Writing an adventure story My seventh form art folio
- Being a rock star
- Looking cool
- Being a poet
- Being a playwright
- Being an academic
- Writing a novel
- Having a wildly successful blog
I can remember the exact spot at school where we came up with name for our band. The adjective came first, and it took about five metres for us to nuance the verb to perfection, and then we had it – somewhere between one end of the path that ran beside the staff car park and the other – that magical name: Perverted Thrust.
I think the “thrust” was inspired. It makes you laugh. It especially made you laugh if you saw Corran do his comedy thrust whenever he said that word; a pelvic maneuver that I think was inspired by the motion that Flashheart used to make in Blackadder whenever he said “woof!” but with an added absurd twitch.
The driving force of the band was Corran. He put us together for the Coca Cola Rockquest. He put the band together by telling people they were in it. He decided I was the singer. He decided another guy was the bass player. He knew someone who could play drums, and someone – other than himself – who could play guitar. He wrote the song, and he supplied the garage for us to practise in, and then he drilled us. He was tough. I think I was originally supposed to be on rhythm guitar but wasn’t up to snuff so was demoted (I think that is the right word) to lead singer and someone else was roped in on guitar. The bass player struggled nobly for weeks to discover a sense of timing and then Corran fired him and got Steve in. Steve wasn’t a bass player but he played the guitar and said he’d do it. His first rehearsal was our final rehearsal.
As it turned out Steve was not going to be the least rehearsed member of the band.
The night before our heat was the Seventh Form school ball at Southward’s Car Museum. This is a picture of me in my rented tux the evening of the big night. At that time we had actually moved to Wellington, and I was spending two hours each day commuting to and from school on the coast. On the night of the ball my mother booked us some rooms at a motel on the coast, and here I am in front of the motel room curtains. The tux is standard issue, but for a touch of class in 1990 sparkly, crinkly waistcoats or cumberbunds were all the rage. I got mine in a kind of purply-pink – the kind of thing you might wrap Turkish delight in.
I was neither Turkish, nor delightful.
As it turned out, going to the Seventh-Form ball was largely pointless exercise for me. I didn’t have a date, and I didn’t dance. I also didn’t go to any wild after-parties. We had better pass over this evening for another time, and move on to the next morning when I woke up in my motel room to some bad news. A telephone call from Corran told us that our drummer had decided to pull out.
If there was a single weak link in our band I knew it was the drummer. He was cool. No one else in the band was cool. You could see when we practised that he was just being polite to us. What he really wanted to be doing was hanging out with his cool mates. Of course it was the cool kid who did the most uncool thing.
We were desperate. I think my mother called the drummer’s mother and pleaded. He wouldn’t budge. So we called another guy we knew who played the drums. He said he would do it. We were teetering on the brink of farce, but it was exhilarating to pile in my mother’s car and drive to town. We met the drummer at the Town Hall. He had his drum sticks. Please bear in mind that he had never heard the song we were about to play. It is also useful to know that he was a speed metal fan, and we were attempting a rock ballad. We emphasised the words “rock” and “ballad” to him, and he nodded but he did a lot of nodding generally and I think it may have been coincidence.
The rhythm guitarist showed up in a leg cast. He had done something horrible to himself but he was enthusiastic. Steve was trying to remember the song. We sat down in the seats of the Town Hall and looked towards the fully lit and frighteningly equipped stage which seemed huge and serious. Our band name was called first and we got to our feet with great bravado. Throughout the darkened hall were scatterings of other groups and their supporters. Our name got a ragged cheer, and as we walked past the judges the guitarist for Chicago Smokeshop said, “Awesome name, guys”.
Walking onto a stage like that is sort of like walking around to the other side of the TV and looking at everyone sitting on the couch: it is quite a disorienting experience to see and not be part of the darkened, anonymous crowd. We took up our positions, and I suddenly realised why no one else had wanted to be the singer; I was the dickhead who had to stand right at the front with no instrument to hide behind and actually say something to the darkened mass. Luckily I had decided to wear something inconspicuous.
There was nothing to do now but set Perverted Thrust loose on the world.
It went something like this:
Corran began by picking some chords in a slow, melodic manner suggesting to the audience that we were about to launch into a rock ballad. After two bars of this the drummer unleashed himself at a furious tempo completely unrelated to what had come before. Steve, after playing his first note and realising that we were in serious trouble, stopped playing the bass and walked towards the drummer waving his hands like he was trying to bring in a plane to land. I understood the impulse but it probably didn’t inspire confidence in our prowess in the audience. The next cue was for the lead singer and the rhythm guitarist. I opened my mouth and the rhythm guitarist mashed his plaster cast down on his distortion foot pedal and unleashed a sheet of feedback that I strongly suspect caused vomiting in some sections of the audience. I was so alarmed I missed my cue for the first verse. Steve returned to his bass and doggedly attempted a bass line somewhere between the speed metal tempo of the drummer, and the lighter-waving, sing-along-ballad tempo of the guitarist.
The strange thing about this is that I felt calm and happy. Here I was, on stage in a ridiculous T-shirt, with a band that was spectacularly imploding all around me, and I was having a ball. I waited for the chorus to come around and I sang it. The song sort of began to come together (minus the drums of course, which never came together with anything but the thrash song in our drummer’s head), and soon enough we came to a shuddering, sphincter-clenchingly, horrible end.
There was almost no applause. I remember some brown kids in the front row looking at us with sort of disgust. I thanked the audience anyway and we went off stage. As I passed the MC he said, “what the hell did you guys have for breakfast?” I beamed at him like an idiot. We walked up the aisle through the audience and out into the light of the foyer.
We were elated. We recounted every disaster to each other with rising joy. Wandering towards Manners Mall later in the day another band past us, and I heard one of the boys in the band turn to another and say in a sort of hushed awe: “That’s Perverted Thrust”. My god, it was absolutely brilliant. If you look at the photo that was taken after our performance, the one at the top of the page, you will not see a bunch of dejected youths, you will see a group of very happy boys.
We had actually done it. It didn’t matter how bad it had been, we had gone through with it and been bonded by it. The Coca Cola Rockquest was a glorious failure that I built about fifteen years of being in bands and writing songs on top of.
Corran and Steve. Thanks man. It was awesome.