Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'There were three in the bed, and the little one said...'

So here we are in that weird bit between Christmas and New Year, and it's time for a caption competition. Here are Tony, Jon and Ian of popular music combo The F.B.I. Band pictured earlier this month relaxing on a four poster bed in a castle in Belgium. Can you come up with an amusing or indeed bizarre way to sum up the situation?

Actually 'Tony, Jon and Ian of popular music combo The F.B.I. Band relaxing on a four poster bed in a castle in Belgium' is fairly bizarre in itself isn't it? See what you can do...

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Excuse me, I said... Shrewsbury!'

The occasional / ongoing obituary column continues with the news that Captain Beefheart has died. His influence on the likes of Joe Strummer and John Lydon (and therefore most if not all of the British punk bands, if only by proxy) has been well documented, and this is surely one of the great OGWT clips of them all. A great artist and a true outsider.

Talking of outsiders (sort of!) Vince Cable has been found guilty of having an opinion (declaring war on Rupert Murdoch is guaranteed to get you in the news, although a lot of people will be buying him a gun as a result!) as the cracks in the coalition government begin to show. Let's see how they decide to paper over them, as it looks like our old friend Jeremy Hunt is about to get involved... and then there's the weather. I've heard a lot of people say things like 'I don't know, a bit of snow and the country grinds to a halt' which may well be a fair point under normal circumstances - but this wasn't a 'bit' of snow. Saturday should have been a very busy day in the shop followed by an Upper Cut gig at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth, and it certainly began that way - but sometime after 10 a.m. it started snowing. By midday Windsor Street was buried under 6 inches of the stuff, and by 1 o'clock our gig had been cancelled. Oh well. Once it stopped actually snowing a few customers braved the Arctic conditions to pay us a visit and the till total at the end of the day wasn't a complete disaster, but for the Saturday before Christmas it should have been so much more. Mind you at one point it was snowing so heavily that you couldn't read the signs on the shops on the other side of the road. Still from the band's point of view Terry the singer has been instructed to call the venue in January for a rescheduled date so at least all is not lost there.

Sunday and with chaos on the roads and absolute insanity at the airports (Pete and Tony played a duo gig in Switzerland last Friday - they finally got back to Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon!) The Chicago Blues Brothers are playing at a wedding reception at The Rowton Castle Hotel near Shrewsbury. (Yes, another castle - none for ages then 2 come along at once...) We'd originally thought the gig was in Roydon (that's apparently where the enquiry came from) which would have been a simpler journey for most of the band; I was travelling up with Big Tel and Dave were D.J.'ing at the event. I spoke to Big Tel on the phone around midday and suggested that it was probably not a good idea for him to bring to van to our house to pick me up as we're at the bottom of a hill amid several abandoned cars which couldn't get back up again. Instead we agreed to meet up on the main road (he lent me his amp and I carried the rest of my stuff) and by 2.10 we were on our way. Within 40 minutes we pulled in to Oxford Services on the M40 as we were out of windscreen washer fluid - a large bottle of screen wash, 3 very expensive takeaway coffees and several Mars bars ('for the journey' - Dave) later we discovered that the washers themselves had frozen. Bah! Still it's interesting to note that in sub-zero temperatures the water fountains outside the main building were still working. Hmm... progress was steady until we passed Bicester where things slowed somewhat due to weight of traffic (strange to see a SKID RISK SLOW DOWN warning next to a sign for Silverstone) although by the time we got to the M42 things were moving well. It started to get foggy near the venue, but the trusty sat. nav. got us there for 7 o'clock where we made our way to (dressing) room 12 to meet up with the rest of the troops. Mike and Mike (just flown in from gigging in Belfast) were in the hats and glasses, Squirrel and Marc are on bass and drums, Dave and Ian on trumpet and saxophone and Steve is on keyboards for the first time in ages, with Phil manning the sound. There are sandwiches and chips (excellent!) with the promise of hog roast later (not too good for us vegetarians!) and it's good to see everyone again for the first time in what feels like ages.
We're booked to play for (gulp!) 2 hours (at least it makes the journey worthwhile!) so soundcheck includes a few 'what other songs do we know?' moments, with 'Superstition' and 'Unchain My Heart' both making an appearance. They both make an appearance in the show too, which begins with the happy couple dancing to 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol (very appropriate!) then our epic performance being witnessed by at best the 20 or so guests that made it along, and at worst by Phil, Big Tel and Dave. Still we played well and did our job as best we could, which on a night such as this is the main thing.
And talking of epic performances Big Tel did a heroic job driving us home - we found ourselves back at Oxford Services over 13 hours after our first visit (the fountains were still working although it was even colder!) and I arrived home at 5.30 in the morning. Several people had told me that we were mad to go at all, and in many ways they were probably correct - but don't you think that it's ironic that I had a gig a few miles from home cancelled then did a 350+ mile round trip to play a gig the very next day?

Since then the shop picked up considerably as all the people who couldn't get in on Saturday found their way to us during the week; we finished for this year at 1 o'clock this afternoon (we're open again on Tuesday 4th January if you'd like to come along and spend all your Christmas money!) and then went down the pub. That's the way to do it... Happy Christmas y'all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocks away!

An indication of how quiet it's been on the gigging front lately comes with the news that I've just done my first (and therefore only) gig in Europe this year...

After a late night on Monday (as always I blame East, and as always it's his fault...) I managed an early night on Tuesday in preparation for a very early morning on Wednesday. As my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I realised that I'd woken up every hour more-or-less on the hour throughout the night, and felt more tired than ever. Weird... after a cup of coffee and the usual 'I'm sure I've forgotten something' checks the long-suffering Shirley dropped me at West Ruislip Station (it's a bit easier to go from there rather than from Uxbridge) in time for the 5.47 train into London (that's why I call her long-suffering!) With Will Birch's excellent Ian Dury biography for company the journey passes quickly although I couldn't help noticing how many people are asleep on the train at that time of day. I guess they're just used to it? I could almost have gone to sleep myself if I hadn't bee worried about somebody walking off with my guitar, or in this particular instance, someone else's guitar as I've got Miles's Stratocaster (as mentioned a little while ago) with me - I'll have to buy it now won't I? Well I'm going to anyway as it's a good spare for my Relic Strat which I use for quite a few gigs. Actually that reminds me - I must actually get some gigs...
After an equally easy journey on The DLR I bump into Jon and Stuart on the forecourt outside London City Airport - we're all meeting there for a flight to Belgium where we're playing a Blues Brothers show. 'We' in this case are an amalgam of players from the Chicago Blues Brothers band and The F.B.I. Band - Pete (Jake) Dave (trumpet) Chris (keyboards) and myself (guitar, in case you or indeed I have forgotten) from The CBB-er's alongside Tony (Elwood) Ian (saxophone) Jon (bass) and Stuart (drums) from the F.B.I. boys. We're the first there - Stuart's already checked in online (sensible man!) so Jon and myself make a half-hearted attempt at self service check-in before Pete, Chris and Dave arrive and with Tony and Ian close behind we all check-in by more conventional means.
Jon and I took our instruments to the excess baggage area before going upstairs to make our way through security, which is very tight (I don't know about you but I'm glad it is!) but we're through in time for me to spend £7.40 on a vegetarian sausage sandwich and a cup of coffee (!) before we make our way to Gate 2C where the sight of our aircraft - a Fokker F50 - caused some consternation among group members. I must admit I was a bit nervous myself which is silly if you think about it - I mean, they fly all the time don't they? 'There's gaffa tape holding that propeller together' says Chris cheerily as we all tell ourselves that it's not gaffa tape... overall it turned out to be a fairly uneventful flight even if Dave did describe the take-off as feeling like we were in 'a glider in a catapult', such was the ferocity of our ascent. He also said something about 'a dogfight over the Channel' but I didn't catch the context of that comment, which on reflection may be for the best... we had an amazing view of the wind farm off the Kent coast, and the landing at Antwerp was a bit bumpy but not too bad. After meeting up with our driver (didn't catch his name sadly) and minibus we made the short journey to The Scandic Hotel where we check in. I've got (wait for it!) room 101 (oh yes!) and my door key doesn't work; on my way back to reception I meet Stuart who's got the same problem, and by the time our keys were in working order most of the band had turned up in the lobby with their keys. After successfully gaining access to my room I dropped my stuff off and went out for a stroll - not much of any interest nearby - before coming back to find Pete, Tony Dave and Ian in the bar preparing to leave for the local Christmas market. When their taxi turned up I ordered myself some tomato soup (and very nice it was too) before heading back up to my room. By now I'd realised that my phone wasn't going to work - maybe all the shenanigans earlier in the year when I thought I'd lost it and got a new SIM card as a result have come back to haunt me? - so I messed about with the T.V. for a while, eventually finding BBC1 and 2 (strange how you look for things that you know from home when you're away isn't it?) before indulging in a much-needed shower and some equally much-needed sleep.
2.45 p.m. and it's back down to the lobby to meet up for a 3 o'clock departure for the venue. After about 45 minutes we arrived at Kasteel Van Saffelaere, a castle (yes, you read that bit correctly) which some band members found a little disappointing as it was clearly a rather recent structure - 'I didn't think castles had double glazing' was a typical comment, although there was an astonishing bit of topiary in the garden in the shape (literally!) of a bush cut into the shape of a grand piano complete with pianist, which left Ian and Dave unable to resist the chance for some Red Hornz promotional pictures.
The backline is already set up on stage - I've got the ever popular and indeed ever wonderful Fender Blues Deluxe combo to play through, and Jon's got a Trace Elliot combo which sadly sounds a bit rough so the crew replace it with an Ampeg set-up which brings a smile to Jon's face. After a 'which band's versions do we play?' discussion we decide that we'll go for the F.B.I. arrangements, and soundcheck with 'Midnight Hour', 'Soul Man' and 'My Girl'. With everything sounding good it's off to find our dressing room which is actually The Honeymoon Suite (I'll leave you to do your own punchline!) complete with a four poster bed and a toilet / bathroom that doesn't have a door (again I'll leave you to do your own punchline!) On the way there Ian tells me that his band Swagga have just received some money from Strummerville to put towards recording a single - excellent! They're playing at The Dublin Castle on January 15th which I must try to get along to.
After some food (pasta and tomatoes for me, pasta and prawns for everyone else followed by chocolate pudding) and drink it's back up to The Honeymoon suite to hurry up and wait, or in my case to doze off on 3 giant cushions. 'It looks like you being eaten by 2 giant lips' said Dave as only he can. We're eventually on just before 10 o'clock for 90 minutes of studied indifference, wild acclaim, and all points in between - a classic corporate gig then. Generally it's a good show with the odd mad moment here and there, and we're back at the hotel just in time to discover that the bar had closed. Bugger!

My alarm goes off at 8 a.m. - after a few faltering attempts I get Breakfast T.V. on the telly and reflect on how odd it is to watch British T.V. when you're abroad. It's not that long ago that it would have been unheard of - then again when I got back to my room the previous night I'd found a subtitled 'C.S.I.' and found myself attempting to understand the subtitles rather than listen to the dialog. I think I may have been a little tired... at breakfast Pete, Dave and Chris report on their failed attempts at getting a sauna while I completely failed to see the 'use sliced bread only' sign on the toasting machine and so put some (very) roughly hand sliced bread into it - I don't think too many people smelt the burning...
In the minibus on the way to the airport the radio bursts into life with some accordion music and panic grips the band - 'you hum it, I'll leave' says a clearly disturbed Dave, and Tony says 'it's the sort of music you play when you want your guests to leave' just as a track that Pete thinks sounds like The Mike Sammes Singers comes on. 'We'll Meet Again' is playing as we arrive at the airport and everyone quickly gets out, grabs their things and heads for check-in. There's not much to do at the airport - actually there's pretty much nothing to do at the airport - but there's not too long to wait for our flight. 'There's gaffa tape on these propellers too' says Chris cheerily as a clearly unamused Pete asks Tony if he'll swap seats with him so that he can sit by the window. I spent most of the flight talking to Dave about subjects as diverse as boxing and Stephen Fry (the two weren't linked in case you were wondering) and musing on whether we'd ever see anything other than cloud out of the windows. Back at the airport it's goodbyes to all and sundry although I end up travelling a fair bit of the way home with Jon who I leave at Finchley Road. I was back serving in Balcony Shirts by 1.30 - 3 1/2 hours earlier I was in Antwerp, and my journey from there to London had taken less time than my journey from London to Uxbridge. Back to work eh?

Sorry this posting is a day later than it might have been. As always I blame East, and as always it's his fault...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Looking through Charlie Gilmour's eyes

Another week, another riot (now there's something you never think you're ever going to type!) and what better image to be left with from the protest against the increase in tuition fees than Charlie 'son-of-David' Gilmour hanging from the Cenotaph? Well actually there are probably quite a few better images, not least the hilarious interview he gave on the London news programme when whilst carrying a false leg that one would imagine came from a shop window dummy (let's hope it didn't belong to a disabled person!) he slurred his way through a few sentences (given the amount of photographic evidence he could find himself slurring his way through a very different type of sentence fairly soon) before saying that he'd only 'borrowed' the leg and was intending to take it back, honest. Excellent! But of course there are any number of serious points to be made here, not least the irony that many of the M.P.'s voting for the increase went to university in the days before student loans and therefore received a full grant. How soon they forget - 'we don't need no education' as someone once sang... and of course the right wing media can have a field day at the 'troublemakers' as indeed can the Conservative and Liberal politicians, therefore obscuring the fact that many people will be put off from continuing their education simply because they can't afford it, and that many of the people who voted in favour of that happening signed a pledge to say that they opposed it. Does this mean that we can never believe anything that they say again - or does it mean that we never could in the first place? It looks as though we do need some education after all... and before we leave the glory of the Tories Jeremy Hunt has been in the news again after his name was mispronounced on the radio - apparently he was more amused than offended, 'though I'm sure he's heard the word on many occasions (and if you want to hear it click here!) not least because his nickname around the Ministry of Culture is apparently 'corrible'...

In the meantime Friday evening saw The Upper Cut return to The Bell in Ruislip for a show that got off to a less than ideal start - I walked in just as Watford scored their second of three goals against Queens Park Rangers amid scenes of great distress among the assembled multitude. The pub guv'nor appeared wearing a Q.P.R. shirt and a less-than-happy expression, and by the time we went on (after the match had finished at nearly 10 o'clock) there was very little interest in what we were doing. The pub is L-shaped, and we played down one end whilst a few people came around to watch us for the most part everyone stayed in the other part. Bah! Still we used the opportunity to play some of our newer material as well as bringing back a few songs that we'd not played for some time, and while it would be easy to moan or be cynical (oooh imagine that!) we had a good time even if nobody else did. As we were leaving the landlady told Terry that she'd be in touch as they'd like to have us play there again so I guess we must have done something right?

Saturday it was time to see a couple of bands in a couple of venues - Substance at The Crown and Treaty in Uxbridge and Sociology at The Bell in Ruislip. Yes that's right, The Bell in Ruislip again. Before our gig there the previous evening Terry the bass had noticed a poster advertising a gig on Saturday and observed that Sociology feature his mate Steve on guitar who has depped for me in The Upper Cut when I've been unable to make a gig. It seemed a good chance to catch them, although as I'd already intended to get along to see Substance for the first time in something like 15 years (I think one of the last Price gigs in our original incarnation was with them and we certainly played with both Need and Babapapa, the two bands that they'd all originally been part of) we hatched a plan to get along to both gatherings.
We made a quick visit to the C & T to check when they were on (11 o'clock) then headed for Ruislip. As we arrived at The Bell it was clear that there was no one on the stage yet we could hear live music - yes, you've guessed it, they'd set up in the end where all the people are. 'You lot should have played down this end' said a cheery chap who struck up a conversation with Terry. Well, yes we should, and no doubt we will next time... I'd not met Steve before but he seemed a very nice chap, and his band played a good mix of material, even gamely responding to a request for a Roy Orbison song. Good stuff.
Meanwhile back at The Crown and Treaty Substance were storming through their set - well I think it was them, it was difficult to tell as there were no lights on the stage at all while they were playing. Still it was good to hear (if not see) them again, and if anything they sounded even better than they did back in those dim and distant days. They finished at midnight and I'd intended not to be out too late, but as both Terry and myself bumped into several people that we'd not seen for a while we were still there nearly 2 hours later. What a way to carry on eh?

Having spent much of Sunday stumbling around thinking 'I really should go back to sleep for a while' I eventually admitted defeat and went back to sleep for a while, and woke up feeling a whole lot better for it. I'm sure hangovers didn't used to last as long as they do these days? But it was good to be feeling better as the evening saw this year's last 'Acts Less Ordinary' gig at The Load of Hay, and what better way to end the year than with the legend that is John Otway. I'd spoken to him about a possible Uxbridge show back in September when T.V Smith and myself played at Attila The Stockbroker's anniversary gig in Shoreham, and was well pleased when he came up with a gig date for us as well as being more than a little intrigued when he announced his intention to do 'John Otway's Christmas Lecture' rather than a normal gig, although 'normal' is the last word that you can use when Otway is involved... myself and East arrived at 7 o'clock to find Grant the landlord lighting the fire in anticipation of a busy evening; Otway himself arrived shortly afterwards to set up his laptop and projector (!) and opted to use the pub's T.V. screen rather than his own. He then sat down to sew the buttons back on his white shirt (in case you're wondering why he'd do such an apparently odd thing before a gig, have a look at the 'Bunsen Burner' promotional film - around 50 seconds in you'll get your answer!) telling me that his mum used to do it for him right up until when she died last year aged 89, 'a button sewer until the end'. I took the opportunity to ask him about Pete Townshend's involvement in the early part of his career - he recalled 'standing as far away as I am from you' (i.e. about a yard) from Townshend as he recorded the guitar part for 'Louisa On A Horse' and thinking 'he's good'; he also told of recording the vocals for 'Misty Mountain' at Olympic Studios - he was on his way back into the control room from the recording area when 'a little man' stopped him and told him that it sounded good, and when he got to the control room the engineer asked him what Mick had thought of it...
9 o'clock and with a good crowd in it's time for the lecture to begin. Unsurprisingly given Otway's self-deprecating sense of humour the subject was his failure in the music industry, and very funny it was too with plenty of graphs and charts on the screen as well as live and interview clips and much more besides. I won't give any more away in case you go to see it (I wouldn't want to ruin the surprises!) but it left me with the thought that he isn't a failure at all - after all you don't accidentally get a 35 year career do you? An absolutely brilliant evening, and a fine end to a year of Sunday night gigs at the venue. I'm not sure how I'm going to top this one - maybe Charlie Gilmour would like to do something for us? Well, it's a thought.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

'There are places I remember...'

John Lennon died 30 years ago today, shot by Mark Chapman outside The Dakota Building in New York. He was 40 years old.

It is said that everyone who was old enough can remember the moment that they found out that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Maybe for people of my generation Lennon's death is in a similar category, and I can certainly remember where I was...

It was a very cold morning - maybe our central heating had gone wrong? - and I was reluctantly getting ready to go to work. I'd started at the E.M.I. factory in Ruislip only a few months earlier, and had quickly realised that the world of 'conventional' work was a very real threat to my sanity. I stumbled downstairs and into our kitchen where my mum was sitting having breakfast with the radio on. (No Breakfast Television in those days!) Before I'd even said hello to her she looked at me sadly and said 'something terrible's happened - John Lennon's been shot'. 'What?' was my confused reply, before I made an exclamation along the lines of 'ARRRGGGHHH!'

My right big toe was caught in a mousetrap.

We had a mouse in the house at the time (fairly obviously!) and I was walking around with no shoes or socks on. Well we all do, don't we?

I went to work in a daze. (Actually I often did, but that's another story!) So - Lennon's dead and I feel like I've got a broken toe. Not a good start to the day. When I got there one of the women came up to me and said something along the lines of 'you like music don't you? That John Lennon bloke's been shot hasn't he? Good. Me and my husband hated him, all that peace rubbish and that weird Japanese bird. The World's a better place without him'.
I though for a second or two about how many times I'd had to listen to her bleating on about how she thought that 'Hitler was right about a lot of things' and other such right wing drivel, then gave the rather non-committal reply of 'it's a pity it wasn't you and your husband that been shot, then the World really would have been a better place' before shouting 'I'm going home' indiscriminately across the office. My boss immediately threatened me with the sack, to which I replied 'like I care'. And, at that moment, I didn't.

I walked (hopped?) back along the High Street in a different daze. I heard 'Strawberry Fields Forever' playing in Lightning Records, went in and stood there listening - what a voice, and what a song. As it ended I looked around - there were several more people just standing there, listening. One of them was crying.
I just played it again now - what a voice, and what a song. And what a man, and what a loss. I didn't think the World was a better place without him then, and I don't think it is now. Dr. Winston O'Boogie, fab forever.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Good times are back

A good gig for The Upper Cut at the Load of Hay last night, a bit under-attended (well it was cold outside and in, at least until Grant the landlord lit the fire) but great fun nonetheless. And it had been a good 3 days before that, playing gigs in Wellingborough, Ipswich and Shoreham with T.V. Smith. Here's what happened - well, here are the bits that I can remember, it seems ages ago now...

It being busy times at Balcony Shirts your humble narrator did Thursday morning behind the counter before buying a mobile phone charger (you always forget something don't you? Well - I do!) and heading off on the Metropolitan Line towards Kings Cross Station. Progress was slow but steady (anyone would think it had been snowing! Actually most people that I spoke to in the previous few days didn't think I'd make it as far as the train let alone going anywhere on it; why do we always think that everywhere grinds to a halt just because the media says it does?) and I was there around 20 minutes early for a projected 'about 1.45' meeting at St. Pancras with the man himself. I was just spending far too much money in The Camden Food Co. when T.V. arrived, and we were on the 2 o'clock Corby train with a few minutes to spare. My guitar wouldn't fit in the overhead racks (surely it's not that big? come to think of it my bag wouldn't fit either - maybe the rack was small? Mind you T.V's guitar fitted! Help!) so the nearby unreserved seat 53 became it's resting place for a journey that saw some beery blokes attempting to explain why their tickets weren't in order to a clearly unimpressed inspector (one of them said 'don't worry mate that's mine' when my guitar fell out of the seat; when I said that he didn't have to worry as it was actually mine he said 'well, you've got to try haven't you?' I despair of people sometimes) but was otherwise uneventful. As we stepped off the train at a freezing cold Kettering Station T. V. smiled and said 'welcome to the T.V. Smith touring experience'. Excellent!
We were originally booked to play at Sawyers in Kettering but sadly the venue has just closed; however promoters Bambi and Trina (both members of the excellent 'urban rail punk' band Eastfield) found an alternative venue in the shape of The Horseshoe Inn at nearby Wellingborough. Bambi met us at the station and we went back to his and Trina's house where support act and Blyth Power guitarist Steven Cooper was already present and correct. A couple of hours of coffee and television followed (I nearly typed 'Coffee and T.V.' there! Ooops!) with England's ill-fated bid to host the 2018 World Cup caused particular merriment, not least when Martin Peters said 'I'm gutted' just as T.V. said 'he'll say ''I'm gutted" in a minute'. As the commentator put it, 'the paint's hardly dry on the announcement yet!'
6 o'clock and with Trina staying at home nursing a bad leg it's off to the venue for the rest of us. The poster behind the D.J. booth said 'THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES' and although they seem to put bands on regularly at the venue it seems unlikely that they're of the punky variety. 'There'll be no one here so I'm applying the 5 pint rule' says Steven cheerily as he ordered his first drink, promising 4 more before his appearance - T.V. and myself soundchecked with 'Third Term' (T.V. noted that he was plugged into P.A. channels 2 and 6 - 'half a crown') before Steven sets up his amplifier ('I've hired it for £6!') and I walked down to the nearby kebab shop for some chips in a pitta bread. Well - you're allowed to eat stuff like that when you're on tour!
9.15 and with considerably more people in that he'd anticipated (many of the old Sawyers crowd had made the journey) Steven rather unsteadily took to the stage for a fine if rather, shall we say, loose set of original material. 'Am I slurring my words?' he asked smiling broadly; 'I was the 60th Whiskey Priest, the umpteenth Blyth Power guitarist at least' - now there's a chorus that only he could write! He also referred to T.V and myself as 'Jedward' on a number of occasions...
10.15 and we're on with 'No Time To Be 21'. We'd not had chance to rehearse together so had decided to stick to our 'chronological set' of the last few gigs, and with only a few moments of madness it all went rather well. I'd hoped to use my MXR Micro Amp pedal to boost the volume of my solos but that had refused to work at the soundcheck (good job I'd tried it then as it had worked fine at home) so I used the tried and trusted 'hit the stings harder during the solos' method - still I use it all the time when playing electrically so I'll have to either fix it or buy a new one. Bugger! Our set finished with the 'Adverts trilogy' of 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes', 'Bored Teenagers' and 'One Chord Wonders' to plenty of applause and at least one cry of 'awesome' from a younger audience member. A good first gig of 3.

I woke up the next morning at 10 o'clock, though I think that I'd have slept a lot longer if I hadn't set an alarm. I'd taken a sleeping bag and there were 2 quilts on the bed since there was no radiator in my room - I wasn't cold in the night but I guess with that lot on I shouldn't have been! When I went downstairs Bambi was loading footage of our gig onto his computer; whilst doing so he showed me some Sawyers footage, it looked like a really good venue but as he said, 'it's time to move on' Let's hope it works out for them in Wellingborough.
'What was going on at the end of 'Gary Gilmore' last night?' said T.V. rather pointedly; well I don't know so let's have a look at the footage... one too many riffs from the guitarist. It's a fair cop!
A thankfully recovered Trina dropped us at the station at 1 o'clock ('one down' said T.V. as we walked away from the car) where we learned that our train was delayed by 15 minutes. This gave us time for coffee and a scone (punk rock eh?!?) before heading over the bridge to catch our train back to St. Pancras. Yes, St. Pancras - strange as it may sound it's easier for us to go back to London then up to Ipswich than to cut across country directly. Given my storage problems on the way there we opted to use our reserved seats as luggage space and sit in nearby unreserved seats - T. V. produced a book written in German as I caught up on phone calls. From St. Pancras we made our way to Liverpool Street via the Underground where we checked the departures board - ominously there was no platform indicated for our train - and stocked up on caffeine. At 3.25 and with our train due in 5 minutes there are still no clues as to where we're leaving from - an announcement says that the 3.30 train is about to leave from platform 10 and panic grips the assembled multitude. Somehow we get on board just as the whistle blows - as the train pulls away I make vain attempts to store my guitar on the crowded carriage, eventually (almost) wedging it in a luggage rack with my bag and sitting as near as I can to it so that I can keep an eye on it. We had reserved seats elsewhere on the carriage (mine was C60 - one for the cassette users among us!) but the ensuing chaos meant that things had descended into a free-for-all with people saying things like 'there are no reserved seats on delayed trains' as they elbowed people out of their way. As I say, I despair of people sometimes... 'welcome aboard the delayed 15.30 train to Norwich' said a cheery voice, before saying something about 'signaling problems at Ipswich'. At least he had his seat.
As we pulled in to Ipswich Station T.V. phoned the venue to tell them that we'd arrived. He came off the phone with the words ' look out for the blue Escort'. Outside the station the snow was thicker than we'd seen up until this point on our travels, and there were cars, taxis and buses everywhere in a 'it's-nearly-5 o'clock-on-a-Friday-evening' state of near-emergency. We managed to signal our presence to the blue Escort before it got caught in the chaos, and we arrived at The Steamboat Tavern a few minutes later where Val the landlady showed us to our rooms (to be precise she showed me as T.V. has played and stayed there many times before) then offered make us some food which we were both very grateful for - it had been a long time since the scones.
Soundcheck time - Rikki from Red Flag 77 is running the gig, and also on the bill is the splendidly named Ed Ache (yes!) and local poet Rowan. I lent Ed a lead so that he could use an in-line guitar tuner, and with him due on at 8.30 we're given a stage time of 9.45 with Rowan doing a set inbetween our 2 acts. With quite a few people in Ed in onstage on time, he's got dreadlocks down to his knees and uses a ukulele for the first few songs and an acoustic guitar for the rest, both of which sound like a chainsaw as he roars through his material with great energy. 'Here's another song about having no money, it's called "£12.50 a day" - he's going down well and the atmosphere is good with a great evening in prospect, when suddenly the lights go out, the P.A. goes off and the initial audience cry of 'Whay-hay!' is replaced by confused murmurings. I look out of the window at the flats opposite, there are lights on so it can't be too bad - or is that emergency lighting on the stairs? Bar staff with torches eye the fuse box warily as Val produces a bewildering amount of candles and people wonder if they can still get a drink or not. Ed carries on singing then Rowan bravely begins his set, gripping his pint glass like his life depended on it as people struggle to hear him. Meanwhile people are asking how come the lights are still on in the toilets as T.V. and myself wonder what to do - do we go on or do we wait to see if the power returns? We're at the bar speculating furiously when there's a sudden burst of light, then darkness again, then light again with another cry of 'Whay-hay!' - people start blowing candles out as we get ourselves ready to play. 'No Time To Be 21' ends to relieved applause, it's all going to be alright and everything's going great until 'The Suit' when the power suddenly dips for a split-second, then again a few seconds later, no 'Whay-hay!' this time but we get to the end of the song in one piece. 'Runaway Train Driver' sees a conga around the pub (Val banned them from going outside as it was too dangerous!) and the Adverts Trilogy sees more than a little pogoing. Great stuff, although I can't help wondering what I would be typing if the power hadn't come back on...
After the show it's time for a drink, and with Me First and The Gimme Gimmes on the Cd player everyone seems relieved that it all went well in the end. T.V. and myself sign birthday boy Stalkie's gig poster as an 'are Gogol Bordello any good?' debate begins and Rikki attempts to tell us about his 'other' band The East Town Pirates - 'we get called ''The East End Pirates'', I mean what's that all about, do people think we're going to go "da da da da daa daa daaa" then shout "OOO AH ME HEARTIES'?'

Saturday began with coffee and Marmite on toast - a good start. T.V. sits changing his strings as we talk through the day to come - catch the train down to Stratford, then from there T.V. is off to do a late afternoon solo gig in Hove before meeting myself and the long-suffering Shirley in Shoreham for our evening show there. Baz gives us a lift to the station, it's busy as Ipswich are at home to Swansea but we get there in time for the 12.08 to Stratford - which is of course delayed to 12.30. A man asks me if I'm 'on the fiddle' as I'm getting my ticket out, I misheard him and thought he'd said something about the football but he points at my guitar case and looks pleased with himself. I smile and join T. V. on the platform, pausing to read the 'leaf fall update' by the ticket machines - it seems that they've 'implicated an extensive line side vegetation management programme' which I guess means that it's not leaves causing all these delays then... on the platform the '2010 Timetable Change Surgery' notice sits next to the 'New Footbridge and Lift' information which thanks us all for our 'support and co-operation while we undergo the enhancements'. Hmm...
With the platform full of Swansea City fans our train arrives in the nick of time.It's not too full so we anarchically choose seats in coach F instead of our allotted coach C (punk rock eh?!? Mind you T.V. was now reading Steve Ignorant's book so maybe anarchy really was in the air...) and, passing through T.V.'s birthplace Romford on the way, arrive at a busy Stratford Station without any problems. The Central Line train back into town is full as quite a few of the other lines aren't running due to maintenance work (how annoying is that every weekend?) and I'm very relieved to meet Shirley at West Ruislip Station where we make a detour to drop some posters off at The Bell in Ruislip for the upcoming Upper Cut show there this Friday before coming home. A shower and some food are both much needed from my point of view, and at 6 o'clock we leave to wind our way down to Shoreham. As we pull up outside the Duke Of Wellington it's pouring down with rain, we're steeling ourselves to get indoors as quickly as we can when a bedraggled Attila The Stockbroker arrives on a bicycle carrying a violin. We go inside to find him and T.V. ordering drinks, the pub has an excellent selection of real ales which Attila is something of an expert on. We set up and soundcheck in no time, and Peter from Peter and The Test Tube Babies arrives just as we finish. I attempt to describe his band to Shirley but give up after telling her the title of their first album... by the time we go on there are a few people in including ex-Blyth Power guitarist Wob who I'd not seen for ages abut who now works behind the bar at the pub. Attila is right at the front for most of our set singing along, he joins us on violin for 'Lion And The Lamb' and 'Runaway Train Driver' in the middle of our set and 'One Chord Wonders' at the end, he speaks emotively about how T.V. inspired and continues to inspire him, eventually persuading T.V. to play 'Not In My Name' to end a great gig, in fact a 3 great gigs which I'll remember for a very long time. And talking of remembering things...

I was at an Attila gig sometime in the late '80's, I think at the Mean Fiddler Acoustic Room although I could be wrong there; Attila said something like 'I'm going to play a song by one of Britain's greatest ever songwriters' before performing 'The Suit' on mandola. One of the people I was with asked who T.V. Smith was - I turned to them and said words to the effect of 'you must heard of T.V. Smith, he was in The Adverts, a great songwriter, a genius in fact...' and as I said it I realised he and Gaye Advert were standing right behind us. I think I managed an awkward hello and then said 'well - you are!'

He doesn't remember it happening, but I do. I've just played 3 gigs with him, and as I say, I'll remember them too.