Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'If I don't see you no more in this World...'

Jimi Hendrix would have been 70 years old today. I wrote a piece on him in these hallowed pages on the 40th anniversary of his death (you can read it here if you'd like to) and I don't have too much to add to that except to say that I've got 'Electric Ladyland' playing in the background at the moment and despite many people's attempts at emulate it over the last 40-odd years it still sounds like nothing before or since. Who knows what further greatness he would have gone on to produce? As it he left behind an amazing legacy of music that continues to influence people today - how many of us will do anything that even approaches that?

It's hard to imagine the music world without Jimi Hendrix, but we might never have heard him without Chris Stamp who together with Kit Lambert ran Track Records, the label that released much of Hendrix's music during his lifetime. Lambert and Stamp also managed a little group called The Who, so you won't be altogether surprised to hear that I was very saddened to hear of Chris Stamp's death this weekend - my music world certainly wouldn't be the same without him or the acts he was involved with. 

Two gigs from The Upper Cut along with a day in the shop and a Flying Squad rehearsal made for a busy but very enjoyable weekend for your humble narrator :-

Friday night saw another Upper Cut show at The Crown and Treaty in Uxbridge, and bearly a month on from our last appearance there we made a much better job of it this time. Good! Maybe it was because I could hear better (I had an earwax problem last time) or maybe we just had a good gig - either way we had a great night. It was a late one though, and the start of the next day in Balcony Shirts was more than a little bleary from my point of view. Still, that's what they sell coffee for... no time to worry about that though, as we're off to The Burnham Beeches Hotel (they don't normally let people like me into places like that!) to play at Nick and Emma's wedding reception. They come to see the band on a regular basis, and it was great to be invited to play for them. Wedding shows can often be rather strange affairs; I've realised over my time playing them that it's a mistake to think of them as a gig as the band is a really a minor part of the event, often being all but ignored by the assembled multitude. No danger of that here though, as people were on the dance floor almost from the word go - there was even a complaint when we went off for a break to allow Nick and Emma to cut their wedding cake! Terry the bass's night was made when he met Simon Nicol from Fairport Convention (he's a family friend of Emma's) in the interval, and our second set went even better than the first. We could even have played an encore (again often something of a rarity at a wedding) but instead handed our instruments over to Nick's old band The Frantix who played 'Town Called Malice' and 'Mirror In The Bathroom' before DJ's Simon and Darren took over for the rest of the evening's festivities. Great stuff all round.

On Sunday The Flying Squad returned to Ruff Rockers Rehearsal Studio (which for reasons best known to themselves has changed it's name to RnR Studios) for an all day session in preparation for next month's gig at Tropic At Ruislip with Dr. Feelgood. We worked on a Feelgood-free set for December 14th, and even though I say so myself we sounded good, especially considering that we were almost exclusively working on material new to the band. All in all a good day's work which hopefully bodes well for next month's show. And talking of rehearsing I have just - just! - returned from a session with T.V. Smith; our upcoming show at The 12 Bar Club promises to be a classic evening - but more about that next time... 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Leave them wanting more!

It's nearly time for The Flying Squad to return to show business - as with most of our shows it's at Tropic At Ruislip where we're supporting Dr. Feelgood. Since our set usually features a fair few of their songs we're obviously been obliged to have a bit of a rethink, and to this end emails have been er, emailed between band members over the last few weeks with song suggestions a-plenty - I think we've come up with some great songs for the show, which will be taking place on Friday 14th December. I for one am definitely looking forward to this - while there may not be any original members in the band these days The Feelgoods are an institution in British rhythm and blues - and maybe most importantly as far as this gig is concerned they're still a very fine band. We'll have to be at the top of our game for this one...
I went to the afore-mentioned Tropic at Ruislip on Friday night, partly to talk to promoters Philip and Dave about the upcoming gig and partly to see Bootleg Blondie. I first saw many years ago at The Rayners in Rayners Lane; I remember them being good then but I have to say that they were great this time, and it must be said that you forget how many Blondie songs you know (I'd totally forgotten 'Maria' for example) until you hear them played. Debbie Harris (I'll be really disappointed if I ever find out that's not her real name!) does a splendid job as the lovely Ms Harry, and the band were absolutely excellent. (Yes, I noticed them as well!) A recent addition is bassman Russ Strothard a.k.a. Russell Strutter who played in Tonight all those years ago before going on to play with Eddie And The Hot Rods, Wilko Johnson and Lew Lewis (I think that's where I first saw him) and who depped with us in the Chicago Blues Brothers several times a few years ago. I managed to grab a few words with him at the end (the gig was sold out so there were a lot of people about) and he seems to be really enjoying being in the band, which is good news.

Last night saw The Upper Cut wend our way to Windlesham for a show at The Windlesham Club. (How do they think of those names eh?!?) Bob the guv'nor was friendly as were the locals, and the band played well despite there not being much of an audience to play to. Apparently everyone was at home watching The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing - well that's what the ladies who arrived halfway through our second set said anyway. Still the people who were there enjoyed the show (I should know, I spoke to most of them!) and the afore-mentioned ladies were so disappointed that they'd missed us playing 'Maggie May' that we played it again for them. Well, it seemed like to best thing to do... one of them asked if we could do 'Itchycoo Park' - when we said that we'd already played it they tried to get us to do that one again as well. We might have done if we hadn't already ran well over time! A fun if slightly odd evening.
And there are two shows from The Upper Cut this coming weekend - we're back at The Crown and Treaty in Uxbridge on Friday then we're playing at the wedding of two of our regular gig-goers on Saturday. Now that should be interesting...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The shapes of things to come?

I was saddened to hear of the death of Clive Dunn this week - if you're my age you remember 'Dad's Army' very well, with catchphrases like 'don't panic!' and 'you stupid boy!' being part of your growing up. Well, they were in our house!

The light pours out of me
Although I didn't have any gigs last weekend I did attend the open mic night at The Swan in Iver on Sunday evening, and very enjoyable it was too. I ended up playing in the house band (John the organiser asked me if I'd do it, and I'm just a boy who can't say no...) where I found myself joining Tony on bass and Bob on drums to accompany, well, anyone who wanted a backing band. A chap asked if he could sing 'Feelings' by Morris Albert - not an easy song as it's got more than a few tricky chords (which I looked up on the Internet with my phone - what did we used to do in the old days eh?) but we managed to stumble through it. Big Al Reed was as excellent as ever (I'm not just saying that because he gives me gigs, he really was good) as was Les Payne, and after years of not going to jam nights I now seem to have found myself to be a regular at this one. Mind you, I did have another reason for going along this time...
For a while now we've been stocking some musical instruments and accessories at Balcony Shirts; these days we've not got many guitars (as they weren't really selling - sad but true)  but the accessories side of things is doing well. We get them from the John Hornby Skewes (JHS) distribution company - to this end Dave the rep visits us regularly, and on his last visit we got talking about my then-upcoming gigs with Ruts DC in Birmingham and York. By then end of our conversation the subject had come around to the possibility of an endorsement deal for me with Vintage and Fret King Guitars. I've been using a Vintage Lemon Drop for some time (that's what got us onto the subject) and have tried and liked some Fret King instruments, so it all got quite interesting quite quickly... to cut a long story short (for once!) Sunday was an opportunity for me to play a Fret King Yardbird on Sunday evening which Dave had provided for me to try; it's based on the guitar that Jeff Beck used when he was playing in The Yardbirds and while I don't own it (yet!) it's certainly a very impressive instrument. I've always had a bit of an aversion to maple necks (I generally prefer rosewood fingerboards, but it's a subject that doesn't have an simple answer as this clip shows...) but this felt and sounded great - we'll see what happens next but you just might see me looking out from an advert in the pages of the guitar magazines sometime in the not-too-distant future!

In the meantime The Rikardo Brothers played at The Bedford Arms in Chenies last night, at Paul and Cathy's wedding reception. We'd not played since way back in February (they - Alan on vocals and Pete on guitar - have played without me when I've been gigging elsewhere) when it was the day after a night that saw me indulge in what could politely be described as projectile vomiting (urgh!) and although I'll be honest and say that my fragile condition that day means that I hardly remember playing we must have done something right as we were booked to play this show as a result of our performance that afternoon. Judging by the condition of some of the guests by the time we arrived at 7 o'clock festivities had clearly been in full swing for a number of hours (I'll leave you to think about that for a moment..!) and by the time our first set started there were more than a few people who looked unlikely to last the rest of the evening. We'd had a rehearsal on Wednesday evening and I for one was glad that we did as I'd all but forgotten some of the material, but despite the old dubious moment the show went well and was rapturously received by all concerned. Cathy started our second set by singing 'Little White Bull' accompanied by Pete (I hadn't got a clue how it goes, but the fact that Pete managed to busk along is a measure of just how good a player he is...) while Alan completely forgot the words to 'Mustang Sally' and ended up singing 'In The Midnight Hour' instead! Overall however we enjoyed ourselves to such an extent that we've all resolved to make an effort to get more gigs for the group and even are looking to do some recording. Excellent! 

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a Yardbird guitar to play - that sound must be on there somewhere...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

'And we don't care...'

'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols' was released 35 years ago this week. It's hard to explain to people that were too young to understand (or indeed not even born) at the time just what an astonishing event the release of this album was to disenfranchised teenagers such as myself. For me it remains the ultimate 'you're-either-with-us-or-you're-against-us' moment in popular music, an event that polarised the classroom, the playground, the kids that you played football in the park and in the street with - everyone. Listened to now (and I've been listening to it rather a lot this week) it still sounds extraordinary, a 12-track blast of punk rock adrenalin that never fails to astound and amaze. Well, that's what it does for me anyway! Inevitably it's been re-issued in various formats, not least a 'Super Deluxe Box Set' which will set you back the best part of £100 and which includes previously unheard outtakes, a DVD of footage from the turbulent year that was 1977 and a book that looks so big and heavy that it'll probably fall through the average coffee table. I keep telling myself not to buy it, but we both know that I will in the end don't we? I must have the album in various formats, oh I don't know, 6 times at least - which reminds me, I wonder how much my '11-track-album-with-the-one-sided-single-of-Submission-and-a-poster' is worth? Maybe enough to buy the box set? Then again surely the fact that I'm even thinking of spending that much money on something that I've basically already got is keeping the great rock 'n' roll swindle going into the 21st Century? Malcolm McLaren, take a bow!

Meanwhile the first album by GLM is released this week. 'Chemical Landslide' features Pete Stride (guitar and vocals) Nigel Moore (bass) and Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes (drums) and while it's 14 tracks sound quite a bit heavier and indeed darker than anything that they produced together in The Lurkers there's still plenty there to keep us old fans happy. Esso and Nigel thunder along in time-honoured tradition, and if the Stride guitar is more metal than punk these days his haunting vocals balance it all out well. The best track for me at the moment is probably 'Beyond The Pale' with it's amazing 'can you turn the lights down' refrain although the opener 'Every Night's A Story' and the title track are running it close, with 'Crash Landing' probably the nearest to the old Lurkers sound. It's always hard to be objective when it comes to music made by friends but I think they've really got something good here so let's hope the album gets heard by enough people to make an impact - it seems to me that with all the social media at our disposal these days it's relatively easy to have an Internet presence but it's harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. It's available now from their website for the very reasonable price of £8.99 - go on, you know you want to...

In other news Ruts D.C were due to play at The Islington Assembly Hall on Tuesday, but sadly the show was cancelled as The Mayor Of Islington is using the room. I will heroically restrain myself from saying anything at this point other than to observe that judging by the comments on the band's Facebook page (and indeed on The Ruts's page) I'm not the only person that's disappointed... still there have been some good reviews of last month's shows in Birmingham and York, and we're playing at The 100 Club on Saturday 22nd December (hopefully!) as part of a Joe Strummer tribute weekend (it'll be the 10th anniversary of his untimely death) as well as lining up some gigs for next year so it's not all bad news by any means.

And on the subject of everybody's favourite social network I've been musing on whether or not to keep the Facebook page that I started back in September. Yeah, I know, things must be quiet if that's all I've got to think about... anyway after talking to a few people (not least the legend that is Voltarol - once again the winner of last month's caption competition was the only entrant! Mind you, it was a very good caption!) I've decided to put my reservations to one side and to keep it for the moment at least. You can find me here if you want to - with yet more shameless self-publicity in mind I'm basically going to use it to publicise upcoming gigs, post reviews and YouTube clips of old gigs, plug my mates when they're doing something interesting and maybe even include the odd lefty rant. So - pretty much the same as on this here blog then... incidentally I put up a note about the GLM album this week and someone 'unliked' me! It's a good album, honest! 
And things are quiet in more ways than one, as I'm still suffering from earwax in my right ear; indeed if anything it's got worse. Maybe it's just as well (for once) that I've had no gigs this week?