Bad Night in Beanoland

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Was this crowd hard?  They would have crucified Barabbas as well, but that’s Dundee for you.

 Once again, I blame Steve Jenner for this one. He couldn’t be satisfied with making us perform behind the decks with a semblance of professionalism on our own territory.  No, he had to go out and get us gigs in Beanoland as well; which is why I found myself doing a gig at the Royal Centre Hotel on a Tuesday night in January.  Now, if that’s not a sought-after gig, I don’t know what is.  A gig to die for, and I nearly did.

Despite my reservations (and they were many and varied), I allowed Steve to persuade me that this would be good for my personal development as a DJ, would help to improve relations between town and gown and more importantly would generate extra beer tokens.  The gig was going pretty well.  OK, none of the local virgins were importuning me to indulge in post-performance amorous antics but, equally importantly, nobody had threatened to panel my coupon for me.  Not a bad compromise.

This wasn’t a dancing gig.  The idea was to get the crowd in the mood to visit the hotel’s nightclub, Teazers, when the bar closed.  I was doing pretty well, perhaps too well because they weren’t starting to drift through to the club yet and closing time was approaching.  I tried to get in as many requests as I could and I thought I was worth a 2-0 lead with 5 minutes to go.  So the last record’s crucial; I need to give them something to remember me by and I succeeded only too well.

I’d already called last orders at the bar and I cued up something that I was positive they wouldn’t have heard a DJ play there before; once again my reasoning was perfect.  As I wished everyone good night and hoped that they would pay a visit to Dundee’s premier nitespot, Teazers, I hit the play button on the final track of the Queen album “A Night at the Opera” which was Brian May’s multi-layered guitar instrumental version of “God Save the Queen”.  Very ironic, I thought; a reference to the end of a night at the pictures.  The irony works on so many different levels.

I think I single-handedly set back town and gown relations by 20 years that night.  I was in the saloon and the bad guy, probably Jack Palance had just kicked open the doors.  Within 2 seconds all conversation stopped and every pair of eyes in the place was on me, pouring out a hatred that went all the way back to 1314 (and I don’t mean quarter past one).  I got a few boos and whistles but, thankfully, no physical violence was visited on my frail and puny body.  I heard a few remarks like “student poof” and “English wanker” (now that’s ironic on more than one count because I strongly resent being labelled English).

Fortunately I escaped with my life on this occasion for 2 reasons; the lure of the dancefloor and the fact that the only place to top up the alcohol level was the nightclub.  I learned 2 valuable lessons that night: don’t play any version of “God Save the Queen” (unless it’s by the Sex Pistols) in Scotland; and, never underestimate the ability of a crowd to turn from happy punters to a brooding, malevolent mob with murderous intent at the drop of a stylus.  The manager wasn’t very happy.  Mind you I wouldn’t be a ray of sunshine if I’d had to contend with 40 years of being called Willie Rasch (his real name, seriously) and that was the end of my brief but tempestuous career as a student ambassador to the good people of Dundee.

I still think Jenner should have known better than to think we could do these gigs and escape with our lives.  I say this because of something that happened on our second full day in Dundee.  We decided to sample some of Dundee’s finest hostelries in search of some foaming Scottish ales for some lunchtime refreshment and visited one of the pubs down by the docks; “The Gauger”, I think.  Steve made his way to the bar, which was pretty quiet, and spent about 5 minutes trying to order beer in his best East Midlands accent.  The penny finally dropped.  I tapped him on the shoulder and told him to sit down.  Assuming the broadest Fife accent I could muster after 8 years away, I said those words which would be repeated many times over the next 3 years: “A pint of 80/- and a pint of Tennent’s please.”  Within 30 seconds, 2 foaming pints appeared in front of me and were dispatched in short order before moving on to somewhere a little more welcoming and tolerant. I wish I’d tried to pay with an English fiver.   I’m as guilty as the next person of refusing to let history go (unless the next person’s a member of Settler Watch) but I wouldn’t let it get in the way of making a living.

Even the best of us get it wrong sometimes (or make slight misjudgements). Mr Jenner himself nearly provoked a riot in the Tav Bar by playing a stirring Hughie Green version of “Land of Hope and Glory” to bring the evening to a very hostile close.  And there’s no way of denying that one because it was immortalised on a TDK cassette and is now available on shiny digitally remastered CD. I like to listen to it now and again because it makes me feel a little bit better about my own brush with the baying nationalist mob in the Royal Centre.