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In The Money!

Date: 11th May 2000

Venue: Bournemouth

The most lucrative gig we ever played as Official Secrets was at a hotel in Bournemouth. At the time, Rob Childs worked for British Telecom and one of his colleagues who had been to see us play on a few occasions was tasked with providing entertainment on a corporate weekend to be held down in Dorset.  Hinting that BT would expect to pay a fair whack for a band, we quoted what we thought was a fair whack. Actually we quoted what we thought was a mad amount but they accepted. So good was the fee that we decided that we could afford to stay in a cheap hotel over the road from the venue to avoid us having to drive back after the gig.

From what we gathered, the 'Corporate' weekend consisted of a load of BT employees spending all day driving tanks, falling into lakes, invading small middle-eastern countries all in an effort to 'team-build'.  The idea I suppose was that when they returned to work, they would be motivated by the experience and over time manage to recoup the enormous cost of the weekend, not least of which was the cost of employing the services of a high-class rock band.

Rob, Brian, Pete, Paul and I arrived at Bournemouth in the afternoon and set up the equipment, carrying out a leisurely soundcheck before nipping down to the town for some food. When we arrived back, so had the BT expeditionary force who were by now tucking into their dinner with the enthusiasm of people who had spent all day driving tanks, falling into lakes and invading small middle-eastern countries, strangely.  Following that, there were some impossibly dull speeches from various head of department, crammed full of weak jokes whose success relied on the alcohol intake of the audience.  I also seem to remember that there were awards given for the various exploits which had taken place during the day: prizes for whoever ended up covered in
the most shit, most gruesome injury, least popular colleague etc.  After this, we were poised to strike up with our first set.

As applause died away from the last presentation, we launched into the first song. The audience of 200-odd people left en-masse, some to hit the Bournemouth night-spots and some to go to bed. By the time we reached the middle eight of the first song the room contained one band, fifteen people too infirm to leave and the banqueting debris. To be fair, the handful who stayed made an effort and we half-heartedly completed the first set to applause which sounded like someone had scored a decent couple of runs off a loose ball.  Retiring to the bar for our break, the gentleman who booked us was most apologetic but reassured us that we would be paid in full, even if we decided to call it a day there and then.

After about half an hour of leisurely drinking and discussion, we decided that as we had set up the gear it would be a pity not play a few more numbers so we returned to the stage followed by a loyal core of supporters and casually picked our way through the second set list, choosing songs we fancied doing.  We even got an encore - a generous gesture by the audience, we felt!

Having packed the equipment away, we decided that we would hit the bar in a big way. It was coming up to midnight, and the bar showed no signs of shutting. Idly we wondered whether we could wind up being the last to leave the bar. By 2 am, the bar was deserted other than for us, the barman and couple of hardened BT commandos.  At 3:30 am, we gave up - our drinking companions were clearly going for squatters' rights and we fancied going to bed.  The fresh air which hit us as we left the hotel blew away any tiredness we might have felt and it occurred to us that this was possibly the first time in the band's history that we were enjoying rock and roll excess. Good grief, it was nearly 4:00 am and we were still not in bed - Keith Moon was a bloody lightweight!

"Let's go down to the beach", someone suggested and off we strolled, down to the promenade and the deserted sands.  Being true Englishmen, we had to have a paddle in the sea, despite the fact that the night was cold. Considering we were all in our late thirties, the decision to launch a long-jump competition on the beach may seem an odd one. However, in our half-cut state, it seemed the only sensible thing to do. After about half an hour of legging it along the empty beach and hurling ourselves inexpertly across the sand, we decided we really should retire to our hotel.  The horizon was glowing with the rapidly approaching dawn and by the time we reached our hotel, the night was definitely on the way out.

"The bar's still open", said Rob as we walked up the drive.  Sure enough, the bar in our rather shabby little hotel appeared to be still swinging - and it was now 5 am!  Our surprise was nothing compared to the surprise of the proprietor who probably thought that new custom was unlikely at that time in the morning.  Although none of us much fancied it, we all had a pint before finally disappearing upstairs to our rooms. "Are we all having breakfast?", I asked to optimistic murmurs of general approval.

Two hours later, the alarm went off and I think only Paul and I made it to breakfast - the enthusiasm present before we hit the hay had waned as the hangovers and fatigue took hold. I was OK, I was still drunk.

Five corpses checked out and crossed the road back to the previous night's venue to break down all the equipment.  The sound of the hoover in the banqueting room was offensive. I do not remember driving back - I don't suppose I would have passed a breathalyser test, but we all made it home safely. The money took a while to get through and ended up being paid into Rob's account via a BACS transfer - how bloody officious! Never the less, it was a memorable evening with slight Spinal Tap overtones and we came away with a profit, sand in our socks and headaches of cataclysmic proportions. Job done.

(c) Dave Griffiths - April 2005