I’ve always disliked museums and libraries. It’s the smell. The smell from the dark, heavily-polished wooden cabinets, shelves and parquet floors. I think it stems from the times mum used to take us to the library at Firth Park when we were little. It seemed such an old, grown-up, academic world that, ironically, was right next to the boating pond where sometimes dad would take my brother and I to sail the little wooden yachts he’d made for us. I knew which place I’d rather spend my time. So, it was quite a big deal for me to actually go into the Central Library in Rotherham, past the displays cabinets in the entranceway that always had stuff from the Yorks and Lancs Army Regiments, clutching my library card (little brown manilla pocket with the corner cut off.) However, it wasn’t for books that I went; it was because I’d found out that you could borrow records and cassettes and that could save quite a bit of money; borrow one, tape it, take it back. For free!
I’d known about rap and Hip Hop since Blondie did “Rapture” and had heard of people such as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa but wanted to hear more than just mainstream stuff. They were featured on “UK Fresh ’86” so it seemed like a good one to borrow. As soon as Grandmaster Flash rapped about “giving you a blast of class” I loved it. This was urban poetry, chopped up song snippets and beat-boxing, all mashed together over a drum machine. It was raw and, as the title suggests, fresh. It was slick but never too polished, like a group of artists developing a style as they went along. One of my favourite rhymes is on “Square Dance Rap” by Sir Mix-A-Lot. “Whip her to the left, whip her to the right, but don’t whip her too hard cos her jeans are tight!” Very sassy. There are even some great guitar power chords on “The Problem” by Masquerade. Unfortunately it’s spoilt by excerpts from speeches by warmongers Ronald Reagan and the evil Margaret Thatcher.
I spent hours trying to copy the drum patterns on our newly acquired Roland TR-505 drum machine. Joe, our drummer in Special Mix, had decided he’d had enough of playing in Working Men’s Clubs every weekend and wanted to leave. I couldn’t blame him, he was a real fan of The Jam (he even wore bowling shoes) and wanted to play Mod music, not the nice, close harmony songs we were doing. Grahame and I’d had a chat and decided to carry on but rather than get another drummer, we bought the TR-505. We also thought it’d be a good idea to use the Tascam four-track recorder, tape the drums, put on a bass line, then mix it down to normal cassette tapes which we would play along to at gigs. One of the blokes at Carlsbro Sound Centre wired up a cassette player with a foot switch for us to use live, so it wasn’t too awkward. To get the drum programming done more quickly, Grahame and I said we’d share the songs. However, when he gave me the ones he’d done, they were so badly programmed that I quietly re-did them before putting them onto tape. Some of them were completely the wrong rhythm! It was a real pain having to be strict and play the songs exactly the same every night so as not to get out of sync with the tape, but we got used to it eventually.
I started looking around for a move of school, simply because I wanted more money to fund my ever-growing obsession with music technology. I needed a keyboard to midi up to the drum machine and a four-track recorder of my own. A job came up at Bramley Sunnyside Juniors for a Scale Two music post (which would be a promotion) so I applied. It was a lunch time when I received a call from the authority.
“Ah, hello Mr. Cadman, I’m from the Education Department in Rotherham. The head teacher at Bramley Sunnyside Junior School would like to invite you for interview for the Scale Two music post you applied for.”
“Oh, that’s great thank you.”
“Erm…there is something else…” The man sounded like he might be smiling.
“Yes? Go on…”
“Well, because it’s for a music post, he’s erm…asked that candidates play a piece to show their erm…musical ability.” He was definitely smiling.
“Seriously? Play something? At an interview?”
He laughed. “Yes, so it seems.”
Oh, blimey! What the hell was the head teacher expecting?
Come the day of the interview, I turned up prepared. All the other candidates were clutching the music for what I knew were at least Grade 8 piano pieces, possibly harder. Hmmm perhaps this isn’t my job after all. I was holding a cassette player! Sure enough, we had to audition in front of the music adviser for the authority. Deep breath…I said “Hello” and plonked the recorder on top of the piano and pressed play. Out came the backing track of drums and bass to “Only You” by Yazoo. I played the piano and just sang the song. I really went for it and blasted it out.
“Well, thank you. That was…different, very nice, thank you Mr. Cadman.”
To cap off what was steadily becoming one of the most bizarre interviews I’ve had, during the formal part, one of the governors, a local councillor asked, “Can tha’ swim?” I could.
I still don’t know whether it was my singing performance or the fact that I could swim that impressed the most, but I got the job.