Guest writer, Carlboy serves up his Dark Ages memoir – full of surprises and twists…
Just when you think there are no more layers to discover from August 2017, more are unveiled…
The Lost Voice – A Dark Ages Memoir by Carlboy
Like everyone else, when I saw the advert for ‘Liverpool Welcome To The Dark Ages. 2023’ I was very excited to see what Bill and Jimmy’s first collaboration for 23 years would entail.
I was even more excited when I managed to bag a ticket for the event.
I am an events organizer by day and with one of my events just days away from 23rd Aug, I could commit only 2 days to ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’.
After looking at the planned three-day itinerary, I decided do the first and third day.
My thinking, the first day to get an understanding of what was happening, then at the end of the day head back to Birmingham, then return to Liverpool really early train on Friday to see what the fuk is going on? And hopefully join back in with what was happening.
I attended the event with my mate, when we arrived at the ‘Dead Perch Lounge‘ early on 23rd , a list on the wall required us to sign up according to our skills. I’ve always fancied myself as the front man in a rock ‘n’ roll band so picked the singing option.
Fast-forward to the gathering where everyone was assigned his or her role. I learnt that I was a member of the choir, feeling privileged to get this position rather than another. Although all jobs are equally important, I felt I’d landed a good one more equal .
This was going to be great. My card said ‘to make myself known to head of the choir Nick and get my orders from him, choir practice would be on Thursday at 12 PM on Friday at 11 AM’.
I explained to Nick that I had to go back to Birmingham for some meetings on Thursday so I would miss the first choir practice, he said that it shouldn’t be a problem and that I should be able to catch up, he explained to me briefly what would be happening and shared the lyrics which I copied down for my homework. It was to be a choral version of ‘Justified and Ancient’.
I said I would be back first thing Friday morning to make the rehearsal and catch up with the rest of the choir. The rest of the day was spent chatting to the other volunteers and helping my mate, a super fan of the amazing ‘Badger Kull’ making sure everybody knew about Badger Kull on the Internet.
That evening we met on the steps of the Black E, just before the public meeting event ‘Why did the K Foundation burn £1 million pounds?’ A great event, very enlightening, “What Ever”.
So, over to the next day, Thursday, back in Birmingham interspersed with work and meetings, I made sure I had all the words down for the song ‘Justified and Ancient’ in my best operatic voice.
On the morning of Friday, 25th August 2017, I caught the 7.23am train from Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street to make sure I got there early for the 12.00 PM choir rehearsal so I could catch up with other choir members to see what they had learnt the day before.
When I entered The Florrie I was the first one there. I was met by a lovely lady called Ann who was very welcoming, she was busy preparing some drinks and biscuits for the choir members that were yet to arrive.
The first choir member turned up and I asked him nervously what did you do yesterday I need to try and catch up as I could not make the first rehearsal. He looked at me with a very confused face and said oh I don’t know if you’ll be able to catch up, we did so much work yesterday , I don’t know what Nick will say with you not being here yesterday and trying to join in today. I said I’ll be okay I get the gist of what was going on and I’ve been practicing myself yesterday. It’s at that point I could hear the backing track echoing downstairs that was being sound checked upstairs.
So for the next half an hour I sat at the bottom of the stairs practicing over the backing track in my best operatic voice “We are justified and were ancient, we like to roam the land, we are justified and were ancient I hope you understand”.
All the music stops upstairs and then Nick the choirmaster came jogging down the stairs.
I said “Hi Nick, I’m Carl remember me from Wednesday?”
“I couldn’t come yesterday and I’ll be here for today’s rehearsal.”
Nick just looked at me with a very stern face and said,
“Sorry – no. You are too late”.
I said “What?”
He said again, “Sorry – no, it’s too late, you can’t be in it.“
I said “Hang on, I told you I was going to be here this morning and I will practice on Thursday myself.“
He just looked at me with an even more stern face and said “Sorry, I haven’t got time for this. I’m very busy, you can’t be in it anymore because you weren’t here yesterday.” Then he turned round and walked back off up the stairs.
I didn’t know what to do with myself, my heart just sank, months of excitement wondering what I would be getting involved with at The JAMs event, but now…
I was out the choir.
Kicked in the gutter!
Now I know how these poor fuckers from The X Factor must feel.
I took myself back into the room where the rest of the choir was assembling. I must’ve had a very sad look on my face, as soon as I walked through the door Ann the lovely lady I had met earlier from The Florrie said in a heavy soft local accent, “Are you okay, La?”
I said “No I’ve been sacked from the choir.” The rest of the choir members that had assembled made a deep sound ‘Ohhhh.’
Ann said “I can’t believe that, ahh come on love, you’ll be okay“ and gave me a big hug. At this point I think I even had a small tear in the corner of my eye.
I said “I’m very upset, I’ve got the train extra early this morning to get here for the rehearsal, I’m sure I’ve got it nailed, I told Nick that I’d been doing my own rehearsals, but Nick is having none of it.’ I was consoled by other members of the choir and I thought right what do I do now?
Do I go home? I have no job!
I am useless; I’m stuck in a foreign land with no job, and no prospects.
I was at rock bottom.
Months looking forward to this event and to be a part of it was so exciting, it’s all gone in seconds, I was gutted, what would I do now? I sat down to try and gather my thoughts.
Should I just catch the train home I asked myself?
The next moment I heard this confident, sure voice shout “Where’s my stage managers?”
I now know this to be the voice of Daisy Campbell and I recognized her as one of the organizers on day one at the job distribution seminar.
So I thought this was my last chance, if I ask her nicely she may be able to pull some strings and get me back in the choir.
So I went over to her and said “Excuse me, but I’ve just been sacked from the choir and I’m really in a mess here as I am now thinking of throwing the towel in and going home.”
She said “Sacked from the choir? Why?”
“I didn’t come to the rehearsal yesterday and Nick said I couldn’t be in it any more as I’ve showed a lack of commitment and he has no more time for me now.”
Daisy said “Really?” and looked at me confused but also concerned for my welfare as she must of sensed I was upset. Thinking back now I think I may have been visibly distressed, as I had just had some devastating and clearly dramatic news.
At the same time two other guys came in to the room and approached us with their Stage Manager cards in hand and introduced themselves as the Stage Managers.
One of them said to Daisy that he ‘didn’t feel up to the job’ and that he ‘wasn’t very good in public situations’ and was sure ‘he couldn’t do it’.
Daisy just looked at me, did not try and reason with him at all, she just took the card out of his hand and put it in my hand without saying a word.
It was one of those moments, like in a film where the world goes weird for a bit or the mad bit in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video when he turns into the monster. I think the effect is known as ‘dolly out’ while zooming in, or the vertigo effect, well anyhow, that happened.
I traveled from the gutter to the very top in a split second. This just shows you need to be in the right place at the right time, and I must be connected to something bigger. Bob Wilson was right and some spirit guide was looking out for me, I looked down at the card again, it read ‘Stage Manager’, wow.
How the fuck did that just happen? Synchronicity!
Daisy told us to meet her up stairs in 5 mins for our instructions, so me and the other Stage Manager, a really nice guy call Rob, who run a recording Studio in Ireland, made our way upstairs to await our orders.
We walked in the room where Bill and Jimmy were putting their eye over the final preparations for what was the madness of the evening proceedings. I turns and said to Rob ”Looks like we are going to be hanging out with The JAMs.” He said ”Cool!“
Daisy entered the room and introduced us to The Jams as The Stage Managers! Even cooler!
We were given our instructions to gather and organize all the volunteers that had the role in the ceremony that was to be held later in the Hall upstairs at the Florrie.
We were to gather them one group at a time, first I had to organize The Choir (I had just been sacked from).
I chuckled to myself and went back down to the room where I just had been where The Choir was gathered. In a loud voice I addressed The Choir.
“As most of you know I have just been sacked from The Choir. There was a sad low sound again, “Ooohhhhoooooooo” they all felt my disappointment .
“But now I have been made a Stage Manager, so all follow me.”
”Hurraray!” big roar of approval went up from The Choir members.
Over next few hours my tasks included running for Bill and Jimmy, hiding Jarvis Cocker and organizing the rest of the elements of the ceremony.
One job I was given by Jimmy was to pass on the design to the face painters so they knew what the skull should look like on the faces. Jimmy told me to get some paper and a pen. So I went downstairs to reception to ask for some paper and a pen. I then returned back to Jimmy and gave it to him. He then drew a simple skull face on the paper, two round big eyes and a triangular nose. He then gave me instructions to gather the face painters and give them this design.
A little voice in my head said, “Do you know you have a Jimmy Cauty original drawing in your hand?“ I did feel bad about what I did next but the drawing had to be protected!
So I went and got another piece of paper and copied Jimmy’s drawing the best I could and then handed that to the face painters. I then put the original drawing safely in my bag, as I thought it would only get lost anyway.
So now it always amuses me to think that everybody in the first Toxteth Day Of The Dead procession, actually wore my skull design painted on their faces…. not Jimmy’s.
What a great three days that left 400 people with a desire to do things a little bit differently from now on.
All photos courtesy of Carlboy