Dolly Boy Dreams

1981

With a few rehearsals under my belt with the new band My Pierrot Dolls is was time to hit the road and gig. Back in 1981, the only way to get noticed was to play live and build up a reputation. The internet didn’t exist for the general populous, no YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp or MP3 downloads. The one and only way for a northern band to get noticed was to gain a following, cause a stir locally, make and distribute a demo tape and hope that an A and R (Artists and Recording) man/woman in London or Manchester took the time out of their busy schedule, make the effort and come and see you play live. Agents with any worth in the popular music industry were few and far between and most band managers were ex-musicians who fancied having a go at managing a band but had little or no experience. The bottom line was that you had to be determined, do the leg work, be inventive and cause a ripple and if possible a tidal wave in the industry. Our secret weapon was Ivor…

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Ivor and Barry

With every gig came the challenge of getting people into the venue. With every venue came the challenge of survival. For four outrageously dressed lads, full of make-up, playing a non-mainstream genre of music in 1981; the challenges were always present and never far from the surface. Locally we could pack a venue no problem. Ivor and Barry had lots of mates and word of mouth together with a growing fan base ensured that local Rotherham haunts would be full or near full to capacity. Further afield it was a different matter. Often we would play in towns and cities where we had no fan-base, no-one had heard of us and neither band or audience knew what to expect. This is where Ivor came into his own.

Ivor was the epitome of spin, hype and public relations. If there was a way to win around the local press or audience, Ivor would find it. Even in the most impossible circumstances Ivor would frequently save the day. He was everything that a front man needed to be. What he lacked in singing ability he certainly made up for in balls. Take Barrow in Furness for example. We had secured a booking for medium sized nightclub, hired a transit, packed the van and drove hell for leather up the M6 to make it in time to set up the gear and sound check before the manager left for the day. Not being there on time would have meant setting up and sound checking as the venue opened which would have been a nightmare. It turned out that there were a few problems gaining access but we managed it in the end and once we had got the gear rigged and checked, we eagerly awaited opening time and our allotted time. The dressing room was a toilet, sink, chair and two hooks on the back of the door. With only one mirror when there was so much make-up to apply was just not enough especially when Pete’s hair had to be perfect…

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“Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please put your hands together and welcome on stage, all the way from Yorkshire, My Pierrot Dolls.” The drum track started, we stood positioned, the disco lights randomly flashed and the curtains opened to reveal a nightclub full of mainly young men, many of them dockers, the majority of them drinking out of bottles and well on their way to oblivion. The jeers started and nearly drowned out the first track. The odd bottle came our way and it was clear very early on that Japanese styled outfits, pale faces, crimped hair, eye-liner and lipstick, for men, had not yet reached Barrow in Furness. The smell of testosterone and Brut aftershave advanced like a tsunami towards the stage but never one to be intimidated Ivor came into his own and gave as much as he got. His sharp wit interspersed with news of our imminent tour with Yazoo (popular at the time) and our previous concerts supporting Duran Duran (neither of which anyone but Ivor knew about) seemed to make its mark on the baying crowd. This information, together with how great it was to play in front of such a progressive audience and a few other classic pieces of hype, somehow, don’t ask me how, won over the crowd and by mid-point in the set they were dancing and generally having a good time. I think, if my memory served me right, we even managed an encore. The music was good although not necessarily mainstream. The power of spin, a good beat and bass and catchy synth riffs no doubt…

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Barry and Ian

Another classic example of spin was the time we played a night club in Sheffield that used to be an old cinema. Getting press coverage in a nearby rival town was always difficult but once again, Ivor worked his magic. All good stories need a hook and the hook for the Sheffield Star was how emotional the gig would be for me as my Dad used to be a one-man band who entertained the queues of cinema goers many years previous at this venue. Needless to say the press loved this and featured a large photo with a good write-up about our imminent show. They were somewhat influenced by the possibility of a photo of me and my Dad (with his equipment) stood outside the venue and an interview with us both about how entertaining audiences had changed over the years. Sadly my Dad could make the photo shoot or interview) due to work commitments;  he was and always had been a police officer and the only one-man band he’d come into contact with was burglar bill and his swag bag.

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Sheffield Star and the one-man band…Click on In Pictures tab for a larger image

There are numerous other examples and stories to tell about our rise and demise, some of which will feature in future posts so make sure to subscribe by pressing the Follow button below. There is no doubt that without the hype and spin, we wouldn’t have gained the fan base we had and that was down mainly to Ivor. His perseverance and determination still exists to this day and he is still pushing away, promoting My Pierrot Dolls and fronting the band. He even managed to sneak them into a recent television appearance when he took part in, and won, Come Dine With Me. Check out the band the next time you are Rotherham bound. Rumour has it they are supporting Hurts on the UK leg of their tour……

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