Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hayes'd and confused

So- did the local-ish lad make good?

Without wishing to sound too immodest- yes, I think I did. I'd managed to shake off the mystery virus enough to get through the set without wincing too much (I feel as though I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday asleep. Maybe I did!) and only came unstuck once- in of all songs 'Rawhide', where my left hand refused to do as it was told for a couple of seconds choosing instead to send a dull pain the length of my arm to my shoulder. Ouch! Still given how I'd felt the previous couple of days that was nothing too much to worry about. My Dad came along (he complained to me that there weren't enough guitar solos!) as did several members of Shirley's family and quite a few Pro Music shop regulars (Hi Ian, Jen, Morgan et al) as well as quite a few friends, all of whom unwittingly contrived to make it an oddly nervous experience for your humble narrator, albeit a very enjoyable one. Oh and I managed to play the riff from 'Purple Haze' during my bit of the band introductions in 'Sweet Home Chicago'.

'Purple Hayes'- get it? Well, it made me laugh!

Anyway a couple of weeks ago in a act of shameless self-publicity I sent out some e-mails and text messages to various people who I thought might have been interested in attending the show; almost immediately I started getting replies along the lines of 'is it really £16 to get in?'/'is there a guest list?'/'can I get in for nothing if I come down with you?' and so on. It was amusing (not to say predictable!) to begin with, but I must admit I was surprised how irritating it became. It would seem to me to be obvious that if everybody gets in for nothing then the show can't take place (which is of course true of any event at any level) and with 9 people in the band it's easy to get a situation where if everyone would like an average of 2 guests at a show then there's 18 people getting in for nothing. On some evenings that could be the difference between financial life and death- very few venues will fail to notice that! Then again I suppose £16 is quite a lot of money for some people (clearly people who have never been to see The Rolling Stones, but that's another story.) It's quite a complex situation isn't it? I must admit that in the end I got so fed up with people asking for free tickets that I just told everyone that there wasn't any- which of course meant that there wasn't, including for people who I would have liked to have offered a guest ticket. Even my Dad paid to get in!

I'm not really sure what point I'm trying to make here, other than to say that I probably ended up doing the ticketing equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face; then again I've never really understood what that saying means!

Moan moan moan, that's all I do- but next time I go to see one of my mates play and I hear myself something like 'is there any chance of putting my name on the door?' I'll remember just how many times I've heard those words in the last week or so...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Unstabled in Dunstable (again!)

If you go back in these hallowed pages to last May you'll find the 'Unstabled, undressed' posting in which I make the observation that if you take the 'D' from the start of 'Dunstable' and put it on the end you get 'unstabled'. We played there again last night, and the same observation applies, if not more so this time...

I woke up yesterday morning (which doesn't quite sound as good at the start of a blues song as 'I woke up this morning' does it? It's amazing what a difference one word makes...) feeling rather unwell. As I got out of bed and stood up I realised that my feet hurt. Actually I realised that my legs, arms, hands, in fact pretty much everything hurt. Not a good start to the day I think you'll agree- but I wasn't due to be in the shop so at least I could take it easy until we have to leave for the gig, and it'd probably be a good idea if I walk into Uxbridge to visit the pharmacist in Boots, and actually now that I think abut it I haven't been feeling 100% for a while- a bit like I've got flu even though I haven't if you know what I mean. I took it all a bit more seriously when Shirley noticed that my hands were swollen- after all I'm going to need them at the gig. Ok Shirl, I'll go to the pharmacist ('they'll only tell you to take paracetamol and drink lots of water, and to go to the doctors if you've still got it tomorrow') and see what they say... yeah, you've guessed it, they told me to take paracetamol and drink lots of water, and to go the doctors if I've still got it tomorrow ('told you so') which I did at 10 past 9 this morning- I was in there for a good 90 seconds during which he told me that I've got 'something viral'; have a guess what he told me to do next... he then said that I should come and see him again in a month if it hasn't gone by then. A month! A bloody month! Help!

I woke up on the settee just after 3.10 p.m. with Shirley reminding me that Mario was due in 20 minutes or so. Better get the car loaded up then- my hands aren't as bad as they were earlier and playing a couple of chords on the trusty Telecaster isn't as painful as it was so hopefully all should be well tonight. Despite the M1 being down to 50 m.p.h. due to the seemingly never-ending roadworks we're at The Grove Theatre by 4.30 where attempts to get the barrier raised so that we can park at the back of the venue to load in are met by an annoying jobsworth on the intercom informing us that we would have to go and park in the public car park nearby. A phone call to Pete soon gets us in 'though not before we've cursed the ground that the jobsworth walks upon. It's the A-Team line-up last seen in Tonbridge last week, with Pete's wife Jayne co-ordinating the backstage costume changes during the show, ably assisted by the long-suffering Shirley. Pete had called earlier in the day to say that he'd reversed the set-up on stage to give Marc back on the drums a better view of the band- it's hard to describe it here but as you look at the stage from the audience you now see Marc on a riser behind Squirrel and myself on your left, Dave and Richard on a riser behind Ian on your right with Tracy in front of them and Mario and Mike centre stage with a walkway between the 2 risers to allow entrances and exits from the stage. Confused? I certainly was... a bit... but it's amazing how quickly you get used to something though isn't it? By the end of the first set it was hard to remember how it used to be, with the only slightly weird moment from myself and Squirrel's point of view coming when we had to work out who stands where for 'Green Onions'- come and see the show and you'll see what I mean... and it's a fine gig with the 400+ audience with us all the way and the band benefiting from having played so often lately. Great stuff.

Me? Well my hands hurt despite the amount of industrial strength painkillers that I'd taken, but I didn't play too badly all things considered... maybe I've had 'something viral' for the last couple of weeks? It'd go someway towards explaining my lousy gig in Basildon, head ache in France... hmm... I wonder how I'll be for the Beck Theatre gig this coming Friday?

On the way home we missed the turning off the M1 for the M25; bad sign posting, didn't have the sat. nav. on- or just unstabled? You decide...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tonbridge 2, Harlow 1

What do you think of sat. nav.'s? They're clever aren't they, if a little sinister- 'they' can know where 'we' are at any time can't 'they'? We've only had one for a short while and they're certainly useful enough- when they work that is...

Thursday and the long-suffering Shirley are on our way to Tonbridge (not Maidstone- but more about that in a minute...) for 2 Chicago Blues Brothers shows over 2 nights at The E.M. Forster Theatre. The afore-mentioned sat. nav takes us straight there- the disembodied female voice says the words 'you have reached your destination' just as a sign advising us to turn right for the theatre appears in front of us. Aren't sat. nav.'s brilliant?!? The theatre is actually part of the Tonbridge Boys School which I'm told is the second most expensive private school in the country at £28,000 a year (I wonder what the most expensive one is then? Someone mentioned Eton which was met with a derisive 'Slough Grammar?' from John the theatre boss.) The novelist E. M. Forster attended the school, hence his name adorning the theatre- and what an excellent little set-up it is, with facilities to rival many of the 'real' theatres that we find ourselves playing in. It's small enough for us to use Mario's P.A.- when we arrive he's more-or-less set up and ready to go. It's the first A-team show for a while; Mario & Mike are Jake & Elwood, Squirrel & Marc are on bass & drums, Dave & Richard are on trumpet & saxophone, Ian's on keyboards, Tracy's on vocals whilst your humble narrator opts for his white '60's Classic Telecaster instead of his Baja model (you can't have too many now can you?!?) Pete's on hand to direct operations, and soundcheck rather unusually consists of Squirrel singing 'Some Kind of Wonderful'- I'm not quite sure how that happened but it sounded pretty good to me.
8 p.m and with the theatre looking to me to be about 3/4 full (with 70 or so in the audience- it's open to 'real' people rather than just the school boarders and staff) it's showtime. Shirley and Nadia (Ian's wife) watched us on the T.V. in the foyer- they were on merchandise duties both nights- and both said that it was a good one; it certainly felt like it from where I was standing with the band sounding good and Tracy winning friends and influencing people amongst the teenage lads in the front row.
Since we're doing 2 nights we can leave everything in place overnight; although it's not that far from us Shirley and myself decide to stay away for the night, and to that end get ourselves a Travelodge in... Medway, 20 miles away. Why? Because we were originally told the gig was in Maidstone, that's why. I won't bore you with the details but the agency involved may or may not have been to blame... armed with the Travelodge's postcode we set the sat. nav. and get going. Before long we're winding our way to the middle of nowhere along roads barely wide enough for one car let alone two, and it's been ages since we've seen a street light, and surely this can't be the way... suddenly the disembodied female voice says the magic words 'you have reached your destination'- and there, incredibly, is the Travelodge. Aren't sat. nav.'s brilliant?!?

Er, no, actually they're not. Well, they weren't the next day when, in attempting to make our way to Tunbridge Wells for the day we ended up a few hundred yards away from The Dartford Tunnel. Not good, 'though amusing in hindsight- and proof, were it ever needed, that you shouldn't switch your common sense off just because you've switched a piece of technology on...

Friday night's show is even better than Thursday's, with the sold out audience getting into it from the word go and everyone on stage rising to the occasion accordingly. Afterwards there's a near riot around the merchandise desk with Shirley and Nadia doing a roaring trade and one chap telling me and Marc that we'd just played the best version of 'Sweet Home Chicago' that he'd ever heard. A fine evening- hopefully we'll be back there sometime next year.

Saturday saw a 'real' theatre show, at The Playhouse in Harlow. Back in the '80's and '90's The Price played a lot in Harlow, mostly at The Square which was one of the best venues of it's type in the country at that time. It fell into disrepair in the meantime 'though it's getting back to full strength which is good news; it's now co-owned by Richard Holgarth who was the sound man when we used to play there and is now also guitarist for Eddie and the Hot Rods and John Otway. He couldn't make last night's show as he was busy at his own venue (that's a damn good excuse for not being able to be somewhere don't you think?) 'though he did call over to say hello and to remind me that we've 'got to get The Price up here again soon'. Hmm.. better phone the lads then...

Harlow seemed a very long way away around 4.30 in the afternoon when Shirley and myself, along with several hundred others, were standing on the forecourt of Uxbridge Civic Centre in the midst of a security alert. With rumours of a bomb scare abounding the truth was somewhat more mundane- it often is don't you think? Someone in the 'Madhouse' clothes shop in The Chimes shopping centre had turned a heater on (odd behaviour considering that it was such a lovely day) and, since it was dusty as it hadn't been used for a while, it set the fire/smoke alarm off; somehow within minutes this became a full evacuation of the centre. Shirley works in the centre and her car was parked in the car park so all we could do was wait... it was 5.30 before we were allowed back in; fortunately the M25 was clear for once.
I hadn't been up to Harlow for a while and hadn't been to The Playhouse before so once again it's sat. nav. time. This time it took us a rather obscure back road route through some of the less appealing areas of town before thankfully delivering us right outside the venue (I knew sat. nav.'s were brilliant really, I never doubted it for a minute, honest!) where Tracy is leaning out of her car window talking to a rather nervous looking chap- it turns out that he used to follow The Moody Blues around when she was singing for them and she'd not seen him for years. Meanwhile Pete's on the phone directing us to the car park around the back of the venue where one of the theatre staff takes forever to unlock the barrier to let us in. Ian Bond is back on sound man duties (he's been away in The U.S.A. with King Crimson- call the prog rock police immediately!) and with Mario and Richard off gigging elsewhere Bev is on sax with Pete back in the hat and glasses. The rest of the band have already soundchecked so I get set up, check it all works and head to the bar for a large lager.
It's a 7.30 show and, with the band well warmed up after the Tonbridge shows it's an energetic performance all round. It's also longtime C.B.B. fan Mike's 52nd birthday (that was him who helped us negotiate check-in at Stansted during our South of France adventure last week) and he got up on stage with us to sing 'Funky Nassau' (brave man!- as he put it to me afterwards, 'it's a sea of faces out there') which he made a pretty good job of considering he'd never done anything like it before. Pete got into a highly amusing conversation with a young lady near the front at the start of 'Do You Love Me?' and Mike gave a heartfelt dedication to his grandparents who were in the audience and celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary that day. A great gig.
Afterwards in the bar I meet up with Steve Drewett and his lady Claire. Steve was the guitarist and songwriter in The Newtown Neurotics (later known more simply as The Neurotics) who I used to watch all the time in the mid '80's and who The Price did quite a few gigs with back in the day. On the phone to him earlier I'd mentioned the security alert in Uxbridge; in the course of our conversation he reminded me about a show that we'd played together at Brunel University in 1987 when there was a bomb scare after our set and we all ended up out in the car park at the time that they should have been going on. They went on to play one of the best shows that I ever saw them play.

Home time and thanks to our sat. nav. we end up on the A10 near Hoddesdon. That can't be right... but it is, it put us back on the M25 a couple of junctions nearer to home than we would have otherwise had been. Once again I'd never doubted it for a minute, honest- but how come it didn't take us there that way?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The great gig in the sky

It's sad to hear that Pink Floyd's keyboard player Richard Wright has died. As I recounted back in April they play a suitably odd part in my little story (see 'A death in the family' for reasons why) and even though I myself don't listen to their music very often it's pretty obvious even to me that he was an exceptional musician in an extremely successful and influential band. Whenever someone such as this leaves us I always think about how much various musicians mean to me even though I've never met them; someone who's had the career he's had will leave behind a lot of grieving people, and that's something to reflect on regardless of your opinion of their music which, for the record, sounds a lot better to me these days than it ever used to. Perhaps that means I'm getting old- or maybe I'm just catching up with everyone else at last?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

'Oh no- not the South of France again...'

I've just returned from playing another show for the Ballentyne company, on the Isle Des Embiez off the South of France. We did our first show there for them in April this year (see 'Taxi to the terminal zone' posting for the full gory story) and it was great to be asked back to play there again. Surely something like this can never become 'routine' can it?
Well I don't know; I guess even the most exotic location becomes relatively ordinary if you live and/or work there?

Richard and I left his house around 9.30 yesterday morning; around 10.10 we pulled into car park A at Stansted Airport, with Pete and Mike arriving 5 or so minutes later and parking next to us. The roads were clear but the journey should have taken nearer to an hour- I think we may have broken the speed limit? A ride on the shuttle bus gets us to the terminal where we meet up with the rest of the band; it's another A-team show except for Steve depping for Dave on trumpet, and Tracy being absent as she's away singing with Band Du Lac who feature lesser-known Ripley blues guitarist Eric Clapton among other luminaries. (I am outraged! How could she have chosen him over me?!? Answers on a postcard please, usual address... actually thinking about it, it might be better for my fragile confidence if you don't answer that question!) We're aided and abetted by Pete's mate Mike who works at the airport; he attempts to fast track us through, but check-in still takes a while, with your humble narrator being singled out for special treatment as I'd inadvertently left a key ring in my trouser pocket. Our flight's delayed from 12.30 to 14.10; according to Captain Morgan (isn't that something to do with rum?) it's all due to 'English air traffic control'. He sounds a bit of a character to say the least, attempting announcements in the most American-sounding French accent I've ever heard but he gets us there without too much trauma ('say mannerfeek!) through there was rather more turbulence than most of us would have liked.
We land at Marseilles Airport at 5 p.m local time, where we're met by 2 un-named taxi drivers holding GROUPE BLUES BROTHERS signs. There's a big car and a small car ('beeg onez wiv eeem' as the driver of the smaller one put it) and we wind our way through the busy Marseilles streets and out along the coastal road, past the hotel in Sanary where we stayed last time and arrived in time to catch the 8 o'clock ferry. Where on Earth had the time gone? We're due on at 10.30... the island looks beautiful with the sun setting over it, we're met there by a bus from the l'Hotel Helios where we're both staying and playing. Sound check is a suitably swift affair- I'm using a Mesa Boogie Mark IV combo which sounds amazing if a little 'rock' for the music we're playing 'though the last thing I'm going to do is complain!
Time to find our rooms- I'm sharing Grand Large 5 with Marc which is more of an apartment than a room, with 3 beds in his section and 2 beds in mine, but there's no time for any settling in as it's straight back downstairs for some food. Being a vegetarian in France is not a particularly easy option- my starter was a sliced raw mushroom with a bit of salad, while my main course was 2 pieces of asparagus with what might best be described as 'left-over vegetables'. Oh well- it's my decision as to what I eat... it was enough to give me a headache, so I retired hurt to my room for some painkillers and to get changed for the gig. It's a 1 hour show for the German contingent of the company which goes well with an audience member requesting 'Rawhide' and another calling out for 'Sweet Home'; 'no problem' says Pete, 'though it turns out they wanted 'Sweet Home Alabama' not 'Sweet Home Chicago'. Did they think we were a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band I wonder? After not playing well at last week's Basildon show I was pleased that I played a bit better this time, but something's still not quite right. Off home to practise then...
With the rest of the lads getting stuck into cocktails I decided to have a relatively early night around 12.45 (I really did have a headache!) When I got back to my room it seemed a bit warm, so I opened the window a bit; I then spent half of the night lying awake wondering where that bloody banging was coming from. Yes, you've guessed it, it was the window moving in the breeze... I got up at 8, just as Marc was off downstairs for breakfast. 'There's no plug in the bath' he warned; there was also no way of hanging the shower hose on the wall which made for an unusually eventful shower with water going everywhere; then again maybe I just wasn't awake properly? Still there's enough non-meaty food for breakfast to cheer me up no end (I wasn't particularly unhappy, but you know what I mean I think?) and we make it to the return ferry in good time. We're met on the mainland by our drivers who negotiate the journey back to the airport in a considerably safer manner than last time... we check in, go through security (it's Marc's turn to get stopped this time, they confiscate his drum tuning keys!) and have a look around the shops. Eventually we're called through; whilst waiting in the queue I suddenly realise that I recognise someone a few people ahead of us- it's Geoff Irwin, who was one of the bass player's in Neck when I worked with them. He was over for a family holiday, and I hadn't seen him for at least 3 years; it turns out he's now working in Ireland (he's from Cork- he once told me he could take me 'to the street Heggarty comes from' and 'show me around the Rory Gallagher bits of Cork'. Excellent!) doing live sound for bands which could prove useful as we're due to be over there for a week or so next February. It was great to see him again, and an amazing co-incidence too- you never meet people that you know in your own area do you, let alone in another country?!?

Our plane took off at 13.20, arrived back at Stansted just before 2 o'clock (they're an hour ahead of us) and Richard and myself arrived back at his house around a quarter to four. We'd been away for around 30 hours, less than 20 of which were spent on French soil. Nothing routine about that now is there?

Pete's put some other thoughts about this trip on our 'band blog' at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

'It's a CD. You put it in a CD player and press play...'

Just got in from the Hayes FM interview, and good fun it was too. As I mentioned in my post last week it had been ages since I last did something like this, and I'd forgotten how quickly it goes by- it felt as though I was on for about 30 seconds 'though I think it was probably nearer to 5 minutes. I took along a copy of our CD for them to play; the first thing Jill (of 'Phil and Jill' fame- disappointingly there was no sign of Phil) said was something like 'ooh, no one's ever bought anything along before, can someone show me what to do now?' Hmm... still, as 'China in Your Hand' by T'Pau faded out I was suddenly on the air-

'So then Leigh, tell me all about the show'

It's at moments like these that I realise how hard it is to describe what we do in a few words; either that or you I don't actually know anything about the show... still we managed to get most of the relevant points covered, and the interview ended with Jill asking me to tell the listeners where and when we were playing.

I answered triumphantly- 'The Chicago Blues Brothers are playing at The Beck Theatre in Hayes on Friday 26th September'- then sat back from the microphone, no doubt looking all too pleased with myself.

'Ok, and what's the address and phone number of that, and how can people get tickets?'

It seems like our show wasn't the only thing that I didn't know anything about... still, at least I got through it without swearing! Oh and she thought I owned a record shop in Pinner- even down the world's worst phone line that doesn't sound even slightly like 'works in a musical instrument shop in Ickenham' does it? - for tickets and, yes, their address and phone number!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Suit you sir?

A busy day yesterday, with a wedding in the afternoon (not my own I hasten to add!) and a gig in the evening. I can't remember another day when I've worn 2 suits!

The wedding took place at The Grim's Dyke Hotel near Hatch End- the former residence of W.S. Gilbert no less- where Shirley's friend Ann married Tony in a ceremony that got off to a false start when the CD player malfunctioned meaning that the assembled multitude sat in awkward silence while various hotel staff tried not to look flustered. 'Unchained Melody' eventually found it's way out of the speakers and everything went well in the end.

The gig was a Chicago Blues Brothers date at The Towngate Theatre in Basildon. An unusually clear M25 meant that we arrived in good time to set up and soundcheck, at the end of which Shirley took some photos of me to use as part of my Fender endorsement (did I mention that I've got an endorsement deal with Fender?!?) I'm not too good at photos at the best of times and look suitably awkward in these ones, 'though at least the first suit of the day looks good... and talking of photos Pete gave me a blown-up version of the picture of me with Steve Cropper which would look great on my recording studio wall, if I had one. Apart from Ian depping for Richard on sax it's an A-team gig which goes down well with the audience, 'though a frightening moment occurred during 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' when Squirrel was forced to stop playing due to pain in his left arm. That's something to keep an eye on. Oh and Mike burned a hole in the back of his suit jacket when he inadvertently put it down on a light bulb which was hot enough to burn through the cloth. I thought there was a giant insect on his back when I first saw it; when I looked again and saw it was a hole I thought he'd been shot!
Me? Well in my not-so-humble opinion I played the worst show that I've done for a long time. I wasn't too bad on rhythm, but anything involving a solo was just TERRIBLE, like I had no idea how the songs went. You get 'off nights' and this was certainly one of mine- then again no one else seemed to notice! Given the CD problems earlier in the day it might just not have been a day for anything involving me and music- or maybe one suit is enough for any day?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Moonie and Poly- 30 years on

It seems appropriate to me, in my odd little world, that this post is linked to the last one by the twin peaks of punk rock and The Who. Today is the 30th anniversary of Keith Moon's death (I told my brother Terry this last night and he was incredulous that it was that long ago. I know what he means!) and he's still thought by many to be the symbol of rock'n'roll outrage, and by others to be an example of all that is wrong with celebrity behaviour. Me- well as I said last time, he's one of the great missing links in my chain of watching live music, and whilst it would be churlish to suggest that he couldn't be destructive to both himself and those around him I'd like to think he had a humour missing from so many other 'outrageous' personalities (see the long out-of-print book 'Moon The Loon' by his driver Pete 'Dougal' Butler for any number of examples) that makes the good bits outweigh the bad by no little distance. And anyway, just listen to the music- 'I Can See For Miles', 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and the 'Live At Leeds' album to name but three examples of his drumming genius- many have tried, many will continue to try, but no one else plays like that.

I remember in the earlier days of punk rock (1976-ish if you're counting) reading about these rather odd looking bands emerging from what seemed to me to be subterranean London; The Who were one of the few 'older' bands that any of them seemed to have any sort of respect for, even to the extent that The Sex Pistols played 'Substitute' in their live shows. Last night saw yet another visit back to those days in the form of a show by X-Ray Spex (their 3rd single 'Identity' had just been released when Moonie died) at The Roundhouse in Camden Town. Myself, Big Andy, my brother Terry and his 14 year old daughter Anna (start 'em young eh?!?) arrived just in time to catch Goldblade taking to the stage for a half hour or so of shouty anthems which went down well with the rapidly-arriving audience, even to the extent that they managed to squeeze an encore. I'd not seen them before and found them to be a bit same-y but good raucous fun none-the-less, with noted writer John Robb (who I met at last year's Ruts/Rollins collaboration) turning out to be an excellently mad frontman.
In true punk rock tradition- and in almost total darkness- X-Ray Spex started 'Oh Bondage Up Yours' before the P.A. had been turned on; the lights came up to reveal Poly Styrene and... well, some blokes. Still it sounded good- well, it sounded pretty much how X-Ray Spex always sounded i.e. a bit chaotic- with Poly as unco-ordinated as ever but brilliant all the same. I think that in many ways they were one of the definitive punk bands in that they couldn't have happened without the 'movement' to which they belonged, yet they were a very different band to many of their contemporaries. Musically the saxophone always set them apart, and lyrically the observations on consumerism and all that implies still sounded oddly relevant today, if a little dated in places- I wonder if anyone under 30 knows what 'Instamatic' refers to?. The audience forgave any shortcomings (it really was a bit too chaotic in places!) and sang along with every word, and the final, clearly unscheduled encore (a repeat of 'The Day The World Turned Dayglo') saw Poly looking genuinely taken aback by the reaction that they'd received. Back to the future then...

As we left a slightly over-refreshed Big Andy (he rarely drinks as he's normally driving) pointed out 2 women to me. One was, shall we say, rather attractive- although her attractiveness was somewhat diminished when we realised that her mate was wearing an SS uniform. Some people never learn do they?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Best of British

If I could choose to see any band from any time, that I didn't see either because I was too young or just because I missed them for whatever reason, then I think I would choose to see The Who.

Well I guess I'd better qualify that statement since I've seen a band called 'The Who' lots of times- but I mean the actual Who, with Keith Moon on drums. They always seem to me to be pretty much the perfect band, even more than The Beatles (mind you, I wouldn't have minded seeing them either!) where the sum is greater than the parts and something called 'rock'n'roll' is available in almost incalculable amounts. If I was being really picky then I'd choose to see them in 1971 when, with 'Who's Next' just released and Townshend toting a Gibson SG, they surely justified the title of 'the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world'- but any gig with Moonie behind the kit would seem to me to be well worth braving the time machine for.

And if I could see any instrumentalist then it would have to be Jimi Hendrix. Well, what electric guitarist wouldn't? I watch footage of him regularly, and when doing so I often try to imagine the impact he must have had on the British pop music scene when he arrived here in the Autumn of 1966. I've spoken to so many people who saw him, met him, even played with him, and almost without exception they sound as astounded now as I'm sure I would have been 40-odd years ago. The original guitar hero- and the original is still the best.

But I've been lucky- I've seen bands (The Clash, The Jam, Led Zeppelin and The Ramones to name but a few) whose names cause young people's jaws to drop when you tell them that you actually witnessed a performance by them, and I've seen guitarists as diverse as Wilko Johnson and Jeff Beck that have made me want to literally run to the nearest guitar and play it, such was the inspirational force of their performance. But, most of all, I've been lucky enough to see a punk rock group called The Sex Pistols.

Surely more nonsense has been written and spoken about The Pistols than about any other act in the wild'n'wacky showbiz world:-
'They can't play'- rubbish, of course they can play. As musicians the way that they play cannot and indeed should not be compared to the perceived virtuosity of the bands that they helped to make sound obsolete back in '76/'77- but what's the point of being able to play 'well' if all you do with your ability is create the sort of mindlessly pompous self-indulgent drone that I saw on T.V. the other night when I stumbled across a Yes concert from The Montreux Festival a few years ago; the long-suffering Shirley, who up until this point had been lucky enough to have never heard them before, thought that that were tuning up when they were actually halfway through their first song.
'They were a manufactured band'- only if you believe 'The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle', and I'd hope that we can all think for ourselves by now. And surely the only person capable of manufacturing 'Johnny Rotten' was John Lydon himself?
'They shouldn't have reformed'- why not, exactly? They sounded so good in 1996 that even their detractors went some way towards eating their words. And it was extraordinary how contemporary they sounded, and how relevant many of the lyrics still were- maybe they were right all along after all, or perhaps just ahead of their time?
And on and on it goes ('they're stupid'- Lydon's a lot of things, but 'stupid' definitely isn't one of them; 'They're hypocrites for making all that money'- why? Do you work for nothing?) with the blind leading the blind and the bland leading the bland, united against a group that can still ignite hatred bordering on hysteria amongst the non-believers. I've written a lot about them in these hallowed pages, both from the perspective of an audience member and as a guitarist playing their songs in a tribute band, and last November I wrote words to the effect of 'nothing anyone says or does ever changes anybody's opinion on them'. I still think that's true, particularly after seeing them last night at The Hammersmith Apollo (it's still the Odeon to me!) which to someone who doesn't for want of a better term 'get' them would probably have been 100 minutes of pure torture; on the other hand to those of us fortunate enough to 'get' The Sex Pistols it was surely one of best things we'll see all year, maybe even ever. Yes it's still the same songs ('though rumours abound of a new album) but how much better does a setlist get than one which includes 'Pretty Vacant', 'Submission', 'No Feelings'... and there may be rock'n'roll songs that are as good as 'God Save The Queen' but at this moment in time I for one can't think of any that are better than it. And by that last statement I don't just mean the quality of the songwriting- I'm talking about the idea of rebellion, of self-expression, of all the things that hopeless romantics such as myself get from listening to something as simple as a three minute long piece of pop music. I've never played any other songs like theirs, and I don't think I ever will; there's a genuine sense of power contained within them that is utterly unlike any other music that I've encountered, to such an extent that it's almost as though when you sing 'I wanna be, anarchy' that you actually are. And if that sounds pretentious, then I don't care- it'll never sound as pretentious as a band that sounds as though they're tuning up, when they're actually halfway through a song...

Like I say, you either 'get' The Sex Pistols or you don't- rather like the way that you either 'get' rock'n'roll or you don't.
I do. And I do. And The Sex Pistols are very likely to be the greatest rock'n'roll band that I will ever see.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Radio on!

I've just found out that I'm doing a radio interview next week to promote our upcoming Chicago Blues Brothers show at The Beck Theatre in Hayes at the end of this month. It's been ages since I've done anything like this- the last time was when I was playing in Neck back in 2001 when we were in, of all places, New York. This one's not quite so glamorous- it's for Hayes FM- but it should be good fun all the same. I'm on the Phil and Jill Show (yeah, I know...) at 2.30 p.m. next Wednesday 10th September; if you want to listen in go to-

-or tune to 91.8 FM if you're in the Hayes area.

Hear how nervous I am when I'm doing this type of thing! I'll try not to turn it into a Pistols/Grundy-style swear fest...