Well it's been a busy few days for your humble narrator in mad-guitar-land, but first things first - I was saddened to hear of the death of Andy Williams. His brilliance as a singer is surely beyond dispute - indeed the word 'singer' hardly does him justice - but I remember him from 'The Andy Williams Show' when I was a lad, with The Cookie Bear and him shouting 'NOT NOW, NOT EVER, NEVER!' when the bear asked him for milk and cookies each show. It was funnier than it looks written here, honest! And talking of funny, Herbert Lom died last week - his extraordinary portrayal of Inspector Dreyfus in the 'Pink Panther' films was one of the funniest things that I'd ever seen when I first saw it way back when.
Time for another reunion, and this time a unexpected one. Back in the mid-1980s I did quite a few shows with Pete Turner, then the owner of local musical instrument emporium Thames Valley Guitars, as part of an acoustic guitar duo called The Blue Five. Pete was a bit older than me (he still is!) and liked some very different music to the racket that I usually listened to; one day we were in the shop talking when for no apparent reason Pete handed me an acoustic guitar and began playing some chords on another and I, more by luck than judgement, joined in. We played for several minutes before a customer came in and we obviously had to stop so that Pete could serve them (!) Both of us liked what we heard, and this led to us getting together at his house one afternoon - that same evening we made our way down to The Load Of Hay which at that time was home to Uxbridge Folk Club. If I remember correctly we played one of Pete's compositions called 'Jackie's Tune' and the old classic 'Basin Street Blues' - this began a somewhat unlikely musical alliance that sporadically continues to this day. (Here is a clip of us playing at the L of H back in 2010 - our first gig this century!) He was up in Uxbridge on Thursday morning, and it was great to meet up for some coffee and some 'do you remember when...' moments, not least when we walked around town trying to remember what shops used to be where and what that pub used to be called. Great stuff. Pete mostly plays percussion these days, notably with Silvia Nicolatto and The Anglo-Cornish Project which from what he says seems to be going well.
It's always good to be gigging with T.V. Smith and Friday's show was no exception, being part of his annual Earthbound gigs which T.V. plays for 'T.V.'s United Tour Supporters', also known as The TUTS. I was lucky enough to be asked to play at the 2010 shows up in Yorkshire, last year's took place in Germany and my show with him this year was in the splendid surroundings of Carshalton Water Tower.
I stumbled out of Carshalton Train Station around quarter to five in the afternoon. After a few minutes attempting to find a friendly passer-by (there wasn't one!) I decided against my better judgement to use my phone to find the venue. I found the postcode on the website - so then, left out of the station, left again then left into West Street... as I walked around the block wondered if I could have just turned right out of the station? As I passed the footpath to the station (bah!) I heard someone call my name - it was Shaun, who told me that the venue was further up the road but that The Hope was only a couple of hundred yards away... there we met up with Tony a.k.a. Fleagle the promoter (well, he organised the weekend's shows!) and various TUTS - T.V. was playing in a marquee in the garden the following evening, and it was obvious why the pub has just been named by CAMRA as one of the best pubs of 2012, it's really friendly and just 'right' if you know what I mean.
After a couple of drinks (only a couple, honest!) Shaun showed me around the Carshalton Ponds (very interesting) before making our way to the Water Tower - as we arrived T.V. was setting up his merchandise and the scene was set for a fine evening. Also on the bill were The Dirty Spoons who theoretically were supporting but were going on after us so that everyone who had travelled over by train (like me!) would be able to get home before the last train went.
After a quick soundcheck we agree to go on at 7.45. Our 26 song set takes in material from all of T.V.'s career, from The Adverts to the present day - I've gushed in these hallowed pages on quite a few occasions about how I feel about playing his songs, so this time I'll just say that every one was a reminder to me that he's simply one of the very best songwriters of them all. (See for yourself, as here we are playing 'Good Times Are Back' - excellent!) And I really enjoyed The Dirty Spoons too - a line up of banjo, mandolin, violin, bass guitar and washboard put on a fine show, and even included a version of T.V.'s 'The Lion And The Lamb'.
Saturday evening saw The Upper Cut return to The Kings Arms in Harefield, and with my (previously) trusty Blues Deluxe combo still in the menders it was another job for the Blues Deville. Last time I played at the venue was back in July with Big Al Reed and the Cardiac Arrests, when Al's amp (a very expensive Egnater combo) went wrong; this time I thought I heard a few crackles here and there from mine but decided that it was just me getting paranoid... the band were a bit loose to begin with and took a few numbers to get going but by the time we started our second set we had a very active dancefloor, including a rather intoxicated young Irish lady who kept trying to talk to us during the songs. I always find it a bit weird when this happens - don't they realise where all that noise is coming from?
I don't mind admitting that I felt a bit bleary on Sunday morning - it's been a while since I did two late gigs in a row along with a Saturday in Balcony Shirts. Still no time to worry about that, as it's off to The Feathers in Chalfont St. Giles for an afternoon gig with Big Al Reed. When we arrived the pub was all but deserted, and we were told that there'd been 'a bit of trouble'... details were sketchy to say the least, but we decided to delay starting in the hope that a few people would arrive, and to play mainly without backing tracks (i.e. just on two guitars) in the hope that it might suit a 'quieter' venue than we're used to. All in all things went very well, with Ekkie joining in on sax here and there, the unsuspecting Pete from The Cane Toads being pressganged into joining in on a few songs, and even a few people in the audience by the end...
And last night saw that rarest of things - a short notice Chicago Blues Brothers show. (Come to think of it CBB shows of any type have been pretty rare this year, but maybe we'll talk about that another day...) This one took place at The Guoman Tower Hotel which I last visited back in October 2008 (sometimes this blog comes in really handy, I'd never have remembered that otherwise!) and featured Pete and Matt in the hats and glasses, Dave and Richard on trumpet and saxophone, Squirrel on bass, Steve on drums, Tracy on vocals and, for the first time in quite a while, Roger on keyboards. Overall it was a pretty standard corporate show - it ran late meaning an appointment with the last train home (we - myself and the afore-mentioned Pete from The Cane toads who had come along to check the show out as he's doing some depping for me this Autumn - only just made it!) and I'm convinced that everyone there had forgotten that we'd played a minute or so after we'd finished our last song. Oh well, I guess every show can't be a T.V. Smith show, or indeed a Ruts D.C. show - we're in Birmingham this weekend, which should be a good one...