A Happy Family
by Mark Ewels
Been clearing out some old junk this weekend and came across something I wrote as a 16 yr old school kid entitled 'A Happy Family'............
The date is the 2nd of September, the day a Sunday, the time 7.30 pm, the place the theatre on the Brittania Pier, Great Yarmouth. By the side of me is my mate Alan on the other side of me is a huge complicated piece of electrical equipment. The lights go out. The lightsare now projected onto the stage. The curtain is raised. Amplifiers and loudspeakers can be seen; the stage is packed with them. Two guitars are propped upagainst a speaker, one is a double guitar. In the centre is a microphone, on the left is a grand piano and facing the other way is an electric organ, on top of which is a moog synthesizer (a keyboard instrument which by mixing sound is able to make many thousands of noises). Behind the microphone is a small foot-pumped organ which looks old a clapped out.
Excitement is at fever pitch. On to the stage walks a tall gentleman with flashy shoes and a multi-coloured lurex shirt. He has collar length hair and a nicely trimmed beard. He walks straight to the grand piano and sits down and begins to play a soft pleasant number. This is finished quite quickly and he introduces himself telling the audience his name 'Phillip Goodhand-Tait'. He begins to play again this time singing as well. His voice, although good and pleasant to listen to, is gruff and his music is a cross between folk and country and western. He tells us that he has released a new L.P. and that the pieces he plays are his own compositions. He now plays one of my songs, Buddy Holly's 'Every Day'. He has now been on stage three-quarters of an hour and his session is finished.'It is a great shame that one of Britain's best and longest running bands has to come to an end' he says. 'Thank you for having me' and he leaves the stage.
The curtain is lowered and the lights come back on. Now is the time when a majority of the audience leave for the bar. Posters are on sale and 'Family' T-shirts are being sold. Roadies are seen racing about organising the equipment. The audience are now seated and they are becoming impatient for the break has lasted half an hour. The curtain is at last raised. Lights flash on to the stage from all angles, reds, blues, yellow and all the colours of the rainbow. There is a terrifically loud chord. The band has begun to rock on.
The opening number being 'It's Only a Movie. It's only a Show' the title track from their latest record. It is so loud that I can hardly talk to my friend next to me. Roger Chapman is seen as the front runner yelling rather than singing. His trousers are baggy and his shoes are blue suede brothel creepers. His face is unshaven but not enough to form a beard. The front half of his head is bald and his hair is curly. His T-shirt, which says 'Long Live Rock and Roll' on it, is fast becoming soaked with sweat.'It's only a movie, it's only a show just a celluloid picture where ever you go' says the chorus for the last time. 'That's a song about the making of a movie' says Roger. 'Good evening to all you Norfolk Swede bashers. My name's Roger Chapman. The rest of the band being Tony Ashton on piano, organ and synthesizer; Charlie Whitney on 6 string and 12 string guitar; Jim Cregan on bass guitar and finally Rob Townsend on drums and percussion'. Roger Chapman turns his head and the lights go dim. The only instrument playing are the symbols, which are being tapped very gently, and the bass. Roger Chapman says quietly 'At the top of the hill' a track from the L.P. Bandstand. The soft music ends and is contrasted by a loud run on the guitar. Rogers sings 'You can do most things but how you want, something's you do and something's you don't, that's said in any book that you've read. Think of the lady's you've ever seen out in the sun where the grass was green, and grin where you think where you've been'. The chorus bursts out 'But you know darn well, that you'll be looked there still, for their ain't no crying at the top of the hill'. Tony Ashton is seen with his hair greased back behind his ears in the old teddy boy style. He has one hand holding down a chord on the organ while he is playing the melody with his other hand on the piano. Charlie Whitney is probably the youngest member of the band and keeps walking towards the amplifiers changing the balance and tone. Jim Cregan stands as still as a statue. Rob Townsend bashers away at the drums with emphasis on a good visual impact. The roadie, sitting near me, controls the level of noise and the number and strength of the lights. One minute he can have the band hardly audible, the next minute he can have them at a deafening pitch. At the moment he has them quiet for they are playing 'My friend the sun' from Bandstand. Roger does not shout for this but shows his true singing powers by singing as only he can. No one can imitate his voice for he has a natural vibrato which immediately identifies Family records fro anybody else's. Family have now gone through most of the set. 'Blind', 'Weaver's Answer', 'Check out' and 'Song for Me' have all been played. 'This is our new single Sweet Desiree' says Roger. He tells the audience to sing 'sweet, sweet' in the appropriate places. The final number of the set. The highly commercial 'Burlesque'. The drums set up a constant beat and everyone starts to clap their hands. The bass now joins in and is shortly followed by the lead guitar. Roger now bursts in. 'Rolling and tumbling ain't done me no harm' he shouts. The fans really love this and the band obviously responded. People are now leaving their seats and going to the front of the theatre. Rogers shakes his head, throws a tambourine into the audience and sips at his beer and then slinging the remains of the pint high into the air at the fans, but they don't mind becoming wet. The last chord is played and Roger Chapman collapses to the ground. The rest of the group rush forward and pick him up. This was more than likely a gimmick or an act. The lights go out and the band leaves the stage. The audience clap like mad and stamp on the floor. This was the sign that they, including myself, wanted an encore. The lights went back on and the band reappeared. They now began to play Family's biggest hit single of all the seven years that they have been in existence, namely 'In my own time'. This was Chapman's show piece. His loud penetrating voice soaring above the rest of the instruments. My only disappointment was the Ashton did not play the organ solo the same as the single version. He held down chords instead of playing the nice little run. The final number was 'The rocking pneumonia and the boogie woogie blues'. A number that has never been put on record but which is always played at their concerts. When it came to the chorus the band stopped and the audience sung. This was the end. Fish and chips were brought on stage and Roger threatened to throw his into the audience like the beer but he resisted the temptation. The band thanked the audience and left the stage, knowing that they would go through the same set the next night at a different venue. This was only the first venue of the bands farewell tour. They had decided that they would split up and go off in different directions. All that was left was for me to walk home with the satisfaction of knowing that I was one of the lucky people to see one of best loved and consistent bands in the country perform on stage for nearly the last time...................................and there I am at the Y in Dec still that 16yr old boy standing right at the front of the stage and still in complete awe(and shocked at the retirement speach) of the greatest voice there has ever been in rock music. My wife (who tried to act as promoter and book Roger in December at Norwich Art Centre but was told a possible house move prevented the gig) and my three lads have all grown up with the sound of Roger's voice and have recently started coming to the gig's as well. I know artistically you probably don't care for other people using your material Roger but hopefully you'll make allowances for my youngest who at 16 has been played around on his bedroom pc doing the 'remix' thing. If anyone's interested in a really alternative version (yes I know it's not the rock we all love) of 'Shadow' you can check it out on Myspace at www.myspace.com/djstronghold ........ sorry about the length of this entry John but might bring back some happy family memories for some.