummer from the Go Gos!’. Saints alive, in 1982 the Go Gos had a number 1 album in the Billboard chart for six weeks - and the drummer had just walked on stage to talk to me! Albeit about my snare.
While I was wondering what the hell the drummer of a massively successful all girl group might be doing in a dive like the Brentford Red Lion, my bandmate explained that most of the Go Gos were at the gig - huh?. Then he explained that they were mates with Carlene. Ok…now it made some sense.
After we’d packed up the gear and I’d loaded my drums back into my car there was talk of us going back to hang out with the Go Gos at their swanky hotel in Kensington. That sounded like a mighty fine idea to me! My first ever pro gig, and I’m going back to a mega famous, all girl band’s hotel!
Then someone asked me if I could take a couple of the Go Gos back to the hotel with me. ‘Brilliant idea’ I thought until I remembered I drove a bloody Citroen Dyane. My very unsexy pale green Citroen was one of the cheapest, most economical cars around that would fit a drum kit in. It had a gear stick that looked like an umbrella handle poking out of the dashboard and it was hard to get from 1st to 2nd without grating the gears. The suspension was about as tight as a marshmallow filling and driving around felt more like sailing in choppy seas.
Nevertheless, a few minutes later, there I was, squeezing Belinda Carlisle onto another Go Go’s lap in the front passenger side of my Citroen. I’m not a hundred percent sure which the other Go Go was but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Jane Wiedlin, because if it had been, I’d probably never have let any one else ever sit on that seat again!
I’d love to say ‘and then we sped off to the Kensington Garden Hotel’ but with a drum kit and three adults in it, the Citroen, with an engine just a little bigger than most lawn mowers, crawled away from the kerb with the sound of grating gears - not helped much by the fact that Belinda’s right knee was partially blocking my access to the gear stick. I seem to remember that with three of us in the front, the windscreen steamed up and we had the sunroof up and the windows open so I could see where we were going. Fortunately, my two passengers had been drinking during the gig so were pretty giggly and seemed to think that this was all part of their quirky little British experience. They hadn’t been in the UK long, they were rehearsing in London for a short while (at Nomis of course - see Blog 2) and then off to record their third album Talk Show with producer, Martin Rushent (The Human League, The Stranglers, Buzzcocks).
At the hotel, there had been some big posh event going on and the bar was full of men mostly, dressed in dinner jackets and bow ties - and then there were the Go Gos, myself and a couple of other Carlene Carter band mates. The girls had the self confidence that comes with having a number one album in the US and selling millions of albums and were fun, a bit brash and very American. I could see the bar staff getting a bit uptight with them but the fact that the girls were ordering expensive bottles of champagne and tipping well helped to ease their pain. It was enjoyable to be getting glared at by the British stiffs in the posh suits as our crowd got louder and more rowdy as the night went on.
At about 3am, we pretty much had the bar to ourselves, apart from some fed up looking bar staff, but Gina noticed that one of the suited gentleman was still in the bar’s lounge area. This poor guy was in his 60s and asleep in a big comfy armchair. Gina said, ‘I’ve got a great idea - girls, come with me’. I often wonder what the fall out was from this next scenario!
Now Gina was a big fan of Polaroid cameras, she carried one everywhere with her and documented as much she could with those cool and unique photos. Off she strode to where the sleeping gent was in his chair. His head was flopped back on the back of the arm chair and his mouth open and he was softly snoring, his legs were wide apart. He was in a deep sleep.
‘Jane’, said Gina, ‘get down between his legs and pretend you’re giving him a blow job - Kathy and Belinda, sit either side of him on the arms of the chair, stroke him and make out that you are talking to him. Gina then took a photo from in front of the unsuspecting victim and. It was brilliant. With Jane on her knees between his legs and his head tilted back with mouth open and eyes closed, the man looked exactly like someone having an ecstatic moment in a public hotel lounge with three young women. I think even the bar staff cheered up at this point!
Gina’s brilliantly wicked idea though was to take two polaroids, one for her to keep, the other she slipped gently into the poor guy’s inside dinner jacket pocket. All this, and he never missed a wink of sleep!
I’ve always imagined the following morning when he’s taking a shower and his wife is checking his dinner jacket pockets before putting the suit aside to go to the dry cleaners. As he steps out of the shower, he’s startled by his wife standing in front of him holding up the photo up and saying, ‘would you care to explain this Gerald?!!!’.
I got to hang out with the Go Gos a few times while they were in London. One time I met them at a cafe in Hammersmith where they introduced me to to a good looking America friend of theirs called Rob. He turned out to be actor Rob Lowe - I had no idea who he was! Another time, I was in Carlene and Nice Lowe’s kitchen one morning and Kathy Valentine stumbled through the kitchen door appeared looking the worse for wear, closely followed by Clem Burke, Blondie’s drummer!
PS……you know you’ve made it when you’ve got your photo and a little article buried deep within the pages of the Basingstoke Gazette!