Sunday, May 27, 2012

'I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order...'

Robin Gibb died last Sunday - I can't claim to have been the biggest Bee Gees fan in the World (my mum loved 'em which probably put me off a bit when I was a lad!) but there's no denying that he was a great singer and that he and his brothers were brilliant pop songwriters, although maybe not quite as good as the likes of Paul Gambaccini have since claimed? Still, it's a shame to see him go - and their '60s stuff really was rather good wasn't it?

Would you use this dressing room?
We didn't!
In the meantime it's commercial time - 'Punk Britannia' starts on BBC Four this coming week, and one of the featured artists in the season of punky programmes is the one and only T.V. Smith; the documentary 'We Who Wait - T.V. Smith and The Adverts' has been in the making for several years now, and it's great to see it finally appearing on mainstream television. There's also 'Evidently... John Cooper Clarke', a vintage 'Old Grey Whistle Test' featuring Siouxsie and The Banshees and more - great stuff all round.

Cool Britannia finally made it to the stage this weekend - Friday we made the epic journey up to Barrow-in-Furness for a show at The Forum, while on Saturday we played at The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury. Both shows were good if rather under-attended - speaking to other musicians this seems to be a familiar story at the moment although that doesn't make me for one feel any better about it all. Oh well - there are more shows this week so I guess we'll see how it all goes... The Roses is famous - maybe that should be 'infamous' - for being the place where Eric Morecambe suffered a fatal heart attack backstage after a show there; I wonder how many times the staff there hear jokes about 'dying on stage'?

There's not much time for blogging today or indeed this week as in addition to there being some Cool Britannia shows (hopefully!) it's also Ruts D.C. rehearsal time once again before the band's first show of this year at The Last Jubilee Festival next Saturday - now that's definitely something to look forward to!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Animal Now (and then)

As I mentioned in the post-before-last the first Ruts D.C. album 'Animal Now' is about to be re-issued - indeed the Plastic Head edition of the album marks it's first appearance on CD. I bought the album when it was first released in 1981, along with the 'Different View' / 'Formula Eyes' single that if I remember rightly pre-dated it by a couple of months; I loved them both then, and you won't be surprised to hear that I love them both now - except that these days I'm playing in the band which is currently getting ready to play some gigs that will include songs from the album. It seems that truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes... our two rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday this week saw us running through songs from all parts of the band's recorded history, from early Ruts numbers to material that hasn't been released yet. Molara couldn't make last week's session but joined us (Segs on bass, Dave on drums, Seamus on keyboards and myself on guitar) on vocals and percussion for both of these - even though I say so myself the band sounded great, and to say that I'm looking forward to the upcoming shows redefines the word 'understatement'. In addition to me attempting to get used to some new-ish guitar effect pedals that I've bought to replace the ones that I lost back in November Segs bought along an old Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble that Paul Fox used with the band; it gave exactly - make that exactly - the guitar sound of the afore-mentioned album (which I suppose it would if you think about it!) although I don't think I'll use for the shows as it's mains-powered and as it hasn't been used for many years I think it needs checking over electrically! Still it was weird to be playing Paul's riffs through it - I'm still not sure how I feel about it several days later.

It was something of a rehearsal marathon for your humble narrator on Wednesday, when after the Ruts D.C. session I travelled across town from Deptford to Shepherds Bush to meet up with The Upper Cut at Bush Studios for a 'let's-learn-a-couple-of-new songs' evening. In the event the band was in an industrious mood, not only running through several songs new to us but also tightening up a few of our less-played songs with a view to bringing them back into the act. Everything we rehearsed was played at The Dolphin in Uxbridge on Friday evening at a show which started slowly (both Roger and myself agreed that we took a while to get going, possibly because the place was unusually empty when we started playing although it filled up later) but that ended with a suitably raucous display from both band and audience. I suppose that there can't be that many bands who include 'Sha-La-La-La Lee' and 'Black Night' as new numbers on a set that also features 'Monkey Man' and 'Hold Back The Night', but I for one am glad that we do. A good gig - we're back there on July 27th, which is perilously close to my birthday. Excellent!

In the meantime I'm typing this on a Saturday evening that feels like it should be a gig night, but isn't. Bah! Still there's a Cool Britannia rehearsal this week followed by two gigs next weekend - let's hope these don't get cancelled...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline!"

Donald 'Duck' Dunn died earlier today. He was 70 years old.
As bass player with Booker T and The M.G.'s at the time when they were the house band at Stax Records he played on some of the greatest records ever made, working with Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd and many more. He then went on to play with everyone from Eric Clapton to Neil Young, and also appeared in both of the Blues Brothers films.
For what my opinion is worth, Duck Dunn should be remembered as one of the greatest ever exponents of the bass guitar. There are any numbers of reasons why, but here's the first that comes to mind - have a listen to the original recording of 'Soul Man'; leaving aside the fact that I always think that you can tell a good singer from a bad one by whether they were educated 'at Woodstock' or 'from good stock' (the bad ones sing the latter - this explains why. Mind you, listening to the original track for the first time in a while I don't think I play the guitar riff correctly either!) no one - no one - plays the bass line quite like Duck Dunn does. And now, sadly, no one ever will again. Another sad loss to the musical world.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Deptford fun city

Behold the above photo of Room 2 at The Music Complex in Deptford. This is a very good rehearsal studio, which is just as well as I'm likely to be spending rather a lot of time there over the next few weeks. I took the picture early on Wednesday afternoon during a break in a Ruts D.C. rehearsal, when Dave, Segs, Seamus and myself (Molara was sadly unavailable) ran through most of the material played at last year's Alabama 3 support shows as well as several potential additions to the set. Their 1981 album 'Animal Now' is about to be re-issued, and there have been any number of requests for older Ruts songs so the song choices reflected this - I won't ruin it for you millions of fans that are reading this (I wish!) but suffice to say that you hopefully won't be disappointed if you catch one of the upcoming gigs. 
Talking of photos the excellent Stupefaction blog has posted these wonderful images of Ruts D.C. way back in the early 1980s. I remember them looking like that! That was over 30 years ago - amazing. And talking of blogging Adrian at Aural Sculptors has reviewed the 'Rhythm Collision Volume 2' sampler CD - it's a very good review (I wouldn't have put a link to it if it wasn't!) as you can read here. Excellent!

I'd expected to be back in Deptford today for a Cool Britannia rehearsal in anticipation of our first show at The Lights Theatre in Andover tomorrow night, but late on Tuesday afternoon the news came that the show had been rescheduled to Wednesday 18th July. Much consternation (and a fair bit of swearing) among the band members followed, as well as speculation along the lines of 'if this has happened now how many other venues are going to do the same thing?' Not good frankly - let's see what happens next.

On a lighter note, The Upper Cut (and after probably far too much debate we've finally decided that it's two words - The Upper Cut rather than The Uppercut) now have their own website which you can see here - more egotism and shameless self publicity! It's been good fun to put together, and if nothing else doing this and my website have given me chance to get to grips with the iWeb facility on my MacBook. I suspect that like my iPhone and iPod I only use a small amount of the clever things that it can do, but have a look and see what you think. Hmm... I use a lot of those i-related thingies don't I? 

And I've just heard from my old Blue Five bandmate (should that be 'duo-mate' as there was only two of us? Answers on a postcard please, usual address) Pete a.k.a. Voltarol whose always-excellent blog has been very quiet of late. It seems that he's been putting his online energies into Facebook (weirdo! - although I guess I really should get myself on there sometime...) and has sent me the links to pages for two bands that he's currently involved with - Silvia Nicolatto and the Anglo Cornish Project and Que Belo Castelo. All good stuff, but I for one miss the Voltarol of old. Come on Pete - get back on the blog!

Right - with an unexpected day at home it's time to plug the guitar in and play. Yeah, I know I could do something sensible like tidy up, but Shirley's out at work and I've got songs to practice. Hope the neighbours aren't in...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Norwegian would (sorry!)

Oh dear - Boris Johnson has been re-elected as Mayor of London. Not good frankly. I was always a fan of Ken Livingstone for better or for worse, and it's a shame to hear that he won't be standing for office again. I won't do the 'how can any working class person vote Tory?' rant again as it's getting a bit obvious these days, but I fear for the next few years... and if that's not bad enough Chelsea beat Liverpool in the F.A. Cup Final. Bah! Things can only get better... hopefully...

In the meantime I received an email this week from Denis Kamphaug. 'Who he?' I hear you cry. (Actually I don't, but you know what I mean I think.) Well back in the early days of The Price (the mid-1980s in case you were wondering) I played on some recordings for Denis, who became better known in Norway as Denis Decay, singer and songwriter for The Siren Clouds. In the course of his correspondence he sent a link to his band's Norwegian Wikipedia page, which incredibly features my name. Obviously I've got to put a link to it here - what was that I was saying a few posts ago about wallowing in egotism and self-publicity?

Two gigs for The Uppercut this weekend, both of them short notice events. The first was on Saturday at The Kings Arms in Hanwell - The Bolaji Blues Band were due to be playing but couldn't make it, and so Pete (who deps for me when I can't make Uppercut gigs and also plays with The BBB on occasions) suggested our band. Excellent! Judging by our evening there it could turn out to be a good venue for us and indeed bands generally, with John the guv'nor being a very helpful and enthusiastic chap. There's a small stage across a corner of the back room which would have been a bit of a squeeze with all of us on it so myself and the two Terrys stood on the floor in front of it while mine and Terry's amplifiers joined Roger and his drums on the stage. After a couple of songs we got the 'can you turn it down a bit lads?' treatment, but as more people arrived that was soon forgotten. By the end of our second set there was a fair bit of dancing and we were called back for several encores, which almost enough to take my mind off Liverpool losing earlier in the day - although the word 'almost' is very important in this sentence.
After the show a chap came over asking which one of the band played in The Ruts; well even though I didn't, he obviously meant me... he introduced himself as Ian, and when we got chatting we realised that we knew each other from many years ago - he was the bass player in Snatch And The Dead (great name!) who played a few shows with The Price in our early years. It was good to see him again; there have been quite a few reminders of those dim and distant days lately, and none of them have been bad - not from my point of view at least.

I was minding my own business on Monday evening when my phone rang - it was Simon of What's On In Uxbridge and Ace! club fame, he was due to be DJ-ing at the Ska, Soul and Rock 'n' Roll All-Dayer' at The Crown And Treaty in Uxbridge on the coming Sunday and he wondered if The Uppercut would be interested in playing. Of course we would! 
When we arrived Reverend Blow were just starting their second set, they sounded good if a little ramshackle in places although I believe that they're quite a new band so I guess a few more gigs should tighten them up a bit. Their setlist meant that we were obliged to leave a few songs out of our show, although that was the least of our worries as Terry's vocal microphone stopped working during our second song. He changed the batteries (it's a cordless radio mic) but to no avail - fortunately we were able to borrow a replacement (thanks Hughie!) for the remainder of our first set before Terry managed to get his working again in the interval. Things really took off in our second set, and by the time we encored with 'Get Ready' even Dave the guv'nor was dancing. This hopefully bodes well for a return booking! After we'd packed our gear away The Undersound took to the stage - the afore-mentioned Hughie broke a string during 'Long Train Running' but overall it was probably the best that I've seen them play. And it was good to see plenty of people in the pub, which in these days of under-attended gigs was a welcome sight. All in all a very enjoyable couple of evenings.

Right - it's the first Cool Britannia show next weekend, which means it's our last rehearsal this week. I'm looking forward to it, albeit with some trepidation - have we done enough work? We'll all know soon enough...