Let's continue with the sad stuff - Dave Beal has died. I hadn't seen him for a few years, but remember him very well from his days promoting in Rayners Lane back in the 1990s. Along with Pete Feenstra and the late George McFall he worked tirelessly to promote live music in and around London - often in the face of no little adversity - and latterly he'd been involved with Club Ska as well as working with Los Pacaminos. I'll remember him as being a wonderfully enthusiastic man, whether he was expounding the virtues of the latest band that he'd booked to play or talking passionately about his beloved birdwatching, of which he had the most extraordinarily detailed knowledge. I'll also remember him as being a very nice guy.
Time for the first Flying Squad gig of the year, supporting The Clashed at Tropic At Ruislip on Friday night. I saw The Clashed at the same venue last year when they played with The Pistols - this show was better than that one, a 1 1/2 hour set that spanned the whole of The Clash's amazing career. They've still got things the wrong way round (the little chap in the middle sings like Mick, the tall chap on the end sings like Joe) but they made a good job of some very tricky material - it's hard to go from punk to funk and back again via reggae and rock but I thought they did it well. And even though I say so myself The Flying Squad played a very good show, with everyone on top form and a great audience reaction. We're back there in December supporting Dr. Feelgood which should be a very interesting evening, not least because we'll be obliged to learn an almost completely new set of songs - after all, we can hardly play 'She Does It Right' and 'Back In the Night' now can we?
The rest of the weekend saw two shows with Big Al Reed, the first of which was at The Royal Oak in Knowl Hill. It's a year since John the landlord first took the pub over, and comedian Adga Brown was also on the bill. Gigs with Al are always good fun if a little nerve-racking from my point of view since there's no telling what song Al's going to call up next - still it keeps me on my toes, as they say. Barring the odd 'how does this one go?' moment it was a good show, as was the gig at The Feathers in Chalfont St. Giles yesterday afternoon, which was distinguished by Al's mate Ekkie making an unannounced appearance with us by walking in through the front door playing saxophone, and the amusing (not to say astonishing) sight of Al's 84 year old mum dancing to several songs. I hope I'm as fit as she is at her age. Actually I hope I make it to her age at all!
We finished our last song around 7.30pm; after packing our gear away in record time we arrived at The Swan in Iver an hour or so later, where an open mic night was in full swing. Now I've always shied away from events such as this - the idea of jamming (maaan!) has always struck me as being far too hippie-ish for an old punk like myself to get involved in, although there are a lot of jam nights taking place these days and I'm often told that they're generally good fun and well worth going along to. This one is run by John who's an accomplished musician and guitar builder, and who has been cajoling me into coming along for quite a while. So it was then that Al and myself (accompanied by Tony on bass and Mark on drums) performed two songs which went down well enough for us to be asked to perform three more at the end of the session, the landlady approached Al with an offer of a gig, and I had a chat with the legend that is Les Payne - good stuff all round. I can't see myself seeking out too many similar events (although I suppose you never know - after all, plenty of people do!) but I enjoyed playing and I'll be making an effort to attend the next session (it takes place on the first Sunday of every month) on October 7th.
In the meantime I'm playing at The Proms in Hyde Park this weekend - now that's a sentence that I never thought I'd ever type...