Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

Never Has Beens

Saturday saw my band gigging again. We’ve been at it, on and off, since 1989. Our band, The Mighty Human Generator, have played in and around the North East of Scotland but never really further than that. We play our own stuff and can count on one hand the amount of cover versions we’ve crucified. We released a four track twelve inch single in 1991, or 1992 maybe, then a five track CD a few years later (with a different line up). Stephen and I are the only two members who have been there since the start. We had a five year break when Stephen emigrated to Canada, but started playing the odd gig again when he came back home.

Our success was limited, to say the least, through a combination of naiveté, stubbornness (on my part) and dare I say it, lack of talent and good looks. Not a lack of good songs though, I maintain.

I often refer to ourselves as ‘never has beens’.

We did have bags of attitude and energy onstage though, along with reasonably funny banter and our few catchy tunes. I’ve lost count of the amount of times people turn up to a gig, stand away at the back when we’re on, then come up to me afterwards saying, with the inevitable look of surprise on their face, that they actually thought we were pretty good. Sometimes I wish they’d shown their enthusiasm a bit more while we were playing by clapping and that, but hey, you can’t demand everything.

The latest gigs and rehearsals have been a bit of a lack lustre affair due in no small part to the latest shenanigans besetting our venture. Last year we decided to gather up all the songs we had lying around and make a definitive recording of them, releasing an album as a kind of underline to the whole twenty-odd year experience. A vanity project, I suppose you might say. This project got a bit derailed because of the difficulties in arranging mixing for the tracks, a problem compounded when our friend who was dealing with it had to go to Glasgow for three months to look after his gravely ill daughter. His daughter is now recovering well and he has returned to Aberdeen, so maybe we’ll see a bit more action album-wise in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed.

Funny how the excitement of recording something new can evolve into abject depression when things go slightly out of kilter.

Anyway, we played this gig, at the Harbour Lights in Peterhead, but in reality I felt it was a bit pointless as we had nothing really to sell to the paying audience. I felt like it would just be one of those where you’re just going through the motions.

As often happens though, as soon as you climb up on the stage, something takes over. Call it the realisation that it was an opportunity to show off again, or the prospect of an adrenaline rush, but I suddenly found myself looking forward to the next forty five minutes or so.

It seems each time I see a new act on the television, or hear them on the radio, or get linked to them on YouTube or even see them live somewhere, I get that tiny bit more jaded with the whole industry. I look at this current crop of bands and wonder where the passion, for want of a better word, has gone.

One thing I’ve always been proud of is the ability we have of pulling something out of the bag at every gig. Not necessarily something mind blowingly excellent, but the knack of making your performance of a song just that tiny bit different from any other time you’ve played it.

The song we finish our set with, ‘Dangerous Club’ (where I obviously got the name for the gig night I run) is an ancient two-chord wonder of ours. I think it might have been the second or third song we wrote. Not sure though, by memory of those days is fairly clouded now. It builds in intensity as it goes along, ending with a crescendo of recklessness that, frankly, I’m usually quite fond and proud of.

I always seem to find something different during each performance of this song in particular. Tonight was no different. We had a young band supporting and were glad to see they and their 17-20 year old entourage stayed to see us play. Always a bonus, these days.

We did the song, all of us giving it ‘laldy’ as we say, and finished the gig. It all seemed to go down okay.

It was only afterwards that I realised we might have literally struck a chord with the youngsters, however. Quite a few of the teenagers approached my as I was clearing up the gear, saying they loved it and we ‘kicked ass’ among other things.

This was very heartening to me, making me realise that although our band never actually made it in the music industry, there was still value to be had from what we do – if only to inspire the next generation.

It might be that the passion hasn’t gone from the young bands, rather that they just haven’t been subjected to the passion that my generation was. I love seeing the young bands getting their acts together, noting improvements with each performance and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to help them along the path by offering them a chance to play at the pub, on a proper stage with a decent sound system. And if now and again I get to go up there with my creaky knees and painful back and let them see the part of being in a band that we were good at, then all the better.

Now I’m looking forward even more to the next batch of young people playing there and if any of my passion and excitement has rubbed off on them, then I suppose that may be considered as ‘job done’. Or ‘job in constant progress’ as I should rather say.