Friday, April 18, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful

I'm a big Ian Dury fan. I remember hearing 'Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll' for the first time with a mixture of humour and disbelief, (did he really just sing that?) and bought 'New Boots and Panties' when it came out (did he really just sing that?) when I was still at school and there was so much good new music about that it was often difficult to make the choice of what to spend your limited funds on. How times have changed- now I've got some money there doesn't seem to be any music around worth buying except for the re-issues of the stuff I bought all those years ago. If I'd have known I was going to buy them now I could have saved my money then..?

Last night saw an unmissable evening at The Electric Ballroom in Camden- The Blockheads with Phill Jupitus guesting on vocals performing the whole of 'New Boots and Panties', supported by Wilko Johnson and Eddie Tenpole. And it more than lived up to expectations, 'though it was useful to have the inside knowledge that Wilko was on first at 8 o'clock (thanks Sarah!) thereby ensuring that we left early enough to not miss the great man's set. Myself and Shirley, accompanied by East and Big Andy made it to the venue with around 10 minutes to spare, meeting up with Dave a.k.a. Snaggletooth in the bar via the magic of the mobile phone -there's just time to get some drinks in before Wilko's onstage and into 'Everybody's Carrying a Gun'. Seeing him on a bigger stage took a bit of getting used to- it was a bit like watching him at the cinema rather than in the pubs and clubs that he's generally spotted in- but with the sound and lights both excellent a terrific performance was more-or-less guaranteed. Slim joined in on accordion for 2 numbers- I remember him from way back in the early '80's in The Blubbery Hellbellies with Esso and Arturo from The Lurkers- and by the end salvo of 'Back in the Night' and 'She Does it Right' the place was going mad. Heroic stuff.

First interval in the bar and I meet promotess (is there such a word? If there isn't, there should be!) Sarah Pink who, when I say 'it'd be great to see Phill Jupitus again, I haven't seen him for years', says something like 'hang on a minute', disappears for a while and then returns with Phill himself. Excellent! I first met him in 1984, when he rejoiced under the name of Porky the Poet and was on the now sadly defunct New Variety circuit. The Price first played with him in '85 at Brunel University with Action Pact (whatever happened to them?!?) and did quite a few gigs with him over the years, 'though I lost touch with him as he went on to bigger and better things. I always think people aren't going to remember me, but if he didn't then he's a very good actor... much jollity followed, including him greeting East with the words' it's like being back at The Square again' (a reference to The Square in Harlow, soon to re-open as a music venue) and remembering drinking with East and myself on various occasions (East always describes him as 'the quickest man I ever met', a reference to Porky's- sorry, Phill's- legendary wit.) T'was great to see him again.

All this hob-nobbing meant that we all but missed Eddie Tenpole's acoustic set, 'though we did catch 'Swords of a Thousand Men' which sounded as bonkers as ever. When I did some gigs depping in The Sex Pistols Experience- guess what they do?!?- a couple of years ago Eddie was on the bill with us and joined us for the encores during which we played said song; I can honestly say that he's probably the maddest person that I've ever been on stage next to, which as you can imagine is against some fairly stiff competition...

With the place all the place all but sold out The Blockheads came on to a hero's welcome and could do no wrong. A fair few newer songs were played with vocals split between the band members and the mysterious Derek the Draw- but it was the oldies that people wanted to hear, and they weren't disappointed- 'Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll', 'I Want to be Straight', 'Inbetweenies', and, of course, 'Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick' all sounded like the classics they undoubtedly are, and Phill's performances on 'New Boots...' (they played the album in full, in sequence) did the Dury legacy proud. A classic evening.

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