One spring evening in 1982, as we entered The Bell Inn, our eyes widened, not only because of the dim half-light, but also because the low plinth that acted as a stage was covered with tables and customers having an early evening drink. Our band, Tiger Tiger, had arrived to set up our equipment, but there was nowhere to do it.
We let the manager know that we’d arrived, as agreed, but as he was busy and asked us to start moving the tables, customers and their drinks off the platform. However, they were not very cooperative, especially one, who remonstrated; ‘I came down here to have a nice quiet pint. I don’t want to hear a band!’ ‘How do you know? You might love us!’, I teased, coyly, and shook my tambourine into the air, laughing. ‘Well what sort of music do you play then? I hope you’re not a folk band, I hate bloody folk music!’, he said, eyeing the tambourine suspiciously. ‘Nah, we’re a rock band. We do a bit of Hendrix, Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and some of our own stuff too!’ The manager came down with a bartender. ‘Come on, Chris, let the students play!’ Chris rolled his eyes and huffed but grumpily agreed.
We’d been together about a year and a half by then. In all honesty, we weren’t the best band in the University, but we had fun doing it. We played in the University bar, in the Main Hall and a few other places. There was Paul, a systems engineering student, on bass; Nigel, mechanical engineering, on lead guitar, Geoff the drummer, a keyboard player called Paul, and me, Teresa, their lead girl singer, and a student of economics (in between outrageous high jinks and fun).
We took to the stage, the guys tuned up, and we hit them with our first song, ‘Because the Night’, which I could belt out and get the audience going, followed by Hendrix numbers like ‘Little Wing’, The Stones’ ‘Under My Thumb’ and a couple of Fleetwood Mac numbers.
Some customers kept on drinking, glancing over every now and then, and clapping. Chris the grumpy client looked up, suddenly interested. We followed the standards with some of our own songs, ‘My Machine’, ‘Amazon Woman’, ‘Lonely Shadow’. I’d written the lyrics in moments of teenage angst, love-sickness, rebellion and fury at the world, and the guys had put them to music. We finished with a few more standards, including a crazy version of “Wild Thing” and my pièce de résistance ‘Mercedes Benz’, which I often sang at the top of my voice while standing on a table in the University bar. People were on their feet, clapping and dancing, that was good enough for us. We were only paid £10 for the gig, but we would have done it for free.
As the guys were packing up, a few members of the audience came up to chat and say complimentary things. Among them was Chris, the grumpy client. ‘I didn’t know it was going to be like that’, he said. ‘I was listening to the words of your song, and I understand you. It was so beautiful. I would like to see you again…’
Oh no! The stage-halo effect! I had been transformed from the girl-next-door into a stage goddess! It was time to go and now I needed to escape my ‘fan’ quickly… We hoped we would return but looming exams would mean that the band took last place in our priorities.