Monday, December 31, 2007

That was the year that was

This has been my first full year of blogging- I started in August 2006- so I thought it might be fun to do a mini-revue of the last 12 months, like they do in the papers and on the telly. So...

Best albums-
'Magic'- Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band
'02/01/1978'- Kris Dollimore
'Soundtrack To The Daily Grind'- Graham Day and The Gaolers
'Yours Truly, Angry Mob'- The Kaiser Chiefs

The Boss back with the band and on great form- 'Radio Nowhere' is probably my favourite song of 2007, and I'm told the instantly sold-out London shows were as euphoric as ever. Kris Dollimore's album was/is a revelation- always a great player, his re-invention as a bluesman made for a very pleasant surprise. Graham Day continues to do what he's always done- write and perform great songs to little or no acclaim from the mainstream music world, while The Kaiser Chiefs are about the only 'current' band to catch my ear at the moment.

Best DVDs-
'Amazing Journey'- The Who
'It's Alive!'- The Ramones
'Live at Monterey'- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
'Crossroads Festival 2007'- Eric Clapton & Co.

The Who documentary was a bit of a missed opportunity in some ways but is still worth it for the priceless live footage, much of it previously unseen. 'It's Alive!' presents one of the best live bands ever on variously sized stages throughout the world whilst the 40 year old Hendrix set continues to resonate through the electric guitar world like it only happened yesterday. The Crossroads collection has Eric and his mates on fine form with every act giving a great performance without it all turning into a mass ego-fest (well, not too often anyway!)

Best gigs-
The Sex Pistols- Brixton Academy
Iggy and The Stooges- Royal Festival Hall
The Who- Birmingham/London
Jeff Beck- Ronnie Scott's

The Pistols stuck 4 sets of 2 fingers up to the world in general and the journalistic profession in particular with performances that were both funny and frightening in their intensity and power whilst The Stooges continued their renaissance with a vengeance with an absolutely astounding show. The Who amazed all and sundry with the energy and power of their shows on the last tour, and speaking personally Pete Townshend is still the most inspiring player that I've ever seen or heard. Jeff Beck's performance was that of a master musician at the very peak of his powers- truly awesome stuff.

Worst band/gig-
The Ronnie Scott's All-Stars- you've guessed where they play haven't you?!?

This loftily-named bunch opened for Jeff Beck- the politest thing I can say about them is to quote my mate Danny who turned to me halfway through their performance and said 'I didn't know Ronnie Scott's was part of Bourne Leisure'. After starting with a couple of keyboard, bass and drums instrumentals (actually quite enjoyable in comparison to the absurdity that was to follow) they were joined on stage by a grinning buffoon of a sax player and a would-be rock god guitarist and proceeded to play an appalling set of end-of-the-pier nonsense that was so pathetically bad that it almost defies any sort of logical analysis. How these cretins have the brassneck to do what they did in public is beyond me. Death is too good for them- torture them as much as they tortured us, the poor audience who, upon realising that they were going to go on again after Jeff Beck, created a potentially life-threatening stampede towards the exit. The only reason that I can come up with for their existence is to make the main act look good- hardly necessary in Beck's case, or I suspect any of the other acts unfortunate enough to be on the same bill as them. Absolutely dreadful on every level and an embarrassment to the venue and all concerned with it, I hope I'm never in a room with any of them, singly or collectively, ever again- although I'm sure they're all self-important enough to not care about my opinion or indeed anybody who's unfortunate enough to be subjected to their antics. If it wasn't for the fact that we had to stay to keep our seats we'd have gone elsewhere until Mr. Beck came on, meaning that we were effectively imprisoned in their hideous little world until such time as they saw fit to set us free- a Nightmare on Frith Street indeed. If you're going to Ronnie Scott's and you see that they're on the bill PLEASE get there after they've finished, or if like us you have to arrive early to get a good seat then take some earplugs and a book. You have been warned...

Best re-issue-
'The Joshua Tree'- U2

I don't know about you but I often forget just how good U2 can be when they're on form. This excellent 2CD & DVD package goes a long way towards explaining how they went from being the band that made 'Boy' (still one of their best methinks) to being the band that are, as Bruce Springsteen brilliantly put it, the last band that we'll know all the members names in. The original album sounds as great as ever and the CD of b-sides and outtakes contains more than a few songs that would have been standout tracks on most people's best albums. The DVD of live and documentary footage show the band embracing stadium-straddling super-stardom with almost nonchalant ease.

My best gigs (!)
The Price- Glastonwick Festival, Southwick/The Duke of Wellington, Shoreham
The Chicago Blues Brothers- Theatre Royal, Windsor
Re:View- Beck Theatre, Hayes

Yes, I know it's self-indulgent to look at your own favourite performances- but it's self-indulgent doing this blogging lark at the best of times so why should this be any different?!? The Price shows were for me 2 of the most enjoyable the band has ever played (incidentally I'm referring to the July show in Shoreham not the one in December...) with Andy coming into his own on bass- he said to me after the D of W gig that it was the first time that he 'hadn't felt like Ronnie Wood'- and Paul's drumming continuing to astound. Malcolm and myself keep talking about new songs- time we got on with it methinks... The Windsor CBB show was one of 'those' nights where everything seemed to go right for us; we'd played in Switzerland 2 days earlier which had been a great show but this one surpassed even that. The people at the venue must have agreed- we've been booked for the whole of Easter week next year! The 'Re:View' show is something I'm very proud to have been a part of, a genuine one-off performance of incredible diversity and, I suspect, the only time I'll perform a Queen song alongside a dance troop...

The 'Did that really happen?' moment-
The Ruts'n'Rollins rehearsal

Well, it couldn't really be anything else could it? I still find it hard to believe that I ended up in a rehearsal room with Dave Ruffy and Segs from The Ruts and Henry Rollins of Black Flag (I saw both bands!) playing Ruts songs. But I did it. In many ways of course it's a shame that it happened at all- if Paul Fox had have been stronger he'd have been there himself- but if you'd have told me 25 years ago that I'd have ended up doing what I did then I'd probably have laughed my head off. Actually if you'd have said it practically any time before it actually happened then I'd have found it hard to keep a straight face... and to go on to stand in for Paul at 2 gigs in August was an extraordinary experience; in my last conversation with him he thanked me warmly for doing them which still means a lot to me. The obituaries that followed his passing show the respect that he and The Ruts still command from fans and fellow musicians alike- as no lesser figure than Captain Sensible put it, 'he was a lovely, really gentle bloke and a magnificent musician. If kids today ask me about playing music I say, go and listen to The Ruts.' I couldn't have put it better myself.

So- that was the year that was 2007.
I'll see you for some more in 2008- happy new year y'all...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

So that was Christmas... was it for you?

It's always a bit, shall we say, anti-climatic isn't it? In a funny sort of way I always feel a bit sorry for actual Christians at Christmas (as opposed to the rest of us who only go to church when it suits us or indeed when we can't avoid not doing so- how many people have you heard say that they've started going to church because they can't get married in one unless they do?) who see something that I would imagine means a great deal to them being submerged under a deluge of consumerism and hypocrisy. East- a renowned Christmas hater for many and varied reasons- and myself were discussing this very topic only last night whilst ourselves being submerged under a deluge of lager. After walking up and down Uxbridge High Street looking for a pub that was (a) open and (b) not full of recently escaped psychopaths we settled upon The Metropolitan in Windsor Street. 'I'm off for a kebab' said the great man at the end of our evening before stumbling off triumphantly, leaving me to stroll home wondering why, amongst other things, 2 pints of lager had cost us just under £4 in The Metropolitan, yet cost just under £6 practically everywhere else. It was, I suppose, that kind of night.

Last Sunday's gig with Austin went well... sort of... we were playing at Henry's in Aveley near South Ockendon which, I'm told, claims to be the oldest building in Essex. It's a striking place, made all the more so by the fact that when myself and the long-suffering Shirley arrived it was shrouded in fog which rolled across the pond like.. well, just like it does in the films I guess.
It had been a while since my last duo gig with Austin so I'd spent a bit of time revising the songs as well as looking at some new-to-the-repertoire stuff. Austin uses backing tracks that generally have no guitar parts on them so it's a good opportunity to stretch out a bit on guitar, as well as testing your timing- drum machines tend not to speed up or slow down (not that a drummer would ever do that of course!) We played well enough but the building was practically empty which was a shame since it's a splendid place- still, I'm sure it was a bit busier the next night.
All of this pales into insignificance next to the fact that I thought Shirley was going to thump Austin when, in the course of our conversation, he commented that he didn't like women that weren't confident about themselves. (I can't recall his exact words but that was the gist of it) You should have seen her face- heroically she waited until we were on the way home before the ranting began...

Oh well- it's Thursday morning and it's time to open the shop. Again. Let's see how many people say 'oh, you're open then' before beginning the 'I hate Christmas' rant. It happens every year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

So this is (nearly) Christmas

-and what have I done? Well...

It's been very busy in the shop. Very busy. Almost beyond busy. Tensions rose to new heights on Wednesday morning when, whilst cruelly tormented by the aftereffects of the previous evening's heavy drinking with East and Esso, your humble narrator was VERY RUDE INDEED to a customer. (I won't tell you what the first word was, but the second one was 'off'...) Well- he was a jumped up middle class git who not only asked me if I had any phone numbers for other music shops in the area but then proceeded to phone one ('Hooters' in Watford I think) and walk around our shop comparing our prices with theirs. On reflection I shouldn't have said what I said, and told him so- incredibly he ended up buying an amplifier from us!- but I was amazed and even a little worried about how angry I got with him. I think I may need a holiday... Paul the guv'nor (just back from working Bruce Springsteen's monitors in Paris) found the whole episode highly amusing ('that's nothing to what he would have got from me!') which at least means that I still have a job.

Incidentally Broooce didn't really phone me up- it was Paul holding his mobile phone in the air during 'Born To Run'. I had a few of you worried there though didn't I?!?

Things brightened up considerably in the afternoon with a visit from John Kerrison, wheelchair-bound ex-Episode Six drummer and all round good bloke. He wasn't the only ex-Episode Six-er to visit us this week, as we shall see...

Thursday is theatre day, this time without Stuart the guitar repair man who's off visiting his family for Christmas. Almost before I'd got through the door I was asked 'Where's Stu- is he alright?' by Steve the stage doorman; one person even asked me if he was still alive. I managed to get through it all without too much trouble and heroically resisted the temptations of 'Sister Ray' in Berwick Street, though might have to go back for a slightly-less-than-legal Jam DVD next time I'm in the area.

Friday was theoretically a day off, though at this time of year I'm not sure that such a thing really exists. I stumbled around Uxbridge amid what felt like thousands of nutters re-enacting a scene from 'Zulu' in an attempt at getting a few Christmassy things with limited success, though at least I managed that much- there were a lot of empty shelves and fraying tempers...

Saturday in the shop was the busiest day yet; I bought a cheese roll on my way there at approximately 9 a.m. and finally got time to eat it just after 7 p.m. which sums the day up in more ways than one. An undoubted high point was a visit from Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover who goes straight in at number one in our 'most famous customer' chart- a position previously held by Chas and Dave's drummer, the mighty Mick Burt. He was on the hunt for a metronome (I don't think it was for him, he seems to be quite good at timekeeping!) which I'm pleased to say he found; it seemed unlikely that his credit card would be declined but he gave us cash anyway. Also in the shop at the time was Roger Brewer (Lee Ryder's drummer from a couple of post's back) who has known Glover for years and indeed roadied for Deep Purple for a while; after they'd said their hello's he introduced me to his old mate- I think I said something like 'I've seen you play a few times, it's great to meet you at last', all the while thinking 'OH GAWD IT'S THE BLOKE FROM DEEP PURPLE THAT'S HIM ON 'MADE IN JAPAN' AND EVERYTHING'. I nearly mentioned that John Kerrison had been in earlier in the week (Glover was in Episode Six before he joined Deep Purple) but in the end didn't get the chance. The 2 Roger's talked of meeting for a drink over the Christmas break and, unless my ears deceived me, invited me along. Excellent!

Tonight, back in the real world, I'm gigging with Austin in his duo Liquid Lunch, somewhere in darkest Essex. I've got about 30 songs to revise, and some to learn from scratch by such wild rock'n'roller's as David Gray and The Eagles so I'd better get on with it. This will be the night that the 2 Roger's invite me out for a drink...

Monday, December 17, 2007

'It's the boss on the phone...'

5 minutes or so ago, my mobile phone rang. It was Bruce Springsteen. He was, as usual, born to run, and he still wants to die with Wendy on the street tonight in an everlasting kiss.

I believed you were working with him Paul, honest!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blues, blues and more blues

3 gigs in 3 days- just like old times...

Thursday- Blues Brothers at The Pizza Express in Maidstone. We've played here quite a few times now and I still think it's a bit of an odd one; the nearest tables are close enough for the people sitting at them to touch us (or indeed, us to touch them- I must try that one day) and are almost always populated by people who look shocked when we start playing. Surely they've noticed that the stage is full of musical equipment which makes it likely that a band of some description is likely to be playing at some point in the evening?
Anyway it being near to Christmas there's people away gigging or otherwise- Mario's back as Jake, Stuart's on sax (the last show with him was something like 18 months ago!) and it's Dave the trumpet's last gig with us this year. And it's a good one, with pizza and cheesecake finding it's way to the stage for various hungry band members and pretty much the whole audience up and dancing by the end. We've already been booked for next New Year's Eve- but who's really thinking that far ahead?!?

Friday- Blues Brothers at Nailcote Hall near Coventry. It's a Christmas party for a hundred or so people in a marquee on the side of the hotel. Tony James from the excellent F.B.I. Band is in the hat and glasses with Mike, Richard (just returned from some European dates with Vanessa Mae) is on sax, Adam is on trumpet, Squirrel's on bass, Steve's on keyboards and Keith's on drums- and, unless something comes in at very short notice, it's our last gig of the year. Unusually Squirrel and myself found ourselves in the bar with Steve and Phil the sound man before the show; 2 somewhat over-refreshed young ladies in Blues Brothers outfits emerged from the venue with the words 'you'd never guess that we're solicitors on 60 grand a year each would you?'. 'Was that 60 grams a year?' said Phil looking pleased with himself, as Squirrel mused 'I wonder what they're soliciting for?' as only he can. By the end of our first number the dancefloor's full, and by the end of the show the place is going mad. Great stuff.

Saturday- The Lee Ryder Band at the rather punkily-named Pistols Wine Bar in Coulsden. I used to play in a rhythm and blues band called The Informers about 10 or so years ago- our drummer was Roger Brewer who's been playing with Lee for the last few years, and who called the other day to see if I was available to play 'this Saturday somewhere near Reigate'. When I asked about a setlist he just said something like 'oh, you've seen us play, you know what we do'- and he's right, I have seen them play and I do know what they do; they play, as Lee himself puts it, 'blues, blues and more blues'. In a desperate attempt to swot up on things, I have a look at their website... virtually the first thing I read is-

'where rehearsals don't feature, setlists are laughed at and none of the band know what is going to happen next or for that matter what has already happened- that's REAL blues'

After a suitably chaotic day in the shop- anyone would think Christmas was coming!- myself, Shirley and East, assisted by the latter's sat. nav. (rather peculiarly named 'Aggie' by it's owner) found our way to Coulsden which is indeed somewhere near Reigate. Paul the shop guv'nor, rather intrigued by the prospect of a gig with no setlist, has followed along. We load my gear in, order some drinks and wait... and wait... eventually Roger turns up. 'No one else here yet?' He looks a bit worried- we're due on in less than half an hour. Lee and Vince the bassist arrive a few minutes later; while he's setting his gear up Lee asks me if I know the Ray Charles song 'Hard Times' and runs through the chord sequence with me and Vince as we 'might play it later'. Then, at last, Janos the keyboard player comes through the door with 5 minutes to go- somehow everything is set up in time to start just after 9 o'clock.

'What shall we play?' asks Lee cheerily. 'Well, what did we start with last time?' says Vince. 'Don't know' says Lee. 'How about ''Reconsider Baby''?' 'Could do. Any other ideas?' 'Er... any songs you fancy playing Leigh?'

It's all true. There is no setlist.

Eventually we start with 'Reconsider Baby'. I'm too loud. As usual. Good.

Somewhere in the next couple of hours we play 2 sets of, to coin a phrase, blues, blues and more blues, neither of which includes 'Hard Times', the one song that we'd almost rehearsed. It's great fun- why would it be anything else?- and I'd almost forgotten what a great drummer Roger is. Excellent.

As we're leaving I spot a pile of magazines by the door- you know, the sort of free mag that you see everywhere these days. It was called 'CROYDON LIFE'. I give a copy to East, who is overjoyed. It was that kind of night. Oh, and Paul had to leave after the first set; he's got an early start Sunday, he's off to Paris where he's working with Bruce Springsteen. Other people's lives eh?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

God's Lonely Men

I went to a book launch last night- not something that I do every day of the week- at The Edgar Wallace public house in Essex Street, London WC2. Sounds grand doesn't it? The book in question is 'GOD'S LONELY MEN' by Pete Haynes- better known to the punk rock fraternity as Manic Esso, drummer in The Lurkers- and it's his story as a band member and beyond. It's very funny in places, very sad in others, and it's very very good indeed. (I'm not just saying that because I wrote the introduction, although that's not bad either!) And it's out just in time for Christmas. So, if you ask Santa nicely...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Crazy Times

It's been a long 3 days. A very long 3 days. Santa in a bra and g-string, policemen playing electronic drums and singing C.I.A. agents everywhere. Business as usual then.

It was The Ickenham Festival on Friday; all the shops stay open late, The Salvation Army band appear as if by magic (where are they the rest of the year?) and hundreds of people wander the streets saying things like 'it's a pity they don't do this sort of thing more often isn't it?' All good fun if a bit nerve-racking to have so many people in the shop at once, though Paul the guv'nor had recruited his family to help keep an eye on things. A moment of madness saw 2 uniformed policemen trying out some drums- Paul's wife Julie was dispatched with a camera immediately. I pulled the shutters down at 9.15; we'd been open 11 hours by then which seemed long enough...

Next time you're on the M5 passing the Weston-Super-Mare turn-off see if you can spot The Webbington Hotel- it's up on the hill amid what I would imagine to be some very picturesque little villages and scenery. (I say 'imagine to be' because I've only been there in the dark!) Myself and my Blues Brothers buddies played a Christmas party there on Saturday, almost a year to the day since our last visit. The venue's the same but the band's changed a bit since then- I remarked to Squirrel that only me, him and Dave remained from last year's show (not strictly true since Pete and Richard are still very much involved with the band but were away gigging elsewhere) which we both agreed was rather an odd thought... for once the motorways were running smoothly although it all went a bit wrong when we turned off for the hotel and the sat. nav. left us in the middle of nowhere; calls to the venue didn't help as much as they might have but we found it in the end- it was just around the corner from where we'd originally stopped.
After a quick (maybe a bit too quick?) sound check it was off drop our stuff off in the rather grandly named Charterhouse Suite before doing the decent thing and going to the bar. While I was queueing up I got a call from Pete (away gigging with C.J. in Belfast) who told me that they were on the same bill as John Wilson, one of Rory Gallagher's drummers. Excellent... meanwhile there's a lot of people about, many of which were rather scantily clad young ladies which did wonders for band morale.
9.45 and it's first set time. Neil's back with Mike in the hat and glasses, Ian and Dave are on sax and trumpet and Steve and Keith are on keyboards and drums. Squirrel's a long way away in the far-left hand corner of the stage on bass and I can't hear my guitar very well. As a matter of fact I can't hear anything very well. Phil's on sound which normally makes for good news all round but tonight something's not quite right- we miss a couple of cues and Keith mysteriously stops dead in the middle of 'I Feel Good'. But there's ladies dancing on stage and general merriment all round so we must be doing something right? And there's more of the same in the second set- the sounds still a bit strange, Keith mysteriously stops in the middle of 'Everybody Needs Somebody to Love' and the ladies and the merriment are still going strong. A rather strange show.

But if that's a strange show, then how do I describe last night's Price gig? Well... we returned to The Duke of Wellington in Shoreham to support Attila The Stockbroker's band Barnstormer who were playing a warm-up show before their upcoming German tour. Also on the bill were local lads The Fusion and Dave Lippman The Singing C.I.A. Agent, (yes, you read that bit right) and if that wasn't enough, it was Price singer Malcolm's birthday and our first gig for ages with Huggy on bass. The scene was set for chaos- and it didn't disappoint...
Myself, Huggy and East arrived just after 3.30 to find Attila setting up the P.A. and Malcolm & co. already looking a bit, shall we say, confused... The Fusion provided drums and amps for us all to use (thanks lads) and opened proceedings with a good set, a bit introspective for me in places but perhaps I'm just being a bit miserable. Then Dave Lippman became 'George Shrub, the Singing C.I.A. Agent'. And very good he was too, using a battered Martin guitar to great effect and delivering a very funny parody of how most of us would imagine a U.S. government agent to be.
Then it was our turn. For reasons best known only to himself Malcolm was wearing a Santa outfit, which he later removed to reveal a furry red bra and g-string (I'm pleased, and indeed relieved to say that the latter was worn over his jeans!) and was now officially very confused indeed. The first couple of songs had rather less words than I remember them having, though rather more worryingly 'She Belongs To Everyone' (a recently re-discovered song that none of us could remember writing!) had rather less bass guitar than it should have had- The Fusion's bass amp had stopped working. After a bit of coaxing had got it going again it finally gave up totally during 'Wonderland'- fortunately Huggy had his in the van so Malc and myself filled in time while he set it up by playing 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away'. We finished with a dedicated-to-Paul-Fox 'In A Rut', encored with 'Between The Lies' and must have done something right since we were offered 3 gigs on the back of our performance. I only hope that they don't think that we're like that all the time...
'Welcome to our rehearsal' said Attila as Barnstormer took to the stage with an excellent rendition of 'Baghdad Ska'. And it's true- they don't rehearse, they just play at The Duke of Wellington before going out on tour. And they were great, a true 'renaissance core' band (as Attila describes them, a cross between medieval music and hard core punk) if ever there was one. I must admit that myself and East developed quite a taste for the draft Budweiser by the end of their set- he gave a t-shirt away to a girl because she was tall (nothing ever really changes does it?) and I received a text message from Malcolm this morning saying that he hoped he 'wasn't too embarrassing'.

Let's hope not eh?

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Every so often a gig comes along that redefines the word 'unique'. Such was last night's event- a Christmas party held at The University Women's Club ('A London haven for discerning women') in London's Audley Square. I travelled up to Green Park on the tube and followed the directions from their website; they were right, it was only a 10-or-so minute walk. They didn't mention that the large white building that you walk past to get there has an armed police guard outside it- I know that size isn't everything but these were big guns. I could feel myself looking guilty as I passed them; they carried on talking, I carried on walking. Scary- it's still something that we don't see very often on here isn't it?
I found the club and went inside. I immediately felt as though I'd gone back in time to maybe the early part of the 20th century. An atmosphere of austere formality prevailed- for example, during the course of the evening most of us had to be reminded that the use of mobile phones was not permitted in the club. We were playing in the library- yes, it is ironic don't you think?- which I was told was upstairs. It was a playback show (myself on guitar, Pete and Mike on vocals, Squirrel on bass and Dave on trumpet and percussion, all playing along with backing tracks) with Joe providing the P.A. and lights. As I walked into the library I couldn't help but notice 2 things:-
(1) there were decorations and streamers hanging down from helium-filled balloons which had floated up to the ceiling, and
(2) There was a long table set for the guests along the left hand side of the room.
Walking past the table I guessed to myself that it was set for about 20 people. I was wrong- it was actually set for 21 people which Pete informed me was the sum total of our audience.
'Kelp' said Dave, looking very pleased with himself. 'Kelp. That's what it looks like don't you think?' He placed his left hand palm down on his forehead so that he could wave his fingers around in front of his eyes. I couldn't resist it- 'Isn't that an album by The Beatles?' 'Yes!' he roared, 'Kelp! I need somebody!'

It was funny at the time, ok?

We were booked to play 3 sets- 30 minutes of 'dinner music' while the food was served then an hour of Blues Brothers, with 30 minutes of 'party music' to end the evening. Pete had been to see Michael Buble the night before which may or may not have influenced his choice of material for the first set- mostly swing songs and ballads, most of which I had absolutely no idea how to play; I wasn't much better on the party set, though I at least stood a chance on them. So it would have been a good idea to spend a bit of time trying to work out some of the chord sequences wouldn't it?
Yes it would. Instead I went off to The Clarence pub on Dover Street to meet Kate the ticket mistress for a drink. Sadly she'll not be the ticket mistress much longer, as she's changing jobs amid some acrimony. Much ranting occurred, so I gave her a Clash bootleg in the hope that it would cheer her up. Well- it always works for me.
8.30 and it's time for our first set; we kick off with 'Moondance' to a mixture of bemusement and confusion- and that's just from me and Squirrel. Dave plays a wonderful trumpet solo, I attempt some vaguely jazzy guitar that actually doesn't sound too bad. Ha!
'Hmm- that's an easy one to get caught on' said Dave, presumably referring to my hilarious attempt at the chord sequence to 'Fly Me to the Moon'. I got him back on to the kelp gags immediately. I really must sit down and try to learn some jazz guitar one day.
The second set's much better- well, it should be if you think about it. The undoubted highlight occurred when the guests were given what can only be described as 'indoor fireworks' with their pudding. As the sparklers went off amid general hilarity Dave grabbed my arm- 'look at it- the Mad Hatter's tea party. I love it!"
By the third set we're in a parallel universe where 4- count 'em, 4- people are dancing wildly to 'Suspicious Minds' while the rest of them appear and re-appear seemingly at random. An extraordinary, unforgettable performance. And to think we get paid for this madness...

We finished in time for me to get the tube home. That's good- I often have to get the night bus. As I was walking home from the tube station I became aware of a car moving slowly along the other side of the road. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that it was a police car. I thought about the armed policemen earlier- surely I couldn't have looked that guilty?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Loud guitar, louder trousers

There's not been much blogging time of late, not least due to the fact that both home and shop computers have been malfunctioning. I did make an attempt to use a terminal in Uxbridge library but to no avail...

It's been a very busy time in the shop, as you might expect at this time of year. There seems to be a never-ending supply of large cardboard boxes to be manhandled from shop to storeroom and back again (no wonder I've got a bad back!) whilst attempting to simultaneously serve customers, answer the phone and, in the case of this Monday afternoon, do an interview for the local paper. Paul the guv'nor and myself fended off all the usual questions while trying not to look too awkward posing for pictures in front of the counter. It's due out near the end of this month, just in time for Christmas...

Last weekend saw 2 highly enjoyable gigs depping in The Cane Toads whose guitarist Malcolm was away with his family. Friday was at The Woodman in Northwood, (an excellent pub venue and a regular haunt of the band's) Saturday at The South Lodge hotel in Chelmsford at a 60th birthday party for David, a mate of the band. We had a couple of rehearsals which was no bad thing- I had over 40 songs to learn, most of which I'd not played before. And it's a varied setlist too, running from recent stuff by the likes of The Zutons and The Kaiser Chiefs to oldies from Thin Lizzy and The Stones. All good stuff, but quite a challenge to get right. I used my Greco Zemaitis-alike which I bought earlier this year- the first time I've used it in a band situation. It's got a 2-octave neck which has taken a bit of getting used too- in fact I'm not sure I have got used to it as I 'overshot' a couple of times resulting in some very unusual moments in the solos... and I used my old Marshall combo which I'd not used since last year's Price gigs- it sounded great once I'd remembered that it only sounds great if you turn it up LOUD. Martin the singer (who could politely be described as 'a character') excelled himself at the Chelmsford show by changing into a pair of shiny red leather trousers for the second set- he'd wore a shiny black pair for the first half which had been outrageous enough, though clearly not outrageous enough for him. Good man.

Talking of The Price, last night we rehearsed for next weekend's gig in Shoreham. East has put some video up on our website- suffice to say it was a highly enjoyable blast from the past which should make for a memorable gig. Before then though there are 2 Blues Brothers gigs to contend with, as well as late night opening at the shop this Friday- more news as and when I have it, as they say...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I'm off home to practise!

Jeff Beck is probably the best electric guitarist that I will ever see.

I saw him at Ronnie Scott's club in London earlier this week- he was beyond extraordinary. For a start, half of those notes that he was playing don't appear to be on any of my guitars- or if they are, I can't find 'em (and I've looked. Trust me, I've looked). And the sounds that he got out of the damn thing aren't on them either; maybe you need his hands?!? With Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Jason Robello on keyboards and Tal Wilkenfeld (an almost impossibly young-looking lady) on bass he began with 'Beck's Bolero', and from the first notes it couldn't have been anybody else playing- that's how good he is. For the next hour-and-a half the world stood still. Well, mine did anyway. I've got to say that I personally don't always like his music- a bit too jazzy, a bit too, well, clever for me (if you know what I mean), but that's not the point here. I've never seen the electric guitar played like this by anybody else- melody lines on harmonics bent in and out of tune with the tremolo arm, notes so high that they're actually above the conventional range of the instrument; using a slide with his right hand to play over the pick-ups, again producing sounds that most of us can't even imagine coming from a guitar let alone being able to work out how to play them (as the long-suffering Shirley put it, 'it sounds almost like whale-calls'- and it did), using the volume and tone controls to change the sound of adjacent notes so that no note sounded like the one before or after it- astonishing. Robert Plant was at the bar; Joss Stone got up to sing 'People Get Ready'-I'm told that the next night Eric Clapton got up and played some blues. That would have been worth seeing- but what we saw was worth seeing, in the way that seeing something that you'll never forget as long as you live is worth seeing, in the way that things that change your life are worth seeing. The set closed with 'A Day in the Life', a performance of such overwhelming power that I almost felt that they should have refused to do an encore- but 'Where were you' had me wipe a tear from my eye, such was the feeling of yearning that he managed to create. Well, that's what I got from it- I wonder what, or indeed who he was thinking of..?

Jeff Beck is probably the best electric guitarist that I will ever see.

Have you any idea how much that means to me?