Friday, October 31, 2008

Paint it black (and orange)

What do you think of Halloween? A good laugh? A waste of time and money? A bit of both, and a reminder that there's a dark side to both human nature and this funny little life of ours? Or was it just all invented by a mad American pumpkin salesman who had to get rid of the stock cluttering up his back room?

Myself and East were discussing this and other such peculiarities in The Three Tuns in Uxbridge on Tuesday evening. East, a renowned Christmas hater, observed the skulls amongst the black and orange decorations and said something along the lines of 'I might get some of this stuff for Christmas'; he then went on to speak of the legend of the Black Morris Men who dance silently to welcome in the winter, a portent of all that is bad for country folk who rely on good weather for their crops to flourish. It sounded like something Terry Pratchett would come up with (it turns out that he did!- ) 'though East and myself chose to find it rather more believable and not a little amusing, especially after a few beers.

But it wasn't quite so amusing yesterday...

If it's Thursday it must be 'We Will Rock You' guitar maintenance day. After a reasonably painless time at the theatre Stuart the guitar repairman and myself met up with his mate Miles and walked across to Angel Music in Denmark Street where Miles has got his eye on a guitar and has asked Stu to offer his professional opinion as to it's merits. The instrument in question is a 1962 Fender Stratocaster- 3-colour sunburst finish, rosewood neck as opposed to maple, superficially at least a highly desirable guitar. But, as so often happens in life, it's not as simple as that- the vintage guitar market is a highly complex minefield waiting to inflict pain and injury upon the unaware who stumble across it with little or no knowledge of the danger lurking just below the surface. (If you don't know much about this, as Sherlock Holmes would say, singular subject have a look at which should give you some idea of the parameters involved; you might also like to try to get a handle on the sort of prices that can sometimes be bandied about.) A crucial factor in all of this is originality i.e. has the instrument been changed in any way from it's original form? Particularly important here are the pick-ups (many '50's and '60's instruments have had their pick-ups changed, often in an attempt to keep up with musical trends) and the finish (again often changed as a fashion consideration- no one wanted pink guitars in the heavy rockin' '70's!- or when the original finish became worn and/or damaged.) Stu's seen and worked on hundreds, maybe even thousands, of old and highly collectable instruments in his career and so is an ideal person to take along with you if you're interested in purchasing such a guitar, and the one Miles is interested in certainly counts as both old and highly collectable- except that it's certainly not in an all-original state. The neck pick-up's been changed, and it some point in it's history it had, for now unspecified reasons, had some micro switches fitted which had meant part of the body underneath the scratchplate had been routed out. The wood removed has since been replaced (very professionally in Stu's opinion) and the original scratchplate returned to it's rightful place on the guitar (fortunately a different one was used to mount the switches on, although the cynical among us may find that hard to believe- see what I mean about a minefield?) Andy the shop owner demonstrated that no more work had been done with the aid of a blacklight (back to Wikipedia for this one- ) which would show any other changes to the wood and/or finish of the guitar- I was learning as I was going along but all agreed that it all looked original. All very interesting stuff for a guitar bore such as myself, and Stu and myself discussed this for much of our tube journey home, 'though talk of the blacklight prompted me to recount East and myself's conversations a couple of night's earlier, much to Stu's amusement. It was just as we pulled into Rayners Lane station that our mirth reached it's height- so much so that we all but failed to hear the station announcement telling us that the train wasn't going any further and there would be no trains going to Uxbridge for the foreseeable future due to signal failure in the Ruislip area.


As we joined 50 or so disgruntled former-tube-train-passengers in looking for the right bus stop it started raining. The bus arrived and a near riot ensued with few people ever looking as though they'd get near it, let alone on it. With the next one due in 30 minutes and more and more people arriving from the station Stu opted for a bus towards Harrow in the hope that he could get home from there and I had no choice but to start walking. As we parted company we both agreed that laughing about the legend of the Black Morris Men had not been a good idea...
I called the long-suffering Shirley as I walked. As I told her my sorry story a bus passed me, and I looked through a gap in the houses to see a tube train running down the track. So- they were working again then, and I'm still about 10 minutes walk from the next station. It started raining harder. Not good, frankly.

Last night I had a rehearsal with Andy, Mike and Dave. When I got there Dave and Mike were more or less set up; I recounted my tale of woe to their general amusement- then Dave told me his dog had died, and Mike told me that the end of his contract at work had been bought forward to next week, after which he would be unemployed. They jammed a bit of 'Black Night' as I got my guitar out of it's gig bag. Happy Halloween y'all...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Louder! Harder! Faster!

I don't know about you but I can't think of a much better way to spend a rainy Sunday morning than playing loud electric guitar. Well it's been a good way to spend this morning anyway! Myself, old friend/fellow guitar bore Paul Cope and former Pro Music Saturday boy Ian Smart booked ourselves 3 hours at Ruff Rockers rehearsal studio in Uxbridge for the express purpose of getting as many of our guitars and amps in the same room as we could, turning them up VERY LOUD and... well, spending the best part of said 3 hours laughing ourselves senseless at the sounds we were making. I took down my recently acquired Fender Blues Deville amplifier and a selection of guitars, Paul bought a Marshall Vintage Modern 50W combo with various axes and effect pedals while Ian bought down his ever-expanding pedal board along with his customised Telecaster. It soon became clear that 3 hours wasn't long enough as we found ourselves obsessing over the differences between the sound of P90 pick-ups on 2 different Gibson guitars (a Les Paul and an SG since you ask) whilst marvelling at the sounds Ian was getting out of his Electro Harmonix guitar synthesiser and being highly amused by the fact that the tone controls on Marshall amplifiers don't actually seem to alter the sound coming out if it in any way. I realise that this may not be everyone's idea of a morning well spent- but how else would we have found that an Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal sounds a lot smoother than it's forerunner the Maxon OD808?!?

And it was a cracking evening on Friday at The Islington Academy, with The Godfathers sounding even better than they did at The Forum back in February. I met up with Andy Knight and co. in The Nags Head just after 7 p.m. (judging by his demeanour I'd say he'd already been there a while!) and, since we were under the impression that it was an early show as there's a late night club at the venue on Fridays, myself and a ticketless Fat Tom (he calls himself that, honest!) got to the venue just before 8 o'clock to make sure that he got in. In the event the club wasn't happening so we could have got there later' though it was good to catch the last few songs by first support band The Jooks of Kent, a trio whose guitar-harmonica-and-female-drummer line-up bought inevitable White Stripes comparisons to mind, 'though I thought them a bit more 'garage-y' than that, if you know what I mean. Good trashy stuff, as were The Jim Jones Revue who followed them with a set of mostly original rock'n'roll songs enlivened by some fine Jerry Lee-isms by the keyboard man and a great moment after the first song when the singer called for 'my hat-man' to collect his no-longer-needed headgear. If they had a weakness it was, sadly, their songs- with no backing vocals (why not?!?) in a band the lead voice has to carry everything, and for me it very rarely does. Still they certainly get on with it- worth catching again methinks.
Opening with 'This Damn Nation' and fresh from a gig in Belgium the night before The Godfathers were clearly in no mood for trivialities. Mind you, were they ever? Kris Dollimore sounded fabulous playing a '70's Stratocaster and a Danelectro 56 Pro through a Blues Deville- I told you they were good!- and if Peter Coyne's voice sounded just a little bit rougher than we all remember it then it didn't effect his stage presence which remains the very definition of rock'n'roll attitude. By the last encore of 'Cold Turkey' they'd confirmed their place in my mind as one of the most underrated bands ever. Oh and Coyne invited the entire audience for a drink in the upstairs bar after the show. Excellent!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Window pain

I've just got back from the dentist's- a filling, a hygiene check and a telling off for having sugar in my coffee, not flossing properly and not being more aware of what to do if I get a mouth ulcer, all the time sweating as I watched my blood running down the little sink thingy that they ask you to spit your mouthwash into when you've finished swilling it around your mouth. That'll be the same mouth that felt fine before they started mucking around with it the best part of an hour ago then won't it? Hmm, I thought so. In the meantime I'll leave the money on the way out and book another session of this near-psychopathic madness for sometime in the Spring. Bugger! Still it's been an interesting few days in mad-guitar-land...

Sunday evening at The Load of Hay saw the return of Sarah the singing harpist, but this time with the added bonus of a P.A. system provided by local music equipment emporium Pro Music via your humble narrator. After discussions with Grant the landlord we went for a Yamaha Stagepas 300 system which is an excellent 300W vocal P.A. (oops!- nearly went into sales-mode there!) and ideal for the venue, not least since there's a volume restriction device fitted which cuts the power if things get louder than a preset level. Sadly the pick-up on her harp didn't work 'though her vocal mic picked it up reasonably well, resulting in a rather more audible performance than last time- and very good it was too. I've been given a couple of nights to book acts for- I've even started receiving demo cd's via the shop- so it's time to become a promoter. Well, kind of- I'm heroically trying to book something that I don't play in first!

An otherwise routine Monday in the shop was somewhat rudely interrupted at approximately 1.55 p.m. when, in the course of a telephone conversation with Brent the amplifier repair man I heard a loud bang which seemed to come from the front of the shop. At first I thought something had fallen down from one of the wall displays- but no, there was definitely a hole in the front window. Leaving aside the fact that myself and American Tom- Paul the guv'nor's daughter Charlotte's boyfriend and the man responsible for computerising much of the shop's stock control lately- were all but convinced that we were under siege from the local boys-in-the-hood (unlikely in Ickenham, but I guess you never know) 'though we've since decided that it was just some idiot throwing stones. That said it was an unsettling incident- and we still haven't found whatever it was that was thrown...

It felt as though I spent most of Tuesday on the phone to the police- I clearly didn't but it's an oddly intense thing going through the same story several times with different very official-sounding people. 'Don't worry' said one of the official-sounding voices, 'it wasn't a bullet.' Up until that moment it hadn't entered my mind that it might be. Help! Still the day improved when I received a phone call from Ali McKenzie, formally singer with '60's bands The Birds (no, not the ones that did 'Mr. Tambourine Man'- they spell their name differently; this mob were a very fine mod/r'n'b band who are often best remembered for having a lead guitarist who went on to be very successful over the next few years and is still doing quite well for himself now...) telling me that his guitarist was unavailable for an upcoming gig and would I like to do it? It's at The South Bank Centre- also on the bill are The Pretty Things, The Downliners Sect, The Eel Pie Allstars featuring Mick Green... hang on a minute, that'll be the bloke out of The Pirates, in my not-so-humble opinion Britain's best rock'n'roll guitarist and a complete hero of mine... yes, I think I can fit that one in don't you?!?

Wednesday we had an actual police person visit the shop, 'though she didn't seem to know very much about what had happened. She asked a few questions then sternly observed that we'd 'get a crime number over the next day-or-so'; I almost didn't like to tell her that we already had one. And it's amazing how guilty you suddenly fell when there's a uniformed officer looking straight at you isn't it? Or maybe it's just me? Still a highly enjoyable evening was spent at Ruff Rockers Rehearsal Studio in Uxbridge where myself and drummer extraordinaire Dave Bateman joined Andy Cross and Mike Wright (who I first met back in the '80's when they were in Cheap Sunglasses; Andy of course plays occasional bass in The Price and both were involved in the 'Ash Bash 4' concert earlier this year) to blast through various Dr. Feelgood songs as well as a few other less likely r'n'b-style numbers. All good stuff and something that will hopefully be out on a stage at some point in the not-too-distant future; at the very least we've booked another rehearsal for next week which is something to look forward too.

Yesterday it was back up to the West End with Stuart the guitar repair man for our work at 'We Will Rock You'. The day got off to a good start when I heard familiar laughter coming from an Oxford Street coffee shop as I walked past it; I turned to see acting legend Tom Baker sitting by the door with a couple of companions, laughing his head off and looking exactly like Tom Baker, if you know what I mean. I expect he picked up his sonic screwdriver and left with the words 'quickly, we haven't much time', but I sadly couldn't wait around to see if he did. Myself and Stu did what we do at the theatre and, pausing only to leave a pair of outrageous rubber gloves on guitarist Phil Hilborne's music stand (he's been away gigging for a while but is now back on the show and Stu never tires of having a go at him about his sweaty hands; he's a cruel man, but fair...) we contemplated a visit to Wunjo's Guitars in Denmark Street but, upon finding it to be rather crowded, decided that it was late enough and went home instead. Ah well- there's always next week, and anyway, I can't buy anything else! Well, not for a while anyway...

Ooh- the anaesthetic's wearing off and my mouth's starting to hurt. Time for some painkillers methinks... I'm off to see The Godfathers in Islington tonight which should be brilliant, and I've decided that it's a reward for going to the dentist this morning. It's a simple life sometimes don't you think?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

'...THAT much talent...'

... well I would have been judging a talent contest if it had taken place- a bizarre Mexican stand-off took place between the contestants with none of them being prepared to go on first. Strange but true.
In case you're wondering how I of all people ended up in this rather odd situation in the first place, it's all down to that drinking lark that I often refer to in these hallowed pages. Myself and East (yeah, him again- he's often caught up in any alcohol-powered antics) were down The Load of Hay a couple of weeks ago discussing the upcoming acoustic shows that I'm helping to put on with Grant the landlord when we caught sight of a poster advertising a talent contest involving students at the nearby Brunel University. By the end of the conversation we'd been cajoled into judging one if not more of the heats, with East going to great lengths to make clear that he'd be more than prepared to accept any or all forms of bribery from the contestants. (Incidentally he's now convinced that we'll be subject to violent intimidation from the would-be winners since there's a £500 first prize!) The final's in February- assuming anyone is brave enough to actually perform... with nothing to judge/stay sober for we somewhat inevitably we spent the evening drinking far too much lager, and I left East at the local kebab house looking pleased with himself; his first-thing-Saturday-morning phone call began with the words 'what happened?' My reply was a non-committal 'it's no good asking me is it?' although neither of us felt too guilty which means nothing too untoward took place. Hopefully.

With a hangover the size of Cheltenham the day in the shop was a suitably blurred affair, with Paul the guv'nor calling in on his way back from Heathrow (he's been in America for 3 weeks) and James the Saturday boy holding the fort on the occasions that I had to visit the cafe for some industrial strength coffee. The long-suffering Shirley arrived around 6 o'clock and we set the sat. nav. for Braxted Hall in Essex, where we were playing a 'half-Blues-Brothers-half-soul-band' show at a charity event. With several people in the band elsewhere the line-up had an unfamiliar look about it, with Neil joining Mike in the roles of Jake and Elwood, Bev and Paul on sax and trumpet and Roger in for Ian on keyboards. Myself Squirrel and Marc were in our usual positions on guitar, bass and drums, and Tracy was on vocals although both her and Neil were suffering from throat problems and Paul had not played with us at all before. 10 minutes or so from the venue and Pete calls- he's at another gig but has been on the phone to band members and organisers at our venue; things haven't been going well, with attempts being made to get Rod to plug the P.A. into a noise limiting device (you know the ones, they switch the power off if you play too loud, not a good thing to do to a computerised mixing desk) and soundcheck degenerating into near-chaos as a result. 'They've all gone down the pub' he advised- a call to Mike revealed them to be in The Devere in Great Braxted which Mike's parents used to run. We got there just as the band were finishing their meals, and got treated to various versions of the events earlier in the evening (Squirrel- 'I've never been spoken to like that before') as well as receiving a couple of unrepeatable text messages from Stuart the guitar repairman who was at the Paul Fox tribute evening in Ruislip. I'll leave you to imagine what they said.
Braxted Hall is a huge country estate which I'm sure looks very impressive in the daylight; it didn't look too ordinary in the dark, with the road leading up to it lit by flaming beacons and the inevitable enormous cars parked outside the main entrance to the house itself. We were playing in a large tent around the back so with Roger and Squirrel in the car to help us we wound our way around to the venue. As we arrived the charity auction was taking place- lots of memorabilia signed by the likes of Frankie Dettori, Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton- so we went straight to our changing room which was, not to put to finer point on it, a shed on the back of the tent. Really. Still at least we had somewhere to change and leave our belongings- we've done quite a few of these type of events where there's been no facilities for us at all. There's a big plate of sandwiches and some bottles of Coca-Cola and the general mood is good; I sneak up on to the stage to get my amplifier and guitar set up and discover that my knob's come off...

You know when you look at something that you know really well and you can't quite work out what looks different about it? I spent a minute or so looking at the control panel on my amp thinking 'what's happened?' before I finally realised that there was a hole where the treble control used to be. I'd left the amp and leads box with Squirrel after the Tewkesbury gig so that Shirley and myself could go straight to a Travelodge nearby before leaving for Dorset the next morning; sometime in the interim period something bad had happened... he found it in the back of his car so I'll get a new control fitted 'though I spent the next 10 minutes or so in 'Carry on Guitar Hero' mode ('my knob's come off!' 'We've been through a lot together, me and my knob' 'Shirley's got my knob in her pocket' etc etc) so it wasn't all bad news.

Showtime at last- things start well enough with 'Peter Gunn' 'though it soon becomes clear that all is not as it should be. Perhaps the most charitable analysis would be 'too many deps'; myself, Squirrel and Marc are doing our best but the horns are struggling, Neil's voice is giving way, Tracy's is not much better and I get the same problem with my guitar as I did in Tewkesbury- must get it over to Stuart the guitar repairman a.s.a.p.- all of which contributes to a less-than-ideal performance. Still the dancefloor was full for much of our performance and it all went down well so perhaps I'm just being a bit miserable about it? All the same it's a pity we haven't got any gigs for the couple of weeks as it would have been nice to be able to quickly erase the memory of this one...

Friday, October 17, 2008

A holiday? What would I do with a holiday?!?

Myself and the long-suffering Shirley have just returned- and I mean just returned!- from a few days away in Dorset, our only time away this year. It's been good to escape for a while as it's been a busy few weeks, 'though why I woke up yesterday with an almost desperate need to hear 'Shake Some Action' by The Flamin' Groovies isn't an easy question to answer. (Actually it's a really easy question to answer- how about something like 'it's one of the greatest records ever made'? There- that'll do it!) Then again I woke up Wednesday morning convinced that film had been discovered of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar right-handed; I've since realised that it was all just a dream... this is the sort of story that most people tell then finish with the words 'I think I need a holiday' and laugh ironically before waiting for a sympathetic 'yes, it sounds like you do' from the person that they've just told the story- but I've just had a holiday, or at least what passes for one in my little world.

Oh dear!

Last Friday myself and drummer extraordinaire Dave Bateman journeyed south of the river to The Half Moon in Herne Hill to witness an excellent gig by The Duplicates. I hadn't seen them for a while and they've got quite a few new songs in their repertoire 'though I'm pleased to say that 'The Sweeney' theme is still there alongside the Booker T and the M.G.'s songbook. Dave Ruffy is surely the dapperest drummer in rock (suit, tie & spats- excellent!) and I saw Segs from The Ruts for the first time since the Edwin Collins gig in April. A top evening.

Saturday saw The Chicago Blues Brothers return to The Pizza Express in Maidstone for the first time in quite a while. With the M25 closed between junctions 5 and 6 (that's the bit that we want!) we put ourselves in the hands of the sat. nav. which took us into the wilderness of deepest darkest Kent; with hop farms on all sides of us it seemed unlikely that we'd ever see a street lamp again- then Maidstone town centre suddenly appeared in front of us. These sat. nav. things really are amazing (I'll stop going on about them now, honest!) Richard's gigging in Italy so Ian's back on sax, and Pete's in for Mario as Jake, and the show's a raucous affair with a stag party and a wedding anniversary party contributing to the mayhem. I've never quite worked out why people would want us crashing and bashing in front of them when they're eating their dinners, but we always seem to go down well there so what do I know? We're due back there just before Christmas- it should be a good night.

Back to theatreland on Sunday with a visit to The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury. As you may be aware this has a certain notoriety, as it's the theatre where Eric Morecombe suffered a fatal heart attack on stage- I'm pleased to say that the most dramatic thing that happened to us was being asked to wear hard hats on stage during our soundcheck as they were adjusting the lights overhead... oh and I had to fix the backstage toilet (it's handy being a plumber's son sometimes!) Ian suggested re-arranging 'New Orleans' which involved Marc changing the drumming during the choruses, and Pete bought everyone fish and chips which went down very well indeed. Richard's back on sax, Mario's back in the hat'n'glasses and an oddly restrained audience saw a good show although a rather odd incident backstage meant the Richard was introduced as 'the hassle with the tassels' (I'll leave you to use your imagination on that, 'though if the photos come out then the Christmas caption competition should be a good one) and I managed to dislodge my B-string (oo-er missus etc) from the bridge on my Baja Telecaster which, without boring you with lots of guitar nerdery, meant that it sounded a bit like a sitar; I played the encore on my '60's Classic which sounded great but was freezing cold- it's amazing how hot the instruments (and indeed the players) get under the lights.

Straight back into it this weekend with a day in the shop tomorrow followed by the gig in Essex that I mentioned in the last posting; oh and I'm judging a talent contest tonight. No, I really am! Maybe I do need a holiday...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 absent fiends

Incredibly it's nearly a year since Paul Fox died. There's a tribute show called 'West One Year On' coming up, at The Breakspear Arms in Ruislip this Saturday 18th October; The Dirty Strangers and The Dubcats are playing (both bands that Paul played had played in at one time or another) as are the somewhat clumsily-named Foxy's Savage Circle Of Fiends. Hmm... that'll be the rest of Foxy's Ruts (Paul's son Laurie on drums, the ubiquitous Mark Wyeth on bass and Mark Paul on vocals, the band Paul had at the onset of his illness) then won't it? They've asked me to play with them- kind of, but more about that in a moment- but I can't make it, as I'm playing with The Chicago Blues Brothers in Braxted Park near Chelmsford that night. As it happens it's a gig that I could probably get someone else to do for me- I mentioned it to Pete in a 'should-I-shouldn't-I' moment of weakness last week and he suggested I asked my occasional dep Joe to do it so that I could go to, maybe even play at, the Ruislip gig. But it's not quite as simple as that...

I had a visit in the shop from Dave Snow last Tuesday- I first met him 20-odd years ago in the early days of The Price, when we played quite a few gigs with his band Jonestown, he was a close friend of Paul's who looked after him towards the end of his life and was one of the pallbearers at his funeral. He's involved in organising the tribute show, asked me if I could play at it, wondered what it would take for my CBB gig to be cancelled and even suggested that I could come to the show after my one's ended as it 'should be a late night'. A more rational and/or reasonable person than your humble narrator would have simply pointed out that it's sadly not possible for me to be in two places at once, and that Chelmsford is nearly 2 hours drive away so I'd need a Tardis to make it back in time, and that the only way that the CBB band would agree to cancelling the show is if Dave paid their wages for the evening- but this fails to take into account that I'm rarely (if ever!) a rational and/or reasonable person when it comes to anything relating to music, particularly when it's played on the electric guitar. I'd really like to be at the gig- Paul's one of my favourite guitarists ever, and I'm very proud of the part that I played in last year's Ruts-related activities. But- and it's a VERY BIG BUT- even if I could make the show I'd be unlikely to attend. Due to the insanity surrounding the Foxy's Ruts name debacle earlier this year I felt that I had to turn down the chance to play in Simaryp with Laurie and Mark as I felt it would have been hypocritical for me to do so (see earlier postings for further thoughts on this and other related topics.) Much as I would love to play the music of The Ruts again- and Laurie and the 2 Mark's play it better than anyone else that I've heard outside of the original band- the same arguments voiced earlier this year apply; if I play with them again and it gets called 'Foxy's Ruts' from the stage then everything goes tragically wrong. I just can't take the risk- and that's a real shame.

When I opened the shop on Saturday morning there was a poster advertising the gig taped onto the front of the counter. I hadn't seen it before- I was last in on Wednesday so it must have been put up sometime in the previous couple of days. There's a picture of Paul on it from, I'd guess, 1978 'though it could be 1979. In it he's holding a Fender Stratocaster- that's the one that I now own, the one that I last played onstage at The Palace Theatre in Mansfield on November 1st last year, the day of Paul's funeral. I'd like to be, indeed I should be, at The Breakspear Arms gig- but I can't be, can I? More to the point, I mustn't be... looking at his photo I felt a lump in my throat, and I suddenly felt as though I might be about to cry- but I couldn't because there was someone waiting outside the shop, so I had to get on with opening up. I hate it when real life intrudes on my little world; 'life's a savage circle' as somebody once sang...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Oops! I did it again- again...

Remind me not to go to Wunjo guitars in Denmark Street. It's such a good shop that there's always something tempting on offer... myself and Stu went there yesterday after our theatre session to check out a '70's Gibson Les Paul Custom for a mate of his; I tried it through a rather fine looking Fender Blues Deville combo, which I ended up buying! It's an early '90's tweed model which looks cooler than the black ones, and it's a 4 x 10'' rather than a 2 x 12'' and they don't turn up very often, and it's an American one rather than the Mexican re-issues, and the Les Paul sounded great through it and so did a Baja Telecaster, and, well, you have to get these things when you see them don't you? Don't you?!?

Well- I do! Sorry Shirl...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

From absent friends...

All this pretending to be the new Bill Graham (I thought that was marginally more credible than saying 'the new Harvey Goldsmith'?) is ok- and I do intend to get involved in putting gigs on there, hopefully starting as early as next month- but it's time to play the guitar again. 2 very different gigs this weekend- in the case of last night's performance, 'different' being the operative word...

Friday night saw the Chicago Blues Brothers visit The Capitol Theatre in Horsham. Despite the post Load of Hay hangover I managed to programme the sat. nav. correctly and myself and the long-suffering Shirley arrived just as things were getting set up for soundcheck. With sound guru Ian Bond off elsewhere Rod's back behind the mixing desk but that aside it's an A-team gig with Pete's wife Jayne on costume control ably assisted by Shirley and Ian's wife Nadia. The only worry is Squirrel who's got back problems- he's subdued but playing as excellently as ever. Soundcheck includes a bizarre slow version of 'Funky Nassau' as well as ongoing work on the 'My Girl' harmony vocals and all goes pretty smoothly.
As I think I mentioned last month I've recently become a Fender endorsee (I've mentioned it as often as possible everywhere else so why not here?!?) and, since their H.Q. is not far away in East Grinstead I'd invited my old mate Danny Jones to the show (I went to school with him, he's now rather high up at Fender.) Sadly Danny didn't make it ('I start phoning America at 4 o'clock; I finish when I finish') which was a shame since I've not seen him since The Stratocaster Anniversary show at Wembley just over 4 years ago. One person who did make it was Max the carpenter who does much of the building work at the shop- he caught a good show with the crowd getting into it pretty much from the start and the band playing well, if a little loosely in places... Squirrel got through it in one piece (good!) and although I still don't feel quite right in myself (haven't quite shaken off the virus yet) at least I'm playing a bit better. As John Mayer sings- 'I'm not together but I'm getting there..'

None of this explains Dave's extraordinary post-show dressing room comment-

'It's like living in an egg yolk'

-although the next night I started to see what he meant, in a funny sort of way...

Saturday saw myself, new-ish staff member Rob and even-newer Saturday boy James man the barricades at Pro Music for an entertaining day which included Rob gleefully reading out a text message from a friend of his asking him 'what the 10 best albums ever' were. Within seconds we started work; within minutes we were compiling no less than 5 top 10's (rock, pop, punk, soul and live albums since you ask) and haranguing unsuspecting customers for their opinions. I don't think we did a bad job- I must get a copy of the lists... from there it was home to get changed before journeying up to Central London for a corporate show at The Guoman Tower Hotel next to Tower Bridge. Once again the sat. nav. did it's job very well although we missed the turning for the hotel and carried on over Tower Bridge- both Shirley and myself agreed that it was worth making the mistake for the view it give us of the River Thames from the bridge; through the rain it looked just amazing.
At the hotel we meet Ian and Nadia and find The Mortimer Room which is ours to use as a base for the evening. I'd hoped during the course of my time in London to manage to meet up with former Blaggers I.T.A. guitarist Steve Perry who'd arranged a 'I'm moving down to the coast' drink at a pub near London Bridge but ran out of time- maybe it wasn't the weekend for meeting up with old mates? Anyway back to the job in hand- tonight's a playback gig with Dave, Ian and myself playing along with the backing tracks and father and son Terry and Matt in the hats and glasses. We'd not worked with them before and they were an interesting team as you might well imagine... suffice to say that the show got off to a less-than enjoyable start with the lady organiser (I never did catch her name) barking at us something like 'they want you on stage now' 40 minutes earlier than we were expecting and then walking around with a face like a bulldog chewing barbed wire for the rest of the evening- or maybe she actually looks like that? (I've since been told that there was a problem earlier in the evening with a laptop computer being used for a presentation and that she's not normally like that; perhaps I should delete that last bit..? ) After a very quick set-up we're on- most of the tracks they're using have different arrangements and are in different keys to what we're used to, and the sound quality isn't brilliant, and I don't remember 'Bad Bad Leroy Brown', 'New York New York' and (gulp!) 'Bring Me Sunshine' being Blues Brothers songs... perhaps the best thing I can say about the show was that I got to stand next to the mighty Dave Land on trumpet- hearing him so clearly reminded me of what a fine musician he is, as well as being the originator of 'The Dave Land Shuffle' which I was obliged to join in with. I felt like I was in Status Quo!

Hmm... didn't they have a single called 'Living on an Island'?
Perhaps they meant 'Living in an egg yolk'?!?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Leigh's mad world of... harps?!?

The Load of Hay in Uxbridge is a good pub, a 'proper' pub which is something of a rarity these days don't you think? There's been live music there on and off since the 1960's- the back bar was built specifically as a folk club- and the current owner Grant is keen for this tradition to continue. Big Tel, East and myself spent a highly enjoyable Sunday evening there during which (a) we saw an excellent harp-and-vocals performance of original songs played by a young lady called Sarah (yes, you read that bit correctly; she really did play the harp!) and (b) I somehow agreed to get involved in booking acts for regular Sunday night acoustic music sessions.

Isn't drinking wonderful!

To this end myself and East went down there last night to discuss tactics with Grant; by closing time we'd met up with Graham 'Barney' Barnes (I remember him when he was in I Jog and the Tracksuits!) and drawn up lofty plans for gigs by the likes of Wreckless Eric, John Cooper Clarke and John Otway. Earlier in the evening somewhat more down-to-earth topics were raised- getting an in-house P.A. system, ('don't worry, I work in a music shop!') how much we could afford to pay the acts, (not much to begin with) whether or not we should charge on the door (hopefully not, 'though it depends on the event) - it looks as if I've somehow become a promoter! Like I say, isn't drinking wonderful!!

On a more serious note it'll be great to have a live music venue locally that isn't just putting on karaoke and jam nights- if it can get off the ground with local acts then it's time for the likes of T.V. Smith, Attila the Stockbroker, Kris Dollimore... in the meantime Sarah and her harp return on the 19th of this month.