Hanging with Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations
It was around eight in the evening. It had been an overcast day and the sky was dark grey. Trent Bridge was vacant and silent on Wednesday. Suddenly the Long Room at the Pavilion end erupted with loud, blaring music - drums, bass guitar and a group of three men dishing out Snow Patrol's "You're all I have".
It was a bizarre scene: a rock band comprising grown-up men, rehearsing in the inner sanctum of one of most cherished Test cricket venues. But then when you have a name like Graeme Swann associated with the band, you've got to expect something outside the box. In fact, the name of the band Swann is part of and used to play frequently with before he earned an ECB contract three years ago is called 'Dr. Comfort and the Lurid Revelations'.
Andy Afford, former left-arm spinner at Nottinghamshire and a stalwart with 468 first-class wickets, was the man responsible for such a "playful" name. "I don't think you can be men of our age and have a serious name so it had to be a bit funny," Afford says. Dr Alex Comfort was a sex therapist in the 1970s and went on to write a book about his conversations with his clients. One day Afford was passing a book shop and read Comfort's name and immediately decided to put a band together. "The good thing about the name is on all the posters where other bands are playing too, they put our name first because we have the longest," Afford says.
There are two cricketers in the band: Swann and Afford. Along with Eddie Burke, who is a cricket development officer at Notthinghamshire, the trio are the lead vocalists. Another cricketing connection is Jim Hemmings, the younger son of former England off spinner Eddie Hemmings, who plays on the guitar. Then there is Jay Davis Blue on the bass guitar and Max Wallington on drums.
Jay Blue is a psychologist and would not like his real name to be known; Hemmings sells sinks and baths; Wallington, who also teams up in another band - the 'Screaming Willies' - is a welder with his body covered in tattoos.
Swann doesn't get many opportunities to rehearse with the band anymore as he is busy playing for England. But when Swann joined the band, he was playing for Nottinghamshire and was yet to return to play for England. He wrote a diary for Afford, who edits All Out cricket magazine. At the point Afford decided to go play in a band, Swann got picked up to play for England. They still managed to record about 12 or so songs.
The first gig the band played was at the Southbank bar by the river Trent, adjacent to Trent Bridge cricket round. It was well received. The band covers rock classics and also plays some contemporary rock. "With Graeme it is more popular ones, bit more bar," Afford says. Primal Scream, Oasis, The Calling's Town Called Malice, and Sweet Home Alabama are some of the covers the band plays usually.
"He is a really confident man and sells his stuff incredibly well," Afford says of Swann. A standout Swann habit is "he swears a lot. That is how he punctuates what he says really."
"I'm a charlatan," Swann described himself to ESPNcricinfo when asked if he would be a rockstar.
Does Swann dominate or control the rest of the members? Afford leaves it to the rest of the band to answer that. "Jim, does Swanny dominate?," he asks Hemmings, who ponders for a moment before knocking the ball back into Afford's court.
"He has got an opinion, whether it is going to be good or bad doesn't matter. Doesn't he," Afford starts. "He generally thinks everything is going to be brilliant all the time. Even when we are massively under-rehearsed Graeme thinks we are going to be brilliant based on no real reason and generally he is not far off" Afford says. Hemmings agrees.
But the band members do have a complaint. "I don't think he ever lifts anything," Hemmings says raising his head, as he works to get the mic stand in place. "I have not seen him lift the black box (speakers)," Afford says. Quickly, possibly to escape being exposed by Swann on Twitter, Afford adds: "Even Eddie never lifts them. We all want to play and if we want to play then we need to lift stuff until we play the IPL."
Performing in the lucrative IPL is the band's dream. But why? "That's his (Swann's) dream as well. Forget winning the Ashes or whatever, he wants to play the IPL," Afford says, looking me in the eye. "Noooo," Afford says, a few seconds later, with a hearty laugh, suggesting he was only joking.
"It is our hobby," Afford says. "We are good fun. People come out. Aren't we a good laugh?" Afford says, looking around for a vote. Watching Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations in the Long Room are five men standing around a village green, hands on hips, staring incredulously down from an oil painting hanging over the door.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo