Friday, July 26, 2013

One day it will please us to remember even this

What follows was written last night on the train home from the gig. I've thought about rewriting it as it's a bit disjointed (to say the least! Well the bar had been open...) but have decided to include it here with very little editing. It's nothing if not honest...

Now you know how I feel about this guitar playing lark don't you? Yeah, of course you do. But just in case you don't...

I have a lot of what I sometimes call 'are you sure Leigh?' moments. As in 'are you sure that you can do this Leigh?' moments. I've found that a lot of musicians are more insecure about their ability than they might first appear, or might look when they're up on a stage. I know that there are much better guitarists than me that never get out of their bedroom or a rehearsal room let alone make it to a stage or do some of the things that I find myself doing. And that's not false modesty or fishing for compliments, it's just true. I don't always feel very lucky, but I know that I'm always lucky to be able to play the guitar
So why am I telling you this. Well I'm not sure really. Maybe I'm telling myself it? Again.

I was talking to the lead singer of The Duel Tara Rez at The 100 Club when The U.K. Subs and T.V. Smith played there back in May. She mentioned that The Duel were due to be supporting Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls at said venue on July 25th, and I resolved to attend the gig; among the other subjects that we then touched upon were the band's excellent version of 'Babylon's Burning' as played at the Fiddler's Elbow show also in May when Back To Zero also appeared - at which point, a plan of sorts loosely formed...

I arrived at The 100 Club just after quarter past six. Sylvain Sylvain and the band were soundchecking with a wonderfully raucous instrumental - as I said hello to members of The Duel and The Bears (the first band on) they played a few snippets and a few full songs, all sounding great. 'We'd better get off and give the other guys a chance' said the man himself (a lot of headline acts don't think like that!) as he took his guitar off, left the stage and walked over in my general direction. 
Now as I said earlier, you know how I feel about this guitar playing lark don't you? And you also know that I think that the New York Dolls are one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time. (Well if you didn't know that then I'm sure that you could have worked it out!) But you also know that I'm basically a very shy person. I try not to be, but I am. So I said to myself, go and say hello to him. Go on, you might not get a chance later on. Look, he's nodded at you, he seems to be alright. Say hello. What's the worst thing that could happen?

'Hello, my name's Leigh. That sounded great.'

He smiled and shook my hand.

Hey Leigh man, thank you.'

I said how good I thought that the guitar sounded - he told me that he's got an old pedal, bought in 1968, a combined fuzz / wha, quite unusual...
And there I was, little old me, talking to Sylvain Sylvain, the bloke out of The New York Dolls, about guitar effect pedals and how he gets his sound. Who'd have thought it eh? Little old me. I played along with his records all those years ago. I still do sometimes.
By now people wanted him - I said that I wouldn't keep him as he was busy but that it had been great to meet him.

'Great to meet you too Leigh' he said, remembering my name as he shook my hand. 

Back to work. Time is running out and there are two bands to soundcheck. The Duel are providing drums and a bass amp, The Bears have two guitarists and I thought I was using Lionel's Marshall set-up but Neil's got a Fender Blues Deluxe combo for me to use. I've got one of those myself. Good. The Duel play half a song without me and then we try 'Babylon's Burning', it all goes right until it all goes wrong - don't worry, it'll be alright on the night. But hang on - this is the night...

The Bears start their set at a quarter to eight. The club is already quite full, and they play a good set which goes down well with all concerned. No pressure then. I set up my guitar as quickly as I can; Tara tells me how nervous she's feeling and I say that it'll be great, probably sounding a bit glib as I realise that I'm feeling quite nervous too.
Andy, Pumpy and Tara from The Duel
attempt to ignore the poser in their midst. 
'What will you do when the money runs out?' The Duel sound terrific and the crowd loves them. And why not? When Tara says that they've got two songs left I realise that it's nearly my turn. The song ends. It's my turn. How does 'Babylon's Burning' go again?
Pumpy taps his sticks together four times and the intensity (in my head at least) leaps by approximately 1000% - 'and with anxiety'...
It ends. The crowd explodes. Goodnight. Tara smiles at Andy, Andy smiles at me - mission accomplished FAB.
I turn Neil's amp off and unplug my guitar. That felt good. I wonder if it sounded good too?
Over the next few minutes I got my answer. I shake hands with what feels like half of the audience. They loved it. And do you know, I loved it too.

9.35pm and London Town becomes New York City before our very eyes. 'OW!' cries our hero. 'Ow!' replies the audience with typically British restraint. 'Ouch!' says Sylvain in a manner that perhaps could best be described as 'beyond camp'. Hilarious.
What followed was a masterclass in out-and-out rock 'n' roll. With Jerome Alexandre on bass and Gary Powell on drums they played old songs, new songs and somewhere-in-between songs with a swagger and a style that all of us want but few of us will ever have. There were some great stories too, about selling jeans to Janis Joplin and how The New York Dolls got their name - that's really him up there on the stage. And it was really Glen Matlock and Clem Burke playing 'Personality Crisis' with him as an encore too. Wow.

After the show - more hands to shake, a hello to Mr. Burke, a few words with Mr. Matlock and probably some other things as well.

So now I'm on my way home trying to write it all down. How you ever tried to write while you're on a tube train? I doubt that I'll be able to read it in the morning. But that was a night to remember, a night never to forget. I told you that I was lucky didn't I?

Well as I say, it's a bit disjointed here and there - even the title doesn't really make sense in this context... many thanks to Big Andy for the photo - I had to use my Les Paul Junior didn't I? Well if it was good enough for Johnny Thunders then it's good enough for me!

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