At The Wag With George Michael

I thought you might like to hear of my night out with George in the West End’s exclusive ‘Wag’ nightclub.

This was … errr … now let me see: 1985. My first year teaching. I was living in Bromley-by-Bow, heart of the East End, working by complete contrast in Northwood Hills, comfortable, leafy ‘Metroland’. My school uniform at the time was a mixture of 1950s ‘Rockabilly’ late 60s/early 70’s Skin and Suede Head style Doc Martens, Ben Sherman button collar shirts, high – waisted pleated trousers, bleached Levi jacket, bootlace ties, metal collar tips, pointed leopard print and suede ‘Brothel Creepers’, ‘Harrington’ jacket, Levi 501’s, suits from Johnsons, Kensington Market, shirts from Jack Geach, Harrow and my ever present US MA1 Flying jacket.

‘Playtime’ on a typical week around this period consisted of:

Monday and Thursday – the last hour in the Priory Tavern, Bow once I’d finished my marking.

Tuesday and Wednesday – 5 – A – Side league, Eastway Sports Centre and bar for post match analysis, Stratford (Now the site of the 2012 Olympic Stadium)

Friday – Skinful. East or West End. Long walk or expensive cab ride back from whichever London Underground/Transport terminal I happened to awake at.

Saturday – The Wag. (Then after see Friday)

Sunday – Recovery position

It was Simon, dear Simon who first got me in the Wag.

By rights, I should have hated the place, it seemingly embodied everything I detest It was exclusive. If you didn’t look right, you didn’t get in: no matter how much money you waved in the face of bouncer, Winston. It was small and cramped, even after they extended it. The beer was shite and ludicrously expensive, BUT the music!. And I have to say, the people made it a top night out.The Wag played ‘grown up’ Dance Music, Funk, Soul and R ‘n’ B. And I loved it! I remember one night of solid James Brown and James Brown mixes. OMG! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Often our itinerary was The Blue Posts Berwick St. Soho, Intrepid Fox, Jazz and Latin club Frith Street. Oh! and of course there was always someone to meet at the Spice of Life.

How much?!!

How much?!!

And so it came to pass that on one of these magical evenings, I found myself standing at the bar in the Wag. Minding my own business, I felt someone’s elbow graze mine as I idly scanned the bar looking for free staff, letting my mind and body immerse themselves in the music. I turned with a non-committal look, the owner of the elbows smiled.I smiled back, he used the opportunity to get the attention of the barmaid and get served. Bastard! It was George Michael.

As soon as he’d got his drinks, he made a beeline for the VIP area and motioned me to follow. This was around the time of ‘Faith’. I spent a blinding night in his company (and later that of his friends, which included Andrew Ridgely, Pepsi and Shirley among others) swapping the names of favourite singers and bands. We danced till the first morning light. Leaving the club, bleary eyed, I hitched a lift on the back of a milk float to Baker Street, at which point I jumped off and caught the first train back to Bow.

Actually that last bit’s a load of old bollocks. He smiled. I smiled back, he used the opportunity to get the attention of the barmaid and get served then fucked off to the VIP area while I waited another half an hour to get served. BUT the music! … It was a top night out.

© Andy Daly 2010

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Chameleon and all that jazz

One of the stranger side-effects (if it could be called that) of my Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery, along with the chemical imbalances that characterise the workings of my brain, is that I have lost all interest in music. Listening to it and playing it. It is odd and very sad.

I have stacks of CDs and LPs I don’t play, while I haven’t picked up a guitar for the best part of 3 years.

Go figure.

Anyway, a long time ago before all this Parkinson’s nonsense I realised, albeit briefly, a musical dream. And of all places, it happened at the last school I taught in. The Head of Music announced one staff meeting that Out-reach performers under the radio station Jazz FM 102.2 were coming in to do some workshops and an evening concert. Jazz FM was the official and legitimate manifestation of my favourite pirate radio of the ’80s, JFM. It was a station that encompassed Blues, R&B, Soul, Gospel as well as Jazz. You could tune in and hear music from the likes of Gil Scott Heron, Eddie Harris, Quincy Jones, Thelonious Monk and the SOS Band. All on the same show. (It still exists, although a pale shadow of its former self as ‘Smooth Radio’.)

I’ve always loved Jazz, but never had the technical competence to feel confident playing it.

Dave O’Higgins

But my ears pricked up at the announcement and as luck would have it I was free on the afternoon of their visit and was  therfore able to join in the workshops. And what a treat! We worked with members of the Dave O’ Higgins quartet (O’Higgins – sax, Adrian York – keyboard, Andy Hamill – bass and Winston Clifford – drums) The students were split into to two groups, each concentrating on one piece each, in order to perform it in front of an invited audience that night, I muddled in with one of the bands. To my delight, for our group they chose ‘Chameleon’ a funky number from Herbie Hancock’s album ‘Headhunters’. I was happy as a pig in you know what…

I used a 1973 butterscotch Fender Precision to play the bass line rather than the synth of the original. We worked on it all afternoon. All the players getting the hang of improvising; choosing their ‘jumping off point’ and then negotiating their way back into the tune. The quartet were seasoned musicians and hard taskmasters. I don’t read music (to paraphrase Clyde Stubblefield one time drummer with James Brown ‘All those lttle squiggles made no sense to me they just look like Chinese writing’) so I found it hard going, but I loved every bit of it.

When it came to the evening performance, I felt as through I’d  had a bucket of frogs tipped down the inside ofmy shirt. I had to kick off the tune off before the drums come in. Still, in spite of the white knuckles and sweaty palms I made it through without any major cock ups. Or should that be Hancock ups?

‘Chameleon’ Herbie Hancock

And so ended my brief career as a Jazz musician. By the way, did you know Chameleons have the most distinctive eyes of any reptile. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. Each eye can pivot and focus independently, allowing the chameleon to observe two different objects simultaneously. This gives them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their bodies.

Neither did I.

© Andy Daly 2015

 

CANVEY ISLAND CASTAWAY

‘Bye bye, bye bye.

Bye bye Johnny,

Johnny B. Goode’

… and then it dawns, part way through the Chuck Berry number, that has become for me, at least, an anthem to mediocrity; that he is singing about himself. ‘Johnny’ is him. John Wilkinson. And at once the song takes on a completely different resonance and poignancy as its singer raises his hands to wave his goodbyes.

Last night, me and my minder, Stig went to see John Wilkinson play his second and final London full house of the week, under his stage name, Wilko Johnson. In fact, it was quite probably his last London show ever, because Wilko has been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer. He is still in a state of ‘euphoria’ he describes it over the news which he received after falling ill during the tail end of a UK tour last autumn. Typically, Wilko decided that what was needed was a new album and a ‘farewell’ tour which has seen him play dates in France and the UK and which finishes in Guernsey at the weekend.

Dr Feelgood: you really wouldn't want to take these boys home to meet Mum and Dad.

Dr Feelgood: you really wouldn’t want to take these boys home to meet Mum and Dad.

Dr-Feelgood

A strange response you might think, but not if you know any thing about Wilko Johnson, probably best known as founder member of the influential Canvey Island upstarts, Dr. Feelgood.

For a start, he is no mug. In fact Wilko has a very interesting CV, of which the Feelgoods are only a small part. He went to Newcastle University where he read English, specialising in Middle English and the Norse Sagas. Got a good degree (though he never collected his certificate: he was ‘tripping’) Travelled widely in India and Afghanistan, and taught English in a secondary school, is an accomplished painter and a keen astronomer with his own observatory on his roof at home in Southend.

Stupidity. Wilko and Lee

Stupidity. Wilko and Lee

Interest in Wilko has been on the up over the last couple of years, largely thanks to Julien Temple’s documentary film about the Feelgoods  ‘Oil City Confidential’.  But it has soared since his diagnosis was announced. There have been radio, newspaper and magazine interviews as well as TV appearances.Tickets for the original show at Koko, Camden Town last Wednesday sold out within an hour so a second date was added. The touts last night were reportedly asking £200 a ticket

And it was rammed: nowhere have I experienced such a density of bodies within a given space. I don’t know what the capacity for Koko is, but I’d be willing to bet it was well over last night. They were even standing in the toilets, doors open so they could watch on one of the numerous TV screens dotted about. Also, I was staggered by the number of photographers buzzing around the stage.  All slightly ironic, since Wilko has been for years doing the circuit, performing to the same small hardcore crowd, forever it seems consigned to that dullest of musical genres: Pub Rock.

Dr_-Feelgood

Pub Rock it definitely wasn’t. Backed by the muscular rhthym section of drummer Dylan Howe and one of the world’s most underrated bass players Norman Watt-Roy, Wilko worked his way through All Through the City, Dr Dupree, Roxette, Sneaking Suspicion, Keep On Loving You, When I’m Gone, Paradise, Don’t Let Your Daddy Know, Back In The Night, Wooly Bully and She Does It Right – as only he can do. Eyes all speed-freak-stare with trademark robotic movements across the stage. There is no one else. He is a total one-off. But don’t be mislead.There was no room for sentiment. There was more than a glint of steel in Wilko’s performance.

IMG_0853

When I first saw him in my teens, I thought how does he move across the stage like that? Well part of the reason was evident from my vantage point last night. Wilko still uses his trusty red coiled guitar lead; last in fashion when the New Seekers were riding high in the charts, and it is plugged straight into his amp. That’s right, not an effects pedal or stompbox nor the plateloads of spaghetti that accompany them in sight. Thus reducing his chances of tripping over same by 100%.

There were no embarrassing speeches no ‘surprise’ celebrity guests, Wilko seemed genuinely  touched that people had bothered to come out and see him in such numbers and looked, as did the rest of the band, like they were having a blast.

God bless you Wilko Johnson and remember when you get back to Southend if the ‘euphoria’ starts to wear off and the old black dog starts following you again:

‘Human existence being an hallucination containing in itself the secondary hallucinations of day and night … it ill becomes any man of sense to be concerned at the illusory approach of the supreme hallucination known as death’

IMG_0851De Selby

IMG_0852Wilko Johnson Koko Camden Town London 10th March 2013

See Wilko’s excellent autobiography written with Zoe Howe ‘Looking Back at Me’ Cadiz Music 2012

wilko

Rake’s Progress Pt.2

Essex.

Somewhere I have generally avoided if the truth be known, save for a couple of forays into deepest darkest Colchester. And the inevitable journeys into the hearts of darkness that are London Underground termini in the early hours of the morning, such as Upminster, Dagenham, Barking etc; which, though pleasant enough they may be during the daylight, are distinctly unwelcoming to the traveller, slowly-sobering as they (me) try to figure out how they have managed to slumber through so many stations and how the fuck am I going to get home.

Having said that, it does occur to me that actually I spent a good proportion of my time learning drive on the roads in the county of Essex.

Learning to drive

But my first driving lessons, however were courtesy of my Dad on the beautiful country lanes (deathtraps) around our home, Seascale in the Lake District.  One day, after sitting in the car for a few minutes, looking out of the windshield at clear blue skies, listening to a grinding, whirring sound as it slowed and faded; the sound of front wheels that no longer have contact with a road surface, but which are running free and gradually losing momentum. (They were able to do this as the fuschia Hillman Avenger* that we were sitting in had come to rest, yours truly behind the controls, at an angle of 45 degrees after taking on a dry stone wall and fence.) My Dad turned to me, stiffly – It may have been the whiplash – and said “Let’s swap places”  reversed it back onto the road and never mentioned it again.

(*It was the ‘70s)

So it was at the age of 26 while living in Bromley by Bow in the East End of London that I eventually learned to drive when the streets of Whitechapel, Mile End, Old Ford, Stepney, East Ham, Ilford and Barking were my training ground. I must confess, I had my doubts about my instructor: not because she was a woman, but because one memorable lesson she told me to drive up the off-slip of the A12, Blackwall Tunnel road just to the north of East India Dock road. All my instincts said ‘Noooo’ and I voiced my concern but she wouldn’t have it until we got to the apex of the tight loop that the road makes to find two lanes of traffic bearing down on us. I think it probably prompted the quickest three point turn I’ve ever done. Funnily enough, she never mentioned it again.

Don’t Dwell

My first car was a 1971 1.8 Marina coupe: GLD 967J. What a car. I remember the day I bought it, which also happened to be the day I moved from Bromley by Bow to Sudbury Town, Wembley. A  Momentous day. It began an icy December morning. I had to get the tube at what seemed like the crack of dawn, from Bow to Ickenham where the car was garaged, collect it, then drive (my first solo drive) down the A40 into and through central London back to Bow to load up my gear. Then a drive in the gathering gloom to Wembley to take possession of a three bed house I was to share for a year with mates Chawkey and Wiz. Not content with that, later the same evening I went to a party I’d been invited to near Rayner’s Lane. In itself, unremarkable except for the fact that it was there I met and fell in love with the woman I was later to marry. But that’s getting ahead a bit.

   Look at that! Marina 1.8 Coupe. Poetry in motion. Sorry that should read Pottery in motion.

On the subject  of the Marina, for those of you who know the stretch of road (A501) that runs from Grays Inn, past Euston, Baker Street and finally onto the Marylebone flyover. Well I’d not been driving long when one night, coming back from watching speedway at Hackney’s Waterdon Road stadium, now, of course virtually the epicentre of the 2012 Olympic Park. I managed to get from King’s Cross to the A40, without a single red light! Couldn’t do it now of course. Too many new sets of lights. And speed cameras.

One of the things about Parkinson’s – what my then consultant, Richard Crawford described as this ‘insidious disease’ is that eventually you lose your driving licence as, quite rightly, you are deemed too disabled to safely control a vehicle. Not a good day when that happens. I don’t dwell on it, but I did love driving, and if you’ll forgive the conceit, think I was a pretty good driver at that.

A real blast

One of the things I used to get a real blast from was driving the school minibuses. The first one I drove was an old Transit ‘crewbus’ with the wooden bench seating in the back, down each side – wouldn’t be allowed of course these days – interior coverered with a generous layer of fine dried mud, kicked off hundreds of pairs of football boots. Naturally you had to undergo rigorous training before you were allowed to take it out. As I recall, my minibus training consisted of driving it in a circle in the school car park and then stopping it.

I remember some good times in it though. Taking it to France with a group of kids and staying in a beautful old French farmhouse south of Boulogne. In Slough for ice skating, getting it stuck under the car park height restriction because of the bloody roof rack. Again at Slough (different school and more modern buses) the one I had elected to drive, unbeknown to me had a slipping clutch. Apart from having to nurse this bloody bus there and back, the nearest I got to the ice was  Wexham Park Hospital where I spent the entire evening with one of the girls who had taken a tumble and hurt her wrist. Needless to say when we needed any ‘wheels’ for jobs at home – clearing out the garage for instance, going  to IKEA  or if the car broke down, there was always the minibus and it became quite a familiar sight outside the house in Sudbury Town.

Ray loading minbus. Ealing Town Hall

The minibus also came in handy when we needed to move the band’s equipment around. At the last school I worked at there were always concerts and talent shows, so for a laugh a few of us got together and decided to do a couple of numbers. We had great fun and soon a couple of numbers became a couple more and a couple more, until we had over an hour’s worth of fairly eclectic covers of songs as diverse as (Iggy Pop) ‘Passenger’ (Radiohead) ‘High and Dry’ (U2) ‘With or Without You’ (Green Day) ‘Pulling Teeth’ to (Van Morrison) ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (The Beatles) ‘Back in the USSR’ and (Abba) ‘Mama Mia’. At the time, our main rivals were the 6th Form band. Two of whom subsequently stuck at the music caper and now make up 66.6% of chart band ‘Scouting for Girls’, and therein lies a bit of a story.

I was a big fan of the ‘second wave’ punk band The Ruts right from the outset and remember their first airing on John Peel’s show. I had seen them live, twice in Newcastle and liked their energy, intelligent songwriting and their ablity to bring in other musical influences (specifically Reggae and Dub) without it sounding blue-eyed and artificial . I played  their first album “The Crack” again and again in the slug-infested flat I shared in Stoke Newington with my best mate Aky and the former members of Sade’s band. I can’t think of a single person I played it to over the years who didn’t like it. Key to it all was the distinctive guitar sound and innovative playing of Paul Fox.

The Ruts
(Paul Fox far left)

Now, it was coming up to the Christmas concert and the Sixth Form band had a little ace up their sleeves in the shape of a promising drummer, one Lawrence (Lorry) Fox. Despite being four years or so younger than his fellow bandmates he got the gig because he was so talented and had his own pretty cool Gretsch drumkit. It wasn’t until the night of the concert as we stood on the hall stage admiring this professional-looking drumkit, that I was introduced to proud dad Paul, who was there to see his son’s debut. And then the penny dropped. It was Foxy, the legendary Ruts’ guitarist; and the drumkit, of course was the band’s original kit, given to Lawrence, by drummer Dave Ruffy. Anyway our band dutifully did our slot which closed the first half just before the interval, during which, Paul sought me out. “It was crap wasn’t it?” I said. He looked at me, thought for a while, grinned and said “Well, put it this way Andy…I wouldn’t give up the day job!” And so began beautiful freindship only sadly cut short by his untimely death in 2007.

Four Weddings and a Funeral

To be able to out-perform the Sixth Form band when it came to school concerts was one of the things that prompted us to get ourselves organised and get out and about to play ‘real’ gigs: weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, you know the sort of thing. And so it was that our first live appearance as The Crabs (not my idea) with yours truly on bass and vocals was at Eastcote Hockey club in Middlesex, A ramshackle clubhouse with function room and bar and which sported a mass of corridors and a labyrinthine collection of passages and was prone to flooding.

Russ our, guitarist, discovered these passageways and was soon able to navigate most of the hockey club – in the dark.  In fact, most of the exits opened out into the changing rooms which were our green Rooms – Lovely! a pungent mix of mud, Deep Heat, sweat, lager and stale farts.

Well, to cut a long story short… On the night, Russ decided to go ‘walkabout’ during one of his guitar solos in Oasis’ “Some Might Say” using his ‘wireless radio’ guitar lead. He’d planned his route: Main Bar, Gent’s toilets, playing all the time, from there he was to go through the juniors’ changing room and up on to the back of the stage – except that unbeknown to him, one of the doors had been locked so he had to go back and of course, got lost. Meanwhile, as we continued to play on stage, no idea where he was, his guitar lead began to pick up the local cab service signal, the Police waveband, Heathrow Air Traffic Control and a Turkish Radio programme. He finally made it back after we had played 47 choruses, got all the Turkish league football scores and ordered everyone’s taxis home for the night.

We must have played twenty-odd gigs during our time which (honestly) included four weddings and a funeral. (Strictly speaking a memorial service. But close enough.) One of the weddings we were booked for, I couldn’t make as I was in Spain, so the Bass player from the band Ride took my place. Apparently when he saw my amp he was delighted ‘A Carlsbro Stingray! I’ve always wanted to use one of those.’ Then midway into the second song he blew the bloody speaker.

A to B In the Yellow Beastie

Getting our gear from A to B had also begun to get a lot easier and a lot more fun, courtesy of ‘The Yellow Beastie’. The school had bought an old banana yellow Land Rover Defender for use in preparing the school grounds for the frequent car boot sales and fairs it used to run. Whenever we had a gig and there was no fair or boot sale, in exchange for a donation to school funds, it was ours. And by far and away the most fun vehicle I have ever driven, even though it handled worse than a Lancaster bomber, and had a wider turning circle. It was a pig to control in narrow suburban streets, but when you cranked it up and travelled in a straight line, it was like shit off a shovel. The only problem was you had to plan your braking about fifteen minutes in advance if you wanted it to stop.

Yellow Beastie

One booking involved travelling over to Stow on the Wold. Another wedding, it was a beautiful summer’s day. A  Saturday. We had packed the ‘yellow beastie’ the night before and I had parked it outside our house overnight. I set off about midday with Russ and Nic (drums). Trevor (guitar) was already over there as he was one of the wedding guests. Ray (Our sound and lights man) was playing cricket and would join us later, which meant that we would have to set up all the gear without Ray’s watchful presence. Well, the journey was great, the ‘Beastie’ was in fine form and we pulled in at Stow in plenty of time. We bought two bottles of chilled white wine. Then on Nic’s direction we made a beeline for the most amazing house belonging to friends of his, and for which he had a key. Its owners were on holiday – so we had the run of the place: tennis courts, sun loungers and a beautiful outdoor swimming pool. Wine opened, we were in heaven.

We were also late for our rendezvous with Trev who was beginning to get his knickers in a twist more than somewhat, sitting in a village hall looking at a bare stage. Especially since we had neglected to phone or text him.

Rehearsals for Stow gig.

 

Preparing stage for Stow gig

 
 

When we finally showed he was almost apoplectic.

But there was no real harm done, once Ray had arrived and sorted out all our ‘stage spaghetti’  thus reducing our chances of electrocution by 100%.  In fact it was great. A lovely warm summer’s evening. We played pretty well. One of our best I reckon. I remember part way through one song, looking across at Russ I was beaming a huge smile, he caught my eye, he was doing the same thing. I knew he was thinking the same as me, that this was just fucking great. I could do this every night for the rest of my life.

Pictures and audio:  “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

Unfortunately, I had to get back to London that night, so once the ‘beastie’ was packed, I left the lads to carry on drinking in the village square and made my way home. The Land Rover was brilliant. I drove fast, but felt completely safe. I got back about 2am, but paused a bit before going in and making for bed, just to savour that summery quiet of the wee small hours.

All things considered

Moving band equipment about wasn’t always as straightforward. I’ve been in and out of a number of bands over the years, but the one I have most affection for looking back was called The Pressure Drop in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Now believe it or not on one occasion we took all our gear:  bass amp, guitar amp and drum kit to the venue we were booked to play at (Havelock Hall, one of the Leazes university halls of residence) on the number 41 bus! I’ve no idea how we managed it, especially since there was a fair walk from the stop at the Spittal pub to the venue.

Poster. I used Cecil Beaton’s war photographs on all the band graphics

The band was Self: guitar and vox, Keith: bass, Stalker (AKA Simon Stalk/ Stalker Suave) drums and later, Jill: frilly dresses and vox. and of course our ‘honourary’ member roadie and sometime driver, Naughty Nige. We set out with a true punk ‘Do it yourself’ ethic.  I could play guitar, but neither Keith nor Stalker had instruments let alone the ability to play them. We all worked during the summer 1980, and by the september had the basic gear and a sufficient level of musicianship to get us off the ground. The Jam was our loose template. I wrote most of the songs, which were mainly comments on what I saw or heard around me, or personal relationships. For instance there was one song we played which (although he never realised it) was a commentary on my deteriorating relationship with the drummer. I’ve got to say, all things considered we did develop into a tight little unit, and although only a threesome, with nothing much to fill out the sound: no keyboards, effects or suchlike, we made a pretty good noise, largely the result of Keith’s intelligent and solid bass playing which allowed Stalker the framework around which to build his machine gun fills and thumping bass kick.

Live at Balmbras. Note Ruts T shirt

We played our fist gig to a packed house. Literally; it was a house party in Benwell and it was packed full. We were in the upstairs front room. There could only have been space for 15 to 20 people in there. The recording we made of the evening’s performance features the arrival of the local constabulary, investigating complaints about the noise, and shortly after, a deep ‘boom’ followed by muffled shouts and the appearance of people covered in what seemed to be white circus make up. In fact, it was plaster dust. The ceiling below had collapsed. As we packed our gear up and made our way home, the streets were covered in sets of white footprints all of which emmanated from the house in question.

Balmbras
The Londsdale

We then went on to perform at a variety of venues over the two years or so we were together;  The New Darnell (off Barrack Road) The Londsale in Jesmond, Newcastle University, Balmbras  – The famous music hall in the Bigg Market (reputedly where ‘The Blaydon Races’ was given its first public airing.) We gradually became more competent as we got more organised. We had a rehearsal space over in Felling. It was an unused room above a builders workshop/storeroom that we had access to, pretty much when we wanted. We never got bothered by anyone – however loud we played AND there was a pub pretty much next door. Brilliant! The only problem was its distance from home. For about eighteen months, the band was our lives, and we spent whole days – whole weekends rehearsing.

Other bands who were on the scene, so to speak as us were Punilux (Punishment of Luxury), Arthur Two Stroke and The Chart Commandoes,  Insecure, Eaten By Missionaries and The Rythmn Methodists, who were sort of our mentors. They had recorded and released an independent single “Don’t Rely On Me”. They took us under their wing, but often we found ourselves in a ‘catch 22’ situation where we wanted to play live, but venues – such as there were, were reluctant to book you if you weren’t self-sufficient (eg with your own PA, transport etc all of which cost money: the one thing we never had.

Cooperage interior.

The Sabrejets above, sadly not us. Our ace cameraman booked for the night we headlined was due (to technical reasons) unable to provide us with suitable images. He forgot to put a fucking film in the camera.

Probably the best venue in the city at the time was The Cooperage, a really atmospheric old dingy quayside pub, with a function room which featured a low, beamed ceiling … and no stage. So the performers were at the same level and touching distance from the audience. Much to our surprise and glee we came home on afternoon to find a note pushed through our door, from The Rythmn Methodists, who had been booked to play the Cooperage the following night. They needed a support: would we do it? Too right. It was a mint gig and off the back of that we got our own headline slot.

The gig we took all the gear to on the 41 bus!

Top of the bill at the Cooperage, along a brief tour of the North West (one night in St. Helens: long story) were probably the most satisfying gigs we played. By this time was had expanded the line up to include the drummer’s girlfriend. She ticked all the boxes – that is with the exception of the one marked ‘Ability To Sing’. She was always flat. I think people thought is was just part of our quirky sound. To tell you the truth I needed someone else to help me front it. Neither Keith nor Stalker sang. I was pretty confident with my voice, and playing the guitar  belting out into a mic was no problem. In fact, it has always felt/feels the most natural thing in the world. I could cut all the Weller/Strummer shapes quite convincingly I think (this was why with the exception of the songs I took in the Crabs – ‘Anything You Wanna Do’, ‘High and Dry’ and harmonies here and there; I always felt like a spare part playing the bass. I was a bit lost without a mic in front of me) No, I was crap at all the ‘in-between’ songs bit. The talking to the audience, introducing the songs. All that. I guess I was too shy. I’d written most of the lyrics and music, arranged it, sang and played it, but just couldn’t do the ‘frontman’ bit. Be different now, of course, after a working life spent at the front of a classroom.

Tea with the Mayor (and getting drunk with Nick Brown)

Anyway, the ‘Newcastle scene’ proved too small to sustain even the small number of bands around and in 1982 the inevitable happened and we split…. Just as a more interesting Newcastle scene began to emerge. I became a founder member of a musicians’ collective which emerged from council-run workshops in conjunction with Special Projects ( a kind of drop in centre for musicians and those interested in stage sound and lighting and funded through the Recreation Department of the City Council) Originally called Band Aid – this is well before Geldof and Ure – we joined forces with another group of like-minded individuals around at the time who called themselves Metropolis, and re-named the group Lula Music in September 1982 Leading lights at this early stage were Julie Cranston, Rob Meek, Nev Punilux and Keith Jeffrey. It was basically set up to bid for Inner City Partnership money via the council to set up rehearsal and recording facilities which would be accessible for local bands, and a music venue; along the lines of Sheffield’s Leadmill. We used to meet at the city library. An EP was recorded and released to raise awareness of the project, featuring four bands Darkness & Jive, who Jeffrey managed – so no conflict of interest there then –  Kant Kino, Prayer Before Birth and frankly, the only decent thing on there, the mesmerising “See the Light” by Illegal Sane. It sold 400 copies, one of which I am the proud owner of. Anyway, around this time the project was causing some interest and representatives of the group we invited to take with the mayor up at the Civic Centre. (this is true!) It was so funny, because we weren’t the only ones there: it was a sort of weekly ‘meet and greet’ session. So there was this ‘Blue Rinse’ set a sprinkling of golf club types and then this rabble of red  and green- haired herberts in leather jackets, lurid mohair tops, bleached jeans or tartan bondage trousers, Doc martins or monkey boots! But it was great. There was no spitting or fighting and we all sat round sipping tea from dainty cups and nibbling cucumber sandwiches and cakes.

A few of  us stayed on, and made a bee-line for the bar when it opened. We were treated to free drinks all night by the local councillors and MP Nick Brown, later a member of Blair’s cabinet. Needless to say my recollections of the evening from 7:30 onwards are somewhat  hazy. What I do remember is I was starting to get cheesed off with the petty politics of it all. I had also met by this time, through an advert in Windows (The city’s main music shop) a great bass player, Mark Jackman and was starting to rehearse with him and a drummer. He was a terrific musician and we had one of those relationships where, when we jammed each seemed to know what the other was going to do next. Incidentally, his girlfriend, Liz had the most spectacularly soulful voice.

So with a cracking rythmn section behind me, a burgeoning scene (Lula, eventually did get its venue: The Riverside) The Kane Gang and Prefab Sprout about to put the North East on the musical map again, what did I do? Yes that’s right, turned my back on it to go and work in an off licence down in ‘The Smoke’.

Bring on Hangovers.

Into the Valley by The Skids: Singalong

I am delighted to see that Halfords are using the Skids’ ‘Into the Valley’ on their new TV advertisements. A truly great record – their only, it has to be said. I remember buying it along with Squeeze’s ‘Cool for Cats’ on pink vinyl!

‘Into the Valley

preeson ann divine

The cases on virtue the hurrcum divide, the sujjers ga marshing those masses you lion.

Thurs disease has casking ma vittorea to stawn.

Valley valley!

Lezzee a star

Valley valley!

Farming a shoulder

Valley valley!

Deceive and they bonker

Valley valley!

Long may they do it.’

I still don’t have a fucking clue what he was singing about.

© Andy Daly 2012

Clip courtesy of jenssalumae2

Todd Rundgren Jazz Cafe London 03/10/11

Monday 3rd October 2011

… And ‘Hey Presto!’ There you have the secret of the Rubik’s Cube in under 20 seconds. Easy isn’t it when you know how? Now then.

 I went to see Todd Rundgren. last week. Not everybody’s cup of tea I know, but for me, his complete understanding of the dynamics of a three minute pop song (‘Hello it’s Me’, ‘I saw the light’), plus his skill as a musician and producer (his production credits read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the last 30 years of popular music, albeit a copy with a few pages missing here and there but pretty impressive nevertheless: Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, XTC, Grand Funk Railroad, New York Dolls, Hall & Oates to name a few.) mean he’s safely up there in my Top Five. In fact, probably Top Three. Yep. When Todd’s firing on all cylinders he is a sight to be seen/ sound to be heard. And as if that weren’t sufficient, he seems to possess a God-given ability ‘get a lot out of a little’; as in the case (if I may I be so bold) of Meatloaf.

Ah yes – it’s all coming back to you now isn’t it? 1977. ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ the surprise multi-million seller sung by a rotund half-wit and written by a ‘never-gonna-git-me-a-girl-dork’. None of the majors would touch it with a bargepole. In fact, nobody would touch it  with anything. Until Todd says: ‘I get it. Yeah, I’ll do it’  He steps up to the plate, and the rest is history. ‘The hardest thing was getting Meat to sing in tune’, he remembers (sort of ) fondly. However, tonight, the Steinman phenomenon and the Fat One  are put to bed early. ‘Ya want Meatloaf, ya gotta pay to get out!‘ Todd good-naturedly warns the crowd.

Indeed Rundgren’s longevity coupled with a consistency of interesting and credible output, even now, as he nears his mid sixties, suggest he’s doing something right.

In fact, Rundgren is more resolute and singular now than ever in satisfying his eclectic interests: playing and recording exactly what he wants, confounding critics and fans alike as he first jumps this way, and then that. For example, in the last six or so years, he has recorded and toured ‘Liars’ a well-crafted thematic collection of songs, written on a laptop using a ‘softstudio’, played a number of acoustic dates  (51 or thereabouts) sharing the billing with Joe Jackson and Ethel, string quartet, done a fairly extensive stint on the road with The (‘Who’s going to drive you home’) Cars, recorded a ‘Rock’ album ‘Arena’ on which he allowed himself to focus on his guitar playing (which he had come under fire for from some quarters of his audience for neglecting – not that for a minute I am suggesting that is why he did it) He also took the opportunity to use the tunes to give ‘a nod’ in the direction of a number of innovative, creative players whose work has happened to strike a chord with him over the years. (Ho, ho.)

The last year, he revived, and toured in its entirety his ground-breaking 1973 oddity “A Wizard A True Star.” It is an eclectic (that word again) and ideosyncratic stream of consciousness, sequenced as a continuous medley and featuring a ‘varied range’ of songs set in dazzling arrangements with innovative production; Rundgren experimenting with and exploiting virtually every studio effect and technique then available. Although it featured predominantly original material, it also included a version of “Never Never Land”, and a medley of soul classics* sadly packaged in one of the worst covers ever.

‘AWATS’ Awful, awful cover!

At the time, Todd was making his money producing, and was thus able to make the record he wanted to make rather than the one the record company wanted.

‘My attitude was substantially different than what it is for most artists, because I was making a fine living as a producer and therefore didn’t feel that I was constrained to be especially commercial in my own music.’ – So the ‘hits’ were kind of accidental then?  ‘I continued to make records on my own but that was only because I had musical ideas I wanted to express and get out of my brain. I accidentally had hit records, and more or less got drawn back into being an artist.’ … So yes, they were.

 On tour here in the UK in 2008, his promoter  mentioned that the album had been cited by a number of new bands such as Daft Punk and Hot Chip and the like, as an influence, and suggested a one off performance.

On last year’s visit to London, Todd combined ‘AWATS’ (as it is known by those in the know) with a ‘support’ live set of songs from his most recent project, the album ‘T. R’s Johnson’; the reworking of some of the songs of influential Delta Bluesman Robert Johnson (1911-1938). Johnson’s legacy, one of the most powerful bodies of music to emerge from a blues figure resounds down to us through the years of the second half of the twentieth century through that of artists such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Junior Parker, John Hammond Jr, the Stones, John Mayall, Cream,  Clapton, Johnny Winter, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt, Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Cassandra Wilson and many more. So what was Todd’s take?

Apparently, just as  he completed ‘Arena’, and was looking for distribution, the people he agreed a deal with had an additional project they wanted him to take on. They had recently acquired the catalogue for Robert Johnson, but they had no recorded masters even though the songs had been covered by many artists. They wanted to have versions to offer for sync licensing, master licensing, that sort of thing. So Todd agreed to do it.

 ‘Towards the end of my high school years I became fascinated with the blues. My first paying gig as a guitar player was in a blues band, so it was not that unusual a challenge, I suppose. That’s why I considered taking it on …  I  knew that I wasn’t going to do literal versions of Robert Johnson songs like, for example, Eric Clapton did. I decided instead to tribute the bands that influenced me when I was first becoming a guitar player. And many of those bands were playing Robert Johnson songs, for instance Cream’s version of “Crossroads” and things like that. That became part of the standard guitarist lexicon at that point. So I decided I would make a record in the style of a 60′s Blues Breakers or Yardbirds, English-style, white blues record’. Sounds reasonable enough for me; and to be honest, I thought those bleating about wanting the ‘hits’ during his ‘Support Set’ at the Appolo, (and apparently too on the last night of the current tour at Ronnie Scotts) instead of  ‘this stuff we don’t know’ were being downright rude. I could tell you exactly what Johnson tunes they played at Hammersmith, as I have in my possession  – somewhere – Rundgren’s personal set list, annotated with little instructions: particularly copious I seem to recall over one tricky introduction, which in the event they screwed up any way. Personally I’d pay good potatoes to go and listen to him sing the phone book. But then I am,  a little sad to say, a fan.

Rundgren is a musician who has been a particular favourite of mine since the late ’70s. He is an enigma. For instance, has written and recorded some sublime music (‘Verb to Love’) but also has some shockers in the closet. At times, he appears to be one of the few musicians around who has a clear vision of how popular music and the buying/selling of it and the relationship between artist and listener will be shaped and subtly shift balance in the future; yet on other occasions prone (embarrassingly often on record) to talking what can only be described as bollocks. AND he is guilty of a whole string of serious crimes against Taste during his unfortunate ‘prog rock’ era. But then again, it is quite common for him not only to produce his own recordings, but Todd cocks up the two part guitar harmony in the solo ‘I saw the light’ (Again)  play all the instruments as well. Russ,  my ‘Minder’ asked about Todd and drugs. Initially, like Zappa, he disapproved, but in the ’70’s began to experiment with marijuana, LSD and the little-known stimulant, Ritalin, now of course known as the ADHD ‘wonder drug’. Which explains a lot!

Funnily enough it was Alan (“Alright  Pop Pickers?!”) ‘Fluff’ Freeman who proved to be the link. To digress a little; before Punk, like thousands of other ‘lost souls’ I used to listen to the mainly turgid shite that he played on his Saturday afternoon Radio One ‘Prog Rock’ show, bless him.


‘Fluff’ On The Needle

I say ‘lost souls’ because, at the younger end of his audience, I think many,  like me, listened almost out of duty. There  wasn’t anything else. We were just waiting … That’s why when Punk came along, we were off! Barclay James Harvest, Tangerine Dream  and Yes? Nah! I wanted to listen to The Damned, The Buzzcocks, Slaughter and the Dogs and the Pistols. Neverleless, Freeman’s show along with (it almost goes without saying) John Peel was a pivotal factor in engaging with non-chart music of the era.

It’s wonderful broadcasting isn’t it, Looking back? I met ‘Fluff’ once. Charming bloke. Wasn’t sure about his handbag though…Where was I? Well, anyway ‘Fluff’ had a jingle he used to play which I couldn’t get out of my head.  Of course, Sod’s Law the excerpt above does not include the one I am referring to and I have not been able to find it elsewhere. It was a snippet of a song.  It was clearly live: you could tell by the ambience, and which featured what sounded like the chorus to a song sung acapella,  the audience joining in whilst clapping a slow heavy rhythm along to it. It fascinated me. As well as sounding ‘live’ it sounded ‘alive’ like real people at a real gig.

It took me a while. None of my mates were into Rundgren, so none of them recognised it, but eventually I did track it down. It appeared to be “One More Victory” on a live album, “Another Live”. So on the strength of ‘Fluff’s few snatched seconds, I bought it, second  hand mail order from Cob Records in Wales, and that was it. I still have it. If you are able to stomach the bizarre  band photos which seem to depict a group of cross-dressing Mafiosi and Rundgren’s occasional self-indulgences, is a great record. One which for me, sits comfortably alongside other favourites from the same period: “The Modern Dance” Pere Ubu, “Natty Dread”,  The Wailers,  “Never Mind The Bollocks”, The Pistols and “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings Songs of Christmas”

Todd. He’s our flawed genius. I say ‘our’, because shortly after arrival at the Jazz Cafe (with wheelchair, stick, medication and faithful ‘minder’ Russ,  all 6′ 2″ of him) at about the same spot we saw Bobby Womack from a few weeks ago, we are immediately engaged by the couple next to us, in conversation about ‘Our Hero’: When did we first see him? Best gig? Favourite Song? Favourite Album? (Russ: Never, none, none, none. Should have been wearing white really …) I have found this typical, people want to talk about him, and do so with a familiarity that gives the impression he is a Mate or member of the family. His successes are joyously acclaimed, his indulgences soon forgiven.

And so, to Monday night, when Todd hits the stage, he is as relaxed as I have ever seen him. He performs a set of songs, unofficially billed as a ‘Greatest Hits’ tour with material collated from virtually areas all of his career  from ‘Something Anything’ to ‘TR’s Johnson’. A collection that Rundgren felt, were the band to accept requests (“which we don’t”) his audience would have selected. And he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. The band ( Prairie Prince: Drums, Kasim Sulton: Bass, Jesse Gress: guitar and -it sounded like John Forensic to me! – Keyboards) long time associates of Rundgren were relaxed too, but not so much that they lacked punch. Set list went something like this:

Real Man
Love of the Common Man
Buffalo Grass
Kind-Hearted Woman
Determination
Lucky Guy
Can We Still be Friends
Espresso (All Jacked Up)
Love is the Answer
Difference
Lost Horizon
Flaw
Soul Brother
I’m So Proud/Ooh, Baby Baby/La La Means I Love You/I Want You
Hawking
I Saw the Light
Courage
Couldn’t I Just Tell You

Encores

Hello It’s Me
A Dream Goes On Forever

(Give or take)

I think my highlight of the night had to be the version of ‘Hawking’ for which I had wormed and weedled my way (to the immense irritation of many of my fellow concert-goers, especially those holding pints) to the front. ‘Fuck it’ I thought, ‘If I can survive an hour and a half in at the old Rainbow in a Clash or Bad Manners moshpit, disabled or not, I think I’ll be able to look after myself here should the need arise, thankyouverymuch, Mr. Grumpy who keeps giving me dirty looks.

It was well worth it. Electrifying, it got the hairs up on the back of my neck. I stayed for ‘I saw the light’ to see Todd cock up the solo for the second time live. Then went back to rejoin Base Camp.

What can I say? Had I been asked what would make a perfect evening with Todd Rundgren, this would have been it: performer in good – even high spirits, voice intact, intimate venue, great band, a fine collection of songs. The only things missing, which would have put the ‘Gold Seal’ on it for me: a rendition of ‘The Verb To Love’ and the stamina to wait around long enough after close of play to meet the main man.

Next time …

© Andy Daly  2011

Video credits: Steven Budd /Pic Credits: Thierry Allaouchiche

*The album was also notable for its extended running time—over 55 minutes in length, compared to around 40–45 minutes for a typical pop-rock LP of the period. (I didn’t know this. Did you know this?) This reflected Rundgren’s skills as a mastering engineer, since this extended running time took the album close to the practical maximum for an LP—Due to the inherent physical limitations of the vinyl LP medium on records with running times over 45 minutes there is an unfavorable trade-off between duration and the audio quality and volume.

WOMAGIC! Bobby Womack Jazz Cafe 20th June 2011

Bobby Womack: An Introduction

I was fortunate enough to see Bobby Womack  on Monday night at Camden’s Jazz Café, the first of four sell-out shows. In such a small venue as the Jazz Cafe, it promised to be something special.
Almost everything I’ve ever read about Bobby Womack, whether it be the back of a CD sleeve, preamble to an interview, live or album review, seems to have been taken from the same template. It is invariably a chronological one and runs ‘Born Cleveland… gospel group… the Womack Brothers… Soul Stirrers… Sam Cooke… the Valentinos…”It’s All Over Now”… the Rolling Stones… Chips Moman… Muscle Shoals…yadda, yadda. In many, the bulk is devoted, not to him in fact, but to the luminaries he has worked with at one time or another. I don’t intend to do that, so you might have to haul off to Wikipedia or similar if it’s background facts you want. Anyway, Bobby Womack should need no introduction. He is simply a Music Legend (you will notice I didn’t say ‘Soul Music’ or ‘RnB’ Music I think it’s more than either)
Monday night. Bottle of Becks if you can spot me

Special

And it was. Special. Monday night, I mean.  We go a long way back, Bobby and Me. (He doesn’t actually know this as we’ve never met – yet) but I guess for twenty five years, give or take a few months, he has been who I’ve turned to for solace, someone to build me up when someone’s let me down, or when I just want to listen to some good music. Music which has a common touch. For those who think Womack a second string to the likes of Stevie, Marvin, Prince, Michael etc. Have another listen. Listen to how broad it is (Okay, you may have to hide some of the album sleeves on grounds of maintaining good visual taste) but listen for the Country influences, listen to the guitar playing and look at his words. I’ve been a bit self indulgent below, with a pretty poor attempt at a BW bio, using only lines from songs. To be frank, I’m a bit embarrassed by it, so I may well have lopped it off by the time you read this. What it did do, however, was re-confirm that when he is good as a songwriter, he is very good.
Despite the dominance (or perhaps because) of a faceless, conglomerate, corporate music industry, which often relies on homogeneity and an easily-digestible diet; for much of his career, Womack has resolutely ploughed his own furrow, making music which is unafraid to deal with the mundane in life, the every-day and commonplace and which, plays to a backdrop of his deep scrutiny of relationships and sexual politics. These strands run through his work, from his earliest days.

The Grafter

Well, no surprises there you might argue, the last half a century of modern popular music has been predicated on just that. But Womack is different, there is at once a personal rawness, and courage with which he lays himself bare, something he does in distinctive and inspirational ways: ‘talking’ to his audience in his songs – asking them the same questions that he is wrestling with. And there’s empathy, in bucketloads. We might expect his view of life to be non too focused after breathing from the rarefied atmosphere we reserve for ‘Stars’ and suchlike for so long. (In fact, I think a look at the pattern of Bobby’s career and while we’re at it, Bank balance would probably reveal his enjoyment of ‘Star’ status has been more patchy than people think) but through his songs, you can tell – he knows what you are thinking and feeling.

Stylo – Great. I wait for Womack’s lines like I wait for Springsteen’s climactic ‘Born to Run’ chorus

Gorillaz

It says something that an artist of his stature  and age embarks on his biggest ever tour, effectively as  a walk-on for one (two?) songs to audiences who would have had no idea who he was. My son saw Gorillaz at the Benecassim festival in Spain. He knows I am a big fan of BW, but didn’t even realise he’d performed!
And I’m not having a pop at Damon Albarn. Far from it. He is a musician I have the utmost respect for; besides it seems as if Gorillaz has revitalised Womack, prompted the current tour and God-willing, recovery from treatment for Prostate Cancer permitting, moved Womack’s already distinguished career onto a new trajectory. For which, much thanks.

Indeed, it was the deliciously sinister bass line of ‘Stylo’ that almost imperceptably slid into the Jazz Cafe, curling, swirling and eddying around the feet and ankles of the assembled and opened the evening. Before we knew it, that bass was thumping its way into our very muscle fibres, sinews and bones: a foil for as fine a snap-punch of a snare drum  I have ever heard.

And there he was!

I’m too white

A man old enough to be my Dad (in fact, suffering the same complaint as my Dad) looking decidedly … not frail, but …’mortal’ shall we say. A man I’ve waited about seven years to see since his last London gig (an unhappy affair at Hammersmith Appollo. I was cross, because I felt it, by his standards was a half-hearted show. Him or just me? I dunno, but I felt it all ran rather too slickly, while I found the ‘talkovers’ indulgent to the point that they detracted from the songs.) A man who I first saw in 1985, and whose voice (I think, judging by what I have seen on You Tube, we were lucky to have got best night) can still send shivers down my spine, move me to tears, or groove like … well, a groovy thing. We were truly spoiled with the addition of the band, namely, Hense Powell – keyboards, Rustee Allen – bass, Arnold Ramsey – drums, Victor Griffin – percussion, Alex H. Marlowe – keyboards, Woodard Aplanalp – guitar, Michael Davis – trumpet, Michael Harris – trumpet, Louis Van Taylor – sax, John Roberts – trombone and  backing vocals from Lisa K. Coulter and the great Alltrinna Grayson. All, if you’ll excuse the phrase – tighter than a camel’s chuff in a sandstorm. They rocked the house, the street, it felt like the whole of Camden.
 We were treated to, among others ‘Across 110th Street’, ‘Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out’, ‘Harry Hippie’, You’re Welcome to Stop On By’, ‘That’s The Way I Feel About Cha’, ‘Daylight’s Gonna Catch Me Up’,  ‘I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much’, ‘A Woman’s Gotta Have It’,  ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, ‘If You Think You’re Lonely Now’ ‘Jesus Be A Fence Around Me’. It was so good, I didn’t mind that some of my personal favourites didn’t get an airing. Big voice, big band, small stage, small room, small wonder for the most part I was in seventh heaven.

Healing

And at this point I feel I should apologise to the people standing nearby me. Not knowing how my Parkinson’s was going to treat me on this ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ night out, I came with my minder, Russ and wheelchair. We arrived – thankfully before the bulk of the punters and got a good spot, right of stage. As it happened, my Parkinson’s ‘behaved’ – up to a point. I was at the mercy of bad Dyskinesias (uncontrollable movements, result of Parkinson’s medication side-effects) all evening, but despite that, was able to walk unaided. Always a difficult moment, when you have a wheelchair. So I decided to stay seated as I felt it would cause least disruption. About two thirds the way into the gig, I could stand it no more. I am sorry if this apparent sudden ‘healing’ of my affliction caused you distress, or indeed rapture. I know my progress from wheelchair-bound enthusiast to ebullient wedding ‘Disco Dad’ mover was followed with interest by many fellow concert-goers. Bobby’s good, but he’s not that bloody good.

Bobby and Me

I had a hunch he might hang around somewhere after, and thankfully I was right. The double-parked white Mercedes on Parkway was a giveaway. Members of Bobby’s entourage (who, incidentally were politeness itself) officiated and allowed people into the Cafe to meet the man. He looked very tired. So to cheer him up I said ‘Ey! man, you’ve still got another 3 nights to go!’ (Why is it when … well, you know what I’m going to say …) In fact, he looked so drained I immediately felt guilty for taking up his time when probably all he wanted to do was get back to the hotel and relax. ‘No, no trouble’ they insisted. Mr. Womack was gracious, generous with his time and thoughtful. He gave me a copy of the ‘Raw’ DVD, signed, with a personal message, even though I didn’t ask for, nor expect one. And a photo too! Okay, it’s not exactly Rankin: I’ve looked better, though never photogenic and yes, I’d like to have a word with the halfwits in the background. But that is Bobby Womack with his arm around me!
                                                                         
I think I may have come away a little ‘healed’ after all.

 Who, who’s holdin’ who?

A few thoughts prompted by a superb performance in a suitably intimate venue by a true giant of popular music.

People say he’s a living legend in his time, but I thought I’d let you know where I’m coming from.

I’m standing at the crossroads, wondering which way does life go, where does that river flow? – turning the pages of my life’s storybook.

I was the third brother of five doing whatever we had to survive. I see that old house standing alongside the road, where Pappa laid his plan and he let us go. He’d say ‘Education is the thing’ and Mamma  ‘Get up and try it again’: The roads of life are sometimes hard.

Night after night, my job takes me all around the world. Wild and crazy, chasing the ladies, we sure had a lot of fun. I spend all my money getting drunk with my buddies, wasting every cent I own.  Where the champagne is flowing, you know Bobby is going I found it hard to say no.

But who’s fooling who? You see, games, once they start they never seem to end, and I can’t be in two places at one time. Money?  It’s just a part of life, you can use it wrong, or you can use it right. Every now and then we all have to get away, to break away to find ourselves. Sometimes we get lost along the way. You know I often wonder sometimes what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul in return?  I was drifting away from reality, too far away from the roots in me.

I know today won’t be like yesterday, because I’m seeing it all in a different way. Funny how one thing could change at all when you watch the closest thing to you almost fall. It’s easy to be swayed by the gleaming lights because those lights will have you thinking that everything is going right. Just like they play your favourite song: they play it over and over and over again till the grooves are gone. But I can’t overlook the tears especially when those tears seem to be brought by me. You can’t get away from your destiny.

If you think you’re lonely now…

So, as I get used to the pain maybe then I’ll understand why tears fall down like rain. Everybody needs some kind of love in their life in some kind of shape, form or fashion. Looking back now I still wonder how I ever made it out alive:  you came and saved me, with the love that you gave me.

Time has a story and how you play the game is all up to you: I’m talking about friends of mine. People like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. You’ve got to make your moves while you can still win them but you can never let the moves close in on you. Still, you find yourself asking: ‘Did I do right? Did I do right?

I know nobody wants you when you’re down and out, but they know I’m dependable, make the rounds and I take the blows and  though my heart can’t take it and my feet don’t want to make it, I’m the only survivor left still standing here.

There are so many sides of you, so many sides of you that I like, while no matter how high, no matter how high I get, I’ll still be looking up to you.

Well, where do we go from here?

There’s only one way

Let it play a little while longer.

Bobby Womack Jazz Cafe London 23rd June 2011

© Andy Daly 2011

Pic Credits: Battez, Zimbio, author, author, Brother G

Thin Lizzy Live! 15th Nov.1975

 Okay, now here’s a bit of fun for you all. A live music review from 15th November 1975. Yes, I know I’ve been a bit sluggish in getting it to publication, but these things take time.

I am just turned 15, sitting with a group of my mates in the Champness Hall in Rochdale Lancashire.  I remember as though it were yesterday.  It was – and probably still is – a rather austere Methodist church hall, one which I knew well as the meeting/marshalling point for the hated annual test of will power and patience that was the Scouts’ and Girl Guides’ St. George’s Day parade. Tonight, however, it plays host to a very different gathering.

 

 Champness Hall, Drake Street, Rochdale

All around me a sea of sickly denim and patchouli oil is headbanging.  There is a band on stage.  Despite, (or perhaps because of) the stage clothes, the coloured lights, the expensive  looking guitars and seemingly endless stacks of Marshall amps and speaker cabinets, they look incongruous, uncomfortable even, on the high irregular stage, which slap bang in its centre boasts  a stairway with banisters. It is the one that allows access from the congregation  to reach the pulpit. I bet it’s the oddest venue on this tour. Behind the group an imposing set of organ pipes dominate the back wall ( Note the refusal to stoop as low as using these as an excuse for unsavoury  jokes and puns) Lit by reflected colour from the stage lighting, they look like stalactites and stalagmites forming a surreal backdrop  to the whole affair.

 The lead singer has just addressed his audience and the band launch into the opening riff of the next song.  They don’t look uncomfortable any more.  Once they start to play, all swagger and poise, menace and noise they make it clear they own the place. The lead singer teases and goads the audience between verses. At the risk of using a cliché, inside the hall it becomes an assault on your senses, and in particular on your hearing … I SAID PARTICULARLY ON YOUR HEARING. The sound is shocking. All the  mid range tones are lost in a kind of ‘acoustic soup’,  the higher frequencies  are sent thrashing around only to be echoed back off the organ pipes, while the bass guitar, bass drum and snare punch your chest so hard it hurts. But it is charged, the atmosphere is electric!

The band, a four piece, is here playing the 21st night of a 39 date European tour to promote their fifth album, which features a cover photograph of the band standing, trying to look as aggressive as possible. In fact, if anything, they look hungover. This is the arresting image, enlarged and reproduced on a life size scale which greets you as you enter the venue. The record company, Vertigo, are keen to push the album in order that it may prompt for the band, who originate from Ireland, the breakthrough they desperately seek. In fact, during the course of 1975, as well as recording the album the group had, by the end of the year of the year undertaken five (five!!) tours.  These have included dates in the US (supporting Bachman Turner Overdrive, Bob Seger, ZZ Top and Joe Walsh) Europe (Germany, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway) Eire and the UK.  Including the Reading Festival, I make it 131 nights in total. Last night they were in London at Thames Poly (Now probably the University of Deptford or somesuch) Tomorrow, Newark (that’s Notts not New Jersey) and the day after, Swansea.  A punishing schedule, not least when the band’s propensity for making touring as … how can I put it? … as enjoyable as possible …  is taken into account. However, back to our gig. 

As I said, the lead singer has just addressed his audience. Dripping with sweat, in his left ear he wears a large silver hoop that intermittently catches the light, and with a lop-sided  grin from said ear to the other he sheepishly looks up from under long lashes, and the curls of black hair that hang rakishly down over his left eye.

         “Anybody in here got any Irish in ‘em? …”

 I won’t complete the enquiry as it highlights an aspect of the band and in particular its frontman’ s persona that I must admit I’ve always had bit of a problem with.  Anyway, tonight the response is drowned out as the black singer, tall and gangly, in leather trousers and a sequined top drops to a squat clamping his black bass guitar (a Rickenbacker as it happens) between his thighs and makes as if to ‘machine-gun’ his audience with it. Meanwhile the guitars break into the staccato opening to ‘The Rocker’. Yes! It’s Thin Lizzy.

Thin lizzy!

Moreover, not only is it Lizzy, but the definitive Lizzy, which first exploited the distinctive twin guitar harmony playing of Brian Robertson, a seventeen year old whizz kid from Glasgow, and Scott Gorham  a Supertramp ‘reject’ from California that they nicked from who? The Allman Brothers? (Referring to Robertson/Gorham, ‘Chalk and cheese’ grinned Lynott slyly when pressed to explain his choice.) The volatile Robertson and terminally laid back Gorham, (he of the ‘Sunsilk’ hair – then, not now of course,) are responsible for two of the finest  musical moments which  together with about two dozen others from artists as diverse as The Sex Pistols and Charlie Parker map out the course of my teens. In this case the genius-made-sound that is the ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ featuring Robertson’s searing, vicious solo.

 

Yes! It was Thin Lizzy, on the ‘Rocktober’ tour 1975, which in the context of their career, was “about a minute before they burst through into the big time – very  exciting.”

 

 

Robertson: Is this what is meant by ‘Guitar Tab’?

A breakthrough which was to be cemented four months later with the release of the classic ‘Jailbreak’ and in particular, the aforementioned, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’  

Lizzy, that chaotic mass of contradictions that came out of Crumlin, Dublin. Who wrote and recorded many, many great songs – and one or two awful ones.

Lynott in full flow                      

Lizzy, who seem to, at one time or another have featured every  guitar player with an axe and a serviceable amp living in the UK in its line up.

Lizzy, Phil Lynott’s pride and joy, who seemed  to  follow their own trajectory through the ‘70s and ’80s steering a more mainstream, less po-faced course than many of their contemporaries like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and so on. The result being by accident or design I don’t know, timeless music.

Lynott and Gorham 

Lizzy, the outfit who could  be relied upon, as sure as night follows day, to fuck things up at those critical points where other bands seemed to be able to seize the day and use the momentum to propel them that bit further to ‘superstardom.’  Like the night before embarking on an eagerly – awaited and vitally important US tour. Instead of being tucked up in bed – or packing, Brian Robertson is not only not doing either, he’s at the Speakeasy Club in London, where at some ungodly hour he decides to leap into the midst of a drunken brawl  to assist his pal singer, Frankie Miller who is apparently about to get glassed. ‘Robbo’ takes it in (and through) the hand, severing a nerve, an artery and narrowly missing a tendon which would have finished him as a guitar player for ever. But not before first dealing with the assailant:

 “I broke his leg”

  and his mate:

“I broke his collarbone”

  His other mate:

 “I nutted him – I would have killed them all if someone hadn’t hit me on the head with a bottle and knocked me unconscious!”

 Odds on it was Phil Lynott, or if not, by the following morning Phil I’m sure would have wished it had been.

Exit Robbo, back into the band comes previous Gary Moore … for a while. Then he goes back to Colosseum. ‘Robbo’ returns when his injuries have healed, unofficially. He’s not talking to the band. ‘Robbo’ becomes ‘official’. Then jumps ship for good to be replaced  by … Midge Ure, Dave Flett,  Snowy White, John Sykes  and so on until I lose interest. Oh! Not forgetting Eric Bell of course.

It’s just the kind of band Thin Lizzy were.

Lizzy: Downey, Robertson, Gorham, Lynott. Flawless live

Anyway, enough of that. Tonight is about Lizzy as they were. Flawless on stage.  As I said, I remember it as if it were yesterday, although of the songs they actually played, I’ve only got definitive recollections of,  apart from ‘The Rocker’ and the ubiquitous ‘Whiskey In The jar’ (originally a ‘B’side piss-take) which they had to be convinced to release as an ‘A’ side and which gave them their first chart success in the UK and their  first foothold on the ladder. Apart from these two, the one I remember was ‘Suicide’. I recall being struck by the ferocity of Lynott’s attack on the song. The sheer physicality of his singing. This was only my second live band. (I’d  seen Status Quo in May earlier in that year at Belle Vue, Manchester. But  the 50p ‘unreserved’ cheap seats we were in were so far back they were in Longsight, so not such a good view. In fact, my Dad had a better view than me – It’s a long story best kept for another day) Otherwise, almost every other band I had seen on TV mimed. Lynott was the first singer I can remember who actually looked like he meant it.

He (and the band) had some bottle. Remember it was the mid ‘70s. Racist jokes were still, sad to say, considered ‘acceptable’, even in mainstream culture. Meanwhile Northern Ireland festered as Republican and Loyalist atrocities followed a dismal pattern,  which became almost as sickeningly ‘acceptable’ Against  this backdrop as a patriotic black Irishman taking his music to a British audience, Lynott was all but putting his head into the Lion’s mouth.

After the gig I remember on the way out being given a Thin Lizzy sticker by one of the road crew which I proudly stuck on my school bag and hauled around Bishop Henshaw RC Memorial School off Oldham Road, Rochdale for a couple of years.  I loved them! They were my band – in the same way that The Ruts were to become a few years later (Another story for yet another day ) In fact, I’ve heard that around the time of the first incarnation of the Ruts came about, Malcolm Owen was hanging about with Lynott.  Ruts drummer Ruffy who back then  played bass borrowed Lynott’s black Rickenbacker for some of the early rehearsals. Which if true, shoots dead in the water the tale I was told after the Rochdale gig, the source being someone’s elder brother, who, as he hung around after the gig to meet the band,  apparently saw a roadie drop the (same) Rickenbacker on the stairs and break the neck. Which is why from about this time onwards  you see Phil playing the black Precision with the mirror scratchplate. Interesting Lizzy pub quiz fact or total bollocks? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

I was really genuinely delighted for them, that ‘Jailbreak’- which came not long after the ‘Rocktober’ tour was the success it became. They deserved it. Even if not everyone agreed. I recall seeing around this time, the lyricist/ songwriter/composer Sammy Cahn (‘Three Coins In The Fountain’) interviewed by Michael Parkinson. He was asked in typically lugubrious fashion about the craft of songwriting today.  Cahn replied, saying how he thought standards had fallen.

“For example … “ and he told Parkinson all about a song he had overheard  in which the singer  just shouted the words ‘The Boys are back in town’ over and over again. I remember thinking No! … you have chosen the wrong song there Mister. In fact he couldn’t have picked a worse example. ‘The Boys’ is a terrific, vivid evocation of a mythical space and time inhabited by ‘the boys’: all testosterone and bravado, equally mythical, who can be found on ‘Friday night, dressed to kill, down at Dino’s Bar and Grill …’  A wonderful construct. I don’t believe it ever existed: not in the form it appears in the song. ‘No. 77 Sunset Strip’ was the name of a US detective series from the 60’s starring  Efrem Zimbalist Junior. Lynott wanted to see what was actually at No. 77. So while in L A on Lizzy’s first tour of the States, he went to take a look. It turned out to be a ‘supper club’,  the former haunt of showbiz legend Dean Martin. It was a brilliant combination of the idea of the ‘gang’ with its meeting place, whose name was a derivation of Martin’s own. And although I have never been there – I couldn’t have – I can imagine exactly what it was like. Great songwriting. And there was plenty of it over the years, even towards the end, ‘Sarah’ and ‘Old Town’ for instance, I think are quality gear. Okay, a bit sentimental maybe, but nothing wrong with that in small doses.

The Rocker

Having said that however, I’m not sure I fully subscribe to the ‘Lynott as poet’ view. He barely got away with it on ‘Jailbreak’:

‘Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town …’

Hmmmm. Well unless the Bizzies are really dumb, you would think they’d keep their eye on the Jail!

Then there is the frankly unforgivable rhyming couplet in ‘Parisienne Walkways’ written and sung by Lynott, recorded by Gary Moore; His attempt to out – Santana  Santana. In what is supposed to be a portrait of ‘Paris in ‘49’ Phil sings (I don’t know how he had the brass-neck …)

‘Looking back at the photographs, those summer days spent outside corner caffs’

I think I would have even preferred:

‘Looking back at the photographés, those summer days spent outside corner cafés’

And as for ‘Killer On The Loose’. Well, I am going to simply gloss over it and charitably put it down to the smack and coke  having addled his brain so much, he didn’t know what he was scribbling. (So how does that explain ‘Sarah’ and ‘Old Town’?) Ahhhh … Anyway …

Thanks Phil

I would still like to thank him though (and Downey, Robertson and Gorham) for a great night back in November ’75 and for making at their  very best, earthy, raw, yet at the same time elegant even sublime music  which continues  to raise the hairs on the back of my neck today (and annoy my kids) – so it can’t be bad.

 It is twenty five years since Phil Lynott died a miserable death, a long way from the assured frontman I saw captivate his audience as skilfully as you like. Far be it from me to cause controversies or open old wounds, but there is one thing that I think ought to be mentioned before we leave the ghosts of November 1975 in peace.

‘Why are you wearing that T shirt?’

 

 This one?

It is November 2009, during the last time I had to have a spell  in hospital. The voice belonged the bloke in the bed opposite me, who I won’t name. He was leaning on his elbow, looking like death warmed up, nodding his head in the general direction of the distinctive Lizzy logo on my tatty black Thin Lizzy T shirt.

‘Is it because you like the band or the shirt?’

After I’d got over the mild effrontery I felt at having been thought of as so shallow that I would wear such a garment simply because of its aesthetic attributes. I replied:

‘Well, I loved the band, and I like the shirt’

As I said this I glanced down at his chest, hoping I might find a gift of a Wings, Emerson, Lake and Palmer or (the comedic potential!) a ‘Phantom of the Opera’ T shirt. No such luck. Only the thick black hoops of a ‘Pirate – style’ shirt. (Favourite band, I later found out? The Pirates!) From such unlikely beginings high up on Charing Cross Hospital’s eleventh floor Neuro ward we developed quite a rapport.

‘I only ask because I worked for Phil Lynott for the last couple of years of  his life. I was his Personal Assistant. It’s amazing, he and the band are more popular now than ever. Often I see people wearing shirts, carrrying bags or whatever with Lizzy designs on them, yet they could have never seen them. They’re too young.’

I was keen to learn more, but unfortunately my comrade in arms was really not in a good way, and was having to spend large portions of his day hooked up to a drip, and unable to move, nauseous into the bargain. So as inquisitve as I was I eased off on the solid wall of questions I had targetted at him and let him have a break.

One thing he did say though – and bear in mind Lynott’s death was probably not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’

‘He needn’t have died. If I’d have had my way he’d be alive today’

‘Well … You know what it’s like with addicts …’ I offered. Not, of course knowing the first thing about what it is like with addicts at all. ‘You would never have been able to get him clean, there were too many people surrounding him who were supplying … and if he didn’t even listen to his mates … You’d have had no chance …’

‘No, I don’t mean that. I mean at the house that Christmas. They didn’t want any fuss; anyone to know, so they took him to that bloody drug clinic place near Salisbury. They didn’t know how to treat him, not properly, not in his condition. I wanted him taken to the nearest A and E.’  (Probably Kingston, a few minutes drive away as opposed to the middle of  Wiltshire, where he was eventually whisked.)

Do I believe him? Yes. Other than that, I’m saying  nothing, except that as many others before him and no doubt many still to come, Phil Lynott was a victim of his own belief in his ability to control drugs.  I wish Phil, like Iggy Pop, had made it through and survived.  I think he would, as Iggy is, be ‘quietly massive’ and thoroughly enjoy basking in the glow of warmth and affection that still exists for him from those who knew him, loved his music, plus those – and there are many, for whom he paved the way. 

 And if he chose to earn a few potatoes selling car insurance? Then so what.

And how about that? A whole article on Phil Lynott which doesn’t  use the phrase ‘Wild Man of Rock’ … Till now… Doh!

The Official Thin Lizzy Site

Thin Lizzy Online

The Thin Lizzy Guide

© Andy Daly 2011

Green Day Wembley Stadium 19th June 2010

I went with my kids and had a blast!

 Amazingly

Amazingly, Green Day kick off pretty much on time and choose ‘Song of the Century’ and ’21st Century Breakdown’ as their openers. It felt good to be in their presence: even if that presence was the length of a football pitch away. I really wanted to enjoy this gig. I’ve waited a long time for it. I’m not a stadium concert type. It’s very difficult to feel a real emotional bond with someone who appears to be about the size of a pin head and so far away that there is a time-lag between their movements and the sounds they produce. But, it seems that with Green Day, I’ve missed the ‘intimate venue’ boat. I’m not quite sure why, as I’ve been a fan since I first heard ‘Pulling Teeth’  in 1996. Poor organisation I guess. I just never got round to getting to see them.

 

Wembley Stadium

So, Wembley Stadium it has to be.  And it’s not such a bad place to have to be, I conclude as long as you don’t have to sit and  watch the English football team kick its way out of a paper bag. I sit glued to my seat. I say glued to my seat because almost  ‘on cue’ with the demand from Billie-Joe Armstrong, lead singer and guitarist to ‘Stand up!’ I go ‘off’ (This is when my Parkinson’s meds suddenly stop working: which they do around six times a day, and I am immobile until the next dose. This means, depending on the  severity of the ‘off” Mild –  loss of fine motor control, can’t use my hands/fingers, to Severe Inability to walk. Speech affected. Difficulty making myself understood. A bit like how I used to be every friday and saturday night when I was a younger man. Actually, don’t be fooled or let anyone try to fool you, being drunk is nothing like Parkinson’s or vice versa. Anyway, enough of that. This particular ‘off’ comes in at about point 6 on the Mild – Severe scale. ) Unfortunately, as everyone else is on their feet it means that for about half an hour all I had to look at was the backside of the bloke in front. Hmmmmmm… I’m just grateful (How crap is this going to sound?) that he is not a teenager, so at least I’m spared the ‘half-mast and droopy drawers look’. Thankfully, our heroes play for three hours, give or take a few minutes, so I didn’t feel too bad about having  sound but no vision for about eight or nine songs.

I must admit I had a bit of a ‘wobble’ during the week, over whether or not I’d be able to make it. I seem to have suffered another of my periodic downturns. Tickets were bought back in September, when I was on a bit more of an even keel. Therefore I hadn’t requested any special disabled facilities.  My mind starts to wander quite randomly as I patiently wait for the drugs to do their tricks. The stadium is clean, it’s comfortable – even for an old crock like me;  the stewards look like they might know what to do with me should anything untoward happen as a result of the PD. Briefly, my thoughts turn to the iconic Wembley Stadium #1 and in particular the badly tiled walls of red around the bath and showers in the players’ dressing room and the (apologies …) river of urine that once followed me down one of the east stairwells as I nipped out to find a drink during one of the  early ’80s Charity Shield matches. Forget which. Wembley Stadium #2 is infinately better. Don’t be taken in by any of that romantic horseshit about the wonders of the old stadium, by the time of my last visit it was a khazi.

All of this is of no interest

All of this is of no interest whatsoever to Mike Dirnt (bass) and Tre´Cool (sticks) who along with Billie-Joe Armstrong are Green Day. The band emerged from the California Punk scene in 1987  and eight albums later are here again in the UK, promoting the latest, ’21st Century Breakdown’. I know they are augmented on stage by three touring semi-band members, whose names, spookily all begin with ‘J’, and possibly backing tracks, but they do make a great 3 – piece sound. Unfortunately, it all gets a bit lost inside Wembley. Don’t get me wrong, it’s punchy and loud, but I  didn’t feel it. Not like with Iggy. He was knocking at my chest wall. I am begining to return to something approaching humanity again when I hear: ‘Who wants some Old School Green Day?’

Best bit: the flawless ‘Basket Case’

Now that sounds just the tonic; and with that, and the surprise comment ‘The old songs are better anyway’ Armstrong ushers in what is, for me the best part of the gig and includes favourites ‘Burnout’,  ‘Welcome To Paradise’,  ‘When I Come Around’, ‘Longview’ and the flawless ‘Basket Case’. All from the breakthrough album ‘Dookie’ (1994) in my view their best. Getting a game young banana out of the audience and up on to the stage to sing the notorious ‘Longview’ seemed quite a hoot. In fact, the young man in question – who gave his name as Rufus – was actually pretty good. He certainly cut the right shapes even if he was left wanting in the vocal department. Still, I would have prefered to hear Billie-Joe sing it, however – or even better, they had chosen me ….!

Stars in their Eyes

I could have done without the ‘Stars in their Eyes’ interlude, which comprised the band inexplicably playing versions of  Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’. Then later ‘Shout’ Lulu, featuring Tre´Cool in drag – truly surreal. ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ Eric Idle’s finest hour, from The Life of Brian’, The Undertones’  ‘Teenage Kicks’,  Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ ‘Paint It Black” and ‘Hey Jude’: I forget the name of the band …. I can only assume that it was some kind of reference to to the music that has shaped the Green Day sound. If so, a somewhat uninspiring selection I think personally, but then I never liked of any of them, except ‘Teenage Kicks’, ‘Shout’ and of course ‘ Bright Side of Life’.

American Idiot

The gig works its way toward conclusion with a great example of community singing as the Wembley crowd carries ‘American Idiot’ for the first verse .. and is bang on! While ‘Wake me up when September ends’ reminds me what a fine record – sorry CD and particular family favourite  ‘American Idiot’ is.

Good Riddance

As is only fitting, ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ closes and the general opinion from those around me is that Green Day had done the job. An opinion supported by almost everybody I hear on the long, tortuous trail out of the stadium in search of that most prized of trophies in Wembley – a legitimate space in which to stop a motor vehicle, without being descended upon by rabid, ticket-wielding traffic wardens.

And so to summarise, I went with my kids and had a blast!

Now the bad news. There are couple of things I need to get off my chest.

Foo Fighters vs. Green Day

I must stress that what follows is not an attempt to compare Green Day and the Foo Fighters but it is impossible not to draw parallels. June 6 2008 headline in NME: ‘Foo Fighters play ‘biggest ever show’ at Wembley Stadium’. And on June 20th 2010: ‘Green Day play the biggest show of their ‘fucking lives’ at London’s Wembley Stadium’ Green Day lead singer Billie-Joe Armstrong announced: ‘”This is the biggest fucking show we have ever had in our lives. This is going to be the best rock ‘n’ roll show Wembley has ever seen.” (rock ‘n’ roll show? I thought I”d bought tickets to see Green Day play live? I guess this was the ‘Stars in their Eyes’ bit …) Likewise, Dave Grohl announced during the Foo Fighters’ gig something along the lines that it was going to be their best gig ever, the one ‘people will still be talking about in’ (was it 50 years’ time? Surely not?) Well, for a long time anyway. (Come to think of it how did he know this before it was even over?) Billie-Joe: “I tell you one thing, I’m going to remember this for the rest of my fucking life” They both continued to tell us  how much  they loved us and how much England meant to them… I think you get the picture … Now I think musicians ought to tread a little carefully here. Okay, of course I realise that during a gig, performers are often  carried away on waves of emotion us mere mortals cannot begin to imagine and so are liable to say – or sing things they might later wish they hadn’t.  However, they do need to allow their audiences the space to make up their own minds. There was a sense in which at both of these gigs, I felt as if I was repeatedly being told how big and massive and great it was. If I were cynical I might think, all part of the pre-packaging of a DVD box set planned to hit the  market: ooooohh, say about christmas time?

Call and Response

‘I said a-Heeyyy-Ohhhhh,  a-Heeyyyy- Ohhhh. I said a-Heeyyyy-Ohhhh  a-Heeyyyy- Ohhhh. ….’ Now I have a real problem  with  this:  Billie – Joe and Green Day’s choice of call-and-response. Intended, I expect to involve the audience. I’m sure I’m not the only one in the audience old enough to remember that its previous exponent was a certain Gordon Sumner with his band of bleached ‘Punk Wannabees’ the Police. And look what happened to him. Sting made pots of money – but apart from that: he’s a professional Geordie who never goes or lives there, wears Arran sweaters in the summer, has grown silly face-lace which makes him look like a tramp. He knits his own squiddly diddly folk music, much to the annoyance of those who have been writing and playing the stuff in pubs, clubs and, well … pubs and clubs for years; comes on telly to mystically tell us that ‘Autumn is a time for renewal …’ Or somesuch bollocks, and laughingly tells us that pubs and clubs are the lifeblood of music. (Seen his latest tour schedule?) So … don’t say I didn’t warn you, Billie-Joe, Mike, Tre´. Do something about it before it’s too late. Also, as if further criticsm were necessary although this probably says more about me than anything. Control over my (and quite probably many other audience members’) impulsive side is stretched to the limit, as I try to avoid calling back at the appropriate point:

“Daylight come and we wan’ go home …’

Set list:

‘Song of the Century’
’21st Century Breakdown’
‘Know Your Enemy’
‘East Jesus Nowhere’
‘Holiday’
‘The Static Age’
‘Give Me Novacaine’
‘Are We The Waiting’
‘St. Jimmy’
‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’
‘Nice Guys Finish Last’
‘Burnout’
‘Waiting’
‘Geek Stink Breath’
‘Dominated Love Slave’
‘Hitchin’ A Ride’
‘Welcome To Paradise ‘
‘When I Come Around’
‘Iron Man’/’Sweet Child O’ Mine’/’Highway To Hell’
‘Brain Stew’
‘Panic Song’
‘Jaded’
‘Longview’
‘Basket Case’
‘She’
‘King For A Day’
‘Shout’/’Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’/’Teenage Kicks’/'(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’/’Hey Jude’/’Paint It Black’
’21 Guns’
‘Minority’
‘American Idiot’
‘Jesus Of Suburbia’
‘When It’s Time’
‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’
‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’

Iggy and The Stooges. Hammersmith Apollo 2nd May 2010

Sixty three. Sixty three years old. Just reflect on that for a minute as I drain the dregs of my Horlicks (and double brandy)

For I, along with about 2,999 others have just spent an evening in the company of polite, intelligent, urbane Miami car insurance salesman (63) James Osterberg’s alter-ego, Iggy Pop. And what an evening. Right from the get-go with blistering opener ‘Raw Power’ Iggy and the Stooges made an unequivocal statement of intent – this was no old fossils’ Greatest Hits jolly, this was the real deal: searing, raw, incisive, naked, ugly (Aghh… I hate the term, but it really is the only one that fits) Rock ‘n’ Roll.

This is the third time I have seen Osterberg undergo this almost daemonic transformation live. The first time (’81) I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t thinking: I didn’t get it. Wood and trees etc. The second time (2007) was with my eldest at the Festival Hall: part of  the annual ‘Meltdown’ series of events; which is where the penny dropped. However, it is without  doubt, tonight’s performance of  the pivotal ‘Raw Power’ (1973) in its entirety which has been the most compelling, and is the one I have enjoyed the most.

Iggy’s ‘Stooges’ are Drums: Scott “Rock Action” Asheton, bass: Mike Watt, and guitar, as replacement for the late Ron Asheton, in a wholly appropriate, though highly ironic echo of his assimilation into the original incarnation of the band (and the subsequent and devastating demotion of Asheton, R) … It’s naughty boy, James Williamson. Together they laid down a powerhouse backdrop of sound, which if you analysed carefully, I’d be willing to bet would contain the building blocks of every Punk motif you could care to mention. A perfectly primed canvas for Iggy, on which to daub, splatter, splash and from time to time exquisitely render his vocal imagery and project his physicality. In fact, it’s what strikes you the minute he half-walks, half-staggers onto the stage. How completely physical Iggy’s performance is.

And yet  he cuts such a contradictory figure. For his age, he is in impressive shape. (‘Two hours of Chinese shit every morning’ ) Taut torso, sinewy, part Marvel Comic Super-Hero and part crucified Christ; commanding, he calls the tunes. Yet equally vulnerable: not least when, without a great deal of warning, he launches himself off the stage, diving headlong into his audience relying on their hands and arms to catch him and eventually return him to the stage. Occasionally he looked fragile, but indifferent to it. Indeed, more than anything  with his stage dives he appeared increasingly determined as the evening went on, to find a bit of a ‘gap’ through which lay only sudden and violent contact with a hard floor.

 

‘Go on have a go! Any fool can do this’

Understandably, over the years his stage performances have taken their toll, particularly on his back. But he doesn’t slow down, despite the discomfort he now and again, seems to be feeling. There are times when his gait resembles my own stuttering, stumbling, even hyperactive steps. In fact, I am struck many times during the course of  the evening at the similarities between Iggy’s sometimes jerky lack of co-ordination; and my own. The result of what 10 years with Parkinson’s and the drugs used to fight it can do to you.

Jim Osterberg has spoken countless times about this stage persona, and how this unpredictable, dangerous and, at times physically intimidating phenomenon is something he cannot control. He is possessed. I recall an excellent South Bank Show interview (and there’s a combination of words I use very sparingly – if ever) I saw a couple of weeks before his 2007 ‘meltdown’ show, in which he spoke with clarity and precision to the point of cold-bloodedness about his formation of the Stooges with their ‘White Trash aesthetic’ and why this had to be the context within which Iggy was to exist.  During the dark opening bars to ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as they raised the hairs on the back of my neck in the Festival Hall  it suddenly became blindingly clear to me what Iggy Pop is all about.

And just what is that? You ask. Well, You’ll know … If you know. And if you don’t, no amount of explanation from Yours Truly is going to be any use to you. Like me back in ’81: If you get it, you get it; if you don’t, well it ain’t the end of the world, but you are missing out on something pretty special.

Unlikely isn’t it? The thought, twenty years ago that Iggy Pop might still be performing in his 60’s would, at least for me anyway, have conjured up images of sad revival tours, the wearing of cheap and unsavoury stage gear, a backing band of  ‘session musicians’ whose wooden playing and lack of rapport reveal a complete absence of understanding.  All, we could be forgiven for imagining, chaotically magnified by tantrums and out-of-touch histrionics from our hero.

None of it. 

Fact (Okay it’s a silly one, but bear with me): The band’s combined age (and I’m not even counting Steve Mackay) were we to travel the equivalent back in time, we would find ourselves in the year the American Revolution began and James Watt patented his steam engine!  But the Stooges play with a conviction and energy worthy of musicians a third their age.

Mike Watt gets animated too

For once I make a smart move, and with my Minder, Stig leave the relative safety of our balcony seats, leap down the stairs, then blag, wriggle and push our way to the front for the final few numbers. It really is the only place to be. Meanwhile, Iggy has given so completely (Yes, I know a lot of it is pure theatre) he is on the verge of collapse. So am I. It’s nervous tension. For each successive ill-advised-in-my-condition-mosh-pit encounter brings ever closer the day when I hit the deck and don’t get up too quick (If ever) Or worse, having to, from then on, sit back and watch others younger, fitter (as well as a few older, unfitter taking chances too) as they get on with it.

 Video ‘Kill City’

Finally, for those of you who are interested, or who had money on it, I am relieved to report that Iggy’s ‘Old Feller’ stayed within the confines of his highly mobile jeans – Just! But it was touch and go … If you’ll pardon the expression.

To summarise. I couldn’t give a toss how old he is, nor do I give a shit about whether he chooses to pay the rent by appearing in TV ads for car insurance. Iggy Pop, love him or hate him is still able to orchestrate a thoroughly absorbing, carthartic and if I’m honest, a still somewhat unnerving experience for the lucky concert-goer.

‘Shamen or Sham’? Iggy Pop: I know where I stand.

Setlist

  1. Raw Power
  2. Search and Destroy
  3. Gimme Danger
  4. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
  5. Shake Appeal
  6. I Need Somebody
  7. Penetration
  8. Death Trip
  9. Cock In My Pocket
  10. I Got A Right
  11. I Wanna Be Your Dog
  12. 1970
  13. L.A Blues
  14. Night Theme
  15. Beyond The Law
  16. Open Up And Bleed

Encores 

  1. Fun House
  2. Kill City
  3. Johanna

 

Links

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Andy Daly  2010  Thanks to Stig for video. Mine were shite.