Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Communication breakdown

So - what have I done with myself since the last gigs?

Well one if the things I managed to do was to lose my mobile phone. I definitely had it first thing on Saturday morning as I used it as an alarm clock (a very expensive alarm clock as we shall see) but somewhere between waking up and arriving at the shop I managed to misplace it. Or it was stolen. Or something. Bugger! I assumed that I'd left it at home and spent the day alternating between thinking things like 'oh this is nice, no one can bother me, it's actually quite liberating' and 'oh no - Paul McCartney's probably calling me at this very moment to ask if I'd like to be his rhythm guitarist at his Hyde Park gig and leaving messages like ''can you let me know in the next half-an-hour or I'll have to give it to someone else'' and I can't even get the message let alone call him back'. Anyway I got home to discover that it was nowhere to be seen - after the obligatory 'I'll re-trace my steps' scenario that we all try when we've lost something (well, we do don't we? And it never works does it?) I went back into Uxbridge to tell my tale of woe to the young chap at the O2 shop. He was very helpful, gave me a new SIM card then called customer services for me who blocked my old SIM and activated the new one for me. All was going well until I asked what I should do next. 'Is the phone insured?' the young chap asked me cheerily. 'Yes, I pay it on direct debit' I answered with all the misplaced confidence that someone who's about to be proved wrong always seems to have. 'Well there's nothing on our system' said the young chap, slightly less cheerily. 'Oh - well who am I paying that money to every month then?' 'I don't know sir but it's not us!' he replied, looking as though he wanted to change the subject. Time for a visit to the bank then... it then transpired that I'm not due for an upgrade until next July and so now have two choices :- use an old handset, or buy (buy! Shouldn't they give me one, the amount that bloody iPhone costs me? Bah!) a new one to use as a pay-as-you-go phone until then. Or of course I could buy a new iPhone for (gulp!) £449. Hmm... I'm sure I've got an old handset somewhere... it's annoying but, let's face it, I've only lost a phone, not an arm.

And, as it turned out, I hadn't lost a phone either. When I got to the shop on Monday morning I found it under the counter where I usually leave it. But I'm sure I didn't take it in with me, and it definitely wasn't there at closing time on Saturday. No, it definitely wasn't. Honest. Of course when I saw it I became even more convinced that Macca had been calling all weekend, and if that wasn't bad enough the new SIM card wasn't working yet and Eric Clapton's probably been trying to get through as well... it's still not back on as I type this, and I've now spent a fortune calling customer services on our landline, as well as no doubt missing out on every decent guitar-playing job in the known Western World. Argh!

What else? Oh yes, I've developed hay fever. Well, no massive shock there as I get it every summer but it had held off this year not least because the weather's been so lousy, and I think I'd got all optimistic in a 'perhaps-I'm-not-going-to-get-it-or-if-I-do-it-won't-be-too-bad' sort of way. No such luck - I'm sneezing, spluttering and coughing as well as having itchy eyes along with blocked sinuses which as well as giving me a headache have resulted in me not being able to hear out of my right ear due to wax build-up. That's what I get for that jibe about global warming at the last CBB gig then. Still at least the weather's better.

Oh and before I forget to mention it, England got knocked out of The World Cup by Germany. But you knew that already didn't you? I watched the game with my Dad, who's analysis of England's attempts at professional football wasn't quite as funny as this one, but was just as accurate. Will people PLEASE stop thinking that the English football team are to be taken seriously as anything other than Keystone Kops impersonators and let them get on with their cossetted little lives as celebrity time wasters. They'll thank you for it (or at least their spokesperson will) and you won't have to go through what you went through on Sunday afternoon again. Simple eh?
Except of course it isn't that simple is it? I'm not in the least bit patriotic but it's still good to see our national sports teams doing well, and therefore it's hard not to feel let down by the appalling performances of the last couple of weeks. Oh well, there's always Wimbledon... actually forget I said that because we've got no chance there either, although if by some miracle Andy Murray does do well in the tournament it'll be interesting to see if the media hail him as a 'British champion' rather than a 'Scottish failure', as well as saying that he's actually a paragon of jollity rather than the miserable sour-faced git that they've led us to believe him to be. And anyway I bet I'm not the only person that thinks that it's just a load of Top Gear-loving Tories getting sunstroke whilst watching a couple of characterless nonentities attempting to return each other's rocket-powered serves - in other words it's about as uninteresting as an uninteresting thing being uninteresting, which I think you'll agree is very uninteresting indeed. Still at least the audience could be World champions at this... and talking of Tories and football Jeremy Hunt is the latest intellectual dwarf to make some ill-advised comments regarding the Hillsborough disaster by linking it to hooliganism. Quite how someone who many people (not me of course, libel fans) might now see as an arrogant, blinkered, pig ignorant little shithead ended up with the job of (wait for it!) Secretary Of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (really!) is a subject that's perhaps is best not debated here - that said Iain Duncan Smith could perhaps suggest somewhere that he could move to in the pursuit of a more appropriate job - but the incident bought to my mind Jeffery Archer, a man who has the rare distinction of having had his name adopted by the criminal fraternity as slang for a sum of money, an Archer being £2,000. Perhaps it's time to start a campaign to have 'Jeremy Hunt' replace 'Berkeley Hunt' in rhyming slang? Well, it's a thought. And not a bad one at that.

I've got some gigs this weekend. I'll try to cheer up a bit then.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A well respected man

I've just heard that Pete Quaife has died. He was 66 years old. As bass player in The Kinks from 1963-'69 he played on some of the greatest pop records ever made, from classic singles like 'You Really Got Me', 'Sunny Afternoon' and 'Waterloo Sunset' through to the extraordinary 'Village Green Preservation Society' album which proved to be his last recordings with the band. Thanks for doing it Pete - see you on 'Dead End Street'...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Reversing into tomorrow

Behold the above photograph of 'miscreants watching The Shout at The Bull And Gate' in Kentish Town, sometime around 1989 - recognise anyone? That's Simon from Vicious Kiss on the far left, and Gary (usually seen with his brother Colin so I suspect that's him just out of shot) on the far right. And the bloke to Gary's right holding the worryingly red looking drink is me. Really. I've just shown it to Shirley who tells me that I 'still stand the same'. I still dress the same too. Excellent! This and lots of other splendid artefacts can be found on this Facebook site, and very good stuff it all is too, not least this flyer advertising gigs at The Opera On The Green in Shepherds Bush. There we are, bottom of the flier, bottom of the bill - t'was ever thus... and look at the other bands playing at the venue around the same time - some we gigged with, some we drank with and some went on to bigger (sometimes much bigger!) and better things. Ah, memories - some good, some bad, some best remembered and some best forgotten; nostalgia ain't what it used to be is it?

Then again, maybe it is. It's been 40 years since the original release of 'Live At Leeds' by The Who, and there's an excellent article in the current edition of Record Collector magazine detailing it's amazing journey from the 30-odd minute vinyl album to the 2-and-a-bit hour double CD version that's currently available. Reading it prompted me to get my copy (maybe that should be 'copies' as I've got pretty much every version including a bootleg of the whole show with no edits!) out and give it a listen for the first time in a while. It's often thought of as one of the best live albums released by any rock band, and as such is an absolutely vital document of what for many were the ultimate live act. Listening again now I have to say that if there has ever been a group of rock musicians that were more sympathetic to each other's playing then I've yet to hear them. OK, I'm biased (as regular readers of these hallowed pages will of course already know - assuming I have any regular readers of course...) but for an example of this just listen to 'Young Man Blues' (or indeed watch this version from The Isle Of Wight Festival a few months after the Leeds gig) and tell me the name of another band that sounds like that. Incredible.

And the England (maybe that should be 'En-Grrrrr-land'?) football team have finally managed to remember how to string more than two passes together (just!) and so are through to the next round of The World Cup where, somewhat inevitably, they meet Germany. No doubt by the time the match comes around on Sunday we'll all have seen the hallowed 1966 footage enough to be heartily sick of it, but I for one always enjoy seeing film of pretty much anything from that time. Think about it - Swinging London was swinging, 'Revolver', 'Blonde On Blonde' and 'A Quick One' were in the album charts with Hendrix waiting in the wings, Bond, 'Blowup' and 'Batman' were on at the pictures (and the latter was on the telly too!) alongside an air of optimism in society that's rarely been seen before or since; it's not hard to see why those who were young at the time talk about 'the sixties' with such reverence is it? Anyway I'm sure the newspapers will have stoked up the rivalry between the two teams to a previously unimagined level by the time kick-off comes around - let's hope nostalgia IS what it used to be after all...

Sunday, June 20, 2010


A couple of interesting (hopefully!) gigs to report on but first things first - Thursday night The Godfathers played a 25th anniversary show (everybody's doing it!) at The 100 Club. When I first saw them back in 1986 the dual guitar attack of Mike Gibson and Kris Dollimore was truly something to behold - these days they feature original Sid Presley Experience guitarist Del Bartle alongside the Coyne brothers (Peter on vocals, Chris on bass) and drummer Grant Nicholas. New songs like 'I Can't Sleep Tonight' and 'Back Into The Future' sat well alongside classics like 'I Want Everything' and the inevitable 'Birth School Work Death', and the audience went suitably mad throughout; they still make a wonderful rock 'n' roll racket although if I've got a criticism then it's that it was all sounding a bit 'samey' by the end, possibly due to the lack of the second guitar - maybe I should put myself up for a job with them?!?

Friday night saw The Chicago Blues Brothers travel down to the wilds of West Sussex for a outdoor show at Wakehurst Place. We were due on stage just as the England vs. Algeria game was starting, a fact which perplexed a few of the band members (not least because we thought that we wouldn't have much of an audience!) although given the nature of England's performance it seems as though we got off lightly by not being able to watch the match. Jeff's in for Marc on drums and Pete's partnering Matt in the hats 'n' glasses but other than that it's the A-team all the way; we're on first with The Magic Of Motown following us, and it's all part of the first Wakehurst Music Festival. Arrangements on site were strict - we were allowed to drive to the backstage area to unload our gear then take our cars back out amid dire warnings of fines if any grass was damaged (£250!) and a 5 m.p.h. speed limit at all times. It's the first outdoor gig for us for a while, and I'm using my Fender Blues DeVille rather than the usual Blues Junior - it sounds great but I'm too loud onstage so I have to turn it down. Bah! After soundcheck it's over to the mess hall for some food (bangers and mash, or in my case, mash as the vegetarian option was cauliflower cheese. Urgh!) before returning backstage to get ready for the show. By the time we go on there's a good crowd gathering although it starts raining just as we start to play - there's no sign of Tracy who's been rehearsing with Boy George all day and has fallen foul of the M25 in all it's glory. She eventually arrives 10 minutes or so into what turns out to be a good, well received show (albeit one that we had to cut short as we ran out of time) which given the adverse weather conditions is something of a relief all round. Ah, the British summer - it's the middle of June and it's freezing cold and raining. Global warming anyone?

And it was time for your humble narrator to do some depping on Saturday, with The F.B.I. Band at Stoke Park. We're in Blues Brothers mode, and there are some familiar faces among the band members (F.B.I. regular saxman Ian is joined by CBB stalwart Dave on trumpet; Carl, Mark and Richard are on bass, drums and keyboards with Tom playing the role of Elwood) but with Tony away the role of Jake is taken by Stuart who hasn't worked with the band before... actually he's not worked with any band before as he usually sings over backing tracks. We're playing at a party (something to do with this I think) that's being held in a marquee that's adjacent to the main building - as everyone arrives they're not ready for us yet so there's time for tea in The Orangery (how middle class is that? Needless to say I gave it a miss!) before the stage is set up and soundchecking can commence. Stuart knows a few songs that the band haven't played for a while ('Messing With The Kid' and 'Hey Bartender' among them) and needs some of the other songs to be in lower keys than usual - after running through a verse and chorus of each everyone seems to be happy. There's time to go out for a look at the site of an extremely famous film scene (this one to be precise) before we go to our allocated room to await further instructions from the very helpful Nicola. Before long some food had arrived - in direct contrast to the previous night I had an enormous bowl of tagliatelle - and with the evening running late (as usual!) our 2 x 45 minute sets became 1 x 75 minute set starting at 10.30. Nicola was a bit worried that no one would take much notice of us (it happens!) but the dancefloor was full by the time we started our third number and stayed that way for the rest of our show. Stuart did well under the circumstances and although there were a few odd moments from our point of view nobody in the audience seemed to be too worried about them which I guess is the main thing.

No gigs this coming week - what will I do with myself?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Barnet fair

I don't know about you but I used to really like football. As a lifelong fan of the (once) mighty Reds I'm obviously less keen these days (!) but even without their hapless descent into near self-parody I think I'd have lost interest anyway since most major games these days look to me like a bunch of bored millionaires filling in time before making another attempt at getting off with one of their teammate's wives.

Cynical? Me? Imagine that...

On the other hand from a Balcony Shirts point of view I'm bound to say that I'm completely wrong with the above analysis; we should all be supporting England in their attempt to bring The World Cup back to it's rightful home, and of course be wearing an appropriate t-shirt whilst doing so. You know it makes sense!

The opening night of the tournament (Friday in case you're not following it) saw The 4 Faces visit the excellently named After Office Hours in Barnet. Roger (drums) and myself arrived to find Terry and Terry (bass and vocals) on hand to help us carry our gear in, a fortuitous development as we could only get in the back way which was across a yard and up some rather imposing looking iron steps. The Uruguay vs. France match was on the big screen which was on the stage - so no setting up until the end of the game then. It didn't look a very likely venue for us but with the aid of a stag party and some very interesting dancing from some young ladies present it turned out to be a good night. I tried the FMT Telecaster again which coped well with the rockier material as well as the soul stuff (it's got very good pick-ups along with a coil tapping switch) so it definitely looks like Andy's made a sale... oh and Terry the singer suggested that we change the name of the band again; Terry the bass said he'd just seen a shop opposite called The Upper Cut (presumably it's a hairdressers?!?) and that'd be a good name for us, not least as it was a club in London back in the 1960's. Everyone seemed to approve although I for one am not sure if we're now called that or not. Let's see what happens at the next gig.

Saturday it was back up to The Barnham Broom Hotel for what is becoming an annual event for us, The Wishes Ball (organised by trumpeter Dave and his wife Lyn among others) in aid of GOSH and EACH. Ian's back on keyboards (he's been away gigging with Ray Davies) and Ian's on sax in place of Richard; Pete and Mike are running the charity auction as well as fronting the band - originally to be a Blues Brothers show it became a Stacks Of Soul gig somewhere along the way, and very good it was too, with plenty of dancefloor action and even a few gatecrashers who were removed by Dave and Lyn. With the England vs. U.S.A. match on in the nearby sports bar Lyn issued a stern warning that anyone caught sneaking out to watch the match would be fined - Mike and Ian both returned from the bar to find pieces of paper telling them how much they owed the charity on their place mats. Perhaps they should have just watched it on their phones like everybody else did!

A couple of years or so ago I did a gig in what might well be one of the more unusual locations of my (ahem) career - the front window of Horsepower Hairdressing in Uxbridge. Andy and myself made a return appearance there on Sunday afternoon at The Loose Goose, a gathering organised by Horsepower supremo Adam which attracted a bewildering number of like-minded souls, many of which arrived on motorbikes or in hod rods and who provided Uxbridge with one of the most extraordinary gatherings that the High Street has ever seen. As we played through a mixture of old blues numbers and songs from The Flying Squad's repertoire tattooed ladies mingled with impressively bearded bikers and an atmosphere of cheery bonhomie prevailed. Arch Flying Squad fan Keith arrived just as we were joined by Steve (a mate of Adam's) on cajon for 'Down At The Doctors' - when we'd finished that he fetched a double bass from his van (!) which he proved to be equally adept at. We had a break to watch the penny farthing time trials (I'm not making this up, honest) and when we finished playing around 5 p.m. both Andy and myself agreed that it had been one of the most enjoyable afternoon's that we'd had in ages - which was just as well as I'd missed some of Shirley's birthday barbecue to play at it. Sorry Shirl! That's why I call her 'long-suffering'...

Monday, June 07, 2010

'You think we look pretty good together...'

A interesting weekend's gigging just gone, with both shows involving previously unfamiliar faces...

Friday saw The Chicago Blues Brothers visit Shottle Hall in Derbyshire (on Derby Day!) for a 40th birthday party show. Joining the regulars (myself, Squirrel, Marc and Richard) are Steve on trumpet and Chris on keyboards (both of whom have played with us several times before) and 2 new inhabitants of the hats and glasses, Tony and Guy. And yes, they're really called that... I'd spoken to Tony on the phone a few times and agreed a provisional set of songs; when I met them at the gig we sat down for a while to discuss tactics before repairing to The Hanging Gate to meet the rest of the band. We're due back at the venue for food at 8.30 so there's time to put 2 50-odd minute sets together, including a few songs ('Sweet Soul Music', 'Land Of 1,000 Dances' and '634-5789') that go way back to the days of Dave Finnegan's Commitments.
We're playing in a marquee at the back of the hotel, it's a movie-themed evening so there's people walking around in fancy dress (Richard - 'you see a few sights at these sort of evenings don't you?' Yes Richard, you do!) and a jovial atmosphere prevails. Our dressing room is rather, shall we say, rustic - there are swallows nesting in the ceiling! - and the food is a buffet often found at gatherings such as these; your humble narrator is therefore seen enjoying bread, rice and potato salad while everyone else piles their plates high.
We were supposed to go on at 9.30 for two sets but ended up going on at 9.45 for one epic 2 hour show. I'm trying out a potential new purchase - a Fender FMT Telecaster currently put up for sale by Andy from The Flying Squad. I could do with a spare for CBB shows as my old Custom is starting to get quite valuable, and Andy lent me the guitar to try out on stage. Maybe I should have chosen a show other than this one as there's rather more to think about than usual, but Tony and Guy proved themselves to be very capable in pretty much every area, not least being utterly fearless when it came to audience participation - I don't think we'd been onstage for 5 minutes before they were out in the audience bantering with all and sundry. This kind of behaviour is fraught with danger from the performer's point of view (that's why most of us don't do it!) and while for the most part the 2 BB's were on top of the situation referring to the chap in the Batman costume as 'Fatman' proved to be something of an error - he came up to the stage and triumphantly replied 'I might be fat but at least I know the words to the songs'... overall it was a good, well received show with only the odd moment of madness - the best way to put it is to say that we went one way and the brothers went the other a couple of times! Oh and everybody in the band liked the guitar (including me) so it looks like Andy's made a sale.

Sunday's show was one that I personally had been really looking forward to since The Flying Squad were first asked to play it a couple of weeks ago, since the main act featured one of my all-time favourite guitarists - Gypie Mayo. Probably best known as the man who faced the daunting task of replacing Wilko Johnson in Dr. Feelgood he then went on to play in The Yardbirds, and if those two facts aren't enough to put him firmly in my 'top ten guitarists list' (I must work out who the other nine are one day!) then I don't know what is. It was an interesting booking for The Squad on a number of levels, not least because we were obliged to miss out the Feelgoods material from our set (there's no way I was going to play them in front of the man himself! And it would have been even weirder to play the Wilko-era songs wouldn't it?) although that wasn't the main issue... since last month's gig with Eddie And The Hot Rods Andy and myself have found ourselves without a band for the gig (I'll spare you the gory details - one of the worst things about being in a band is what happens when people have to leave) and therefore something of a dilemma - do we do the show or not? And if we do the show, who do we do it with? After much wondering we decided to try to put a line-up together and play the gig - to this end I asked Squirrel if he'd be up for it on bass, and I'm pleased to say that not only did he make himself available but he also suggested some other players - Chris Teeder who deps on keyboards in the CBB show, and ex-CBB and now T.Rextasy drummer John Skelton, who both declared themselves available. Andy and myself ran up a list of a dozen or so songs, made up some CD's which we gave to the lads and looked forward to a quick rehearsal on Sunday afternoon followed by a great gig.
Things are never simple though are they? On Thursday afternoon John called to say that he's got problems - a recently broken finger and dislocated elbow (ouch!) were still causing him problems and it would be 'madness' for him to do the gig. But don't worry (what, me worry?!?) he had just the man for the job - do I know Geoff Britton?

Well the only Geoff Britton I can think of used to play for Paul McCartney and Manfred Mann.

Yes, that's the guy, he's heard the CD and is up for the show.

What, really? He does know that there's next-to-no money in it (we're only the support band after all!) and the band's not exactly a household name.

Yes, he just wants to play.

Oh, ok then!

So it was then that I found myself in the car park of The Hanging Tree on the phone to Macca's mucker (ha!) sometime around 7.30 on Saturday night (yes, that's right, the night before the gig) talking to Geoff for the first time. He seemed a very nice chap and very much up for the gig - we arranged to meet at the venue around 5.30 the next day to talk through the songs. Nothing like leaving it until the last minute is there?

It's just gone 6 o'clock on Sunday evening when this very unusual line-up of The Flying Squad all meet for the first time; we're standing near the side entrance of the venue near where Geoff has parked his van, I've got a guitar and we're running the starts and stops in the songs. Everyone's in good humour and after about 10 minutes we realise that the best thing to do is just to get on with it. Meanwhile the main band are arriving, and as I go back into the venue I see the unmistakable (to me at any rate) figure of Gypie Mayo at the back of the hall. I'm shy at the best of times but when it comes to meeting people like him I'm really shy although I have met him briefly a couple of times before and he seemed to be a really nice bloke. Squirrel goes across to say hello - he told me afterwards there'd been a moments hesitation and then a cry of 'Squirrel' from the great man, they were certainly chatting like old mates (Squirrel played on the same bill as The Feelgoods many times when he was with Lew Lewis, and was on the Oil City Sheiks single 'It Don't Take But A Few Minutes' with him) every time I saw them together in the next few hours which was good to see.
We're on just after 8 o'clock, for a 40-ish minute set that seemed to fly by, a sure sign that things went well. And indeed they did - there were a few moments where a bit more (or indeed any!) rehearsal would have helped things along, but overall it was a really enjoyable show.

How did we sound? Like this!

As I'm putting my gear away Squirrel comes over with Gypie who he introduces to me as 'a big fan' - now there's an understatement! My memory of him as being a nice bloke is thankfully correct, and he goes even higher up the 'Leigh's Top 10 Guitarists' chart by telling me how much he liked my solo in 'Dirty Water'; this may not look like much written here but I'd need the rest of time itself to be able to say how much that comment means to me.

The main act are calling themselves The Wolftracks although they're probably better known on the circuit as The Band Of Sceptics; they're led by Pete Sargeant who described himself to me as a 'psychedelic guitarist' and they normally play music that's more in that vein although as a big Howlin' Wolf fan he decided to do some gigs to honour the 100th anniversary of the great bluesman's birth. They certainly did what they set out to do, playing a set of songs that had me resolving to get my Howlin' Wolf albums out (and I have, and they sound great.) And Gypie played brilliantly, with all the same energy and power as I've ever seen him play with whichever band he's in. Fantastic. Damien McCabe did a guest spot singing 'Little Red Rooster', I'd not seen him for ages and it was good to catch up with him again.
After the show I go over to Gypie and tell him how much I'd enjoyed his playing, he seemed genuinely pleased with the compliments and went on to say that he doesn't gig much these days as he can't be bothered with band politics (I know what he means!) but that he'd really enjoyed the show. I tell him that I'd heard that he'd been playing jazz, he laughed as we both recounted our attempts at playing what is a notoriously difficult style of music for a rock 'n' roller to hold their own in, he says that you have to know The Real Book backwards and we both agree that we'll never manage it. Still we do what we do. And for a few minutes there the great Gypie was my mate, he knew my name and everything - it's things like that that keep you going sometimes.

Now - time for a 'Leigh's Top 10 Guitarists' chart don't you think?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Power in the darkness

As it happens it turns out that the Kris-at-the-Load-of-Hay gig could have all been very different - when I arrived home after it Shirley told me that there'd been a power cut! It was lucky that it didn't effect our evening although at least it would have stopped that bloomin' quiz machine... it meant that my planned recording of 'Stones In Exile' on BBC 1 had a break in it which was a bit of a shame although I'm sure it'll come out on DVD sometime soon. It's a documentary on the recording of the 'Exile On Main St.' album by The Rolling Stones which has just been re-issued for the umpteenth time although this time there's a second CD of songs allegedly recorded at the same time although the actual recording dates have been disputed in some quarters. Many of them have been overdubbed recently, although I'm not sure that's a bad thing if it fits the songs which in this case in my opinion it does. Being a sucker for this sort of thing I've bought it yet again (I've got about 4 versions of it!) and it still sounds great to me - a rare example of a double album that sounds better when you play it all the way through rather than only playing part of it or isolated tracks. And the bonus tracks are pretty good too - some have been around unofficially for a while but there are a few that haven't surfaced before and they're are excellent. The Stones really were good once upon a time weren't they?

It's been a busy time at Balcony Shirts which I suppose means that t-shirt weather has arrived; mind you Saturday was the quietest day for ages although given the fact that it rained for most of the day that's probably not surprising? It gave Scott and myself chance to put together our new window display featuring some shamelessly opportunistic World Cup t-shirts alongside some signed copies of 'The Football Factory' - we're now stocking some books including 'God's Lonely Men' (Esso's Lurkers memoir) and various London Books titles as provided by John King on Friday. It'll be interesting to see how well books sell in a clothes shop - we sold the first one on Saturday (this one since you've asked) so maybe we'll end up opening Balcony Books next door?

Sunday it was time for The Price to continue their '25th Anniversary Tour' (that's what it said on the posters!) at The Brunswick in Worthing. With Malcolm and Paul both based on the South Coast these days it was a chance for them to invite family and friends along to see us play, and that coupled with a healthy contingent of Uxbridge lads made for a raucously appreciative audience who saw a show that was in my opinion was much better than last month's Ruislip gig. We managed a quick warm up at Ivy Arch Studios in the afternoon before getting to the venue around 5 o'clock - there was an acoustic session taking place in the other bar which obviously meant that we couldn't make too much noise so I went for a walk along the sea front where I bought an ice cream (£2!) and caught up on some phone calls before returning to the venue to put a setlist together for the gig, eventually settling on an epic 24 song set (including 'So Sure' and 'Changing Places', neither of which were played at the recent reunion gigs) which with encores (including 'Happy Hour', again not played since, ooh, last century!) meant we ended up playing for just under 2 hours. It was great to see Dave Nash a.k.a. Romford Dave who used to watch us back in the early days among the audience - he remembers the earlier gigs better than I do! But why was this gig so much better than our last one? Now there's a question...

Last night it was Tom Robinson's 60th birthday gig at The Shepherds Bush Empire, and a very enjoyable evening it was too, with T.V. Smith joining the band to perform 'The Thin Green Line' then participating in the most sedate version of 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes' that I'm ever likely to hear. A great ending though - they sang 'Stand By Me' with two double basses, an acoustic guitar and a lot of voices without the aid of the P.A. system. Excellent! I've always thought that Robinson was one of the best songwriters to emerge during the punky times of the late '70's 'though I for one never really thought of him or the band as 'punk' or anything like it - maybe they were just astute enough to get on board as the punk bandwagon gained momentum? Anyway their first album is a total classic in my book not least as it features the amazing Danny Kustow on guitar - sadly he was nowhere to be seen last night although Adam Phillips made an excellent job of guitar duties all evening. Thanks to T.V. I ended up being invited to the aftershow party to meet Tom, although I had met him a couple of times before...

Back in 1988 (-ish!) I went to see Tom Robinson at The Beck Theatre in Hayes with Mick the original Price drummer. We hatched a plan to get there early and to give him a recording of our band to see if he might be able to help us or offer us some advice to further our plans of (ahem) World domination. Sure enough there he was, in the car park if I remember rightly, and we engaged him in cheery conversation, delivered our cassette tape and asked if he'd listen to it and let us know what he thought of it. Of course he would, and he'd let us know his thoughts as soon as he could.
Well no one was more surprised than me when a jiffy bag dropped through my letter box a few days later containing our tape - Tom had recorded his thoughts on the b-side, and very interesting they were too. I don't remember what happened to the tape - maybe Mick's got it? It would be fascinating to hear it now!
Years later I found myself at a Tom Robinson/T.V. Smith gig - I was introduced to Tom and reminded him that we'd actually met before; I told my story which he found highly amusing, then he asked if his advice had helped and commented that he remembered saying that he thought 'The Price' was a bit of a boring name for a band. I said something like 'that's good coming from someone who called their group 'The Tom Robinson Band'...'

You know that feeling when you've just said something and then thought 'why on Earth did I just say that?' I got that feeling then.

I was offered a piece of birthday cake last night. It didn't seem right to accept it. Happy birthday Tom!

And here are some photos from last month's Otley gig with T.V. in Otley - no sign of Mr. Saville... and a very special line-up of The Flying Squad are playing this coming Sunday at Tropic At Ruislip; full details on the venue website, it promises to be quite an evening!