Tuesday, January 01, 2013

In God we trust

...which means that the final word written in these hallowed pages in 2012 was 'paracetamol'. And last year was a headache for many wasn't it? 

I know it may look like it,  but I don't just throw this stuff together you know! 

From the guitar-playing point of view for me it saw some amazing highs - Ruts D.C. gigs rarely if ever fell below very high expectations, it's always great to work with T.V. Smith and I really did play in front of an estimated 40,000 people at Proms In The Park. At the other end of the scale unless things change radically it's unlikely that I'll play for The Chicago Blues Brothers again. I won't go to deeply into the reasons why here (maybe another time!) but suffice to say that whilst I've had some terrific times with the show over the years I've found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the way that it's all been going lately. I should perhaps have finished with the Proms show (you've got to admit, that would have been a laugh!) but at least the gig that I played after that confirmed to me that I was right to be leaving. You could argue that anyone who walks away from paid employment these days has to be either either stupid or mad (and I could very easily be both here - mind you, who hasn't been?) but it got to the stage where I honestly couldn't be part of things anymore. It's a shame, but sadly nothing lasts forever. I'm going to have to get some more work from somewhere though - anybody need a guitarist?

In the meantime with no gigs of my own to play (maybe I have been a bit hasty in leaving The CBBs!) I've been out and about watching four shows in four days - 

Friday night it was off to London's glittering West End to see The Members supported by The Pukes at The Borderline. I received a call from my old mate Tom on Thursday asking (a) if I was going to the show and (b) if I knew anywhere that Chris the bass player could borrow an amplifier from. Apparently his got left behind in Bordeaux after a gig there - ooops! A quick call to Upper Cut bassman Terry and it's all arranged... the next morning Terry called to say that Chris had just been on the phone to say that he'd plugged Terry's amp in and there'd been a flash and the smell of burning. Oh dear! 
I met the afore-mentioned Tom in The Spice Of Life around 8 o'clock; from there it was down to The Royal George to meet Chris before arriving at the venue just in time to miss The Pukes. Bugger! Still I saw most of them making a cameo appearance during 'The Sound Of the Suburbs' which I'm told gave a fairly good idea of the general scheme of things - lots of punky ladies dancing around with a chap strumming a ukulele. Sounds great doesn't it? I believe the ladies play ukuleles too... and The Members were great if a little ramshackle here and there, not least when the Roland Cube combo that Chris had borrowed for the show went wrong. After the show he described his day as 'frazzle Friday' - it certainly wasn't his day was it?

Back to Tropic At Ruislip on Saturday to catch Stranglers tribute band Straighten Out. As I walked towards the venue the unmistakable sound of 'Peaches' could clearly be heard - am I late or have they started early? And are they really as loud as that? 
Well in the first case they had started at half past nine as they were playing a two hour set, and in the second they were obliged to turn down after an hour or so as the council had been called to the club after local residents complained. There's rarely mystery in life is there? I'd missed their first 30-odd minutes but what I did see was undeniably impressive - I've always thought that The Stranglers are one of the great bands of the punk era, and even though I'm not over familiar with their later material their first few albums certainly qualify as classics of the time not least because they established a very distinctive sound. Straighten Out certainly got close, and even managed a bit of Stranglers-style crowd baiting here and there, although I had to smile when the bass player did the 'you're all a bunch of soft Southerners' routine - I always think that roughly translates as 'we're a local band and we don't leave our area much' although I suppose I could be wrong... but my Stranglers-disciple mate Big Andy said they were good and I have to agree - and I found myself being reminded just how many great Stranglers songs there are, which I guess is the mark of a decent tribute band.

Sunday I found myself a couple of stops further along The Metropolitan Line when I went to Champers in Eastcote to see The Power Of Soul. No, I don't spend too much time in places with names like 'Champers' either... but I first saw the band around 25 years ago, and these days they're something of an institution locally. It was Gavin the bass player's birthday, and an enthusiastic audience saw a good show from the band with much good cheer directed at the man himself. The more cynical among me (!) might make the point that as their act has hardly changed in a quarter of a century they should be getting good at it by now, but that would be a little unfair... maybe... but let's face it, things always goes downhill when band members swap instruments. It might make them laugh but it never sounds as good as it should do does it? Stick to what you're good at, that's what I say! Then again they were working and I wasn't so perhaps I should keep my bigoted opinions to myself?!?

And then there was last night, New Year's Eve. It's often a disappointing affair isn't it? As such it's sometimes an odd evening to be gigging on, as the weight of expectation often sinks the whole thing. This year was a bit different though, as thanks to my good friend and Cane Toads guitarist Pete I went to The Woking Leisure Centre to see local lad made good Eric Clapton who does an annual show there in aid of The Guildford Sunday Group (which I believe to be the local branch of Alcoholics Anonymous.) It was an unusual gathering - I've never been to a gig where the audience are encouraged to bring their own food and drink before, the result of which was the feeling that you were at some sort of giant indoor picnic. Interesting! Bags were searched on the way in (presumably for alcoholic drinks, which are fairly obviously banned) and the burly security men and women asked everyone in no uncertain terms not to use cameras including the one on your mobile phone. I was told that there were people queuing as early as 5 pm to get a table, which when there got to it was festooned with party hats, bunting and those neon circle thingies that you can wear around your neck. As I say, an unusual gathering.
Yes, I had to look up the meaning
of the band's name too.
I rambled on about E.C. in these hallowed pages when I saw him at The Albert Hall last year - you can read it here if you like - but the man himself looked to be having a great time playing old rock 'n' roll songs, blues numbers and even starting the show with a song from his Auntie Sylvia. The presence of Steve Winwood seemed to keep him on his toes, and he played brilliantly - then again, he usually does. All good stuff, if a little 'million-dollar-pub-band' in places - and was I the only person that thought Andy Fairweather Low couldn't have chosen a less appropriate song than 'Gin House Blues' at an A.A. event? Mind you after Gary Brooker's comment of 'you all look like you could use a drink' had gone down like the proverbial lead balloon I suppose anything was possible - after all this is the only gig that I've been too where I've been stopped in the toilet and asked if it was my first time at this sort of event. My rather lame reply of 'no, I've been to lots of gigs' was met with a triumphant 'ah, but they're all full of drunks!' I think they call that a 'good point well made'... before the encore Clapton announced that this was to be the last of these shows that he'd be doing and even mentioned possible retirement - if he does decide to stop playing then the world of the electric guitar will be a very different place without him. 

So there we are - 2012 and all that. Let's see what happens next - Happy New Year y'all...

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