My thumbs keep locking up – Help!
Just as things seemed to be going well, something worrying started happening to me during the early gigs of ‘The Police’ tribute band. Towards the end of our set, I would find that my thumbs would lock over into the palms of my hands, rendering them useless. This was in no uncertain terms, terrifying. There was no pain involved, just a random muscular spasm that would occur during a performance. Naturally I had to hit this one on the head pretty damn quickly as it affected my ability to make a living, ironically at a time when I’d never been paid so much per-gig! As for solutions, I tried them all – physiotherapists, vitamin supplements, warm-up routines, cod-liver oil, stretching exercises but nothing would fix it. Wondering whether or not I had a future as player, my last ditch attempt to cure the problem came by chance when a fellow drummer suggested I go and see drum teacher, Dave Hassell, infamous for being expensive and a hard task-master to boot. What had I got to lose at this point, apart from my career?
After (instantly) identifying the problem, tearing my head apart with his concepts to heal my hands, effectively making me learn how to play drums again from scratch, I can now attribute Dave Hassell for saving my future as a drummer. But perhaps, more importantly, he opened the door for me to start seeing my role in the scheme of things as a ‘musician’ rather than ‘drummer’. This was a massively important turning point for me, almost a rebirth, reflected in the irony of seeing something life-changing come to fruition – as another faded away. Like all runs of luck, the tribute band phenomenon began to wane during 1997. On the flip-side, I hadn’t been a slouch on the original band side of things. During my doppelganger days, there had been a healthy resurgence in my activities with local song writers. At one point I found myself in and out of the LIPA recording studios on an almost weekly basis, laying down tracks for various drummer-less projects. It was during this period that I hooked up with Hartlepool songwriter, Martin Malone, exiled in Liverpool and running his band project, ‘Eskimo Chains’.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, contributing to tracks on two of Martin’s albums and being a part of his live band, were some of the best works I’ve played on to date. The quality of the songwriting was up there with the best of them and it’s a crying shame that we didn’t go further. But some things just aren’t meant to be more than they are. Whilst working with the Hartlepool monkey, I also found myself drafted into another local band intent on having one last crack at making it big. Despite realising that I should know better at this stage in my life, but refusing to let go of the last threads of my dreams just yet, I decided to go along for the ride.
‘Shoar’ were a guitar based band who wrote traditional, emotive, simple three-minute pop songs with hook-lines and memorable chorus’. They certainly had more of a passion than I did for making it ‘big’, but I enjoyed their optimism and enthusiasm for the thrill of the chase. On a local level they were quite successful in creating a buzz; enough to make other local bands who had made the big time take notice, and enough to attract the attention of some London based management. For the first time in my life it seemed that I’d finally joined a truly ‘happening’ band. The culmination of our efforts took shape in the form of a showcase gig in London supporting an on-the-up group called ‘Snow Patrol’. Buzzing with excitement, my cohorts were convinced that this was going to be the gig to nail the bands future. Everything would hang on this one nights performance, so it seemed. Despite the best efforts of the management and an inspired performance by the band, nobody in the industry took the bait. Perhaps they saw we were too old to invest in; perhaps they saw an act with only regional appeal – I don’t know. But one thing I do know; after all the previous attempts I’d been through to crack the industry in the past, I made sure not to set myself up for a big fall – unlike the other guys in the group who took the situation badly. Having failed at their assault on the industry’s home turf, the management lost heart to continue the game around the same time as they realised the band had run out of enthusiasm. My final crack at ‘the big time’ was officially over, though without any major disappointment.
As the dust settled from the ‘Shoar’ fall-out, it was clear that it was becoming harder and harder to make a living as a professional musician; faced with the option of spending lots of time away from my home life or completely changing my career for something that would keep domesticity intact, I opted for the latter – without regret. After 15 years of struggling with the music industry and all the hopes, joys and ultimately, disappointments it had thrown at me, I would see the new millennium in as a ‘normal’ person.