Rosie Wilby's stand-up show How (Not) to Make it in Britpop goes on a UK tour in November, starting this Thursday in Leicester. Rosie is publishing an accompanying e-book, about her time spent in the 90s gigging around North London with her band Wilby. You can get a sneak preview from the book right here…
Given my all out embracing of the London gay scene, it’s no surprise that one of my first major gigs was in the cabaret tent at Pride 1996. I’m not sure the programmer knew what he was doing as he had booked me, an unknown, to follow immediately after Labi Siffre of "Something Inside So Strong" fame. This was before I’d met the band so was a solo effort, marred by the mic stand drooping during my first song to such an extent I finished it on my knees. I made some joke about it not being very erect – the first in a tradition of between song barbs that I would use to save the situation when the music aspect of the gig had gone awry. I went home alone miserable, discovering the Radio 5 presenter I was having an ill advised fling with in an embrace with somebody else.
Fortunately it was only a few months before I met Donna in The Angel pub in Islington. I’d only gone there to hand out gig flyers but left with the phone number of my first really serious, proper girlfriend. She had a floppy Hugh Grant fringe with Geri Halliwell stripes and peered from beneath it with big brown eyes that implored me to fall in love with her. Her chat up line was ‘aren’t you Rosie Wilby?’ which worked incredibly well. I assumed it meant that my fame was in the ascendancy. People knew my name. It turned out we were both at York University and she’d voted for me in the Students Union elections when I stood for President by allowing my gay friends Chris and Rob to dress me up as Kylie under the slogan ‘ you should be so lucky’. Fortunately the students of York got the rather more earnest Ben Drake running their union instead. Good name for a campus populated by more ducks than actual students.
At least my posters were a hit. My friend Amanda told me that a sweet boy called Richard had one up on his wall for the entire year they shared a house after I’d left. What he did in his room under my watchful gaze I can’t imagine - Maths coursework probably. I did get to spend a year as Women’s Officer however and had to hold a ‘welfare surgery’ on Wednesday lunchtimes. This generally meant me sitting in a small room eating crisps. Nobody ever popped in for advice, despite my frequent prayers for a foxy fresher to come in and come out to me.
Donna and I took an age to get together as she was under the misapprehension I was trying to pair her off with a small American girl called Brooke I was hanging round with. It was only when she couldn’t make my gig at North London’s Hope & Anchor (or Grope & Wanker as we called it) but actually phoned the venue to send an apology I thought she must actually care, a bit.
She worked at event booking agency Ticketmaster. Her and a gay male colleague would dare each other to answer the phone saying ‘Ticketbastards’ to alleviate the boredom. We bonded over Jeff Buckley’s Grace and Massive Attack’s Protection. She seemed sophisticated because she had those albums on CD. I was still a cassette girl. Ironic that the era in which I would listen to music over and over again coincided with the format I bought it on severely deteriorating with every listen. When band’s started having rudimentary websites in the 90s they often wouldn’t bother printing the URL on the cassette artwork, judging us tapeheads too lo-fi to work computers, or just too busy spooling chewed up tapes back into a cassette shell with a pencil. Definitely Maybe by Oasis is a case in point. No web address on my old tape but the helpful (and now defunct – yes, I checked) www.cts.com/browse/ginger address on my girlfriend’s CD.
Image via Miranda Parry for BitchBuzz.com