The School Band | Barry Kirsch
I was about fifteen when I formed my first band. It wasn’t an easy undertaking. King’s Canterbury, where I was a boarder was a highly regarded choir school with deep roots in classical and choral music, the school being located in and around the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. It wasn’t that I had absolute resistance, but it was only by using the entire armory of my fledgling diplomatic skills that I managed to negotiate one half afternoon a week to rehearse with the full band, under strict volume controls. After all, this was not a string quartet practicing, this was a pop group with all its dangerous and subversive implications!,
There were two obvious initial members of the band, me on lead guitar and Paul on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. We knew who the drummer should be, he was the only really talented drummer of all the he skin bashing hopefuls who wanted the gig. Phil was really a classy, deft drummer who was, in our group, by far the most proficient musician which eventually would give us a real edge and groove, but he also had some serious academic struggles that needed dedicated attention and massive pressure was required to eventually persuade him to join. So this left the question of the bass player. I knew who I wanted, he was a good harmony singer, but the only problem was he couldn’t play bass and didn’t have a bass guitar. But I knew he played a bit of trombone and knew his way around music so we made a deal. In the upcoming Easter holidays of one month, get a bass guitar, an amplifier and learn to play – at least enough to get started. And so, ‘Aftermath’ the Band was born. We thought this was a really great name until the Rolling Stones came out with their album title of the same name and we had to reinvent ourselves – today the new name escapes me, but the band was developing, practicing, playing holiday gigs at friends’ parties and even a couple of small local club gigs. My trusty Framus had been replaced by a Burns (strange choice, but I was in awe of Hank Marvin who was being sponsored by Burns and I hoped a bit of his genius might rub off). I also had a Fender twin reverb amp that was the envy of everyone in the know.
There was great rivalry between us and another band at the school. We were the original, tight, rehearsed poppy and vocal orientated band with our repertoire of Beach Boys and Chuck Berry standards. The other band was looser, heavy, disorganized, out of tune but they had that heavy
rawness that excited. They also had something else – a new device called a fuzz box which created distortion when a guitar played through it. This meant they sounded loud, earthy, wild rebellious. We were polished, in tune, convincing, entertaining. We also had the singular credentials of having played at the annual school dance with Benenden Girl’s School, where Princess Anne was boarding. She attended the dance, and graciously complemented us on our performance. We became legends overnight.
It was inevitable that the two rival school bands would have to eventually stage a live competition to settle the score of who was the better or at least better received. Our lobbying to the powers that be to allow this to happen in the school’s main auditorium finally received the go ahead. The hall was packed and there was tremendous support for this unlikely event. We were all just excited to be doing this at all. There was really no winner or loser. I think music won the day, our kind of music, infused with the spirit that made 60s England what it was.
Before I left King’s, an additional member joined the band as lead singer for the last year. A certain Oz Clarke, today one of the world’s great wine critics and connoisseurs. Back then however, we were just five teenagers with dreams, loving the fun, the adventure, the music, blissfully unaware of which way the wind might blow and which road we might eventually follow.
Sunny with Occasional Rain | Barry Kirsch
Sunny with Occasional Rain is a blog series written by BKP Media Group CEO, Barry Kirsch, highlighting moments from his intriguing career.