Sunday, January 28, 2007

Can you hear me at the back?

It's one o'clock on Saturday afternoon. To my left, a group of blind people; to my right, a tank manned by the British Army no less. All I can hear is 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'. I really must stop drinking...

It may sound as though I'm in a surreal film but actually I'm on Watford High Street. The blind people are collecting money for Talking Newspapers; the Army are showing the local children what fun it could be to drive a tank, and The Beatles... well, to be honest I'm still not sure where that was coming from. Still it made an interesting aural backdrop to an extraordinary scene. And, as John Lennon himself sang later on the same album, 'what a scene'- people who lack a sense that most of us take for granted out collecting small change in front of a piece of military equipment that probably cost more than those blind people or their charity will benefit from this and other street collections all year. 'A Day in the Life' indeed.

I'm on my way to Richard's house to meet the rest of the lads in Joe's van. From there it's up the M1 to Toddington to hook up with Dave the trumpet (he lives in Norfolk so it's a good place to rendevouz) and then it's off to Birmingham for my first gig of the year. At last! It seems we're not playing at the N.I.A. (shame!) but are actually at the International Conference Centre for a corporate event marking the 50th anniversary of the Seddon company. Oh well... Pete's travelling up separately in his car with Michael, newly rejoined keyboard man Ian and lighting man Dave Bunting who's going to be working with us on our theatre shows later this year. We're up to Toddington in no time so take a few minutes to pick up some food and drink for the rest of our journey before heading back to the M1. On the way through the village I can't help noticing the best pub name I've seen for a while- The Sow and Pigs- and that there's a poster outside The Griffen pub proclaiming 'Tonight- ELVIS - BY REQUEST'

So that's where he's been all these years. And we all thought he was down the chipshop.

By 3.30p.m. we're in Hall 3 of the I.C.C. and it's big. Very big. Enormous in fact. There's a impressively large stage, a similarly proportioned dancefloor and at least 30 or so tables as well as a casino area and- worryingly from our point of view- 3 large bars right at the back of the hall. It's going to be hard to get them away from there...
In the meantime we're setting up, Phil the soundman's miking up, Dave's lighting up (this is all starting to sound a bit weird don't you think?) and Pete's taking pictures of us all for our upcoming website. All good fun as is the soundcheck itself which begins for me with a discussion with John the drummer about going to see Deep Purple as well as attempting to play some of their songs one day (off to practice now!) and ends with a riotous rock'n'roll jam. Excellent- let's hope the gig's as much fun.
From the dressing room it's up a couple of flights of stairs to The Mess Room (really!) for some food- and what fine food it is. I had Vegetable Lasagne, everyone else had Chicken Curry and we all agreed it was some of the best food we'd ever had at a venue. Nice waitresses too... then it's 'hurry up and wait' time. We eventually go on around 10.15 and play 'till midnight- a long show. And, you've guessed it, most of the audience are about 100 yards away in the bars. But it's a good show and we even get a fair bit of dancing by the end; Pete manages to get a girl on stage for 'Shake your Tailfeather'- which she did, amongst other things.

2.30a.m., we're back in Toddington and The Sow and Pigs appears to be still serving. I guess Elvis popped over the road for a drink after his gig.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

My mate knew Hendrix!

...and indeed it was, for many reasons...

The Woodman in Northwood seems to be that rare thing- a thriving pub music venue. Us muso types are always moaning about lack of venues, no one wanting to see live music these days etc etc- but here's somewhere that's looking at putting on more bands, not less. Excellent! I really MUST get a band together to play there one day (cue me moaning about not playing rock'n'roll. Oh and lack of venues, audiences not wanting to see live music...). The Cane Toads are regular visitors there and it shows- they seemed at home from the first notes which considering it was their first gig with a new drummer was no mean achievement. We're in 'rock covers land' here- Thin Lizzy, Guns'n'Roses, Stones etc- but what I like about them is that they step outside of the obvious from time to time, not least by covering other people's cover versions; so we get 'Baker Street' as done by The Foo Fighters, The Lemonheads' take on 'Mrs. Robinson'- get the idea? And any group that plays 'Ever Fallen in Love' and 'Turning Japanese' can't be all bad can they?

Now the exciting bit (not that the band weren't exciting but you'll see what I mean in a minute). I got my acoustic guitar back from Stuart the guitar repair man. Hurrah! I bought it a while back- it's a Fender electro-acoustic, the model of which escapes me just at the moment- and finally got it to Stu for a set-up. When it left me it was ok- guitars 'straight-out-of-the-box' almost always need a bit of tweaking- but now it's amazing! The man is a genius! I intend to spend a good amount of tomorrow testing it fully...

And if that wasn't enough I ran into two old rock'n'roll buddies. John Kerrison was the drummer in Episode Six all those years ago- he's now wheelchair bound but- incredibly- still drumming. Shirley knows him through her work- he's coming into the shop this week so I'd better tidy up a bit! Alan Barratt is the singer in local legends The Good Old Boys, used to be the singer in Jo Jo Gunne amongst others and never tires of telling me that he was in a band that supported Jimi Hendrix; just as well that I never tire of hearing it eh? Seriously though, it was great to see them both, I'd all but lost touch with them (especially Alan) which is bad; people are only a phone call away aren't they? Must make the effort- you shouldn't be lazy with your mates...

Right- I'm off to Birmingham to play the guitar. At last.

Friday, January 26, 2007

That was the week that was

Another gig-less week. It's strange- if I'm not playing then it's sometimes hard to remember what I have done. Weird...

We went to Jacob/Iggy's Christening as planned and a very enjoyable day it was too- which, my friends, means that I am officially old. That said, Michael did tell me that when he was asked by the vicar what his son's name was to be he was almost tempted to say Iggy- a case of 'little things for little minds' in my case methinks, but amusing all the same.

I finished the tooth infection anti-biotics on Sunday. I should have finished them on Monday but I didn't read the instructions properly and took two at once for the first four doses instead of one. Oops. They seem to have done the trick- although just as I typed that potentially over-optimistic statement I felt a little twinge. It's great being neurotic. Wednesday evening I made the mistake of saying to Shirley that I was feeling better- next morning I just made it to the bathroom before being violently sick.

I'm beginning to take this personally.

Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was a bug of some sort- either way I spent Thursday in the shop shivering and feeling very sorry for myself. I hope no one caught anything off me.

Talking of the shop, I've managed to go an entire week without nearly buying something. Very heroic eh? Mind you, if another one of those Baja Telecaster's comes in... and I was talking to Nick the Stentor rep today about Vox Valvetronix combos which he reckoned would suit me. Well- if I don't spend it, the taxman will!

Tomorrow night we're playing in Birmingham; I originally thought it was the N.I.A. but on the phone this morning Pete said the I.C.A- or was it the I.C.C? It was three initials anyway. One of the worst things about yesterday's vomit-fest was thinking that I might not be ok for the gig. I'm really looking forward to playing- it seems like ages since the last show but it's actually only about four weeks. Gary's left the band so tomorrow sees the return of Ian Gibbons (Gary replaced him last summer). It'll be good to see him again.

A couple of days ago I read back through most of these postings- I was thinking of doing a somewhat belated 'revue of 2006' with favourite gig, album, event etc.- I decided not to when I realised that most if not all of them involved The Who and that it would probably make me sound like a stalker. That said, one thing I did notice was how often I make reference to the fact that I fancy playing something a bit more 'rock' than the Blues Brothers stuff, (I really enjoy playing it but I'm too much of an old punk to leave the noise behind totally!). With this in mind it's tribute band time- I've been offered a few gigs with The Pistols ( -can you guess who they're a tribute to?!?) over the next few months. I hope I can do them- it could be just what's needed at the moment.

Off to see local pub rockers The Cane Toads tonight in Northwood- it should be a good night...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Chairman of the bored

I'm listening to Iggy Pop at the moment- always a good move I find. It seems pretty appropriate. No gigs. No fun. I'm bored. Bored bored bored.

Mind you, I shouldn't be. And I'm not really. Quite a lot's been happening- just nothing that involved me being on a stage with a guitar in my hand. Which reminds me, I nearly bought a new one this week (A guitar that is. Not a stage. That would just be weird. Or a hand. That would just be weirder. Although, as we'll discover, it might have been, if you pardon the expression, handy). A Fender Baja Telecaster came into the shop- blonde finish, black scratchplate, maple neck, and with extra pick-up switching options that I won't bore you with here. Stuart the guitar repair man took one look at it and just said 'that'll do you' without any hesitation. I should have bought it straight away. So, obviously, I didn't. And, so, obviously, someone else did. Straight away. Without any hesitation.

I knew it was a good one.

Then again, I can never quite make my mind up about maple necks. And there was something about it that I just wasn't quite sure about. Probably the maple neck. Ah well. I'm sure we'll get another one.
Shop-wise it's been a busy week, not least yesterday when myself and Karn the manager re-arranged pretty much the entire front section of the shop to accommodate some new guitar lines- scarily pointy Jackson and cool-as-you-like Gretsch. I also managed to cut my hand whilst unpacking 2 pallet loads of Fender's which arrived during the height of yesterday morning's storms- not a big cut, but lots of blood, made worse by the rain. Oh and I walked into a tree on the way home and cut my head. I'm sure the branches didn't used to be that low. Or maybe the wind caught it. Or maybe I've got taller. Or both. Mind you, that's the least of my problems...

Did I mention that I've had a tooth out? Even though it's no longer rotting away in my head it's still causing trouble (well, to be pedantic, it's now the gap where it used to be that's causing the trouble, but you know what I mean). Yes, you've guessed it, I picked up an infection- probably caused by going down the pub with East the night after I had the damn thing removed. And it's been agony- almost beyond pain, like the entire left side of my head was coming off. Or how you'd imagine that would feel anyway. Or something. In the end I went back to the dentist for some more ritual humiliation ('you just can't keep away, can you?') and some anti-biotics. It's getting better now. Hopefully.

No gigs this weekend either. This Saturday I'm in the shop, Sunday we're off down to Essex for Blues Brother Michael's son's Christening. They're calling him Jacob but I still think Iggy is a nice name. Don't you?

Friday, January 12, 2007

A partial success

Remember when 'they' bought in 24 hour drinking? All those people on telly saying that it would be the death of civilisation as we know it, that there'd be drunk people cluttering up the place even more than before, that there'd be fights on every street corner (well, the ones that weren't cluttered up with drunk people anyway)- they clearly haven't been to The Queen's Head in Uxbridge on a Thursday evening. The barstaff were polishing the floor around us by 20 past 10, the 3 other people still in there were being very obviously ignored as they rather over-optimistically tried to order another drink during opening hours and East was heard to remark 'The Queen's Head'? More like The Queen's Dead, a Morrissey tribute pub.'

If Uxbridge was 'happening' then it wasn't 'happening' where we were.

Incidentally am I the only person hoping that Morrissey represents the U.K. in the Eurovision Song Contest? I thought Lordi winning last year was hilarious enough, but the idea of Mozzer crooning 'You Have Killed Me' or equivalent amidst the other 'classics' is, I hope you'll agree, rather excellent.

All of this rambling on about nothing in particular only serves to underline the fact that our next gig isn't until the 27th of this month; mind you it is at the N.I.A. in Birmingham. I've only been there once, to see the The Who a couple of years ago. I hope we're playing in the same part of it that they did.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fairy liquid

It seems like only yesterday that I was moaning on about having just had a tooth out but it was actually back in September ('Tooth Fairy'). Doesn't time fly when you're having fun eh? Still, here we go again...


But I guess it should- this time it took two of 'em 40-something minutes to tear an otherwise innocent looking little toothy peg from my lower left jaw. That's a 40-something minute glimpse into what awaits us all in hell- bone crunching, toe curling, stomach turning hell my friends.
'Don't worry' said the cheery, really rather good looking young Indian lady who'd just tested the strength of my jawbone virtually to destruction, 'you've still got over 20 left'.
Well, yes, she's right. But only until she gets hold of them.
'You two seem like really nice people' I heard myself say. 'So why do you do this?'
Neither of them answered. Then again that's what I thought I said to them. What actually came out of my mouth was probably just a noise.
'Here you are' she said, handing me one of those antiseptic tissues that you never normally have handy when you need one, 'we can't have you leaving here looking like a vampire can we?'.
No, I suppose not. Mind you, it might have been a laugh.

All of that was yesterday. Today it just hurts. I've taken enough painkillers to knock Pete Doherty over but to no avail- it still feels like someone's ripped something out of my face. Funny that.

Only one course of action can possibly remain- to the pub with East (Price webmaster and merchandise supremo). I believe they sell anaesthetic there.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

'Drummer brilliant, guitarist terrible, singing in a foreign language, bassist optional'

So says punk rock goddess and legend Gaye Advert. We're on a Westbound Central line train and we're discussing Scandinavian Death Metal. But how did we get there?

Friday and it's another 'we were punks once' evening for my brother Terry and myself. We're off to the 100 Club in London to see Eddie and the Hot Rods, supported by the mighty T.V. Smith. We catch the tube in to Tottenham Court Road and meet up with old mate Andy Knight in The Tottenham pub. I've known Andy many years- he used to come to see The Price regularly and I've also been to quite a few gigs with him (The Godfathers were particular favourites of ours). He's a great bloke and I always look forward to seeing him. Terry had never met him before but within a couple of minutes they were like old friends 'though I'm not too sure how much of this was to do with the fact that Andy had been drinking with former workmates all day and was therefore even more talkative than usual.
We got to the 100 Club just as T.V. Smith was taking to the stage. I first met him and his girlfriend Gaye around 1990 at The Anglers Retreat in West Drayton (I think!) when he was playing in Cheap; The Price went on to play with them on several occasions and I've kept in touch with him ever since- he played at The Rayners with us a couple of years ago for our 20th anniversary gig (see The Price website for pictorial evidence). Before his second song he mentions that it's '30 years and 10 days' since the first Adverts gig; then he plays 'No time to be 21'- he says he played it that night too. I thought it sounded great, maybe even better than when I first heard it somewhere around 28-and-a-bit years ago. An amazing thought... he plays a tremendous set, just him and an acoustic guitar, old Adverts songs next to new material, it all making perfect sense. He's so brilliant, he should be so much more successful than he is- but since when was quality any guarantee of commercial success?
Eddie and the Hot Rods were the first band I ever saw. Well I suppose they were actually the second band I ever saw since No Dice were on before them, but anyway... it was Autumn '77, it was at Brunel University in Uxbridge and they'd just released 'Do anything you wanna do'. They were just fantastic- I remember standing there and thinking 'why would anybody not like this?'. And by the end of the show I was thinking 'maybe I could do something like this...'. There's only Barrie Masters left from those far off days- I saw them a couple of times in the mid-'80's when John from our band was drumming for them and have seen them here and there ever since. But it really did all start for me that night at Brunel. Nowadays they've got Richard Holgarth on guitar who used to be the sound man at The Square in Harlow- a great guitarist who also plays with John Otway. They kicked off with 'Teenage Depression'- they started with that on the night I first saw them and I can never help but smile whenever I see them play it. Somewhere during 'The Kids are Alright' Simon the drummer drops his right hand stick- he just carried on playing without it, using his hand... there's new songs from new albums, old songs from old albums- it's great stuff and not just from a nostalgic point of view either. A terrific show- the last song's 'The Beginning of the End' which my mate Tom describes as 'the best punk rock song ever written'. Normally I would have to say that would be something of an overstatement- but from the performance given here I'd almost believe him.
Our evening ends with Terry talking to Barrie about boxing and me talking to Richard about Gibson SG's. Oh and both of us talking to Gaye and T.V. about heavy metal. Excellent.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stop me if you've heard this one before

My first day of 2007 back in the shop and it's busy. Very busy. And I've got toothache. Again. The dentist's put a temporary filling in- next week it's root canal work or extraction.

There's something to look forward to.

This year can only get better. Can't it?

Can't it?!?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

For our last gig of 2006 myself and the long-suffering Shirley decided to treat ourselves to a night away (life in the fast lane eh?) in Lincoln- just outside it anyway, Thorpe-on-the-Hill to be precise where we're playing at Jocasta's which I think is a kind of mobile events company which puts up varying sized marquees as and when required 'though we were playing at their 'home' site. My toothache, which had started sometime before Christmas, was by now reaching epic proportions and the world swearing record is probably mine... that said the journey there was livened up no end when we spotted a new shop on the A1- the 'Adult Pit Stop' which I guess is a sex shop. (we didn't visit it, honest!) I'd have thought that 'just South of the Black Cat roundabout on the A1' would be a strange address at the best of times although I suppose it's handy if you're arranging to meet someone you've just been talking to on the internet? The mind boggles. Well, mine does anyway.
After booking into our Travelodge and a quick bite to eat (ouch!) it's down to the venue for a soundcheck/rehearsal. Joining the usual suspects (myself, Squirrel on bass, John on drums, Gary on keys and sole horn player Andy on sax) tonight are C.J. and Austin as the Blues Bros. I've worked a fair bit with Austin in his duo Liquid and the two of them have done a couple of shows with us before but as we're playing for 2 hours in total we need to play pretty much everything that we can think of so we run through some rarely performed songs- 'Take me to the River'. 'Hard to Handle' etc. We're playing 2 sets, 10.30-11.30pm then after the fireworks (if it stops raining) from 1-2am. A long night, but should be fun if the audience is up for it... which it turns out they are, with plenty of dancing from the word go and the band playing well, though by the second set I'm reduced to taking painkillers on stage which probably looked very 'rock'n'roll' but actually felt anything but... washing them down with lager may have been a mistake though, as I discovered when I went to play the intro to 'Sweet Home Chicago' and found that I couldn't remember it!
3.15am and we're back at the Travelodge. The manager's come out to see who's arriving so late. He likes a chat, mostly about hotels. Then again, I suppose he would.

Happy new year- see you somewhere, sometime in 2007.