21st July 2024

Student Band ‘Colonel Spanky’ mistaken for Warlord


The craziest week of Cambridge University’s 800 year history culminated in six deaths, a disgruntled US veteran eloping with a local BDSM act, and an involuntary field trip to the Hague.

It all started with a student Jazz Band. Colonel Spanky’s Love Ensemble. The Porter’s Log presents a detailed oral history of these events, and the band behind them.

Part I – The Madness Before The Storm

The band had been perennial stars of the Cambridge May Ball scene, but by the start of this notorious May Week, they had begun to crumble under the weight of their own reputation. By all accounts, the band was living a lifestyle of depraved excess.

Cameron Bridgeworth (Cambridge rock historian): “You’ve got to understand how huge Colonel Spanky’s were coming into this May Week. They were like The Beatles, if they had all gone to London private schools. They were upper middle-class rock stars – and they had signed up to play an unprecedented number of May Balls. The hype was unreal.”

Stephen Toope (Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge): “Even I’d heard of Colonel Spanky’s by that stage. Which was unusual, because I don’t give a shit about students.”

Tara Lamp (Chief Fabricator, The Tab): “Their fame in Cambridge was pretty unheard of. But with that fame came plenty of problems too. It was well known by that point that most of the band had massive cocaine habits. The Tab had published photos of their saxophonist doing a line off of his supervision sheet. It was just one scandal after another for Colonel Spanky’s.

Cecil Jones (Band Manager): “Management studies at the Judge Business School hadn’t prepared me for Colonel Spanky’s. They were spoiled, they were talented, and they were a complete pain in the arse. At one point, the lead singer was using a new keep-cup for every coffee she drank. It was diabolical. Worst job I ever had.”

Emily Milton (Ents President, Clare College): “We booked them for Clare Cellars. The band insisted that we put them up in a room in college, even though they all lived in central Cambridge. The gig was great, but the next day, we found that the room had been trashed. The bed wasn’t made, and they’d tried to stick a poster up using blue-tak. And you can bet they didn’t respect the college’s overnight guest policy. Never again.”

Jason Godwin (Attendee, Clare Cellars): “At the end of the gig, one of the band smashed his saxophone, like The Who do with guitars. Who the fuck does that? Do you have any idea how much those things cost?”

Part II – Colonel Spanky and the International Criminal Court

As Cambridge exams finished, and May Week loomed, there was growing confusion over the first gig which Colonel Spanky’s had been booked for. What transpired was a mix-up of colossal proportions, which set the tone for a chaotic period for both the band and the University.

Cecil Jones: “On May Week opening night, the band had been booked for a private event rather than a May Ball. They were going to be flown out to a secret location, and perform for some very important people. That’s all we knew. I didn’t know who the clients were, but I figured it was the Royal Family or something. I wasn’t too far wrong.”

Alex Drayne (Lead Singer): “We were excited. Didn’t know who we were meant to be playing for, but it paid a hell of a lot better than our normal gigs. But we started to suspect something was wrong when the flight crossed the Mediterranean.”

Tara Lamp: “I travelled with the band as a reporter. We didn’t know where the gig was meant to be, but let’s just say I was pretty fucking surprised when the plane landed in Zimbabwe.”

Finn McRedmond (Sound Technician): “It was an unmitigated fucking disaster.”

Cecil Jones: “They’d asked us to put the band in military fatigues. We thought it must have been a Sergeant Pepper sort of thing, so we decked them out in full camo. Whatever the client wants, you know?”

Chris Dawson (Emeritus Fellow of History, University of Cambridge): “Unknown to the band, they were not the first to use the name Colonel Spanky. It was also the name of a Zimbabwean warlord, who had been extradited some years previously. When his supporters in Zimbabwe booked the band, they thought they were paying for his safe return. They wanted him back to lead a coup. Instead of a leader, they got a bunch of kids from High Wycombe with brass instruments.”

Colonel Spanky (Warlord): “Couldn’t even stage a simple coup. Fucking incompetents.”

Finn McRedmond: “We got off the plane, and were greeted by a bunch of guys with assault rifles. Fuck. It was intense. Definitely a step up from the Cindies bouncers we usually dealt with.”

Alex Drayne: “Obviously, they weren’t very happy. They thought they were getting a warlord, after all. Things got a bit heated, but eventually we agreed – we’d do the gig, and in exchange, they wouldn’t shoot us. The show must go on and all that.”

Cameron Bridgeworth: “They did the gig. They played Zimbabwe. Unbelievable.”

Cecil Jones: “The show actually went great. The rebels loved it. The problem was, Interpol had got word that Colonel Spanky had resurfaced. They stormed the stage at the end of the show, and arrested the whole band. Never should have done that bloody encore.”

Tara Lamp: “The band had been implicated in all the usual sorts of scandal. Coke, prostitution, littering. But war crimes? That was fresh. That sold papers.”

Stephen Toope: “I was concerned to hear that some Cambridge students had been incarcerated in the Hague. I pulled some strings, and made sure the charges were dropped. After all, if I’d had to serve a life sentence for every teensy weensy little war crime I’ve committed, I would never have gotten where I am today.”

Part III – Too Many Spanky’s

Colonel Spanky’s had returned to Cambridge, exonerated of war crimes, and with a newfound Zimbabwean following. The band intended to play May Balls as normal, despite it’s brush with international criminal prosecution. May Week began, and it soon became clear that the ensemble had brought the chaos back with them.

Cameron Bridgeworth: “Colonel Spanky’s was back. May Week had started. The stage was set, and it could not have been bigger. Unless it was at a music festival. Or a stadium concert.”

Cecil Jones: “The band was booked to play five May Balls in five nights. What can I say? Cocaine is expensive. That shit doesn’t grow on trees. Actually, does it? I really don’t know where cocaine comes from. Anyway, if it does, those are some rich-ass trees.”

Tara Lamp: “You just knew something crazy was gonna happen. For crying out loud, it was a goddamn week of goddamn Colonel Spanky’s!”

Timothy Bainbridge (President, Jesus May Ball): “We’d booked Colonel Spanky’s for the Jesus May Ball. There was a minor panic the day before, when we realised that we’d actually double-booked – we’d booked Colonel Spanky’s twice!”

Alex Drayne: “We weren’t booked for Jesus May Ball. We were actually playing Selwyn that night. That Bainbridge guy called us in a panic, asking why we hadn’t turned up at Jesus. We didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about.”

Timothy Bainbridge: “It wasn’t our finest moment as a committee. We hadn’t just booked the wrong Colonel Spanky – we’d booked two of them.”

Cameron Bridgeworth: “It transpired that the Jesus May Ball had actually booked a BDSM act and a Vietnam War veteran, both called Colonel Spanky’s. Both of whom turned up on the same stage at the event. Unless you were a frankly brilliant satirist, you couldn’t write this stuff.”

Tara Lamp: “That must be the stupidest thing ever done by a May Ball committee. Maybe second stupidest, after the time that Trinity May Ball booked the singing binman to headline.”

Timothy Bainbridge: “We knew something was wrong when the first Colonel Spanky limped on stage in a slightly shabby beret. No musical instrument, let alone a fucking love ensemble, to be seen. That was bad. But things only got really bad when the second Colonel Spanky turned up in a leather catsuit.”

Tara Lamp: “For Christ’s sake, the woman had a whip!”

Michael Pritchard (Attendee, Jesus May Ball): “When the dominatrix showed up, everyone was pretty confused. Including the dominatrix.”

Stephen Toope: “A dominatrix! Hell yeah! I fucking love access!”

Timothy Bainbridge: “To their credit, the Colonels put together a pretty decent improve set under the circumstances. Yes, it was a bit on the heavy side for the Ball, but I thought the guests enjoyed it.

Michael Pritchard: “The Vietnam veteran spoke for about an hour on his experience as a prisoner of war. It didn’t exactly fit the vibe of the evening. But I don’t think anyone wanted to tell the guy.”

Colonel Spanky (Dominatrix): “It was so dark. I fucking loved it.”

Michael Pritchard: “It made me feel a hell of a lot less petty about having to queue an hour for aromi. That dude had seen some stuff.”

Tara Lamp: “It was a shitshow – but the biggest story was what happened afterwards. It was exclusively reported by The Tab that the two Colonel Spankys hooked up backstage. They’ve since gotten engaged. Who doesn’t like a traditional love story?”

Timothy Bainbridge: “We might have ruined the evenings of two thousand paying guests. We might have ended some careers. I personally haven’t been able to work again since. But what’s that sacrifice next to the joy of bringing two people together?”

Part IV – A SWAT Team Visits Selwyn

As the Jesus May Ball committee realised their mistake, Colonel Spanky’s were preparing for their gig at Selwyn. After their disastrous trip to Zimbabwe earlier in the week, the band were by all accounts ready for a more reserved evening. For the most part, they would get one.

Chad Wilson (Officer, Interpol): “We had received word that Colonel Spanky would be in attendance at Selwyn May Ball. The warlord, not the band.”

Colonel Spanky (Warlord): “I was in attendance at Selwyn May Ball. Finalising a big weapons deal with a contact of mine. It was his choice of neutral ground.”

Stephen Toope: “It was my choice of neutral ground. The University is exploring alternative uses for funds now that we have begun to divest from fossil fuel investments. The arms industry is ever-growing, and dealing with Mr. Spanky allowed us to overcome a lot of those finicky rules which prevent this sort of thing. You know, the law.”

Chad Wilson: “We moved in to capture Spanky during the band’s set.”

Alex Drayne: “The gig was going great. Nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we started playing our cover of I Fought The Law. You know, by The Clash.

Cameron Bridgeworth: “It was a legendary gig. Unmissable. They had this amazing set piece, during their cover of I Fought The Law. When the song started, all these extras dressed as police officers came into the crowd, started yelling, patting people down, everything. It was inspired.”

Alex Drayne: “We had no idea who those guys were. Or why they were throwing tear gas.”

Colonel Spanky (Warlord): “I would never have gotten away if not for the band. Their song selection warned me that Interpol were coming.”

Chad Wilson: “Fucker got away. Must have known we were coming somehow. To this day, we have no idea who he was meant to be meeting.”

Stephen Toope: “I walked right passed the police, and they didn’t suspect a thing. Would you check out the endowment on this guy!”

Part V – Battle of the Bands

As an already bizzare May Week drew to a close, it was time for the main event. Trinity May Ball. Colonel Spanky’s were headlining, and word had started to spread that they would be joined by some other big name acts.

Cameron Bridgeworth: “Trinity was gonna be huge. Colonel Spanky’s would be there. But the big story was the mystery guests. No one knew who would be there.”

Tara Lamp: “Big names were being thrown around for the mystery spots. I’m talking Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Toploader. Fucking big names.”

Becky Wallis (President, Trinity May Ball): “We had some major talent booked. We wanted Colonel Spanky’s to be genuinely surprised by who they were on stage with. So they could authentically play off each other.”

Cecil Jones: “We had no idea who it would be. I mean, we suspected Eminem or Post Malone, but who knows with these things right? I just told the band, whoever it is, make it work.”

Alex Drayne: “Make it work? With those motherfuckers? Fuck that.”

Tara Lamp: “When it came out that they’d booked those guys to play alongside Colonel Spanky’s? I mean, I love chaos. Honestly. Fucking inject chaos straight into my goddamn veins. But this was too much, even for me.”

Cameron Bridgeworth: “It was crazy. They’d booked Colonel Spanky’s big rivals from Oxford and Durham. And put all three on the same stage.”

Rebecca Parker (Lead Singer, Major Trauma’s Emotional Baggage): “Colonel Spanky’s? I fucking hated those guys. Everyone in Oxford hated those guys.”

Bryony Gibbets (Lead Singer, Captain Slappy’s Support Group): “Colonel Spanky’s? I fucking hated those guys. Everyone in Durham hated those guys.”

Cameron Bridgeworth: “Things turned nasty. Quickly.”

Tara Lamp: “It started with some shouting, nothing out of the ordinary between rivals. But then things got physical. Like, really physical.”

Colonel Spanky (Warlord): “I once supplied guns to both sides in a Civil War and watched the ensuing fighting. This was worse.”

Alex Drayne: “I remember smashing a opposition saxophonist’s skull in with a snare drum. I’m not proud of it. But it’s live music, shit happens!”

Becky Wallis: “Once the first few band members had been killed, I definitely started to think things had gotten a little out of hand. Especially when one of Major Trauma’s drummers got out a gun.”

Alex Drayne: “At least I was killing people with blunt objects. Some of the guys from the other bands had guns. Fucking guns! Where do you even buy a gun in fucking Cambridge?”

Stephen Toope: “Hey man, business is business.”

Chad Wilson: “We got another call to Interpol about Colonel Spanky, apparently causing disruption at Trinity May Ball. I thought I finally had him. We turn up, and it’s a fucking student band. Carrying out a massacre. I hate this job.”

Cameron Bridgeworth: “By the time Interpol arrived, there had been six deaths. Twenty more badly injured. Lots of kids who would never play the Saxophone again. This is always the story with these rock bands man. Sure, there’s a good stretch. There’s fame, money, more fame. But then there’s the fall. Every time.”

Cecil Jones: “It’s a shame. It really is. They were good kids. Apart from the violence and the killing. They were good kids.”

Colonel Spanky  (Warlord): “They would have made a fine militia. Sad to think that they’ll never get the chance to stage another coup.”

Alex Drayne: “I don’t mind prison. It’s kinda like Cambridge without all the supervisions.