Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let it bleed

Did you want to be old when you were young? I don't mean 'old' old, like your nan or grandad or the people who lived a few doors down, I mean old as in 'grown up' so that you could do the things that the grown ups do, like stay up late. I certainly wanted to stay up late when I was a kid, although thinking back I don't know why I thought that would make things better or more exciting. Strange... maybe one of the differences between being old and young is that when you're young you want to be older and when you're old you want to be younger? Anyway when I was about 8 or 9 I had a nosebleed. It was a Saturday evening and I had really bad hay fever (still have!) I blew my nose rather a lot before I went to bed, and I woke up a little after going to sleep thinking that my nose was running. When I looked down there was blood everywhere. Everywhere. It literally felt like it was pouring out of my face, which I suppose it was if you think about it. My mum screamed when she saw me. She and my dad tried to stop it with all the usual methods - cold flannels, holding the bridge of your nose etc - but to no avail. After about an hour things were getting serious, and mum called the doctor out. He was an old (and therefore allowed to stay up late) chap called Dr. Fenton - when he examined me he said that I'd burst a blood vessel in my nose and that it would eventually stop and that I'd be 'ok in the morning'. I think it finally stopped after just over 2 hours. I still get nosebleeds today, in fact I had one earlier this week. Horrible things.
So - why am I telling you this? Well, by the time the nosebleed had stopped, 'Match Of The Day' was about to start on the television. This was a mythical programme to me as some of my school mates were allowed to stay up late enough to watch it, and they said that it was better than 'The Big Match' which was the Sunday afternoon football programme that I used to watch with great enthusiasm. Anyway because I was still awake (and feeling rather weird as I recall) I was allowed to watch 'Match Of The Day'. It was good, but not worth losing half of the blood in your body for.
I had another nosebleed on Friday morning. It was nearly 6 a.m. and once again I'd woken up thinking that my nose was running; it wasn't anywhere near as bad as the one I've described above but it was still pretty unpleasant. By the time it had stopped I realised I wasn't going to get back to sleep and so decided to go downstairs for a cup of coffee. After I'd made it I decided to put the telly on, which caused a moment of mild panic as the volume was quite high and I had to turn it down quickly so as not to wake anybody up. When the picture came on 'Columbo' was playing - strange, why is that on at this time of day? It's normally shown in the afternoon on one of those weird channels that never seem to work properly. You know the ones. When I was a lad I remember avidly watching 'Columbo' on television, where the scruffy little chap in the raincoat would outwit the bad guy every time. I loved the way that he'd zero in on the murderer, seeming to be naive or even stupid then wearing them down with his peculiar mannerisms and stories of his wife, or his cousin, or his wife's cousin, or Burt who serves him chili, then leaving the murderer (who therefore thought they'd got away with it) before reappearing with the words 'just one more thing...' when they thought they'd seen the last of him. Great stuff. I even enjoyed the later episodes although the '60s and '70s ones are still the best for me. It was and remains one of the best television series ever created, and as such it was sad to turn on Breakfast Television on Friday morning to see a clip of it being played, because that could only mean that Peter Falk had died. Shame.

Last night I depped in The Repertoire Dogs. I'd been looking forward to this gig since I got a call a while back from Good Old Boys / Ali Mac Band guitarist Simon Bishop, who asked me if I'd be interested in playing with said band. Well of course I would, not least because their regular guitarist is none other than Mick Ralphs. Yes, that Mick Ralphs, the bloke out of Mott The Hoople and Bad Company. Strange but true. Anyway not long after this I got a call from Nick the singer who explained the situation - Hud's on drums, Nigel's on bass, Freya and Ann are on vocals and it's a 50th birthday party somewhere near Harlow. 'Simon will go through the set with you as I'm not in the least bit musical' he said cheerily, before going on to be very disparaging about his own vocal abilities. He then revealed that he'd 'started the band for a bet' after going to a Bryan Adams concert with a friend - 'and here we are, 11 years later'. Like I say, I was looking forward to this one...
As we arrived in Hastingwood I realised that this was a rather different area to the one that The Price visited on numerous occasions when we used to play at The Square in Harlow. We're playing in a marquee in the garden - maybe that should be 'grounds' - of a rather large house, and the first thing we notice is that there's a generator humming rather noisily nearby. 'I bet that's a note that's just out of tune with us' says Nigel as we're setting up; we decide that if we play loudly enough then it won't matter. I'd only met Nigel briefly a couple of times before, he's just finished a tour with comedian Rich Hall (where he was known as Horst Furst II - excellent!) and plays regularly with Half A Meal Ticket among others. We run through a few beginnings, middles and ends before the guests start arriving, it's all sounding good and a fine evening is in prospect. There's an acoustic duo on before us, they've both seen us 'playing in local pubs' and really like our version of 'Don't Stop Believing'. No one in the band reacts although I expect they were all thinking roughly the same as me - 'perhaps there's another band with the same name around here then. And they must look like us as well...'
After a search for an appropriate lead Freya's iPod provides some background music as food and drink starts to appear; we're all sitting around a table near the marquee when a loud POP comes from with general direction of the marquee; the music stops, the lights go out and quite a few people make a noise along the lines of 'OOOOH!' Investigation reveals that someone behind the (makeshift) bar had plugged a fridge in, causing a current surge large enough to melt the extention cable. With people complaining that were no lights on in the portaloos things are unplugged, the generator turned back on and everything returns to normal.
We start 'Jumpin Jack Flash' at 9.15 to what might best be described as 'polite indifference' from all concerned - a shame as I thought we were sounding good. When someone comes up to me in the interval as says words to the effect of 'everyone's enjoying it, they're just not dancing' it makes me feel a bit better, and our second set gets a bit more of a reaction although there are no demands for an encore at the end. As we turn our amps off Nigel said 'well played that man' which means a lot to me coming from a player as good as he is; I think I did ok but a few of the songs were in unusual keys which threw me a bit - if I get chance to play with them again I'll make a better job of it. No really, I will. And it was a shame that the audience were a bit subdued as I really had been looking forward to the show. Oh well. You can't win 'em all. Unless you're Columbo of course. 'Oh sir, just one more thing...'

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