joining my first ever pop group… continued

rosetta-stone-1-if-you-could-see-me-now-loving-arms-ariolain my pre-teen years,i learned to play simple guitar during a lengthy spell out in singapore.
i would skive off beyond the wire mesh cage of the air force camp,where chinese and malaysian kids would teach me british/american hits by the likes of the kinks and creedence clearwater revival,
and then on returning to ireland,i got a weekend gig as a fourteen year old, accompanying a local star called ‘the singing farmer’.
he was a kind hearted burly guy who sang songs about faith healers,and his good life in the countryside.
but then he gently,though quite rightly fired me,when my mum bought me a wah wah guitar pedal for my 15th birthday, which i relentlessly ploughed through his every waltz,foxtrot, and quickstep..
so that was my then musical qualifications as a guitar player…fairly colourful,but very very basic.
….roll the movie on five years later with me in england,and thanks to the svengali who’d been rogering me up the shitter , a vacancy comes up in one of his teen groups.
let me give you the background to this teen group who were called *rosetta stone*.
they were a rocking little irish affair who suddenly gained temporary international attention,
when the cutest of the five was plucked away from them by the svengali to join the scottish bay city rollers at the height of their fame,
only to return to his original irish bandmates a year later…but then having returned,decided once again to leave … hence the vacancy that i would fill.
so having been away from edinburgh for nearly two years,i return for the audition.
i would like to tell you i ‘passed the audition’,
but i suspect on account of me being young,irish,cute,and having taken the svengali’s bellend up the chocolate starfish, my position was 75% secure before i even headed back up through england on the train.
…however,purely for practical reasons, they did have to just check i could actually play guitar…
turns out i was ropey enough,but workable.
so with five days of intense rehearsing, i just about learned their live setlist.
the first night of playing live with these boys was baptism by fire…
even though it was in some rickety scottish village hall,their young exclusively female fans travelled miles,even whole continents to watch and scream at them.
i was soooo looking forward to it…not even nervous …
i was just hungry and curious for the sensation of fan worship .
but when i graced the stage all cocky and willing,i got a rude jolt of reality from the shit storm that awaited me.
“who the fuck is he?” they moaned ..
the trouble was..the chappy who i’d replaced was an ex bay city roller…it didn’t dawn on me that he was the main pull of this band,
punk bands getting spat at by their male audience is one thing…but girls in search of the bubblegum rush are far more hardcore!
bands always think there’s more cred in having a male audience,but they should never under rate the vicious devotion of young teenage girls…
and those girls evidently hated me.
so that was my wings well and truly clipped for a day or two…
i soon warmed to those girls who followed the band everywhere…and they eventually accepted me into the fold.
one of them who came over from kansas at every opportunity was raped by hells angels in the middle of england while following the band from gig to gig,and still she kept the course…
she still writes to me…she still digs music.
one of them went on to work professionally for the manic street preachers… still into music,and encourages me to this very day…
some of them grew up to become fine music journalists… clearly their rock n roll passion spilled over into their future lives.
these girls would arrive at gigs knowing all about your interests,and on those grounds would greet you with the most considered gifts..
gorgeous clothes…records..hand made cassette compilations for long journeys..and they were often very funny too.
you’d see the same faces in worthing as you would in some tiny town in germany or denmark…
they’d hide and sleep under trees at night if they couldn’t find lodgings.
in theory,joining this group was not a very bright move…
punk rock had already morphed into new wave,and here was me,in my prime, joining a sodding early 70’s style teenybopper group…
but it was a hoot ..
i had a blast attempting to upstage the singer at every opportunity ..
the guitar player who must have hated my guts,had no choice but to teach me what i needed to know…
they might have been teenyboppers to the world,but that guitar player was gifted, and i learned loads off him…
it must have been a drag for the poor guy,having to patiently teach guitar parts to this screamer who gatecrashed into their bubble, out of the blue.
heaven only knows how they coped with my presence…but i’m grateful that they did.
and so what if punk rock had changed things in england…
it didn’t much matter in germany,where there was little or no social context for angry music…
the big star in germany wasn’t johnny rotten..it was david hasselhoff,so us young boys were the bleeding edge of rock n roll by comparison.
i loved going to germany with these fellas….the toilets were clean..and dressing rooms gave you a feeling of self worth…
in 70’s broken britain the toilets were pigging…the accommodation was insulting…the dressing rooms were often the toilets,
and once you’ve had a taste of continental cleanliness,it’s a drag to come down off it..
we’d go to cologne or somewhere to do television,
but on the return to heathrow,we’d watch shakin stevens who sat on the plane with us, getting picked up and whisked away in a limo,
while we’d be met by a roadie in a filthy white van.
young as we were, the fifteen minutes of fame was up,and as the bay city rollers slipped further and further into the rock n roll sewer,naturally so would we.
the brief spell of star living that i caught the tag end of was almost over, and by the time i’d settled in,we were travelling with the roadies…
and then the roadies went too…
at one stage we were so broke that eating involved buying a loaf of bread, a few packets of cheese slices,and assembling our own butterless sandwiches in the van behind the venue.
but it was cool…we loved cheese sandwiches.
occasionally we’d get treated to a slap up meal in a fancy restaurant around cavendish square in london or wherever …
i remember ordering fish in this posh scene,but i didn’t know how to de-bone it…
so mike mansfield..the silver haired supersonic guy reached over and did it for me…
and one of the band, in a stab at being all adult,ordered the cheeseboard instead of pudding,
but when it came,he asked if they had any kraft slices…
funny how rock and roll slyly cultivates its inmates.
the crazy thing was,with all the gigging we were getting rather good,
but the svengali would piss on our chips all the time…
he was such a fucked up control freak,that he feared his boys might develop and become successful,
it was so perverse…
he hated everything that was new..and he didn’t like it, if you liked anything that was new.
one time he was off in america on bay city roller business,and i heard iggy pop was coming to edinburgh odeon…
well!!!..i just had to go…and i did…alone…. a new group i never heard of called the psychedelic furs were supporting,and i lapped it up like cream…
in my mind,that one single evening wiped away the 1960’s and 1970’s in my head for quite a while
i could feel this new music in the air.
so svengali isn’t happy about me going out to a gig…worse still was i stayed out all night at a girls house…not just any house….a girls house…
when he got wind of this,he was livid .
he laid into me in his shitty big naff pine 70’s  kitchen in front of the rest of the band, while they didn’t dare say boo…
“who the fuck is iggy pop?
ye bin readin toooo many NME’S again, son…
that stuff just fills yer heed wae shite…
yer heed’s fill o shite,son
who the fuck is iggy pop?!…
he’ll nivir be big in japan”…did ye shag the fish too ..are ye intae fish?!
i just stared blankly at him,which made him worse….
the group themselves didn’t stand up for me…
and the svengali was becoming intimidating now…i worried he might hit me…
turns out his trip to america was him being officially fired by the bay city rollers,so i served as a bit of a chopping block…
fuck this…i decided to leave…and went incognito…
the band told their fans i was just sick,and i did return for a short spell…
when i came back,the rest of the group were finally gaining some clarity regarding this slob…
i mean..there was plenty to go on…
one night we all went out to eat in his rolls royce,and when he pulled into the filling station,he’d forgotten the keys for the petrol flap…
so he took a crow bar and prized open the petrol flap on this dear rolls royce at a filling station,while we sat in the comfy back seats in blind denial of this philistine…
the worst experience of him was at an actual gig…
thank heavens he rarely came along,but when he did, we’d go together in his big white range rover…
one night we play in this lovely wee place called bonnyrigg,and when we leave, there was always a bunch of  sweet girls who would block the car..
it was fun…
but svengali hated the wee dolls who made him rich,and he wrecklessly ran his range rover over a young girls toe hurrying back to his shitty large 70’s new build bungalow which he perceived as a mansion.
we had to leave him…but he scared us,
so we planned a moonlight…
we had a new manager waiting to meet us on our early morning arrival in london..
and driving down there through the night,escaping him, felt very exciting.
we tried to re-invent ourselves a bit…but if you’re gonna jump..you better jump far..and we simply didn’t leap far enough…
the only difference was i started wearing make-up…and looked completely ridiculous,
and i was still constantly trying to upstage the singer…who was such a cool guy.
i had to leave and get my own thing together….
so i went back to square one, and returned home to northern ireland to form a group where EYE could be king shit of fuck mountain as a singer.
so that was my first pop group and manager…
two years after bailing this scene, he ended up in prison,and further down the line while getting fatter and fatter, he finally pegged it in his bubbling hot tub.
he was so fat and heavy in his final hour,the fire brigade had to come with a crane to hoist his dead carcass out of the tub, and haul it off to the morgue.
i would occasionally call him down through the years,in moments of morbid curiosity.
his phone number was too easy to remember….
he’d brag and brag about his money ,and i got a huge kick out of softly telling him that no one gave a fuck about his money…that it’s boring.
i loved telling him how no one cares about anyone else’s money but their own…tell me something else…but he had nothing to tell..he was empty.
he couldn’t cope with his own peer group..or woman..he mostly needed very young men around him at all times..but not for their energy or smarts…more because they were easy to control.
when i think about that i feel sorry for him…
i figure something  must have happened  ..someone maybe crushed him when he was younger, and it vandalised his map..he left all his money to charity which must be the most passive aggressive gesture ever.
but i also know that ten minutes in his loathsome self serving company would wipe all thoughts of compassion away…
still.. for two years i loved loved loved being in that band…
we were bags of energy on stage..loud and keen..and the singer and drummer came off every night soaking in sweat.
it was a great way for youngsters to get a taste of the world outside of northern ireland or the uk.
dear reader…sorry if that was far too long.
my next post is all about going home and rediscovering northern ireland as a magical place for music at the height of the troubles…
the onslaught of drugs into my creative life,and a few other extremely sad things.
here’s a video of that fantastic teen group caught on german telly..
i’m the arse with the pink guitar,trying to hog the camera from the singer.
all my loving
mary of the wilderness.
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46 Responses to joining my first ever pop group… continued

  1. Richard malpas says:

    Honest, amusing, poignant,, and every word, Mary, or Gregory…..

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    • i love it that you can tell my written voice,richie….i heard from calli last night.

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      • Richard malpas says:

        Hello Mary, Calli is doing well, so busy with her music…has such a passion and drive. She won’t fade away gracefully, music will be with her for life…back to you…you hve an amusing way of putting things over…good to speak again…Take care..

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      • she’s a seriously good singer…strong and convincing,and she looks so lovely…somewhere there’s a proper manager /production/writing team who would love her..i so want her to find that for herself.

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    • so sad to hear all you went through at an early age. I was one of the girls following the band and it was lots of fun and we missed you when you left. I used to watch you sometimes sitting by yourself deep in thought,looking troubled but when we spoke you would put on a happy face. ….xxxx

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      • oh don’t be sad sandra …we were lucky and happy for most of the time…especially with all the support we got from you girls..it was fantastic…lovely to hear from you..i remember the birkenhead gig..was it called the golden wheel?

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      • Hi. The birkenhead gig was at The Hamilton Club,if you remember someone stole your cassette recorder that you got for your birthday.. keep rocking. love sandra xx

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      • i just about remember the cassette recorder..but i remember the birkenhead girls..there was couple of them..one quite tiny and very funny…shortish wavy brown hair

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      • HaHa, the birkenhead girl who is tiny with dark wavy hair is me. nice to know you remember me and im still funny and tiny.(my daughter tells me to grow up but i dont want to) then there was Ally,slim with blonde hair and Bev .who only went to a few gigs.. xx

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      • you were hilarious..and ally was sort of elegant..possibly a bit posh even…you always gave me envelopes with your names on the back in tiny handwriting from birkenhead..was it ally who gave me that first spandau ballet album to hear?..on vinyl!

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      • i cant remember who gave you the spandau ballet LP but you spot on remembering us. I still keep in touch with a lot of the girls but mostly on FB. So many happy memories,I wonder where all the years have gone,its over 30 years ago and we’re all getting old and gray HaHa. xxx

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      • i know!!!..my hair is white now…in my 20’s i would have paid good money to have it bleached this colour.

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  2. Zelle says:

    Lovely story, not too long, not too short,……Just right.
    Much Love,
    Zelle

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  3. Vonnie Reyes says:

    Remember those days so well.We also had fun traveling all over the country and Germany to see you all,we had great adventures We all made some great friends an even to this day most of us have kept in touch.You were always the genius musician and still loving your music today and caffs still in the business too…
    lotsa love from yvonne of Stourbridge x x

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    • hi vonnie…i always remember blackpool for some reason…and chorlton…i loved doing the weird little venues around backwaters outside the main cities….you girls were a wild and lovely bunch.

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  4. susi booth says:

    loved reading this, was off the rosetta scene by the time you joined, but you inspire me to do some writing, and also have a cheese slice x

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  5. Dawn Redmond says:

    Beautifully written, brilliantly honest…knew you as Paul, but whatever your name, you were a great guy, still remember the first gig I saw you at was Portslade on the South Coast, you looked down at your feet for ages but when you finally looked up I gave you a big smile, I knew loads of people around were grumbling Ian had gone but that never seemed fair to you. You brought your own unique personality and creativity to the band, it was fun having you around back in those days…and the whole RS thing was some of the best days of my life. Wish you the very best wherever you are, whatever you do.

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    • cheers dawn..that’s very sweet..i changed my name to gregory paul gray,right after rosetta stone, and it stayed..it’s on my passport and everything …. i’ll write about that one day… you’re right..those were great times..such a perfect way to spend our youth…i’m so glad i can remember the details…i live just outside london now.xxx

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      • Dawn Redmond says:

        I’ll look forward to hearing that story…in fact I can’t understand why you haven’t written a book, it would be an amazing one, you’re so gifted in expressing yourself (then you always were), not many could write about themselves with such open honesty, we all tend to hide a lot of ourselves most of the time, you step right up to the plate and deliver from the heart. Thats cool you live in London (I live on the Isle of Wight lol), who knows, maybe one day we’ll get to share the memories over a cuppa for old times sake. Social networking has created a magic way of bringing old friends back together, its one thing I’m very grateful for xx

        Like

      • i wonder if you do the isle of wight festival..that one has so much fantastic history.

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      • Dawn Redmond says:

        Haven’t lived on IOW long but Festival times are always amazing…brings island almost to a standstill (thought last year mostly due to the mud lol!!), they have some incredible acts there, my family moved here a while back (I moved over to join them recently) because my nephew goes to Platform One Music College on the island, he’s doing a BTEC in Commercial Music, and in September begins doing honours degree there in same subject, he’s a bass player, and its so great to see him being able to follow his dreams, he lives for music, part of his course (I think 2nd year) they can apply to perform at the IOW Festival. He’s great to have around too, go to loads of gigs with him (30 Seconds to Mars, Black Veil Brides, Bon Jovi being most memorable and recent), music (live whenever possible) still biggest part of my life too! Been listening to some of your stuff here too, its awesome.

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  6. Marianne says:

    Amen :)) so well written ,yet again 🙂 Very good times and my did we get around some wired places.Remeber the times in Yorkshire where the so called “ripper” was loose ,everybody was looking after each other .We even got ourselfs into one of theese german live shows at the time ,first they wouldnt let us in ,but i guess when they saw the frustration in our eyes and traveling as far away as from denmark they let us in .And it was in the middle of nowhere 🙂
    We loved your outfit and not to mension the blue plastic shooes ,so very 80’s:) iam sure i can still dig out a pair from the loft ..lol
    Thanks for good times “Paul”
    Have a good week wherever you are .
    All the best
    Marianne

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    • oh my marianne…the blue plastic sandals…hahahaha..they were my tribute to marc bolan…he used to were sandals sometimes…i changed my name to gregory paul gray right after rosetta stone…i’ll probably write about that sometime…..oh my god..i do remember that ripper business..you girls were fearless..but you were tough little things too..especially in a crowd…you were beautiful as a crowd, and as individuals..you were all out there having fun instead of falling into line..

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      • Marianne says:

        When i dig up the blue sandals i will tell you ..lol 🙂 and wouldn’t it be nice one day to all meet up ..been in london many times enough ,next time ithink its my time to visit Vonnie and co ,and we can all catch up ..that would be great ,and what a blast we would have 🙂
        At the moment iam sweating my own sandals off in thailand 🙂
        Take care my friend :)))

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  7. Tim says:

    Aye, you were a ‘flash’ bugger back then. thoroughly enjoyable read GG. Any new music looming?

    Like

  8. Loretta says:

    Wow…. well you never know do you…. yes indeed ..i also saw you with perfect crime….many good memories…hope your keeping well chuck..hahahaa still fckin insane x x x x x

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  9. Krys says:

    Hiya!!! I’d ask how the hell are ya but from reading all this, …..you are doing just fine. Really entertaining reading, love it! So many memories……. the goold old days. Krys ( Karen’s friend )

    Like

  10. Richard malpas says:

    Really looking forward to the next episode of your journey. I know that you went home, and the music you took with you, but that was a precised version. I have a feeling what your next song will be, I may be wrong…but all the same it will be entertaining whatever it is….

    Like

    • hi richie..i have a handful of things i need to get on and finish…i might post one of them today…i’m so slow with it…i let them sit for a few months worrying if they’re any good,but you know i always post a little cluster of new songs every year…it’s real nice you enjoy reading these things…they’re a trip to write..unravelling it into short readable form.

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  11. Debbie says:

    Loved reading your memories of your time with the band. We hitch hiked all around the UK to go to the gigs which was a great way to spend our youth! Made some great friendships with some of the other girls which have lasted right up until this day and you were a breath of fresh air . . I still have a love of rock musicians who wear make up!! LoL!

    Like

  12. Debbie says:

    LoL . . . erm, this year I’v seen Donny and Marie Osmond, the singer from Razorlight and Boy George . . . I’m not quite sure which one you’re classyfying as heavy metal . . although that is usually where I can be found!! You had a GREAT look back in the day with the hair and makeup, the glittery jackets and the pink guitar . . you sure jazzed up the band when you joined but sorry that you had to eat butterless cheese sandwiches although I dont think that we were eating any better ourselves . . oh dear, I do love memory lane! Have yourself a great bank holiday weekend! X

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  13. David T says:

    I loved that about the clean facilities promoting a sense of self worth. I have often felt that in Germany myself. That is a lovely piece – lots of stand out ‘YAY’ bits – this is my favourite “he left all his money to charity which must be the most passive aggressive gesture ever”! x

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  14. That’s just an amazing story. Really rich in detail and with rock n roll oozing from pore. Thanks for sharing your memories.

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  15. Hi, Mary/Gregory/Paul. I was a member of the Rosetta Stone Fan Club for 2 years, and I’ve always wondered what happened to you. I’m happy to know you’re still in music and I LOVE that you trashed Tam Paton!! Take care and be happy.

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