Ever have one of those days?
Warning; Before you read this I would just like to point out that this blog was written in fits of hysterical laughter. I find this very funny 20 years later. It wasn’t really the end. Just the beginning….
This was a seemingly straightforward sort of a day, but I didn’t know it was about to unleash one of those pivotal moments in my life – one which would send me skimming along and bouncing off walls, forcing me in a direction that was nothing like the one I was going in when I woke up that morning.
It was supposed to be a gig at a conference to an international audience of industry VIPs to propel my career into its next phase. It ended up being the end of my music career in Australia.
As we flew into Gold Coast I was thinking “Wow, I really am getting somewhere, someone out there must really like my music because I am just about to play to some of the most influential international people on my record label. This is it, Jan”.
I was very proud of the Tremble Album I was thoroughly convinced that everyone at that convention already loved it and when they saw me play live they would see just what a great live performer I am, and all would be plain sailing from there on. International distribution, critical acclaim, endless days touring and world-wide accolades. It was so easy, and I was living the dream.
On the flight with me from Melbourne that morning were Wayne Bell (Drums) and Martin Nightingale (Guitars). Warwick Hornby (Bass Guitar) was flying in from Sydney later that day. We were a little concerned that Warwick might be too late for sound check but we figured that it would be all right on the night. It always is isn’t it and any way hey I had lady luck on my side…
The Hotel was amazing. I thought that I was walking in to some sort of romance novel. Gentle fans waved at us we walked across the cool marble floors. White linen greeted us in our rooms. The view from mine was a white sand beach stretching for as far as the eye could see.
It was still early in the day so I decided to go for a swim. There were several pools and one of them was full of tropical fish. I was told by someone the fish kept dying and had to be replenished every few days. I did feel a little guilty every time a fish swam past and wondered “Who in their right mind would design a swimming pool which would kill fish for the sake of an experience?”
I have always thought of those poor fish as a metaphor for my experience that day. I was going to swim around in a flash pool for a few hours and then get replaced when I died on stage later that night.
I headed back to the hotel room to start focusing and getting ready for sound check.
The phone rang. It was a dear friend calling from Katikati, New Zealand with some sad news. My darling dog had been run over on State Highway 1 and they had found her rather gruesome remains in a clearing down a hill on the way home from work. The extraordinary thing about finding my dog in that particular clearing was that my friend would never look in the gully while driving but as the dog has been missing for the few days something made her pull over get out of the car and investigate. And yes it was my mongrel girl. That dog had accompanied me on many tours she was a first class BFD (Best Friend Dog) and even though everyone said she was really smelly, I always thought she was a star.
That was the story I was given that afternoon in my beautiful hotel room. When I put down the phone I cried my eyes out. (I made a decision to never have another dog, and never have.)
So after that call I made a call to the guy I was sort of seeing but not really seeing. Yes one of those “it’s complicated” romances. Before I got to the part about the dog I was told that he was seeing some one else and it was serious and that we were indeed ‘just friends’.
If any of your have ever been in this situation before, when you think one thing is happening in a relationship when in fact “he’s just not that in to you” – you will understand how painful that moment of realisation is. I made up my mind never to have another boyfriend from that day on as well. (That didn’t stick).
Two cruel blows in one afternoon, so there was nothing else for it really. There I was in a beautiful room, with a view and a mini bar, so I took it for a stroll.
4pm and it was time for sound check. As expected Warwick Hornby was going to miss sound check – not only that but he might not even make it in time for the show.
A couple of frantic calls to and forth to Warwick we found out that he would arrive on time but with only 5 minutes to spare so we wouldn’t have time for a quick rehearsal.
OK so all was not lost. However I don’t know if anyone realised that the singer (Yip me) was in a bit of a dark place, not coping with the death of the dog, a prize dumping and a few too many G & T’s. And then a few more.
Warwick came running in with his gear and set up just as we were about to go on.
Because Tremble had a lot of orchestration we decided to use backing tracks to enhance the sound. The piece of equipment we used to play these backing tracks was called a DAT machine and it was supposed to be infallible.
We started with the first song of the night which if I recall was called ‘Sneer’ which starts with an unaccompanied line… “Sorry but I can’t bear to be in the same room with you longer than necessary…
As I was singing this line I could see all the expectant faces in the audience and they were willing me to have a great gig. There were loads of the NZ team out there and they were really happy for me and I wasn’t going to disappoint.
And then the whole band kicked in….BOOM!
Martin Nightingale looked dismayed. His amp had blown some fuse or something that stopped it from working. It was basically a false start and we had to stand around like chumps while the equipment was fixed.
29 or so minutes later were back in action and we attempted the first song again.
All goes according to plan.
We get to the end of the song and I introduce the band and myself. But I couldn’t just say “Hi, it’s great to be here” could I? No I went to say “And that’s the band and just so you all know my dog was run over, squished on the side of the road, and I don’t expect any of you to under stand but it sucks and I am really bummed”,
That certainly went a long way to cheering every one up.
We head in to the second song, “Moons on Fire”. This song kicks in with percussion from the DAT player.
Wayne Bell pressed the go button and nothing happened. He kept on pressing go and nothing kept on happening.
Because we hadn’t expected the DAT player to stop working we hadn’t prepared for this eventuality. We had to play a whole set without the backing.
The songs would have worked just fine without the DAT tracks, however by this stage everyone was really thrown and we played a very loose set with me raving on like a loon about how life sucked, how rotten boys are and what a miserable sod I was.
The folks from Warner Music NZ and Australia were really hoping we would do a super performance, however when that looked highly unlikely some started faux stage diving to try and ramp up the energy.
But it was too late. The gig had turned to custard.
There are moments sometimes in show biz when you realise you have lost your audience. It’s like the eye contact disappears and the energy they were sending your way starts to fragment and every one starts turning away, trying to talk and look at any one as long as it isn’t tuning into you. It happens.
Except this wasn’t the day to be having one of those days. A smattering of mild, polite, sad applause and we were done. Like, really done.
Or as Wayne Bell said in a book about Rock and Roll touring stories, “And that was the end of Jan in Australia”.
That was the night I started thinking that perhaps the road to fame and glory was littered with dead fish and I was now one of them. It was then I started yearning to go home and sign up to a day job.
We went straight to the hotel bar. Wayne and Warwick both asked for a whisky.
“A single or a double?” the bar tender asked.