Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The Summer Of '96
~ ~ ~ Flash back to ten years and one week ago. ~ ~ ~
I was working in a small office at the back of Strathclyde Chemical Company in Johnstone. I was on a 9-month contract analysing their I.T. requirements and putting in place suggestions for improvement and upgrade. Very boring stuff.
I had earlier got my hands on a ticket to Madstock 3 on June 22nd 1996, which would be my first ever Madness concert in London itself.
At the same time all this was happening, a popular TV show for young adults of a free and easy nature was being aired on Friday evenings on Channel 4. TFI Friday was an archaic chat show hosted by the (then) popular Chris Evans.
Since my two friends and I would be arriving in London the morning before the gig, I thought it might be fun to go to the show. I picked up the phone and dialled the Channel 4 number from my desk in the back office of Strathclyde Chemicals, and asked to speak to somebody who could get me tickets for TFI Friday. A few clicks later and I was speaking to a young lady with a cockney accent.
"I'm looking for tickets for TFI Friday."
"Certainly. If you give me your details I'll put you on the waiting list."
"Oh. It's just that me and my pals are going to see Madness next Saturday and we thought it would be fun to come and see the show on the Friday night."
"There's a four week long waiting list, I'm afraid. Where are you travelling from?"
"And you're coming to London just to see a Madness gig?"
"How many is there in your party?"
"Just the three of us."
"Well, I'm sure we can fit you in. I'll post you tickets out today."
Next day, three tickets for TFI Friday arrived at my door.
And so on the morning of Friday, 21st June 1996, me and my two pals flew to London. It was a glorious summer, one of the best. The music in the charts was awesome, the sun was shining, EURO 96 was being held in England (England beat Scotland on Saturday 15th 2-0) and the drink was affordably easy. Life was good and about to get better.
After an afternoon sunning and drinking it up in Leicester Square, we headed to the Riverside Studios, located down a small cobbled street next to the Thames and Hammersmith Bridge. We were a couple of hours early so we popped into the typically English pub directly across the road (The Crown I think, or something like that). Time passed quickly and soon it was time to leave and join the back of the queue to get into the studio.
As I stood in the queue, with my pint of lager in one hand and cigarette in the other, I turned around to see a ginger-haired man walking towards me. He was wearing colourful slacks and soft shoes and was not as tall as I thought he was from the television. It was Chris Evans. He was more than happy to stop and talk to us for five minutes, asking us why we were down in London, impressed at our devotion to Madness, sharing a laugh, stealing a draw of my fag and sip of my lager and hoping that we enjoy the show.
Inside the studio we were given a superb insider's view of how a live broadcast is produced. Well it wasn't really live. When TFI first started it was totally live, until Shaun Ryder came along and turned the air blue during a rendition of a Black Grape song. By 1996 there was a ten minute delay between recording and broadcast.
Guests that day included Kula Shaker, Manic Street Preachers, Keith Floyd, Gazza (by phone), and as luck would have it, Ally McCoist - Scotland's favourite goal scorer at the time, who lived just up the road from me back home!
It wasn't until I got home after the weekend that I saw the show in full. We got ourselves on screen several times and it was a memorable day. I can still remember the high of being in the studio, the buzz of the impending Madness concert mixing with being let loose in London and mixing with the celebs and production staff. I remember nearly losing my head when the overhead cam swung round to get an angle on the sexy nuns carrying in Gazza's England strip. I remember being drunk on fun as well as alcohol later that night.
Halcien days. 1996 was a classic year. I'll talk about the gig tomorrow. Maybe even dig out some pics.
Back to today, and I edited the synopsis to make it tighter, but it really is too long. So I decided to do a long one and a short one depending what editor's requirements might be. The long one stands at four almighty pages, and the short one two. I am really struggling to get it into one page but I really need to get the short one cut back drastically.
My friend has agreed to beta-read Stella for me. I couldn't resist giving it one more flash-read before sending it off and I actually found a few typos while doing so.
I wrote out the template letter for the queries to be sent out to the editors I selected from the Writer's Handbook. I posted it to my writing group for feedback because there are plenty of writer's in the group who have swum through these waters before me and can hopefully provide valuable advice.
I typed up a letter of approach to send to Yello's management team in Zurich. Just as I was about to post it I remembered it would be going by airmail so I held off and will take it to the Post Office tomorrow for sending.
I worked through all the small press publications (and a couple of large ones) that I had selected yesterday and put them into a spreadsheet, which I will use to track my submissions. I then cross-checked them with the book and entered in all their details; address, email, web, submission requirements etc. Three or four of them are a damn good match and will most certainly be in the first batch to be sent out.
I'm getting quite excited about Stella now that it is about to go out into the world on its own.