THREE STUPID GIGS - Crazy gig No.1. During the course of my 45 year career there have been times when I could have happily choked the living shit out of some people. How about this. I was booked to do a "one man band" thing in a banking mall in Johannesburg. The money was good, gigs were few and far between, and although I honestly don't like the one man band thing { working to backing tracks} I thought what the hell, I'll have a go. I'd seen George Benson on TV miming to a backing track, and when Frank Gambale gave a clinic in Joburg he also worked to backing tracks. After much soul searching and shameful rationalising I took the gig on. I was booked to play every Friday in the said banking mall adjacent to an Islamic Mosque. The times were from 11 am to 3pm. Now this was very cool because the Moslems go to prayer at 12 noon and finish at 2pm so this meant I played from 11 to 12 noon, went and had lunch, and came back to play the last hour from 2pm to 3pm. Easy hours, just two hours playing and four hundred bucks cash in my pocket, money for old rope. I put a whole lot of tracks together on tape, a whole mix of stuff from George Benson to Stevie Wonder , Milestones, and a bunch of Christmas tunes, for 'twas the season of the year. Oh, and some Nat King Cole songs such as "Unforgettable" with which I planned to woo any young ladies who might venture within listening distance. Great stuff. So that first Friday morning I pitch up at the banking Mall. Now I really don't care where I play, whether it's the London Palladium or Fred's Liquor dive in a basement, I just enjoy playing and playing in the street is a wonderful experience. It takes a bit of balls and is an excellent opportunity for getting rid of any self conciousness one may suffer from, but I wasn't prepared for what lay in store for Me. OK. Ten thirty I arrive and inquire at the management office as to where I should set up.  A guy says "Follow me, I'll show you"  and he leads me through a maze of stalls selling everything from cheap watches to junk food. "There" he says, pointing, "You set up there between the Chinese take-away caravan and the hamburger stall" !!!!!  There's a whole row of these fast-food stalls and behind them is a barricade, a wall, of corrugated iron sheets. Behind this there's a demolition of an old three story office block taking place. Standing on my one foot high "stage" { a dozen empty beer crates covered with an old carpet } I can just see over the corrugated sheets and Oh Dear Lord. There are dumper trucks zooming back and forth, a dozen guys with road drills breaking up what have you. The whole top floor is gone and somehow the workmen have got a dumper truck up there and it's constantly heaving debris over the edge. Bam ! Boom ! Crash ! YAAaaaahhh - Ka boom ! 

Like this, only ten times bigger: 
There's a crane with one of those giant steel balls attached swinging back and forth. WHEEeeee ..Smash ! Ka-fucking- boom !!!! The racket is deafening. Unbe-fucking-lievable !  "Are You serious" ? I ask the guy. " Don't worry about it " he replies. "You'll be fine Man. it's cool, it's cool " and off he goes back to his office. So I set up my gear, tune up and look around. Office workers are streaming past. Some very dodgy vagrant type guys are eying up my equipment, probably counting what it would be worth in a hock shop. I start playing "Broadway". "That's a groovy number" I tell myself  "That should hook them right away".  Wrong. As soon as I finish a gent appears from nowhere and says- "Hey ! don't play all that jazz crap. We don't like jazz. Play something we like"  " Such as ?"  I ask. " How should I know " he says. " You're the musician, PLAY SOMETHING WE LIKE" !!!!!  So I play " Bill Bailey". "Yeah!  Right on, way to go, You got it babe" He shouts. The people are bobbing up and down. The trouble is I don't have more numbers of that kind in my repertoire, I really only threw it in as a joke. So I decide to try " Unforgettable" in my best Nat Cole fashion.  Eyes closed, I'm yodelling away -----"Unforgettable, That's what you are, unforgettable though near or far. Like a song of Love that......"  I'm suddenly aware that someone is shouting at me. " Hey ! Hey, are you deaf ? Hey you with the guitar, stop playing, I want to speak to you "  I stop playing and switch off the tape. All the while behind me the guys are drilling, the dumper trucks are dumping, the big steel ball is a-smashing and the noise is absolutely unbelievable, and a queue has formed at the chinese take-away caravan. There's a very square business type lady standing glaring at me. " Yes Lady, what's the problem ?" I enquire. " Do you mind " she barks " I'm trying to give a lecture to a group of trainees on the third floor of the travel agency building " !!  "So what's you're problem ?" I enquire again. " Don't be impertinent" She retorts "Please turn the volume down, I can't hear myself think "  There's so much racket going on we have to shout at each other to be heard. This is still going on :
I assure the stupid woman that I'll continue in a much quieter mode and off she goes. As she walks away I can see that she has a big fat ass and I'm sorely tempted to shove my boot in the middle of it. I refrain from doing so and contemplate what I should play next. I mean to say, if " Unforgettable" is disturbing the folks too much then what choice do I have ? A light bulb glows above my head. Of course ! It's Christmas time. I'll sing " White Christmas"  -most fitting, and much, much quieter than the raucous version of " Unforgettable" I've just been assaulting their ear drums with. I'm a genius, and I can try out my recently discovered brilliant "Bing Crosby" voice.
So off I go - " I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know. Where the tree-tops ......."  - " Hey you ! don't you listen ? Are you deaf ? I told you to turn the noise down. If you don't turn it down I'll report you to the management ! It's a disgrace !"  I open my eyes. There's the same ugly bitch, hands on hips, glaring at me, white with anger and indignation . I beckon to her to come closer and she approaches. " You don't have to report me to the management " I tell her  "can you guess why ?"  " No" she replies " Please tell me why"  " Because I'm fucking off right now" I tell her " But before I go I wonder if you will do me a favour " "Oh, and what's that ?" she asks. I push my face right up against hers and tell her " Before I go I'd like you to take your travel agency and shove it up your ass sideways, by the size of it I'm sure it will fit "   My wife Pina arrives with the car to take me home. She's a bit hysterical and tells me that she has just been mugged and had her antique gold necklace stolen worth about two thousand bucks. I pack up my gear and as we depart the dumpers are a-dumping, the steel ball is a-smashing, the drills are a-drilling and from one of the stalls a tape is playing - " 'Tis the season of the year, 'tis the season of good cheer. We wish you a merry Christmas" - Aaah BOLLOCKS !  (c) joemoretti. chapter one records

Crazy Gig No.2  I get a call from Biily McKinley, Drummer, Fellow Scotsman and very hard drinker. He needs me for a jazz gig at a newly opened Restaurant in Hillbrow, Joburg, from 8pm till midnight on a Sunday evening. Wonderful ! Standing at the entrance to the place are two "Heavies" -these are the " Doormen", employed to keep the customers in order, for Hillbrow gets very naughty after dark. "Is there going to be any trouble tonight ?' I ask. " Not while we have these mate" one of them replies, and opens his coat to show me a very large revolver. Like this :
Colt SAAThe other guy has a large panga, a sort of machete, tucked into the top of his trousers. Holy shit, what have I let myself in for.The restaurant is only about two blocks away from my apartment and the money's good. The rest of the band line-up aint so good. The bass player is a twit who plays everything from the 12th fret upwards.
Apart from having no idea about chord progressions, he's a terribly obnoxious bastard and I just hate working with the guy. He built his bass guitar himself and it doesn't stay in tune. Henry, the trumpet player, plays out of tune, out of time, and also tends to become rather violent when he's intoxicated, which is most of the time. He's very excited because he has just bought a new horn and is looking forward to playing on the gig. His wife Beryl is the vocalist. She is a very large lady, huge tits and and ass and is wearing a pink flared gingham dress that looks like it has come from a 1940's Deanna Durban movie, with pink shoes and a big pink bow in her blond hair. Her entire repertoire consists of songs such as "Down by The Riverside" "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Cottonfields". Oh she's pleasant enough, but very stupid, and she tends to get very pissed as well. OK. We set up on a "Stage" which is about three metres wide and and six metres long in a corner of the room. We're literally on top of one another and next to the entrance, so the customers are constantly coming and going and squeezing past us. Facing us is the bar  and Henry, Billy, and Beryl are into the booze before we even start playing. The magic hour of 8pm arrives and we kick off with " Have You Met Miss Jones".  The bass player is plink-a-plinking away, I take a couple of choruses and now Henry steps forward to play. A strange strangled, muffled sound is coming from his horn and as he progresses his face is getting redder and redder until eventually it's a bright purple colour. "God" he says "My lungs must be giving out, I'll have to quit smoking" The audience is not knocked out with our performance, just a few weak hand claps when we finish. Now Beryl steps up to the microphone and we go into "Cottonfields". Now personally I hate that fucking song but the audience love it. I decide that we must get real and play some groovy jazz so next we play "Milestones". Henry takes his choruses with the same strange strangled sound, his face all purple again. As I go into my bit a guy approaches and starts shouting at me. "No, no, no" !! Play Chubby Checka, Play ze twist" He has a very strange East- European accent. " Fuck off " I shout back at him " Go on, Fuck off, this is a jazz gig Mate". He looks very hurt and returns to the bar where he sits glaring at us. As the evening progresses the guys are getting more and more pissed, the audience is getting more and more pissed, there are some african ladies dancing around wearing yellow plastic shopping bags on their heads in lieu of hats, and I can see things are starting to get out of hand. The Chubby Checka fan is still firing looks of hatred at us. Around 11 pm a waiter  informs us - "There's a very large cop outside and he wants to talk to the band".

We go outside and there's an extremely large Afrikans Policeman sitting on a very large motor cycle. " If youse don't turn the volume down I will arrest the whole fucking lot of youse" he says. "The whole of Hillbrow is complaining about youse. Why don't youse play some good Afrikans music instead of all that Kak [shit] yous is playing, I'm fucking warning yous guys, turn it down or I'll arrest youse all" !!  We tell him we will mend our ways and go back inside. And so we continue up till midnight, play the last number- a very pissed rendition of    "Blueberry Hill" and start packing up our gear. The place is one big nutty alcoholic nightmare and someone is playing Chubby Checka tapes over the House P.A system. That must be our east european friend. Suddenly Henry shouts" Fuckin' Hell, I was just cleaning my new horn and I've discovered there's a big wad of cotton wool jammed in it. The manufacturers must have done that to keep it dry. I've blown the fucking thing half way around the horn. No wonder I couldn't get any fucking volume"!! The bass player says " Yeah. Great gig man. That was real cool baby" He's full of these terrible un-hip phrases. He's also full of shit. Beryl is involved in a loud pissed argument with the Chubby Checka fan. He grabs hold of her shoulder whereupon Henry rushes to her rescue. He swings his trumpet case and smacks the guy across the head. He smacks him so hard the handle comes off and the case goes flying across the room. Then all hell breaks loose. The Chubby Checka guy is bleeding profusely, Beryl is screaming, the crazy african chicks in plastic hats are still dancing and the doormen come running inside, pistol and machete at the ready. I grab my amp and guitar and I'm out the door pronto, never to return. I find out later that the Chubby Checka guy was the owner of the place. There's no business like show business folks but don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington.  (c) joemoretti   

Crazy Gig No.3.  This took place at a magnificent Japanese establishment called " The Oeshoe" in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Rosebank is a real classy area, expensive real estate, residential, office blocks, big banks, multinationals etc. Anyway, I got a call from a piano playing friend of mine asking me if I wanted to do my one man thing at "The Oeshoe", and again I was driven by money, blast the stuff.  The "Oeshoe" was a conglomeration of bars, small entertainment rooms, like mini night clubs, and a whole variety of "Karaoke" rooms. The room I'm working has just six tables in it and can hold maybe twenty people maximum. Oh the place is like wonderland. The carpet is three inches deep, the decor has cost a fortune, the whole place is mirrored, the bar is an alcoholic multi-coloured paradise, and there are some very beautiful Japanese girls wandering around. Oh nothing naughty, in fact the very opposite.
These ladies are dressed in Kimonos and are the epitomy of respectability. Everyone bows to everyone else and I start doing it myself, it seems such a civilised and charming way to greet a person. In the middle of the room is a big tv set and the multi effect lighting in the room is controlled by a gentleman at a console. " Why the tv set ? " I ask him. "Oh, that for Karaoke" He tells me. His English isn't so hot, but there again neither is my Japanese. " What's the program" I ask him" I mean, when do I play and for how long ?"  " Oh, you sing song "-He tells me - " Then karaoke song, then you sing song then karaoke song, wait, you see soon, you pray guitar eight o' crock" !!!  I'm not being rude, that's exactly how he sounded.  I sit at the Hollywood bar and nibble a chip and wait for eight o' crock. I look at the beautiful Girls, absolutely lovely they are, like porcelain. These ladies are hostesses and are there simply to show the customers to their tables and to talk to them, maybe about their troubles, but their main purpose is to applaud the customers who sing along with the karaoke machine. I'm serious. Let me explain. Bing ! It's eight o'clock and I'm standing in a corner of the room with my guitar and amp ready to play. Twelve people are ushered in by the beautiful ladies and are seated at a couple of tables facing the big television set. It's an engagement party and half the guests are Japanese and half are English, with the English boy being engaged to a Japanese girl.  I think there's some kind of big business deal being tied up also, with the coming marriage. The guy at the console points to me and says " Ok, now you pray guitar" and I go into a selection of Oriental music I've prepared especially for the occasion. Chinese, Japanese , it didn't matter to me, it was all Oriental, and I thought they'd like it. I finish. Nothing !  Zilch. In fact the people are all talking as if I didn't exist.

Then one lovely, tall, elegant hostess applauds politely but it sound like sympathy and quite pathetic -clap.clap,clap. Ah well, I smile and let it ride. Now it's karaoke time !!!  I've played for approximately five minutes. The father of the Japanese family rises and and stands facing the tv screen. He's going to sing " The Hills are alive with the sound of Music". Forgive me folks but here's where I go fucking bananas. The guy at the console also controls the karaoke tracks. He just dials up the number of the appropriate track and it's piped from a central computer to whichever tv monitor has requested it. Amazing !  Up on the screen appears a picture of a Swiss valley with snow covered mountains in the background. Lovely trees and flowers and....... the words to " The Hills Are Alive" scrolling across the screen, just in case anyone doesn't know the lyrics. A lovely big classical intro from the orchestra and the Japanese dad starts singing, intently following the words -"The Hirrs are arrive-o with the sound of a-music-o." It's fucking terrible. He's singing out of time, out of tune, in this terrible accent. Shame. Ah, I feel really sorry for the guy. He goes right though the song , about 3 minutes long, and now there's the big ending with him singing the last note a semitone sharp. The fucking room goes crazy. Everyone applauds like mad shouting the Japanese words for Bravo  and incredible !! The English are shouting " Well done ! Bloody fantastic ! You should take it up professionally. Give us another one me old mate ! " and other such terms of encouragement. The Dad is bowing, acknowledging his audience, like he's Pavarotti or somebody. The beautiful hostesses are squealing with delight and clapping their hand excitedly.  This goes on for about five minutes. I just don't get it. What the fuck am I missing ? The karaoke guy points to me " Now you pray guitar again,ok?" I'm getting a very funny feeling about this gig but I really don't have time to think. So I give them my fantastic version of  Broadway - it never fails. Everyone knows " Broadway", even in Japan. I read somewhere that George Benson sold a million in Japan alone...It can't miss. It misses by a mile. I finish the number and again nix applause, nothin', sweet fuck all. The  audience are not only talking, their laughing - and throwing chips and stuff at each other like I don't exist. I feel smaller than a shirt button. " Hey Joe " the guy at the console calls to me "karaoke time again, you have nice rest"  Now it's the turn of the English to show what they can do a la karaoke machine, and the young guy who has just got engaged is the appointed representative of song. He's half pissed and decides he's going to sing " Jambalaya"  which is on the play list, but he has decided that he's going to pay tribute to his Oriental hosts by singing in Japanese, which he knows fuck all about. The music starts, up come the words, but he's singing -" Bing bong, ching chong billy bong bing bang, chilly billy bing bong. "   I am mortified, I'm sure his hosts must be offended by what I consider to be an extremely insulting and derrogatory display of ignorance and bad manners. But No !!!  Everyone is cheering and whistling and clapping their fucking hands. I still don't get it. So it continues for a while, me doing my thing on guitar and getting nix applause, and these idiots bringing the house down with what can only be described as unadulterated cat shit. Then the penny drops. No matter what I do, the guys paying for the table must be treated as stars, while I, as an employee, must be treated as a part of the the furniture, like one of the bar stools. "Fuck this" I tell myself  "I can't go on like this all night". Now, the Muses can be extremely fickle and they don't like to see one their children being abused, namely me. Providence intervened. At that moment the door opened and in walked six Koreans. They are all about five feet tall and have an aura of this about them :
but they're also five feet wide and it's all muscle. One guy has no neck, his shoulders join straight on to his head, each guy is built like "The Hulk" !!!  They are already very pissed. So  they sit down, start ordering drinks and calling for the ladies to join them. Of course the ladies don't want to know.  One guy starts shouting " Hey You, Grama Gir'  {Glamour Girl} You come talk-a me, I rike you Grama Gir', why you no rike me?" Then he grabs her hand. The chick screams and pulls away. Now all six Koreans start shouting " Why you no talk-a my friend-o, why you no rike my friend-o? "  A couple of African waiters move in saying things like " Please Sir, if you continue we'll have to ask you to vacate the premises, thank you very much sir." This is like throwing gasoline on flames. " Wharra fuck-a you no tell me, fucky you, FUCKY YOU " They're shouting now and suddenly -"SMASH " !!!!! One crazy bastard has picked up a chair and thrown it at the the bar, demolishing a large portion of mirror , a wall light, and a row of very expensive bottles of spirit and liqueur. " Fucky you, fucky you, fuck or of you, you no grama gir' you no talk-a me " Another guy picks up a table - SMASH !!! It goes flying across the room taking another table and a couple of chairs with it. The African waiters have vanished, they weren't hired to be heavies, they just filled the pea nut dishes and stuff like that. The chicks are screaming, the English and Japanese wedding party  are gone. Now I'm alone in the room with six crazy Koreans and a couple of terrified Japanese chicks.The Koreans are still shouting- " Why you no kiss-a me, why you no rike me Grama Gir' ? "  I do my heavy James Dean moody and put on my dangerous look- you know - quiet, but dangerous.  I never like to run away when a lady's safety is at stake, but I'm cautious,  I've had my ass kicked severely in the past for such a display of valour and gallantry, and taking on six of them means certain death in about one second flat. But they're oblivious to my presence, after all, I am only a bar stool. For one crazy fucking moment I tell myself I'm Bruce Lee. " It's easy" - my imagination says -" just jump off the bar stool, go into that Kung Fu position and make those little bird noises like Bruce does in the movies. It might work, they won't know that you're bluffing !!!   Providence smiles once more. Suddenly the door opens again and in come the Afrikans police, and the management, and forty African waiters, and the Japanese Chef with a meat cleaver and ten of his assistants , all similarly armed. I'm still sitting at the bar flicking chips at my mouth.  James Dean Dean hasn't moved a muscle man, I am so fucking super cool man, which is another way of saying I was frozen to the spot man, scared completely shitless man !!!  Well of course the proceedings came to an end in that room. "What a crazy place"  I thought as I walked down a long corridor to collect my cheque at the management office " Thank God there aren't too many karaoke rooms around."  Honestly, I'm so ignorant. There are about another ten rooms leading off this corridor and I look into each one as I pass.
In every room there's a karaoke session going on. After I pick up my cheque I make my way to the bar in the foyer, park my ass on a barstool and order a large J&B and soda, just to bring James Dean back from the dead. A voice like spun silk speaks next to me. "Hullo Joe. " I turn round and the very lovely tall Japanese hostess is seated next to me.  "You play nice guitar" she says " I'm a singer, would you like to hear me sing?" " Of course" I reply, not really interested in what I'm going to hear, half expecting a repeat of some karaoke performance. She opened her mouth and started singing. Out came the most beautiful seductive voice singing with all the charm and warmth of Karen Carpenter. It was just beautiful and She sung with an unpretentious innocence mixed with all the heart rending appeal of Miss Carpenter at her best. The lady told me she had no desire to sing professionally, she was happy at her work, she found it very satisfying. I picked up my cheque, finished my drink, and thanked her for the song. As I drove home and went over the night's proceedings in my mind, the thought came to me " Hey Moretti, you really don't know what the fuck it's all about."   Tell me, does anyone ?   (c) August / September 2003
all articles (c) JoeMoretti music International