Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sing something simple

Since the euphoria of Thursday evening (yeah, sorry for getting a bit carried away but, well, you know how it is...) The Upper Cut have played two very different shows, united by, for want of a better word, 'oddness'...

On Friday night we returned to Patrick's Bar in Crystal Palace a little over a month since our first visit there. When we arrived the atmosphere seemed a bit strange, maybe more serious than last time - upon saying hello to the guv'nor he immediately began telling us not to play too loud. This never gets things off to a good start - joking aside it is very hard to play the type of music we play with conviction when you're worried about the guy in front on you telling you to turn it down every 90 seconds. Actually thinking about it, it's hard to play any type of music under those circumstances. As a result I found our first set to be probably the least enjoyable performance that I've given in absolutely ages. I found my mind wandering at one point to such an extent that I went completely wrong, and can't even recall which song it was in such was my disinterest. This has bothered me ever since - having spent much of the last blog posting blathering on about how lucky I am to do what I do I then spend part of my next gig with my mind somewhere else entirely and as a result play badly. Not good frankly. I went to the bar feeling very low indeed - whereupon three lads told me how great they thought we were sounding, and another chap came over to ask for some Rod Stewart, a lady requested some Free and Bad Company - yes, you've guessed it, the second set was a stormer with a full dancefloor and a great audience reaction. And at the end the guv'nor came over and told me that we were the best band that they'd ever had there, I was the best guitarist that he'd ever seen (!) and if he gave us more money would we play until 1am.

Sometimes I don't think that I will ever understand people.

Saturday it was time for our friend Simon the DJ's birthday bash, at The General Eliott in Uxbridge. Although I've been to quite a few gigs at the pub the band had not played there before - when we arrived (in the pouring rain!) Simon was still setting up his DJ equipment; although we were due to go on at 9.30 we eventually started a quarter of an hour late. Once again our first set wasn't without problems - Terry was suffering from a bad throat meaning that we had to be careful as to which songs we chose, and having had something of a bad hay fever day I suddenly found that couldn't hear out of my right ear. I often get earwax / sinus problems at this time of year, but halfway through a show is not a good time for them to develop! Once again I found myself approaching the bar at halftime with a long face - whereupon Simon played 'Roxette' by Dr. Feelgood and suddenly all was right in my little world. It doesn't take much sometimes does it? Our second set couldn't have been more different from the first - Terry's voice seemed to improve, I found a way to hear through not being able to hear (if you see what I mean!) and the band rose to the occasion to give a fine performance. That's better. And after we'd finished Simon was pressganged into singing 'Baby I Love You' with Terry on bass, Roger on drums and some of his young lady friends on backing vocals. 'Can you make it sound jangly?' said he as I handed him my Gibson SG - I didn't like to tell him that I wasn't really sure how it had sounded during our show so I wasn't much help to him now...

During the course of last Wednesday evening I had mentioned to Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes that I was intending to attend the open mic / jam session on Sunday at The Crown and Treaty in Uxbridge; as we talked about it he surprised me by expressing an interest in coming along and maybe even playing; I then surprised myself by expressing an interest in singing - yes, singing - a song or two with him... so it was then that I found myself on stage with him and Upper cut bassman Terry playing and indeed singing 'Around And Around' and 'Pills'. Now that's something that I didn't think that would ever type! I must admit that I really enjoyed it - I can't see myself fronting a band but it just goes to show what you can do if you try. And I don't think that the chap who told me that he really liked the band (!) and asked how long we'd been playing together was taking the mickey?

And last night I found myself in what for me were the unfamiliar surroundings of Madame Jo Jo's in Soho for the first in a series of 12 Monday club nights being hosted by The Duel. Broadly speaking the nights will feature reggae and punk (not sure about calling it 'Reggie' though!) and judging by the first night it's going to go very well. Dave and Segs from Ruts D.C. were Dj-ing, The Duel played a great set, and people were still arriving as I was leaving - clearly the night was young, although sadly I'm not and I had decided to leave early enough to get a train home. Ooh, I really do sound old don't I?

Friday, July 26, 2013

One day it will please us to remember even this

What follows was written last night on the train home from the gig. I've thought about rewriting it as it's a bit disjointed (to say the least! Well the bar had been open...) but have decided to include it here with very little editing. It's nothing if not honest...

Now you know how I feel about this guitar playing lark don't you? Yeah, of course you do. But just in case you don't...

I have a lot of what I sometimes call 'are you sure Leigh?' moments. As in 'are you sure that you can do this Leigh?' moments. I've found that a lot of musicians are more insecure about their ability than they might first appear, or might look when they're up on a stage. I know that there are much better guitarists than me that never get out of their bedroom or a rehearsal room let alone make it to a stage or do some of the things that I find myself doing. And that's not false modesty or fishing for compliments, it's just true. I don't always feel very lucky, but I know that I'm always lucky to be able to play the guitar
So why am I telling you this. Well I'm not sure really. Maybe I'm telling myself it? Again.

I was talking to the lead singer of The Duel Tara Rez at The 100 Club when The U.K. Subs and T.V. Smith played there back in May. She mentioned that The Duel were due to be supporting Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls at said venue on July 25th, and I resolved to attend the gig; among the other subjects that we then touched upon were the band's excellent version of 'Babylon's Burning' as played at the Fiddler's Elbow show also in May when Back To Zero also appeared - at which point, a plan of sorts loosely formed...

I arrived at The 100 Club just after quarter past six. Sylvain Sylvain and the band were soundchecking with a wonderfully raucous instrumental - as I said hello to members of The Duel and The Bears (the first band on) they played a few snippets and a few full songs, all sounding great. 'We'd better get off and give the other guys a chance' said the man himself (a lot of headline acts don't think like that!) as he took his guitar off, left the stage and walked over in my general direction. 
Now as I said earlier, you know how I feel about this guitar playing lark don't you? And you also know that I think that the New York Dolls are one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time. (Well if you didn't know that then I'm sure that you could have worked it out!) But you also know that I'm basically a very shy person. I try not to be, but I am. So I said to myself, go and say hello to him. Go on, you might not get a chance later on. Look, he's nodded at you, he seems to be alright. Say hello. What's the worst thing that could happen?

'Hello, my name's Leigh. That sounded great.'

He smiled and shook my hand.

Hey Leigh man, thank you.'

I said how good I thought that the guitar sounded - he told me that he's got an old pedal, bought in 1968, a combined fuzz / wha, quite unusual...
And there I was, little old me, talking to Sylvain Sylvain, the bloke out of The New York Dolls, about guitar effect pedals and how he gets his sound. Who'd have thought it eh? Little old me. I played along with his records all those years ago. I still do sometimes.
By now people wanted him - I said that I wouldn't keep him as he was busy but that it had been great to meet him.

'Great to meet you too Leigh' he said, remembering my name as he shook my hand. 

Back to work. Time is running out and there are two bands to soundcheck. The Duel are providing drums and a bass amp, The Bears have two guitarists and I thought I was using Lionel's Marshall set-up but Neil's got a Fender Blues Deluxe combo for me to use. I've got one of those myself. Good. The Duel play half a song without me and then we try 'Babylon's Burning', it all goes right until it all goes wrong - don't worry, it'll be alright on the night. But hang on - this is the night...

The Bears start their set at a quarter to eight. The club is already quite full, and they play a good set which goes down well with all concerned. No pressure then. I set up my guitar as quickly as I can; Tara tells me how nervous she's feeling and I say that it'll be great, probably sounding a bit glib as I realise that I'm feeling quite nervous too.
Andy, Pumpy and Tara from The Duel
attempt to ignore the poser in their midst. 
'What will you do when the money runs out?' The Duel sound terrific and the crowd loves them. And why not? When Tara says that they've got two songs left I realise that it's nearly my turn. The song ends. It's my turn. How does 'Babylon's Burning' go again?
Pumpy taps his sticks together four times and the intensity (in my head at least) leaps by approximately 1000% - 'and with anxiety'...
It ends. The crowd explodes. Goodnight. Tara smiles at Andy, Andy smiles at me - mission accomplished FAB.
I turn Neil's amp off and unplug my guitar. That felt good. I wonder if it sounded good too?
Over the next few minutes I got my answer. I shake hands with what feels like half of the audience. They loved it. And do you know, I loved it too.

9.35pm and London Town becomes New York City before our very eyes. 'OW!' cries our hero. 'Ow!' replies the audience with typically British restraint. 'Ouch!' says Sylvain in a manner that perhaps could best be described as 'beyond camp'. Hilarious.
What followed was a masterclass in out-and-out rock 'n' roll. With Jerome Alexandre on bass and Gary Powell on drums they played old songs, new songs and somewhere-in-between songs with a swagger and a style that all of us want but few of us will ever have. There were some great stories too, about selling jeans to Janis Joplin and how The New York Dolls got their name - that's really him up there on the stage. And it was really Glen Matlock and Clem Burke playing 'Personality Crisis' with him as an encore too. Wow.

After the show - more hands to shake, a hello to Mr. Burke, a few words with Mr. Matlock and probably some other things as well.

So now I'm on my way home trying to write it all down. How you ever tried to write while you're on a tube train? I doubt that I'll be able to read it in the morning. But that was a night to remember, a night never to forget. I told you that I was lucky didn't I?

Well as I say, it's a bit disjointed here and there - even the title doesn't really make sense in this context... many thanks to Big Andy for the photo - I had to use my Les Paul Junior didn't I? Well if it was good enough for Johnny Thunders then it's good enough for me!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

'The heat is rising, the past is calling...'

It's Tuesday teatime and we've had rain, thunder and lightning today, the after effects of which are usually a somewhat lighter atmosphere. Sadly not this time - if anything it's even more oppressive at the moment. This weather is so tiring isn't it? I sat down earlier today and woke up two hours later. Mind you that could be the hay fever, or maybe just be me being very old - after all, it is my birthday tomorrow...

It was my 'birthday gig' (if such a thing exists?) on Friday evening, when me and my buddies in The Upper Cut played two sweaty sets to the assembled throng at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. Our good friend Simon the DJ provided some great sixties sounds, and I was amazed that so many people showed up on such a hot night. It really was great to see everybody including my old mate Leeson O'Keeffe who I hadn't seen for absolutely ages. I played in his band Neck around a decade or so ago, and I have a hazy recollection of singing Irish songs with him into the early hours of Saturday morning. That used to happen a fair bit back then too.

All of this drunken tomfoolery meant that Saturday in Balcony Shirts was suitably bleary - then again, 'don't do the crime if you can't do the time' as the old saying goes... I got home and, you've guessed it, sat down and fell asleep. Hmmm... no time to worry about that now, as it's off to West Drayton for a Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks show. We thought the pub we were playing at was called The Rowan Arms, but when we got there we were told it had changed it's name back to it's original name of The Cat And Fiddle. All very confusing for someone in my (ahem!) fragile condition, as was the first set which I just couldn't get hold of if you know what I mean. However things thankfully improved for the second session (I even cut my hand by 'windmilling and being silly') with much dancing and merriment from the enthusiastic audience and a better performance from your (presumably now fully awake) humble narrator. Good!

I managed to get up in time for a Sunday afternoon Upper Cut show at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook. Our three-set show was supposed to finish at 8 o'clock but ran a bit over time, not least as they decided to hold a meat raffle just we were due to begin our second set. 'They like to get their money's worth here don't they?' said a rather rueful Roger in between sets two and three. He had a point... that said it was a thoroughly enjoyable show, with the band playing well and a lot of great comments from people afterwards. One chap told me that it had been one of the best shows that he'd ever seen - it'd be easy to do a 'you should get out more' gag at times such as that (no really, it would be!) but he'd had a great time, and I for one wasn't going to ruin it for him in any way. It's a simple life sometimes isn't it?

And yesterday it was back in to Balcony Shirts during the day then over to The Three Wishes in Edgware in the evening for their regular Monday jam night. Myself, Pete and Big Al joined Andy and Howard for 'Make Me Smile' and 'Baby Please Don't Go', and the whole thing was great fun from start to finish. Maybe it really is a simple life sometimes eh?

More from The Upper Cut this weekend - we're at Patrick's Bar in Crystal Palace on Friday and The General Eliott in Uxbridge on Saturday, with the latter being a new venue for us and a birthday bash for the afore-mentioned Simon who will also be DJing at the event. More hot nights in prospect then - let's hope I can stay awake in the meantime...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hot in the city

Here's a pop quiz question for you - 

What song title do Wreckless Eric and The Temptations have in common?

Any idea? I have to hurry you... no? It's 'I Wish It Would Rain', five points if you got that one. 

They're both really great songs too, as you can hear here and here...

Actually I for one don't wish it would rain, but it feels as though everyone else does. Aren't people moaning about the hot weather a lot? They'll be complaining that it's cold soon. Mind you my hay fever is approaching new highs - or perhaps that should be new lows? Hmmm... maybe the heat is getting to me...

With no gig of my own on Friday night I decided to catch a couple of local shows, starting with Covered In Skas at The Carpenters Arms in Hayes. I'd heard a fair bit about the band (a couple of their biggest fans Kate and Tony get band shirts printed at the shop) and had been trying to see them play for what feels like ages but their appearances always seemed to coincide with my gigs so it was good to catch them at last. They play everything from original ska classics to material from the Two Tone era and on the evidence of their first set on Friday they play it very well indeed. From there it was off to The Crown in Cowley to see the second set from Tiny Tina. I've known their singer Miri for a while - she's sung a couple of numbers with The Upper Cut from time to time and it's great to see her out with her own band now. As you might expect there are a fair few Tina Turner songs in their set, and the band made a pretty good job of things especially considering that dep drummer Mark only got offered the gig earlier in the day. A good evening all round.

Having seen two bands on Friday it was time for me to play in two bands on Saturday, starting with Back To Zero at The Borderline in London at The 'Summer In The City' all-dayer. We were originally due to play at 4 o'clock in the afternoon but that was changed to 6.40pm earlier in the week - as amps and drums were provided I went up on the tube and got to the venue around half past five in time to see an excellent set from The Aardvarks. Well let's face it, any band that plays 'Run Run Run' can't be bad can they?
I'm pretty sure that the venue had air conditioning although as we went on stage it was so hot that it was difficult to tell. Squirrel's bass cut in and out during the first number - the sound engineer apparently said to him that it was due to vibrations making the lead come out of the back of the amplifier and that it was 'always happening'. Eh? If it's 'always happening' then why not do something to, er, stop it, er, always happening? Or is that just me? Given these sorts of problems I thought that we played very well under the circumstances, with Craig again joining us for several songs (including 'London's Pride') and our encore of 'Land Of 1,000 Dances' bringing the proverbial house down. There was time for a drink after the show (good!) and to see a song and a half from Squire before wending my way to The Dolphin in Uxbridge where Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks were playing a set at guitar dep Pete's wife Elaine's birthday party. Again it was ridiculously hot but again the band played well. It was a long evening though...

I spent a fair bit of Sunday asleep. What with the heat and the hay fever I just couldn't keep my eyes open. Ooh now I'm moaning about the weather... still I made it back up to The West End with John King and Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes to see The Crows at the 12 Bar Club. We got there at half past eight just as they were starting - Richie from Biteback on acoustic guitar and Jennie (one of the people behind The Rebellion Festival) on vocals (joined for the first time by Sarah Pink on harmony vocals for a few numbers) gave an engaging performance which was well received by all concerned. And afterwards there was time for much drinking and conversation - always a good end to the weekend don't you think?

And there's just time for a quick plug for this Friday's Upper Cut show at the aforementioned Dolphin - it's the Friday before my birthday (that's on the 24th) and in my world is the nearest that I get to a birthday party - if you're in the area then it would be good to see you. The night after that Big Al and co. play at The Rowan Arms in West Drayton and on Sunday The Upper Cut return to Colnbrook for a 5pm show at Ye Olde George Inn - another hot weekend's gigging in prospect then. Good!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fever pitch

Well I don't know about you (obviously!) but it's been a bit too hot for me lately. I often think that I'm a bit of a miserable old bugger (ooh imagine that!) but once the temperature gets above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 21 in new money) I find it all a bit difficult, not least because I've had hay fever for as long as I can remember. I've been taking some over-the-counter tablets in an attempt to keep it at all bay - they're either not working particularly well or it's really bad this year. I last went to my doctor about it a few years ago, when he cheerily advised me that the only real cure was for me to stop breathing. Yeah, thanks for that doc...

Despite financial woes I went down to Brighton last Wednesday as planned, where I tried a couple of Electro-Harmonix effect pedals. I was so impressed by the Neo Mistress flanger pedal that I found in Eastbourne last month that I decided to track some more of them down, and research revealed that GAK had a good stock of the company's wares - they're made in the U.S.A. and not everyone over here stocks them. I tried a Tone Tattoo multi-effect unit (I thought it might have been useful as something that I could take along as a spare in case my pedalboard went wrong at a Ruts D.C. gig) and a Neo Clone chorus pedal (I've been borrowing a Danelectro Cool Cat pedal from my good friend Paul Cope since I lost my old pedalboard back in November 2011) and ended up buying the latter (which sounded terrific) but not the former (the distortion sound was horrible!) which made the journey more than worthwhile. And it's always good to visit Brighton don't you think? It's impossible for me not to think of 'Quadrophenia' when I'm there - but more about that in a minute.

Last Friday was a very busy day in Balcony Shirts - and when I say busy I mean busy, with people everywhere and the phone all but ringing off the hook. Having a nosebleed is not a particularly pleasant experience at the best of times, but having one behind the counter on a day such as this really isn't recommended. Still there wasn't much that I could do about it other than to hold a tissue to my face amid various pieces of well-meant advice from customers on how to make it stop. 'Pinch the bridge of your nose' said a cheery lady who went on to tell me that her daughter gets them all the time, while another issued a 'don't put your head back' warning in a possibly over-stern manner.In the event it only lasted a short while which was good news - unlike the one I had an hour later which went on for about 20 minutes. Urgh! Whether or not this contributed to my light-headedness upon arriving at Hayes Working Mens Club for a Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig that evening is open to debate, but that was certainly how I felt when I got there. We'd had a rehearsal on Monday evening at which several new songs (well they're new to us, we didn't write any of them!) were tried out, all of which made it into the set with a steaming version of 'Baby Please Don't Go' (possibly not quite as steaming as this one, but we had a go!) something of a highlight. Pete joined us on guitar for the whole show (he often gets up for a few numbers but as he's depping for me at a couple of upcoming shows so it was a good chance for him to run through the songs) and although I must admit that by the time our third set ended I was flagging a bit overall it was an enjoyable evening.

Saturday in the shop couldn't have been different to Friday, being quiet without a nosebleed in sight. Well it was quiet right up until the last hour when it went crazy. This always seems to happen when one or more of us has to get away - I think they call it Murphy's Law? Anyway BAR and The BBs (now that saves on typing!) we due to be playing down the road in Iver at 6 o'clock as part of a 'Summer Fun Day' event so I'd hoped to get away on time at 5pm - I eventually left around 5.15 (a good Who reference there - more about them in a minute) which made for a somewhat fraught journey to The Swan, although when I got there the bouncy castle was still in place where we were due to be playing (now that's a line that I didn't think I'd ever type!) meaning that we had more time than than we thought we had. Ah well - it's better than having less time than expected... with the bouncy castle packed away we set up on an area of AstroTurf (now that's another line that I didn't think I'd ever type!) in the pub garden and were playing within a half hour or so of our allotted time. We all agreed that we got a really good sound - not always the case outdoors so maybe it was the AstroTurf? - except for poor old Pete who's amp kept blowing fuses. Bah! With Al on great form up front, Terry and Dave working well on bass and drums and Chris sounding as superb as ever on keyboards we all agreed that it was an even better show than the night before - and it was an early finish too! I was home by 9.30, and with a long Sunday looming it would have been sensible for me to have an early night - so I of course went to The General Eliott in Uxbridge to catch rock covers band Large Portion. I got there just before the interval - Gary the guitarist came up to me with the words 'you always come along when we're trying a Who song for the first time'. Well I don't know about that but sadly 'Who Are You' went wrong in the middle, and Gary broke two strings in the second set. Not a good night for him, and the band sounded as though the heat had got to them a bit. Mind you, it was bloomin' hot in there!

Sunday morning saw your humble narrator wend his weary way (I definitely should have had an early night!) over to Soundlab Studios in Loughton for a Back To Zero rehearsal. We're gigging at The Borderline this coming Saturday (we're on at 6.40pm as part of the 'Summer In the City' all-dayer) and since we'd not played together since the two shows back in May we all wondered if one rehearsal would be enough to get things back on track, but things came together remarkably quickly (it's good when that happens!) and we made such good progress that we finished early (it's good when that happens too!) with us all looking forward to the show. 
From there it was off to Hoddesdon for the third Buicks gig of the weekend. (That saves on typing too!) When Al first told us that we had a gig at a Mexican restaurant that puts on rock 'n' roll bands every Sunday afternoon I for one wondered if the big man was in a bit of trouble, but Sally B's really is a Mexican restaurant that puts on rock 'n' roll bands every Sunday afternoon. Excellent! It's also got air conditioning which was certainly appreciated by the band if not the audience - that said it's been a while since I've started a show to an audience of one solitary onlooker, as everybody else was downstairs watching the Wimbledon Men's Final. I think he felt sorry for us... fortunately people started drifting upstairs during the first couple of songs, although they did ask for the tennis to be put on the upstairs television with the sound turned down. With the third set looking crucial we had a word with Ian the guv'nor and mutually decided that a break from live music was in order - 'it's the first time that I've ever played support to the tennis' said Terry the bass somewhat ruefully. I sat on the edge of the stage feeling tired and none too well. The box of tissues that I'd had with me throughout the three shows was looking a lot emptier than on Friday evening, but at least I'd not had another nosebleed... the next thing I knew Dave's bass drum woke me up. It was time for our second set - like I say, I should have had an early night. Still with the atmosphere suitably lightened by Andy Murray's victory the rest of our show went very well indeed, with a fair bit of dancing and Ian the guv'nor taking to the microphone to announce that in his opinion we were one of the best bands that they'd ever had playing there. A good afternoon's work. And yes, I went home and went to bed! Well, I was working in the shop the next day...

And on Monday evening I saw The Who at The Wembley Arena. I was optimistic that it would be a good show as I've seen them there on several occasions and the venue always seems to suit the band somehow, and I'm pleased to say that I wasn't disappointed - but first things first, as support came once again from the wonderful Vintage Trouble who played a barnstorming show to an increasingly appreciative audience. I can't help thinking that this band is going to be big. Very big. And rightly so, as they are brilliant both vocally and instrumentally, write great songs and have a dynamite stage act - you don't see many bands like that these days. I'll spare you a rant here about the state of the music business at this point and just say check them out as soon as you can. 
And then there was the 'Orrible 'Oo. With Pete Townshend resplendent in a white jacket and stripey t-shirt and Roger Daltery looking as mean as ever they tore through 'Quadrophenia' to give probably the best rendition of it that I've ever seen them play. Townshend was on particularly spiky form (witness his classic ad lib from 1.50 - 1.59 in 'I'm One' from the show) and played wonderfully as did the whole band - a classic Who gig from start to finish. As the man himself put it, 'it's not nostalgia, it's pre-history'. Indeed it is.

Then there was Tuesday and Wednesday as reported in the last posting (I've just about sobered up!) and today I was back in the shop. I've got a day off tomorrow. Good.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Living the dream

So there we were, sitting in a South London pub early yesterday evening. To my left is Dave Ruffy and to my right is John 'Segs' Jennings, respectively the drummer and bass player in popular hot-rocking beat combo Ruts D.C. - I'd been over at Dave's house for much of the day working on some new song ideas and now we're all discussing everything from our upcoming appearance at The Rebellion Festival to the shows we're playing with The Damned near the end of this year and lots more besides. It was a lovely day, the beer was tasting good and spirits were high - as we decided to have just one more drink before heading off back to our respective dwellings Dave remarked that 'Tuesday night is jam night' at a nearby pub, then mused on whether he might go down there later...

I woke up around 8.30am this morning on an inflatable mattress in Dave's spare room. My mouth was dry and I had a bit of a headache. I also had a rather peculiar recollection that Dave, Segs and myself (introduced as 'Ruffy's Troubadours') had played 'Whatever We Do' and 'Staring At The Rude Boys' to an audience of musicians and locals who had mostly looked on in amused astonishment. That lager really makes you have the oddest dreams sometimes doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

'What's that funny noise Pete? And it smells like something's burning...'

I have just - just! - returned from RnR Studios in Uxbridge where myself and my good friend Pete have spent a couple of hours comparing my new-ish Marshall Vintage Modern Combo with his old Fender Twin. Well that was the plan anyway; after only a few minutes of splendidly noisy noise a valve in mine blew. Bugger! I called Roger the amplifier repair man who suggested that (a) even though it would still work it probably wasn't a good idea to continue using the amplifier with a valve down, and (b) if I dropped it round to him he'd put a new matched pair of valves in as well as re-biasing the amp and checking it over generally. More expense! Oh well - these things happen... and at least up until that point it'd sounded great. Still we carried on using Pete's amp as I also wanted to try a few things with my pedalboard - which promptly made a funny noise and stopped working. I think the power supply has gone wrong. Yet more expense! Do you ever get the feeling that it's not going to be your day?

At least things went a bit more smoothly last Friday when I depped with The Repertoire Dogs (whose regular guitarist Mick Ralphs was unavailable) at Nettlebed Village Hall. No I didn't know where it was either... Nick's at the helm on vocals, Bob's on drums, Dick's on bass, Simon's on guitar and Freya and Ann are on backing (and fairly frequent lead) vocals - we all got there early enough for a reasonably long soundcheck which allowed us to play through a few songs and check a few beginnings, middles and endings. This stood us in good stead come showtime as a fair-sized audience had gathered to witness our efforts. They were an energetic bunch, in the mood for dancing from the word go and making a lot of noise throughout our performance. A good and very enjoyable evening.

Saturday Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The Dolphin in Uxbridge. The afore-mentioned Pete had depped for me in the band the night before and joined us for a few songs at this show, which began with a surprisingly heavy version of 'Green Onions' and ended well after time with a raucous 'Born To Run'. The band is sounding better and better every time we play (which doesn't always happen in groups let me tell you!) and with more songs being added to the show on a regular basis and gigs coming in throughout the rest of the year this is definitely a good band to be part of. We've got three gigs this coming weekend - that's nearly a tour! And there's also a Back To Zero rehearsal to fit in on Sunday - busy times...

Sunday evening I ventured down to The Crown And Treaty in Uxbridge for their once-a-month open mic / jam night. As previously discussed I find myself at quite a few of these gatherings these days, and this one certainly seems to be growing in popularity. Overall I think this is a good thing as it gives people who don't usually get a chance to play or sing on a stage an opportunity to do so, although inevitably the quality of performance can vary dramatically. And there are quite a few mad moments here and there too - I really must write a blog piece about it all sometime soon... anyway I played bass with Simon the DJ (wielding a splendid Rickenbacker guitar) and my old drumming mate Grant on 'Baby I Love You' and 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' and jolly good fun it was too. (Which reminds me - The Upper Cut are playing at Simon's birthday bash on July 27th at The General Eliott in Uxbridge which should be a good night, and they're also playing at The Dolphin on July 19th, which is my birthday gig. If you're in the area it'd be good to see you!) 

I'm off to Brighton tomorrow to try some effect pedals. Mind you, I'm not sure that I can afford to buy them now...