Tuesday, August 27, 2013

'All I've got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth...'

It's been a case of 'four-gigs-in-four-days-with-four-different-bands' for your humble narrator - I thought this was supposed to be a holiday weekend? Still it's good to be busy - here are the notes that I made as I went along:-


When we played here last month the guv'nor kept telling us (and particularly me) that we were playing too loud, then at the end of our second set he said that I was the best guitarist that he'd ever seen, that we were the best band that he'd ever heard and then offered us more money to play another set. He wasn't there this time so we played two sets at a reasonable volume (honest!) and went home on time... there could have been more people there but it wasn't a bad turnout for a Bank Holiday weekend and those who were there certainly enjoyed themselves if their comments afterwards were anything to go by. A good start to the weekend.


After a fairly busy day in the shop it was off to the venue formally known as The Rowan Arms, although I believe The Cat And Fiddle was it's original name? Either way Johnny Squirrel was once again excellent depping on bass, and with Al on top form the band sounded good - as with the previous evening there could have been more people there but again those who were there seemed to really enjoy it, even going so far as to applaud the band as we were leaving. Mind you, they may have just wanted us to go?!?


Now I'd been looking forward to this for quite some time - billed as 'Cornwall's First Punk And Pasty Festival' we were headlining the Sunday evening with 999 and Vice Squad also on the bill among many others. Our epic journey down to Penzance took around 6 hours but went very well - with Dave (drums), Segs (bass), Seamus (keyboards) and Nick (sound engineer) all coming down by train from various different parts of the country myself, Molara (vocals) and Mark (driver) met up with Tina the backstage co-ordinator who was very helpful as indeed was everyone else on the site. Somewhat inevitably pasties were on the menu almost immediately, although there were also some splendid homemade crumpets (oh yes!) among other culinary delights. I set up our merchandise next to Andy T. and his other half Cheryl (I was next to them at Rebellion too!) and said hello to Sarah Pink, Arturo from 999 and The Lurkers, Rebellion Festival supremo Jennie and a fair few punters who were looking forward to seeing us play. No pressure then... 
Vice Squad sounded good as did 999 - leaving Mark behind the merch table I made my way backstage where Segs and Molara were in the middle of an interview with Steve from local radio station The Source FM (he presents the 'Punky Reggae Party' show - excellent!) With everything running late and a strict 11 o'clock curfew courtesy of the local council (whatever happened to anarchy eh?) there's something of a scrabble to set up - by the time we go on we know we've got to cut our set down, and Tina is going to give us a '10 minutes to go' sign when there's, er, 10 minutes to go. Three songs in and 'Back Biter' up's the ante, and with 'Something That I Said' nearly starting a riot the gig is shaping up to be a classic - until the dreaded sign from Tina brings us all back down to Earth. Segs tells the audience that we've only got time for three songs and asks what they want to hear? 'Mighty Soldier' sees the stage invaded by children (oddly appropriate given that it's about child soldiers in Angola) before 'Staring At The Rude Boys' and 'Babylon's Burning' bring our show to a premature end. The audience wants more and the band want to carry on playing but it's not going to happen. Shame.
With everything packed away we're invited back to The Farmers Arms by Taf the landlord for a drink. Or Two. At least. They serve Todka there - no I didn't know what it was either. I left at 6am - you don't need to know anymore now do you..?


My alarm went off at 10.30am. The band are due to be leaving for London at eleven o'clock. I recieved a text message from Dave saying that they're all at the Waves cafe - I replied that I'd be there as soon as possible - and then attempted to move. Oooh...
Incredibly I would have got there on time if I could have found my way there, as it wasn't far at all; the problem was simple - everyone I asked for directions was a tourist except for one chap who said that he'd lived in Penzance all his life but had never heard of either the pub or the cafe. Strange! I eventually got there around 20 minutes after the allotted time to find that Mark and Dave had gone to retrieve the van and to attempt to raise Nick from his slumber - he eventually decided to catch a train later in the day leaving us to wend our weary way homewards. I spent much of the journey drifting in and out of consciousness (don't worry, I wasn't driving!) and wondering if I'd be back in time for my evening gig. Fortunately the journey went very well, and I arrived home in time to drop my gear off before heading up to Highgate for a gig with Back To Zero at The Boogaloo. It's a party to celebrate BTZ's songwriter Sam and his wife Jeanette's 20th wedding anniversary, and when I arrive everything is set up and ready to go. Sadly our show is blighted by the presence of one of those perpetually annoying volume restriction devices that mean that the band can never really relax during the show - it cuts the power during our second number and goes off again here and there throughout our set which consists of BTZ songs interspersed with an eclectic selection of cover versions chosen by Sam and his family. If you ever wanted to see a band play 'Starman', 'Le Freak' and 'I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor' then this was your chance...

And I spent a large portion of today asleep. You knew that I would didn't you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

'...the sun's not yellow, it's chicken...'

After the euphoria of last weekend it's back down to Earth with a bump for your humble narrator this week with the news of three deaths:-

Roy Chuter was a man that I can't claim to have known well, but I have very good memories of the time that I did spend with him. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties The Price were often featured in 'Wake Up!' fanzine, and Roy was a good friend of Dave T. the editor who I saw at gigs here and there and at Dave's legendary 'Womblestock' parties. Lately he'd been running The Duke Of Wellington pub in Shoreham where I played with both The Price and T.V. Smith in recent years. I heard of his passing from an email from Dave, and I had chance to talk to Attila The Stockbroker about him at The Rebellion Festival who told me the sad story of his demise. The depth of feeling for the man can be seen by even a cursory glance at the Brighton And Hove Albion F.C. North Stand forum - Roy is someone who will be missed by many many people.

The man I always knew simply as 'old Michael' died earlier this month - a familiar figure in and around the pubs of Uxbridge, his tales of the London jazz scene of the 1950s and '60s never failed to amuse and entertain. He came to see The Upper Cut not-so-long ago - when I next saw him he came up to me with the words 'too loud man!' Let's face it, he was probably correct... in recent years East saw more of him than I did, but he'd always have plenty to say whenever I did see him, and would often leave us both with the words 'I'll see you two reprobates later'. Again I won't pretend that he was a close friend but he was someone that I spent some good times with, and a night at The Load Of Hay will never be quite the same again.     

And talking of The Load Of Hay, it was in said establishment last Thursday evening that I heard that Chicken Legs Weaver had died last month. I saw Andy play there on several occasions (I also saw him at The 100 Club supporting Wilko Johnson, and he played with The Flying Squad at Tropic At Ruislip back in February 2010) and I'll remember him as a great character, a fine musician and a fiercely committed bluesman who played his music with a fire and a passion that many aspire to but only very few achieve. I'll also remember him (and indeed Roy and Michael) as being a very nice guy, which I think you'll agree is a pretty good way to remember anyone.

Having played a show with Utter Madness earlier this month it was with great interest that I made my way over to the afore-mentioned Tropic At Ruislip on Friday evening to see It Must Be Madness. They seem to be a popular bunch as over 200 people turned up for the show, and very good they were too with many an obscure album track among the expected hits. I missed much of their second set as I was on the phone to Dave Ruffy attempting to plan this weekend's Ruts D.C. appearance at The 3 Chords Festival in Penzance (we never close!) but they certainly had the crowd dancing by the end of the evening. And it was great to see the club so full of people - we could do with more venues like this couldn't we?

Saturday night it was over to The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham to see Midnight. As I didn't have a gig myself I probably would have gone along anyway to give Big Al Reed (he plays saxophone in the band) a bit of support, but with the man himself Terry Peaker busy elsewhere the prospect of seeing my old mate Johnny Squirrel depping on bass was just too good to miss. He made a very good job of it too, often in the face of adversity given the shall-we-say 'eccentric' nature of some of the performances. He made a very good job of depping in The Blistering Buicks the next afternoon at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook too, where our three sets were lapped up by the faithful and the landlady offered us two more gigs in the next couple of months. Excellent!

Monday morning in Balcony Shirts began with the first person through the front door asking if he could use the toilet, then looking astonished when he was told that he couldn't. I heard myself say 'this is going to be a weird day' to new-ish recruit Simona, and much as I might be wrong about a lot of things I was proved right about this one, with the next person asking if they could have an envelope (that's 'have' not 'buy', and why they thought a t-shirt printing shop would be the place to go for such a thing is anybody's guess) followed by a chap asking if we sold tennis racquets. Some people even asked if we printed t-shirts... all in a day's work I guess, although things brightened up no end when a young lady told us that she ran The Blue Plague Printing School - 'it's an anti-Tory printing workshop, we'll be doing it again soon, you should come along' said she cheerily. You know, I just might! 
From there it was over to Soundlab Studios in Loughton for a Back To Zero rehearsal where an enjoyable and very productive session saw new songs tried alongside some cover versions to be played at a private party this coming weekend. A long day, but a good one - as I sit here thinking about the three gentleman featured earlier in this posting that feels like a great thing to be able to say. Well, I think that it is - don't you?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ruts D.C. and T.V. Smith at The 2013 Rebellion Festival

What follows is an attempt to write a piece about my four days at The Rebellion Festival last weekend. Most of it was written while I was there (or has been taken from notes made at the time) and while it's a bit disjointed here and there it does reflect the general feel of the weekend complete with a very unexpected incident along the way. Enjoy.

Thursday - a good journey up to Blackpool with Andy Peart and 'Fast' Tony Clarke saw your humble narrator arrive at Grampian House bed and breakfast establishment around 7.15pm. 'Oooh you've got wi-fi, we haven't got wi-fi' said Fast Tony ruefully. Yes, but you've no doubt got a jacuzzi - mind you, wi-fi is probably more useful... room 5 looks good to me so I sort my stuff out then walk along the seafront to The Winter Gardens to collect my AAA wristband then join Andy and Tony for veggie burgers at Nando's. Rock 'n' roll eh? By the time we've eaten it's nearer to 10 o'clock than 9; at the venue we meet up with Esso, John King, Phil from Bug and his wife Annette and more in the Spanish Bar, all of which means that the first act the I actually see is Walter Lure whose set in The Arena starts at midnight with 'One Track Mind'. I last saw him play nearly 30 years ago with Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers, and I'm pleased to say that the ensuing years haven't dulled his Les Paul swagger one bit. From there is was off to The Bizarre Bazaar for a few songs from The Ramonas (who played 'Chinese Rocks' just a few minutes after Walter Lure - weird!) before heading to The Empress Ballroom for a brilliant set from New Model Army with Justin Sullivan as intense as ever and the band sounding superb. A good start to proceedings.

Friday - I made it down to The Winter Gardens in time to catch around half the set from Taurus Trakker and very good they were too, although it was impossible not to be distracted by The Good-Fer-Nothing Circus who were to one side of the stage inviting people to have their photos taken standing on top of a chap laying on a bed of nails. Scary! In the meantime I had to find Stuart the head of merchandising to find out if I could store the two boxes of t-shirts and CDs that I'd bought with me somewhere in the venue ready for Saturday's gig; if that proved to be possible I then had to work out how to get them to the venue as I couldn't carry them all on my own. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well the first part certainly was, and Stuart turned out to be a very nice chap who couldn't have been more helpful and who offered to store the shirts in a room where he kept all the event merchandise. So far so good. So now all I had to do was collect the shirts and take them to the venue. Simple eh?
Have you ever been to Blackpool? I used to go there with my family when I was a lad and so have a lot of good memories about the place, but that was before the words 'one way system' meant anything to me. Myself and the afore-mentioned Phil and Annette (who had rather wildly volunteered to help) spent the best part of an hour attempting to find the back doors of The Winter Gardens - well, that's not strictly true as we knew where it was, we just couldn't work out how to get to it thanks to the psycho drama that is the Blackpool one way system. Several people offered directions, but they always said things like 'well it depends on whether (insert road name here) is open today or not' - many of the roads have those bollards that can be raised or lowered according to which way they're running the roads that day, which means that no one really knows how to get anywhere on any given day. It's mad! Still we got there in the end after a predictably huge amount of swearing and general insanity. After that it was time to see some bands so I did, catching all or part of sets by Eastfield, Charred Hearts, Long Tall Texans, Attila The Stockbroker, Hazel O'Connor, Wob, The Beatlesons, The Crows, The Duel, Peter And The Test Tube Babies, The Guitar Gangsters, Eddie And The Hot Rods, The Damned, Ed Banger And The Nosebleeds (no sign of Morrissey or Billy Duffy sadly) The Vibrators, Neck, The Buzzcocks, Justin Sullivan And Dean White, Space and probably some others. During this time any number of bars were open selling any number of beers - you can work the rest out for yourself...

Saturday - ok, here we go then. All this drinking and cavorting is all very well (and it must be said, tremendous fun!) but the real reason that I'm here is that tonight Ruts D.C. headline The Bizarre Bazaar stage. After spending a lazy morning running through a few of the songs on guitar I arrived at the venue around half past twelve to be told that our merchandise table would be available at 2pm so I got some lunch and saw a couple of numbers from Texas Terri Bomb before retrieving the shirts and discs and setting up our stall. Our slot was next to The Bizarre Bazaar which meant that I managed to see at least a couple of songs from most of the bands playing there that afternoon (all of whom have released material on All The Madmen Records) and met a lot of very nice people, many of whom made comments that confirmed what had become more and more evident since I first arrived at the festival - that a lot of people were really looking forward to our show. No pressure then...
The rest of the band arrived around half past five - after they'd bought our equipment in Segs heroically offered to take over the stall (I say 'heroically' as he was immediately besieged with people wanting autographs and to have their photo taken with him) while I went to get some food and to collect my guitar from my room. Upon my return we formulated a plan - Mark the driver would take over on the stall and we'd all meet in our dressing room at 10 o'clock to warm up for the show. This gave me chance to see a couple of songs from Chas And Dave and to catch up with a few people before climbing the four flights of stairs (!) to our dressing room at the allotted time. Myself and Segs had ran through quite a few songs or bits of songs before Dave joined us; Molara and Seamus arrived soon after that and it was suddenly half past eleven and time to get ready for the gig. And what a gig it was - the place was packed (and I mean packed) and with people dancing from the word go the next 75 minutes passed by in what felt like seconds. An extraordinary show, followed by an equally extraordinary time back out on the merch stall, where hands were shaken, CDs and records were signed and we all agreed that the gig had been everything we hoped it would be. Oh yes!

Sunday - first things first, and it's back to the venue to load up the van and wish the rest of the band a safe journey home. As I walked back through the venue I saw T.V. Smith behind his merchandise stall and decided to go over to say hello; when I got there here was taping a piece of cardboard to the front of the table - it said that his show was being bought forward a half an hour to 9 o'clock and would feature your humble narrator as 'special guest'. Oo-er! It turned out that Pascal Briggs should have been on before T.V. but hadn't made it to the festival so a longer set was now required - 'I've been trying to call you but couldn't get through - do you know anyone who could lend you an acoustic guitar?'
I went back to base camp, had a shower and got my (electric) guitar out. I hadn't played a show with the mighty Mr. Smith since back in March but fortunately I had all the songs that I play with him on my mobile phone for just such an emergency (if only it worked as a telephone as well!) and so set about revising some songs. I also managed to get an hour and a bit of sleep - well, it was going to be a long evening...
As I walked back to the venue The Red Arrows were displaying over the sea - Blackpool appeared to be at a standstill with people parked up on street corners and all the pavements crammed with onlookers. I wended my weary way through them and went straight to the venue office where I arranged to borrow a guitar; there was was time for some food before catching a few songs from The Riffs, I, Ludicrous and Lene Lovich. I'd arranged to meet T.V. at The Almost Acoustic stage at half past eight, where the very helpful soundman Huggy produced a guitar that had been left there for me by Jennie from The Crows. (Thanks Jennie - that's another drink I owe you! Oh and thanks to Billy Liar for lending me a capo too.) After a (very) quick soundcheck T.V. took to the stage for 30-odd minutes of excellence before beginning 'Immortal Rich' which was my cue to start getting ready to go on. I knew he'd be doing two more songs after that -  plenty of time to go to the toilet (even guitar heroes need to have a pee before the show you know!) and get a drink. Or so I thought - I met several people who had enjoyed the Ruts D.C. show and who wanted to tell me all about it. Well I don't want to be rude but I'm on in five minutes...
I just - just! - made it to the stage as my name was announced. Phew! I just made through the set too, with T.V. calling a couple of songs that I hadn't revised - I didn't know that I had quite so much skin on my teeth! By the end of our set we were treated to the unusual sight of massed poging at an acoustic gig, an amazing end to a great show. 
Afterwards it's handshakes and photos all round before heading to the Empress Ballroom to see Sham 69. I was never their biggest fan but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed their show - and no one is more surprised than me to be typing that sentence.
Only one thing could follow that - the after show party upstairs in The Spanish Bar. Now it's at this point that details get sketchy. Very sketchy. I definitely spent a fair bit of time talking to Gaye Advert, and Richard from Cadiz Music, and Arturo Bassick, Eugene from Vive Le Rock and no doubt quite a few other people too; when that ended at 4am I went to The Orbiston Hotel with various members of The Duel where incredibly the bar was still open. Details are even more sketchy after that... but what a weekend it had been my friends, what a weekend it had been. Same time next year? Let's hope so.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Titanic days

I've not seen or heard the news much lately, and so have only just heard that Mick Farren died last month after collapsing on stage at The Borderline in London during a gig with The Deviants. I remember reading his work in The New Musical Express back in the day, and 'The Titanic Sails At Dawn' remains a classic piece of pre-punk angst that rails against the complacency then rife among the successful rock bands and artists of the day. Reading it now it still seems to me as though it could have been written yesterday - nothing ever really changes does it? And Mel Smith has died - I loved 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' in the late '70s / early '80s with it's all-too-accurate parodies and outrageous (for the time) portrayals of the politicians of the day. We could do with a show like that now don't you think?

Meanwhile Music Ruined My Life has continued posting old Price material. It's strange in some ways to see it there, and yet some of the comments left by readers show that people do still seem to enjoy our work. If only there had been more of them when we were together! You can find our second single and mini-album alongside this compilation album (which I must admit I'd all but forgotten about - it's very good though!) on there now - once again have a look and a listen and see what you think.

Only one gig for your humble narrator since the last posting but it certainly qualifies as a good one. Utter Madness had been booked to play an outdoor show at Cliveden House last July, but the show was cancelled due to the ground being waterlogged. The band were promised a rebooking this year, and that promise came good this weekend when we played there as part of the 'Cliveden Rocks' weekend. Paul from The Lettuceheads is on drums, Richard is back on keyboards with Ian on saxophone, Jon on bass and Tony as our surrogate Suggs, and we're on first with Queen B topping the bill. There was an odd moment during our soundcheck when it was raining to the left of the stage but dry and sunny to the right - fortunately the weather stayed good all evening other than that. By the time we started our show at 7 o'clock there were apparently around 2,000 people in attendance, and they saw a good-going-on-great-in-places set of Madness and ska classics. Having said that I made a terrible job of 'It Must Be Love' (I think that it's always better to admit it when it's your fault!) and there was the odd moment of madness (if you see what I mean) here and there but overall it was the best of our three shows this year, and it went down very well with the assembled multitude which is only ever the main thing. Queen B certainly went down well too - I'll never be the World's biggest Queen fan (now that my friends just might be the understatement of the year so far!) but what they did they did very well.

And the local paper liked them and indeed us, as you can see from this review...

And it's time (at last!) for some more Ruts D.C. gigs, beginning with The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool this coming weekend. We're on at midnight on Saturday (yeah alright, I know that means that we're actually playing first thing on Sunday morning - stop being so pedantic!) on The Bizarre Bazaar stage, and I have just - just! - got in from rehearsing all day for the show. It should be a great weekend - if you're going then I'll see you there...

Friday, August 02, 2013

Music ruined my life - it's official!

Now here's a funny thing - the always-excellent Music Ruined My Life blog has posted a piece on the first single from me and my old buddies The Price - I must admit it's a bit of an inside job as I sent him the information when he requested it but it's still amazing to see it there all of (gulp!) 25 years since it was released. Have a look and indeed a listen here and see what you think.

On Wednesdays your humble narrator journeyed across London to Back To Zero Headquarters (hereinafter referred to as 'BTZ HQ') to spray some hot guitar (oooh I wish I'd thought of that line! Sadly I didn't - but there's 10 points for you if you know who did! I'll give you the answer at the end of this posting...) new album. Yes that's right, our new album. It's been the best part of ten years since songwriting wizard Sam and erstwhile singer Brian put together 'It's All Relative', and it has been decided that a tenth anniversary re-recording by the band is in order. Sam and Andy have already recorded their guitar and drum parts respectively so it's time for myself and Squirrel to add our guitar and bass contributions. With optimism in the air we got off to a flying start and progress was swift, until my trusty (well it had been trusty up until this point!) Fender Telecaster cut out when I changed from the bridge to the neck pick up. It came back on, cut out again... after attempting an emergency repair (hitting it then swearing rather a lot - well, it usually works!) it came back on, and was fine as long as I only wanted to use the bridge pick up, which, somewhat fortuitously, was the one that I wanted to use for much of proceedings. I just got it working again when Squirrel's bass started making some rather odd crackling noises - he changed the battery (it's got active pick ups) but to no avail, and so used Andy's bass for the rest of the day. Somehow despite these setbacks we got a remarkable amount of work done, and have resolved to get back together in the next couple of weeks (after we've got our instruments repaired perhaps!?!) to complete our parts. More news as and when I have it, but I for one think that the album is going to sound great. Oh yes!

And last night I saw The Good Old Boys at The Eel Pie Club in Twickenham. I hadn't been to the club for quite some time (it's at The Cabbage Patch public house) but if the audience for this show was anything to go by it's a thriving venue which is always a good thing to see in these troubled times. And the GOBs (another abbreviated band name eh?) were absolutely excellent - mind you, they usually are.

Better go - I have a gig with Utter Madness tomorrow at no lesser venue than Cliveden House (you know, the Profumo Affair and all that) and I've got songs to revise. After that,  it's time for the return of Ruts D.C. - but more about that next time.

And the answer to the 'hot guitar' question - it is of course the great Robert Fripp, who has variously referred to spraying 'hot' and 'burning' guitar several times over the years. Good man!