Saturday, August 15, 2009

Big wheels keep on turning

I've not been working in the shop this week; in fact I'm not working in the shop at all at the moment- I won't bore you with the reasons why (now there's an interestingly open-ended statement don't you think?!?) but leaving aside the obvious financial disadvantages that the situation creates it's given me chance to do a few things this week that I've been meaning to do for quite a while, starting with something that would have seemed all but impossible not-so-very long ago...

Monday I did something that I haven't done for a very long time, (oo-er missus etc) in fact for over (gulp!) 15 years- I went round Huggy's house to work on new material for The Price. Well- last month's reunion gig was great fun on every level but if we're going to play again we can't just keep rehashing the old songs can we? As I arrived I was amused to hear my own voice coming from an upstairs room- incredibly Huggy had found some old recordings of us working on what would have become new songs near the end of our time together. Some of them were rehearsal room recordings of us jamming on new ideas, others were home tapes (yes, tapes!) of near complete songs- at some point he'd transferred them to his digital 8-track recorder and then forgotten about them. Amazing! It was strange (to say the least!) to hear them again- some well remembered, others all but forgotten, all of them from a time when we didn't think about very much apart from the band and it's music. And some of them weren't bad either! It seems that we were far from finished when we finished, if you see what I mean... over the next few hours we worked on 4 new ideas, all of which sounded as though they could end up being good songs, and with more than a couple of old ideas worth revisiting it should be interesting to see what we come up with- let's see if we've got anything to say in the 21st Century!

Tuesday and it's time to stop saying that I've got a tax return to fill in and to actually get on and do it. These days as with so many things it can all be done online, and it's actually a very easy system to use- assuming of course that the self-employed person in question (in this case me) has kept all their books up to date throughout the year and so just has to simply transfer their figures over to the virtual tax return form.
Hmm... am I the only person who puts all their receipts etc in a large cardboard box which only gets looked into when it's tax return time? No, I thought not.
So with the long-suffering Shirley downstairs off sick with an infection of her windpipe (urgh!) and therefore suffering even more than usual, your humble narrator was busy covering the bed with what initially at least seemed to be hundreds, maybe even thousands of bits of paper. Some seven hours later I clicked the last click of the mouse and it was all over. I don't think I've ever worked so hard. Remind me to (a) look into the box a bit more often in the coming tax year (and maybe to even consider putting some of the bits of paper in it in order as they come in, rather than leaving it all until it has to be done), and (b) never be rude about accountants again.

Wednesday was rehearsal time- but it's a rehearsal with a difference as I was playing bass guitar. Yes, that's right, bass guitar...
A week or so ago I got a phone call from Andy Moore, who I first met 10 or so years ago when I was writing songs with Nikk Gunns and we were looking for musicians to put a band together/record with. He's a top chap and an excellent drummer who I've kept in touch with over the ensuing years, and his call included an interesting proposition- would I like to join him and his old Back to Zero bandmate Sam in a band to play at one of Andy's workmate's upcoming wedding? Well yes of course I would- and would I be ok playing bass? Well yes of course I would- probably... even though I've only played bass onstage a handful of times and I don't actually own one at the moment, Andy was so convinced that I'm the man for the job that none of these apparently minor inconvieniences seemed to bother him in the slightest. So it was then that I journeyed to somewhere just North of North London for a highly enjoyable few hours of 'what-songs-do-we-fancy-playing-and-can-we-do-them-as-a-trio?-type tomfoolery, and all good stuff it was too. We'll be reconvening in the next week or so to finalise a set, and I have to say that I'm really looking forward to it. Better get myself a bass guitar then!

Thursday saw a return to The Dominion Theatre with Stuart the guitar repair man to restring, remake and remodel the 'We Will Rock You' guitars. I missed last week's session as I was away in Belfast- during the course of our conversation I recounted to Stu my previous day's 4-string adventures and made the observation that I'd enjoyed it so much that I'll be on the lookout for a bass guitar for myself over the next couple of weeks. His nonchalant reply of 'Oh I'll give you some bits and you can build your own' didn't really sink in with me at first- it was only on the train home when he asked if I'd be in later so that he could 'drop some bass bits round' that I realised that he was serious. I mumbled something about not knowing how to assemble and wire up a bass guitar- not strictly true but said in a brave attempt to put the slightly odd concept into perspective- undeterred Stu countered with 'well here's your chance to learn'. He's right of course...

Friday and it's gig time at last, with The Chicago Blues Brothers making a (ahem) headline appearance at The Windsor Jazz and Beer Festival. Shirley had hoped that she'd have recovered enough to attend the event, but when we got there she felt rather shaky and so dropped me at the site in Alexandra Gardens in the shadow of The Windsor Wheel and returned home. Having checked in with Ali the back stage manager I went for a walk past what was The Old Trout (scene of many fine gigs over the years including several by The Price- now it's a Browns restaurant) and down through town to The Fire Station Arts Centre (we played there too, 'though it was just called 'Windsor Arts Centre' in those days) as well as completely failing to spend the HMV gift vouchers that I got for my birthday last month. Meanwhile back at the festival site everyone's arriving and with sound guru Ian Band behind the mixing desk it's time for a linecheck- as mentioned in my previous posting I'd decided to use my old Gibson Les Paul Deluxe as a mark of respect to the man himself. (Yeah I know that some people might think that it's pretentious for me to do that- but so what? It's my little gesture to the man who gave us guitarists so much, and anyway is it any more or less pretentious than the people who might bother thinking that it's pretentious? Answers on a postcard please, usual address...) Out of all the guitars that I own (not that many, honest!) it's still my favourite, and I thought it sounded great if a little 'heavy' for our show- back to the Telecaster next time then!
We've played at quite a few beer festivals over the years and they're quite interesting gatherings- it seems to me that the people there during the day sample the various ales on offer from the point of view of someone who's interested in the processes involved in the production and manufacture of the drinks (when I first got there I saw plenty of people drinking out of very small glasses and making notes) whereas later in the evening the participants are, shall we say, more interested in quantity rather than quality (very big glasses, no notes being taken.) This often makes for a boisterous gathering- by the time we went on we were definitely heading into the latter category, and although things took a while to get going they got going in the end. As we were playing quite a long set we added a few rarely played numbers to the setlist, at least one of which ('Take Me To The River' since you were wondering- click here for a clip that shows how good it can sound!) went a bit wrong in the making but no one in the audience seemed to bothered. We're playing at a similar event to this in Hampton Court at the end of this month, which if this one is anything to go by should be something to look forward to.

So- that was the week that was. It was busy enough- perhaps it's a good thing that I'm not working in the shop this coming week either judging by the amount of things that I seem to be involved in at the moment? If only I could earn money at them... which reminds me- I can't sit here talking to you, I've got a bass guitar to put together...

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