“It went a bit off-piste, like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing now… but I like this!”: Bill Bailey on his first ever gig

Bill Bailey in 2011
(Image credit: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns)

Music has always played a crucial part in Bill Bailey’s comedy routines, his shows brilliantly straddling the line between stand-up and musical performance, basically a gig that you’re allowed to laugh at without making the band feel bad. Back when Bailey first took to the stage though, there were no jokes involved. Speaking to him recently as part of Classic Rock’s The Soundtrack Of My Life feature, he recalled his debut gig as he went into detail the first song he ever performed live.

“I was in a band called Behind Closed Doors and we had a gig in Bridgwater at the community hall, our first gig in a public place,” Bailey recounted. “I played You Really Got Me by The Kinks. That was my very first public guitar solo, or my attempt at a solo. It went alright. I was really worried about it, I’d worked out the first few notes and then it went a bit off-piste, like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing now… but I like this, this is great!’. It was a bit of a seminal moment.”

After that uncertain start, though, Bailey on his way to becoming the rock-omedian (needs work) we all know and love, a man whose routines now grace the biggest venues in the UK. His is an act that deserves the big stages, such as this occasion when he demonstrated what U2’s The Edge might sound like without his delay pedal:

Or here, when he unveiled his gratuitously excellent six-neck guitar:

And, for when he fancies a rest from his six-string/thirty-six string, there’s always this that the metal-loving comic can turn to, his unrivalled air-horn take on the Metallica classic Enter Sandman:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.