First Person - Paul McCabe

Paul McCabe - Fife Free Press
Paul McCabe - Fife Free Press

I’M planning to do something really stupid. Something that probably screams mid-life crisis, something that I may end up regretting and if I’m being honest I’m slightly dreading, even though it’s all my own idea – I’m going to be playing a gig in a band.

A thousand years ago in my 20s I spent most of the decade playing in a couple of bands. The first one, in which I was the “singer”, recorded a few abysmal demos which we sent off to record companies without ever getting a single response and played gigs to almost completely deserted pubs and clubs to mostly disinterested people, the majority of whom we knew.

The latter beat combo, in which I was a guitar and keyboard “player”, also played gigs to almost completely deserted pubs and clubs to mostly disinterested people, the majority of whom we knew, but did actually fair a little better in terms of coverage.

We got good reviews in the Melody Maker and NME, featured quite regularly in the Edinburgh Evening News and, highlight of them all, one which I have no qualms boasting about, we got one of our demos played by the God of the airwaves, John Peel. But that was about it.


Making that step from semi-popular local band to getting signed by a record company was one we could never quite work out how to make. Or maybe, and probably the most likely, just weren’t good enough. So after about three years slogging about, and with the big 3-0 looming, I gave it up, finishing with a grand and OTT gesture, which mysteriously didn’t make national headlines, when I sold all my guitars and amps (which of course I now bitterly regret).

Also, despite thinking how cool it would be to be in a band, once I was I discovered to my dismay that I didn’t really like it. Rehearsing was fun but I hated being on stage and recording is long, expensive and really boring.

But there were some funny moments. Like the time I walked on to “sing” the first song, tripped over a guitar lead, grabbed the microphone and bashed it into my mouth splitting my gum open.

The occasion we played Strathclyde Uni in Glasgow to complete silence throughout including a table of girls who sat with their backs to us for the whole set.

The pub in Loanhead where the crowd was a table of old blokes playing dominoes who shouted and swore at us in between each song.

At another gig I picked up my guitar, “played” the first chord and no sound came out. I turned to gesture to the sound bloke to turn me up, he shouted back that my volume was up. I fiddled with my lead and amp all the while shooting daggers at the mixing desk. I then discovered that I hadn’t actually turned the volume up on my guitar. I did it slowly and subtly, still pretending that it was the fault of poor sound bloke.


A bandless decade passed and then one of my friends decided it would be a good idea to reform the band to play on his birthday. Again rehearsals were great but come the day of the gig itself I was crippled with nerves.

I dropped a glass because my hands were shaking so much 12 hours before we were due to go on. The gig itself I hated and it reminded me of why I gave it up in the first place.

So why am I doing it again? Dunno. The rehearsals for the reunion gig made me realise that I had missed playing music so I bought a guitar and started “playing” again, but there’s a big difference form strumming in a room to getting up on stage.

There’s probably some deep, psychological reason behind it all but I’m too stupid and lazy to be bothered working it out. But rehearsals are now indeed under way, EMI are on stand by.

So there we go. If your idea of a good night out is watching a bunch of middle-aged blokes blasting out a horrible, tuneless cacophony – and I’m not talking about Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – then come along. If nothing else there’s a very reasonable chance that the “singer” might actually soil himself in terror during the gig itself. That’s got to be worth seeing, surely?