This memory is worthy of a blog tale so here goes…
We were a bunch of kids fresh out of high school when we met at DWI which later became DWU while we were there. Barry Soagai, Bougainvillean dude was the oldest of the pack.
Among all of us, Walter Topogal was perhaps the more serious guitar player. Barry didn’t play anything but tinkered with the guitar and the keyboard when the opportunity presented itself.
Kife ‘Keefs’ Yuwiya, Eastern Highlander, had begun seriously playing guitar, through Walter’s influence, about a year before. Nothing serious. Just the stuff that you would do in between studies. We had a few hangers on who came by every one and again.
Then as a spur of the moment decision one night, we decided to perform live.
We were all amateurs. No… Were weren’t even close. None of us had played in front of an audience. None of us had any band experience. No electronics, no programming, no computers back then. None of those benefits.
We were just a bunch of kids who wanted to “rock.”
We listened to every song were could find that we could play. Songs that matched our ‘skill’ level.The menu was quite short.
My skills at the keyboard were very “elementary.” I reckon Sherlock Holmes had me in mind when he said it. It was restricted to cords and a few improvised licks sometimes played with a distortion pedal. It sounded impressive. At least to the guys, it did.
We didn’t have a vocalist. So I doubled as the vocalist.
I had never done this before. But that was good enough. If we were going to embarrass ourselves, we would have to go down fighting in glory and short-lived fame.
We found Roxette.
I didn’t know, Per Gessle’s voice sounded like mine… sorry… MINE sounded a bit like his. We played one or two. The guys were thrilled. Barry Soagai, was the senior mentoring type. He said we could do it and we believed him.
Walter, the more serious muso, said the Roxette guitars were a piece of cake. We trusted him. Kife, would play bass. That was good enough. All the lead breaks would have to done by thekeybord – me.
I was worried about playing and singing. I couldn’t do both. My brain had not evolved to that stage yet. Human evolution had left me behind in that respect.
Barry, said I didn’t have to. The breaks would be done in between. That made sense. I didn’t think of that.
We didn’t have a drummer. That was a big problem.
Then we found Jackson Zabala. He dropped by one afternoon with a small electronic drumkit. Jackson was more the pro. He played in the church band and was more skilled than the rest of us.
But if you are going to have a band of amateurs, the time keepers were crucial – Jackson Zabala was it.
While mucking around with the marimba intro of Maxi Priest’s “Just a little bit longer,” Jackson, zoned into the music.
“Scott, play that again…” he said. This was a musician, right there. He closed his eyes, tilted hishead to one side, picked up the sticks, rolled the drums and laid a beat that gave us all goose bumps.
Heck yeah!!! Jackson Zabala, the heaven sent Filipino genius!
So two songs… Just two – Roxette’s “How do you do?” And our rendition of Maxi Priest’s “A little bit longer.”
Then we had a big problem. No female vocalists for the “How do you do?” duet. It was a duet that needed a girl voice in it. We had none. Zero!
I can’t remember who offered to sing that part. But it wasn’t a girl.
So rehearsal time came.
We were given 20 minutes to use the hired instruments. We killed it. It was a huge confidence booster except for the Marie Fredrickson’s part. No female vocalists.
Wise people say that you have to seize opportunities and they multiply. We seized the opportunity and two female vocalists arrived and excitedly offered to sing – my dear sisters, Melodie Quiocho and Anna Awasa. (You girls truly rock!)
We went back to rehearsals. The girls were SPOT ON! This was it! We were ready!
The transition from me to the girls was seamless. Jackson Zabala worked his magic. Barry, Keefs and Walter held it together. We were famous. (At least during rehearsals, we were.)
The night came. The hall was packed. Other bands – one of which had Steven Gimbo, Stanley Panap, Joe Pokarup and Benny Malaisa – went up and played. The seniors were intimidating. They played much better. They held it together with little effort.
Our turn came. I was a nervous wreck. So was Keefs.
I was tone deaf. Before every song, Walter would pick the cord, come towards me and give me the note. Nobody knew what we were doing. Everyone thought we were having a discussion.
Then we began. I did the first line, Walter came in with the guitars, Jackson with the drums. The crowd screamed! Were went expecting that.
The nervousness fled. Adrenaline pumped in for the first few seconds.
Female local time.
It was terrible.
I was so nervous. I hadn’t looked to the far left where the back up mic was. Just before the performance, Moses Marangu and a few other crazies had crawled up on stage to “help” Melodie and Anna “sing” back up. I didn’t see that coming.
The girls’ voices were drowned by the clowns.
The song ended. We headed for the dormitory. We tried to console ourselves from that embarrassment. But everyone didn’t care, they loved every minute of that performance.
We lived up the fame for what it was worth. Like Brian Adam’s said, “…those were the best days of our lives…”