Monday, April 30, 2007

'Ever since I was a young boy...'

Friday afternoon proved to be just about long enough for me to revise Austin's set, (or at least to try to second guess the most likely songs that he'd want to play) and to decide that, yes, I was going to play my new Zemaitis-alike guitar rather than the Les Paul that I'd normally use for one of his shows before it was time to head off to Wimbledon and the familiar surroundings of The Alexandra pub quite near the centre of town- except that they've changed it quite a bit since I'd last been there, not least by filling it with South African people who, though friendly seemed all to be of a mind to tell us what songs we were going to play before we'd even set up our gear. Still they seemed to enjoy our efforts as did I- it's a rare set list that includes 'Car Wash', 'Born to be Wild' and 'Losing my Religion'... and Shirley got chatted up/asked to dance by men instead of women for a change which I guess is good? My guitar played as well as I'd hoped it would (which is very good indeed) and somebody asked Shirl if I was as good in bed as I am on guitar, which gets weirder and weirder the more I think about it. A fine evening.

A somewhat bleary Saturday in the shop began with the arrival of perspective new Saturday boy Joe who seems to be a good prospect, being both annoyingly young and even more annoyingly good on the guitar (I'm sure he said something at one point about doing his Grade 8 exam- that's as high as the grades go...). Paul the guv'nor was on good form and the day passed without too much incident though the highlight for me had to be when Tony (a former guitar pupil of mine) bought in a Takamine electro-acoustic guitar previously owed by Simon Townshend; I find myself unable to resist a go at 'Pinball Wizard' on it whilst wondering out loud if Pete himself had played that song on the guitar- 'a moment' as Paul described it. He wasn't wrong.
The Wrestler's Barn is, you've guessed it, a barn at the back of a pub called The Wrestlers in St. Neots, 20-odd miles north of Stevenage. Finding the town is easy; finding the pub is something of a nightmare- after endless 'is that it over there' moments (there's a lot of pubs in St. Neots!) and wondering if we really did just pass a fish and chip shop called The Codfather (we did, a number of times) we eventually managed to find the correct bit of the one way system and arrived in time for a quick soundcheck. The pub had been closed for a couple of weeks following a drug bust (!) so we were told numbers were a bit down on normal but the people who were there were well into it even though Tim/Sid's bass packed up at the end which meant no encores. Ah well- leave 'em wanting more eh?

Sunday started earlier than I'd have liked- 2 late nights in a row were starting to catch up with me. (memo to any younger readers- never wish that you're older than you are!) I'd thought about going up to the guitar show over in Docklands but instead went up to Camden Market with Shirley who's after some shoes (as usual!) (sorry Shirl!) with the intention of getting myself a Sex Pistols t-shirt or 2 for stage wear when depping in The Pistols; instead I came home with some bootleg dvd's (The Who for myself and The Cockney Rejects for my brother). Hmm... after a quick snooze (like I say, never wish you're older than you are!) it was off to Ruislip Golf Club with Big Andy to see Glen Matlock play a highly enjoyable acoustic show- a excellent end to a busy weekend.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The weekend starts here!

Back to the theatre yesterday with Stu- I'd missed the previous week as Shirley and myself had a few days away down in Dorset. A busy morning seemed to drag on and on with Stu checking the 'prop' guitars that are used on stage during the show which, although there's not much left on them that works (they've been, for want of a better word, 'cannibalised' whenever a spare part's been needed!) still get their string's changed every so often (as Stu put it, 'they need to look as though they're being played'). Still we were all done in time to meet Stu's mate Brian in the pub opposite, followed by an all-out assault on the never-ending HMV sale. Even I managed to buy something this time- the re-issue of 'Marquee Moon' by Television since you ask- and Stu picked up a Hendrix box set for next to nothing which can't be bad.

Tonight I've got a gig with Austin in his duo Liquid over in Wimbledon so I've got to spend this afternoon revising rather a lot of songs (I've not played with him for ages and we do 3 40+ minute sets). Tomorrow night it's a short notice gig depping with The Pistols up in St. Neots and Sunday evening Glen Matlock's back at Ruislip Golf Club for an acoustic show; and it's the guitar show over in Docklands which I might try to get over to on Sunday- a busy weekend in prospect. Actually that's a bit weird isn't it? Pistols tribute one night, a real Pistol the next. Hmm... is that life imitating art, or the other way round?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rehearsal rehearsals

Yesterday, that rarest of things- a rehearsal. Strange- I don't seem to do many these days, it's more a case of 'turn up and play' with any new stuff already learned prior to the gig and (maybe) a quick run through at the soundcheck. But there's a few in prospect over the next few weeks, leading up to a show at the Beck Theatre in Hayes on Sunday 24th June in aid of various local charities. The gig's being masterminded by Terry Sharp (a.k.a. Big Tel) who can be spotted on the Price website in photos from last year's West Drayton gig (that's him behind the mixing desk). More details as and when I have them but it should be a good one... so it was then that myself and ace drummer man Dave Bateman found ourselves in Price bass man Andy C.'s new studio (East- 'he's got too much money that boy') running through a selection of songs that could politely be described as 'eclectic'- everything from Slade to Lonnie Donegan and back again, via Amy Winehouse and Elvis Presley among others. I got to play my new Zemaitis-alike which I'm still getting used to but which felt as great as I hoped it would, and general jollity prevailed. An excellent day with more to come- like I say, it should be a good gig.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bolton (and on) Octagon (and on)

Did you see Derren Brown's show on Channel 4 the other night? In the midst of the usual strangeness a guy went to have his picture taken in a photo booth in London and woke up in a photo booth in Marrakesh, with predictable bleary bewilderment. Yesterday I got into a Joe's van at South Mimms services and woke up in a theatre in Bolton. Something like that anyway. Actually I didn't but it felt like I did. Sort of. In the meantime we'd picked Andy up in a hotel car park just off junction 15 of the M1, stopped at the services on the toll road bit of the M6 and, on arriving in Bolton, lost reception on the radio just as The Grand National was getting exciting. And I'd read rather a lot of the Mojo 'Album Covers' special, talked to Stuart the guitar repair man on the phone and drifted in and out of the kind of 'half-sleep' that I tend to get on journeys such as this.
Still as we pulled into Coronation Street (really!) and stopped outside the venue it all came back to me- we played this one a couple of years ago, first set Blues Brothers, second set Dave Finnegan's Commitments, and I'm sure the busker outside was playing 'Fly me to the Moon' that night too, though maybe I'm being a bit fanciful there. (Squirrel- 'I wish someone would fly him to the moon') We got there a few minutes before Pete and co. and were setting up as they arrived, all in good spirits especially considering he'd just been stopped for speeding...

The Octagon Theatre's a great little place, though little is the word- about a 200 capacity auditorium, great for the kind of stuff we're doing. With no stage we're on the floor- always an odd situation- and, since tonight we're The X-Commitments, spend the soundcheck running the girl's song's (Tracy had bought along Chantelle who none of us had met before) and trying to decide upon a key for 'Stand By Me'. We finish at 6.30 and we're on at 7.30 so just time for a bowl of soup before a quick drink with Squirrel before getting changed for the show. And what a great gig it was, despite a few 'we've not played this one for ages have we?' moments. 'Stand By Me' sounded good, with the audience singing it nearly as much as Pete and it somehow turning into 'Cupid' at one point, and Chantelle and Tracy worked brilliantly together. And the bar was still open when we finished. How cool is that?

On the way home the slip road to the M1 was closed and we had to go all the way down to the next exit and double back on ourselves. I blame that Derren Brown bloke off of the telly- he's always doing things like that you know.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Solo gig

Liverpool did well Wednesday night I thought. Ok, not a stunning performance but Crouch's goal was well taken and it sets up a nice quiet couple of semi-final games don't you think?

Why am I mentioning this? Well- I went down the pub with East to watch the second half and to have 'just a couple of drinks, no more 'cos I'm working at the theatre tomorrow...' and woke up the next morning with a head that, to paraphrase that great icon of philosophy Edmund Blackadder, felt like it had a Frenchman living in it. And, oddly, a left foot middle toe that felt like it might or might not be broken. Not a good condition to be in since Stu's away this week and I'm all alone in theatreland. Oh well- time to learn to swim...
I eventually stumbled back out into the light around 1.30p.m. having re-strung 9 near-identical guitars- the most that have needed re-stringing in my time there (there is, I think, 12 of them in total.) Terms like 'deja vu' and 'groundhog day' don't cover it- save for one of them (Alan's main guitar) being black they really do all look the same, especially since we work in fairly subdued light which makes the only superficial differences between the guitars are the labels Stu's put on the headstocks. At least I'd managed to take enough paracetamol to stop both my head and my foot causing me too many problems, though it didn't really do much to help the shock I felt when I saw my picture on my new i.d. card. As I limped my way along Oxford Street having completely failed in my attempt to buy myself something in the HMV sale (do these shops ever not have a sale?) I felt like I'd worked as hard as I'd ever worked, even though all I'd done was muck about with a few guitars.

Miserable old sod aren't I?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Luton (and on and on)

Having more-or-less recovered from the 100 Club gig by spending most of Good Friday asleep (it had been a really long day!) it was time for a 'short Saturday' in the shop before another gig depping with The Pistols, this time at the George II in Luton. I was hoping brother Terry would be coming up for this one, not least because the last few months has seen us re-discovering our mis-spent punky youth together but family commitments prevented him from attending which was a shame as it turned out to be a really good gig with yet another drummer- Jim depping for Toby who's got the 'flu (it's all getting a bit 'Spinal Tap' don't you think?) and doing a splendid job- and much pogoing and merriment all round. I even got told to turn the guitar up which doesn't happen too often.

All this looked unlikely at around 8 o'clock as we passed the venue in the middle distance for the umpteenth time whilst cursing the Luton town centre one way system. Who designs these things? If ever proof was needed that hippies were all useless it's somewhere in the fact that they're all now 50-something and running the country. Think about it- buckets of L.S.D. and endless hours spent listening to Soft Machine aren't necessarily the best ways to train to be a town planner, which, developing the argument a bit, goes at least some of the way towards explaining why we end up with buildings with names like 'The Gerkin'. And if the new Wembley Stadium isn't the product of an acid flashback then what is it? Answer me that then eh?!? Hippies again. Even The Beatles went wrong- look at the difference between the 'Paperback Writer' and 'All you need is Love' promotional films; one minute they're the coolest men ever, the next minute Ringo looks crap in an afghan coat. I rest my case.

Oh God. I'm starting to sound like my Dad. I'm stopping now.

I've stopped. Happy Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

(not-so-) Bored (ex-) Teenagers

Thursday was a long day but a (mostly) good one, right up until the very end...

For the last few weeks I've been meeting up with Stuart the guitar repair man for a coffee and a rant before going to The Dominion Theatre and working on the 'We Will Rock You' guitars at our leisure. This week however was different- I had to be back at the shop for 2p.m. as there was no one else available there so we were a bit pushed for time. When I got to the theatre just before ten Stu was already hard at it; with a superhuman effort we'd wrapped it all up in just over 2 hours. Pausing only to have our pictures taken for i.d. cards we were back on the Central line in no time, and sitting in the Coach & Horses opposite the shop by one o'clock. All well and good- when Stu got a voicemail message from Brian May. He could come down to the theatre if we were still there (he must have called while we were on the train?) to see how things were going... but we weren't there.

An odd moment.

Meanwhile I made it to the shop, where my first customer was ex-Price drummer Mick Francis who wasn't happy- he'd found the Price website (I thought he'd seen it ages ago!) and seen last year's re-union gigs which he hadn't been part of...

To the 100 Club then, to see the mighty T.V. Smith and his band The Bored Teenagers perform the 'Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts' album in it's entirety for the first time in nearly 30 years. My brother Terry and Big Andy turned up at the shop at closing time and after a quick bag of chips we were (back) on the Circle line heading (back) into town and to The Intrepid Fox in Denmark Street (pausing to admire the Keith Moon 'Pictures of Lily' drum kit in one of the shop windows on the way) to meet up with Andy Knight. After a quick drink with him we all made it down to the 100 Club in time to catch a few numbers from the War Machines of Love who sounded ok 'though I must admit I didn't pay as much attention to them as I might since it was already pretty crowded and I was too busy trying to get a drink! I bumped into ex-Cheap bass player Andy who I hadn't seen since our 2 bands played together- about 15 years?- and said a quick hello to T.V. though him and Gaye seemed to be mobbed every time I saw them. And why not?- this was a night to be part of, a night to remember with a performance from T.V. and the band that was as good as any of us would have, indeed could have hoped for. Fantastic.

Isn't punk rock brilliant?!?

Incredibly we were back in the Coach & Horses before closing time. Pete from The Lurkers was in great form- he's finally got a publisher for his book 'God's Lonely Men' which should be out in the summer- and there were high spirits all round. I was just talking to Terry about having a PUNK ROCKARY in your garden- instead of a few bits of plain stone around a pond or flowerbed, how about putting the logos of The Clash, Pistols etc on them (it had been a l-o-n-g day!) when I heard a strange sound- as Terry put it afterwards, 'like a wet slap'. It's not a sound I like hearing too often. It's a bad sound. A very bad sound.

It was the sound of a glass hitting someone's head. A few yards away from us, just around the corner of the bar, a fight had broken out. We left just as the police arrived. Goodnight Ickenham.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

There's always one who has to spoil it for the rest...

All this guitar malfunction meant that for once I had a legitimate excuse to meet Stuart the guitar repair man in a pub during my Saturday lunch break (I normally just go anyway!). That said we must have looked rather a strange sight- as far as I'm aware you don't often see a table covered in guitar pick-ups in the Coach & Horses in Ickenham (although thinking about it, you probably do when Stu's in there). We decided on replacing the pick-up rather than getting it re-wound, not least because Stu had sourced a Seymour Duncan Alnico bridge replacement. I'm looking forward to trying that one out... it gave a welcome break from a day in the shop that could politely be described as 'trying', for reasons perhaps best not described here.
Still, no moaning allowed (I did anyway!) as Big Andy, East and myself are off to The Albert Hall to see The Who. Big Andy's pre-booked a parking space (good man) and in no time we're in The Queen's Arms waiting for former Price manager and all round good bloke Eddie Richards who's coming to the gig with us. He's been to a football match and is getting the tube into town- through the magic of mobile phones we meet out on Queen's Gate just as Dougal Butler (formerly Keith Moon's driver) reversed past us at high speed (yes, you read that bit correctly). After a drink or 2 it was off to the RAH, getting to our seats just in time to see Vincent Vincent and the Villains who I found enjoyable if a bit 'samey'. Still any band with a song called 'Jealousy and Bitterness' can't be all bad can they?
Back in October last year I saw The Who at The Roundhouse and rambled on in these very pages about me and them, them and me... nothing much has changed since then- despite jet lag and vocal worries they produced a predictably brilliant performance in front of what was for me a rather subdued audience. Highlights were many and varied though 'Black Widow's Eyes' stood out among the newer songs and the 'My Generation' improvisation contained some excellent Townshend soloing. So rather than talk about the show...
Why is it that wherever you sit, at whatever event, there is always a total idiot in front of you. Tonight's idiot had bought his 2 sons with him and, in attempting to impress them with his- and I use the term very loosely- dancing, he very nearly qualified for at best some abuse from me and at worst a kidney punch from Big Andy (not a recommended pastime let me tell you). The only reason neither happened was that nothing either of us could do to him would have hurt him as much as he was hurting himself in the eyes of his kids who were literally squirming with embarrassment. It reminded me of that 'dancing dad' character in 'The Mary Whitehouse Experience' T.V. show from a few years back- you know the one, contorting unco-ordinatedly to his children's music while saying things like 'it's got a good beat to it'. Amusing on screen, nauseating in the flesh, let's hope VH-1's camera's caught him in full flow and that Mr. Idiot is so horrified by what he sees going out on global T.V. that he never leaves his house again.

Not that I'm bitter or anything... on the other hand- if you can see him that means you'll be able to see Andy and me as well. Now that could be really embarrassing!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pick-up a pizza

The weather's been nice lately hasn't it? It wasn't last Friday though was it?

No it wasn't- which meant the journey to Pizza Express in Maidstone wasn't as enjoyable as it might have been, taking over 2 1/2 hours through wind, rain, speed restrictions and heavy 'the-school's-have-just-broken-up' traffic. When myself and the long-suffering Shirley finally arrived we found the lads already set-up and busily ordering pizza (inevitably!). Pete was off elsewhere so Chris (a.k.a. C.J.) joined Michael in the hat and glasses; he's played there several times with The F.B.I. Band. And what an excellent venue it is, with upcoming acts as diverse as Acoustic Alchemy, Chris Difford and that bloke with the floppy hair off of The X-Factor. After a quick soundcheck and the aforementioned food it was suddenly showtime- and my guitar suddenly sounded terrible, crackly and very quiet, nothing like it had earlier. I checked the leads- all ok. I couldn't work out what had happened, or what to do; in desperation I wiggled the pick-up selector switch and the sound abruptly returned, then went, then returned, then went- the treble pick-up wasn't working, but at least the bass one was. So I played the whole set on the bass pick-up which didn't seem to bother anybody apart from me, which is just as well if you think about it. (memo to self- take a spare guitar!!) That said it was a highly enjoyable show all round with the audience up for it from the start and Chris and Michael working excellently well together even if Michael did get Richard's name wrong in the band introductions... and I never realised how often I change pick-ups until I couldn't!