From years 7 to 10, under the leading light of our Head of Music, Einstein, Music Man and I would spend Wednesday lunchtimes and Thursday afternoons in Jazz Band rehearsals.
Jazz band was a bit of an odd duck. We were a school that didn’t have an orchestra. Choir – although I had been the sole boy chorister in primary school – was an option I didn’t plump for, and although strings group came and went (although I was in every incarnation of the same), jazz band had more staying power.
There were more of us in jazz band, basically.
Okay, so, Big Spender is a really sleazy song, so try to play in a… I don’t know, think… think Michael Portillo.music teacher
For all the work we did, however, it was quite clear that the rest of the school had basically forgotten we existed. Every Christmas we got to sit on the stage, rather than the uncomfortable wooden seats of the local chapel, playing a random assemblage of carols. Put strings group and jazz band together and you had something approaching an orchestra, even if it had at least one member playing pizzicato violin because he’d forgotten his bow and the IT teacher on electric bass.
24 years later and I’ve suddenly realised how sexy that was.
Nobody saw it as sexy at the time. Music was something that nerds did; it wasn’t football or athletics or computing (I was also in the calligraphy club, and the five-member French Internet club, just to prove how uncool I was). It wasn’t even a rock band so it wasn’t great music. We were all enjoying ourselves, but very few other people were enjoying our existence, especially the people who had to walk past out cacophonous renditions in order to get into the maths cupboard.
The thing is, however, that it was sexy.
Nobody saw this at the time, but the ability to play an instrument is a skill. While it may have been abundantly true that nobody wanted to kiss, never mind shag, the gawky violinist in the band that didn’t exist for most of the year, the fact remains that he played the violin, so might be quite skilled with his fingers. Those who fellated reeds before playing may have been accomplished kissers. Drummers would undeniably have a certain amount of rhythm.
And then there’s the fact that it’s music. Everybody likes music. Sneer though they might have done during the year, the faceless mass would still sing along to the carols every December, and rock out to Teenage Dirtbag by the time the sixth form rolled around. Nevertheless, nobody ever thought that anything we were doing was particularly attractive.
I look back at it now and I can’t think of it as anything but.
I went back to playing jazz at university. And, by that point, we were too cool to care…
…but people still failed to notice our existence.