1985 was a big year for me. I played my debut gig at the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford with my first real band, Insane logic. It was the moment I knew without any doubt that I’d found my calling. Elsewhere, outside the sphere of my limited awareness, two other landmark events took place that sowed the seeds of my late-blooming music career. The Jesus and Mary Chain released their debut album Psychocandy and the WWE staged the first ever Wrestlemania.
In 2012 I learned that WWE wrestler Bray Wyatt had picked my song Broken Out In Love to be his new entrance music. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I couldn’t imagine how my weird, swampy song could possibly work in such a capacity. When The Wyatt Family made their debut on WWE Raw, I watched with great anticipation and upon hearing my song play, as they walked to the ring in darkness, I had goosebumps. I’d always dreamed of getting a song into regular rotation on a TV show. But this came so out of leftfield I didn’t know what to think. The song became a regular Monday night fixture and during the following weeks and months its popularity grew and grew.
A year later I had moved to New York from Charlotte, North Carolina and was in a perilous financial situation, as always. It had been a year since my last paid gig with the Mary Chain and I was flat broke.
When I arrived in New York I spent six weeks sleeping on an army cot in my friend Chris’s studio apartment. I applied for a job working as a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, which sounds very noble, but in reality involved becoming one of those dreaded people who stop you on your way to lunch and practically mug you for money, which is why in the UK they call them ‘chuggers.’ Incredibly I was hired (though I later realized those kinds of organizations hire pretty much anyone) and for a while I was quite good at it. But then winter arrived and it hit the city hard. It’s not much fun spending the whole day outside when the temperature is twenty degrees below freezing. And this was the winter of the infamous Polar Storm. It was brutal. My colleagues and I tried our best to carry on canvassing as normal but it was hopeless. The few people I encountered looked at me like I was totally insane to be outside in such frigid conditions. And I probably was. I didn’t raise a single penny.
In late February 2014, on a slightly warmer day, I was working in Astoria, Queens when my phone rang. I saw that it was Neil from WWE Music. As had happened the time Jim Reid called me out of the blue, I was immediately suspicious. I answered cautiously and was surprised when Neil told me that the WWE were thinking about having me perform live for Bray’s Wrestlemania debut. Would I be interested? I practically fell over. Neil told me that it wasn’t confirmed yet and asked me not to tell anyone about it, something which in my excitement I didn’t quite pick up on. By the time I’d got back to the office I was bursting to share the news with my colleagues who couldn’t quite grasp that this silver-haired, quiet-spoken Brit had a secret life as a rock musician.
Then I did a stupid thing. I posted on my Facebook page that I had been asked about performing at Wrestlemania, conveniently forgetting that I’d been sworn to secrecy and naively thinking that nobody who followed me would really care anyway. Within an hour my post had been reblogged on numerous wrestling sites and I had an angry email from Neil telling me not to say anything else. I felt like a first class idiot. I apologized profusely to Neil and prayed I hadn’t blown the opportunity.
A month went by with no further word from the WWE. I began to think that my loose tongue had cost me the gig and was furious with myself. But then, on a particularly chilly day in late March --about a week before Wrestlemania--I was working in Hoboken when Neil called and told me it was on. We chatted for half an hour about the logistics of the performance while I paced back and forth--my fundraising folder tucked under my arm-- trying to keep warm. It was a surreal moment.
A week later I flew down to New Orleans with my band. Joining me on this adventure were drummer and true Southern Gent Donnie Merritt; multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire and Confirmed Anglophile Shawn Lynch, who’d played with my band a couple of times and who on this occasion would be playing bass; and guitarist Phill Honey who was a guitar-playing friend from the UK. Phill was a massive wrestling fan and had been growing a shaggy Bray Wyatt beard for the last year in preparation for his annual Wrestlemania viewing party. He had been following the Bray Wyatt story and I'd promised him that if I ever got to play Wrestlemania I would invite him to be in the band. Little did either of us know when he'd started growing the beard that it would actually happen.
We arrived in New Orleans where we were met by a man carrying a sign with my name misspelled which amused us greatly. I’d never been to New Orleans before and I loved it. We spent hours just wandering about, eating beignets, taking in the sights, visiting Nicholas Cage’s pyramid tomb...
The day of the show itself is a bit of a blur in my mind. We shook hands with a very focused John Cena before the match; had our photo taken with Mr T, which was a major thrill; stood next to The Rock for a moment--who seemed about eight feet tall--while he watched the segment before ours on a TV screen backstage and then we were on. I remember feeling surprisingly calm when we walked out onto the stage. The sheer scale of the event made it impossible to get nervous. The first row of the audience seemed like it was about half a mile away. I looked around the stadium as we waited for our cue and tried to take it in the fact that I was about to perform to 75,000 people. All I could think was that I would probably never do anything quite like this ever again and I should enjoy every second of it. I did.
It was only when watching a video of the event afterwards that I realized quite how huge the stadium was. Somebody had posted a video that they’d shot from way up in the nosebleed seats and I could just about make out the band in the far, far distance. We were four little dots at the foot of the giant Wrestlemania XXX sign. And, wow, it sounded like the entire stadium was clapping along with the song: something I hadn’t noticed during the performance.
I rode the high I felt from that weekend for a good week. Then, as always, I was brought back to reality when I realized I was still flat broke and had to pay the rent. Ha. Talk about a comedown. But something good was waiting up ahead. Something noisy and wild and intense.
Wrestlemania 30 was over but Psychocandy 30 was yet to begin.