Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hey Joe

Well it's the morning after the night before, and I've woken up with a cold. Don't you just hate it when that happens? I felt fine last night - let's hope it doesn't turn out to be the dreaded Manflu... but it was a good evening for The Upper Cut at The Dolphin in Uxbridge, which unless something comes in at short notice will be my final show of 2012. Still it's been a good few days in mad-guitar-world, and last night's gig was definitely a fine way to end the year. Roger returned on drums for a show that could have been tighter (the four of us hadn't played together for just over a month due to illness and other commitments) but that felt good and went down well with the assembled multitude. A young lady kept asking us to play 'Fairytale Of New York' - despite repeated 'we don't know it, and we don't really play stuff like that'-type comments from all the band members she persisted until long after the band's equipment had been packed away. As I was leaving she stopped me to ask if we could learn it for next year!

Rewinding back to last Friday Big Al Reed And The Cardiac Arrests played at The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham. We had a rehearsal the previous Tuesday (the 18th if you're counting) where we attempted a fair amount of unfamiliar material - Al is very good at finding songs with titles like 'Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy'... the gig was good but we took a while to get going. Al likes to start the show with a couple of slower songs to warm his voice up, but personally I wonder if we have too many ballads in our repertoire for pub gigs, particularly in the first set when it felt hard to keep the audience interested. Still we made up for it in a more rock 'n' roll-orientated second set which went very well indeed, especially when Chris the keyboard player suggested 'Green Onions' which we'd not played before but that I for one will be hoping that we play again. Al was pleased with the way things went, and with more rockier material promised things should hopefully go well for the band.

And then there was Saturday's Ruts DC show at The 100 Club. I'd been looking forward to this show since it was first booked several months ago, and I'm pleased to say that it didn't disappoint. We had a day in The Music Complex in Deptford on Wednesday running through the songs that we played at the October gigs, looking at some more songs from the band's back catalogue for next year's gigs (more about them another time) and working up a version of 'Bank Robber' to play as an encore at The 100 Club - Segs worked with Joe Strummer in Electric Doghouse and as the show marked the 10th anniversary of his death it seemed like a good idea to play a Clash song for the occasion. 
The evening itself was enjoyable but rather long - The Sex Pistols Experience sounded as good as ever (Dave the drummer told me that he's playing with The Godfathers next year - good man!) and Clash tribute band Rebel Truce played the band's first album in sequence with a couple of singles at the end. By the time we went on at a quarter past eleven many of the audience were leaving to catch their trains home which was a great shame - I know it makes it better value for money if there are lots of act on but surely it would have been better to finish the live music at say half past eleven then play music over the P.A. for the people who were able to stay late? Nevertheless we played well and the people who were there seemed to love it, although there wasn't time for an encore which means that 'Bank Robber' went unheard. Shame! 

Here are It Was Cold and Smiling Culture from the gig, and the Aural Sculptors review mentioned last time has a few other tracks as well as some photos from the show. Hurrah!

I returned to The 100 Club on Sunday to catch some of the second night of the Remembering Joe weekend, but not before I'd journeyed to Breakfast Studios in Clapham Common for an Atlantic Soul Machine rehearsal. I'd managed to get a copy of a DVD of their November show at The Bulls Head in Barnes which was a great help in learning their material, as although many of the songs were familiar to me they have a somewhat jazzier approach to things than most of the bands I play with, and I've always been lousy at jazz... still the band were very helpful, and I left there looking forward to the next night's show.
I arrived at The 100 Club just as T.V. Smith was going on. I don't mind admitting that I'd loved to have played the show with him, but I'd had a great time the night before so I guess it's best not to be greedy! He was as excellent as ever, and set the scene for Glen Matlock And The Philistines who gave a great show including 'Keys To Your Heart' in their encore. I knew it was a good idea to play one of Joe's songs... The Price played quite a few shows with an early version of The Philistines back in the nineties, and I managed to get a few words with Glen afterwards. When I said that I was playing in Ruts DC and that I used to watch the band back in the day and sometimes can't quite believe that I'm doing it he said that he could relate to that, as it was the same with him and The Faces. Strange but true! I also met Philistines guitarist James Stevenson for the first time who seemed like a very nice chap and who invited me up to Angel Music (he's a partner in the business) to check out some guitars and amplifiers. That could get expensive!

Christmas Eve it was time to see how much I'd learned the day before, as I was depping in The Atlantic Soul Machine at The Bulls Head in Barnes. All things considered it went very well, with a fair few people in attendance (Christmas Eve can be one of 'those' nights where you can find yourself playing to a near-empty room) and a good performance from the band. I remember seeing them back in the nineties at The Rayners in Rayners Lane - Pete the trombone player was there back in those days, and he's put together a good line up for this new version of the band. They all seemed pleased with my efforts, and Pete said he'd be in touch if they needed me again so I guess I did something right. 

Then it was The Upper Cut in Uxbridge last night - and that's it gigwise for me in 2012. A strange year. Some very good bits, some all-too-bad bits... which reminds me, it's time for some more paracetamol...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Careful with that axe Eugene!

Before I leave for tonight's gig with The Atlantic Soul Machine at The Bulls Head in Barnes there's just - just! - time to post this splendid image of Santa Claus doing what all of us guitarist types have felt like doing at some time or other... it was sent to me by my mate Adrian who writes the excellent Aural Sculptors blog; this is usually devoted to live performances by The Stranglers, but his latest posting is a very enthusiastic (I wouldn't be putting it here if it wasn't!) review of the Ruts D.C. show at The 100 Club the night before last which you can read here. I'll be ranting and raving about that and all the other shows that I'm in the middle of playing at the moment sometime in the next few days, but in the meantime I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

A guitar's not just for Christmas...

It occurred to me that I finished Monday's post by saying that there were gigs coming up and then committed a cardinal sin in the world of shameless self-publicity when I didn't say where they were or who they were with. So - tonight Big Al Reed and The Cardiac Arrests play at The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham then it's Ruts D.C. at the 100 Club on Saturday (Glen Matlock and T.V. Smith are there on Sunday) as part of the Joe Strummer tribute weekend. On Christmas Eve I'm depping in The Atlantic Soul Machine at The Bulls Head in Barnes then The Upper Cut play The Dolphin in Uxbridge on Boxing Night. In the meantime Happy Christmas y'all - let's hope it's a good one, without any fear...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Can't pay, won't pay

Ravi Shankar, master of the sitar, has died. His influence on George Harrison and The Beatles (and therefore on The 1960s generally - witness the reaction to this performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival) has been well documented, but how many of us have actually heard one of his albums all the way through? I must admit that I haven't... still it's always sad to loose a musician of his stature, and it's certainly sad in this case.

Two gigs for your humble narrator the weekend just gone, the first of which was the much-looked-forward-to (by me at least!) Flying Squad show at Tropic At Ruislip with Dr. Feelgood. Since we usually play a fair few Feelgoods songs (to the extent that we're often billed as a tribute to them) we worked up a different set of songs especially for this show - indeed of the 11 songs played we'd only played 3 of them in public before. As such it was a very interesting show from our point of view, not least because a couple of things didn't go according to plan... 
As we carried our gear into the venue Dr. Feelgood were soundchecking with 'Down At The Doctors' and were sounding, well, pretty much exactly like Dr. Feelgood. When we went to set our stuff up we discovered that they didn't want to move any of their gear, meaning that Andy was obliged to set his drums up stage left rather than in the centre; a bit annoying, but worse still his snare drum wires worked loose as we soundchecked. Attempts to secure them proved at best semi-successful, and as a result our set was something of a nightmare for our drummer man with him having to attempt a repair after virtually every song. That said our efforts went down extremely well with the assembled multitude, to the extent that we even played an encore. And Dr. Feelgood were good too - I know there is a certain amount of controversy about the band continuing to play with no original members, but they're still a great night out and that's all right by me. And this was a great night out, right up to the point where I asked Dave the co-promoter about the band's money - as he said something like 'you'll have to talk to Philip about that' I got a bad feeling about what might be coming next...
'I never said there was any money in the gig' said Philip, sounding less-than-friendly. I hoped he was joking. He wasn't. He went on to say that he'd had to pay Dr. Feelgood a large percentage of the door money, then pay for the P.A., and reiterated that he had never said that he was going to pay us anything. Well that may or may not be the case, and maybe I was naive for not checking exactly what was going on - but he definitely didn't say that the band wouldn't get any money for the show. I got the feeling that we were supposed to feel honoured that we'd been allowed to play; what he didn't (and indeed doesn't) know is that I'd turned down a well-paid Blues Brothers show as this one had been in the diary for a long time and I hadn't want to let him and the venue down. Add to that the fact that the band (the other members of which travel a fair distance to play in Ruislip) had scheduled extra rehearsals to learn the afore-mentioned new material and you have an idea of how badly this went down with The Flying Squad. Maybe a bit of petrol money could have been found from somewhere? 'I'll make it up to you next time' said he walking - make that scurrying - off. Next time? We'll see if there is one.

On a more positive note Saturday evening saw myself and my good mate and former Cane Toads guitarist Pete journey up to Solihull for a Blues Brothers playback show at The Slug And Lettuce with Born In Chicago. Odd as it sounds the venue had specified two guitarists for the show (well I think they had - I can't think of any other reason that we were both there!) which is an especially strange situation as there were already guitars on the backing tracks. Weird! Tony and Guy (they're really called that!) were checking the P.A. when we got there - after running through a couple of tracks we were all ready to rock, and with a couple of hours to go before showtime we decided to go out for a look around. After walking through the Touchwood shopping centre we found The Mason Arms where drinks were ordered and stories were told. We also chanced upon the extremely interesting-looking Sporting Barbers... 
9.45 pm and our first set begins with Pete and myself strumming along with 'I Can't Turn You Loose' before Tony & Guy join us for 'Gimme Some Loving'. Playback shows are generally a strange affair from my point of view - add in the fact that there were two of us on guitar instead of just me and this should perhaps have been doubly strange but it was actually really good fun, not least due to T&G's fearless performance which saw them spend almost as much time in the audience as on the stage. A chap asked a girl to marry him, we sang 'Happy Birthday' a couple of times and a lot of people looked as though they were very drunk indeed - a good gig.

And it was a good if somewhat surprising gig (I didn't know I was going until around 4 pm in the afternoon) last night, when I accompanied Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes to The Forum in Kentish Town to see Rancid supported by Cock Sparrer. Pete was going up to meet Lars Frederiksen of Rancid to give him a copy of the GLM album 'Chemical Landslide (incidentally here is a review of said album on Louder Than War, and a very good review it is too) as Lars is a big Lurkers fan; he invited Pete to the gig, and he asked me if I'd like to go too. Result! 
We'd just ordered a couple of drinks in The Bull And Gate when the familiar figure of Attila The Stockbroker approached us. Yes, him again! The next 40-odd minutes saw Esso and Attila debate everything from The Velvet Underground to Rock Against Racism with great gusto - I even got the odd word in here and there myself.
We met Lars outside the backstage doors where he was making himself available to sign posters, tickets etc. He seemed like a nice chap, and Pete delivered the GLM album which Lars was very interested in. From there it was back into the venue where Cock Sparrer were beginning their set. I'd not seen them before, not least because they seemed to have a rather dubious right wing following, but that didn't seem to be in evidence at this show. I enjoyed them although they played for a bit too long in my opinion, and I for one could have done without 'England Belongs To Me'... Rancid on the other hand were excellent, and I for one was amazed by the fanaticism of the majority of the audience, most of whom seemed to know every word of every song. A great show.

Right - three rehearsals and four gigs on the horizon over the next week or so. That's the way (uh huh uh huh) I like it...  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Carry that weight

When I was a lad - and believe it or not, I was once a lad - pop music was a lot more exciting than it is now. I sound really old don't I? Well - I am! But I genuinely think that it was - in my early teens the likes of T.Rex, Slade and The Sweet were topping the charts on a regular basis, and leaving aside the fact that I have absolutely no idea who is at number one as I type this (there's nothing like shouting your mouth off without knowing the facts now is there?) I very much doubt that it would sound anywhere near as exciting as any of these three tracks, all of which made it to the top of the pile. But here's a record (I still call them records, don't you?) that definitely deserves to be this year's Christmas number one - released this coming Monday 17th December 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' by The Justice Collective aims to raise money for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign which does stirling work for the victims of The Hillsborough Disaster. I'll spare you my usual ranting on the subject and just say that if that isn't a worthwhile cause then I for one don't know what is. Here's the story courtesy of The Liverpool Echo (which my Dad used to deliver when he was a lad, as he never tires of reminding me!) where you'll also find the promo video and links for downloading the single from iTunes and Amazon. The recording features the likes of Mick Jones and Shane MacGowan alongside Liverpool artists like Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and Melanie C.; at the very least it's a great song (here is the classic version by The Hollies just in case you've forgotten it) and let's face it, it's got to be better than the X Factor winner getting the Christmas number one spot hasn't it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

'The better it gets, the better it gets...'

It's six years last week since Wiz from The Mega City Four died, and by way of a tribute Louder than War have posted an interview that the band did with the much-missed 'Sounds' magazine from June 1989. I saw them play many times (and indeed The Price played quite a few shows supporting them) and at their best they were one of the most uplifting bands that I've ever seen. I can't pretend to have been Wiz's best mate or anything like that but I did know him quite well around that time, and I last saw him at an Ipanema gig many years later when he'd lost none of his enthusiasm for playing music. You can read the interview here; it's good to see him being remembered by tributes such as this - and we could really do with a band as passionate and exciting as The Mega City Four these days couldn't we?

And Patrick Moore and Huw Lloyd-Langton have both died - both travellers in outer space!

Two good gigs for your humble narrator last weekend :-

My name's on the poster! Yeah!
Friday saw the much-looked-forward-to (by me at least) show at The 12 Bar Club with T.V. Smith. Also on the bill were The Lost Cherrees, Root Awakening featuring Pascal Briggs, Louise Distras, The Crows and Texas Terri, and although I didn't manage to see any of the acts all the way through from what I did see everybody played really well. I saw Dermot from The Charred Hearts for the first time since The Rebellion Festival back in August (he was present when I somehow managed to knock a parasol over in the backstage catering area!) and also bumped into Attila The Stockbroker who was supporting The Men They Couldn't Hang over at The Borderline; by the time we went on at 10.45 pm the place was absolutely packed - it's only small but it's a great place to play, and with Pascal joining us for the last few numbers of our set (these three clips give you a good idea of how it all looked and sounded - that's Pascal in the middle) and us encoring with 'Runaway Train Driver' to an incredible reaction it has to be one of my favourite gigs of 2012. I'd loved to have stayed around afterwards to talk to some people but I had to leave to get the tube home; after I'd missed the last train because I had to go back to the club to get my bag which I'd forgotten due to rushing to get out I of course had time to talk all night... bugger! In the end I got home via two night buses which put a bit of a dampener on things, but let's face it, that's not the worst thing that will ever happen!
Saturday saw The Upper Cut visit The Armoury in Wandsworth for the first time. Sadly Roger was unable to make the show due to illness so Geoff 'Rockschool' Nicholls once again depped on drums, for a show that went well despite a rather low turnout - when we started there were only a handful of people in the building, although it did fill out a bit as the evening went on. Terry the bass introduced me to Pete from The Atlantic Soul Machine - I'm depping with them (Terry plays with them all the time) on Christmas Eve at The Bulls Head in Barnes so it was good to meet him. Geoff played well - actually we all played well - and Paul the landlord said that he'd like us back next year, so it was definitely a good night all round.

And it was definitely a good night all round at The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge on Sunday, when Steve Simpson (ably aided and abetted by his brother Bruce on mandolin and guitar and Bob Pearce on drums) played a superb show. I've not been involved in putting on gigs there for a while - to be honest I got a bit disillusioned with audience apathy - but this event reminded me why I did it in the first place. That said there could have been more people there (lots of folk said they'd come along, few actually did) but those who were there saw three superb musicians playing at the top of their game. A fine evening.

And I have just - just! - returned from rehearsing with The Flying Squad; we're supporting Dr. Feelgood at Tropic At Ruislip this coming Friday 14th December, which really should be a night to remember...

Monday, December 03, 2012

None more black

Is it just me or do the baby's eyes
follow you around the room?
Christmas is coming (I just thought I'd mention that in case you hadn't noticed) and what better way to usher in the festive season than to spend Thursday evening attending the opening night of an art exhibition. (Go with me on this, it does get better!) 'Black Xmas' is at The Signal Gallery until December 21st; it's curated by Gaye Black and as you can no doubt tell from the flyer it's a rather darker gathering than many at this time of year. I arrived just in time to get one of the last bottles of lager (thereby avoiding the somewhat scary-looking cocktails) from the bar and to bump into punk promotess Sarah Pink just as she was leaving. 'Lovely to see you dahling!' said she (as only she can) as she disappeared up the stairs and into the night. After saying a quick hello to Gaye (not an easy task, she's very popular!) I saw Ian from Damaged Goods Records who I last spoke to at The Rebellion Festival back in August. 'You remember this chap don't you?' said he, smiling broadly as Neil from Shelly's Children put his right hand out in my general direction. Yes, indeed I do, but I hadn't seen him for, oooh, nearly 20 years. He's not playing anymore - a shame since they were a great band who The Price played quite a few shows with back in the day. Still it was good to see him again.
Meanwhile The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing ('grammatically incorrect but historically accurate') took to the stage. They're a Steampunk band ('don't worry if you haven't heard of it, it isn't anything...') with a fine line in top hats and handlebar moustaches; if you've ever found yourself thinking along the lines of 'there should be more bands singing songs about Charles Darwin, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the 1832 General Election' then these boys could be just what you're looking for. Very noisy in places, very entertaining pretty much all the time and definitely worth keeping an eye out for, although I'm not really sure why.
As things drew to a close we did the decent thing and went to the pub next door. 'It's not cheap in here is it?' said a rather rueful Mark (a.k.a. Barnet, boss of The 12 Bar Club) as he returned from the bar. No, no it's not. Still the atmosphere is good, and when a chap called Tom comes over and joins our conversation we both agree that we know each other from somewhere... ah, of course, he used to be in Big Boy Tomato, another band that The Price used to play with all those years ago. It was that kind of evening...

In a vague attempt at continuity this seems like a good opportunity to mention that Gaye has designed the front cover of a tribute CD to Paul Fox which has just been released - 'See You On The Other Side' features 24 tracks, and all proceeds are going to The Michael Sobell Hospice where Paul received treatment towards the end of his life. You can find out all about it and indeed order a copy on Foxy's Website - it's well worth getting, both as a musical artifact and as a way of supporting a very worthy cause. And continuing the continuity (!) I'm playing at The 12 Bar Club next Friday 7th December with the mighty T.V. Smith, on an extraordinary bill that also features Texas Terri (she was at 'Black Xmas'  too) Louise Distras, Pascal Briggs, The Crows and probably some other people as well. It promises to be a fine if rather long evening, but I guess that's what the night buses are for. Excellent!

I'd thought about going up to The Half Moon in Putney on Friday night to see Slim Chance (incidentally the excellent Steve Simpson from said band is playing at The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge on Sunday 9th December) but instead found myself at The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham on witnessing a performance by Midnight. Big Al Reed played a mean saxophone and Terry from The Upper Cut did a good job depping on bass but to be honest it wasn't the best performance I'd ever seen from the band, although it went down well so perhaps it was me rather than them if you know what I mean. 
Things were far better on Saturday though, when The Upper Cut played at The Dolphin in Uxbridge at a party for Noel and Bridie's 25th anniversary as landlord and landlady. Geoff 'Rockschool' Nicholls depped on drums (Roger was away gigging with Lee Ryder) for the first time in a while and was as great as ever, and with the place absolutely packed it was a suitably raucous evening. Pete from The Cane Toads joined us for a few songs, Noel and Bridie were very pleased with our efforts and the party was still going strong when we left sometime after 1 am; I suspect there were more than a few sore heads on Sunday, a condition which for once I managed to avoid. Good! 
And Sunday evening saw the last open mic night of the year at The Swan in Iver. Confusion reigned over when proceedings had to finish - having been told that things had to end at 9 o'clock we were then told to 'play for as long as you like' by the landlady. Myself, Pete and Big Al (I'm really getting the hang of this continuity lark aren't I?) joined Tony on bass and Bob on drums to play four songs, the last of which was an ambitious-for-a-jam-night attempt at 'Born To Run' - I don't think we'll worry The E-Street Band too much but considering how difficult to song is we didn't do a bad job. Well, I don't think we did anyway.

Right- time to revise some T.V. Smith songs. I'm really looking forward to Friday night...