The Jazz Band in Gas Masks – Oliver Cobbin

Because fame is fickle and ‘The Gas Masks’’ jazz, isn’t really all that jazz

Many thanks to Oliver Cobbin for his lively and original offering to Voices and the poetry competition in support of Maggie’s. Oliver is a keen musician, but is also clearly a very talented poet as well. In his own words the poem is ‘a mix of dark humour, jealousy and a critique on music.’ We are sure you will enjoy Oliver’s work, and we thank him for kindly sharing his talents for such a good cause.

The Jazz Band in Gas Masks

The gas-masked, taxman, jazz-band are; abstract, gift-wrapped, maniacs,

In second-hand cracked anoraks, with an attitude to match

And their shoes are purposely untied; their minds are all electrified

Wearisome and bleary eyed, are their audience at dusk

On spoons, we have one Billy Botch, whilst Victor is the one to watch

‘Can we turn my microphone up a notch?’, the nameless drummer says

Darkness shrouds all of the band, except for one who gets to stand

In the bright spotlight, and wave his hands, no points for guessing who

Victor clicks his fingers twice, the rest scurry on like timid mice

He never heeds their good advice; his ego outweighs theirs

Wisdom ricochets around, the absurd, turgid, dirge-like sound

But we all know the audience are bound, more-like held against their will

And ‘The Sentimental Mentalists’, are weird experimentalists

‘Moon Gel Melt’ and ‘Gypsy’s Kiss’, all await their turn

They’re out of tune and out of time, half of the words don’t even rhyme

And one of them actually ate a lime, for their final song

They play music that’s already dated, and their bassist is sorely overrated

This sophisticated, but widely hated band of merry men

A forced vocal and a phony stutter, apparently the singer’s ‘bread and butter’

A new find, straight up from the gutter, please bring on the next

‘Arabian Oryx’ are the band to see, ‘The Gas Masks’ are their arch enemies

Victor tuts, struts bitterly, to welcome on the band

The singers trade malicious looks, “you can’t learn jazz from reading books

And that song ‘Fizzy Pop’ really sucks” Victor does proclaim

“Get on that stage before I kick, your band out, you make me sick

I hate anyone with hair that slick and the drummer’s curls are naff”

But there isn’t time for squabbling, the audience is wobbling

“It’s pronounced as Oliver Cobbin” the singer he corrects

As the song reaches its final verse, Victor plans to do his worst

Cobbin, Pat, Thraves and Kenneth are cursed, no encore for them

As ‘The Whippersnappers’ crack the whip and crease the page on parlour tricks

The trail of crumbs and used tooth-picks, has them scratching all their heads

But it’s almost time for the main act, shoes untied, gas masks intact

The pre-show warm-up is in fact, a ritualistic task

Victor proceeds to stumble on, ad-libs the lines to the opening song

He’s out of tune but “it’s the key that’s wrong” is his excuse of the day

They barely ever make it through, one whole song, let alone two

Without an audible sigh or boo, fight or broken string

Victor clicks his fingers ‘STOP!’, then lingers on like a ticking clock

The cynical and critical, roll their eyes in disbelief

His rants and raves prolong the shows, to the point where no one knows

What he’ll say next, so no one goes, the audience has shrunk

He gestures towards them all to call, his name out loud as he stands tall

His narcissistic, egotistical ways, in full effect

Spoken-word interims, silence descends, the lights are dimmed

A startling joke, a closing hymn, the band grind their teeth

The crowd tonight begin to boo, got the ‘difficult-second-album blues’

They twiddle their thumbs, untie their shoes but the silence still remains

Yawning shows they’re so very bored, they boo and hiss like the house of lords

At a lengthy jam of two minor chords, self-indulgence on display

Bottled spit soon appears upon, the stage they played but they’ve all gone

“We cannot play another song; a refund is probably best”

“Who needs fans when you’re as great as me?” Victor asks so arrogantly

“Will we ever make it to album 3?” the band begin to muse

“Get off that stage, you’ve hit your peak, the same old songs every week

No longer even tongue-in-cheek, more bite your lip and cringe

De-tuned strings, countless false starts, punctured drums, pretentious art

Practise more, learn your parts and throw away the masks!”

Victor dreams of prestigious awards; he may be thrilled but the band are bored

“I think it’s time we pulled the cord”, a bandmate thinks out loud

“There’s so many people for me to thank; my manager, um God, the bank”

Well that speech was really ‘wank’, I hear an onlooker say

“He’s always thought he’s better than, the archetypal, insightful, righteous man

Spiteful moon boots, muddled tan, mirrors on every wall”

The band themselves begin to tire, of his ways, they would conspire

But know all too well they would be fired, penniless and raw

Those who remain will rack their brains, to make sense of the snowy stains

Upon the shirt of he who is named, Victor Angeles

And the fanatical delusionists, are the ones who will always insist

That they received a mortal kiss, from Angeles esquire

A troubling thought soon reappears, its long been the band’s biggest fear

That they’ll be replaced and disappear, into obscurity

Surely not, he must understand, that they were once ‘the greatest band’

In fact, it almost seems too well planned, contrived to say the least

Rumours start to spread around, the pestering press, the dwindling crowd

“Have ‘The Gas Masks’ bowed their final bow?” a shocking tale ensues

Is it just a bunch of vicious lies, so Victor can sever all of his ties?

No heartfelt note, no last goodbyes, the band are soon to learn

“Get off my stage, you’re all dismissed, in fact you all barely exist

My backing band, with the limpest wrists and tuneless ears to match.

It’s ambition you all so sorely lack, I could do this with one hand behind my back

Fetch your shoes, your anoraks and don’t expect a call”

“He played us all like marionettes, a string of lies with more to come

His sycophantic, rock star antics paralysed the numb

How dare he ruin our biggest dreams, with his cunning plots and evil schemes

And I’ve always hated his lyrical themes, pretentiousness galore”

Victor brings forth his latest creeps, upon the stage amid the sound of weeps

From their dearest fans who’ll never sleep, knowing what he’s done

Rumours start to spread around, “He must have his head stuck in the clouds”

But would anyone dare say this out loud? The whispers circulate

“The last I heard, he’d lost his mind and sailed it down the river of tears”

He plays in space, where no one hears, so no one ever claps

Still out of time and out of key, all of their songs are in ‘Drop C’

But no one else will ever see, the jazz band in gas masks

From helter-skelters in the sky, to fallout shelters, they would try

To play each and every town and place, in this universe

No matter how damp or bleak, they used to come here every week

And if it’s mediocre jazz you seek, you need look no more

So, I’m rating them 4 out of 10, generous but then again

I’m envious that they can spend, their lives playing ‘that’

Now jealousy may spring to mind, but look close and you will find

That I once-upon a time declined, an offer that they made

Because fame is fickle and ‘The Gas Masks’’ jazz, isn’t really all that jazz

It’s ‘caveman-esque, bland, razzmatazz’, and the audience are dull

Now I’m not one to just complain, I haven’t been declared mundane

The band themselves are all to blame, their curtain call is nigh

And it may look to the untrained eye, that it’s jealousy, cleverly disguised

But a pocketful of dreams must die, no sacrifice too small

Victor and his men are cursed; 14 times I have rehearsed

This in my head until it bursts, into a ball of flames

It may look to the untrained eye, I’m devilish, equally as sly

The crowd will mourn and they will cry, the vigils are prepared

Victor and his men are cursed; 15 times I have rehearsed

This in my head until it bursts and ‘The Gas Masks’ cease to be

A tale that lives on through the ages, told in print on history pages

Meanwhile, inside, my hate it rages, bubbling to explode

These padded walls can’t hold me in, my conscience fails, the room does spin

But I’ve had the last laugh, I always win, ‘The Gas Masks’ cease to be

And once they’re gone, they’ll be replaced, similar sound, familiar face

There’s no accounting for a lack of taste, but that is just the game

Insipid lyrics, subtly masked, in a music style of the past

But it’ll soon be gone, it’ll never last, at least this writer hopes

But now they’re gone, they’re idolised and their successors are slowly on the rise

Tepid music, cleverly disguised, by jazzy interludes

But now they’re gone, they’re idolised and the history books still print the lies

Another band I will despise; this game goes on and on…

Oliver Cobbin

Did you enjoy this poem? Why not visit Maggie’s website at: Maggie’s Centre Nottingham to find out more about their exceptional work and/or make a donation. Do you have a poem you would like to submit to Voices? Feel free to do so by email at: or via the ‘Contact’ page on this site.

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