Gary Green auditions for Gentle Giant
I was 19 and it was a typically overcast day in London, March, 1970....about lunchtime. I had answered an ad in Melody Maker, THE music paper in Britain at the time... It was a weekly that officially hit the news-stands on Thursdays, but there were a couple of places where it got delivered on Weds afternoons, if you were keen......I was. I bought my copies outside the tube station at Kentish Town.
The ad read "Name Musicians looking for guitarist......etc...... The "Name" bit got my attention since it sounded official and serious! And because it was a "box" ad, it meant they'd shelled out good cash for it....It reeked of professionalism! I was further impressed when I called the contact number only to discover that I'd reached a management office!! (Gerry Bron)......who would set up an appointment!!!!!!....for me to attend the audition.!
So, a couple of days later, I took my guitar ( I had a white Strat at the time, for which I had traded a Melody Maker (not the music paper!) Hmmmm, was I transitioning from Greene/ Clapton to Hendrix?..), and my brother Jeff to "The Pied Bull", a pub at the Angel in Islington . Jeff mostly came along for moral support, and if it sounded like he might be interested, he would audition too. Some of you already know that Jeff is a formidable guitar player in his own right, and has played along side Stephane Grappelli, Nigel Kennedy, Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Martin Taylor, to name but a few.
A few stray noises through the doors told us it was my gig. My turn came and in we went. I immediately noticed the bass drum which read "Simon Dupree and the Big Sound".........I froze..... horrors! ....they were a pop band; ...anathema to me........ I was a blueser...I stayed indoors on sunny days with sunglasses on, the curtains drawn, listening to Elmore James and Little Walter!
But I was there to expand my musical world, so I stifled my prejudice and opened my guitar case.
I scored big points right off when I asked the pale keyboard player for an "A". It's been joked about many times since, but it did seem to impress them that I actually wanted to be in tune! There apparently hadn't been many who cared that day. It's very wearing, auditioning hopefuls all day, sometimes for two days......very trying.
So, I'm tuning and looking around at all this gear and trying to get a "feel" for these guys.......they're very hairy! Ray's wearing a stocking hat and sporting a full thick beard...Derek, ditto...Martin. Same.......Phil and Kerry not quite so hirsute. In retrospect, that was a very un-Ray look.,...must have been the Bizarro-popstar thing manifesting itself!
There's two other guys in the room whose function I hadn't yet fathomed, when Martin stands up behind the drums and asks Frank (Covey) for a "ciggy". Frank is immediately in motion , walking quickly across the room, proffering said ciggy and holding out a lighted match! Man!..... This is the Big Time! I was stunned for a second.
Ray then gave me a series of musical tests---- "Can you play this?"...... it was the beginning to Bringing me Down but without any count -in or reference to tempo. (where's the downbeat when you need it?!) And then a few more tricky time-signature things------"How about this?", "Can you play a C6/9? A7sus4?" etc. I then learned a chord sequence and we all played....it might actually have been Bringing me Down, but don't quote me! They played some stuff that I was able to solo over and things were sounding pretty good, professional even! I then asked them to play something representative of their music. They launched into Giant-------I liked it immediately but had no idea what to play-----on very first exposure it's jolting and confusing in parts (large parts!). So I opted to play nothing and just listen to the parts while Jeff bellowed in my ear "Just play over the top of it"!
Afterwards we stood around talking for a bit------we seemed to have developed a start on respect-------I felt I'd presented myself quite well and was fairly happy with my effort. Derek (I think) said the office would call and let me know.........suspense! The management did call a couple of days later and I got invited down to Portsmouth for further try-outs! I was thrilled------I practiced my brains out and set off for the South.!
That's my first-encounter story.