Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tougher than the rest

Well, you know how this is going to work by now don't you? I make some weak (increasingly weak to be honest!) excuses about having no time to do anything other than work in Balcony Shirts, then I bang on about the things that have happened to me when I haven't been working in Balcony Shirts. Simple eh? Except this time it deserves more… or is that just egotism on my part? After all, it doesn't really matter what I write here does it? Not compared the death of Muhammad Ali anyway. Mind you, not much matters next to that does it? Whatever your opinion of boxing it's impossible to deny that Ali was one of the great figures of the 20th Century, and given the reaction to the news of his passing it's surely difficult to think that he won't be one of the great figures of the 21st Century and beyond. For what my opinion is worth he was, is and always will be a truly remarkable figure in history who transcended sport, politics, race and religion to inspire countless people to achieve things in their lives that they never have otherwise been able to do. That goes beyond any analysis - put simply, the world has become a better place for him having lived on it.

Right - let's get onto the 'I haven't had much time this week…' stuff - 

- I saw Wilko Johnson at Rough Trade East.
The extraordinary renaissance of The Canvey Island Assassin continues with the publication of his autobiography 'Don't You Leave Me Here', and last Thursday's early evening event saw the man himself interviewed by Zoe Howe about the new book and more. Hang on a minute - didn't she write a book with him a while back? Well yes she did, which has prompted more than a few 'so what's in this book that wasn't in the other one then?' questions; sadly I've not had time to read the new one yet (obviously!) so I can't answer that potentially rather awkward query, but I can confirm that both were on good form during the admittedly often rather contrived inquisition. I managed a quick chat with Zoe and her husband Dylan afterwards as well as catching up with Wilko's son and Eight Rounds Rapid guitar man Simon, after which I hightailed it across town to Denmark Street

- I attended The WitchDoktors's album launch night at The Alley Cat Club.
…where I arrived just in time to catch a couple of songs by The Healthy Junkies before The WitchDoktors gave a blazing performance in support of their new release 'Voodoo Eye'. I've seen them a few times here and there - they always give a good show and this was no exception. Great stuff - and the album is excellent too.

- Roger Cotton died.
I played quite a few shows with Roger, and The Flying Squad recorded with him in his studio - he was a great bloke and and a fabulous musician who I'm very proud to have known and worked with. A very sad loss.

- I played a show in Rickmansworth with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks.
A lively evening at The Halfway House saw Big Al's two daughters winning friends and influencing people with their, erm, 'flamboyant' style of dancing. That's all I'm saying here, as I'd like to keep my job.

- I didn't play a show in Bethnal Green with The Upper Cut. 
Our run of bad luck at The Salmon And Ball continued when the PA system went wrong during our second number - despite repeated attempts at continuing we eventually gave it up as a bad job and went home. Bugger!

- I went to see Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium.
On June 5th 1981 I witnessed a (literally) life changing performance from The Boss and the boys (no ladies in the band in those days!) at The Wembley Arena. 35 years to the day later I saw him and The 'heart-stopping, pants-dropping, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary' E-Street Band put on a 3 1/2 hour show that might not have been quite as transcendent as the one that I saw all those years ago, but still left little if any doubt that they are indisputably one of the greatest bands of all time. Highlights were many and varied, but a mention has to be given to a devastating version of 'Candy's Room' - is there any greater moment in rock music than the first note of the guitar solo? - and 'Because The Night' which was as intense and powerful a performance as anything that I can remember seeing from him or indeed anybody else. Magnificent. 

And talking of magnificent, what better way to end this posting than with a quote from the late and undeniably great Muhammad Ali himself - 

'Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power that it takes to win when the match is even'.

There's nothing to add to that is there? Thanks Champ.

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