I was fifteen.
This was to be my first time.
Lots of other kids at school had done it already. Or so they said. It’s never easy to verify such claims.
I felt like a late starter.
I didn’t really know what to do.
Everyone I spoke to about their first time told a different story.
Up until this point I had only imagined it…usually in my bedroom but sometimes walking to and from school too.
Would it be any good?
Could it live up to my adolescent fantasies?
What if I didn’t like it?
I was nervous.
I was excited.
I was nervous and excited at the same time.
This had all been arranged in just a few days.
On the Monday morning I had no idea that by Friday night I would have done it.
Let’s start with Monday.
We had just finished our dinner when Brian, the man who lived in the flat upstairs with his wife Jill, knocked on the door and asked to come in. Brian was a hairdresser and a bit of a “face” in the small town where I lived. His salon was very popular and he had a bit of money. He used to bring down clothes he was no longer interested in wearing and give them to me (despite being ten or fifteen years older than me he was about the same size) and what a collection of clobber it was that he gifted me…silk shirts from NEXT, a double breasted Prince of Wales check suit, some, literally, baggy trousers and goodness knows what other high (street) eighties fashion. I assumed that this visit was to deliver some more threads for me.
Instead Brian explained to my mum and dad that he had two tickets for a concert in Edinburgh that Friday and his wife couldn’t make it. He wondered if I might like to come along? My mum and dad thought that would be fine and said that it was up to me.
I didn’t hesitate.
As well as clothes Brian used to record the toppermost of the poppermost chart hits of the day onto C90 tapes and hand them in for me when he wasn’t handing in clothes. As a hairdresser I guess he wanted to have the hot hits to play in the salon. My favourite tape had Curiosity Killed the Cat on the A-Side with their sophisti-pop classic “Keep Your Distance” and Swing Out Sister’s “It’s Better to Travel” on the B-Side.
Top of the pops.
“This is who we are going to see” said Brian as he handed me another cassette “Have a listen so you know what to expect.” he continued then he said his goodbyes and I dashed off to my bedroom to listen.
A bit of me was hoping that it was going to be Westworld because their album “Where the Action Is” and the single “Sonic Boom Boy” seemed, to me, to be pretty much the best thing any band had ever recorded.
It wasn’t Westworld.
It wasn’t Curiosity Killed the Cat.
It wasn’t Swing Out Sister.
It wasn’t even pop.
This was something else completely.
I didn’t really know what it was.
“I just wanna make love to you…feel your body heat.”
I hadn’t heard anything so filthy in all my young days.
Actually that isn’t true.
I already owned “The Circus” by Erasure and some of that is bloody rude…properly saucy.
This was my first experience of…rock? Heavy metal? Hair rock? Poodle rock?
I didn’t really know.
I had a name…Whitesnake.
I had the tape.
I listened to the tape over and over again in preparation, it was their cunningly titled “1987” which had been released in…you guessed it you clever thing.
“Still of the Night”, “Give me all Your Love”, “Is This Love?”, “Here I go Again” and a whole lot of other rocktacular, stadium friendly, anthemic hits filled the four corners of my bedroom for five days. I don’t think I even listened to “Whenever You Need Somebody” once, which was amazing as this was the height of my Rick Astley obsession…which hasn’t ever really stopped.
Then Friday arrived.
I didn’t tell anyone at school about what was going on…I wasn’t sure how Whitesnake would be received by cool cats of Kirkcaldy. Going on previous experiences of my attempts to push my way into that particular circle at school…not well. Acne, Mormonism, a Rick Astley obsession and being the smallest kid in the class combined to make me…the opposite of cool.
The Edinburgh Playhouse is a strange venue for a concert.
It just doesn’t feel like the sort of place you go to see a band.
It feels like a place where you see “Les Miserable” or “Dreamgirls”.
But this was to be the venue where I would lose my gig virginity.
I had decided to wear my most rock and roll outfit. I wanted to be part of the crowd. Be a part of the…vibe, ma-an. I didn’t want anyone to realise this was my first time. Sure I wouldn’t have the moves or the confidence of the bigger boys who had already done it loads of times but I wanted to give a good account of myself.
Check this out…
Pink, paisley patterned NEXT shirt.
A double breasted blazer.
Hair coiffured but not quiffed.
I was going to KILL it.
When Brian and I arrived at the Playhouse he took me to the concession stall and bought me a carton of Kia-Ora. It came a sort of corrugated plastic with a plastic film across the top which you pierced with a straw. I liked Kia-Ora. Orangey deliciousness.
Clutching my carton of juice we climbed the stairs to the circle to take our seats.
It’s funny because I don’t remember seeing anyone else during that time or even being aware of any sound. There must have been other people on the stairs and in the hall, there must have been music but I can’t see them or hear it.
That was about to change.
Brian pushed open a door and I found myself in one of the furthest reaches of Hell.
Denim and leather.
I am, to be blunt, bloody terrified.
I am convinced that, at any moment, I am going to be grabbed by some Satan’s Slaves and flung over the balcony as a sacrifice to Pazuzu.
Fortunately at exactly that moment the lights dim and all eyes turn to the stage.
From the darkness comes the sound of a man howling like a wolf.
This is David Coverdale.
The howling signals the start of the gig and from that moment on it is an intoxicating mix of noise, lights, adoration, screaming, more howling, the smell of beer and Kia-Ora, the throb of the crowd as they bounce, the balcony seems ready to detach itself and fling us all to our end…in short, it is magnificent.
It would have been lovely, for my “cred”, to lay claim to having seen The Smiths live in some dingy Northern town in 1937 as my first gig.
I could have scored cool points by telling you how I was at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester for the Sex Pistols…despite my having not been born.
I could be the guy who claims to have seen Oasis at King Tuts (which I did) but it wasn’t my first gig.
My first gig was Whitesnake.
And I am absolutely fine with that.