Jeff and I first met when we wound up sitting next to each other on our first day of intermediate school. We shared the same wicked sense of humour and love of music and remained good friends all through high school. He was a nervy kind of guy and got picked on a bit by our group of friends – he wasn’t as physical as the rest of us and hopeless at sport.
We used to go to his place and jam on our guitars. He had books of chord charts and a massive record collection and we’d try to play all these Beatles and Stones songs. Jeff knew all those chords but he was painstakingly slow and precise about voicing them and consequently had terrible rhythm. I was more all right hand, strum the song through start to finish and damn the torpedoes.
By the time we finished high school we had electric guitars and brought in young Pete on bass and Ron on drums. Young Pete was Glen’s younger brother and actually pretty good while Ron had several different sir names and was nervy like Jeff. We called ourselves – Grief.
Ron got us the use of a room on campus where we practiced. This was before punk struck and we were attempting material like Faces, Doors, Led Zeppelin and making it sound really bad.
Our main problem was Jeff’s lead guitar work and his singing voice. He had a nice Ibanez Les Paul and it was kind of his band but it wasn’t really working out. Young Pete had lined us up our first gig at our old intermediate school and we knew he wouldn’t be able to cut it.
Ron had a friend, Apollo who was supposed to be a hot guitarist and we decided to have a jam with him and not tell Jeff, who was a very sensitive soul. Apollo was an unusual guitarist, his right arm was in a sling and plaster from a long term work injury and he could only play for short periods – he was also known as the nutmeg king and had a bit of a Bob Marley thing going with his hair. He talked us into swallowing spoonfuls of the foul stuff before the jam.
It started out great, songs like Ramble On, Nights in White Satin, Roadhouse Blues all came to life with his playing. He had a great touch and he could smoke a cigarette while doing these great bendy solos. We tried a couple of my early songs and even they sounded good.
Around the time the nutmeg started kicking in and we were starting to feel a little strange, Jeff walks in. He doesn’t say anything just sits down in a corner and glares at us. Apollo is super friendly to him but he doesn’t react. We try to play on but we are a bit dazed by this stage and Apollo’s arm is getting sore. I notice a funny smell during our last song and look up to see smoke coming off his sling and he doesn’t seem to notice. Quick as a flash young Pete pours his beer over Apollo’s smouldering arm and a strange kind of slow-motion hell breaks loose with everyone storming out.
I think we all pretty much gave up on the band at that point. We pulled out of the gig even though I’d done a poster for it saying “Come to Grief”
It took me three days to get over the nutmeg hangover most of which was spent in bed glad I was out of that band. I traded in my electric and bought an Ovation.
The Ghost of Electricity –War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The
Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary