This is a picture of my first band, Chichester High School, 1979. Some idiot on vocals, wearing a purple jumper and red jeans (I still don’t have much dress sense), Sebastian on guitar, Robert on bass, George on drums, and Chris the sound engineer (!).
What makes people want to form bands? The prospect of enormous piles of cash and drugs? The need to recreate the sound you hear at home coming out of your speakers and say to the world, ‘I did that’? Or an overwhelming craze for continual ego massage? I can honestly say that in my case it was a bit of both of the last two (and the need still drives me to karaoke, or Norebang, as it’s known out here.) However, in the case of Ian, the lead guitarist for my next band, White Lightning, it was hands down the third. I recall our version of We Wish You A Merry Christmas recast as a 12-bar blues being the only time I got the group to do something I wanted to sing. The audience at Birdham Youth Club cried out for punk, and what did Ian give them? Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’!
You see, he wanted to be an axe hero, and the long, keening duet of Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, climbing higher and higher in tempo and urgency, at the end was the perfect vehicle for his amibtions. At least, it would have been if he had been able to play. Sad to say, his playing, lacking all niceties of pitch, reverb and scale, sounded like an old man trying unsuccessfully to get out of the bath.
Nonetheless, it has apparently become normal practice to shout for this song (FF 1976 #20 and 1978 #19, nestling uncomfortably between the Sex Pistols and The Rezillos), never mind who’s playing. Skynyrd (making their name from a combination of a former gym teacher’s name and as a tribute to the Byrds), were progenitors of Southern Rock before anybody called it that. The plane crash in 1977 in which Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines all perished and the others suffered severe injuries only temporarily halted their career: in another form, they continue to record and tour. The version here is from their first major hit album, (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd), and tails off rather than having the proper ending they recorded originally and used to play live: however, it has since been re-released with the full duet tacked on.
Wherever you are, Ian, I hope you can play by now, and thanks for giving me the first opportunity to be on stage in a real band. Now can I have my mike back, please?
Lynyrd Skynyrd, (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)