When They Play

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

When Liam is booked to replace the injured bass player of the 1960s band The Ferrymen he has no idea how memorable a performance it will be.

Submitted: December 08, 2017

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Submitted: December 08, 2017



Liam Power waited patiently for his father to answer the telephone. It always took his dad a while to get to the phone. Despite Liam’s requests his dad had refused to replace the dated telephone with a new cordless model. His dad was seventy years old and didn’t move as well as he used to but would accept no help from anyone. Finally he picked up.

‘Hello? Yes?’

‘Dad, it’s me.’

‘Alright son? How’s things?’

‘Good, yeah. I’ve got a gig tomorrow night.’

Liam supplemented his office salary by playing his guitar in the pubs and clubs of Salford. He often filled in playing with bands that needed a stand in for the evening.

‘Nice one. Where are you playing?’

‘It’s St Thomas’s Social Club. I’m stand in bass player for a Sixties band.’

‘Anyone I’d know?’

‘They’re called the Ferrymen.’

‘I know them. They were quite big back in the day.’

Liam smiled. To his dad ‘back in the day’ meant anytime before nineteen sixty-nine. As far as his dad was concerned the  world had peaked in the Sixties and he refused to admit that times had changed.

‘I want to hear all about it.’


Liam arrived at St Thomas’s Social Club an hour before the performance. The landlord showed him through to the dressing room. He opened the door to the tiny room and pointed a finger at the grey haired men.

‘This lot are the Ferrymen.’

Liam could smell anti septic creams and other medicinal potions. He was reminded of visits to his grandmother in the nursing home. The band members were all wearing dark suits and thin ties.

‘Alright lads? I’m Liam. You wanted a bass player for tonight.’

The four men slowly got to their feet. They moaned and grumbled about their knees, hips and backs. Not so much a rock band, thought Liam, more like the cast of Last of the Summer Wine. The Ferrymen introduced themselves. Alan was the lead guitarist, Graham played rhythm guitar, Tony was on drums and waving the hand he’d broken in a fall the day before was Eric, the original bass player.

The group seemed so frail. Walking sticks leant against the wall and the dressing table was littered with pill bottles. How would this lot get through the gig? Surely there came a time when even the greatest band should call it a day. How old was too old? Still, they were paying him and if they wanted a bass player then he was their man.

Tony pointed to a suitcase.

‘You need to put the suit on.’

‘Nah, I’m okay.’

‘We’re the Ferrymen. We wear suits.’ said Graham.

‘No suit, no show. The greatest bands of the Sixties were all called The somethings and we  all wore suits.’

Liam sighed, fine, and wondering just what he was getting involved in, changed into the musty smelling dark suit. Graham nodded in approval of the change in attire.

Alan opened and closed his hands, complaining that the cold weather caused his arthritis to play up. He winced in pain.

‘Are you going to be okay to perform?’ asked Liam.

The band members burst out laughing.

‘Back in the day, I was really hungover the night we were to perform at the Cavern Club.’

‘You have heard of the Cavern?’ Tony asked.

Liam nodded.

‘I was so hungover from the night before. I felt awful. Just couldn’t stop throwing up. John Lennon asked me if I was okay to go on stage. D’you know what I said?’


‘I told him to f*ck off.’

They laughed again. Then they wheezed and coughed and spluttered. The drummer pulled his inhaler from his pocket. Still chuckling he took a long puff.

‘Do we need to run through what we’ll be playing?’

‘Stick the kettle on.’

They drank mugs of tea and munched on Digestive biscuits. Instead of discussing the set list and chord changes they grumbled about local road works and the change in bus timetables.

A while later a roadie wearing a faded Who t-shirt poked his head round the door.

‘Right, gents, you’re on.’

The musicians struggled to their feet. The lead guitarist almost collapsed under the weight of his instrument. The drummer’s hands trembled with a rhythm all of their own.

Liam adjusted his tie. He grabbed his guitar. This performance would be interesting in one way or another. If they were awful at least he’d have a funny story to tell his friends. And besides, he would be able to say he’s played with a classic Sixties band.

The injured bass player gave them an envious look. He told his bandmates to blow the roof off the place. Liam couldn’t help smiling. This bunch of old codgers would be lucky if they managed a couple of songs. The bass player headed out into the crowd as Liam followed the band out onto the stage. The crowd applauded as they entered the spotlights. Liam found his mark on the left hand side. His fingers hovered over the guitar strings.

‘One two, a-one-two-three-four!’ called the drummer.

The Ferrymen launched into a classic hit from half a century ago. Liam looked at the band. He gasped. The musicians were bouncing around the stage with such furious energy as they belted out the rocking track. But there was something else. They were not just moving like younger men, they were younger. They were now fresh faced and dark haired. They moved with such gusto and abandon.

Liam played along as best he could. At times he struggled to keep up. The performance was just so magical. The Ferrymen were back at their best, they were as they were in their heyday. Somehow transformed they rocked the place. Liam felt as though he was with them back in the Cavern Club.

Finally the gig was over. Tony did a back flip over his drum kit. The audience went berserk. The band bowed as all good Sixties groups did. Then they left the stage.

Alan, Tony and Graham struggled down the steps. Graham ran a hand through his silver-white hair. They were now the frail elderly men they had been before the performance. Liam jerked a thumb towards the stage.

‘What just happened?’

‘That,’ grinned Alan. ‘was pure rock and roll.’


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