A decent truck can mean the difference between a great gig and a night full of grief. Back in the eighties I went back to work for Rick Doolan who was the original drummer in Bandanna. He had re-formed the band and had put together a nice little PA system. The “truck” he’d bought was a classic. It was actually an old bus that had been converted to carry a racing car. It had a big roller door in the back leading to a large storage area where the PA lived. In the front was plenty of seats and even a few beds which was bloody luxurious for those of us used to crappy old trucks that broke down regularly.
The band had picked up a gig at a biker show in Queensland one particular weekend and, as they didn’t need to take the whole crew or the PA system, it was decided that we’d pull all the unneeded gear out to lighten the load and help the old bus travel a bit faster. Rick had organised a friend to bring around another truck just to use as storage for the PA system. It was a beauty! I’m pretty sure it was an old International with a smallish pan on the back.
It was pretty beat up and was not registered but it would do. We managed to back the truck up to the bus and unloaded all the stuff the band didn’t need into it. That should have meant a weekend off for me as my Brother had drawn the short straw to drive the band in the bus to Queensland.
Not so fast Gibbo! Later that afternoon, just as the band was leaving, we got a call from a Heavy Metal band looking for a system for that night. After a short deliberation it was decided that myself and the lighting guy Wally would take the old truck and do the gig. Money is money after all!
The first challenge was getting it started. We didn’t have a key so you had to twist the ignition wires together and short the solenoid on the starter with the dipstick. Great! We eventually got the old thing going and made it to the gig, a Heavy Metal extravaganza at the Bayview Tavern in Gladesville. The gig actually went quite well. The bands were all happy with our gear and the job we did. They even offered to hang around and help us load the truck at the end of the night. All went well until we got to the last few cases… which now mysteriously didn’t fit back into the truck! Well we eventually had to pull half of the gear back out to repack it, several times. There is nothing worse than doing your work three or four times.
After what seemed like an eternity we managed to fit all of the pieces into the puzzle and we set off for an hour long drive home. Seeing as the truck wasn’t registered we had to keep an eye out for cops. The condition of the truck would have been a giveaway. About half way home we were starting to relax until the bonnet came loose and with a massive bang, flew up to cover the windscreen. Gee that makes it hard to drive! I managed to peer through a small gap under the bonnet in order to pull the truck over to the curb.
Wally and I then had to try and get the bonnet closed and latched but it was completely bent out of shape. Eventually we both climbed on it and jumped up and down until it managed to latch shut. The trouble was that we needed to get under the bonnet to get the thing started again. Shit! Well, we managed that and even got the bonnet to latch once more. Soon we were on our way again but just as we were starting to calm down a bit, the bloody truck ran out of fuel. This was starting to become a very long night indeed! Luckily for us a car soon stopped and offered help. I could have just about kissed the guy. He had his whole family with him but still insisted that I squeeze in so he could take me to a service station. He even waited around and gave me a lift back to the truck. What a legend!
By this stage the 1 hour drive home had turned into a 4 hour saga and I’d well and truly had enough. I said to Wally “if this thing stops again I’m leaving it on the side of the road” and I meant it. Just as I spoke the back of the truck started to wander from side to side, making it awful hard to steer. I couldn’t believe it. This thing had more tricks up its sleeve than David Copperfield. By now we were only a few kilometres from home so I decided to just keep driving. It didn’t really matter to me if the bloody wheels fell off by this time. As we turned the last corner the truck lurched sideways and we heard a loud sound like metal breaking. Oblivious to the self destructing truck I managed to actually get it all the way into the driveway. We were home! It was at this point that I discovered that there was only one wheel nut left on each of the back wheels and about 4 of the wheel studs had snapped off. We probably wouldn’t have made it if it had been 50 metres further.
Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.