My first job, at the tender age of 15, was working as a sales assistant in the Burtons Menswear store on the Parade, Leamington Spa. There I learnt to sell. If a customer came into the store to buy a suit my job was to ensure that they went out with two suits, a shirt, a tie, a raincoat and hopefully two pairs of trousers. It was up-selling. It wasn’t commission led either – it was “fear led”. In my opinion, my boss, Mr Roberts, was a git and he would rip me to bits if a customer came in for a suit and they only walked out with a suit. God help you if they came into the store for a suit and left without buying anything.
When 2 Minutes Was Too Long
I have recently joined an international organisation called Toastmasters. Their objective is to help people become more confident at public speaking. The Leamington Spa branch of Toastmasters are called Spa Speakers and can be found here.
Speaking in public is something I am not naturally good at – I get my words mixed up and my thought process gets cluttered. It is out of my comfort zone. I am not comfortable with small talk either – general conversation within a group environment is way out of my comfort zone.
Which were very good reasons for joining up with Spa Speakers – it is good to get out of your comfort zone occasionally.
I remember asking a mate after a gig “How was I?” I had just come off stage, full of myself, and I thought I’d aced it.
“Not bad”, he answered, “but you could have been a lot better”.
He then tore my act to bits telling me where I could have introduced a song better, asked why I kept looking at the ceiling when I was trying to remember my words instead of looking at the audience, and why did I sing the last song in G when it would have been better down a tone.
He was just being honest. I asked him and he told me the truth which I hadn’t expected.
Asking for feedback is difficult – and I didn’t get the reaction I expected!
The Mutual Appreciation Society does you no good at all.
After a folk club gig I was having a chat with a member of the audience who asked if I would play a gig at their house one Sunday evening and how much I charged. I thought about it and said,
“I won’t charge you anything, but get everyone who comes to the party to donate £5 towards the cost of the gig.”
After agreeing a date I arrived at the House Gig an hour before the party was due to start and set up a very small acoustic amp in the host’s living room and set up my microphone and mic stand.
House gigs are great fun. Just don’t stand on the flow beds, it doesn’t go down well.
“This song is for the drunk that has been asking for a Van Morrison number.”
This was the low point in my musician career. I was gigging in a pub in Rugby, Warwickshire and a guy had been heckling me for most of the evening asking me to play him a Van Morrison song. He was loud, obnoxious and determined to get his request played. I knew he would keep asking but I was trying to put it off for as long as I could just to annoy him.
Over the mic, in front of a pub full of people, I dedicated a song to… ” The Drunk asking for a Van Morrison number.”
Things quickly went downhill from there.