EXTRACTS

This extract from the first chapter takes place in the autumn of 1964. Trevor, the 15-year-old narrator, has made friends with Des and Steve, on the terraces of his local football club. After telling him that they’re in a band, they’ve invited him to watch them rehearse in the back room of Steve’s father’s garage. Towards the end of the rehearsal, Des plays them a recording of a song he wants them to learn…
I leaned over to look at the seven-inch single Des was holding. It was in a plain paper sleeve, but I had time to read the label before he handed it to Steve. ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ was the title, and it was by a band I’d never heard of called The Yardbirds.
I know, I know. But you have to remember, when I first entered that room at the back of O’Brien’s Garage, my knowledge of r’n’b, blues, call it what you like, was non-existent. It’s shocking to think that I was ever so ignorant. In my defence, I should point out that I was in the majority at the time. In 1964, r’n’b enthusiasts were like members of an underground religious sect, waiting for the glorious day when the whole world would see the light.
The Yardbirds had already seen it – that much was clear from my first listen. The song opened with a catchy harmonica riff that was counterpointed by a series of staccato ‘oh’s from the singer, who then let out an unexpected, jubilant shriek before launching into the verse. Driving bass and guitar kept up the momentum behind the crudely harmonised vocals, and then another shriek introduced a guitar break unlike any I’d heard before, not flashy but somehow piercing, sharp, so that you felt you ought to be able to cut things with it. Then it was back to the verse, and the song quickly faded out before you had time to get tired of it. The lyrics weren’t up to much, as far as I could make out, just the standard American teen pap – one couplet rhymed ‘hop’ with ‘soda shop’ – but the feel of the song, and especially that guitar solo, chimed with something inside me that I hadn’t known was there. I can see now that it fulfilled the longing for novelty and adventure I’d been trying to satisfy. It hadn’t occurred to me to look for it in music.
Mind you, I probably wouldn’t have felt quite the same if I’d first heard ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ as performed by Des and co. They managed the basic riff all right with a bit of practice, and Des came up with an ear-splitting shriek which actually surpassed the one on the record. But other elements of the song proved harder to replicate. For a start, the harmonised vocals meant that Pete had to share Des’s microphone, and it soon became obvious that Pete wouldn’t have been able to carry a tune if you’d put handles on it. (“Look, I never said I could sing,” he protested after Des had aborted the sixth or seventh attempt at the first verse.) As for the guitar solo, Des seemed to be playing the right notes, more or less, but the feel wasn’t there, and he knew it, judging from the look of furious concentration on his face as he played it through again and again.
There was something else missing too, something so obvious that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed until Des pointed it out. “It’s a shame we haven’t got a harmonica player,” he said as they were setting up for a full run-through. “Trouble is, you need someone who can play while I’m singing. It’s all right for The Yardbirds, there are five of them.”
“I can play the harmonica.” It just came out, but I knew as soon as the words emerged that I couldn’t unsay them.
“Yeah?” Des looked interested. “Can you play the blues?”
“Umm, I haven’t tried. I could have a go,” I added hurriedly.
“Well, when you can play that” – he nodded at the single sitting on the turntable – “let me know.”
I couldn’t tell whether it was an invitation, a challenge or a put-down, or all three at once. But as Des turned away to talk to Pete, I knew what I had to do. Besides, I needed an excuse to see Susie again.

This extract from the first chapter takes place in the autumn of 1964. Trevor, the 15-year-old narrator, has made friends with Des and Steve, on the terraces of his local football club. After telling him that they’re in a band, they’ve invited him to watch them rehearse in the back room of Steve’s father’s garage. Towards the end of the rehearsal, Des plays them a recording of a song he wants them to learn…

I leaned over to look at the seven-inch single Des was holding. It was in a plain paper sleeve, but I had time to read the label before he handed it to Steve. ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ was the title, and it was by a band I’d never heard of called The Yardbirds.

I know, I know. But you have to remember, when I first entered that room at the back of O’Brien’s Garage, my knowledge of r’n’b, blues, call it what you like, was non-existent. It’s shocking to think that I was ever so ignorant. In my defence, I should point out that I was in the majority at the time. In 1964, r’n’b enthusiasts were like members of an underground religious sect, waiting for the glorious day when the whole world would see the light.

The Yardbirds had already seen it – that much was clear from my first listen. The song opened with a catchy harmonica riff that was counterpointed by a series of staccato ‘oh’s from the singer, who then let out an unexpected, jubilant shriek before launching into the verse. Driving bass and guitar kept up the momentum behind the crudely harmonised vocals, and then another shriek introduced a guitar break unlike any I’d heard before, not flashy but somehow piercing, sharp, so that you felt you ought to be able to cut things with it. Then it was back to the verse, and the song quickly faded out before you had time to get tired of it. The lyrics weren’t up to much, as far as I could make out, just the standard American teen pap – one couplet rhymed ‘hop’ with ‘soda shop’ – but the feel of the song, and especially that guitar solo, chimed with something inside me that I hadn’t known was there. I can see now that it fulfilled the longing for novelty and adventure I’d been trying to satisfy. It hadn’t occurred to me to look for it in music.

Mind you, I probably wouldn’t have felt quite the same if I’d first heard ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ as performed by Des and co. They managed the basic riff all right with a bit of practice, and Des came up with an ear-splitting shriek which actually surpassed the one on the record. But other elements of the song proved harder to replicate. For a start, the harmonised vocals meant that Pete had to share Des’s microphone, and it soon became obvious that Pete wouldn’t have been able to carry a tune if you’d put handles on it. (“Look, I never said I could sing,” he protested after Des had aborted the sixth or seventh attempt at the first verse.) As for the guitar solo, Des seemed to be playing the right notes, more or less, but the feel wasn’t there, and he knew it, judging from the look of furious concentration on his face as he played it through again and again.

There was something else missing too, something so obvious that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed until Des pointed it out. “It’s a shame we haven’t got a harmonica player,” he said as they were setting up for a full run-through. “Trouble is, you need someone who can play while I’m singing. It’s all right for The Yardbirds, there are five of them.”

“I can play the harmonica.” It just came out, but I knew as soon as the words emerged that I couldn’t unsay them.

“Yeah?” Des looked interested. “Can you play the blues?”

“Umm, I haven’t tried. I could have a go,” I added hurriedly.

“Well, when you can play that” – he nodded at the single sitting on the turntable – “let me know.”

I couldn’t tell whether it was an invitation, a challenge or a put-down, or all three at once. But as Des turned away to talk to Pete, I knew what I had to do. Besides, I needed an excuse to see Susie again.