Sunday, March 27, 2016

'Don't point your finger at the guitar man...'

And this week has indeed proved to be better than last week. Good!

I've spent much of it working in Balcony Shirts due to the shop being so busy; much time has been spent printing shirts for various Brunel University sports teams that are off on tour (for 'on tour' read 'drinking heavily'. Good on 'em!) this week in Europe. It's amazing what some people will walk around with written on their shirt... we also had an embroidery machine delivered this week which caused an uncommon, nay disproportionate amount of excitement in the shop. And why not?

I've also spent a fair bit of time caring for my (still!) ailing finger. In addition to having been prescribed antibiotics I was also have been obliged to soak it in salt water every day (which is apparently the best treatment for this sort of thing - it turns out that your nan was right all along!) and keep it covered the rest of the time. I've had to search out hypoallergenic plasters as I'm allergic to the usual ones but compared to the madness of a week ago it's all pretty straightforward. It's definitely getting better, to such an extent that I managed to play a gig with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks last night, at the rather loftily-named Town And Country Club in Watford. The occasion was Bernie's 60th Birthday Party, and with Dave gigging elsewhere Bob Pearce returned on drums for the first time in ages. It's always good to see him, and he did a typically excellent job - although his comment 'sorry, I forgot that it was a shuffle!' after 'The Boys Are Back In Town' did follow a rather, erm, unusual performance of said song...

The band also played on Thursday night (in Sunningdale since you've asked) but I chose to miss that show, partly because of this exchange between the doctor who had just attended to my finger and your humble narrator last Monday afternoon - 

Doctor (cheerily) - 'So when's your next gig?
Y. H. N. (equally cheerily) - 'Thursday'
Doctor (still cheerily) - 'And when's the one after that?'
Y.H.N (still equally cheerily) - 'Saturday'
Doctor (nowhere near as cheerily, and with a rather serious expression whilst nodding her head) - 'Saturday...'

- and partly because there was a rather splendid evening in prospect at The Half Moon in Putney. Regular readers (assuming that I actually have any) will be aware of my interest in the much-maligned musical genre that is Punk Rock so an evening featuring a band made up of members who have all been involved in acts from said genre was not to be missed if at all possible. Class Of 76 feature Barrie Masters and Steve Nicol from Eddie And The Hot Rods on vocals and drums respectively, Nigel Bennett from The Members (and more recently The Vibrators) on guitar and former Tonight and Wilko Johnson (ok I know neither of these are exactly punk rock, but they get in under the wire!) bass player Russ Strutter and play a set that mostly consists of song from bands that they've been involved with. But more about them in a minute - support came from Headline Maniac who are three current members of The 'Ot Rods and whose excellent set went down so well with all concerned that when I attempted to buy their recently-released album I found that it had sold out. A good band, well worth looking out for in the future. It was Class Of 76's second gig, and as such they're still finding their feet with some of the material; that said versions of 'Dead Or Alive' and 'Chinese Rocks' by Johnny Thunders (Nicol played with him for a while) were suitably sleazy, and somewhat inevitably the Hot Rods and Members songs sounded about the best of all. Definitely a band that I'll be keeping an eye on, although I suppose that if someone like me didn't like them they really would be in trouble?

This week, Upper Cut and Big Al gigs, some time in the shop and no doubt more besides. Provided my hand keeps getting better of course...

Monday, March 21, 2016

The fickle finger of fate

I cut my finger on a piece of cardboard the other day. No really I did. I was in Balcony Shirts unpacking a box of t-shirts when I somehow caught the second finger of my right hand on the inside of the box - when I bought my hand out it was bleeding profusely, in the way that your finger does when it gets cut, if you know what I mean. I made some rather weak gags about suing them for an industrial injury and then was obliged to refuse a sticking plaster on the grounds that I'm somewhat implausibly allergic to them. I thought no more of the cut until Monday when I was running through some perspective new material for Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks with Pete and Big Al - it was a bit itchy and hot but I decided that this was because it was getting better.
The next morning it was swollen and red - except for the bit by the fingernail which was an ominous shade of light green. I walked over to the chemist shop across the road from me where the very nice young lady behind the counter (I don't remember chemists being quite so heavily tattooed when I was a lad?!) told me that I could try some antiseptic or TCP but that I'd probably be better to go to my doctor and get some antibiotics. I attempted to lighten the mood by observing that as a six foot tall man I am of course a complete wimp and surely this isn't that serious - she replied that if I went in the next day or so I'd probably save my arm. She didn't look anywhere near as jocular as I would have liked her to look.
The next day I stumbled into my doctor's surgery reception area and waited to see the receptionist. My finger hurt. Actually my hand hurt. The second finger was more swollen than on the previous day and the green bit was, well, greener. Darker. Urgh. I explained my plight to the receptionist who told me that the next appointment available with my doctor was in a week's time, unless it's a medical emergency. 

'Is it a medical emergency?' 

'Well not really' I replied, 'although I do play the guitar, and...' 

At this point she saw my hand. Her eyebrows raised slightly.

'Can you come back at 2.30 today? The nurse can see you then'

Yes of course I can. Gulp.

Not long after my allotted time a cheery face appeared through the half-opened door. 

'Mr Heggarty? Would you like to come through?'

Yes of course I would. Gulp.

The nurse looked reasonably interested as she listened to my rather pathetic tale of cardboard carnage. When she saw my devastated digit her eyes widened. 'Hmm' she said typing furiously, 'I'd better get a doctor to have a look at this' adding 'I'll just put that it's urgent' as she typed six letters - presumably U-R-G-E-N-T - at a rather slower pace than she'd typed all the other letters. Within 30 seconds a lady doctor that I'd never seen before (I'm lucky enough to not have to go there very often!) let herself into the nurse's room, said hello and asked to look at my hand. 'Ah!' she said before explaining that yes I'd need antibiotics and that if they didn't work 'we'll have to use a scalpel'

I said that I'd like to try the antibiotics.

'I guess everybody asks if they can drink when I'm taking these?' 

She smiled as she looked up from scribbling a prescription. I could but they might not work as well as if I didn't. Ok then, I won't. Much.

£8.20 (£8.20!) later I had my tablets. I started taking them more or less immediately, and I'm still taking them now. But more about that in a minute.

It being the week of St. Patrick's Day I'd been contacted by Leeson to see if I'd like to join Neck for their celebratory shows; I was also asked if I'd like to play a couple of songs with Department S at their Half Moon Putney gig supporting The Members - sadly I was obliged to decline both of these offers. More seriously there was a Ruts DC recording session booked with James for tomorrow, but we decided it was best to postpone this until I'm fully recovered rather than waste time and money. Bah! Mind you this was also the week that Iain Duncan Smith resigned - there's lots to say about that but maybe I'll do that next time. I did heroically manage to wince my way through a couple of shows with Big Al and co. (at The Riverside Club in Staines and The Queen's Arms in Colnbrook since you've asked) but I fear neither of my performances will be seen as highlights of my rather dubious 'career'. It's all about that weird feeling that when you're waiting for something to go wrong it's very hard to make something go right - every time the end of my right second finger touched the guitar it sent a shot of pain right up my arm, and since I was always trying to stop that from happening I couldn't play how I would have liked. Not good frankly. Oh and I've just remembered that a bird, er, sent me a message on the way to the shop on Saturday. Why do people say that's lucky? It certainly didn't feel it when it happened.

Anyway I woke up this morning with my right hand throbbing. 'Time to do something about this' I said to myself (or maybe even out loud) as attempted to make a left - handed coffee. After horrifying the lads at the shop with the sight of my finger I once again stumbled into my doctor's surgery reception area and once again left with a 2.30 appointment to see the nurse. As I sat in the waiting room I amused myself with the (to me) ironic sight of The General Eliott being advertised on the TV screen in the corner - plugging a pub in a doctor's surgery eh? I also decided that I was more nervous than perhaps I had realised. It was a different nurse this time, but once again the same lady doctor was summoned after the nurse's eyebrows had practically hit the ceiling at the sight of the famous finger. 'I won't lie to you Leigh, this is going to hurt'. She wasn't wrong. It's never good when a doctor calls you by your first name is it?  

As I picked up another prescription's worth of antibiotics from the chemist I reflected on the previous few days. Not a good week. This week will be better. Please!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Single album, double album, single... er, single...

Shameless self-publicity continues...
When I was a lad bands bought out live double albums - I remember the big scary boys at school having records like 'Made In Japan' and 'Irish Tour '74' under their arms. In that strange way that you have when you're young I used to wish that I was old enough to own them too - eventually of course I was and these were and indeed are two of my favourite releases from that time. I never for one moment thought that I'd feature on a double live album one day, but on Saturday 16th April 'Live On Stage' by Ruts D.C. is released on vinyl for Record Store Day 2016. Great stuff!
And if that wasn't exciting enough (and believe me, from my admittedly often rather naive point of view the word 'exciting' doesn't get close to covering it!) the new Ruts D.C. single 'Psychic Attack' is released on May 20th. Released by Westworld Records and distributed by Plastic Head it'll be available on CD and 7" vinyl (oh yes!) as well as download - we've just got the final mix back from engineer extraordinaire Lee Groves and even though I say so myself it sounds bloody great. It'll be available in all good record shops (as the old saying goes) and of course from us at our gigs, but in the meantime if you can't wait that long it can be pre-ordered here. Go on - you know you want to... and work has continued this week this week on the upcoming album - recently re-titled 'Music Must Destroy' and due for September release we're currently working on a perspective 14 tracks between Ealing and Brixton; I was recording guitars (during which I got to play a Fender Electric XII on 'Soft City Lights' - oh yes!) with James Knight while Dave and Segs were working on vocals at Jamm. There's still a long way to go but we'll get there in the end...   

Meanwhile Friday evening saw your humble narrator catch two halves of two Uxbridge gigs, starting with The Dirty Dog Band at The General Eliott. I went to meet Big Al Reed there, and was just saying hello to him when I heard a cheery 'hello Leigh!' from behind me - I turned around to see the smiling face of Tom Edwards who it transpires plays in said combo. I didn't know that he was going to be there and it was great to catch up with him and indeed to see him play. From there it was a short walk across to The Dolphin to see the second set from The Ska Faces - the place was packed and they sounded much better than when I saw them in Watford last month. 
The next night I journeyed up to Derby to dep with The Pistols supporting The U.K. Ramones at The Hairy Dog. I'd not played with them for quite a while and it was great to see the lads again and indeed to play with them. The venue has been revamped since Ruts D.C. played there a couple of years ago and they've done an excellent job. We played well as did The U.K. Ramones who did a fine job paying tribute to Da Bruddas - it's a shame that there wasn't a few more people in attendance, but those that were there certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.

This week, working in the shop and playing some gigs, next week more recording. Keep on keeping on...

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Hats off to Harefield

...except that continuation didn't quite continue in the manner that I thought it would - the Dollis Hill gig was cancelled. Bah! Al received a text from the landlord of The Ox and Gate saying words to the effect of 'the brewery isn't sure if the want us to continue putting on live music, we'll let you know about the other gigs that you've got booked with us later this year' which I for one suspect is landlord-speak for 'we've stopped having live music, but just in case we decide to start it up again we'll attempt to keep you vaguely interested in playing here'. Cynical? Me? Maybe... still at least the Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig at The Kings Arms in Harefield took place on Saturday night as planned - it's an interesting venue at the best of times, but I knew we were in for a memorable night when, if I might use a word beloved of Sherlock Holmes, a 'singular' gentleman parked his wheelchair-bound mother approximately half an inch away from my amplifier during the interval with the words 'I see that you have stolen my look'. He was wearing a spangly trilby-style hat - mine was spangle-free but that didn't deter him. 'I've been wearing this hat for over five years, how long have you been wearing yours?' In a brave but ultimately doomed attempt at humour I replied 'I put it on just before 8 o'clock this evening' to which he retorted 'see - you've only been wearing yours for a couple of hours, I've been wearing mine for over five years'. It almost goes without saying that he undid virtually all the buttons on his shirt whilst dancing wildly to the first song of our second set - after which somebody stole his hat. As he went off in pursuit of the criminal mastermind responsible I noticed that a chap sitting not two yards in front of us had fallen asleep sitting at a table. No, I can't think of an adequate punchline at the moment either - I'll let you know if I ever do. 

As we unexpectedly found ourselves with no gig on Friday night myself and fellow Buicks guitar man Pete went to Tropic At Ruislip to see noted Jimi Hendrix tribute act Are You Experienced?. Pete saw the man himself play several times and so was an interesting person to attend a show such as this with - it was clear that a lot of work had gone into putting the act together and their two sets featured all the hits alongside less obvious songs like '1983... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)' and 'Freedom'. Guitarist John Campbell is obviously a big fan and managed to go a very long way towards recreating the legendary Hendrix guitar sound; we was also an excellent player (which helped!) and, yes, he set fire to his guitar at the end of the show. Well to be pedantic he set fire to something like lighter fuel on his guitar which then (thankfully!) went out within a few seconds but the overall effect was there if you know what I mean.  A good gig, as was the previous night's performance by The Ska Faces at The Horns in Watford. They feature my old Price band mate Huggy Harewood on bass, and as their name suggests they play a mixture of ska and mod material. On the surface this is an extremely attractive prospect, and for the most part it worked well although it did all get a bit disjointed in places - 'Won't Get Fooled Again' followed by 'Pressure Drop' anyone? Add to this the fact that the singer seemed to be having monitor problems throughout the first set (which disappeared as soon as he switched his radio microphone for one of the venue's - use a cable boys and girls!) and you have a show which Huggy described as 'not one of our best nights'. I suspect he was correct, but it was good to see him play.

On Sunday I went with my Dad to see Liverpool play Manchester City in The League Cup Final (ok, I know that they call it The Capital One Cup these days, but if you're my age it's The League Cup and it always will be!) at Wembley Stadium. Tickets for events such as these are of course very hard to come by - I got some via Bug / Department S guitarist and all round good guy Phil Thompson who is a Man. City season ticket holder, and bought my Dad his one for his birthday. (He was 84 last Sunday. 84!) It would of course have been a better day if Liverpool had won the game, but I thought City deserved the honours - and as our tickets were smack bang in the middle of 21,000 or so of their fans that might have been the best outcome if you think about it... and I'd not seen a penalty shootout before - ooh they're nerve-racking!

And it's been a busy week this week as although I've got no gigs I've been working in Balcony Shirts every day. I thought that I was getting a day off tomorrow but it's too busy for such behaviour so I'll be in the shop then and Saturday too. Hmmm... this is a bit too much like having a real job! But don't worry Leigh - it's back to the guitar next week...