Monday, August 28, 2006

Forks in the road…..

I’m just watching a programme on BBC2 called ‘Turning Back Time’. It’s a weekly one-to-one between Dara O'Briain and celeb guests. They waffle on about how they’ve made sometimes wise and sometimes foolish decisions in their lives – and the impact those decisions have had on their careers.

This week it was aussie, Barry Humphries talking about Edna Everidge, Australia, tinnies, kangaroos and Les Patterson, which was OK, I suppose. But I’m sort of sick of seeing celebs and their egos on the box. For a change, I’d like to see an ordinary bloke on – someone who could have been a legend, but chose not to…..

I wonder if Dara will ever have Mike Bersin on?

So, who’s Mike Bersin then?

Well he could have been as famous as some members of royalty, if only he’d have said "Yes"…….

Mike was a technician at Liverpool Art College during the ‘70’s when I was there. He was a really great bloke, one of the lads who liked a pint and could play the guitar just like ringing a bell (so to speak) – he was good. The college at that time had spawned a few good bands, including ‘Nasty Pop’ and ‘Deaf School’ - headed up by a sculpture student called ‘Steve’, who by night became lead singer ‘Enrico Cadillac III. Down into town, in Mathew Street, just a few yards from the Cavern, a new club had exploded into our consciousness. 'Eric’s' had opened. What a place, pulsating, sweaty, brooding punk before Malcolm McLaren had given it a name. Around by the college, Kirkland’s, O’Connor’s, The Phil and John Lennon’s favourite pub, Ye Cracke pulsated to local bands and singletons with acoustic guitars. The place was alive. Deaf School managed to get a contract from Warner Brothers – but they needed a manager to try and get a better deal. One night, they appeared at a club down the road called The Back of the Moon. We were all there to support Enrico and the band. Unfortunately, we were all pissed on Black Velvets and free cheese vol-au-vents. Then someone espied Mickey Most, the manager of managers in pop Britain at the time. He had hoped to keep his incognito intact as apparently he was going to sign them up. We descended on him, his cognito was outed – and within minutes, the Simon Cowell of the seventies was gone in a cloud of Ferrari exhaust fumes, never to return…..

Anyway, back to Mike Bersin. The various bands in the college used to ask his advice on musical stuff – Mike had been in a few bands since the late sixties, so knew at least some of the ropes. Mike’s bands included ‘Ibex’ which sort of morphed into a band called ‘Wreckage’…..

The final gig that ‘Wreckage’ ever did was on Christmas Eve, 1969 in Widnes at Wade Deacon Grammar School. Incidentally, the entrance of the school is about 30 yards from the railway bench which Simon and Garfunkel composed ‘Homeward Bound’ on while waiting for a non existent train in the early 60’s…..

After that last grammar school gig, they all went their separate ways. The lead singer of ‘Wreckage’ formed another band called ‘Sour Milk Sea’ - they managed just two performances before that too was wound up.

In February of 1970, the lead singer from Mike’s old band wanted to have another go at stardom.

He came up to Liverpool to try to persuade his mate Mike to commit to the new venture. The singer had thought of a name for the band – plus a new name for himself to replace the rather exotic one his parents had christened him with. Mike ummed and ahhed – and finally decided to refuse the offer his close friend had made…. With that, the singer left to pursue a couple of potential members from a band called ‘Smile’…

So who was Mike Bersin’s lead singer mate – the guy who tried to persuade him to join him in the new venture?

His name was Farook Bulsara, better known to his mates as ‘Freddie’ – better known to us all as Freddie Mercury.

On the 28th April 1970, the new band ‘Queen’ held their very first rehearsal with Brian May, rather than Mike Bersin as the new lead guitarist.

Mike was last heard of working at Middlesbrough Art College.

Further reading - Wikipedia Ibex write up – here