goodbye's too good a word

someone asked me the other day how many bands i'd been in. by the time i'd worked out an approximate answer they'd lost interest but it set me thinking about how all those bands had ended, or how my involvement with them had. and maybe why. too.

i'd also read simon's rather nice piece about moist, in which he refers to our (entirely amicable, i think) demise. he got it spot on, i think. we had run out of steam, weren't really coming up with any new material, just getting together before the monthly gig to make sure we had a vague idea of what we were going to do. andy, our irreplacable drummer, was also about to move out of london, so it was unlikely this situation would improve without a certain amount of commitment,

i remember before our penultimate gig simon, ralph and i were standing outside the fleapit. i was suggesting that maybe we should go in a more acoustic direction. this was a not entirely unselfish suggestion; i'd switched from electric to exclusively playing double bass, and with moist it really wasn't working out. the band was too loud for me to compete. when amplified excessively, the bass would sound horrible or inaudible and my playing would suffer as a result. and, i suggested, we should be more improvisational, a bit freer. but definitely quieter.

anyway, simon said that he was essentially interested in doing entirely the opposite thing; more electricity, more structure. maybe we should call it a day. so we decided we'd do a farewell gig and that would be it. it was all very quick and efficient. i was, i think, a little taken aback at the speed of it. we told andy when he turned up and he said something like 'oh alright. have you got a roll-up?'

drummers eh?

as simon says, we did go off in very different directions. so it was, i think, the right thing to do. having said that, we have played together since and it was brilliant. and it may happen again.

and i played electric bass. yeah, whatever.

it's potentially difficult to write about this kind of thing without upsetting people, but i've generally been lucky in that none of the breakups i've been in have really been nasty. in two cases, the bands kind of just stopped. we'd have a gig after which we just woudn't ever bother to get together again. lob's demise was like that. we'd done a few cds. they had airplay, nice reviews. our final cd made it to (wait for it) no 6 in the jazz fm cutting edge chart. the band had been going for about six years and had seemed to rejuvenate itself whenever someone left or joined. no-one had done either for some time, and after a period of really good stuff happening it had, a bit like moist, run out of steam. the last gig we did was a showcase music industry thing in nottingham. we were playing our cosmic beat driven improv epics in front of possibly 7 people (that's one more than was in the band). everyone else was in the tent outside listening to some gypsy band with a mad cimbalom player ripping it up. which is where we should have been too. we were not at our best and it was hard work. worst of all, as we came off the stage a very polite but insistent woman insisted that we had ten minutes left and we should go back on. we did, but the experience didn't raise our game.

the weird thing was we all had a really good time doing the gig and got on generally a lot better than we usually did. or so it seemed to me.

so we said goodbye to each other in the wee small hours at a service station in the middle of nowhere and never bothered to organise another rehearsal, gig or anything else. a few months passed and then one of us (possibly me) sent an email saying that unless anyone felt otherwise, they'd assume we'd broken up. and we all assumed we'd had. again, all of us have played together since, and some still do.

my favourite exit was not one of mine, but the guitarist in the first band i was in - the semi-legendary uncle lumpy and the fishdoctors. this guitarist had not fitted in fantastically well in the group either musically or socially, and proved whatever doubts we may have had about him at a charity gig (comic relief, in deal castle). he'd had some equipment problems. when these persisted, he became agitated, smashing his guitar on the stone floor, and chucking his effects pedals all over the place, resulting in a hail of bits of wood, strings, metal boxes and nine volt batteries. he then left the building,

to our credit we finished the song, rather like the band on the titanic. the applause may either have been muted or otherwise, i can't remember. then adrian, our drummer and wit, announced quietly, 'we are now a quartet'.

that's the way to do it.

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