Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is it that time already?

As some of you may or may not know I was once in a band called The Price- and, since we don't all hate each other anymore, I sometimes still am. Next month sees two very different shows for us- we're playing at 'Glastonwick' (an annual festival organised by Attila the Stockbroker) on the 17th and at Big Tel's show at The Beck Theatre in Hayes on the 24th, a busy night for Andy C. and myself since we'll be on stage for most of the evening. Suddenly the first of these shows is only 3 weeks away and, since we haven't played together since last summer, it was down to Brighton last night for a very enjoyable if rather frantic 3 hours at the Brighton Electric rehearsal studio. Paul and Malcolm met me, Andy and East there (the latter as always there as referee) and, after massed amusement at the fact that we'd got the room with the stage in it, we got down to seeing what we could remember- which, for the first few songs that we tried turned out to be not very much at all. Thankfully it all came alive during 'Jodie' (to paraphrase East-'it was touch and go there for a while- but they're back') and I for one can't wait for the gigs. If only I didn't look quite so bald in the photographs- oh well they're probably on our website by now, along with all the details of the gigs and no doubt some pearls of wisdom from East himself. You have been warned...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bank holiday? (take 2)

Do you use a credit card? Yeah, I do too, but I only have one for emergencies like being stuck somewhere with no money. Or if I need something like a hotel room at short notice. Or a CD from Amazon. That type of thing. Lots of people use them in guitar shops to buy things like, well, guitars. Or amplifiers. Or strings. That type of thing. But they couldn't use them in our shop on Saturday because the credit card machine wasn't working. It wasn't our fault, honest, the bloke from the credit card company's coming out on Tuesday to have a look at it ('they can't come out Monday 'cos it's a bank holiday. Yes we've phoned them and everything...') but until then it's THE END OF THE WORLD. Well actually it's not- it's a shop with a malfunctioning credit card machine which, if you think about it, isn't really that bad in the global scheme of things. And there's a cash point 2 doors down (count 'em!) which, if you'd be good enough to go down to, might even means that you'll be able to wring some more discount out of us- after all, it might be raining and you'll get wet which wouldn't happen if our credit card machine had been working. Maybe it was the end of the world after all... all of which made for a rather fraught Saturday in the shop, which ended on a somewhat brighter note with Paul the guv'nor and myself recording a rough demo of one of the songs we've written for an upcoming project (more about this another time but it should be an interesting, if rather bluesy summer).

Sunday saw another 'Big-Tel's-big-gig' rehearsal, this time at Iver Heath Village Hall. Things are taking shape- myself, Andy and Dave are starting to sound like a band! We've recruited old mate Simon Thompson (he, Andy and me were The Reservoir Ducks- I was always better at naming bands than playing in them; which reminds me, I really must get around to forming Nat West and The Fat Cheques, my Eastern European jump jive combo) on various acoustic instruments- I was beginning to wonder just how big the boot of his car was given the amount of stuff he produced from it. Jo and Chloe sounded excellent on their songs, and we've worked in a few surprises of our own- a fine night in prospect methinks.
And it was a fine night at The Old Hall Tavern in Chingford last night where I joined Austin in his duo Liquid Lunch (he calls it Liquid when he goes upmarket!). This is one his occasional 'rock' gigs- although his definition of what constitutes 'rock' is somewhat different to mine it's rare for me to see a projected set list that contains 'Still Got The Blues', 'White Room' and 'Free Bird' (really!) amongst others 'though we ended up playing none of these numbers in the end. All good fun though my left hand fingers were tiring a bit by the encore ('Crossroads' since you ask)- mind you I'd been playing on and off for about 11 hours by then... good job we didn't play 'Free Bird' eh? But we couldn't have played it anyway- I'd forgotten my slide. No, really, I had. Honest. We'd have played 'Rocky Mountain Way' as well if I'd had it with me. And I'm supposed to be professional. I don't know, you can't get the staff these days can you?

Actually I'd meant to pick up a couple from the shop on Saturday but it slipped my mind. You see, the credit card machine wasn't working, and...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Jewel in the Crown

Is it really 30 years since 'God Save The Queen' by The Sex Pistols was released?

Well, yes, incredibly it is. Amazing. I bought it when it came out- it was the only way that you could get to hear it as it was banned pretty much everywhere.I bought it from the little record shop that used to be in Windsor Street in Uxbridge- I remember having to wait until my Mum and Dad were out before being brave enough to play it, and even then I hesitated... but it was beyond brilliant, the greatest rock'n'roll record ever, and 'Did You No Wrong' on the b-side was pretty good too, and I played it again and again, over and over, wondering if I would ever hear anything better than it, wondering if anything could ever be better than it, wondering what it must be like to be able to create a sound like that and if I would ever do anything even remotely as exciting as that in my measly little lifetime. I've just played it again. Twice. It's still the only recording I've ever had that was actually dangerous to own. That's not something that's ever likely to be said about a Coldplay track is it? And I wonder how many people have to hide their Keane singles from their parents? Not very many I'd say, even though one could argue that they should, if only out of embarrassment at actually owning such an ridiculous item. Put simply, you were with us or against us and there was no middle ground. Today that doesn't seem to happen, at least according to the younger people that I talk to in the shop anyway. The last time that there was any sort of 'line in the sand' was when Oasis emerged and, leaving aside any opinions on the band's music for a moment, there was at last a band that polarised people, that you either loved or hated, that went some way towards forcing people to make a decision about where they stood (the rather contrived media attempts at turning 'Oasis vs. Blur' into a class war might sound and look a bit daft now but I was teaching guitar at the time and a lot of young people really were in one camp or the other). But that was nearly 15 years ago; it seems to me that everybody's sitting on the fence in the middle of the road these days- one of the few good things about being old is that I had the chance to feel how I felt then.

Last night I had another chance to remember the feeling, as I played at The Crown in Hornchurch with The Pistols. We started with 'G.S.T.Q.'- and there I was, back in my room playing the record for the first time. What a great feeling- and what a great gig, because tonight Matthew I'm Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols and I play loud rock'n'roll guitar very loudly indeed and I'm playing it whether you like it or not on some of the greatest rock'n'roll songs ever on a low slung Les Paul wearing an old Pistols t-shirt and taking most of the fingernail off my right hand index finger in the process but it doesn't matter because we finished with 'Pretty Vacant' and 'Anarchy in the U.K' and I felt just a little bit of what it must have been like to be able to create a sound like that... and suddenly my life didn't feel quite as measly as it has recently- in fact it felt exciting. Very exciting indeed.

I'll never own a Coldplay album. Or a Keane album either. And nor should you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shack attack

I've just read the latest excerpt of Pete Townshend's memoirs- he posts them sporadically on his blog with a view to publishing them in the near future. Even at my advanced age- much too old to be thinking about 'pop' music don't you think?- I still go through periods of obsession with Townshend and The Who as anyone who's ever had to listen to me rambling on about them will no doubt testify. In it he writes of being 'trapped' on stage- I can say without pretention (well, not much anyway!) that I've felt the same way myself sometimes, like there's things going on that you should be part of but because you can't leave the stage at that moment in time they're out of your reach. Interesting- I may return to this subject in the not-to-distant future...

Last night I saw Townshend trapped on stage with The Who at The N.I.A. in Birmingham. You won't be astonished to hear that it was a great gig in my unbiased (!) opinion with P.T. in fine guitar form as well as bantering with Daltrey about The Zimmers version of 'My Generation' (Daltrey saying how he hope's people look after them when they're old and in a nursing home, Townshend replying about how he's already got his own private nurse- much funnier than it looks here, honest!). Some 'Quadrophenia' songs back in the set too- a shame 'Black Widow's Eyes' wasn't played though. Oh well- maybe at Wembley next month?
Support came from Shack- and what a nightmare it looked to be for them. Second song in and the singer's having acoustic guitar guitar problems resulting in songs stopping and starting and much anti-Scouse heckling ('calm down calm down'- where would we all be without catchphrases from T.V. comedy shows eh?). When the strap wouldn't stay on his spare guitar he lowered the microphone stand and knelt down in front of it- and then the lead guitarist broke a string. They lost so much time fixing things that they had to cut their set short- like I say, a nightmare.

However the real support act was the 2 drunken fools in the seats in front of us. Now I've been known to drink a bit (stop sniggering at the back there) but can't quite see the point of playing a small fortune for gig tickets and then turning up so hammered that your incapable of doing anything other than annoying the people around you. The little fella was behaving like he just overdosed on speed (maybe he had!) and jumping up and down the aisle bumping into people left right and centre while the big fella concentrated on attempting to wind the audience up because he considered they weren't going wild enough. The only thing that saved them from being attacked by half the crowd was the 2 enormous security guards that removed them from the auditorium- the only time I've ever seen that happen at a gig, and a measure of the level of unrest that they were causing. They eventually returned in a rather more subdued state though when the big fella attempted to befriend Big Andy I thought he really was in for a hiding. And of course Andy would then probably have been thrown out for hitting someone. Ah the irony of it all... and how come these idiots are always in front of us?!?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ticket inspector

I was on a Metropolitan line train yesterday morning- nothing unusual there as I travel to the shop in Ickenham on one most mornings when I'm working there. But this was a busy one, because it was F.A. Cup Final day. I was amazed at how many people were going (yeah, I know, they might not have actually been going to the match, just going to watch it somewhere with their mates. Leave me alone, I'm trying to have a rant here!). The weather was good, spirits were high among both sets of supporters and I couldn't help but feel a bit jealous as I've never been to a Cup Final and would imagine it's an event to remember. Then again- would I deserve to go? I like football but am not a 'fanatic' (the word 'fan' comes from that you know) unlike the people who queued up at Chelsea for tickets. You know the ones, they'd been told that the tickets went on sale at 8 a.m. though anyone arriving then would have found them all sold because they'd opened the box office at midnight. I saw some of the disappointed fans on the news, and felt sorry for them- I queued up in the freezing cold for tickets to see The Who play a warm-up gig at Watford Town Hall a few years ago and would have been a lot angrier than these people seemed if I'd had a similar experience. So it was just great to see our local M.P. John Randall on his way to the game yesterday- perhaps he was meeting Jeremy Clarkson there; I heard on the T.V. that he was going even though he's never been to a football match in his life before. They probably know each other- you never know, they might have met when they were queuing up for tickets. They could even be sitting next to each other in Wembley, no doubt reminiscing about how surprisingly cold it was in the queue that night and what a relief it was when they were able to get their tickets at midnight instead of having to wait until the morning to them. It was a tenner for a programme- I bet they each bought 2, just because they could. Or 3. It would still be less than a hour's wages for either of them. 'Ah, the Cup Final' they could say, 'makes you proud to be British doesn't it?'

Is it just me or everything all gone horribly wrong?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Complaints complaints, decisions decisions...

I've had a complaint from a Mr. E. Holt of Uxbridge who, upon reading my ramblings on Monday night's Dominion extravaganza, declared that I'd been 'far too nice'- no doubt because he's used to my opinion on Queen being rather more, shall we say, forthright. In my defence your honour I'd just like to say that I'm not as young as I used to be, and that it was a really good show, and Brian May is a really good guitarist (even though, as you may have gathered, I don't like Queen) and, maybe most importantly of all, I'D REALLY LIKE TO KEEP MY JOB.

Thank you.

Yesterday's re-stringing session at the theatre went well though it was strange to contrast the empty, really rather eerie auditorium with the scenes of mayhem that had taken place there only a couple of nights earlier. Still we were in the pub in time for lunch (always a good sign) then it was off to meet Big Tel at The Beck Theatre in Hayes to check things out for our upcoming show there. I've never played there before 'though The Price did play there as part of the Hayes Carnival in 1986- the band's played on the island in the middle of the lake and at the end of our set Malcolm jumped in. Sadly it was only a couple of inches deep; I've got it on video somewhere- by the look on his face he'd have prefered it to have been deeper...

In the meantime I've been forced to pay a visit to the real world- something I normally avoid at all costs but in this case it a necessary evil. As I'm pretty much full time at the shop these days I've had to tell Pete that I can't make some of our gigs- principally the ones that involve me staying away and therefore mean that I can't open the shop in the morning. The situation shouldn't be permanent as we're looking for someone else to co-manage the shop with me but turning gigs down has given me no pleasure at all. As I sit in the shop typing this the lads are on their way to Dundee for 2 shows- I could have been with them but decided to be here instead. I never thought I'd ever choose anything over playing- but I also think that I'm lucky to have the work in the shop. But I feel like I've let the band down. Badly.

I think the term 'mixed emotions' applies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


'What is "rock and roll"'

Well, there's a question. I'm sure there's many answers to that one as there are "rock and roll" songs (depending on your opinion of what constitutes a "rock and roll song" that is). I heard that very question asked from the stage of The Dominion Theatre in London's Tottenham Court Road only last night. The young man asking it called himself Galileo Figaro, he had a girlfriend called Scaramouche and not even a great big black fella called Britney Spears (yes, you did read that bit correctly) knew the answer. And I have to admit I'm not sure of the answer myself; but what I do know is what I saw happen on the stage last night most definitely wasn't "rock and roll". Not in my eyes anyway.
It was according to Ben Elton, 'cos he said it was, several times. He said lots of other things too, mostly about how critics are entitled to their opinions but so are audiences- and this show has had a standing ovation every night for the last 5 years. So- does that mean that no one in any of those audiences likes "rock and roll"? Or does it mean that they all like it? Now there's a question...

I never liked Queen. I remember seeing them on 'Top of the Pops' back in the '70's doing 'Seven Seas of Rhye' and 'Killer Queen' and I thought they were alright but nowhere near as good as Slade, or The Faces, or even Mud, and definitely not as good as T.Rex. Then 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world- a world which, according to some people, has never really been the same since. Me- well I liked the loud bit near the end but that wasn't really enough to tilt the planet off it's axis, and besides I'd heard this great group called Dr. Feelgood; I'd seen them on the telly and they were REALLY good, especially their guitarist. They were much more like it for me, though not many of my mates agreed. Mind you they all said that they'd liked them all along a couple of years later. But punk rock was clever like that- it changed people's minds. But it didn't change my mind about Queen because I already didn't like them. 'Rock music for people who don't like rock music' was my favourite description, normally delivered with my best attempt at a punky sneer. (A few years later I would punkily sneer at Simply Red- 'soul music for people who don't like soul music, or haven't got a soul themselves'. Maybe I need a new scriptwriter?!?) When The Price were together it split us down the middle- Malcolm and me on one side (he hated them! He still does!) and Huggy and Mick on the other. Oooh the fun we all had, ranting and raving at each other at gigs, rehearsals, anywhere that they ever got a mention. Great stuff. But now I work for them. Sort of. Which is how Shirley and myself ended up with Stuart the guitar repair man at the Dominion Theatre last night for the 5th anniversary show, and, hilariously, at the after show party at AllBarOne across the road from the back of the theatre. Roger Taylor sat at our table. He's a very popular man, it looked to me as though everyone in the room wanted to talk to him. But I didn't. I don't like Queen. Remember?

Earlier on I'd seen him and Brian May on the theatre stage. At the end of a show that I'd found impossible to dislike anywhere near as much as I probably should they'd made an appearance that got a crowd reaction that redefines the word 'hysterical'. As May appeared (he came up through a trapdoor since you ask, playing his famous 'Red Special' guitar and sounding- and looking- exactly like Brian May, if you know what I mean) to play the solo in 'Bohemian Rhapsody' pandemonium ensued; when Taylor joined him for the loud bit near the end (I like that bit, remember?) it was the nearest I'm ever likely to get to being at a Nazi rally, and when they finished with 'The Show Must Go On' you could have set fire to the building and no-one would have even noticed let alone tried to escape with their lives. Except me. Oh, and Shirley. She doesn't like Queen either. Good girl.
But (and it's a BIG BUT) if Ben Elton was right and it's the audience that gauges an evening, not a critic (or even a performer), then the audience last night saw a great show, a show that they will never ever forget, that they will tell their mates about over and over again for the rest of their lives. And-incredibly- that includes me. It was an evening to have been at. It was still 'rock music for people who don't like rock music' as far as I'm concerned but (and that's another BIG BUT) it was also theatre music for people who like theatre music, and the songs made much more sense to me in that context than they ever did before.

But I still didn't like them. Because I don't like Queen. Remember?

Monday, May 14, 2007

'It's like goldy or silvery but made out of iron...'

Since my last posting much has happened although it may not seem like it from what's written here. But it has happened.

In the meantime- an excellent rehearsal over at Andy C.'s yesterday with Dave, Andy and myself tightening up material for the first half of Big Tel's big gig at the Beck Theatre in Hayes next month. Big Tel and East joined us halfway through- Terry added some self-effacing saxophone and East some caustic comments (all too accurate in some cases!) regarding my attempts at playing a Queen song. Andy's added a few things to his studio set-up since our last visit including an extraordinary device called a FUNKLOGIC AP-302 ALGORHYTHMIC PROCECUTOR. It allows you to adjust PUNCH from 'Fruity' to 'Coma', IMAGINATION from 'Hmm' to 'Ah-hah!' and FUNKERATOR from 'The Bradys' to 'Thumb poppin' good', and, you've guessed it, does absolutely nothing at all. It's in his effects rack- he recalled with some glee a time where he used it to 'adjust' someones vocal sound ('that's much better mate, why didn't you use that on my voice in the first place?') though it's actually there to leave a bit of space for air to circulate to cool the other items; no doubt Andy advertises that his studio has one and charges extra accordingly. Well- if he doesn't, he should!

The shop's been busy- 2 week's of work experience for young Jennifer has probably been enough to put her off for life, not least when 54 (count 'em!) guitars arrived from Fender all in one go. As luck would have it Esso and Arturo from The Lurkers were in the shop when it arrived (Art bought a bass in for repair on his way to a 999 rehearsal in Acton) and were able to lend a hand loading it all in otherwise we'd probably still be there. Art's just finished writing a book and Esso's got his first one 'God's Lonely Men' coming out in the summer (he's started a blog from his website if you want to catch up on his current adventures). See- you wait for ages for a book on The Lurkers and two of them come along at once...

Tonight myself and the long-suffering Shirley are off to The Dominion Theatre (like I don't spend enough time there these days) to see the 5th anniversary performance of 'We Will Rock You'. Well, I've been working there since around the start of the year so I guess it's about time I saw it? And Brian May and Roger Taylor are playing- Stu's up there for a rehearsal/soundcheck as I type this- which should make for an interesting if rather ironic evening, given the fact that neither of us actually like Queen. Oh well- I guess you can't have everything eh?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Bank holiday? (take 1)

At last myself and East get this drinking business right and manage an evening in a pub without something daft happening- as this morning's headache will testify. Still it's a day off so who cares?
Well, actually, I do. I find it strangely difficult to have a 'day off' these days. These are busy times- the shop's going well (really busy this week especially on Saturday), the theatre work with Stu is oddly enjoyable (I never thought changing guitar strings could be such, for want of a better word, 'fun') and the gigs have been good too. A day off seems not only deserved but necessary- so why not have one? It's nothing to feel guilty about is it?
On the other hand... my yearly 'big envelope from the tax office' (if you're self-employed then you'll know the one that I mean) has arrived and I don't think I've so much as looked at my books this year. Big Tel's Big Gig is getting closer and closer- 7 weeks away as of yesterday and still lots to do. And The Price have got gigs to rehearse for- must get on the phone later and see when everybody's available. There's some other things to do as well 'though I can't quite recall them just at the moment.

Perhaps I do need a day off!

Still, I met up with Big Tel and two of the girls who are singing at the Big Gig yesterday to run through the songs that they'd like to do, sort out the key's that they sing them in etc. They're both very good- Jo seemed to me to have a voice that's just waiting to go into musical theatre whilst Chloe's more of a rocker. Some interesting song choices too- never thought I'd end up playing a Queen song... I wonder if I could borrow a guitar from the theatre? Now there's a thought.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Unstabled, undressed

Have you ever noticed that if you take the 'D' from the start of 'Dunstable' and put it on the end instead it now spells 'unstabled'?

I thought not. I worry myself sometimes.

The Price played quite a bit up in Dunstable- in fact the first time I met Glen Matlock was when we supported his then-band The Mavericks (yes, they had to change their name! They became The Philistines, a name Glen still uses today) in, I think, 1992. Judging by last night's visit it doesn't seem to have changed much since then; The Grove Theatre is brand new however, and reminded me of The Market Place Theatre in Amargh which we played last year. After a journey that would have been a lot less enjoyable had Pete not called to warn us that the M1 was, in his words, 'a car park' (we took the A-roads instead) Shirley went off shopping whilst I met keyboard player Steve for the first time (Ian was elsewhere, I think away playing for Roger Chapman) and attempted a quick rehearsal with him. Soundcheck was mostly spent 'topping-and-tailing' songs, ostensibly for Steve's benefit 'though I for one appreciated the chance to run through some of the rarely played stuff. Great to have 'Green Onions' back too... with Shirley back it was time for a visit to the bar to meet up with Paul (Rotten) from The Pistols and his girlfriend Hayley who'd come along to check out what I do when I'm not making a row with them.
Show time and with Shirley in place backstage to help Pete with his re-instated costume changes (not a job for the faint-hearted as we shall see) we launched ourselves at the first set. Without giving too much away to anyone who hasn't seen the show (shame on you!) Pete's second costume change comes towards the end of the first half- he normally goes off halfway through 'Flip, Flop and Fly' to give himself time to get ready... but he forgot until the end of the song (I'm told Michael's words to him were something like 'what are you still doing here?') which somehow involved him ending up completely naked in front of Shirley.

Well- that's their story anyway.

Nothing in the second half could rival that for lunacy- although it all could have been a disaster from the word go as the intro tape started before any of us were ready to go on resulting in a mini-panic in the dressing rooms... oh, and Pistols Paul shouted 'play some Pistols' during my bit of the band introductions which if nothing else shows what a loud voice he's got! A good gig.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yet another partial success

Time for the next installment of the ongoing drama that is-

'Leigh and Steve go for a drink in Uxbridge'

-in which our heroes get unfeasibly angry over 68 pence.

Monday evening and myself and Price merchandise supremo Steve (a.k.a. East) are in The Three Tuns on Uxbridge High Street, and, for the time being at least, are both in good humour. Our teams (he's United, I'm Liverpool) are both in Champions League semi-finals, there's some upcoming Price gigs to prepare for and the beer's cheap at only £1.94 a pint. There's no nutters having a go at us for once, it's approaching closing time and, general ranting and raving aside, we're having a fine evening which we decide to end with 2 halves 'as it's a school day tomorrow'. I pay the barmaid with a fiver and she brings back my change which, for some reason, I put on the bar... and it's only £2.38. It should, unless I've forgotten my maths, be £3.06.
Funny how it's the little things in life that count isn't it? I guess if I was a more confident person I'd have pointed out to her that she'd made a mistake and my change was wrong... but, no, I decided that she was actually a master criminal cruelly embezzling a fortune out of hapless punters in an otherwise insignificant West London pub. And I got really annoyed. I'm still annoyed now- mostly with myself for not saying something about it at the time. Sometimes I'd trade some I.Q. points to be more confident, more sure of myself, more... like everyone else is, if you know what I mean. But, I wouldn't be me if I did that, would I?

Mind you, East thought she probably needed the money for a decent haircut- either that or the next part of her sex change operation. He's a cruel man. But fair.