Tuesday, April 03, 2012

That petrol emotion

You see some funny things when you work in a shop, especially an 'outside-of-the-mainstream' place like Balcony Shirts. Last week saw Iain Lee make a visit to do some filming - he's long been a Twitter acquaintance of the shop, and rather splendidly agreed to do some promotional work on our behalf. You can view that results on YouTube here - aren't Chris and Scott good actors?

Continuing the theme of strange things there's an upcoming election for the position of Mayor of London - on Thursday a large red bus with the words 'BETTER OFF WITH KEN' emblazoned along it's sides blocked traffic in Windsor Street and indeed blocked the daylight in the shop. Ken Livingstone was in town, accompanied by film crews, clip-board carrying young assistants and probably more besides. I always rather liked him, not least because I believe that he's something of an expert on newts; I also saw him respond to being asked how much alcohol he drinks with the answer 'I've no idea how much I drink, but I can assure you that it's nowhere near enough' which made a refreshing change from the whiter-than-white answers most politicians give to questions like that. You may argue that these are not the best reasons for voting somebody into power, but in my view it puts him light years ahead of Boris Johnson, who also found his way to Uxbridge this week, presumably by accident although I guess you never know. The sight of a bunch of fat deformed sycophants plying him with compliments and requests for photographs was nearly enough to cause my breakfast to make a return appearance.
We had a budget last week, which gave the coalition Government another chance to reduce the tax burden on the richest members of society by victimising the least well off and the old age pensioners. And then there's the petrol 'crisis' - did YOU fill up your jerrycan with fuel that you didn't know you needed just because that nice Mr. Maude told you to? After all you don't want those nasty smelly loony-lefty tanker drivers ruining you Easter driving for you now do we? Ah - there's nothing like a bit of panic buying to take the country's mind off the fact that it's just been ripped off left right and centre, and of course to turn everybody against the unions in the process. In the event it all seems to have backfired on the Government for once and they're now saying that there's was no need to top up on petrol after all, which presumably means that they've raised in increased duty revenue from the last few day's hysteria to fund another tax cut for the wealthy. The next thing they'll say is that they never said that we should buy extra petrol in the first place - after all, Francis Maude still seems to have a job, and surely he'd be out of office if he'd made a mistake like that - wouldn't he?
And then there's VAT on hot takeaway food - who'd have thought that politicians would be so serious about pasties? I hope that next time some chinless wonder on the election trail in Cornwall is forced against his will to eat some of the local produce for a photo they're given a freezing cold one because it's cheaper.

Cynical? Me? Maybe - but I've mused here before on how I can never see how any working class person can vote for the Conservative Party and I still can't, although I'm beginning to apply the same criteria to the Liberal Democrats too.

Meanwhile The Uppercut gave a riotous performance at The Kings Arms in Harefield on Saturday evening. The band played there back in October while I was away - my good mate and ex-Awaken guitarist Pete filled in for me then and by all accounts a splendid time was had by all then, and it certainly was this time. That said things began badly for your humble narrator when our opening number 'Dock Of The Bay' was interrupted by some particularly unpleasant buzzing and crackling sounds from my amplifier. It got so bad that I had to leave the lads to finish the song without me while I attempted to discover what was going on. I thought that perhaps a valve had worked loose so pushed them all back into their sockets; sadly the same problem remained. Out of increasing desperation I unplugged my guitar lead from the amplifier and the noises stopped - I'd never heard a dodgy guitar cable make a sound like that before but replacing it seemed to do the trick. That said I'll still check the amp over in the next few days. Our first set built up well, with a chap doing some particularly animated dancing in front of us and more and more people coming in from the front bar to have a listen; the second set really took off with much dancefloor action and a great reception for our efforts with the only downside coming when our singer Terry was hit in the teeth by his microphone when the particularly animated dancing man got even more animated and bumped into him. Ouch!

Sunday I made my way over to Loughton to rehearse with Department S, who I'm depping with on bass for two gigs this month. This may sound an unlikely state of affairs and indeed probably is however you look at it, but as often happens there's a simple enough explanation. The 'new' guitarist in the band is Sam Burnett who I played a gig with on bass a couple of years ago. (Click here for the story.) When regular bassman Mark said he was unavailable for these shows Sam suggested me - top man! So it was then that I joined him, Mike (guitar) Stuart (drums) and Eddie (vocals) at Soundlab Studios for a very enjoyable blast through the songs for the gigs. I borrowed Sam's Tokai bass which sounded great through the Ampeg set-up in the studio - I hope it sounds as good on the gigs, and I hope the band sounds as good as it did in Loughton where we got on so well that we finished 90 minutes early. Now that's something that doesn't happen in rehearsals too often.

And last night I saw Public Image Limited at Heaven in London's Charing Cross. At times the 2 1/2 hour set often trod a very fine line between repetition and monotony, although somehow they always seemed to be on the right side of the line. John Lydon was as engaging a performer as ever - in other words, one of the very best you're ever likely to see - and the band played with skill and precision throughout. The new songs sounded every bit as good as the old ones, the old ones sounded every bit as good as I remember them sounding and the capacity crowd loved them for it. Great stuff all round -and if I see as performance as intense as last night's version of 'Religion II' ('turn up the bass' said Lydon repeatedly - it ended up being so loud all my clothes were vibrating. And I've just shaken off an earwax problem... mind you it gave me some ideas for the Dept. S gigs!) then, well, it'll probably be PiL playing it somewhere else, if you see what I mean.
As the show ended an chap stopped me, told me to take no notice of him as he was drunk, then said that he though Lydon was 'turning into Yes, turning into everything he hated'. I took no notice of him - he told me not to after all - and anyway, he was wrong. Very wrong.

And there's just time to mention that I'm guest panellist on Music Scene Investigation this coming Sunday 8th April at 9pm - let's see what songs they throw at me this time!

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