GIG TALES: "The Cell"
THE HILL: Seven Hills, New South Wales, Australia. 1986.
by Jon Dunmore ©
The first time I saw The Song Remains The Same, I spent the night in jail.

Ah yes, I remember it like it was eighteen years and seven months ago: my lowly railway day-job, my scraggly, long locks; and of course, my unwholesome and entirely unsanitary metal band, Gypsy Fire HMC, who were largely responsible for that night in stir… Who am I kidding? - they were COMPLETELY responsible for it…

One Friday night, Gypsy Fire gathered to pay tribute to the Gods Of Rock (Led Zeppelin, of course) at a special screening of The Song Remains The Same in Sydney. We had a gig the next night at one of Sydney Metaldom's most revered venues, The Seven Hills Inn (affectionately abbreviated to The Hill by the in-crowders and in-breeders) so were in a celebratory mood.

We rendezvoused at the St. James Tavern pub in the heart of the city. I had come straight from the gub'mint job (the Railways) and had changed into another shirt, so that I wouldn't look The Dork wearing my railway uniform amidst the Zeppelined hordes.

We got rolling, steaming drunk. That was our prerogative.

We saw the movie. That was our inspiration.

We went back to the St. James Tavern. That was our mistake.

In that packed, sweaty, subterranean pub, yes, we were singing very loudly - but no one noticed - yes, beer glasses were broken - but no one noticed - the drummer passed out - but no one noticed - beer was sloshing over the faux-mahogany table like we were on a ship amidst a tropical storm - but no one noticed - the guitarist started screaming about his dead mother and proceeded to maniacally rend my shirt from my frail body whilst knocking over the table -

I guess there's only so much you can do without being noticed... After being ejected bodily from that swinish establishment, since I now looked like I had just changed back from The Hulk, I had to resort to donning the Railway Uniform shirt: this was a Bad Move, for technically I was now representing a government agency - and government agencies don't like being represented by drunken, long-haired, swearing, loudly-singing assholes vomiting on public property. (At least, that's what the Judge told me…)

Down to the subway station we stumbled and farted and drooled. The movie was definitely a bad influence on us - no backmasking required - as we raucously sang passages that sounded exactly like something other than Led Zeppelin songs, scaring the general populace into an imitation of the Red Sea when it saw Chuck Heston coming.

On the station platform, things were relatively calmer, as the swooshing Doppler Effect signaled our train coming in. Now if only the guitarist had not thrown those wooden station benches and garbage cans onto the tracks in a fit of howling rage, we would've gotten out of there without incident…

Remember that scene in Monty Python's Life Of Brian when Brian stomps on the naked hermit in the sandpit who utters his first words in eighteen years? In ecstasy, the hermit leaps up, yelling, "Hello birds! Hello trees! Ohh, I'm alive!-" Suddenly he sees the hordes chasing Brian - dead stop - he ducks into his hole.

There is no better way to describe our Capture Scene: We boarded the train continuing the uproarious clamor. Through the haze of our revelry, we realized the train was not moving. They cleared the tracks. And the train continued to not move. I loudly poked my head out of the door and saw a squad of policemen running full tilt towards our carriage - mouth: dead stop - I ducked into the train.

Suddenly we were showroom dummies - maybe it was the fact we were TOO casual that gave us away (standing like statues with heads tilted at a 12-degree angle and hands half out of pockets like we were modeling the new spring catalog), or maybe it was our long hair, or the stanque of alcohol permeating our clothes - or maybe it was all those people in the train pointing at us and saying, "That's them!"

As the cop twisted one of my arms over my head, the other one behind my back (in a position not unlike the stunt that killed Houdini), he sniggered, "So you're with the railways, huh? You are in deep shit, son!"

They cattled us all into the same bullwagon [Australian for 'paddy wagon'], where our collective presence reassured us that everything was going to be all caca. Especially since we had a gig in less than eighteen hours. The guitarist was helpfully reminding the cops of this fact as they manhandled him aboard. Even the Power Phrase "We're with the band, man!" fell on deaf ears. All the way to the precinct, the drummer, uncaring, broadcasting his intentions to piss in the back of the bullwagon. When they unloaded us, he already had his cock out and pissed on the police station wall, handcuffs an' all - if he wasn't already arrested, that would've been a great excuse to arrest him.

Mug shots, fingerprints, threats of becoming someone's bitch. A stone holding cell, more like a goblin's den than the cheery cells we see on network tv with the bars and the good lighting… On through the night, as our queries of "How much longer?" were constantly met with, "Paperwork!", we succumbed to The Man's spirit-breaking techniques and passed out on the freezing stone floor.

….Like hearing the dulcet tones of your lover as she caresses you out of sleep with her warm lips; like hearing the sound of babies laughing and puppies frolicking in the grass; such a thing of beauty was the CLANK! of our cell-door being unlocked. As dawn broke and icy drizzle irritated the bleak Saturday morning, they loosed us, deranged from lack of sleep, serving us with the mythical "paperwork" spoken of during the bitter night - a Summons to a Hearing scheduled for a date which was conveniently the most inconvenient date for all of us. (But that's another Tale…)

…Not many bands can lay claim to performing a gig the night after they were collectively imprisoned. Were we heroes at this show? The Sydney Metal Scene craved true insurgents like our bad selves. Oh! The sweet irony -

WE had become the Gods Of Rock!


Added: 2005, Mar 28