YOU BETTER TELL THAT GIRL TO SHUT UP

Wednesday, September 4, 1991

England’s Transvision Vamp is touring their new album, Little Magnets Versus The Bubble Of Babble. A few years ago, they were a big deal when their record, Velveteen was number one in the UK charts. I don’t know anything about them other than their song, Tell That Girl to Shut Up.

I do know this though. They’re at Lee’s Palace tonight and the Marvelous Beauhunks are playing support. A new set of doors has swung wide open, and allowed us to pass through without paying the toll. The street buzz on us has reached a state of fever pitch. So say the promoters at MCA Concerts and CFNY who booked us for the gig. Me, I’m not so sure. But regardless, I’m glad to be here.

As we pull in behind Lee’s and start to unload, Derek nods toward the fire escape. Sitting there like a punk Marilyn Monroe is Wendy James, bottle-blonde singer for Transvision Vamp. Beside her, wearing no shirt and what Adam refers to as a “Sid Vicious heroin bandage” on his arm, is their emaciated guitarist, Nick Sayer. Supposedly an item, and seemingly lost in their own world, they pay us no mind as we hump our gear through the doors.

Inside, Lee’s is humming. Onstage, TV’s bass and drum tech are jamming as the engineer works the sound board. Another roadie mikes a Fender stack and makes adjustments. We watch with genuine interest. So this is how a bona fide English road crew makes things cozy for an international, chart-topping band.

We drop our equipment on the floor in front of the stage. We chat with the road manager and the guitar technician. I begin the arduous process of reassembling my drum kit so it’s ready for when they tell us to move it onstage. The drum tech makes his way down from checking Transvision Vamp’s drum noises and joins in the conversation. They’re all nice guys and happy to field our questions about Paul Weller. The road manager’s worked with Billy Idol in the past but that doesn’t cut any ice with us.

Sitting down behind my half-built kit, the drum tech starts to absently beat a quiet tattoo on my toms. He’s an unassuming geezer and has been nothing but friendly and polite. I try to be funny and bark at him.

“Oi! Off the kit!”

I startle him and he quickly jumps off. He apologizes profusely as I try to explain that I was only joking with him.

I feel like a colossal dick.

Transvision Vamp comes out to do their sound check. The drum tech is back on stage playing with them. He’s their fucking drummer. What’s bigger than colossal? Gargantuan?

Derek arranges for us to have a formal introduction with Wendy James. She’s only my age but, up close and without all the make-up, I’m shocked at how shovel-beaten she looks. Civil but distant, Wendy says she’s happy to make our acquaintance. Within a minute, she fades off into a booth and begins putting pen to paper. She could be composing lyrics, but the forlorn look on her face lends itself to the idea that she’s writing letters home. Adam admits to being unsettled by the image of loneliness she projects.

At show time, Lee’s is packed. Up until now, the biggest crowd we’ve been in front of has been 350. I’m guessing that there’s a thousand punters here tonight. To see Transvision Vamp.

And us.

I can barely make it to the bar.

From our first song, TYNL again, things don’t feel right. We don’t have the usual MBH attitude and swagger. Tonight, we’re just four kids from Oshawa who are out of their depth. Steve looks like he’s lost all confidence and without him leading the charge, the rest of us can’t find our balance. When he announces to the punters not to worry, that Transvision Vamp will be on soon, it’s an admission of defeat.

We go into Nice Legs and things come to a head. Adam ventures off the stage and out onto the big house speakers. Some bright spark thinks it’s hilarious to shake the speakers, hoping to make Adam fall off.

While Adam shuffles back to the safety of the stage, I go into my usual drum acrobatics. During the breakdown, I stand on top of my drum seat and play out the rest of the song. This move is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Tonight is no exception.

When Nice Legs ends, I plant my feet back on terra firma. Victory is mine.

I take a step backwards and right into the Fender stack belonging to Transvision Vamp’s Nick Sayer. It falls back against the wall at a forty-five degree angle.

Like a banshee, their guitar tech is stage left, hissing at me with murder in his voice.

“WANKER! GET OFF THE STAGE – YOU FUCKING CUNT!”

What’s the difference between mortification and humiliation?

Not a goddamn thing.

Glenn looks back at me, shrugs, and says, “Fuck it. Keep playing.”

After two more songs, including the now-ubiquitous Fantasy Merry-Go-Round, we slink off stage, tails firmly between legs.

We grab some beers, sulk and wonder out loud for the first time that we might actually be in over our heads. Then we play the blame game. You did this. You didn’t do that. You’re ruining it for all of us. You’re a cunt. Well you’re a bigger cunt.

Transvision Vamp’s guitar tech comes over to where I’m standing. He apologizes for overreacting. That was nice of him, but the wind is already out of my sails.

I’d like to go home now, please.

1350

“The Beauhunks had a short but very fierce run in Canadian music in the early 90s before it all went wrong.”

Alan Cross – radio broadcaster and music journalist