The definitive history of Passion Spent – by Patrick (the parrot)
PART 2: ‘Hoorah for our founder!’
In those early days, Mick Douthwaite was the driving force behind the band. It was Mick who did all the organizing, and contacting venues to arrange gigs. It’s a good job he took control, because Brian (Wrigglesworth), the bass player at the time, was so laid-back he was almost horizontal; and Dave and Ian – both seventeen-year-olds – were just out of short pants and could just about organize getting lifts from their parents to get to rehearsals and gigs. Jim, the newcomer, didn’t think it was his place to interfere. (How people can change!!)
Mick played the drums, and he was keen for the music to sound as good as it possibly could, so he was an enthusiastic contributor of backing-vocals, both in rehearsals and in the gigs the band played. While he did have a microphone and microphone lead, what he didn’t have was a microphone stand – a fairly essential (and – I might add – fairly inexpensive) piece of kit for any drummer wanting to sing backing-vocals. Always a lateral thinker, and always prepared to improvise on a theme, Mick designed his own prototype microphone stand comprising a broken music stand and a wire coat-hanger. The coat-hanger was somehow attached to the top of the music stand (gaffa tape? sellotape? – bluetack??) and twisted into a loop around itself, into which slotted his microphone – sheer genius!
Well, no actually!
The problem was that although the microphone slotted into the loop of the coat-hanger very well, it really only sat there – without actually being clipped into position. Consequently when Mick started playing the drums, the vibrations of the kit would cause the microphone to become loose and it would very slowly slip further and further out of position, until finally only the microphone-lead through the loop would be holding it – the microphone dangling precariously, pointing at the floor. Never one to give up, Mick would lean further and further off his stool to sing at the suspended microphone, till he was almost not sitting on his stool at all. Although this did look more than a little bizarre (and quite disconcerting) Mick’s drumming was not perceptibly impeded. Even now, the very mention of “Mick’s improvised mic stand” sends shivers down the hardiest of Passion Spent fans.
As I mentioned previously, Mick was always looking for ways to improve the overall sound of the band, and this manifested itself in a number of ways, including the purchase of one of the first electric tom-toms I ever came across. This sounded a little like the tom-tom used in the Kelly Marie song of the early 80s, ‘It Feels Like I’m In Love’ – “Oooooh”, I can almost hear you all intoning with a dying fall. Exactly! This, plus the fact that there was always a space (in every single song!!) where such a sound could be slipped in, ensured that everyone in the band, even Mick eventually, to his credit, became sick and tired of the thing. I don’t know if Mick still possesses that electric tom-tom (or if that electric tom-tom still possesses Mick!), but it was one adventure down the road of electronic sub-culture that is best not spoken about; or at least only spoken about in the context of historical accuracy.
To his credit, Mick successfully carried through his plans to form a well-respected working band, and he achieved his aims admirably. Whether he was simply the kind of guy who always needed to be doing something new, or whether there was some deeper incompatibility in the chemistry of the band line-up at that time, I don’t know. But without Mick Douthwaite, Passion Spent as we know it would not exist; so we take our hats off to Mick and thank our lucky stars that he had the motivation and drive to do what he did. However, it wasn’t long before something was stirring within him, and one day (as the story was told to me), when Mick was about to go abroad on holiday for a fortnight, he mentioned to a fellow band member that he was thinking about quitting the band, and that he would know for certain by the time he returned from his holiday. NOT A GOOD IDEA!
Any self-respecting group of musicians would see there was now only one option: take control of the situation (rather than waiting in limbo for a fortnight) and find another drummer…
The fickalities of musicians!
Watch this space for PART 3!! Once again I’ll try to remember (or invent) the tales.