Well it's been great to see the groundswell of support for Wilko Johnson in the wake of his diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. Thousands of people have left messages of support on his Facebook page following the announcement of his condition, which goes some way to showing just what an impact he's had on the music world and indeed the lives of his fans and admirers. It was almost unworldly to read his manager's statement, as it tells of upcoming gigs, a live DVD (and that's something we fans have all hoped to hear about for ages) and a new album - there's so much to be optimistic about until it suddenly mentions 'farewell gigs' and brings us all back down to Earth. I for one read it with great sadness - I've written of my admiration for the great man's work many times in these hallowed pages, and it remains a great source of inspiration to me. So let's enjoy the remaining times that we have with Wilko - those farewell gigs should be unforgettable.
On a (considerably) brighter note, David Bowie released a new single this week. Now there's something no one expected - it's incredible that in these days of social media overload there was apparently no anticipation of 'Where Are We Now?'. It just goes to show that it's still possible to stay under the radar, although you may need Bowie's money and status to be able to do that as effectively as it's been achieved here. It's a haunting piece, very nostalgic and reflective, and very good in my not-so-humble opinion. There's an album 'The Next Day' due in March which is apparently 'rockier' that the single; this should be very interesting to hear not least because he's been working with Tony Visconti again, a collaboration has given us some of The Thin White Duke's best and most acclaimed work. Definitely something to look forward to.
First gig of the year for your humble narrator was on Friday night at The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham with The Upper Cut. I'd hardly got through the door before a fresh-faced young barman came over and told me that unless I gave him an invoice he wouldn't be able to pay us. I said something like 'erm, I'll just put my guitars down' but he carried on regardless. 'I think we normally email one in on Monday' said I - he looked confused. Fortunately Terry our singer arrived and spoke to him - 'we normally email one in on Monday' were pretty much his exact words, which for one reason or other the fresh-faced young barman suddenly seemed happy with. It must have made more sense coming from Terry than from me.
We'd spent Wednesday evening at Bush Studios in Shepherds Bush running through perspective songs to add to our repertoire - our first set included four-in-a-row (I bet you're wondering which songs we played aren't you? Well, since you asked nicely they were 'Ooh La La', 'Why Did You Do It?', 'Day Tripper' and 'The Last Time') and our second set included a go at 'In A Broken Dream' which we've tried before but never quite managed to get right. Happily all of them sounded good (I wouldn't be telling you about them if they hadn't!) which is more than could be said for 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' which was going well before I managed to lose the plot a bit during the guitar solo then played the riff in the wrong key... the normal course of action when this sort of thing happens is to glare at the keyboard player so that it (hopefully) looks as though it's their fault; however since we don't have a keyboard player I opted for Plan B - attempt to laugh it off then apologise to the band at half time. Aside from these incidents it turned out to be a really good gig, not least because we somehow found ourselves playing 'Whole Lotta Love' in the middle of 'Superstition'. That's never happened before - I wonder if it'll happen again?
Saturday saw the first live music at The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge for quite some time, when acoustic bluesman Michael Roach played a splendid set at pub regular Gary's 50th birthday party. I must admit that I'd not heard of Mr. Roach before, but aided and abetted by a slide guitarist and a double bass player he sounded good to me. Gary revealed that he'd attended one of the man's workshops on acoustic blues guitar, had kept in touch and then invited him to play at his birthday bash. A good choice, and it went down well with all concerned.
And yesterday myself and Terry the bass journeyed to The Nags Head in Sunningdale to see about a gig for The Upper Cut. Terry played there a while back depping in a band and had got on well with Jack the guv'nor; when we got there A Bit On The Side were roaring through 'Sunshine Of Your Love' and Jack distinguished himself by (a) offering us both a drink and (b) offering the band a gig on Sunday 24th March which we of course accepted. Result! If only it was always that easy...