More Planning

The week after the rehearsals, I received a call from Percy. He had managed to get hold of a telephone number for Steve Strong, our original drummer who I had been trying to contact since the middle of January. Percy had asked an old friend of ours, back in January, to find the number, but wires had got crossed and he didn’t follow it up. I rang the number that evening and spoke to Jan, his wife as Steve was out playing darts. After explaining who I was, I told her that I had been trying to find him for a couple of months. She said that Steve had seen the publicity in the South Wales Argus and wondered why we hadn’t contacted him.           

The next day, I rang Steve and said that I had been trying to get in touch with him, but nobody had his contact details. I explained what we were trying to do and he was very keen on taking part; we now had 3 drummers. The bad news was that Steve had missed the full rehearsals; however, the really good news was that he was playing in a gigging band and was match fit. A week later, and over 6 weeks since I had left a message with them, he was contacted by the Llantrisant Hotel and asked to contact me. At least it demonstrated that I had been trying to find him.

The gig was now just 6 weeks away, but we still had a lot to organise and get ready. The biggest concern that Andy and I faced was the absence of a definite PA system. Around this time, a member of the band that my son played in had left, along with the PA system, which he owned. I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and bought a Peavey PA system that my son could use in his band and would also be there for use at our gig if we couldn’t get anything else. It had 12 channels and was rated at 1200 watts, so I was hoping it would be adequate for the gig.

That was one big worry off our minds, the only ones left were minor things; or at least I thought them minor at the time. Over the next few weeks, things began to happen that made me think it was getting a bit silly and over the top for what we had initially planned.

On the 18th March 2013, I received an email saying:
Hi John,
My name is Sam Gummer and I am a born-and-bred Welshman from Newport, South Wales. I came across your story a few weeks ago and have been interested and intrigued by it and trying to track down more information ever since.
I am a filmmaker and avid music fan and would be interested in creating a short documentary about the band and your history, leading up to your reunion gig in April.
I feel your story has an inherent value and could serve to reminisce about the history, changes and music of the area, as well as your stories and memories from the time and your decision to reform the band for a reunion gig. I would greatly appreciate it if you could get in touch and we could discuss this further.

I contacted Sam and arranged to meet up at my house on the 28th March. After I spoke to him, I looked him up on the Internet and discovered he was a young student at the University of Wales in Newport. I must admit I had some worries as to how credible he was going to be, however, if he was prepared to travel to Northants from Newport I had to give him the benefit of my doubts.
Sam visited me and spent the best part of 5 hours chatting to him about what he wanted to do. He is a young Independent Film Maker and has just about finished his University course. He makes films for people and also does documentaries that he releases in various areas. Whilst he couldn’t promise he would get it on National TV, he was going to try and get it into festivals and maybe even regional TV. He thought the human interest behind the reunion was almost unique. A few famous bands may have had reunions, but we were a popular local band that was reforming with most of the original members, after over 45 years, to play a gig for charity.

He wanted, as much access to the band as possible, so I agreed that he could come to our mini practices and the final setup and rehearsal, the day before the gig. As well as doing the documentary he could also film the gig and produce a DVD. For the documentary, he wanted to interview everyone, individually to get perspectives of the band and the reunion. He wanted me to produce potted histories of each band member and a timeline of the band. After he had left, I thought to myself that he was a very impressive young man who should do extremely well in his field.
Phil James contacted me and asked if we wanted a riser, for the drums and keyboards, to be used on the stage. This would not only allow the drummers and keyboard player to be seen, it would also allow us to better position our guitar amplifiers, in other words, would give more room on stage. I thought it was a great idea, so said go ahead; never dreaming how big a job it was going to be. When I saw it, for the first time, on the day before we set up, it really looked impressive; Phil and his workers had done an excellent job.

Another good piece of news that came in was that the Cwmbran Working Men’s Club confirmed they would supply 2 doormen and that they would also pay for their services, thus saving us £80, which could go to the charity.
This was excellent; within a period of 10 days my 3 major concerns had been solved, or at least partially solved. Andy and I still had some concerns as to whether my PA would be able to cope with the demands of 13 musicians. Ian Day, a friend of Andy’s, had offered to bring his PA equipment along and also to do sound at the gig. With my PA as well, we should be ok for the gig.
A friend of mine contacted me and said he was ready to carry out some modifications to my Les Paul Standard guitar. I wanted a 2TEK® Bridge installed, to replace the normal Gibson Bridge and tailpiece. So what does this bridge do?  As their website explains:
‘The performance enhancements of the 2TEK® Bridge comes from individual string isolation coupled with maximum interaction between it and the natural resonance of the instrument body and neck materials. Each string saddle sits on its own individual ‘tonal finger’, which separates each string from the rest.

The result is improved individual note articulation, especially in complex chords and playing techniques. This isolation also allows each string to vibrate for a greater length of time producing superior sustain.  On a conventional bridge, all the saddles share the same bridge block or platform; as a consequence, when you strike a string the vibrations disperse in all directions. In fact, the adjacent saddles are typically in such close proximity that they allow vibrations to transmit to each another, often referred to as ‘crosstalk’, and this crosstalk is usually in conflict with the harmonic overtones of the originating string. 

With the 2TEK® Bridge, all strings are allowed to ring independently so clarity is enhanced because there is nothing to interfere with the true harmonic content and dynamic range of each note. This also allows the natural resonance of the guitar body and neck to come through which boosts tonal quality’.

Another friend of mine, Mike Hansen, was one of the owners of the 2TEK® company, and in 2006, he had sent me a 60th birthday present of a 2TEK® equipped Hamer Cruise Bass guitar. The 2TEK® Bridge certainly made the bass sound amazing and, having seen that Mike had fitted the bridge on various guitars, including a Gibson Les Paul, owned by a friend of his, the American singer guitarist, Vince Gill, I wanted to try it as well.

As Mike Hansen lived in the USA, the other friend, Mike Wright would carry out the bridge install in the UK. Mike had done a couple of his own guitars, so was ready to do mine. He said he would try and get it ready by the gig. As both people would be coming to the gig, I was really looking forward to playing the Les Paul and have Andy and Percy playing the Hamer bass. Having 2 guitars on stage in Wales that have been fitted with 2TEK® bridges must be a first, at least for Welsh old age pensioners.

My 2Tek Les Paul in action at the Reunion Gig

We decided we would arrange a second mini practice for those band members living in Wales, at the beginning of April, where we would be able to introduce Steve Strong to the songs we were going to play and also tidy up starts and finishes. I was fairly confident that Steve would be able to fit in with the songs, as many of them were ones we played when he was in the band.The remaining things that needed to be completed were relatively minor. Steve Leman was designing back stage passes for the band and technicians. EnerSys, the company Andy’s wife worked at, donated the lanyards for the passes.

Andy liaised with the CWMC to determine the earliest time we could open the doors for the gig and what time we would have to finish. Bearing in mind both the maturity of the audience and the fact many had travelled long distances and required taxis back to their hotels, it was essential we told people when they could get into the club and what time the gig would close.
I wanted the night to be about the Pieces of Mind and any music that was going to be played was either by the band on the night or of recordings of the bands that people had played in after they left the Pieces. To this end, I loaded a selection of songs, on to my iPod, from the 1966 Pieces of Mind Rogerstone live recording, Judas Jump, David, David Kubinec, Moira and the Mice, Times Up, Albino Frogs, the Paranoid Puppets, Atacama, Rockit and the Attic Band. These were all past or current bands of the people who would be playing that night. My idea was to play this music until the band came on stage for their first set.

The set timings were relatively straightforward. I anticipated the band would start the first set at 8 p.m. and play until 9:15 p.m. We would then do the raffle and the band would come back on and play from 10-11 p.m., allowing 30 minutes for people to have a last drink and chat with friends.

I was still getting numerous emails from people trying to get tickets for the gig and it was dis-heartening at times to tell them that they had all gone. I was getting convinced that I didn’t really want to handle tickets for any future gigs we may do.
I wanted to double check with Adrian that Johnnie Walker was both coming and was prepared to introduce us. My thoughts were that we would play about a couple of minutes of ‘Because they’re Young’, and then Johnnie could come up on stage and introduce us. We had arranged to get a t-shirt made with a POM logo on the front and a photograph of Johnnie and Duane Eddy on the back, so we would give it to him at this point. Then we would go straight into Wish You Would to start the first set proper. I just needed to have an idea of how long or short he wanted to speak, so I could finalise the set-list.

We needed to check how many chairs were in the CWMC room and also where we would position the people taking ticket money and those selling t-shirts. I wanted to reserve tables for family of the band so asked Steve Leman if he could produce some ‘Reserved for Band’ labels I could place on the tables on the night. We agreed that this could be done at the setup, the day before the gig.

We arranged a second mini practice session to take place over 2 days, Thursday the 4th April and Friday 5th April. The first would be at the YMCA and the second at Bob Teague’s studio. These 2 days would be the only real opportunity for Steve Strong to practice the songs with us, so I was hoping he was going to be able to manage.