‘I’ve got us a gig on Saturday in Manchester,’ John informed them.
Nobody seemed that impressed.
‘How much does it pay?’ Pete asked.
‘Fifty quid,’ John said.
The atmosphere in the rehearsal room was pretty gloomy. Fifty quid hardly went anywhere in 1966. Once you’d put petrol in the van, bought a bag of chips and a pint you were left with ten quid each.
‘We were lucky to get that, lads,’ John said, trying his best to raise the spirits. ‘All the clubs are shutting down. Bloody cavern shut down last week.’
If he’d intended to raise them up he was failing badly.
‘Where are we going lads?’ he asked cheerily, attempting to urge them into their mantra of optimism. There was no ‘To the Toppermost of the Toppermost’ refrain. Nowadays they were just hanging in there rather than looking to break through.
‘Feels like the bottommost of the bottommost to me,’ Paul observed.
‘I’m thinking of packing it in,’ George said gloomily. ‘My Dad said he can get me a job as a cashier in the bank.’
Nobody said anything. They’d all been down that road. Doing casual labour to make ends meet was no fun. They could sense that the thing was falling apart. The energy had gone and audience sizes were dwindling. Nobody was interested any more. It had had its day. Perhaps it was time for them all to call it a day?
‘Who we on with?’ Paul asked.
‘The Rolling Stones again,’ John said.
‘They still doing that Blues stuff?’ Paul asked, plugging in his bass.
‘Yeah, Brian has it down to a t’ John said, ‘though they’ve not been the same since Mick left.’
‘I’ve heard he’s going into law,’ George reflected, plugging his guitar in.
‘Ha,’ John smirked. ‘I can just see him as a solicitor. He’ll be a judge before he’s through.’
‘Rory’s bunch have broken up,’ Paul remarked. ‘Ringo’s got a job as a redcoat at Butlins.’
‘The hurricane’s blown out then,’ John observed with a narrowing of the eyes. ‘I bet Ringo’ll go down a storm.’ He laughed mockingly.
‘Well at least he’s bringing in a pay packet,’ George pointed out.
‘Let’s get down to playing some Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ John suggested as an antidote to the gloom.
‘Why don’t we try something different,’ Paul suggested. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll is old hat. Have you seen the charts? Cliff is number one again and Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell are racing up. They’re all doing ballads. Charts are just full of American pop and ballads. We could try doing something a bit more poppy.’
‘I’m not doing any of that American shyte,’ John asserted firmly. ‘I hate that pop crap – all flashing teeth and Italian suits. I hate that lightweight rubbish. Give me good old Rock ‘n’ Roll any day. I don’t care what’s in the charts. They’re all shyte.’
‘Even Elvis is doing pop stuff,’ Paul reminded him. ‘All this leather gear is out. We’ve become boring old dinosaurs. Nobody’s interested any more. It’s all old fashioned. Teddy boys are a thing of the past.’
John glared at him myopically through slitted eyes. ‘I’m not playing pop shyte.’
Pete sat behind his drum kit and looked on. It was always like this. He never said much at the best of times. Now that his good looks were fast fading, as the beer was bloating him up, he was losing his popularity with the girls and in great danger of being kicked out of the band. Not that he was that bothered any more. None of them were very popular with the girls these days. Things had moved on. The days of screaming girls were long past.
‘We could try doing some of our own or doing more standards. They always go down well.’
‘We’ve been down that road,’ John said belligerently. ‘All that One After 909 and Love Me Do crap. Nobody was interested. It was crap. We’re never going to be as good as Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry, why bother?’ He glowered at Paul. ‘No. Let’s just stick to what we’re good at and play Rock ‘n’ Roll.’
‘Perhaps we should have done what Brian wanted us to do?’ George suggested.
‘What?’ John turned on him angrily. ‘Had our hair cut and worn poncey suits? Played liked Bobby Vee?’
‘He offered to manage us,’ George insisted. ‘He said he could get us an audition with Decca.’
Pete did a drum roll.
‘Like hell he could,’ John sneered. ‘What did that posh git know about anything? He couldn’t even run a record shop properly. What did that smarmy ponce know about the music business?’
‘He said that if we smartened up and played the game he could have got us lots of gigs and an audition,’ George persisted.
‘Yeah,’ John scoffed, ‘and Decca would have signed us up and we’d conquer America and be bigger than Elvis. Yeah, poncey Brian Epstein would have done that, wouldn’t he? Who gives a fuck about British Rock anyway? Even Cliff couldn’t break America. They will never give a damn about the Brits. That’s a waste of time.’
‘Well, if you hadn’t laid him out,’ George suggested, ‘he might have managed us and we might have had a chance?’