Monday, July 30, 2007

All things Brighton beautiful

Have you seen me lately? If you have you might have thought to your self something like 'Ooh, he looks tired/old/worn out/knackered' (delete as applicable). You might even have said something like that to me. Perhaps I'm just getting old... or perhaps it's because, since my birthday I've done this-


Morning- in the shop. Busy.
Afternoon- see above.
Evening- belated birthday drinking. Excellent.


Morning- guitar maintenance with Stuart the guitar repairman at 'We Will Rock You' at the Dominion Theatre. I was hoping for a relatively quiet session (my first words to Stu were, much to his amusement, 'I think I'm still pissed'. His reply to me- 'good!') and it wasn't too bad with a stage full of auditioning dancers to distract me from the blitzkrieg taking place just behind my eyes. Not good frankly.
Afternoon- back to the shop to see how Simon was getting on; I arrived just in time to meet Esther who, after introducing herself by announcing that she was terminally ill, attempted to buy pretty much every music book in the shop along with an electric guitar'n'amp package. Meanwhile Andy C. bought himself an extremely nice Carvin electric and his mate Alex nearly bought himself a Telecaster which he might have done if Esther hadn't given him £20 and tried to get him to go with her back to her house for 'a massage'. I ran off before lunacy took hold.
Evening- myself and little brother Terry took the train up to Camden to see The Towers of London (current faves of his) at The Electric Ballroom. We met my mate Kate in The World's End who had managed to get us all on the guest list (thanks Katie!) then arrived at the gig just in time to see a couple of numbers by all-girl support band Sammy before The TOL's took to the stage at 10 o'clock. I saw them last year supporting The New York Dolls and have since enthusiastically followed their 'reality' T.V. show which I've found very entertaining- live they're a gloriously trashy row which all 3 of us loved. Bizarrely we got invited to the after show party but even more bizarrely we decided not to go. Got home some time after 1 a.m. Excellent.

Morning- see Wednesday. Not good frankly.
Afternoon- see above.
Evening- Dave Ruffy's band The Duplicates are playing in (gulp!) Deptford. Shirley gave me a lift round to Mark Wyeth's where I'm introduced to his mate Roy- the first thing he did was ask Mark (not me) which football team I support; when Mark told him 'Liverpool' he said some very unpleasant things about The Red Army and indeed your humble narrator. I couldn't be bothered to banter back (it wasn't really worth it; I doubt that he'd have understood me and anyway, he was doing a pretty good job of insulting himself...) and Mark was playing Peter and the Test Tube Babies at top volume on the car stereo which in an odd sort of way seemed to sum things up. We picked up John 'Football Factory' King and, amid various tales of football hooliganism (John-' why do people always feel that they have to talk to me about that?') we made it to Bar Sonic on Deptford High Street just in time to catch 'Green Onions' which turns out to be the last song of their first set. The line up is drums, Hammond organ and guitar and the music is Booker T. and beyond. It's fabulous. I used to talk to erstwhile Blues Bros. band keyboardist Gary Moberley about forming a band like this- we should have done it. We might still do it... Dave introduced me to former Joe Jackson Band guitarist Gary Sandford who I'd met before here and there, a really nice guy who invited me to the jam session he runs on Tuesday nights; it would help if I could remember where it takes place wouldn't it? He gave me his phone number so I must ring him up to check where it is (isn't drinking brilliant?!?) Meanwhile I'm introduced to Sarah who promoted the recent Paul Fox benefit show in Islington; it turns out Mark had agreed to give her a lift back to her home in, yes, you've guessed it, Islington. To cut a long story short I got in a 4 a.m. having decided to sleep in the car while the rest of them joined Sarah for a drink in her flat. Well- I've got a shop to run...


Morning- see Wednesday. Not good frankly.
Afternoon- see above. My brother bought his daughter Anna in to look at some electronic drum kits. He sat her at the kit and a few minutes later she could play a 'simple' rhythm. The dynasty continues!
Evening- myself and Shirley are off to Maidstone where The Chicago Blues Brothers are playing at the Pizza Express. Pete's away so Mike's in his place, and Andy's on sax in place of Richard. By now I'm seriously flagging and drift off to sleep somewhere on the M25 (don't worry, she was driving!). I'm woken up twice; firstly by a phone call from Andy C. raving about his new guitar and checking details for the next day's Price gig, secondly (and somewhat less enjoyably) when a bit falling off the car in front of us caused Shirl to take drastic evasive action. Scary! We get to the venue with just enough time for me to set up and change before we're straight on with 'Peter Gunn'. The people down the front are holding their ears and grimacing- never a good sign if you think about it. Things improve by the second set- maybe we'd blown their hearing by then- and there's encores a-plenty at the end. Squirrel's new MarkBass combo sounded terrific and, if we've not been blacklisted for excessive volume, we're due back there in a few weeks. Excellent.


Morning- asleep. Excellent.
Afternoon- run around like an idiot because I've overslept. Not good frankly. After much madness myself and the long-suffering Shirley get round to East's at 3 o'clock. We've got to be at The Duke of Wellington in Shoreham at 5 p.m. where The Price are playing at the Belgian Beer Festival. It's being organised by Attila the Stockbroker (only he could have a Belgian Beer Festival in Shoreham!) who offered us the gig after our recent appearance at his Glastonwick Festival. We arrive around 4.45- as we walked in we spotted Attila leaning rather unsteadily on the bar. He looks terrible. He explains that he's not had an alcoholic drink yet- his current condition is due to the amount he'd had the previous evening. Suitably disturbed we retire to The Wacky Cafe next door (I'm not making this up) for something to eat before the madness begins...
Evening- we're in the beer garden out the back of the pub. Malcolm, Paul and Andy are all there as are various family and friends, along with the Uxbridge Lads (on this occasion Mark, Barry and Phil) who've bought their new friend Sally. She's an inflatable sheep. They bought her in a vending machine in a pub toilet the previous evening; the machine also sold vibrators among other things. I'm not making this up either.
6.45 and we're on- the evening's running to time. It all starts reasonably enough though there's a sheep reference in the first song (either that or we wrote a song called 'So What About Sheep?') and I'm beginning to think that maybe I should have started drinking earlier in an attempt to, for want of a better term, get on the audience's wavelength... we've given more accurate performances but I haven't had as much fun playing my guitar in ages. Mind you, the performance could well be summed up by the moment I looked down my mike stand to see the other end of the boom arm inserted into the unfortunate Sally. We encored with a repeat of 'So What About Love?' (yes, it's definitely called that, I checked on the single) and a unrehearsed 'In The Country' which we hadn't played since last summer, possibly rather ill-advised from a professional point of view but the only song to end a performance of this type with. Unforgettable. Attila's booked us for next year's Glastonwick already. Fantastic.
Talking of Attila he was up next on the stage playing bass with Belgian punk band Contingent who he played with in the late '70's (check his website for the full story). Good stuff, not least because I'd decided to sample some 'Natural Blonde' organic lager. It's good stuff- I'm sure I asked for 'Legally Blonde' at least once. Or was it 'Dizzy Blonde'? Hard to remember... the last band on were Dates who feature Bob from The Piranhas and were highly enjoyable in my by then increasingly blurred opinion. Oh, and at some point in proceedings East made the comment that I have shamelessly stolen for use as the title of this posting. A classic evening all round. The drive home was enlivened by Wilko Johnson on the car stereo and a coffee break somewhere on the A23 where the local youth had gathered in the car park to attempt formation wheelie's on their mopeds- which if you think about it is one of the very few ways an evening like that could have ended.

P.S. Worrying news- there's some footage on our website which proves that, however implausable it all sounds, we really did play 'In The Country' and that Malcolm spent rather a lot of it with Sally the Sheep on his head. Look at your peril- once seen, you may never sleep again...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Birthday blogging

It's my birthday today. It wasn't supposed to be, but it is. It was supposed to be August 8th which would have meant that I'd have had the same birthday as my Mum, and would have been born on exactly the same day as U2's The Edge; instead Mum had to have a cesarean operation (I caused trouble right from the word go!) which means that I've actually got the same birthday as Jennifer Lopez, and was born on exactly the same day as the actress who's name I can never remember but who played 'Wonder Woman' back in the '70's and '80's (Linda Carter?).

What can all this mean? Answers on a postcard please, usual address...

Still, today's going well; Simon and Ian are in the shop which means I've got a day off (hurrah!) and I've just received an e-mail from Henry Rollins saying that he'll put me on the guest list for his next London show. How cool is that? I've got the latest Who album playing in the background and there's nothing that I have to do today. A 'happy birthday' indeed.

I'll let you know when it all goes wrong!!!

P.S. It didn't go wrong! I had a really brilliant day with pressies, food and beer! HURRAH!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back to the real world

Monday morning in the shop and I've got a hangover. A bad hangover. Serves me right eh? But it was a good day yesterday which ended with far too much to drink with East (as usual) and drummer extraordinaire Dave Bateman (not so usual- he's teetotal) in the hallowed confines of The Pipemakers Arms in Uxbridge. We'd spent the afternoon at Ruff Rockers Rehearsal Studio with Andy C. on bass and Simon Thompson on harmonica- yes, it's the return of The Barflies, fresh from our recent-ish performance at 'Re:View' at The Beck Theatre and ready to rock. Well, we will be when we can decide what direction we want to 'rock' in. A splendid time was had by all, much of which was filmed by East which I fear means that he's preserved rather a lot of references to worshipping the devil, any or all of which could turn up on The Price's website or YouTube worryingly soon. Not good frankly- perhaps that's the real reason I've got such a bad headache?

In the meantime it's been a busy week in the shop, with George becoming the latest work experience person to be unreasonably insulted by yours truly (only once, honest!) and Simon being recruited to the Pro Music staff meaning that I might actually get a day off sometime in the not-too-distant future. Then again- what would I do with one of those? Well I could do my accounts- judging by the amount of receipts and bank statements I've got lying around that would be time well spent. Or I could catch up with all those other 'little jobs' that I keep saying that I 'must get round to'. Or I could have some time off- it's ok to do that isn't it? Isn't it?!?

There's a few gigs coming up too; Blues Brothers at Maidstone Pizza Express this Saturday, The Price at The Duke of Wellington this Sunday (Attila The Stockbroker's 'Belgian Beer Festival'- excellent!), then depping for The Pistols in Northampton next Friday. I'm also doing 2 more dates with Foxy's Ruts next month- more about them nearer the time. But I really hope that we can get The Barflies off the ground- it feels like it's time to get out and play for the sake of playing rather than as a 'job'. All this Ruts-related stuff lately has got me thinking back to the times before I played guitar, when I would watch other people play and wonder what it was like to be able to do that, to express yourself in that way, at a time when I don't think I could make very much sense out of anything in the world other than knowing that there was something very big missing from my life. Playing the guitar and, maybe more importantly, making music with other people gave me a chance to be heard, to have a voice in a world that didn't otherwise seem to be too interested in me. I'm still not sure that what I do makes any difference to anybody else apart from me but I do know that every time I pick up a guitar to play I feel very lucky indeed to be able to do it at all- it really wouldn't be the same without it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Night with The Ruts

If you've been following the last couple of postings you'll know that the second Paul Fox benefit gig was to have featured The Price- inexplicably it was felt that it was better to have people like The Damned and Misty In Roots on instead of us (no, I don't know why either) so in the end we didn't play. Because I thought I was playing I didn't have a ticket, a situation which I only managed to rectify very late in the day thanks to my good friend Kate Duffy who works at a well known ticket agency... so it was then that myself and my little brother Terry began our latest punk rock adventure by meeting her at the Old Red Lion in Islington where also met up with Steve from The Blaggers and Romford Dave with their mate Alex, and John King with his mate Pete who he used to write a fanzine with; suitably fired up we made it to the Academy in time to hear Ten Pole Tudor's 'Swords of a Thousand Men' performed at something like half the speed that it should go at. I played it with him a couple of times when depping in The Sex Pistols Experience and it sounded about 100 times better than this rendition even though I say so myself. He was backed by the Peafish House Band who featured Roland Rivron on drums, Tony Barber from The Buzzcocks on bass and Lee Harris on guitar and who should have sounded a hell of a lot better than they did. Rivron went to my old school- he was a couple of years ahead of me, a bit of a celebrity as he played drums; (East knew him- 'I was funnier than him then and I'm still funnier than him now') from what I remember he was a better player then 'though to be fair to him I think he's left handed and was playing a right-handed kit here. They sounded a bit better backing T.V. Smith on 'One Chord Wonders' and 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes'- but not much.

Splodgenessabounds were up next with a bit of help from John Otway (he opened the evening but we missed him!) and ex-Motorhead guitarist Wurzel- all good fun as you might imagine. The U.K Subs followed and were a revelation, about the best I've ever seen them and going down a storm in the process. Then again I guess it's handy if you can play a set consisting entirely of hit singles to an audience that know all of them word for word... the mood changed with Misty In Roots- I'm not the biggest reggae fan but they sounded great to me.

By now the place was packed- what better moment for the 'surprise' guests of the evening The Damned who for me stole the show. I thought they were good in Brighton before Christmas but here they were nothing short of devastating, starting with 'Love Song', finishing with 'Smash It Up' and starting a near riot in the process. Captain Sensible recalled touring with The Ruts- 'if you fell asleep they'd tie your shoelaces together and set fire to you- either that or empty an ashtray into your mouth!' Vanian- 'didn't you do that to Elvis Costello once?' 'Yeah, and I wish I could do it now.'

Then, as the stage was reset, Tom Robinson who was joined by guitarist Adam Phillips and, for his last 2 songs, T.V. Smith; a bit laid back after the mayhem that preceded it but a good way to set up the headline act...

After a suitably reverential introduction from compare John Robb it was finally time for The Ruts with Henry Rollins; Segs and Dave besuited and behatted, and on guitar, thank God, the man himself- Paul Fox, wearing a camouflage t-shirt and an almost bewildered 'I can't believe this is really happening' look throughout the show. Henry wrapped the microphone cable around his hand, barked 'was it something that I said?' and pandemonium ensued. 'Staring at the Rude Boys' followed, then a slightly shaky 'West One (shine on me)', Paul seeming to falter, the band looking worried. No problems with 'S.U.S.' or 'Jah War' though, and the stakes are raised with 'Babylon's Burning' before the only song that I didn't play with them last week, 'Society' (we tried 'Dope For Guns' instead). An inevitable 'In A Rut' finished the show, Henry a bit out of time in the first verse but no real harm done, Paul's solo shorter than it used to be- probably because Henry came back in earlier than it looked like Paul was expecting him too. And that was it- Segs said something like 'see you next year', they took a bow and left the stage. Even D.J. Mark Wyeth (or whoever he called himself this time) semi-coherently bellowing something along the lines of 'LADEEZANGENELMEN, THEGREATESTBANDOFALLTIME, THERUUUUUUUUUTS' couldn't get them back. But the job had been done. And done very well indeed.

The Ruts, Henry Rollins, The Damned, Tom Robinson, Misty In Roots, The U.K. Subs, Splodgenessabounds, T.V. Smith, Ten Pole Tudor, John Otway- what an extraordinary line-up; I personally think The Ruts could have sold the gig out on their own (especially with Henry Rollins's involvement) but it made for an incredible evening. And I only realised just now that I've seen all the acts before in their own right. Sometimes it's not so bad to be old. Cheers Paul.

-I'm sure all the other artists have websites too...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Day in The Ruts

Sometime around 10p.m. Wednesday evening my mobile phone rang. It was Dave Ruffy. He has played (and indeed will yet play) drums for all sorts of people, but I first met him when he was playing in The Ruts. He explained the situation- there's a rehearsal tomorrow afternoon with Henry Rollins who's singing for The Ruts at the upcoming benefit show next Monday and Paul's not feeling too good. Would I be interested in standing in for him?

I suddenly felt very excited indeed.

Thursday morning at the theatre and it's audition time again. The standard is very high, as though these are the only people still left in the race. That said, if I hear 'Who wants to live forever?' again I might well decide that I definitely don't... after a quick bite to eat and the almost compulsory visit to the HMV shop I was off on the District Line to East Putney where after the odd wrong turning I eventually found The Courtyard rehearsal studio. When I said that I was looking for The Ruts the chap in reception just said 'studio 2- Rollins is already there'. And he was, standing up and extending his hand towards me as I walked through the door with the words 'hi, I'm Henry'. With him in the studio lobby was Dave Ruffy, Segs, Jim the sax player and, inevitably, Mark Wyeth. I walked through into the studio; there was Ruffy's Gretsch drum kit, and to it's right laying on top of an Ampeg bass amp was Segs's old Fender Precision bass. To the left was a Marshall combo for me to use and in front was a stool with some bits of A4 paper on it- the top one had the words to 'West One (shine on me)' on it. I got my Les Paul Junior out of it's case and plugged it in just as Segs and Dave came into the studio with Henry close behind. I was about to play some music with them.

I suddenly felt very nervous indeed.

'How are you with 'Staring at the Rude Boys?' asked Segs. I said something like 'I'll have a go' and played the opening riff. 'Oh, you know it.' he said, almost dismissively. 'That's good. We'll have a listen anyway'. 'Yeah, I wanna map the songs out' said Dave waving a piece of paper around, 'make sure we've got the arrangements right'. Henry sat as the song played over the P.A. making notes, checking lyrics, singing along. Then it was our turn. 'Not too fast' said Dave, tapping out the tempo on his hi-hats. I played the riff, him and Segs joined in and Henry started singing- I was in The Ruts with Henry Rollins on vocals. And it sounded good, and it got better the second time through. Then we put our instruments down. I waited for one of them to say something like 'can we just try one without you Leigh' or 'can you sort yourself out or you'll have to leave'- but they didn't. We just thought of another song to try, put the original version on through the P.A. mapped it out, made notes, checked lyrics, sang along and then played it. It sounded good first time, and got better the second time through. It was fantastic- literally 'the stuff of fantasy' as far as I was concerned.

We had a break and I found myself talking to Henry in the lobby. I blurted out words to the effect of 'I can hardly believe this is happening' and he just smiled and said 'me neither'. And there we were, both Ruts fans, talking about hearing them for the first time, lowering our voices whenever Dave or Segs came within earshot in case they heard us talking about them. Henry told me how he'd interviewed the great sax player Sonny Rollins once- he was amazed to hear him say that he felt that he was just about getting the hang of his instrument, that he still had so much to learn and was always on the lookout for new players, new sounds, new ideas- as Henry put it, 'you've got to stay curious'. An extraordinary thought. Then it was back to 'work', playing songs that changed all our lives in one way or another, and, even though I say so myself, playing them very well indeed. We went for a drink afterwards, at The Ship in Wandsworth. While we were there I received a 'how's it going?' text from Andy C.- I sent back something like 'can't talk at the moment, I'm down the pub with Rollins and The Ruts'. He sent one back saying that he hated me. Sorry Andy... I told Henry I saw Black Flag in 1981 supporting The Damned at The Lyceum in London- he smiled, 'December 6th, with The Anti Nowhere League'. 'Charge were on first' I replied, 'we missed the last train home, had to go to Heathrow Airport. And I thought it was the 7th!'. He laughed- 'You might be right!'. And then, suddenly, it was all over and we were all on our way home with only handshakes to remember it all by, a few short hours that I will never ever forget, and it'll sound even better when they play with Paul on Monday night. See you down the front.

Sometime around 10p.m. Thursday evening my mobile phone rang. It was Ian Richards. He has played (and indeed will yet play) saxophone for all sorts of people, but I first met him when he played in Dave Finnigan's Commitments with me. He explained the situation- there's a gig tomorrow night at The Dover Street Wine Bar with the F.B.I Band and their guitarist can't make it. Would I be interested in standing in for him?

Normally I would have felt more excited than I did. It's a funny old world sometimes isn't it?

-Henry gives me a mention in 'dispatches'. Amazing!!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Night in The Ruts

If you go back to the 'December 2006' section of this blog you'll find me rambling on about The Ruts. As some of you may know guitarist Paul Fox has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and last Saturday saw the first of 2 benefit concerts arranged to help him through this difficult time- this one was at The Crown & Treaty in Uxbridge and featured Foxy's Ruts alongside Max Splodge, The Riffs, The Bobs and The Dub Cats. A couple of days earlier I had a conversation with my old sparring partner Mark Wyeth, the gist of which was 'are you (i.e. me) available to play with us (i.e. Foxy's Ruts- he's their bassist) on Saturday?', the idea being to give Paul chance to 'play-or-not-play' depending on how he felt at the time. I thought about it a lot- maybe a better word would be 'agonised'- but to cut a long story short found myself in a rehearsal room early Friday evening with Mark and Laurie (Paul's son who plays drums in the band) awaiting the arrival of Mark the singer and, possibly, Paul himself. Mr. Wyeth's making frantic phonecalls- Paul's not feeling too good and Mark was last seen around 4p.m. 'paralytic'. So the 3 of us ran through what we could- songs that I'd played along with on record so many times when I was learning to play but had never performed with a band, somehow dragging them from my memory as best I could. I feel awkward at the best of times but this was a bad one- playing songs with the son a man too ill to play them himself. Strange days indeed. But it sounded good and, maybe more importantly, it felt good. I was pushed for time as I was due at Big Tel's birthday party- I left with some very odd thoughts in my mind.

After a suitably busy day in the shop (Paul popped in with his girlfriend- 'all set for tonight then?') I went straight to the Crown & Treaty where I was greeted with the words 'which group are you with?' from the lady opening the door. I mumbled something about 'helping Paul out' and her rather aggressive manner softened somewhat- in fact she knew my name and knew exactly why I was there. She introduced herself as Billy and ticked my name off on the 'Ruts guest list'- now there's something I never thought I'd ever appear on... after a quick soundcheck from The Dub Cats it was our turn; I nervously plugged into Mark's Marshall combo and played a few chords- suddenly the room seemed to fill with people with Paul and Max Splodge among them, Mark the singer apologising to me for his non-appearance the previous evening, all the other band members seeming to look straight at me, or through me, or something... Laurie counted in 'H-Eyes'- and suddenly it was over almost as soon as it had began with everyone in the room applauding, Mark the singer shaking my hand, Max shouting 'you're sacked Foxy' and the biggest sense of relief I can ever remember having after doing something as everyday to me as playing a song.

Amazing. You don't know how much something means to you sometimes do you?

Shirley and myself arrived back at the venue (we'd gone for something to eat) just after 9 o'clock. The Bobs were nearing the end of their set and the pub was very busy indeed. I said hello to Mark from the Uxbridge lads, Andy Knight, Monty who used to be in The Clinch, Andy Woodstock... was there any one in the building that I didn't know? Hmm- no pressure then... out the back the 2 Mark's are on the merchandise stall, doing a roaring trade; Max Splodge is on next, then there's an auction, then we're on. There's a good atmosphere which gets even better as Max plays. The auction is, if anything, even more entertaining than his set, getting madder and madder as it goes on, culminating in the hilarious site of him trying to work out who the cartoon that he was trying to sell was actually supposed to be (it was a signed Richard Branson caricature- it didn't sell). When he'd finished I went up on to the stage to set my gear up; I looked around, everyone seemed to be looking at me quizzically, as if to say 'who's that? It's not Foxy. WHO IS IT THEN?' A couple of people even got up on stage to ask... then, at last, we're on. Suddenly the place is packed, almost dangerously so, with Mark introducing 'H-Eyes', Laurie counting it in, and the riff seems to come from nowhere but it's me that's playing it, and Mark's singing 'you're so young you take smack for fun' and the place is going wild and we're going wild and then it's over and the applause (thank GOD for the applause!) is deafening, I'm nearly as relieved as I was after the soundcheck and 'Something That I Said' is next...

Then, suddenly, there's someone next to me playing guitar. I thought the band knew him, the band (it transpires talking to them afterwards) thought I knew him- he managed to thrash through a couple of numbers before someone stopped him... then Mark says 'where's Foxy?!?'- and there's Foxy, on stage to a hero's welcome, 'Staring at the Rude Boys' coming out of his guitar and sounding great. And it's coming out of mine too- I'm in The Ruts. Kind of. But it feels great anyway, and 'Give Youth a Chance' feels even better, then 'Babylon's Burning' is the classic that we always knew it to be, and it can only be 'In a Rut' to finish with, Paul's soloing like the whole audience wants him too, Max Splodge singing, everyone singing- and it's all over. The end. Paul can't play any more- but we can, we have to or there'll be a riot so it's 'Human Punk' and then it really is all over. The end. We did it, I did it, we all did it. Incredible.

2.30a.m. and I'm drinking with Clive from Jonestown. I hadn't seen him for years. We gave him a lift home sometime after 3- he didn't know where he lived. Great bloke. Great night. Great... everything, really.

The second benefit show is next Monday at the Islington Academy; The Price were supposed to be playing but we aren't now- it's still a good bill 'though!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Castles made of sand

It's Thursday morning around 9.45 and the Central Line is not running very well at all. A train's been derailed somewhere further along the line and we're stationary at Bond Street station. The announcements say there's nothing to worry about but we won't be leaving for a while yet. The train is crowded, very crowded, and the nearest person to me- and they're very near indeed- is an extremely good looking blonde young lady. She smiles a little awkwardly at me, I smile rather more awkwardly back. And I suddenly thought- 'suppose the train was derailed because a bomb went off on it'.

I walked the rest of the way.

At the Dominion Theatre it's audition time; Stu and I sit up in the musician's gantry attempting to silently service the guitars while a seemingly endless procession of hopefuls take their shot at the title on the stage below. Most get one song, some get two, a panel of three watching their every move. They all sound good, some sound great, they all deserve a medal just for putting themselves through it all. We finish and sneak away- I ended up getting lost Spinal Tap-style backstage, musing if any of the people I'd just seen would end up in the show, in the areas of the theatre I walk through everytime I go there. A strange thought.

The Central Line's still in trouble but I make it back in time to meet Shirley and head off the Maidstone where we're playing a Blues Brothers show at no lesser venue than Leeds Castle. We meet the rest of the troops in the car park of The Park Gate Inn; from there golf buggies take our gear to the stage while we walk through the golf course to the backstage area. It's a lovely afternoon, bright and sunny and the castle looks amazing. It's a magnificent setting for a show- hope the weather holds out...
...which, of course, it didn't. It clouded over as we soundchecked and started raining as we finished, getting a few degrees colder in the process. But we sounded good- all the usual suspects with the addition of Andy on trombone, both Steve and Ian on keyboards (Steve on organ, Ian on piano) and Rita joining Tracy on backing vocals. And we looked good too, with us all suited and booted in black with white ties- a semi-hilarious photo session of the band with the castle in the background should reveal just how cold and wet it had got by the time we took to the stage. Incredibly the audience (and there was plenty of them considering the conditions) were well up for it and it was a great show with the horn section providing an unforgettable moment during 'Rawhide'- as they galloped around the stage on imaginary horseback Andy lost his balance and, despite attempts to control himself, ended up sprawled flat out in front of their music stands. Priceless. Even the interminable roadworks on the way home couldn't ruin a fine evening. Great stuff.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Brighton (and on... and on...)

I seem to be spending rather a lot of time in Brighton lately- fine by me, it's a good place methinks. The latest journey down was enlivened by a storm of almost biblical proportions followed by blazing sunshine followed by another storm... it's the start of July- anyone who thinks that climate change isn't happening must be either insane or my Dad. Or both.

After a shopping and food expedition in The Laines Shirley and myself arrived at the gig to find Pete in a state of considerable distress- he'd slipped off the stage and twisted his left foot. We're playing at no lesser venue than The Grand Hotel, in The Empress Suite at an event for the Transport and General Workers Union. Things are not going well- in addition to Pete's injury Phil the P.A. man's broken down; he won't be with us in time for the sound check so Mario's on his way with his P.A.. The 2 John's (bass & drums) are set up- I get on with sorting my stuff out and finish just as Michael (vocals) and Martine arrive with young Jacob (I still think Iggy's a nice name) which causes Shirley to go all silly. Fortunately Mario's nearly set up, Ian's (keyboards) arrived with Nadia and we can do some soundchecking at last. The horns are here (Matt on trumpet and Andy on sax) and Tracy (vocals) is on her way- time to go to the pub. Matt knows one around the corner, Shirl and myself arrive in time to catch Johnny Squirrel at the bar...
'That's not right is it?' says Squirrel. I know what he means - the 'barmaid's' got a deeper voice than I have. Later on Squirrel returns from the toilet with the words' you have GOT to see the Gents'... well, there's an offer you don't get everyday so off I go. As you go in the walls are covered in 1/2 inch mirror tiles- they look like one of Little Richard's stage costumes; as you walk further in you realise that there's a mirror ball in the ceiling. The whole place is reminiscent of that George Michael video.

The Regency Tavern, Brighton. Best pub I've visited in ages.

After that the gig could have been rather anti-climatic- but, as corporate events go it's a good one with dancing pretty much from the word go and a suitably energetic performance all round. Pete heroically ignored his injury (I bet it hurts this morning though!), 'Stand By Me' included a burst of 'Every Breath You Take' as well as 'Cupid' and I managed a rather unhinged solo during 'Land of 1,000 Dances'. A fine night- if only I could get that mirror ball out of my head...