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The Satellite Club – An Orbituary
The first few times I went to the Satellite my brother was there. He’s 3-4 years older than me, depending on the season, so I assume I was around 10. I may have lied to get in.
From that period I remember playing snooker and table-tennis, or, rather, waiting to, as older, bigger boys tended to monopolise the tables. I was doubly disenfranchised, because even after risking life and limb by ‘dobbing-in’ the bigger boys the house rule of ‘winner stays on’ very effectively kept me – blessed with the coordination of a drunken Douglas Bader – relegated to the sidelines. If I had any table-based sporting skill whatsoever it was for Foosball™ ‘throw-ins’, as this was really just marbles which I played constantly at school. Sadly, however, I hated Foosball™, and throw-ins aside was useless at it.
Thankfully the spectre of my brother was soon exorcised after he borrowed a huge Imperial typewriter from the club office under the pretext of wanting to write a Christmas show. I can’t remember anything of this other than it was to be sketch based, and suspect that’s because it never got written. I do remember contributing one sketch myself, set in a football team’s changing room. It was basically a single visual gag that would undoubtedly have been vetoed by the adult producers as ‘not quite what we’re looking for’, but I take pride in the fact that C4’s ‘Inbetweeners’ recently featured an almost identical scene, reinforcing my belief that then, as now, my writing was way ahead of its time.
Whatever the fate of the Christmas script I know the typewriter ended up in a second-hand shop and that my brother spent the money on fireworks and fags, an act of petty larceny that effectively debarred him from returning to the club. The secretary’s loss was my gain.
I remember a further Christmas non-event a year or so later, when someone suggested a charity meal for the local elderly. I can’t remember the proposed main course, but the starter was soup and the dessert baked Alaska! None of us had heard of baked Alaska, but we were mesmerised by the description of it. My guess is the organiser was a keen fan of Fanny, ‘cos it has all the hallmarks of a Craddock Culinary Centrepiece, but given our age and experience suspect it was probably more of a disaster waiting to happen. I remember discussing this with one of the other kids on the walk home: Cold ice cream covered with warm meringue? She must be mental. Sadly, the oldsters didn’t get fed because we couldn’t get the funding. Same old same old, eh?
Another attraction of the Satellite was the chance to hear music in the ‘cafe’ area – a small rectangle at the bottom of the hall sub-divided into a tiny kitchen with a serving hatch/worktop and a dance floor. They sold crisps, Tizer and other ‘tuck’, and the worktop provided a permanent home for the ancient turntable supplying ‘sounds’. When I first started going it was all about reggae. Whether this reflected the kid’s or the organiser’s tastes I don’t remember, but I do recall picking up the rudimentary elements of what I laughingly refer to as dancing while listening to orange and white labelled 45’s with titles like ‘Return of Django’ and ‘The Liquidator’. My musical tastes have evolved since, but the reggae – and later ‘glam’ – I listened to at the Satellite sparked a lifetime passion for music in all forms, so I owe the Satellite a big thank you for that.
I also remember a band playing there – possibly the first gig the building ever housed. I’m not certain they even had a name, but I’m fairly sure this was an early outing for a local boy named Gary Barden who never quite made it as big as he should have despite doing his thang in various bands in TW and to wider success with the likes of Michael Shenker and Gary Moore. All I remember of the Satellite band was that they’d acquired a ‘wind machine’ of some sort, and utilised it with the same spirit and determination that ‘We’ve Got A Fuzzbox & We’re Gonna Use It’ subsequently applied to their, erm, fuzzbox. Basically, they thrashed it for all it was worth on every intro and outro of their set, as well as during solos and middle-eights for ‘atmospherics’. Just as well they couldn’t afford a dry ice machine; we would have all choked to death...
David/ODDLYactive 1970-73, some memories
For more from David read his blog Lovely2cu
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