By Artie Capshaw
They call him “The Old Soldier,” though he never went to war. But did he serve! O.S. was in 8:15 From Manchester, Ace of Wands, Andy Pandy, Animal Magic, Bagpuss, Balamory, Basil Brush, Blue Peter, Bod, Bodger and Badger, The Box of Delights, Biker Grove, C.A.B., Camberwick Green, Captain Pugwash, Catweazle, Children of the Stones, Chocky;s Children, Chucklevision, Clackers, Crackerjack, The Family-Ness, The Flumps, Going Live!, The Herbs, Jackanory, Jimbo and the Jet Set, Jossy’s Giants, Kerching!, Knightmare, Metal Mickey, The Paper Lads, Playaway, The Playdays, Play School, Press Gang, The Record Breakers, The Sooty Show, T-Bag, Thomas & Friends, Vision On, We Are the Champions, The Woodentops and Woof!… plus a few bands he never learned the names of. All were “signed” to Playday Records. And Old Soldier only worked there for three years!
“If we didn’t arrange an entire album in the morning and record it in the afternoon, we’d think it was a poor day’s work,” the grizzled veteran recalls. “The session players at the other studios would make fun of us. Even some of our own guys—it was Jack Briggs [aka Jonny Briggs] who first called Playday “The Swill Building. Me, I didn’t have any problem with it. It was a fun job, cranking out covers of all the latest hits. But what I liked most about it was that if you had three tracks people had heard of, you could do anything you wanted with the rest of the album.
We would just play—jam for a few minutes, then put a title on it and add it to the album.”
Today, those Playday records are worth, well, nothing. No “name” player ever appeared on one, as far as any feverish scholar’s research has proven. You can find them pretty easily in the trashy stores where dead people send their heirlooms. Old Soldier’s built up a pretty sizeable collection himself, just from picking through the bins. (Playday was too cheap to actually give copies of the albums to the artists who played on them.)
“I’m proud of that stuff,” he says. “I mean, I wince sometimes—we’d mess up, and it’d still get printed. But as far as I’m concerned, we were really playing rock and roll. You don’t get much truer to the spirit of the thing than just getting a bunch of rowdy kids in a room and turning on the mics. I played a lot…and I learned a lot. There was nonstop creativity—naming the bands, naming the songs, writing the songs. You can’t say it wasn’t a class operation.”
Sure you can. This was the dregs of the music business at the time, a way of coopting the labor of true musical pioneers, right? Only Old Soldier doesn’t see it that way.
“That was my childhood, in some magic far-off land, a long time ago,” O.S. waxes rhapsodic. “We were in it. We weren’t the cool kids, or head of the class or whatever. But we had it too. We had the spirit. We had the spirit.”
So Soldier took the skills he’d learned at Playday and applied them to classical composition, ultimately getting a master’s in Music from that big university in this very town. He taught music in the public schools for 30 years. He’s now retired, and stops into the Bullfinch once a week after picking up his pension check.
Any royalty checks from Payday to add to that pension bounty?
The Old Soldier laughs so hard the beer almost spurts out his nose.
Battle of the one-name bands Tuesday at Hamilton’s: Garden vs. Constance vs. Baker vs. Motley vs. Corner. … Deaf Child Area is the first band top be booked at the Substation restaurant on Edgewood. The plan was to have Open Mic and noodly jazz fodder, but tastes chance quick when the owner’s kid joins a band. (Yes, Beefy is DCA’s latest, and best, bassist) … We hear the Thanksgiving marathon at the Bullfinch is already fully booked. No drumstick for you…