But will you be there? Flaky bandmates in the post-punk era

One of us did a band rehearsal the other day. It was listed on the shared band online calendar; an alert pinged an hour before, to remind us to leave. Arriving at the studio, the drummer messaged to say there were traffic jams and they’d be 10 minutes late. It’s all very grown-up and sensible, but it’s also undramatic, predictable and lacking in excitement.

Scroll back to 1979 and it’s surprising that anything happened at all – let alone post-punk rehearsals, gigs and recording sessions. Each band would need someone determined, who would telephone people, or if they didn’t have a house phone, would walk round to drop a note through their door, or call in for them to make sure they turned up.

K6 / GPO / BT Telephone Box / Old Payphone / Coin Box / Original Board +  Adverts - £650.00 | PicClick UK
Payphone – put coins in the slot

Which is where we come to the non-determined people, and particularly the flaky type who are constantly unreliable. They love the idea of being in a band. They sometimes are creative and can play and write songs well. Often there’s that attractiveness and intensity that work well as a front person. But they often don’t turn up. Flaky people forget, or get distracted by something else; their priorities are not the same and it can be frustrating to be in a band with someone like that.

The old style 1970s and 80s flaky involves not being in when you call for them, or not turning up to the place they were supposed to meet you. “I forgot” and “I didn’t get the note” were the excuses. Sometimes people like that would be in a band with you, until you heard somewhere, “Oh he’s moved to Spain” or similar. If you agreed to meet a friend on a street corner to go to a gig at 7pm and they didn’t show up, how long do you wait? Do you go on to the gig, with the chance you might see them there? Go all the way to their house in case they’ve forgotten, or wait on the street corner another hour in case they thought it was 8 o’clock? Modern technology overcomes genuine mistakes and misunderstandings so it’s easy to rearrange when things go wrong.

But there are still people who perpetually let their band mates down – not showing up to rehearsals and even gigs, who disappear or make excuses. The organising world has changed, and ‘not getting the message’ doesn’t seem so plausible now. You can leave your phone somewhere, or run out of battery charge, or remember the wrong time and not check. We all make mistakes, but the excuses sound far more lame now.

But maybe what was going on all along was that some people can’t cope with the commitment, the rigidity and the work involved in being in a band, or even just being a friend. Modern views on neurodiversity probably say we should give the flake a break. Maybe ‘flaky’ is an unacceptable term? It used to mean ‘someone who doesn’t do what they say they will’ – it could be that ADHD brain, but it could be as simple as someone who doesn’t read their messages, have a smart phone or use the same social media app as you.

2 thoughts on “But will you be there? Flaky bandmates in the post-punk era

  1. Mick Jones comes to Mind from what I have read Vim. Train times were a good point of time in those days, the knowledge of the main info was usually enough: who we seeing, do we have tickets, what train! Simple straightforward days, which worked x

  2. In Cheap ‘n’ Nasty in the Netherlands in 1981, we could not find our drummer boy for a concert opening for Poison Girls in the Hague. Our drummer girl got flu one day before the concert. Then, Captain Sensible of the Damned stood in as drummer, so we could still play.

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