The Cannie Man in Bracknell is a large pub on the edge of what I assume was once a council estate, before such terms became passé and Maggie Thatcher decreed that each tenant could buy theirs at a cut price should they so want to. They did.
Despite Maggie’s efforts to create owner-occupying English gentlemen of us all, such estates still tend to be a bit, shall we say ‘rough’? The pubs that were built for them somewhat rougher.
The estate is huge, so the pub was made accommodatingly spacious to contain the inevitable hoards that would throng there. Unfortunately, at the tail end of the worst recession the western world has seen for over a century, this pub served a handful of hardcore drinkers and shouters, who rattled about at the bar.
There was also a noise metre installed to keep the decibels low enough to prevent the neighbours from having their X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing viewing disturbed.
It has never ceased to amaze me that people move into houses next to (or even nearby) pubs, theatres, arts centres, clubs, restaurants, you name it, and then complain that there is noise. Of course there is noise! It’s a pub, theatre, restaurant, arts centre, club, whatever, you name it. There are going to be people there enjoying themselves and when people enjoy themselves, they tend to make a bit of noise. But that’s another blog, I guess…
The Cannie Man, Custard Cream’s first gig with Ant on drums, was good from the point of view of our playing, Ant’s ability to ‘telegraph’ the endings (thus meaning we all finished at the same time, which is a sure-fire way of making a band sound better than perhaps they might be) and in terms of the people there liking us. In terms of giving Custard Cream a fan base or furthering the cause of our high energy blues and psychedelic rock it was pretty pointless. We earned a couple of hundred quid between us, but I’m almost certain that the few people there had forgotten us before their heads had hit their pillows that night.
We weren’t asked back – and for the money they were offering, if they had, we wouldn’t have gone…
Our next gig was at the Dog & Partridge in Yateley, so different from the Cannie Man in many ways, yet so similar. The pub is pretty big – capable of holding a good couple of hundred people at a squeeze – and pretty empty, for much of the same reasons as the Cannie Man. The difference is that Yateley is a lovely little corner near Reading, found on a pleasant little village green down winding, bushy country rtoads.
The result was much the same, as well. The audience couldn’t have cared less about what we were doing, but didn’t object either. The landlord was new to the pub and we were the first band to play there. He also came from a rough part of Hull, so had a lot to talk about with Nige and George, both also children of that far flung North Yorkshire city. We were promised a return at a better price…
The next day (August 24th) we were in Pulborough, West Sussex! How Nige came up with this one we will probably never know, but we were playing outside in a small, three-sided marquee. No-one at the pub came out, the landlord never showed, but a bus-load of punters from the next village came over with the express intention of seeing Custard Cream!
Yup, that’s how slow life can get in West Sussex villages. A band no-one knows is advertised as playing blues rock in the next village and you ship yourselves out.
These guys and gals were brilliant. They danced, cheered, hollered, requested and danced some more – and then nattered to us during our break and after the gig. It was a real treat to have a group of people actually listening to us and enjoying us. Shame it had to be so far away!
We promised to be back. They promised to invite us to play at their regular pub. Neither ever happened… Of course it didn’t!