Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Teenage depression

Sad news - Dave Higgs has died. As guitarist with Eddie And The Hot Rods (and principle songwriter for the early part of their career) he helped bridge the gap between pub rock and the souped-up rhythm and blues of Dr. Feelgood and the punk power and perfection of The Sex Pistols, and as such it could be argued helped to change the face of rock music - no mean feat if you think about it. I bought their 'Live At The Marquee' EP (remember EPs kids?!?) when it came out and can honestly say that at that point I'd never heard a record like it - an energy overload with Higgs's brilliant guitar work driving it all along. The show I saw the band play at Brunel University in Uxbridge way back in 1977 remains one of the most exciting musical performances that I've ever been lucky enough to witness (here's the band with one of Dave's best songs 'The Beginning Of The End' from around the same time - great stuff!) and 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' is a genuine rock classic. Cheers Dave - it wouldn't have been the same without you.

Coincidentally I saw the current lineup of Dave's old band at Oceana (an unlikely type of venue for such an evening, it used to be the 'Bailey's' nightclub) in Watford last Tuesday evening, as part of a 'dream bill' that also included Nine Below Zero and Wilko Johnson. The Hot Rods were as great as ever, with Barrie Masters in fine voice and the band matching him blow for blow. When they encored with 'Get Out Of Denver' it almost felt as though the headline band had been on - but no, 20 minutes later it's time for Nine Below Zero, another band that I saw play an incredible Brunel show back in the day. I think they played eight encores, and when we came out it had been snowing - not quite nine below zero outside, but enough for an old (then young!) romantic like me to remember forever. With Brendan O'Neill on drums and Brian Bethell back in the fold Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham gave a masterclass in rhythm and blues, with original songs easily holding their own next to the old classics and Feltham's harmonica sounding as amazing as it ever did. I'll bet I wasn't the only person who dug out their copy on 'Live At The Marquee' the next day... and what can I say about Wilko Johnson that I haven't said before? The man continues to defy medical science and is still delivering the goods. Wonderful stuff. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I saw him at Brunel University too. Perhaps I should have just moved there?!?

Wednesday night I rehearsed with Mr. Tibbs - I'm playing with them on New Year's Eve at The Greyhound in Chalfont St. Peter and as you can imagine there were quite a few songs to look at. There won't be a chance for another rehearsal before the show so time was at a premium, and while we managed to play through most (but not all) of the material that we're intending to play I can still see myself having to do a bit more homework before the night...

On Friday I found myself at The 12 Bar Club with Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes. We'd gone into town to spend a bit of time in The West End as it was Pete's late brother Dave's birthday in the week (I played guitar at his funeral, you can read the story here if you like) and the area was a great favourite of his; when I saw that Pope were playing we decided to end our evening in Denmark Street. I was always a fan of The Chords, and hoped that Chris Pope's latest band would be in the same vein - I'm pleased to say that they were absolutely excellent, loud and brash and with great songs. And if that wasn't enough they ended with 'Maybe Tomorrow'. I'll definitely be looking out for them in the future.

I played my first show with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks since mid-November on Saturday night, at The Three Mariners in Bagshot. I managed to spend a bit of time on Friday afternoon running through some of the songs, and I'm very glad that I did as I still had the odd blank moment. It's weird - it's only been a few weeks since I last played with the band, but given what I've done in the meantime it almost feels like a lifetime ago. Nevertheless it was a good show, not least given the fact that Al had been in hospital earlier in the week with an injured leg and so was in a fair bit of pain throughout the show. I thought that he did well to get through it at all.

Talking of bands that I haven't played in for a while - The Upper Cut gathered at RnR Studios on Sunday afternoon to rehearse for our upcoming Boxing Day show at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. A most enjoyable 4 hour session saw us running through a fair bit of our repertoire, as well as learning a couple of new songs and tightening up arrangements of some of the older ones. It's always a great band to play in, and it's a shame that we've not had many gigs lately - let's hope that we can get a bit more work next year.

And last night I went to the jam night at The Three Wishes in Edgware. I haven't been there for a month or so as I've been away gigging, and it was interesting to find myself being blanked by a couple of people - surely they're not jealous? Ooooh... I really must write a piece on jam nights one day!

Right - I'm off to play at The Crown in Cowley with Big Al and the boys - have a happy Christmas y'all...

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