Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sick of being sick

Well it's a funny old life sometimes isn't it? I just looked at the end of the last blog posting, when referring to the currently-customary Monday nights at The 12 Bar Club I wrote - 

'Oh well - there's always next Monday... hopefully...' 

- and let's face it, that's a fair enough comment if you think about it. Well obviously I think that it is as I wrote it, but well, you know what I mean... anyway, it turned out that from my point of view there wasn't next Monday - not at The 12 Bar Club anyway. Here, as best I can recall, is the story of the last few days...


I spent much the day at my niece Sherrie's wedding in Weybridge. No I didn't drink too much, honest - in actual fact I stayed on the soft drinks and ate sandwiches and cake with other family members and friends. A good day. Or so I thought. 


As I going away with Ruts D.C. the next morning it would have been nice to have had a lazy day, but instead I worked in Balcony Shirts - I'm generally in there on Wednesdays but as Ruts D.C. rehearsed that day I swapped a day with Simona and was in on Friday instead. Simple eh? A fairly busy day which I spent most of feeling tired and a bit out of sorts. Well, it had been a long day on Thursday hadn't it?
Big Al And The Blistering Buicks were playing at The Dolphin in Uxbridge that evening - Pete and myself hatched a plan to go there early and have a curry (one each, not one between us!) before everyone else arrived. To this end we were there around 7 o'clock, and spent the next hour working our way through some food and drink. And very nice it was too. Soon enough the rest of the band arrived - we all set up and readied ourselves for action. But all was not well, at least from my point of view. I was tired - really tired - and hot. Really hot. As in sweating and everything. Please don't let this mean I'm getting the flu or something like it. Please.
The first set then, and I feel terrible. Terrible. But we're playing well and people are enjoying it, so that's ok. But I'm dizzy and my stomach feels like it's swelling up. What on Earth is going on? By the interval I'm feeling even worse, to the extent that I'm not sure if I can manage the second set. Don't silly Leigh, just get on with it. We start again and I nearly overbalance, I make it to the third number before it all gets too much - I take my guitar off as slowly and as calmly as I can, put it down and stumble to the nearest gents toilet. I then spend the next song-and-a-half being violently and horribly sick. Urgh! And what song were we playing when it all got too much - 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place'... I'm back in the band for 'Shakin' All Over' but off again for 'Sharp Dressed Man' - I make it to the end of the set but then it's time to be sick again. Not the best evening - although it wasn't a bad gig, if you see what I mean.


I woke up after around 4 hours of broken, fitful sleep. It was 6am. As I came to my senses I realised that I felt how I would imagine that I would have felt if I'd spent some time in the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. I had the very definition of a 'splitting headache', my stomach was churning, my sides hurt and I doubt that I would have had a worse taste in my mouth if I'd been drinking paint stripper. Not good frankly. But, incredibly, there was no time to worry about any of that, as I had to get myself across to South London to meet the rest of Ruts D.C. before flying from Gatwick Airport to Amsterdam to play at The Rebellion Festival. I'd been looking forward to this since we first got the gig - now I had no idea how or indeed if I was going to be able to do the show.
'Hey guys - we're in Amsterdam!' And we were. Segs sounded excited, and why shouldn't he be? And I felt a bit better, although the words 'a bit' are quite important here. I'd slept for most of the car journey to the airport and for indeed most the flight, and had been steadily drinking bottled water in an attempt to rehydrate myself - that's the thing that you're supposed to do at times such as this isn't it? As we took a cab from Schiphol to The Milkweg Amsterdam looked pretty much how it was supposed to. Judging by my reflection in the rear view mirror I on the other hand looked grey and cold - which was pretty much how I felt. But even that was better than earlier so things were looking up. Sort of. We met Molara at the venue, who upon hearing of my plight immediately took charge, ordering me to find 'dry crackers, and sugary drinks like Sprite, 7-Up, Pepsi' - after swallowing what I thought was a potentially unwise amount I was amazed to find myself getting a burst of energy. Suddenly I had a way of getting through the show. Probably. Good. In the meantime we've got to check in at our hotel - as we walk around the corner a voice shouts 'RUTS' and a huge cheery man gets out of a small car followed by a couple of friends, they've come from Poland to see the show and ask Dave and Segs for photos with them. A nice moment.
My alarm woke me up at 5.45pm. We're due on in 90 minutes. As my head clears I realise that I feel... ok... ish... I get up and head back to the venue. Time to go to work. When I get back to The Milkweg Department S are on and Jed is behind The Damned (they're on after us) merchandise table. It's nice to see some familiar faces - things are getting better all the time. I climb the spiral staircase to the dressing rooms and meet various Damned members along the way before bumping into Jon their guitar tech who upon hearing of my condition immediately offers to help me with my equipment. Top man! I've got a Marshall stack to play through, I've bought my effect pedals with me and there are new strings on my Les Paul - at last it's time for some music. But first, some sugary drinks to wash the crackers down. Rock 'n' Roll eh?
Quarter past seven and I'm on stage. 12 hours earlier I wasn't sure that I would be. We start with 'Mighty Soldier' and my guitar is heavier on my shoulder than I remember it being. But it's alright. We play, and we play, and we play, and we go down better and better as we do so. After 'Love In Vain' a chap gets on stage and asks us to 'play a song for Foxy' - I think about saying something like 'I play them all for Foxy mate' but I don't feel like it, and anyway I've a funny feeling he did something like that at another gig and I said it then. Oh well. Segs calls 'Something That I Said' instead of 'West One (Shine On Me)', I put everything I can into the guitar solo, and halfway though it I burp and for want of a better term, something appears in my mouth... I make a mistake (it happens at 2.14 in this clip - well, that's my excuse anyway!) which annoys me but I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself. We finish with 'Society' and the whole place goes crazy. Job done. Good.
Afterwards I watch a few songs from The Damned who sound as great as ever, with Dave Vanian looking like a demonic dentist and Captain Sensible on great form. I see a song or two by Goldblade then meet T.V. Smith in the bar, it's been ages since we've seen each other and I say how much I'd love to stay and chat but suddenly I'm flagging dramatically. It's time to call it a day. But I'm pleased that I've got this far; I'm pleased to have done anything at all. As all around me plan to watch headliners Cock Sparrer and continue the festivities into the small hours I share a cab with Molara back to our hotel. I get to my room, go in and close the door. Suddenly I feel rough. I put the television on and find a Jimi Hendrix documentary and a (presumably) Dutch version of 'Have I Got News For You'. Oh and 'QI' in English. Things aren't all bad. They rarely are if you think about it.


The next morning dawned early, as we had to be at the airport for 9am. Judging by the looks of Dave Segs and Nick our soundman they'd had a good night. And why not? At Schiphol there's a large 'Bird Control' photo display board that amuses Nick no end, and beers are being ordered before 10 o'clock to celebrate Dave's birthday - I decide to brave a latte and some toast, which thankfully doesn't re-appear. I then spend the flight to Gatwick drifting in and out of consciousness and the car journey back to London in a similar state. When I get home I go to sleep. Who said coffee keeps you awake?
My alarm woke me up 45 minutes earlier than it had the previous day. Time to go to work again - Big Al and co. are playing at The Horns in Watford. I travel over with Pete who thankfully has had no ill effects from Friday's food. That's good. That's very good. It looks as though I was just unlucky. 
The Hill St. Blues Band are still playing when we arrive at The Horns - I say hello to the rest of the band and recount the horrors (and indeed the good bits) of the last day or so. We're due on around 7.30 so there's time for a glass of water (!) and a chat with some of Al's friends before we set up and get ready to play. The band had performed without me the night before so this is their third show in a row, it shows with everyone on form and Paul the soundman getting a great balance. The first set goes so well that we're offered a return gig in the interval, and the second set has a celebratory feel as a result. I feel a bit shaky here and feel very tired during the encore, but it's a great end to the weekend. 


By the time I get to Balcony Shirts I feel so bad that I'm ready to turn around and go home again. Bugger. I stumble through the day, occasionally recounting tales of the weekend to Simona, customers, anyone that will listen, all the while feeling at best bad and at worst dreadful. I make a couple of daft mistakes in the shop which annoy me, but I decide that there's no point in being silly about it. I'm not well after all. 
In the evening I get home and consider my options. There are no options. I'm not going to The 12 Bar Club. Oh well. There's always next Monday. Hopefully.


I spent Monday evening writing much of the above and then having an early-ish night. A good move methinks. Not long after I got up this morning I received a phone call from my brother Terry - after saying hello he asked how I was feeling, I assumed he'd heard about me being ill but it turned out that he and 'a dozen or more' of the wedding party had been ill with stomach problems since Thursday. Was it the egg sandwiches we wondered? Who knows. But I'm feeling better. At last. Onwards and upwards, as they say. Whoever 'they' are...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arguments For Socialism

'The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person - Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler - one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.'

  - Tony Benn, during his final speech to The House Of Commons, 22nd March 2001 

Tony Benn died on Friday. For what my opinion is worth I think that he was a remarkable man, and that The World is a lesser place for his passing. I met him a few times - you can read the story of one such encounter here if you like - and on every occasion he seemed to me to be an absolute gentleman, which considering that he spent much of his life among professional politicians counts as a real achievement if you think about it. In the last few days it's been interesting to hear the odious, self-serving creeps that currently inhabit our government attempting to say something vaguely nice about a man that they so obviously hated for his honesty and conviction, two qualities that they themselves wouldn't know if their miserable, corrupt little lives depended upon it. It's easy to criticise Benn for being an idealist, or for being unrealistic about how his ideas would translate into the 'real' World, but I think that misses the point - here was a man who was unafraid to state his beliefs and stand by them, which is perhaps something that many in Westminster won't do or indeed can't understand. Strange isn't it? You might have thought that they'd realise that honesty and integrity are actually qualities worth having, rather than saying anything that they think might make them more attractive to us long-suffering members of the general public regardless of whether they believe it or not, all for a fear of making themselves unelectable or because they are obliged to tow the party line. As we sink further and further into coalition - orchestrated oblivion we need men like Tony Benn (and indeed Bob Crow) more than ever - but where are they going to come from? Now there's a question...

And if that's not bad enough, Scott Asheton has died. Also known as Rock Action (that's got to be the best rock 'n' roll name ever hasn't it?!?) he was a founder member of The Stooges, and is so by definition one of the most influential drummers of all time. His work on 'The Stooges', 'Fun House' and 'Raw Power' helped to inspire countless punk players, and when the band reformed in 2003 he and his late brother Ron finally received the recognition (and indeed financial reward) that they so richly deserved. Iggy Pop's comment that 'I've never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton' says it all - a very sad loss.

In the meantime Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth on Friday evening. With Dave busy elsewhere Mac Poole depped on drums - since we were all there early it was great to have chance to talk to Mac about some of his illustrious past, and I must admit that I could have listened to his stories of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Move (among many others) for hours. But we had a gig to play, and a good gig it was too, with more dates being offered at the end of the evening and a positive reaction all round.

The next night The Upper Cut returned to The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge for the first time in quite a while. Sad to say the place seems to have gone downhill since I used to book Sunday night acoustic gigs there a few years ago, to such an extent that they ran out of lager and indeed quite a few other beers during the course of the evening. Strange - you realise that a pub without beer is, well, not very much at all really... as a result several people went home in disgust and others expressed their general annoyance to all and sundry - I must admit I was more concerned when my amplifier blew a fuse when I first turned it on, although it thankfully worked fine for the rest of the evening. An odd night.

And yesterday was of course St. Patrick's Day - it was also time for another Reggae Punk Monday at The 12 Bar Club. Heroically resisting the temptation to order a gallon of Guinness I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Kusworth's brand of low-slung-guitar-powered rock'n'roll but had to leave for the last train home before The Duel played. Oh well - there's always next Monday... hopefully...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

'A working class hero is something to be...'

I've just heard that Bob Crow has died - shame. He seemed to me to be a decent man who stood up for the rights of working class people, which in these days of evil presidentes is something that should always be applauded don't you think? I've just heard that two-faced clown Boris Johnson describe him as 'a man of character', a term that could never be applied to The Mayor Of London. A sad loss.

The second Gypie Mayo tribute gig took place at Surrey Blues Club on Friday evening - house band Game On started proceedings with a half hour or so of blues standards (enlivened no end by their guitarist playing violin on one number) before The Band Of Sceptics took to the stage. With frontman / guitarist Pete Sargeant in fine form their varied set included an excellently jazzy version of 'Only Happy When It Rains' next to the likes of 'The Pusher' and 'For What It's Worth'. Once again they invited me to join them for 'Gimme Dat Harp Boy', and once again they then asked me to stay for the rest of the set - Rick Danko's 'Java Blues' (also recorded by Dr. Feelgood with Gypie on guitar) and 'Dream Within A Dream' by the latter-day Gypie-featuring line-up of The Yardbirds. All good stuff, and it set the scene for a Flying Squad performance that I felt was a bit better than last week's Ruislip show. Pete joined us to play harmonica on 'Ridin' On The L&N' and slide guitar on 'Back In the Night', and we once again finished the evening with 'Killing Floor'. A good night at an excellent club.

Saturday night saw a rare occurrence - a short notice Upper Cut gig. We were only asked to play at The Jameson in West Kensington a few days earlier - with the Hammersmith Roundabout teeming with Stranglers fans (they were playing at The Odeon) we found the venue with surprising ease, and were set up and ready to play in no time. It's always a bit depressing when the staff are telling you to play quietly before you've even picked your instruments up, not least because as we'd not played there before we had little if any idea of what constituted playing quietly in that particular place; needless to say it didn't take long before they were asking us to turn it down. Bah! However by the end of our first set there was a fair bit of dancing, and with more people arriving all the time our second set turned out to be good fun with the band playing well and the audience responding well. As we were leaving Gavin the guv'nor said that he'd be in touch about a return booking, which I for one would not have predicted at the start of our show It just goes to show how little I know doesn't it?

And last night it was back to The 12 Bar Club for another Reggae Punk Monday which featured among others the astonishingly-named Dogshite. I must say that they were nowhere near as bad as their name might have suggested, although I suppose you could argue that it would be quite hard for them to actually be that bad... in the meantime Cadiz Music supremo Richard England and his assistant Blaise joined myself and Segs in a worrying amount of drinking - well, a worrying amount for a Monday night. Actually it was a worrying amount for any night, judging by how my head feels this morning... 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ruby Tuesday

I have just - just! - returned from playing with Ruts D.C. at The Fat Tuesday Festival in Hastings. And what a great night it was - we played three sets in three venues (The Dragon Bar, The Lord Nelson and The Carlislethis timetable shows how well-planned the schedule was) and played a different set each time - it really was a terrific event to be part of. I must say it was quite an intense evening - as our first set finished the next band were queueing up to get on stage and we were being told that we had to get a move on to get to our next venue, which might not sound particularly 'intense' here but certainly felt it at the time. And in the midst of the madness Girlschool bass player Enid came over and introduced herself - I saw them play with Motorhead all those years ago. Mind you, so did lots of people!

We rehearsed for said Hastings gig(s) in the familiar surroundings of The Music Complex in Deptford on Friday. A jovial first hour or so some very unexpected oldies both from the band's back catalogue and elsewhere (did we really play 'Roxette'? Yes, incredibly, we did!) as well as attempting to put three sets together for the shows. After a coffee break progress was swift, although I'm still not sure how so many Spandau Ballet lyrics managed to find their way into quite a few of the songs... 
Rehearsal finished at 4 o'clock - 2 hours later I was back at home readying myself for a Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig at The Paddington Packet Boat in Cowley. Due to other commitments it had been quite a while since I'd last played with the band (my good friend Pete Kerr has been dong a splendid job in my absence) and with this in mind I ran through a few songs on Thursday afternoon before leaving for The Brewery in Moorgate to see a Q&A session with Roger Daltrey and Wilko Johnson. This was an interesting evening (you knew I'd say that now didn't you?) with Daltrey bemoaning the amount of time people spend with their mobile phones held in front of their faces and Wilko telling a hilarious story about Lew Lewis attempting to syringe his own ears with a bicycle pump (!) among the many highlights. It goes without saying that I'm really - make that really - looking forward to getting their 'Going Back Home' album later this month but, well, I'll say it anyway - I'm really looking forward to getting their 'Going Back Home' album later this month! 
Anyway back to the Cowley gig, which was, erm, ok... the band played well but I made a few too many mistakes for my liking. I always find this annoying although it didn't seem to bother anyone else (or if it did then they didn't say anything to me!) However the next night's show at The Three Wishes in Harrow was much more like it; indeed I'd even go so far as to say that it was one of the best shows that the band has ever played. That's more like it!

Back in 2010 The Band Of Sceptics and The Flying Squad played together at Tropic At Ruislip; on Sunday evening the two bands reconvened at the same venue to play a tribute show to the late and undeniably great Gypie Mayo who had played with The Band Of Sceptics at the afore-mentioned gig and who also of course played for Dr. Feelgood, The Yardbirds and many more. Joining myself and singing stalwart Andy in The Squad were Johnny Squirrel on bass and Andy Moore on drums, and with regrettably no chance for the band to rehearse before the show we all resolved to get to the venue early to run through as many songs as time would allow. When we got there John had already set up the (excellent) P.A. system, so all that remained was for us to set up and get going - we managed to play quite a few songs and work out some endings before time caught up with us and we made way for The Band Of Sceptics to soundcheck. By the time the doors opened it was raining heavily and there were fears that this would put people off from coming, but in the event there were more than enough people in the audience to make the evening work. The Band Of Sceptics were up first - led by the irrepressible Pete Sargeant their engaging West Coast-powered set found favour with the Tropic crowd. They very kindly invited your humble narrator to join them on stage for Captain Beefheart's 'Gimme Dat Harp Boy' - I ended up staying with them for the rest of their set, which was great fun to say the least. Our set started strongly with 'I Can Tell', and despite the odd mad moment here and there it all went well with a great reaction from those present. We finished with the Dr. Feelgood classic 'Down At the Doctors' before Pete joined us to jam on Howlin' Wolf's 'Killing Floor' which bought a highly enjoyable evening to a close. We raised several hundred pounds for The Dorothy House Hospice who cared for Gypie towards the end of his life, and we're doing it all again on Friday at Surrey Blues Club. Excellent!

This week's Reggae Punk Monday at The 12 Bar Club featured Bug on the stage and GLM at the bar - both fine sights to see. I'd not seen the three ex-Lurkers together for a while - when 'Shadow' came on over the P.A. I attempted to get them all on stage to mime to it, but sadly to no avail... Bug roared through a breathless half hour set before an increasingly appreciative audience. Frontman Phil described the band as 'Northern monkeys' on more than one occasion - maybe he was trying to get the put downs in before anyone else did, but if he was then there was no need as the band sounded great. And Monday nights at The 12 Bar Club really are getting better and better, which is a good thing to see in these troubled times. 

Right, time for some food. Or some sleep. Or something. Hmmm... I think last night is catching up with me... I told you it was intense...