Friday, April 05, 2013

I'm not free - but I'm Cheap

Good news my friends - 'Anthology' by T.V. Smith's Cheap is available now on Easy Action Records. It contains the band's posthumous album 'R.I.P... Everything Must Go!' plus outtakes, John Peel sessions and more. Hurrah! The package has some great photos of the band from back in the day alongside sleevenotes by T.V.'s biographer Dave Thompson and, incredibly, me. Why me? Well back in the dim and distant past your humble narrator made a very brief appearance as guitarist in the band - many details from that fateful evening are a bit sketchy (when I asked East to help me recall what happened his reply of 'you're asking me to remember something that happened in a pub that served beer over 20 years ago' pretty much sums up his and indeed my approach to things at the time) but it's an incident that I do get asked about from time to time, especially when I'm playing duo gigs with the mighty Mr. Smith.

So here, as far as can be recalled, is what happened...

Dramatis personae

T.V. SMITH'S CHEAP -   T.V. Smith- vocals 
                                   Mik Heslin - guitar  
                                   Andy Bennie - bass  
                                   Martin Deniz - drums

THE PRICE -                 Malcolm Andrews - vocals  
                                   Leigh Heggarty (me!) - guitar  
                                   Huggy Harewood - bass  
                                   Mick Francis - drums  
                                   East - roadie, merchandise man and probably some other things as well

The show in question took place at The Samuel Beckett (which I believe is now called The Three Crowns) in Stoke Newington in January 1991. The Price were supporting Cheap - I'd probably have been there anyway to watch the band but that explains why I had a guitar and amplifier with me - and as we arrived we were told that the evening had taken an unexpected turn. As you'd expect we were due to go on first, but as their guitarist Mik had become unavailable (his wife was having a baby, the timing of which is obviously unpredictable) T.V. was going to do an acoustic set, aided and abetted by Martin on percussion. From memory I don't think Andy was originally going to play as well; having said that I think he had his bass with him, although he might have borrowed Huggy's for what was to come? Anyway it was suggested (I think by T.V. himself) that we went on last as it would be a better end to the evening - I'm not sure that I agreed with him! - and after a short discussion about set times it was all arranged. We soundchecked, then T.V. strapped on an acoustic guitar (I think this was the first time I ever saw him play one) and ran through a couple of numbers. At some point around this time in proceedings I said something along the lines of 'I'd have learned your set if you'd told me that Mik wasn't going to be here' - although I hadn't been 100% serious (I don't think I had anyway) when I'd said what I said the moment was seized upon and what might politely be described as an 'intense discussion' between T.V., Andy, Martin and myself followed. Did I actually think that I could play some of their songs? Well, I'd got the 'Third Term' single so knew that song quite well; there was also a much-listened-to John Peel session to consider, and I'd seen the band play many times... Andy and I picked up our instruments and played the chord sequence to 'Third Term' - it sounded good, we could do this! 

T.V. Smith's Cheap
Mik, T.V.,Andy and Martin.
Or could we? Was it a bit of a daft idea? Much musing followed, culminating in a plan - T.V. would play his acoustic set as he'd planned, Martin would join him on percussion for a song or two and then Andy and myself would take to the stage for 'Third Term' to finish his show. All well and good - except... except... I really liked 'Luxury In Exile' (I still do!) and I know it, really I do, it's on the Peel session, I've heard it loads of times, let's do that one as well, please... ok, so we'll do that, then 'Third Term' - but what happens if they want an encore? 

It's nearly showtime and things are going well with the venue filling up nicely. East has set up the Price merchandise stall and is facing some controversy over his 'BUY BEFORE WE FRY' and 'PRE-WAR PRICES' signs (Operation Desert Storm in The Gulf War was looming!) although most people are taking it in the spirit that it was intended (whatever that was!) News was filtering out to the Price people as to what was going to happen - the fans were bemused and amused; I'm not sure that Malcolm and Mick were too happy about it but I don't think Huggy was too bothered. Either way I spoke to T.V. just as he was going on - Andy and myself were to join him and Martin on stage after 'Gather Your Things And Go', and whatever was going to happen next, would happen next...
These days I do a fair few gigs depping in bands that I haven't played or rehearsed with before, but in those days things was very different. I was the guitarist in The Price, and if you were in a band then you played in that band, and that was more-or-less it. I had an impromptu acoustic blues trio with my good friends Paul Cope and the late (and undeniably great) John Saxon called The Diving Ducks that did the odd pub gig here and there but that was all, and even that was seen as an unusual thing to do. (I don't think Malcolm or Mick liked that either, although again I don't think Huggy was too bothered.) However you looked at it, I was about to attempt something that I hadn't done before - get up and play in public with a band that I hadn't rehearsed with. I remember feeling a bit nervous but not to the point of shaking or anything like that. 
East and myself were watching from the side of the stage as 'Gather Your Things And Go' ended. I turned to him and said something like 'right, here we go then'. For a split second he looked as though he was going to say 'what - you're really going to do it?' but I don't think he said anything. And anyway, it was too late to turn back now.
I had always thought 'Luxury In Exile' was a great song from the moment that I first heard it. The riff is brilliantly insistent, the chord sequence is a killer - but the words are something else again. It concerns Nazi war criminals being protected thanks to wealth and power; not exactly a simple subject to tackle, but as with most things T.V. writes about, he makes it look easy. There's two lines in the second verse that still make me shudder, even when (or maybe especially when) we play the song together today - 'swimming pool by the black museum, a pile of bones to put your feet on' - how scary an image is that
I picked up my gold Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, the guitar I used for the majority of Price shows. It's a fabulous instrument. If you're about to play a song that you don't know with people that you've never played with before, that's a pretty good guitar to have in your hands. Martin counted it in, and three or so minutes later the song ended. Applause. Easy. Everyone on the stage smiled a relieved smile. 
'Third Term' had been issued as a single with 'Buried By The Machine' the previous year. I don't know how many copies were sold but I had one, and suddenly that was important. I knew the song. Good. We played it well. Applause. Easier. We took our instruments off and left the stage. More applause. We've got an encore. Now what?
We went back onto the stage, and got ready to play. But to play what exactly? Well - how about 'The Newshound'? I played the first few notes of the riff - T.V. said 'yeah, he knows it, let's go!' and before we had chance to even think about changing our minds we were off. Now this one we hadn't thought of earlier. I'd only heard it live. What did I think I was doing suggesting it?
The song ended. Yet more applause. Leave the stage again. Don't go back on!
T.V. shakes my hand. Andy shakes my hand. Martin shakes my hand. Was that alright? Martin smiles - 'flash c@*t!' - then bursts out laughing. I take that as a 'yes'... Malcolm asks what time we're on and Mick make comments like 'he's ours, you can't have him!' to The Cheapsters. I told you that they weren't too happy. Huggy says nothing, but he still doesn't look as though he was too bothered. I must ask him one day. Gaye Advert tells me that it sounded great. That'll do for me.
The Price
Leigh, Malcolm, Mick and Huggy.
Then The Price played. When you do a lot of shows with a band you tend to only remember the very good ones and the disasters. This one I can't recall as being either of those so I guess it was good. We were a consistent band around this time so it was more likely to be good than bad, but if you're reading this and you were there and can remember anything about our show (or indeed any other bits of the story that I've forgotten) then please let me know. Maybe what happened before our set has overshadowed the rest of that evening in my warped mind?

Eighteen years later The Price and T.V. Smith were playing at The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge. It was East's 50th birthday - you can read the story here if you'd like to. I joined T.V. for a couple of songs that night, and thus we accidentally formed the duo that we perform as today. We played 'Third Term' that night too. As we went to start the song I realised that I had no idea how the chord sequence went - well, it had been a long time. Halfway through I was playing it without thinking. Good. Again. I guess that means that I'm still a flash c@*t?

'Anthology' by T.V. Smith's Cheap can be ordered from the online shop on T.V. Smith's website by clicking here. Do it now - you won't regret it!

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