Roadie Reg dragged the speakers, amps and cables up onto the flat roof. Musically, he was tone deaf and about as creative as a plate of cold mince. He listened to hippy-dippy rock, had long lank hair and wore a Deep Purple tee-shirt, which all proved the point about his creativity. He wasn’t on the cusp of rock and pop stardom like me, or my fellow band members, but he was our mate. So we made him our road manager. Without the manager bit.
Being musicians and creatives, we didn’t do heavy lifting. Of course not, that was Roadie Reg’s role. And a neat alliteration.
I followed Reg up onto the roof with my bandmates. We plugged our guitars into the amps and laid down in the afternoon sun. As Reg hadn’t brought up the drums yet, Gary the drummer was still downstairs. He was watching Saturday afternoon TV, a cowboy series called Bonanza. Gary never had what it took to be a rock star.
Wayne, lead singer; Richard, lead guitarist and I, bass and vocals, laid on the roof in the summer sun with our shirts off. Reg did the things that roadies do, whatever that was. Gary watched TV. We had an hour before our show, plenty of time for a summer tan and a cheeky beer or two. Richard had smuggled up four cans of cheap ale in his guitar bag.
Reg suggested it might be a good idea to do a sound check. He was too serious, which is why he was the roadie (not manager) and we were the soon-to-be-mega-star musicians. Did you ever see John Lennon or Mick Jagger saying one-two, one-two into a mike?
While Reg set things up and Gary watched TV, we discussed the 3/4 beat, the E flat minor scale and classmate Susie Ford’s boobs. We decided to include Get Back by the Beatles in our set list for today. It was pretty easy to play which, on reflection, was the main criterion. We hadn’t ever got round to practicing it, but really, how hard could it be?
We looked up into the hazy sky from our rooftop position. The thin high clouds were wisps of white vapour across a light-blue sky, not a breath of wind disturbed the stillness. I passed the beer cans around and we drank the thin warm yellow liquid. It reminded me of something else. I chose not to share my observation with the others.
Chimes from an ice-cream van became louder as it turned into the street. It was playing a classical piece. I recognised the tune, but I didn’t know the title. Naturally.
“Anyone want an ice cream?” Gary’s dad bellowed up from the front garden.
We sat up. Did rock stars eat ice cream? We weren’t sure but to be on the safe side Wayne shouted down, “Yes please, Mr Day.”
He passed up four cones, a cold chocolate flake bar protruded from each swirl of soft white ice cream. We let Reg take a break before it melted.
Gary’s dad told us the tune from the ice cream van was Fur Elise by Beethoven and we might want to learn it.
“Beethoven needs to roll over,” Wayne said and the three of us doubled up in a fit of giggles.
Gary’s dad rolled his eyes and went back down the ladder. Reg looked at us, his face blank. Being a hippy-dippy, he didn’t understand Wayne’s clever musical allusion to Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry. It’s why Reg is the roadie and, most definitely, not the manager.
We soon had to move, the sun was burning our chalk-white hairless chests and the tar from the flat asphalt roof was melting. It had stuck to our backs. Reg brought the drums up while we wiped the sticky black gunge from each other’s backs with a handkerchief and spit.
Gary followed Reg up, full of enthusiasm about a cowboy called Hoss and Sheriff Coffee. The time was fast approaching when we would have to find a new drummer; someone cooler and with a better name. Gary — I ask you, what kind of rock-star name was that? We’d advertise for someone with a funky name like: Ringo, Ginger Baker or Keith Moon. Drummers needed great names to make up for having no musical ability whatsoever. I mean, all they did was bash things with a couple of sticks. And watch Bonanza.
It was time to start. We got up. I jumped in the air, hit an opening bass riff and landed legs apart, one arm waving like a broken windmill sail. Nothing. Not a sound aside from a car passing in the next street and two little kids splashing in a paddling pool two doors down. Reg hadn’t put the plug in.
Once fixed, we began our roof-top concert with Get Back. Or I did. Richard started with Proud Mary. We probably should have discussed it. Gary hadn’t noticed the conflict in song choice and was busy bashing the drums. Wayne put his hands on his hips and waited for us to sort it out. Our audience down below also waited. It consisted of three girls from school who fancied Wayne and next door’s dog who wouldn’t stop barking.
Richard and I compromised on Maggie May and we were off. Richard couldn’t do the lead guitar solo, it was difficult to be fair. We did some la-las instead. I don’t think anyone noticed. Or cared if I’m honest.
We played two more songs, more or less in tune. Gary’s mum came out into the front garden and stared up at us, a hand shielding her eyes from the low sun.
“Would you boys like some lemonade and ginger biscuits”
We looked at each other. That sounded pretty good. We delegated Roadie Reg to bring it up. Let’s face it, you didn’t see Paul McCartney or Keith Richards serving lemonade. It’s not just about the music, it’s the attitude too.
Reg went to climb down.
“Oh no boys, you’ll all need to come down.” Gary’s mum said.
We unplugged our guitars and clambered down the ladder. Gary’s mum carried five tall glasses on a tin tray with the reproduction print of a thatched cottage. Lemonade bubbles fizzed up from a single point near the bottom of each glass.
Gary’s mum sniffed the air. “Have you boys been drinking beer?”
“No, Mrs Day,” we said in unison, looking at the parched brown lawn beneath our feet.
She told us to stop being silly boys and sent Gary in to do his homework. Our first (and as it turned out, last) roof-top concert was over. Wayne, Richard, Reg and I went to the park to play football.
We made Reg the goalkeeper because he was useless at football. But he was our mate.