So - the News Of The World has been closed down by it's owner, who in doing so has once again shown a typically callous disregard for the men and women unfortunate enough to be in his employment. Presumably it's an attempt to avoid further scandal - rather ironic given the nature of said publication don't you think? - and to save his own (and no one else's) skin. However you look at it this is a sad state of affairs - each day a new revelation, a new victim, a new reason to never buy anything that Rupert Murdoch has anything to do with ever again. There's an old saying along the lines of 'you can't keep a good man down' - I fear it's even harder to keep a bad one down, which is why Mr. Murdoch will no doubt evade prosecution personally and re-emerge from the whole business completely spotless. Still, we can always hope that commonsense prevails and people stop supporting him and his empire. In the meantime here are a few words from Attila The Stockbroker (actually rather a lot of words, this is Attila after all!) on the subject - excellent!
Friday in Uxbridge saw The Good Old Boys playing at The General Elliot while Midnight were gigging across the road (literally!) at The Dolphin. This presented a situation that was too good not to take advantage of - your humble narrator (aided and abetted by Pete from Awaken, Roger from The Uppercut and the venerable East) journeyed back and forth between the two venues in an attempt to catch both bands, on a night perhaps best described as 'bass dep evening'. The Good Old Boys featured Bill on bass in place of Nick Simper while Midnight had Terry from The Uppercut on 4-string duties, and both bands sounded excellent to me, although how much of this had to do with the 'lets-have-a-quick-pint-here-and-then-go back-over-the-road' nature of the evening is difficult to ascertain. We finished up in The Dolphin where Simon and Darren of Ace! club fame were enjoying proceedings; Simon enjoyed it even more when I introduced him to Midnight keyboard player Chris Holmes who played in '60's cult heroes Timebox. Chris gave him a DVD of Timebox clips (I must get one of them myself!) as well as regaling us with tales of the likes of Mike Patto, Ollie Halsall and John Halsey. Great stuff.
Talking of depping I found myself in the wonderfully-named Preston Bagot (sounds like the name of a member of the House Of Lords that's just had his phone hacked doesn't it?) on Saturday evening for an Utter Madness gig. Tony's on vocals and Jon's on bass but aside from them it's deps all round - I'm on guitar (obviously!?!) while everyone else (Aaron on vocals and dancing, Dan on drums, Liz on saxophone and Dave on keyboards) are all from the ska covers band Big 10, and all of whom made a great job of what turned out to be a very enjoyable show. As Jon and myself pulled of junction 15 of the M40 Tony phoned to ask where we were; as I said 'just a few minutes away' the sat.nav. sent us off down the wrong road which we were unable to turn off for several miles.This was doubly unfortunate as we then were informed by Tony that we were supposed to be set up by 5.30 - we thought we had to arrive at 5.30 and were therefore late. Bugger! When we eventually arrived at The Crabmill we could set our gear up but were unable to soundcheck or rehearse anything as the guests were already arriving. It's a 50th birthday party for Andrew organised by his brother Steve - waitresses wearing t-shirts with the letters AFO and the words 'Alcohol Facilitation Operative' on them dispensed free drinks (always a dangerous thing with 2 1/2 hours to showtime!) and cheery smiles. Food on the other hand is thin on the ground for the band; eventually an AFO brings us several bags of very gratefully received crisps. Hot dogs appear not long before we're due on stage - when I look sad at the lack of a vegetarian option the crisp-bearing AFO brings me a spicy lentil sausage version. Excellent!
Andrew makes a short speech just before our set, explaining how an accident when he was 17 had left him confined to a wheelchair and how among the many things that it had affected in his life it made him realise that family and friends are more important than material processions and that it was 'great to see so many of you here tonight'. He handed over to us with the words 'Now let's get pissed!' - Tony was straight in with 'don't watch that...'
As we began 'One Step Beyond' I was suddenly aware that although I'd only done the show a few times that was a few times more than the majority of people on the stage. Situations like this can go either way - triumph and disaster are almost as likely as each other, and there's no telling which one you're heading for. This time it was the former rather than the latter, with everybody playing well and plenty of dancefloor action throughout. A chap repeatedly asked for 'Michael Caine' (sadly we didn't know it) but we managed 'Happy Birthday' at the start of our second set and judging by the comments we received in the interval and after the show it all went according to plan. A good gig all round.
And it was a good gig last night too, when The Load of Hay was host to Joseph Porter and Wob. I think I first met both gentlemen when The Price supported Blyth Power some 20-odd years ago - Joseph is the band's omnipresent songwriter and frontman and Wob was then playing guitar, a position that's held these days by Stephen Cooper who I met when I was gigging with T.V. Smith just before Christmas. It had been quite a hot sticky day which might have accounted for the low-ish (20 or so) audience turnout, but those who were there saw a fine show from both artists. They arrived just as I finished setting the P.A, system up which gave us plenty of time for soundchecking before Joseph asked the question 'do you know where I can buy some apples?' I directed him to a petrol station not far from the venue - he returned looking pleased with himself and with the words 'I can have these now so that I won't spend the gig burping into the microphone'. He's a brilliant songwriter although I don't recall having seen him play a solo show before - with some very funny and indeed thought provoking introductions the songs came over brilliantly in guitar-and-vocal format. Wob then gave a splendidly energetic performance which concluded with him walking around the audience singing 'Has Anybody Seen My Gal?' accompanying himself on a ukulele whilst attempting to cajole people into doing the Charleston. Strange but true. They then joined forces for a set of Joseph's songs to begin a highly enjoyable evening to a close. The only downside to the things were the 5 or 6 blokes at the bar who insisted on bellowing things like 'OOOH LOOK 'EE'S GOT 'IS BANJO AHT!' at every available opportunity. 'I see you've double booked the gig with a Mensa meeting' said East ruefully; I decided that they'd been drinking all day to mourn the loss of their favourite newspaper. Scandalous.