Insignificant Beginnings

I know we’ve been blogging for some time but by way of a personal introduction, I’m Dave Cooke, founder of Topline-Music. Those who have heard of me or know me will also know what I do and have done in the past. As a musician, producer and media composer, I’ve been fortunate to carve out a career in the music business for several years. It has been and continues to be a fun and colourful adventure.
I was never really much good at exams and academia. I scraped through the GCSE’s or O Levels as they were then, just enough to get into 6th form and attempt three A levels in modern languages and art.
There, I attended the regular career choice meetings where the disinterested headmaster would try to assess, by your exam results and general behaviour, what you could do when you left. I certainly wasn’t Oxbridge material so I posed a problem for them and their vital statistics.
I was always convinced that music would be the way forward. He didn’t agree. “So, you want to be on Top of the Pops, then?” he asked. This continued with very tangible offers in bakery and the fire service to which I nodded gratefully and left the meeting none the wiser and certainly no better off.

A few weeks later we had the end of term school dance.  I was the drummer in the junior jazz band but was also studying classical double bass. We were to have our short ‘showcase’ performance while the pro band took their official break, smoke, joke and tipple midway through the evening. Thing was, the pro bass player hadn’t turned up. He’d either been double booked or forgotten the gig so mild panic ensued backstage. ‘Who do we know who could be here in ten minutes?’
The bandleader at the time and one of our music tutors was one of my great encouragers. We had chatted many times about the business and what the possibilities could be. “Where’s Cookie?” I overheard. “He can stand in”, whatever ‘stand in’ meant.
So, I found the school bass guitar and dodgy amp, climbed onto the platform next to the drummer, opened the music pad and heard the rally cry: “From the top, 2…3…4…”
My first gig at sixteen. My mum and dad were there and it was one of those moments.
At the end of the gig, I got a few discrete nods from some of the pros and an encouraging smile from the bandleader as he pressed into my hand the grand total of fifteen pounds. I’d been paid! For something I loved! What was that about? I looked over at the headmaster who was also looking at me. I think he understood.

I had started studying art at A level. Not that I was any good; I was useless. But the art teacher was a fantastic tenor sax player who ran a four-piece band playing functions at weekends. They were now only three having somehow lost their regular bass player. (how very careless!)

“Fancy joining us sometime?” He asked casually while I was traumatised over a still life drawing of an orange wrapped in a dish cloth.

Weekends were never the same. My dad begrudgingly sticking the double bass into the car and driving me to the gigs mumbling those well-worn lines of not being “a bloody taxi service”. And me, playing bass in a four-piece band, learning to play anything and everything, fingers covered in blisters, not knowing that this was the start of the journey that would influence the rest of my life.

From very small and often insignificant beginnings come bigger things. Never ignore these little things that at the time may be irrelevant or have very little meaning. They may end up being life changing and indeed, mortgage paying!