Monday, February 27, 2012

'Do you think it was something that you ate?'

Do you like profiteroles? Yes, I do too, maybe not quite as much as some people but they're really nice sometimes aren't they? I always find one or two of them is enough although I've seen some people eat a lot more than that. I expect that you have too.

The impressively-filled bowl pictured above appeared on the 'band table' (that's what it said on the piece of card) around 9.30 on Saturday evening; by 9.45 we were on stage. I wouldn't normally take a photo of such a thing, but it for whatever reason it made me laugh. I had one, thought about two, decided it wouldn't be a good idea before two 45 minute bursts of prancing around posing with a plank of wood around my neck; other band members had similar thoughts but had some more profiteroles anyway. Halfway through our show looks of horror crossed their faces as a waitress removed the remaining ones from our table - they'd said that we should take them to our dressing room and they'd been proved right.

I rather suspect that I had a look of horror on my face too, but for a different reason. More about that in a minute.

It's been a while since I've been able to write the words 'three gigs in three days' but I'm pleased to say that I can write it about the weekend just gone. The first show was the first show (if you see what I mean) for Ska Madness - the brainchild of CBB-er Matt and featuring himself, myself and his mate Jamie on saxophone (and a bunch of backing tracks) and making it's debut at no lesser venue that Cippenham British Legion Club near Slough. As we were setting up a cheery chap came in, looked around and asked where we wanted him to set up; when we said we didn't know he introduced himself as 'Steve Curtis - Bon Jovi and Freddie Mercury tribute'. He then nervously ran off to find out if he was in the right building, returning a few minutes later to triumphantly announce that 'we're both on'. Leaving aside the fact that for a minute there I wasn't sure if he meant both of his acts or us and him this was good news.
After setting up is was time to get a drink and check stage times. Barry the boss hummed and harred for a minute before deciding that we were to go on at 9.45pm, with Bon Jovi on before us and Freddie Mercury after. (Now that's a sentence that I never thought that I'd write!) He then advised us not to leave anything in our cars ('sat. navs, coats, they'll have anything away') and went back behind the bar, leaving us to debate whether or not we fancied cheesy chips (we did!) and to catch a bit of Steve's first set - I'm not exactly an expert on Bon Jovi's career but I do know that he's a very good singer (next time you see a band playing 'Livin' On A Prayer' see if the singer gets the audience to do the 'whoa-ho' bits in the choruses - they're really high, especially in the last part of the song which is in a higher key; one could somewhat cynically point out that it exposes the limitations of the singer if he has to get the audience doing that bit for him, but cynicism the last thing you'd ever get from me...) and as such Steve made a good job of the songs and worked hard to get the audience involved, particularly when he got them singing 'Livin' On A Prayer' (I'm not being cynical, honest... no really I'm not, I certainly can't sing it!)
Playback gigs are always a bit odd from my point of view, and not always particularly enjoyable; however this one was really good fun - a bit loose here and there (it was our first go at it after all) but we certainly went down well with Matt as energetic as ever and Jamie blowing up a storm. A good start for Ska Madness - let's see what happens next.
After the show we took our gear down as quickly as we could to make way for Steve's second set. (We also realised that we could go home early if we got our stuff off the stage! Oh yes!) As we were loading our gear out through the pool room I heard a voice shout 'Heggarty!' - I turned round to see a smiling gentleman walking towards me with the words 'I heard your singer introduce you as Heggarty, that's my name too'. It turned out that my new friend Chris Hegarty spells his name with only one 'G' - I told him my lot were greedy...

After a busy Saturday in the shop it was off to the somewhat unlikely surroundings of Papplewick School in Ascot for a show with The Repertoire Dogs. This is only my second time depping with the band (their 'usual' guitarist is Mick Ralphs from Mott The Hoople and Bad Company - how mad is that?) and it was every bit as enjoyable as my last show with them, for most of the time anyway...
Nick's on vocals (ably assisted by Elkie and Freya) with Simon on guitar, Nigel on bass and Bob on drums, and we're playing at what Nick cheerily described as 'a big piss-up for staff and parents'. From what I saw this certainly seemed to be an apt description, with many people in fancy dress and an atmosphere of genial jollity all round. We had a small room (complete with pool table) to change in before have a meal prior to our first set starting at half past nine. I had Quorn Chilli (as did Bob, a fellow vegetarian) and heroically resisted having too many profiteroles as mentioned above. I had a couple of bottles of lager but that was all, honest.
We begin with 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' followed by 'I Saw Her Standing There' - we're playing well, people are up dancing already and it's going to be a great night.
In the interval I go outside in search of the gents toilet - they're refurbishing the ones in the building and I'd previously walked what felt like about half a mile to find some, but had been assured that there were some much nearer just outside the back door. I eventually found it just around the corner, as I was walking back I felt tired suddenly, weary even. Come on Leigh, two gigs in a row and you're already knackered? Dreadful!
As our second set progressed I felt more and more tired, and was developing a particularly nasty stomach ache. I tried to ignore it but it wouldn't go away, in fact it got worse. I burped suddenly - ooh, that didn't feel too good. This is getting bad. Very bad. Meanwhile the gig is going well, very well, and I'm concentrating on playing but it feel as though my stomach is swelling up and I'm getting very worried. As Bob and Simon start our last number 'All Right Now' I have to sit down, much to the consternation of Nigel who wonders what's wrong, I tell him I'm ok even though I'm not and I'm hoping that there won't be an encore even though I know that there will...
After 'Born To Be Wild' I put my guitar down and stood for a few seconds. No, it's no good, I'm going to be sick. Bugger. I try to walk calmly out towards the back door but know that I'm walking quicker and quicker until in the end I'm trying not to run, as I get outside I'm definitely running and I make it to the toilet praying that there's no one in there... there isn't. There is a God.
After what feels like an eternity in hell with Satan and all his little wizards I step back outside. I was sick. Very sick. Very very sick. I feel terrible. As I walk back towards the venue, there are three loud well-to-do sounding men outside having a smoke. As I get nearer I hear one of them recounting with much hilarity how he'd kicked a horse in it's ribs 'hundreds of times, you should have seen the bruises'. His friends threw their ugly heads back in distorted laughter. I wish I'd been sick on them.

When I woke up the next morning I felt as though I'd done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson in his prime. My head hurt, my throat was raw and my stomach and sides ached. I've got a gig in a few hours, an afternoon show with The Rikardo Brothers at The Unicorn in Abbots Langley. How am I going to do that?
I stumbled downstairs - Shirley asks me how I feel. Well not too good but I'm on my feet. I ask her what she thinks I can eat, she suggests toast and I manage a few mouthfuls but don't feel like much more so just stick with water. Maybe I'll feel better after a shower?
I wake up to Shirley knocking on the bedroom door - it's half past twelve, I've got to get going. I'd sat on the bed and fell asleep. Oh well, I must have needed it.
The Unicorn is a nice little pub - I'd been past it many times as CBB saxman Richard used to live near there, but had never been in it before. We're playing in the corner by the fireplace (there's an impressive fire burning as we arrive, which Scott the guv'nor puts out with remarkable efficiency) and we set up quickly and easily. I feel better than I thought I would but still don't feel like doing much other than sipping lemonade and waiting for showtime. We began playing just as The Carling Cup Final started and finished our third set a few minutes after the penalty shootout. It was a good gig - Liverpool won and so did we. The way I was feeling I wouldn't have predicted either.

By the time I got home I could bearly remember the show. I said hello to Shirley, put my guitar away, and went straight to bed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Adam raised a Cain

Another rock casualty - Michael Davis of The MC5 has died. Like The Stooges, The New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground the MC5 are a band that were derided when they first appeared in the 1960s but that were later held up as heroes by the punk rock fraternity in the 1970s. One listen to anything from 'Kick Out The Jams', 'Back In The U.S.A.' or 'High Time' will show why their radical politics and their association with the likes of John Sinclair meant that the American establishment marked them out as enemies at the time of their release. Their extraordinary combination of anger, frustration and intelligence make them some of the most remarkable rock records of all time, and Michael Davis made a hugely valuable contribution to them. Click here for an amazing clip of the band playing live in 1970 - that, my friends, is rock 'n' roll...

In the meantime it's been another gig-less weekend for your humble narrator, although I did spend Sunday with F.B.I. Band / Utter Madness keyboard maestro Richard Whennell recording guitars on two tracks for Glee Club UK. There wasn't a lot of rock 'n' roll rebellion in the tracks in question (since you've asked they were 'We Built This City' by Starship and 'You're The Inspiration' by Chicago) but it was still a hugely enjoyable experience, and a real challenge to attempt to recreate the guitar parts on the original recordings. I'm not sure that I was completely accurate but even though I say so myself it sounded pretty good by the end of the session. Let's hope it still does!

Thankfully I've got some gigs this coming weekend (thank Gawd!) so I can't sit here talking to you as I've got songs to learn - but in the meantime it's my Dad's 80th birthday today and I'm off to see him. I've considered writing a hopelessly over-emotional, intensely personal account of our relationship here in these hallowed pages, but have decided to just say that more than ever I realise that I wouldn't be the person that I am today (for better or worse!) if it wasn't for the way he and my Mum bought me (and indeed my brother Terry) up. They could be hard on us sometimes which at the time seemed difficult to understand but nowadays makes a lot more sense. He remains a tough man, albeit with a somewhat softer centre these days, which is no bad thing if you think about it.
I've bought him a framed Heggarty coat of arms - in doing so I've discovered that our family motto is 'they neither bend nor change'. That'll do for me, and I suspect it'll do for him too. Happy birthday Dad.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I knew I should have kept a box of them under the bed...

Now here's a funny thing - the first Price single for sale on eBay. Most of these were sold at gigs out of cardboard boxes, and incredibly it was made 'single of the week' in the NME although that was a bit of an inside job as the writer in question already knew of the band; his name was Steve Lamacq - I wonder what happened to him? It feels a bit strange to see it there - how naive does 'pay no more than £1.30' look now? - but it's nice to think that we haven't been totally forgotten. You can see the full listing here - and no, I don't have any spare copies!

Following on from Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday last month it was sad to hear of the death of his trainer Angelo Dundee. Boxing was very popular in our house when I was young (my brother Terry was a boxer and dad a big fan of the sport) and so I know his name very well - he was a great character as these quotes show Would Ali have made it without him? Now there's a question... and Witney Houston has died - I don't know much about her music as it's not really my type of thing but with the media gearing up for another paparazzi-powered feeding frenzy I'm sure we'll all have chance to find out far too much about her over the next few days and weeks.

Anyway, amazing news - I actually played two gigs this weekend. At last! Every musician I talk to seems to be suffering at the moment, and while I'm lucky enough to have gigs on the horizon these are definitely tough times for all and sundry. Still The Uppercut returned to The Half Moon in Harrow on Friday evening for a show that didn't start well - even before we'd played a note we were being asked to turn the volume down. Bah! Our first song 'Dock Of The Bay' was so quiet I could hear the unamplified strings of my guitar louder than the sound from my amp. Not good, and although we managed to sneak the volume up a bit later in the evening it put a bit of a dampener on proceedings. Under these circumstances I thought we played well but it was harder work than it should have been.
Sunday night I accompanied Big Al Reed at The Anglers Retreat in Staines; once again Barry the slide guitar player got up for a few blues numbers (and very good he was too) and Al was his usual larger-than-life self; his spontaneous Frank Spencer impression during 'Polk Salad Annie' induced audience hysteria and had to be heard to be believed. It was something of an experimental evening for the venue as it was the first Sunday gig - let's hope they decide to continue.

And last week I saw T. Rextasy at The Beck Theatre in Hayes. I got there early to meet up with ex-Chicago Blues Brothers drummer John Skelton who's been playing with T. Rextasy for several years now; it was good to catch up with him and great to see him doing so well with the band, whose 'Children Of The Revolution' tour celebrates 40 years since the release of 'The Slider' (How long? I remember saving up my milk round money to buy that when it came out!) as well as marking the 35th anniversary of Marc Bolan's death in September. This was only the second date of the tour - John said that they were due to play several songs for the first time at the show, having spent most of their soundcheck running through them. It all sounded good to me, with Danielz as mind-bogglingly like Bolan as ever, and the band sounding solid and strong. The audience loved it too, with plenty of dancing and even a fair bit of screaming from some of the ladies present. Despite playing in several tribute bands myself I still can't make my mind up about them, but for people like myself who didn't see the original band T. Rextasy deliver as faithful a rendition of Bolan's music as we're ever likely to witness. Great stuff - mind you, where was 'Buick MacKane', 'The Slider', 'Shock Rock'... (continued on page 94)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Chicago Blues Brothers in Dubai, October 2011

With Britain in the icy grip of the first snows of the winter it seems like a good time to revisit the last week of October 2011, when The Chicago Blues Brothers played five shows in hot and sunny Dubai. What follows is a 'tidied-up' version of the notes that were written at the time - they've been edited a bit here and there but basically left as they were. I guess everyone involved will have different memories from our visit, and different views on what we did and where we did it - these are mine. Enjoy.

Tuesday 25th, midday

So here I am in room 27 of The Emirates Academy. After a cup of black coffee which paranoia dictated that I made with bottled water (as we got off the bus Matt asked 'can we drink the water?' Pete's emphatic 'NO!' was met with dismay and a wonder of where we could buy bottled water at 4.30 am; fortunately there was some in our rooms) and a quick scan of the television channels (nothing on as usual) I'm sitting on the end of my bed scribbling. 'Who's Next' is playing thanks to the small iPod dock that I've bought with me ('out here in the fields, I fought for my meals...') and I'm looking out of the window, there's a small courtyard and that weird building that looks a bit like a sail is looming in the near-distance - I can only see the top of it as it's obscured by the rest of the courtyard buildings.
We arrived here around 2.45 am local time. I think we're 3 hours ahead of Britain here and we left Heathrow about 5.30 pm so we were in the air for about 6 hours, the longest flight that I've done for quite some time. As previously mentioned we're staying in The Emirates Academy which as I understand is a complex where hotel staff are trained. First impressions are good - I've got what I guess would be marketed as a 'small apartment', as you walk in there's a bathroom on the right (isn't that a Creedance Clearwater Revival song?!?) with kitchen facilities opposite it on the left. Things then open out into a room with a single bed in the far right-hand corner, a couple of tables, cupboards, wardrobes - you know the sort of thing. It's clean and comfortable although it has to said that by the time we got here I probably could have slept standing up.
After we'd got our baggage we'd made our way through Dubai International Airport to the area where we were meeting our bus. I say something like 'this is quite a building' to Pete, he just laughs - 'you ain't seen nothing yet'. He used to live here so I suppose he should know... as we leave the airport building the temperature jumps by what feels like about 20 degrees or so - 'feel the heat, baby' says Dave as I for one realise just how efficient the air conditioning has been. Fortunately the bus is air conditioned too. Our journey through the night is enlivened by Matt's somewhat animated comments ('I asked the stewardess for a tonic water, she offered me gin with it and then kept coming back...') and the inevitable 'what's that building over there?' from the people like me who have never been to Dubai before. It all looked amazing. I wonder if it is?

Today is 'set-up day'. We're due at The Al Muna Restaurant for a meal at 2 pm followed by an afternoon setting up at The Medinat Theatre (part of the Jumeriah Hotel complex) in anticipation of 5 consecutive evening shows at the venue. I've bought with me my trusty Telecaster, a Digitech Screamin' Blues overdrive pedal (to boost my solos in volume) and some cables; I'm looking forward to trying out the Fender combo that's been provided by the theatre although I'll bet now that it'll be too loud - at this sort of thing they invariably provide excellent equipment that's far too powerful for the job in hand. Oh well - let's see what the next few hours bring.

Time for a shower. More later.

6 pm

Well not only was the amp way too powerful (it was a brand new Fender Twin Reverb combo in case you were wondering) but it also appeared to have some sort of earth problem. Various attempts were made by all and sundry to lose the cracking sounds that occurred every time that let go of my strings but to no avail; 'let's try the Marshall' said the cheery stagehand - that'll be an amp that's not only too loud but that is totally inappropriate for the job in hand then. Oh well, let's give it a go... in the event the clean channel of the Vintage Modern combo sounded fine, especially when I trod on the pedal for solos. The cheery stagehand resolved to attempt to sort out the Fender combo while we set about 'set up day'. I'm not sure why we couldn't have done it tomorrow and then played a show but I suppose ours is not to realise why, as someone once said... we spent a fair bit of time running through 'Hey Bartender' which was due to make it's first appearance in our show - with it sounding good we turned our attention to a less obvious addition to our set. If you've ever seen our theatre show then you'll know that we usually play a medley of 'John The Revelator' / 'Can I Get A Witness?' / 'Higher And Higher' to end the first half, with Pete playing a particularly over-the-top preacher character called (wait for it!) The Reverend I. C. Delight. However since we're in a country where pretending to be a mad vicar is unlikely to be a particularly clever thing to do (to say the least!) an alternative idea had to be found. Pete had suggested 'We Are Family' which no one was too sure about - then one day I was listening to Sly And The Family Stone... hmmm... how about 'Dance To The Music'? We're only playing a minute or so of the song to let Pete make his entrance as 'Soul Brother Number 1' and it doesn't take too long to get together - let's see if we can remember both of the new numbers tomorrow for the first show.
Prior to that we'd all met in the restaurant for some food - and what amazing food it was. We're due back there at 8 o'clock for an evening meal - I expect to go home heavier than when I left.

Wednesday 26th, 9 am

A half hour or so ago I was awoken by a very - make that very - loud 'DING DONG! which then re-occurred another couple of times. Surely I don't have a doorbell? But if I don't have a doorbell then where is the sound coming from? When it went again I stumbled across my room towards the door, struggling with a dim recollection that Dave and Richard had said that they were off to a market today. Surely I hadn't agreed to go with them? As I looked through that weird fisheye thingy that you get on hotel (and indeed house) front doors I saw their beaming faces and realised that, yes, I had agreed to go with them. Sorry lads, I'm not awake yet. Bah! Still I'm awake now so I might as well have a cup of coffee and get myself together - after all, I can always have a sleep later if I need to.
When we stumbled back to The Academy last night after a few drinks Matt and myself had been pleased to find the shop on the complex to still be open, and so bought some milk. I've just found it - it's frozen solid. A measure of how tired I was when I went to bed is that I put it in the freezer rather than the fridge.

This day can only improve.

4 pm

And it did - well it certainly hasn't got any worse. I bumped into Matt on my way to breakfast - we arrived at the restaurant to find Pete in a state of some consternation over arrangements for the next few days. There was apparently no problem with the shows, all of which were selling healthily, but over the times and the places where the band could get food. He'd received an early morning text requesting that the band all have breakfast by 8.30 - without making us all sound like lazy sods that was at best unlikely and at worst impossible. There was also a request for a 'technical run through' before the show - didn't we do that yesterday? He looked troubled but resolved to sort everything out; I received a text message a few hours later to the effect that he had. Good man.
After eating we returned to The Academy - Matt decided to go to the gym (there's less chance of me doing that than all the band having breakfast before 8.30!) while I returned to my room to spend some time revising T.V. Smith songs for an upcoming gig at The 12 Bar Club, going through some Ruts D.C. material for the upcoming rehearsals and, well, if I'm honest, sleeping for an hour or so. I think the heat might already be getting to me a bit - it's over 90 degrees in old money and I'm just not used to it! Seriously though, I've never been one for the sun so I'm trying to drink plenty of water and not be too silly about things.

5.15 pm

It's nearly time to leave for the theatre to prepare for our first show. I've put my stage clothes and shoes in my bag. I've changed the strings on my Telecaster. I'm ready to rock.

Thursday 2.35 am

Well it turned out that whilst I was indeed ready to rock, the amplifier wasn't. Halfway through 'Do You Love Me?' it stopped working completely - with the cheery stagehand nowhere to be seen myself and Pete (with him dressed in a very loud yellow suit in anticipation of his appearance as Fab Calloway singing 'Minnie The Moocher') ended up scrabbling around backstage looking for the Fender combo that went wrong during yesterday's soundcheck. We eventually found it - as I plugged it in I wondered if the cheery stagehand had managed to fix the earth problem... I played a chord and it sounded great. Hurrah.
In the meantime while we thought it was our worst gig for ages Pete, Mike, Matt and anyone else who spoke to anyone who wasn't in the band reported that as far as the audience was concerned it had been brilliant. The customer is always right don't you think?
After the show we went to The Barzar (yes, it's really called that) for a few drinks, which probably cost us most of tonight's wages. I really must find out what the exchange rate is.

12.50 pm

I've just read back through the barely-decipherable scrawl written when I got in last night - considering the fact that a fair few drinks had been consumed it actually makes reasonable sense. And not only did I remember to put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, I also managed to set an alarm for 9.30 to make sure I was up in time for breakfast. Still it was good to go out for a few beers after a show that none of us were particularly happy with; yes it went down well, but you still have to reach your own standards. Well, I think that you do anyway.
In the meantime I've bought my guitar back with me as my strings were in a very strange state after the show. The venue had used an oil-based smoke on stage (it's often used to make a haze so that the beams from the lights show up) which in addition to causing all sorts of problems for the horn players and the singers (especially Tracy) seems to have coated my strings - they feel as though I've done too many shows with them rather than just one. It's a bit of a waste but I've just put another new set on, and I believe they won't be using that particular type of smoke tonight. Good.
So now I've got Oasis on the iPod and I don't have to be back at the venue for about 4 hours. The rest of the band have gone to Wild Wadi (whatever that is!) but I'm quite happy here on my own. I don't know - you come halfway around the World to somewhere that a lot of people would love to visit, and then you spend all your time in an air conditioned darkened room. Oh well. I'll go out somewhere tomorrow. Probably.

Friday 2.35 pm

So what went wrong during last night's show then? Any guesses?

The battery ran out in my Screaming Blues pedal. I discovered this when I trod on it for my solo in 'Hey Bartender' and it got quieter rather than louder. Bugger! I'm sure - sure - that I changed it before we came out here. Oh well - compared to the amp stopping working the previous night it was pretty simple to deal with; I changed the battery in the interval and it sounded great. Overall it seemed to be a better show than Wednesday's although the audience were more laid back. Maybe it's third time lucky tonight?
I decided to visit Wild Wadi after all yesterday afternoon - yes, I'm surprised too. Well it's over the road from us and we've been given free passes so I decided to make a heroic effort and go and see what it was all about. It turned out to be a water park with various rides which look as though they ranged from relaxing to terrifying. I didn't have a go on any of them (sadly I'm far too self-conscious to take my shirt off in public) but I wandered around the park for 20 minutes or so before deciding that (a) I'll never fit into a world where something like this is regarded by many if not most people as a reasonable pastime, and (b) I probably looked like a middle-aged bloke walking around ogling a lot of scantily clad young women. Time to go back to revising T.V. Smith songs then!
After the show we returned to Barzar for the second night running as we'd been told the night before that we could buy a card which allowed us to get cut price drinks. For 90 Dirhams (about £15 or £16 pounds I think) we could have any 5 drinks from the allotted list - I fear that we were paying nearly that for 2 drinks the previous night! Heroic restraint from Matt and myself meant that we had 2 1/2 pints each, a good move as an excursion was planned for this morning...

After breakfast two taxis took us (Marc, Pete, Jayne, Chris, Mike, Phil and myself) out to the gold and spice Souks of Deira and Bur Dubai, perhaps best described as the 'old' parts of town. They couldn't have been more different to the area that we were staying and indeed working in. Gone are the fake buildings (and indeed fake people) only to be replaced by, well, fake goods. Men accost you every few seconds (and it's definitely a man's world, there are very few if any women to be seen) offering you the best (i.e. best fake) watch / camera / phone (delete as applicable) on the market. The more they try the more you want to walk away. Well, I do anyway. It's a totally different experience to the virtual Disneyland of the big hotels and shopping malls that so many would associate with Dubai, and it's one that's well worth having if only to keep things in perspective.

It's clearly not an easy life out here for most people.

Pete suggests a visit to The George and Dragon English bar in The Ambassador Hotel, it was a favourite of his when he lived here but it's changed - when he asks for the music to be turned down he's told that it's on the television and that it's 'automatic'. In the corner two Arabic-looking gentlemen nurse pints of beer (are they supposed to do that?!?) and some of the band play pool, but Pete looks hurt and upset. They say that you should never go back don't they?
We take another couple of taxis to The Al Kamara shopping area to meet up with Squirrel, Dave and Richard who have been out to the harbour. Absolutely everything that you see on sale is fake - shops proudly proclaim 'GENUINE MASTER COPIES' of every famous name on clothing and jewellery that you can think of. Some of the shop names are even spent incorrectly - either that or there's a colour out here called 'voilet' and a place called 'Aladin's Cave'. Sadly the Liverpool F. C. shop was closed, as I'd love to have seen what they had in there. As we walked around I found myself thinking of Johnny Rotten of all people - 'a cheap holiday in other people's misery', 'your future dream is a shopping scheme'... I for one have seen enough and when Chris and Mike suggest a taxi back to The Emirates Academy I jump at the chance of going with them. As we drive along the roads gradually get wider, the buildings get taller and the shops get more colourful as the skyscrapers of the promised land are looming in the middle distance. But they're not just a few miles away - they're in another universe.

Saturday 2.30 am

Third time lucky indeed - a great show and I didn't break anything. Good

Once again I found myself buying a Barzar-card-full of drinks, and I'm now sitting in my room with Bob Dylan on the iPod. He's just said something about having a 'head full of ideas that are driving me insane...' I think I know how he feels.

3.25 pm

At the end of what was undeniably a good show last night I realised that my strings were once again in a bit of a mess. I can normally do 3 or 4 theatre shows before they need changing, but that's because I generally have a spare guitar with me and so can take a bit more of a chance with things. Also we're not usually in a country where air conditioning is pretty much everywhere - not last night though, as it had either failed on stage or not been switched on. The resulting heat coupled with the return of the oil-based smoke (that'd have been a good title for a 1940s horror film wouldn't it?!?) meant that my strings were all but worn out by the end of the show. Rather than take the guitar out drinking with me (!) I decided to pick it up this morning after breakfast - I returned to the theatre to find it open but with no staff anywhere to be seen. I strolled through the auditorium into the unlocked backstage area where I retrieved my precious instrument, all the while reflecting on the fact that anybody could have done exactly the same thing. Not good frankly. I then decided to get some money from a nearby ATM - a nervous moment occurred when it told me that it was 'unable to dispense' and I feared that I might not get my card back, but fortunately this wasn't the case and I was able to get some cash from another machine.
Back here in my room I've changed my strings and did some more work on the T.V. Smith material; I've received an email from him adding a few songs to the set I was expecting so this seemed like a good chance to run through them, as well as do a bit on the Ruts D.C. stuff too. I've just made a cup of coffee. Rock 'n' Roll eh?

Sunday 10.45 am

I decided not to write anything when I got in last night, not least because I suspect that there's been enough semi-drunken rambling here in these hallowed pages already. But we once again returned to Barzar before Matt and myself sat in my room until the early hours ranting and raving about something or other. I also recall a few 'you've got to hear this' moments with the iPod (well he's got the next door room so I knew I wasn't going to wake him up!) which he gamely put up with. Good man.
It had been a good show - not a great one but certainly not a bad one either. Band members were using words like 'steady' to describe our performance which thinking about it now seems like a fair observation. A rather laid-back audience took a while to get going, and as a result so did we; that said 'Hey Bartender' is sounding excellent, and the 'Dance To The Music' section is sounding much better than it did in the first couple of shows. As I say a good show rather than a great one, but that's no bad thing. However Jayne injuring her foot after the show is definitely a bad thing - I'm not sure what happened but hope she's ok.
It's our last show tonight - have we really been here nearly a week? Amazing. It's gone so quickly. There's nothing planned today until 4 o'clock when a bus will take us and all our luggage the short distance over to the theatre; it's a 6.30 show tonight (the others have all been 8 o'clock kick-offs) before food at 9.30. We're then due to leave for the airport at midnight for the 3 am flight home. Gulp!

Monday 2.45 am

And here we are on board flight EK 007 (oh yes!) Our last show here was a bit of a weird one, with Dave being struck down with food poisoning (well that's what he thinks he's got, from a salmon quiche eaten earlier in the day) that meant that he spent much of the show backstage lying down or being sick. Meanwhile the smallest audience of the week made up for what they lacked in numbers by dancing for most of the show and making as much noise as possible.
I spent most of the day doing, well, not very much at all; that said I did rough out a blog piece on John Saxon as well as reviewing these notes and reading some of the Keith Richards autobiography 'Life' that I've been working my way through during my time here. Now we're on the plane home. It'll be good to get back.

So what of Dubai then? Well... it's a nice place to visit, but you (or to be more accurate, I) wouldn't want to live there. For a start it much too hot for a wimp like me - I think the average daytime temperature while we were there was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and it didn't go below 70 at night. I believe it gets even hotter in the summer.
The area that we were staying and working was relatively well-to-do, as evidenced by it's close proximity to The Burj Al Arab Hotel. All well and good - but what were we really seeing? Elaborately ornate buildings that look as though they could be old (but of course they aren't) are almost an artist's impression of what Dubai 'should' look like. Well that's what they seemed to be like to me.
Compare this with our visit to the Souk districts - is that the 'real' Dubai? If it is then it's a long way from hotels with tennis courts on the roof and the World's tallest building. The contrast could hardly be greater - but there are areas of London that are just as unalike. I suppose that ultimately it's all down to opinion and how you yourself view the place. As someone who sees themselves as a left wing person I found it very hard to reconcille the sights of the Souks with the area that we were staying in or indeed the places that you pass through to go between the two places. The inequality is astonishing, although again you could say the same about London or indeed any big city. From what I read there is a dark side, with many people there bearly surviving on low wages, living many to a single room. How many people think about that while they're basking on the man-made beaches that I saw being rebuilt every night? Then again they're on holiday in a land where money can (probably) get you anything you might want so why should they be bothered?

Near the end of our stay Pete asked everyone if anybody would be coming back for a holiday next year. Much as I had enjoyed my time in Dubai, I figured that the question wasn't really aimed at me.

Cast and crew -

Matt and Mike - Jake and Elwood
Squirrel - bass
Marc - drums
Chris - keyboards
Dave - trumpet
Richard - saxophone
Tracy - vocals
Pete - tour management and vocals
Phil - sound man
Jayne - wardrobe
and your humble narrator on the electric guitar

The iPod soundtrack to my visit, in no particular order -

The Beatles - various, especially 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver'
The Sex Pistols - 'NMTB' plus b-sides, particularly after visiting the gold and spice souks
The Faces - 'A Nod's As Good As A Wink' and 'Ooh La La' plus various tracks including their version of 'The Stealer', for John Saxon
Free - various tracks, once again with John in mind
The Clash - 'London Calling'
Dr. Feelgood - mostly with Wilko Johnson on guitar, but some of the Gypie Mayo stuff too
Noel Gallagher - 'High Flying Birds'
Oasis - 'Stop The Clocks'
R.E.M. - a few tracks from 'Document', after 'Disturbance At The Heron House' came into my head one day
The Godfathers - 'Hit By Hit'
The Rolling Stones - tracks from whichever part of their career that I was reading about at the time
The Who - 'Who's Next' and more, including the classic early singles
Bob Dylan - a few tracks after a few drinks
- plus the Ruts DC and TV Smith tracks that I was learning or revising, and probably some other stuff as well.

I read 'Life' by Keith Richards, and the 'Fender Electric Guitar Bible' edition of Guitar And Bass magazine.

I wore a variety of Balcony Shirts, along with a straw hat and some very ill-advised shorts.