Tuesday, 11 February 2014

'Rat Rapping' - Roland Rat Superstar (1983)

“With a penthouse suite, swimming pool,
Pretty young guinea-pigs playing it cool.”

The Stones. The Who. The Bermuda Dimensions. A classic rock lineage. “Woah! Back it up! The Who?” Yes, the Who. Roger Daltrey. My Generation. “No, no…. the BERMUDA Who?” Oh, sorry. The Bermuda Dimensions. Otherwise known as TBD. (No-one ever called us that, but let’s shorten the name now or we’ll be here all day). Yes, my second band. Well, not mine, as such. The second band I was in with my cousins, Grant and Matthew. (New readers can catch up on the adventures of our first band right here.) 

You haven’t heard of TBD? Pfft! Where you you in 1983? (Oh, really… well that explains it then. Anyway…) No, I’m not sure about the name either looking back at it. There were three of us. We had read some stuff about the Bermuda Triangle. 3D was on a second go-round at the cinemas. So, you can see where we were coming from at least.

With cousin Matt on vocals, cousin Grant on keyboards and myself on rhythm guitar, we could best be defined as a ‘bedroom band’. Or even better defined as ‘the spare bedroom of my grandparents’ band’. There was no touring the pubs and the clubs of the UK for us. Mainly as we were only 12 years old. Our arena was the C90 cassette. And our sound was… well… kind of diluted rocky, poppy, shambolic noodling. Our influences were Dexys, ABC, Adam Ant, and the Human League. And we sounded spectacularly like none of them. Even when we were doing countless cover versions of their songs.   

It was another of our bands mainly inflicted on close family, and occasionally friends. But we did have one celebrity fan. Oh, yes. (Wait for it.) Roland Rat! "What?"

Taking a cue from the cheeky self-promotion and enigmatic marketing of ZZT Records (Frankie, Art of Noise, Propaganda), much of our time which would have been best utilised rehearsing, was spent creating an image around TBD. Extravagant cover art and lyric books. Tour posters for tours that were never going to happen. And, of course, a fan club. For one flat fee of 10 pence  (bargain!) you got monthly newsletters, badges, album discounts (yes, ha ha), and loads of other stuff which most probably soon found a bin. 

Our school friends all humoured us by signing up. (And my dad quickly lost his humour when he discovered how much printer ink I was using up for just 10p a fan.) But we knew what we really needed was a celebrity endorsement. And celebrities didn’t come much bigger at that time than Roland Rat. So I popped him a letter in the post offering free membership. And this came back…

Success! Of sorts. But, well, you know the ending to this. You've never heard of TBD. You won’t find our name in any Halls of Fame. Roland Rat didn’t help boost cassette sales in my school playground. Within a year we had gone our separate ways. But not for long. For about six weeks, in fact. As by the next half-term we were re-energised and our third band awaited. One that actually played a show. Kind of. But more of that in another post. (Hey - you only had to wait four years for this follow up.)   

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