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Lay for the Day
25th November

The Band played their last gig on this day, Thanksgiving, in 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The occasion was captured and celebrated in Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Waltz.
A great musical event of the time, but every gig is memorable in its own way…



It was Thursday night at the Crate and Poker,
you know – the grim one behind the station –
Futile Park. We were called the Bram Stoker
Sextet. Frank was doing his PhD
then on the Gothic imagination.
The music wasn’t alive, exactly,

but at least it was undead. Beaky Bob
Bishop on bass; that’s right, Bob with the bad
hanggliding habit. Did a good job
on both legs a bit later. Venomous
Vincent, London’s ugliest drummer – had
a new girlfriend each week. Anonymous

Andrew on piano, the silent type,
threw up all over the keyboard one night
after Frank had got out the water-pipe
in the Transit. And Mark the Millionaire,
who had that hit with Cheesecake Satellite,
he was on guitar and trousers and hair.

Me on trumpet and chicken vindaloos.
Frank on alto, illicit cigarettes
and bizarre thoughts on the roots of the blues
and their relation to Mary Shelley.
Did some Monk tunes, even one of Ornette’s;
had a few gargles, gave it some welly.

When we took it on, the place was a crypt.
By the time we left we’d pulled a few punters.
We were doing alright till Andrew slipped
up in his break in “I Can’t Get Started”.
He was the last of the moaning grunters,
touchy kid, dead serious, introverted.

Finishes his solo, then walks offstage
to brain the guvnor with the piano stool,
screaming something about a living wage.
Vincent has to hold the guvnor’s missus
back from smacking the poor boy with a pool
cue. This is the cultural life one misses.

For the grand finale, old Frank blows up,
ranting about opium and Liebestod.
The curtain comes down when Old Bill shows up
and nicks the band for disturbing the peace.
So much for jazz. Frank, I believe, found God.
I got a gig in the pit-band for Grease.


John Gibbens,
from The Improvised Version, Vol. 1

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar