CAST HIS NET ... Oh what a catch he'd make 

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Rogers personal view of the gigs he has attended
Not all are Rock'n'Roll - Roger likes all live entertainment

Disclaimer: All the views expressed herein (unless otherwise ascribed) are those of the author and may
be unsuitable for overly sensitive persons of low esteem, or irrational religious beliefs. Any attempt
to sue me over the contents will constitute an irritating social faux pas.



Up and Running

Saturday 21st November Fran and I joined June and Peter at Sunbury Cricket Club where the Masonic Ladies were raising money for their charity by holding a dinner and dance. There were about a hundred of us and the dinner was provided by caterers and served buffet style - a bit like a school dinners buffet, but slightly more refined. The bar at the Club was open and Fran was the designated driver, so I helped them to reduce their stock of Merlot. It was good to catch up with June & Peter, and with their friends Pauline & Mike - whom we have met before at the Sunbury Blues Club.  We also met a new couple, Andy & Suzie who were good fun. It turns out that Suzie used to be Kiki Dees hairdresser back in the seventies! What a small world.. Paul Watts was also there - he is chairman of Sunbury Cricket Club as well as being the organiser of the local Blues Club. We caught up on news and hoped we may yet get together again for a beer before the next Nashville Teens gig in January.  The dinner was OK and the music was provided by a local band called Up And Running.  Unusually, their prime vocalist was the drummer, and they were very good. Their programme was fairly eclectic, with a main thrust of it being sixties based. To be honest, there were occasional bum notes, but I don't suspect that many of the audience noticed - and the band were clearly well rehearsed, with quite complex starts, endings and harmonies all very well executed. The selection of music was appropriate and they kept the dance floor full with everybody singing along. As is the way with events aimed at pensioners, there was a mass exodus at about half past ten, leaving just the hardcore thirty or so of us to see the event through until the end just before midnight. Overall a good evenings entertainment in good company.

Friday 20th November we were joined by neighbours Paul & Helen. After a glass of Prosecco we set out to JAGZ Club in nearby Ascot. The venture was to have dinner while being entertained by Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri. We all recalled Kiki from the mid seventies when she made her name singing Don't Go Breakin' My Heart with Elton John. She also had reasonable size hits with Amoreuse and I've Got The Music In Me. and as a "celeb" she goes back to the mid sixties when she often appeared in the crowd on Top Of the Pops because the producer was her boyfriend. JAGZ was full to capacity and we were just being served our dinner as Kiki and Carmelo came onto stage. She looked amazing - quite fit and nowhere near her real age (68). Carmelo - from somewhere in North Hertfordshire despite his name - had an array of guitars and a balalaika and a sampling device.  Kiki had a keyboard which I think also served to synthesize some pre-recorded bass tracks. She didn't actually play any tunes on the keyboard, but used it lay a sound bed for some of the songs they performed.  Kiki still has an amazing voice with a great vocal range; and has a very evident love of poetry - reflected in the focussed lyrics of the songs which she chose to sing - whether her own compositions or covers. Carmelo is an outstandingly brilliant guitarist - eloquent on his instruments with a clear classical Spanish touch, he would be a great act in his own right. Unfortunately I did not personally appreciate the way in which all these lovely ingredients were mixed and cooked - although clearly the couple had a lot of fans in the audience who just loved it. To my ear her delivery was focussed far too strongly on the lyrical content of her songs to the extent that much of her performance did not exploit her vocal abilities or range. I thought that the result was bland, and in some cases I found the delivery actually quite monotonous - very much in the style of Leonard Cohen. It also seemed to me that there were two egos on stage vying to be the "front man" of the group.  Carmelos delivery was frequently busy, over-fiddly and loud, which I thought eclipsed the beautiful lyrics and detracted from the overall mix of the performance. Kikis delivery of Don't Go Breaking My Heart was surprisingly the second number in the first set and unfortunately it was not the best rendition I have heard by a long way. It suffered from not being presented as a duet and later in the first set we learned that Carmelo has quite a good voice and their harmonies were very good.  Amoreuse was a good presentation as was I've Got The Music in Me - although the latter would have benefitted from a more defined beat.  Kiki came into her own on her encore. For this Carmelo assumed the role of support artiste and refrained from over elaborate interludes, and Kiki actually expanded her vocal range and showed that she is still the amazing singer whom we listened to in the seventies.  She started with original arrangements of Joni Mitchells Big Yellow Taxi, followed by Buddy Holly's True Love Ways during which she roamed the audience with a long lead microphone. These songs were brilliant - the audience was singing along and really appreciating her. Overall I would brand it an "interesting" night; the performance was good, but not to my personal taste. Had it all been in the style of her encore I would have loved every moment.

Kiki Dee


Jack with a different line up

Friday 18th September  I walked across Southill Park to The Silver Birch pub to see The Jackie Lynton Band playing. It wasn't the regular line up; unfortunately Spud Metcalfe had hurt his right hand, so his brother John - a very able drummer - was standing in for him. Also, Colin Pattenden had another job that evening, so Gordon Sellar deputised for him. It was good to catch up with Gordon, I hadn't seen him for ages. He was looking very fit and is now sporting a trim white beard. Jack was bright and cheerful before the gig and telling tales of a recent home visit by "Ricky" (Rick Parfitt) who is apparently over in the UK from his home in Spain at the moment. Mike Windus and Chris Bryant were both warmed up and ready to play when i arrived, and Adam Russell was his usual bouncy self.  Sarah-Jane and Trish were in the audience as were Mo and Kate who had travelled up from Newbury for the gig.  The Silver Birch has a new landlord, who doesn't look very happy and does not seem to be very popular with the locals. He has had a sound limiter fitted, but it wasn't wired up properly so although the lights went red, it didn't cut the mains to the stage area.  The band did try to play quieter though, and although their hearts clearly weren't totally in the reduced sound level, they put on a good show. Fran didn't come along because we don't want to risk exposure to loud noises until we know more about what is causing her tinnitus. I didn't want her to think she was missing out, so I didn't stay for the second part of the show.

Thursday 17th September  While I was in London on Wednesday I saw an advert in the Evening Standard for a live cinema webcast of The Rocky Horror Show - apparently a one off live performance in aid of Amnesty (a charity which I like).  The cast included Richard O'Brien (the author) himself, Stephen Fry, Emma Bunton, Adrian Edmondson, Mel Giedroyc, Anthony Head and many other familiar faces. I gather that this sort of event has replaced the old "Policemans Ball" shows which used to run for Amnesty International.  When I got home I checked the website, and found that there was a showing at our local cinema in Bracknell, so I bought a couple of tickets for Thursday night.  I had seen snippets on TV and some of the first half of the show when entertaining a customer in Birmingham back in the eighties! The customer (who I think was Heartlands Hospital) was late so we missed the beginning. It then turned out that the dinner booking was before the show finished, and the customer didn't like the show anyway! So I had seen "Lets Do The Time Warp Again" - and that was about it!  Consequently I was essentially a Rocky Horror Virgin, and this was my first view of the whole show.  I found it intriguing, especially the audience participation; and I was fairly uncomfortable during the overtly sexual bits - but overall I enjoyed it.  Fran didn't like it at all - she thought it was silly, and didn't follow the plot (which is admittedly very juvenile and convoluted). She isn't a Frankenstein fan either.  I suspect that this show is to seventies kids, the equivalent of what Hair was to we sixties kids - a cult primarily for the children of the age.

The Rocky Horror Show


The Whiskey Poets at The Islington

Wednesday 19th August I found my way into Londons Islington in the early evening to attend "An evening with RJ Ellory and The Whiskey Poets" at The Islington in Tolpuddle Street. I had been invited by Roger Nunn, drummer with Fran McGillivrays band, who is now performing with The Whiskey Poets (as well as with Fran). The band is the brainchild of Roger Ellory - aka the author R.J. Ellory.  The event was to jointly mark the launch of his new book  Mockingbird Songs and partially a launch of a new CD, called Low Country, by his band.  I arrived at The Islington just after seven in the evening and found Roger N.  He introduced me to the other members of the band - who included Martin Smith, formerly of ELO.  We soon established that Martin  was a late addition to the band and hadn't served under Art Sharp/Don Arden.  Roger Ellory is an interesting character. He is an author and has written several successful books. He is relatively young (I'd guess mid forties) with a neat beard and piercing blue eyes. He has a very good reading and singing voice. The evening started with a twenty minute reading from his new book - and it quickly became evident that his style of writing is both very descriptive and emotive. The story scene was set graphically as the establishment of a small family in early twentieth century, dusty hot Texas. The family have two sons, one five year old already patently a sensible and articulate youngster, while his eight year old brother is dark, possibly bipolar, and clearly destined for a less happy career. Roger read beautifully and the reading was a self contained teaser for what the rest of the book might hold. Then the band took to the stage and performed all the songs from their new CD, which is called Low CountryRoger Nunn played his djembe - and ably demonstrated the remarkable range of sounds he can generate from it.  The songs were good - very lyrically rich - which is clearly the hallmark of RJ Ellory, but also very well arranged musically (I suspect Martin Smith was involved - he is an excellent musician).  The sound system was reasonably good and conveyed the music well, but the vocals were set up for speech rather than singing, and so the song vocals were a just little bit muddy. Reading and singing generally use different ranges of frequencies which doesn't help with lyrically clever works.  Never mind - I bough the CD, and the lyrics are much clearer on that!  I found the music was evocative of Tim Buckley in the mid sixties - erudite and cleverly crafted musically - although Rogers work borrows more from whiteboy country blues than from sixties psychedelia. A very interesting evening.


Saturday 8th August Fran and I collected Spud Metcalf and his drum kit and drove them over to Egham United Services Club where we planned to watch an evening of entertainment from The Jackie Lynton Band. The event was the 2015 Egham Beer Festival, and the little club had a tented annex at the back full of real ale casks and food vendors. The place was packed with large people swilling beer. Most of them had been doing it all day and some of them were now unable to stand up without staggering; and at least one fell asleep right in the front row while the band were playing Rock'n'Roll! An astonishing feat when you consider the decibel output of this band. We arrived and found most of the band already there and sitting in the sunshine out in the car park. Jack was resplendent and holding court with some Status Quo fans who had turned up especially to see him (Jack wrote several Quo songs in conjunction with Rick Parfitt, and sang with Diesel, the band formed by himself and John Coghlan when John left the Quo in the eighties.) Fran settled down to chat to Sara-Jane and - after I had helped Spud carry his drum kit in - I chatted to Adam Russell, Mike Windus, Chris Bryant and Colin Pattenden. Adam was full of news that he had had a gig the previous week backing Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band (A show which I know is good - having seen Geno at The Half Moon, Putney only a few months ago.) We were soon joined by Jacky Pattenden and Christine White and the show started. Jack was on great form, with some live banter as well as his great arrangements of both Rock'n'Roll and Blues music.  Colin, who was already in heaven because he has just sold his old boat and bought a new one, went into some sort of ecstasy while playing High Heeled Sneakers - it is a "funk rock" arrangement and the whole band loves that style. I love it when my friends really look like they are enjoying themselves!  Mike gave us a couple of songs, the first was Run Run Rudolph - it being nineteen more weekends until Christmas was a flimsy excuse to bring out this Chuck Berry classic. In the second set he gave us Sea Cruise - another rockabilly favourite.  Chris Bryant also gave us a couple of solos, although the second (You Cant Always Get What You Want) was improved by the fact that most of the audience were drunk and singing along to it.  Jack gave a load of excellent renditions, including driving the very reactive - and loud - audience through Mustang Sally and also delivered them a selection of very blue jokes. The gig was good, it was loud, it was entertaining, but unfortunately it was also late. Fran and I had warned Spud that we needed to be home very timely because we had an early start the following morning, and the late finish of the gig meant that we had to revert to "plan B" - which was for Colin Pattenden to take the drumkit for Spud to collect later, and for Spud to hitch a ride home with Adam.  In the event the gig didn't finish until nearly midnight so we called for "plan B" and set off for home.  I don't know the detail, but it turns out that Colin gave Spud and his drum kit a lift all the way back to Bracknell - which was really nice of him and miles out of his way

Jackie at Egham this weekend


The Nashville Teens at Pyrford


Saturday 1st August I was "home alone" because Fran was baby-sitting overnight in Didcot. In the early evening I collected Trisha & Spud Metcalfe and drove them over to Pyrford Sports & Social Club where we met up with Colin Pattenden and Simon Spratley who were setting up the Keyboards, PA and backline for that evenings performance of The Nashville Teens.  After unloading Spuds drum kit I drove on over to Addlestone to collect Ray Phillips and his son Wesley; en route I hooted and waved at Simons girlfriend Alison who was walking through town about a mile away (she is a great walker and frequently disappears for hours from gigs) who looked surprised to be recognised so far from home.  I got back with Ray & Wes just as Ken Osborn was unloading his amplifier and guitars - we had a whole band (always a relief when this milestone is reached. After that I just need to get them all onto the same stage at about the same time!)  The club filled up quickly and there were loads of friends and acquaintances to chat with. As well as Alison and Trish, Melanie Phillips arrived with Jacky Pattenden, and among other friends were Steve & Janis Kemp, Colin & Trudi Lorenti, and two of Ray's daughters, Kelly and Vanessa.
The band were (as ever) loud, but not unbearably so. They clearly had a fun evening themselves judging by the smiles on their faces. We haven't played for several months, so it was a great relief to hear the opening bars of "Rockin' On The Railroad", which heralded the start of the show. Ken started off sporting a new little white guitar, but quickly exchanged it for his trusty old instrument as the show progressed. Simon had brought an alternative electric piano instead of his regular red Nord; this was much louder and he was particularly dextrous this evening, playing some amazing solos. Despite their brilliant showmanship and experience, there was one ear-cringing episode after a key change in the "Rock'n'Roll Medley" when one of the band (no names - no pack drill) changed into the wrong key - precipitating two others to try to correct by going into other quite different wrong keys! They quickly recovered professionally and played on through to the other side, but there were a few red faces for half a dozen bars. Rays voice was in great shape - I particularly liked his renditions of "I Put A Spell On You" and "Red House". The evening ended well with a huge ovation after "Tobacco Road", and an audience wildly stamping and singing through the encore number, "Born to be Wild". Having so many friends around was great, but slowed down the process of striking the stage and we didn't actually get away until one o'clock in the morning. We made good time getting home despite a  holdup at the A322/M3 junction where a massive accident had totally blocked the southbound bridge of the interchange - red and blue lights all over the place - I dropped Spud & Trisha off at their home at about half past one.

Tuesday 21st July Fran and I went to Woking, to The New Victoria Theatre to see Inala.  This is described as a "Zulu Ballet" - but is much, much, more than that. It is a blend of modern Western dance with South African Isacathamiya (is-cot-a-ME-ya) singing.  But not just that heady mixture of cultures, but performed by the very best in the World!  The singing was delivered by Ladysmith Black Mambaza - the Shabala families group which has inspired and contributed to so many World class musical works, including Paul Simons Graceland. This group of nine African en with amazing voices are so good that they are banned from participating in Isacathamiya competitions in South Africa, because they always win!  The dancing was delivered by twelve young athletes who are members of either The Ballet Rambert or the Royal Ballet, or both!  The choreography was very modern - very fast, and with more than lip service paid to the driving wall of sound of Isacathamiya - yet also incorporating a lot of very classical ballet movements - and delivered meticulously in time and unison. The picture (right) is not an accidental alignment - we were blessed with two hours of this sort of dynamic balance and flight.


Picture right: Ladysmith Black Mambaza and dancers from Rambert and the Royal Ballets


Raphael, McGillivray, Burke and Hyde.

Wednesday 1st July I drove over to Farnborough, to The Old Ford pub which stands beside North camp railway station (not the easiest pub to find- but I found it). It was a meeting of The Midnight Special Blues Club - which has only just started convening at this location. The club is run by Nick Hyde and Dave Raphael. Who trade here under the name of The Sepia Swing Show TwinsDave I have seen many times when he has been invited to do a few guest numbers with the Jackie Lynton Band (he is a very good harmonica player). A few weeks ago I was surprised to see him playing keyboards at a gig near Reading which I attended with Dave Peabody - and here at North Camp I was further surprised because he played the guitar and sang as well! A very talented individual.  His co-host was Nick Hyde who was very handy with a guitar and had a really good voice. The two of them sort of complemented each other singing - not particularly as a harmony, but certainly as complementary voices. The room at The Old Ford was small and very warm, but the sound quality was good through the PA; and the room itself didn't have any harsh reverberations. The club turnout was low - there were only ten or eleven of us in the room - not very good news for a band appearing at a "percent-of-the-door gig.  The guest artists this evening were Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke - who were the main reason I had made the pilgrimage to Aldershot.
Dave and Nick were on first, they sang five or six songs including CC Rider - one of my favourites, and some really classical old songs as well. After a short break Fran & Mike took to the stage and played mainly established blues - with only a couple of their own works included. With the smaller - very intimate - audience, they were far more interactively chatty than I usually see them.  It was Willie Dixons 100th birthday that very day (1st July 1915) so Mike gave us some Willie Dixon anecdotes - after which they played Spoonful (and dedicated to me - thank you).  Mike and Fran spend their holidays cruising around the Mississippi area looking for traces of famous blues musicians - including their graves, which gave us the lead in to Little Walters Blues With A Feeling and then a couple of Bessie Smith numbers,  In My Girlish Days and Be My Chauffeur.  They finished with Not Fade Away and added Otis Redding & Carla Thomas's arrangement of When Something is Wrong With My Baby as an encore.
When they had completed their set, Dave & Nick delivered another couple of songs, then Fran & Mike joined them for two more songs.  A very bijoux entertainment venue - but very enjoyable, and with a small, but extremely appreciative, audience.


Saturday 20th June  we visited The Silver Birch pub in the evening to see The Jackie Lynton Band playing. As well as Jack Lynton, Colin Pattenden, Spud Metcalf and Mike Windus we were delighted to see that Chris Bryant had had his wild hair shorn and was wearing a shirt, tie and suit jacket! His partner Sarah-Jane later explained that they had been to a wedding and he hadn't had time to change! In the audience were Trish, Adam Russell and Colin's brother-in-law Mick with his granddaughter Marnie. It was also a delight to catch up with Steve and Janice whom we haven't seen for ages. Also in the audience were Mo & Kate - the classic rock dancers from Greenham Common.  They put on several displays of Rock'n'Roll dancing during the evening - including the more dangerous moves of drops and spins (picture right of Mo spinning Kate) where Mo turns her upside down and she lands on her feet after the somersault. Jack challenged them at one point to keep up with Rip It Up, which the band then proceeded to play much faster than usual! To their credit Mo and Kate kept up for a good three quarters of the song before they gave up! And even then Kate came back to dance the last verse on her own.  Jack was on good form and sang his heart out to a very appreciative audience. No real surprises in the repertoire, except that Jack included his song Women and Men, which I haven't heard him do for several years.  Chris delivered a couple of songs, including his own arrangement of You Can't Always Get What You Want, and Mike presented Run Run Rudolph - not the most appropriate song for sweltering weather on the day before the summer solstice, but Mike has a great admiration for Chuck Berry, so the season wasn't going to deter him!  The weather was close and the pub was incredibly hot, but it was an excellent evening and I think almost everybody was on the dance floor area at some point during the evening.

Mo throwing Kate

Thursday 18th June we drove over to Reading to the Thirdsday Blues Club (meets the third Thursday of each month) to see The Fran McGillivray Band. We were lucky and Fran had put our "names on the door".  We arrived early and secured a table right at the front.  As the room filled up I noticed one of my works colleagues - Nigel - arrive at the next table. Nig is a technical boffin and has been with our lovely employer even longer than I have (and I've been there almost 43 years!) I was pleased to learn after all these years that he loves the blues!  The first act on was J.C. and Angelina Grimshaw.  This is a brother and sister act from the Isle of Wight and they were good.  Angelina plays guitar and has a fantastic voice, while J.C. not only sings well and plays a mean blues harmonica, but he is an absolute magician of dexterity on stringed instruments.  He played a regular guitar, a square necked steel slide guitar, a mandolin and something he called a ukulele, but which looked and sounded more like a miniature banjo. His fingers were deft and fast and he played some amazing music, including a couple of instrumentals. I had no difficulty buying all three CDs which this combo had on sale at the gig! We were able to catch up a little news with Fran McGillivray, Mike Burke and Roger Nunn before they started their set. I am an absolute McGillivray fan, and I confess that I thought J.C. and Angelina were going to be a hard act to follow; but The Fran McGillivray Band rose to the occasion, and I'm pleased to say that both bands were great - but that my pals were the greatest! As well as some classic numbers such as Spoonful and Not Fade Away, they played several numbers from their current CD, Some Luck, including the title track and a couple of new ones.  The two new ones which were included were End Of The Road and Mr Blues (Blues Dancers Song) both of which were excellent numbers. An excellent show and great to see Fran, Mike and Roger again.


J.C. and Angelina Grimshaw                                                              The Fran McGillivray Band

Friday 5th June we went to The New Victoria Theatre at Woking with friends to see Paul Merton's Impro Chums  - a show starring Paul Merton (comedian of Have I Got News For You fame)  Lee Simpson, Mike McShane, Suki Webster and Richard Vranch.  We had not experienced an "impro" show before.  The concept is that the five entertainers sit on stage and lead the audience to choose scenarios which they have to improvise sketches to articulate the themes.  The cast took it in turns to encourage the audience to shout out key factors like "a film genre" or "a household object".  In the most complex game the audience chose a profession, a boss, a mode of dress and a location - while Paul Merton was plugged into headphones and couldn't hear what was chosen.  We jointly selected "A seedless orange tester working for the Green Cross Code Man, dressed in a bee-keepers outfit and working on The Death Star". The other four actors then had to perform for Paul - rather like charades - until he guessed the whole scenario.  The whole evening was excellent entertainment and I think the cast enjoyed the whole thing as much as the audience did.

Picture: Paul Merton with his "impro chums"



Messrs Vaughan and Peabody

Sunday 31st May I drove to Twyford, just to the East of Reading; to The Wagon and Horses - a seventeenth century pub - where there was a show by Jive Alive, whom I hadn't heard of before! However, it turns out that I knew two of their musicians; Gordon Vaughan (lead guitar) and Dave Raphael who was playing keyboards. The latter surprised me because I have only ever seen him playing harmonica before. The band were OK - apart from Gordon, who is brilliant. Gordon is not only a very good guitarist, but he was playing through his own amplifier, while his colleagues suffered from a very fuzzy and muddy sounding PA system.  However, I hadn't come along to see them - I had come to meet up with the guitarist/singer who was their guest performer for the second set of the evening - Mr Dave Peabody.  It was great to see and hear Dave again, it must be at least a couple of years since I had the pleasure. During the first set Dave P and I sat at the back corner of the pub and caught up with each others news, high points, dramas, art gallery visits and films which Dave has seen. The best news was about Kandinsky (whom we both like) and the saddest was that during the intervening couple of years Dave's marriage to Jane had ended. Eventually Dave had to break our conversation to go "on stage" - well, up to the other end of the pub where the band were anyway. Given that he was playing with an unrehearsed backing band, he was limited to standards - so there were no surprises, and he didn't really get a chance to showcase his own work (except "Going to The Dance" which is a fairly straightforward shuffle). The pub was packed and everyone clearly enjoyed Dave  P's performance. I overheard the group of guys clustered around the bar at the back end of the pub where I was sitting, and they were very complimentary about him. Dave P's guitar work remains absolutely brilliant, although with Mr Raphael in the band, he wasn't well placed to demonstrate his impeccable harmonica playing. Perhaps a relief for him because he always says it ruins his teeth!  I was well pleased that Dave remembered my love of Charlie Browns classic blues number "Driftin' Blues" - made famous by Eric Clapton and Paul Butterfield - but I think best performed by Mr Peabody). He not only sang it, but dedicated it "to my friend somewhere at the back of the audience; he knows who he is".  Overall a very nice evening - not only for the music, but for the interesting discussion with an old friend.

Monday 25th May in total contrast to the previous evenings heavy Rock, we visited The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to see La Traviata. This was part of Frans birthday present this year - we both love opera and neither of us had seen this fantastic opera before. We knew some of the music because it is fairly popular, and we had boned up on the plot so that we didn't have to be distracted by the English sub-titles.  Neither of us speak any appreciable Italian, so it was an evening of raw and pure emotion.   I had managed to secure a couple of seats just three rows from the front in the Orchestra Stalls - a magnificent view - great acoustics, and no distraction from seeing most of the rest of the audience at the same time! A great evening - we thoroughly enjoyed it.

picture right:  La Traviata - act 1



Jackie Lynton on Sunday afternoon

Sunday 24th May Sunday was "Springfest" at the Hare Hill Club. Our friend Chris-the-Carpet had put on his annual party with bouncy castles, a barbecue and live music all afternoon and evening. Fran and I had spent the afternoon in Mytchett before we convoyed to Ottershaw with Caroline, Paul, Jake, Gemma, Terry and Pat - to The Hare Hill Club to see some of our musical friends performing.  We were aiming for the six o'clock slot when The Jackie Lynton Band were scheduled to be playing. We arrived just after six and the previous band were still on stage; so we sat and chatted with Jack and the boys outside for a while.  Eventually the other band finished and were clearing the stage when we realised that we had a problem. The guy who had provided the PA didn't have enough microphones. In fact he only had one! Colin Pattenden set out and collected some mikes and mike stands from his store a few miles away in Staines - but by the time the band were ready to Rock'n'Roll it was nearly half past seven!  There were a lot of friends there to talk to; Jackie Pattenden, Trish Metcalf, and Sarah-Jane were representing the "WAG"s and Big Neil (Quo Army) was there too - as were some of Jacks daughters and grandchildren. I had a long chat with Adam Russell about the Bonzo Dog Doodah Bands performance which Fran and I had been to see a few weeks ago. Jake was initially interested in the band - and told Mike Windus he was looking forward to the act. When the show started I took Jake up to the stage, but he kept his hands over his ears and quickly retreated because the music was too loud for him. Spud Metcalf, Mike Windus and Chris Bryant were all on good form. The dance floor was heaving for the whole show - which must have been gratifying to the band after all the delays and hassle. The band had to finish at about nine o'clock because the third band of the day were waiting in the wings.  The PA system wasn't the best I have ever heard (poor mix and a bit muddy) but we haven't seen Jack singing for ages, and despite the sound quality being a little bit flaky, and Colin's bass guitar being a little bit loud,  it was an excellent show, very enjoyable.  Thanks to Chris-the-Carpet for arranging these social events.

Friday 22nd May I drove over to Twickenham, to The Sussex Arms, to see friends Fran McGillivray, Mike Burke, and Roger Nunn performing. I had no problem finding the pub, but it was a nightmare trying to find somewhere to park. I eventually parked in a distant side street where I couldn't see any signs about "residents only". It was after nine o'clock when I actually got inside the pub and The Fran McGillivray Band were already performing. I got a glass of wine and found Maria, Roger Nunn's wife, and sat down with her. The pub wasn't very crowded and the while the audience did clap politely, they didn't seem to be really engaged in the music. This was a great shame because Fran, Mike and Roger were sounding particularly good. I haven't seen them since just before Christmas and I am an absolute fan (i.e. a "fanatic") about their music; so it was a particularly relaxing and satisfying evening from my point of view. They have four or five new songs in their playlist - two of which had particularly good (memorable) hooks. I hope to see them again next month at Reading, so I must remember to take a notebook with me and note what the new songs are. We had a good chat at "half time", mainly about how excited we all were for Katie - Fran & Mike's daughter - who is the star of the West End show Beautiful. The second set was very good and I was particularly pleased when they re-arranged the end of their set list to play Love Is Freedom - and to dedicate it to me.  My favourite song - it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! 

The Sussex Arms


Rob Hegel and Mick Bolton

Friday 15th May we travelled to The Clissold Arms in Finchley, North London to meet up with friends Penny Pound and David Quaife.  David runs a charity for his late brother - Pete Quaife (bass guitar with The Kinks) and this was a fund raiser.  Peter died of renal failure in 2010, and although he coped well for years with regular kidney dialysis - in his case the enforced sitting or lying still was an opportunity for him to work on new songs. Peter always felt sorry for the small kids who had to regularly undergo dialysis, and got really bored with their enforced idleness. The Peter Quaife Foundation (PQF) aims to raise money to provide games and distractions to entertain such kids while they undergo their necessary treatment. We arrived at The Clissold Arms just before eight o'clock and as we walked into the beer garden my phone rang - it was David Quaife calling to see where we had got to - and I was able to tell him that we were looking at him from across the courtyard! The Clissold Arms is literally opposite the old mid-terraced house in which Ray Davies and Dave Davies - the other founder members of The Kinks had spent their childhood - and the pub was the site of their first public performances back in the very early sixties.  The pub celebrates the band by having a "Kinks Room", dedicated to the band. The walls are covered in posters and other memorabilia and - of course - this room is used for live entertainment.  Tonight the live music was being provided by Rob Hegel - and American singer/songwriter - and Mick Bolton -keyboard player with Wild Prairie - which was Linda McCartney's band. Dave Q was recording the session for potential future release.  David Q's other guests were Penny Pound, and John & Gilly Hellier; and we also briefly met Keyffo Baggins, who seems to be a fascinating man. The sound in the room was OK but the vocal channels were a bit muddy. I believe it was the sound engineers first night at this venue. Mick Bolton opened - he is an excellent pianist - I have seen him before at The Seven Dials Club, and although he has some interesting songs of his own making, I prefer his performance when he is covering Rock'nRoll or piano boogie standards. I particularly like his delivery of All The Young Dudes. Then we had a solo session from Rob Hegel; his music was also interesting, especially the lyrics. The song storylines were generally long and convoluted - which I'm sure loads of people love; but I'm sorry to say, are not to my personal taste.  Initially the sound system was a little understated for Rob Hegel's quiet guitar work - although it brightened up when I got Dave to poke the sound engineer and tell him so! Rob also favours a fixed microphone on a headset - which means he cannot use vocal distancing to make his singing a bit more three dimensional. Not an easy task for the poor novice sound engineer. Then Mick and Rob performed as a duo. I have to admit that they do have a certain chemistry, and they delivered some good stuff.  Again, my personal  preference was for the standards they played rather than their original works. I was particularly impressed with their rendition of In The Summertime. A fine gig in good company - thanks for organising it Dave.


Rob Hegel and Mick Bolton

Friday 15th May we travelled to The Clissold Arms in Finchley, North London to meet up with friends Penny Pound and David Quaife.  David runs a charity for his late brother - Pete Quaife (bass guitar with The Kinks) and this was a fund raiser.  Peter died of renal failure in 2010, and although he coped well for years with regular kidney dialysis - in his case the enforced sitting or lying still was an opportunity for him to work on new songs. Peter always felt sorry for the small kids who had to regularly undergo dialysis, and got really bored with their enforced idleness. The Peter Quaife Foundation (PQF) aims to raise money to provide games and distractions to entertain such kids while they undergo their necessary treatment. We arrived at The Clissold Arms just before eight o'clock and as we walked into the beer garden my phone rang - it was David Quaife calling to see where we had got to - and I was able to tell him that we were looking at him from across the courtyard! The Clissold Arms is literally opposite the old mid-terraced house in which Ray Davies and Dave Davies - the other founder members of The Kinks had spent their childhood - and the pub was the site of their first public performances back in the very early sixties.  The pub celebrates the band by having a "Kinks Room", dedicated to the band. The walls are covered in posters and other memorabilia and - of course - this room is used for live entertainment.  Tonight the live music was being provided by Rob Hegel - and American singer/songwriter - and Mick Bolton -keyboard player with Wild Prairie - which was Linda McCartney's band. Dave Q was recording the session for potential future release.  David Q's other guests were Penny Pound, and John & Gilly Hellier; and we also briefly met Keyffo Baggins, who seems to be a fascinating man. The sound in the room was OK but the vocal channels were a bit muddy. I believe it was the sound engineers first night at this venue. Mick Bolton opened - he is an excellent pianist - I have seen him before at The Seven Dials Club, and although he has some interesting songs of his own making, I prefer his performance when he is covering Rock'nRoll or piano boogie standards. I particularly like his delivery of All The Young Dudes. Then we had a solo session from Rob Hegel; his music was also interesting, especially the lyrics. The song storylines were generally long and convoluted - which I'm sure loads of people love; but I'm sorry to say, are not to my personal taste.  Initially the sound system was a little understated for Rob Hegel's quiet guitar work - although it brightened up when I got Dave to poke the sound engineer and tell him so! Rob also favours a fixed microphone on a headset - which means he cannot use vocal distancing to make his singing a bit more three dimensional. Not an easy task for the poor novice sound engineer. Then Mick and Rob performed as a duo. I have to admit that they do have a certain chemistry, and they delivered some good stuff.  Again, my personal  preference was for the standards they played rather than their original works. I was particularly impressed with their rendition of In The Summertime. A fine gig in good company - thanks for organising it Dave.

Monday 11th May Fran and I drove into London to The Aldwych Theatre to see Beautiful;  the Carol King story. Special not only because we love Carol Kings music, but the lead actress, Katie Brayben (who recently won an Olivier Award for he performance of this role) is the daughter of our friends Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke. In fact we had originally had tickets to see this show when it opened in February, but I was so ill with flu that Fran took her sister instead! So this was my first viewing, but Frans second experience!  We stopped in Bow Street for a drink at The Marquess of Anglesey - one of the less crowded city pubs - before walking down to the Aldwych and the theatre. The show was brilliant from the moment the curtain went up - the music which interspersed the story line was that of Carol King (such as Will You Love me Tomorrow) as well as the classics which she wrote in collaboration with her husband Gerry Goffin. They provided hits for sixties icons such as The Shirelles, the Drifters, Aretha Franklin, and even The Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday). They also wrote Chains (covered by The Beatles) and The Loco-motion - which was made a hit by their babysitter, Little Eva! It was also a real surprise to me to discover that she had written I'm Into Something Good, which was a hit for our friend Karl Green as a member of Hermans Hermits!  The story is intertwined with that of their best friends - and competitors in the song writing business - Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann; who were responsible for such hits as Saturday Night At The Movies, On Broadway and You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling. Plenty of classical sixties songs to populate this fairly emotional story. Katie Brayben earned her recent Olivier Award not for impersonating Carol King as a singer - but for her brilliant acting - which clearly portrayed the emotional roller coaster suffered by King while her husband openly ran around with other women and exhibited almost bipolar mood swings.  It was an excellent show all round - with rousing performances by all the cast, plus some almost miraculously fast costume changes, and climaxing in a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the show. We not only enjoyed the show, but we felt privileged to know Katies parents, and to know that they are rightly proud of their talented daughter.  Some things which I didn't know about Carol King (apart from I didn't know she had written those Monkees and Hermans Hermits songs!) was that at high school she made demo records with her friend Paul Simon, and that her first real boyfriend - Neil Sedaka - wrote his hit song Oh Carol for her. What a pedigree!

Katie as Carol King


The Ian Campbell Single Handed Blues Band
Simon Spratley; George Leslie Calvert; Simon Baker and Keith Allen stand behind Ian Campbell

Saturday 9th May we drove over top Jagz Nightclub at Ascot, to see The Ian Campbell Single Handed Blues Band performing. We were grateful to find that Ian had put our names on the guest list, and when we got upstairs to the bar we immediately found Keith Allen and Simon Baker and caught up that both were healthy and happy, and we learned that Simon B was experimenting with a new band with a heavy rock bias - very influenced by musicians like ZZ Top. We then found a table with Julianne (Ian's partner) and Chrissy (Keith's partner) and sat down just in time for the first set to start. The band opened with Calling Johnny Blues - the title track of their latest CD, and a nice little blues number written by Keith & Ian. I know these guys are professionals, but they had clearly rehearsed a lot and were very good - and Ian's playing was amazing. I had to keep reminding myself that Ian is registered blind and only has the use of his right hand. I know some reasonably successful "able bodied" guitarists who aren't as good as Ian is! His only real restriction is the inability to change key in mid song - so they have to choose their song catalogue carefully to avoid such songs. Ian still has the ability to bend notes and even play bottleneck; and most of all - he still has his soul, which shines right through all his music. The band closed out the first set with a rattling version of Who Do You Love which showcases Keith's voice beautifully. Simon Spratley was sporting a new keyboard, which has a much brighter sound than the one he uses when he plays with The Nashville Teens; and George Leslie Calvert's bass guitar was solid with Simon Baker's drumming as the power house in the band. The second half was even better - they started with their own arrangement of Gloria and went on through Baby Please Don't Go ending with another Allen/Campbell number, Dedicated Boogie. The dance floor was full all evening, and even taking account of quite a number of Ian's friends in the audience- the band got a rapturous ovation at the end. Overall a brilliant nights entertainment.

Saturday 25th April was another chance to see The Nashville Teens - this time playing the local Silver Birch Pub, which is the local of Spud Metcalfe, the drummer.  Ray Phillips, Simon Spratley, Ken Osborn and Colin Pattenden were ready on stage when I arrived, just in time for the opening bars of Rockin' On The Railroad.  The pub was unusually crowded and the sound system was just right - loud, but not too loud!  The audience loved the show and despite the cramped conditions, Mo & Kate managed to find space for a demonstration jive during the Rock'n'Roll medley - managing two neck drops and one full somersault throw.  They are impressive performers; and while Mo rarely breaks a smile - Kate evidently loves every minute of being whirled about and thrown over his head!  
Adam Russell
was there with his box of harmonicas to support the band (and he has bought himself a tambourine as well).  Mo & Kate were also there, and although the pub was unusually crowded, we managed to clear a space for them to demonstrate a bit of their dancing skill when the band played their Rock'n'Roll Medley, starting with Jailhouse Rock
Despite the cramped space, they managed two neck drops and one full somersault throw. They are very impressive performers; and while Mo rarely breaks a smile - Kate evidently loves every minute of being whirled about and thrown over his head! The pub rocked through to the finale of Tobacco Road, which I think everyone danced to; followed by the encore - Born To Be Wild. For this Ray was joined by two backing singers - his daughter Vanessa and her nephew - Rays grandson Nathaniel.   They were great and Ray was obviously full of pride at his kids performance. 


Three generations "Born to be Wild"                                 Mo & Kate found room for a dance


The Teens on stage at Birchington

Saturday 17th April I collected Trisha & Spud Metcalfe and Ken Osborn to drive them to Birchington Village Hall to meet up with the rest of The Nashville Teens. The band had played this gig during 2014 and we had gone in search of a local supermarket to buy teabags and milk - luckily Trish had remembered and had brought coffee tea and milk with her, and I purchased some Mr Kipling cakes. The weather was glorious - sunny with blue skies and a light wind - so we dragged some chairs out from the hall onto the grassy suntrap area between the hall and the local library and had our tea and cakes in picnic style.  The hall had a sound limiter - traffic lights at the far end from the stage indicating volume levels, and if the volume kept the red light on for more than five seconds, the mains supply to the stage was cut. This was very bad news for The Nashville Teens, because they are an innately loud group. At sound check the band sounded terrible! Far too much volume for the hall - not possible for me (and I knew what they were singing) to even make the words out. Colin fiddled with the volumes a bit and we ran a heavy duty cable from the kitchen in order to bypass the sound limiter. It worked, so we all went to the pub and then on to the local fish'n'chip shop to make sure we didn't fade away. Back on stage at half past eight and the band started off their first set with their take on Chuck Berry's Rockin' On The Railroad is a loud song at the best of times, tonight even I thought it was uncomfortably loud. Not helped because the music club had suffered an unusually low turnout and had just over fifty members instead of the anticipated two hundred. The band continued until in their third number (The Spencer Davis medley) I was accosted by the Council official in charge of village halls - a jobsworth lady. She wanted to stop the proceedings immediately - indeed she was apoplectic with rage that we had had the temerity to bypass her system and was all for pulling the plug out mid performance.  I convinced her to let them finish this number and then I went to the stage wings and passed the bad news on. While I was up there the jobsworth woman did pull the plug out.  Ray apologised to the audience and I re-sited the plug into a controlled section of the mains. The band continued, but were (to me) noticeably uncoordinated. Their music actually sounded good at the reduced volume - and several of the audience told me that the band were great when they had turned down.  The dance floor was full most of the time, which from such a small audience was a real mark of approval, but in truth the performance was ragged. The organisers kept apologising to me for the lack of audience and for the jobsworth hall manager; and they did pay us the full amount, which must have made a dent in the clubs finances. The show finished at half past ten and we were home by half past one in the morning. Not the best gig I have ever attended, but luckily the audience seemed satisfied!

Friday 16th April Fran and I drove into London to the KoKo Club in Camden to see the 50th anniversary concert by The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Our first musical date - back in 1968 - was to see this band at the Bournemouth Pavilion; and I was so poor in those days that I arranged to meet Fran inside !  This time I bought the tickets. Tonight the remaining members of The Bonzo's were performing at Koko's in Camden to celebrate the bands fiftieth anniversary. The doors opened at 6pm and it was a sell-out. Koko's is an old Victorian theatre converted for use as a disco - but still retaining it's stage. For that reason shows like this have to be early and have to end before ten o'clock, when the building becomes the "NME Disco". The place was crammed, Fran and I managed to get centre stage and close top it, about four rows of people back (standing). First up was a bit of entertainment from the Keynsham Town Band - playing some Susa and fooling about.  Then the stage show opened with Neil Innes presenting The Rutles - fab satirical send ups of Beatles songs, very professionally and beautifully presented - despite the audience singing along with most numbers!  Then after a short break The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (surprisingly without Neil Innes) took to the stage. They opened with Jollity Farm and went on through such memorable numbers as Hunting Tigers Out In India, Mr. Slater's Parrot and Karma Sutra.  At one point they started Urban Spaceman and Legs Larry Smith came on dressed in opulent flowing Arabian robes and wearing a turban and started to sing "I'm the turban spacemen" before they chased him off stage. The act was mayhem, and the audience loved it, the band members corpsed and forgot lines of some of the songs - but it was an hour of absolute hilarity. The Keynsham Brass Band were stationed on one side of the stage to help out with some of the more musical bits, and a pair of straight-faced actors called The Desperate Men interjected between songs with humorous mimes. Given that this stuff predated Monty Python by almost a decade, with hindsight you can see where the Python team got a lot of their inspiration! All too soon the Bonzo's had finished their set!  Another break - this time to show a silent black & white film made by Rodney Slater and the late Vivian Stanshall while they were at art college. The grand finale featured everybody. The Keynsham Town Band, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and The Rutles all appeared together and performed some of the more esoteric Bonzo numbers like Rhinocratic Oaths, and My Pink Half of The Drainpipe as well as some of the more regular numbers like I'm The Urban Spaceman . They made a great show of Mr Apollo which featured Legs Larry Smith in leotard and tights fighting a giant toy shark! The concert ended with Canyons of Your Mind. There was no real encore, but to wind it all up they did the first part of The Intro and The Outro in order to "introduce the players" and some stirring speeches about fiftieth anniversary and a bit of posing for photo's on stage (with the audience in the background).  It was an amazing show.

The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band Lives!


The Royal Albert Hall

Sunday 22nd March Fran and I gathered up the three biggest GrandKids (#1, #2 and #3 - aged 11, 8 and 8 respectively) and drove into London to expose the little angels to classical music; we had seats at The 2015 Classical Spectacular show at The Royal Albert Hall.  Fran and I had seen it in 2014 and were so impressed that we felt we needed to expose the little ones! #1 and #3 loved it - you could see them soaking up the aura, the music and the wonderful laser light displays. #2 was a little less involved, but he clearly liked the laser lights - although he struggled not to keep talking and fidgeting when there were bits of music (notably opera) which clearly just didn't interest him. They all agreed that the cannons and rifle fire in the 1812 Overture were the best bit; I think they had all been a little surprised at just how loud and scary gunfire can be. The show was eclectic, with soldiers marching to the Radetzky March, a Ballerina dancing the dying swan from Saint Saens Carnival of the Animals and a host of can-can dancers flashing their knickers (which Grandson #1 - now aged 11 and becoming aware of the other sex - commented: "That was quite interesting".)  I can recall being taken to the Royal Albert Hall by my Dad aged about ten or eleven and being very impressed by the classic pops - not least by the 1812 Overture. I always remember my Dad being tearful at Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1; and I didn't find out until much later in life that the music was a significant reminder of his time as a slave prisoner-of-war of the Japanese on the Death Railway in Burma. Apparently they had a camp band, but they were not allowed to play God Save The Queen - but instead they were allowed to play Pomp & Circumstance - which of course is the tune to Land of Hope and Glory. A far more stirring and uplifting them.

Saturday 21st March was a long day. I collected Ken Osborn and Trish and Spud Metcalfe, and drove them up to The Vauxhall Holiday Park at Great Yarmouth, where The Nashville Teens were performing as part of the holiday camps Sixties Weekend. We were surprised (and pleased) to find that the long dreadful stretch of the A11 between Thetford and Norfolk has been augmented with a super new dual carriageway which has taken literally a whole hour off the journey time! So we all arrived at four o'clock instead of five o'clock! Colin Pattenden had brought Ray Phillips and Simon Spratley had been driven up by Alison. The Nashville Teens were opening the evening with the 7:30pm to 8:30pm slot; followed by Vanity Fare - whom we know and like; followed by Marty Wilde and the Wildcats - whom we know (and like their music); and the final act was The Stones - a tribute band, who we met at Whitby last year, and who are very very good. We were joined by Marianne Gibb - who used to publish the Talk 60's magazine and we all went to hang out in the "V-Lounge", where the management were showing a old 1960s film starring Joe Brown, Marty Wilde and a very wooden looking Susan Maughan. The best bits were seeing the background of the London skyline with nothing taller than St Pauls Cathedral! Eventually we got our soundcheck, followed by fish and chips in the dressing room, and a long chat with Bernie Hagley (Vanity Fare).  The show was great. I reckon the audience numbered about two thousand, and the hall was a good size with excellent acoustics and a first class sound engineering team.  The Teens went down well - they are always a hard act to follow.  Afterwards it took about an hour and a half to repack our equipment, finish beers and chats with Marianne, guys from The Stones and Marty Wilde, who had turned up at last (too late for a sound check). Vanity Fare were a good half way through their set before we eventually left - and I procrastinated and hung on to hear their version of Eight Miles High - because I love Steve Oakman's work on the twelve string guitar.  The journey home was smooth, and we were home in Bracknell by midnight - which is when The Stones would have just been winding up their set. A very good gig.

The Nashville Teens at Vauxhall Holiday Park


The Jersey Boys

Thursday 19th March we drove to Woking to meet up with friends at New Victoria Theatre to see The Jersey Boys. We were disappointed only by the absence of our friends Mo and Kate who appear in the West End version of the show doing their spectacular jive dancing sequences. The story line is the career of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons - fairly big over here, but huge in America during the sixties and seventies. The show was excellent - and we were a fairly discerning little bunch of spectators (of the ten of us in our little group, two had enjoyed top ten chart success themselves, and one of them actually knows Frankie Valli!) The staging was excellent and the performances extremely good - although there was a discernable amount of miming going on - especially with the guitar work.  The drummer was real enough - and not only coped with timing against some pre-recorded music; but also coped with his drum rostrum being shunted around the stage on castors to effect different scenes.  The most spectacular scene was the backstage view (similar to "Noises Off") where the singers faced the back of the stage and a blaze of lights - all too realistic!
What I found most surprising was that although I had grown up through the fifties and sixties - I hadn't realised either that The Four Seasons had originated so much music, or that song writer Bob Gaudio was actually one of the singers!  This side of the Atlantic, many of their songs were made famous by cover artists - including our friend Karl Green, who - as a member of Hermans Hermits - had a hit with Silhouettes on The Shade;  a song which I knew was credited to Gaudio - but which I didn't know was a cover of a hit by The Four Seasons in the USA.  I lost count of the amazing songs which were in the show - but I do recall that there was only one which I didn't immediately recognise.  Liz Earl in our group had seen the show before on the West End Stage and she rated it seven out of ten, by comparison to ten out of ten for the West End Version - mainly because the miming was more obvious.  I loved the show, and would certainly see it again given a chance.



The Magic Flute

Monday 2nd March Fran and I drove into London to see The Magic Flute performed at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. This night out was my Christmas present from Fran and   I hadn't seen this "opera" (really a "singspiel") before, and had only heard snippets. It was awesome. Not only in its staging and presentation, but the music and singing were brilliant.  The sets were massive and temple like and the monochrome costumes and crowd actions in the caricature - very reminiscent of Gormenghast ! Very grey and exaggerated seventeenth century. The story line is exceedingly convoluted - almost to the extent that it's only point is to justify the characters and their ordeals.  The whole thing is horribly misogynistic and I'm surprised that there haven't been outcries about how politically incorrect this is. There are very strong overtones of Freemasonry, not only in the story line and the acting, but in the imagery of the scenery - which included one set where the "initiates" were arraigned in a huge temple like structure with a massive "all seeing" eye peeping through a tall window, and a pyramidical step ladder strategically placed next to the window - ostensibly for an actor to be writing on the wall, but in reality echoing a pair of compasses. The singing was excellent.  The character of Pappageno with his box of magic chimes was excellently portrayed and sung - and the comic scenes with Pappagena (played by a young lady dressed in modern - very tarty - clothes, and smoking a cigarette) drew genuine laughs from the audience. Pappagena's colourful tarty twenty-first century image was presented in absolute contrast to the grey exaggerated seventeenth century splendour of the rest of the cast. The delivery of "props" to the stage by anonymous players rising out of trap doors and then disappearing again was another interesting diversion. The characters of Tamino and Palmina were also excellently portrayed, and their solo arias were outstanding.  For me, the highlight was the singing of the three night maidens and the exquisite singing of the Goddess of The Night - which really blew me away!  This opera is weird - a cross between hippy values of love and peace and Masonic belittlement of the female role - all on acid!  Very surreal and made more so by the excellent staging at the Royal Opera House. The only downside for me was the remnants of my flu which kept me constantly sucking throat sweets to prevent me from coughing. I would certainly like to see this staged again. A magic performance.

Saturday 28th February found me driving over to Egham to see The Nashville Teens performing at Egham United Services Club.  The Club is quite large as clubs go, and every table was occupied so it felt like a good turnout. Having been laid up with the "flu" for three weeks, it was great to get out and meet up with old friends again.  Melanie and Wesley had come along with Ray, and Rays daughter Kelly was there with her husband Mike. Adam Russell had brought along a friend, Richard.  Ken Osborn, Spud Metcalfe and Simon Spratley were all well and in good form.  The sound was relatively good (for a small venue) and although loud - was way below the bands normal decibel output.  They performed two forty-five minute sets, although as a convalescing flu victim, I left half way through the second set, after I'd heard Ray singing I Put A Spell On You - which is currently popularised by the film Fifty Shades of Grey. There were one or two familiar faces in the audience - people I have seen at other gigs in the area, and then Mo and Kate from The Jersey Boys arrived.  We have met them at several Jackie Lynton gigs, and been to a fifties jive tea dance with Liz & Colin Earl where they have demonstrated their art. They are professional dancers and are currently appearing in The Jersey Boys as it tours the country.  They were there to hear The Nashville Teens and decide whether to book them for their local gig - which is The Liberty Ballroom on the old Greenham Common base at Newbury.
The club audience was visibly wowed when Mo & Kate started to dance - they performed several "drops" (Kate leans/falls over backwards as she spins under Mo's arm, and Mo catches her under the neck just before she hits the ground and flips her back upright.  The audience were truly gobsmacked (open mouthed!) when the couple performed a couple of throws - where Kate is turned upside down - very acrobatic.  The Teens were excellent and Ken played some blindingly soulful solos on lead guitar.  Not only did we get a booking for Mo's Liberty Ballroom for later this year, but I also was approached by a lovely lady named Bernie who has booked the band for New years Eve in Old Windsor.  Overall a very successful evening.

Kate & Mo Dancing to The Teens on Saturday


The Teens at Sands

Saturday 31st January The Nashville Teens were playing a private party at Sands (the old Bleak House) between Woking and Chertsey. It was for old friends Ian & Lesley who had taken over the whole restaurant for the evening to host a fabulous party for their friends to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.
Despite the very small venue and the unpromising stone floors - which looked as if they would cause a lot of echo - Colin Pattenden managed to make the sound system very effective. We were all there by half past seven. Fran and I collected Ray Phillips and brought him to the venue to find that Ken Osborn, Spud Metcalfe and Simon Spratley had already arrived and set out their equipment. The food was being provided at half past eight and the band weren't scheduled to start until half past nine - so there was plenty of time to catch up on old times and plan for some of the upcoming gigs. I realised early on that I had forgotten to bring the money from the last gig - so I did the twenty five minute drive to home and back to collect the envelopes stuffed with money! Returning just before the band started their first set at half past nine.
The Public Address system wasn't too loud and the party goers were avid dancers, so the dance floor was perpetually packed - which of course encourages the band. They were very tight and the sound quality was good at the end of the pub where the action was happening (not so good at the back - but we weren't there!).  In the second set Ray sang I Put A Spell On You for Ian & Lesley to have a smooch dance to and the set ended about twenty to midnight with Tobacco Road, and Born To Be Wild. An excellent party and a very tight performance from the band.



The Teens at Mill Rythe

Sunday 18th January Back down the A3 to The Mill Rythe Holiday Village, this time with Ken Osborne (lead guitar) and Spud Metcalf (drums) because tonight The Nashville Teens were topping the bill at the Sixties Weekend. In fact, although probably the best known band performing this evening, we had organised ourselves to be on first, at eight o'clock!  This is not only beneficial to the band - they can get home before the middle of the night;  but these weekender gigs often start to empty out around ten o'clock on the last night - because the audience also need to get home. This leaves an unresolved debate between the musicians, who in general think it is logical to put the top band on early so that they get the maximum audience size; and "da management" who argue that it is sensible to keep the best until last in order to entice the audience to stay longer. This time round the band won, and we were scheduled on at eight o'clock.  Mid afternoon I collected Ken and Spud in Bracknell and we enjoyed a clear run down the A3 to Hayling Island, where we arrived on site just after five and found that Simon Spratley and Adam Russell were already there and waiting for us. Colin Pattenden and Ray Phillips weren't far behind so we were able to pace through the soundcheck very quickly. We then hung around for an hour and a half - meeting up with some old friends as we waited, including Rose & Ken, and Jude, Libby & Neil. I was also pleased to see Jacky & Mel who had decided to come along at the last minute.
The performance started at eight o'clock and the band were tight, the sound management was great, and the lighting team were on top form. The band played their regular one hour set and Ray provided a lot of banter; some about how he had worked with the various bands whose music was about to be presented, and the rest of the time generally chatting with the audience. He has a great stage presence and you would never have guessed that this bouncy, charismatic singer had celebrated his seventy sixth birthday just forty eight hours before!  The band climaxed with Tobacco Road of course, and then encored with Born To Be Wild. The audience loved the show, and the next band up (Eddison Lighthouse) had a very hard act to follow.  The turn around after the act was quick and we were driving out of the holiday camp by twenty five to ten. Ken, Spud and I were all home again before eleven o'clock - a bit of a record for such an auspicious gig.
This was the first ever Mill Rythe festival, and it turned out to be a great success. We learned that not only had it been a sell out, but that more than half the tickets for next January 2016 had already been sold!

Saturday 17th January We drove over to The New Victoria Theatre at Woking to attend the evening performance of Matthew Bourne's creation and choreography of the ballet, Edward Scissorhands.  We actually saw the premier tour of this ballet back in March 2006, but not only is Bourne's work always good for a second helping - but he has a reputation of the follow-on shows being bigger and better - so we were really looking forward to this one. We were not disappointed. I recall reading in a paper at the time that this was one of the most dangerous ballets for performers. The "Scissorhands" might only be props, but they are hard and can cut - particularly if the dancer is whirling about fast - so the ballet corps has to rehearse even more than usual for this ballet - an inch or two out of place could cost a ballerina her eye, or worse.
The story line is a "modern American fairy tale" set in small town USA in the nineteen fifties. The character of Edward - played by Johnny Depp in the original film presentation of this story - is a leather boy with scissors instead of fingers.  Edwards father - a tailor - is distraught after young Edward is killed by a lightning strike while playing with scissors; to replace his lost son he makes a Frankenstein like replacement boy out of leather - with scissors for fingers. Another lightning strike kills the father and brings the leather boy to life - with the spirit of the original Edward. The story is of the sensitive soul who can do amazing work shaping hedges, sculpting ice and cutting hair, but who cannot caress or show tenderness through touch without accidentally hurting people. The leather boy is taken in by a family and a love story develops between their daughter and Edward S - complicated because she already has a boyfriend - an all American bully boy. As the story progresses the face of the dancer playing Edward becomes increasingly criss-crossed with scars - indicating that he even hurts himself by accident. Eventually the girls boy friend gets Edward drunk, solicits a fight - in which someone inevitably gets cut - and the townsfolk turn against Edward and drive him away. In the final scene Edward returns to the graveyard where his namesake (and spirit) are buried; his girlfriend finds him there (deep joy) and soon after the townsfolk mob find him there (fight). Inevitably the bad boyfriend gets stabbed by the scissors; the townsfolk fall on Edward S right on top of the original Edwards grave. The leather boy vanishes leaving only a pair of scissors.  The whole thing was beautifully danced - especially the dancer playing Edward.  Amazing how a fairly complex story can be played out so successfully in mime and dance.


Edward Scissorhands

Friday 16th January I whizzed the fifty five miles down the A3 to Hayling Island, to The Mill Rythe Holiday Village, where Karl Thompson and Ray Martin were holding their first Sixties WeekendKarl is a well known compere of the Northern sixties music circuit, and this was his first venture at pulling together a "sixties weekend". As Butlins have announced that they are reducing their sixties weekenders from two per annum to just one - there is a perceived market opening for this sort of gig. He organised it in association with Ray Martin - who also plays drums for The Dreamers (yes, used to be Freddie & The Dreamers). Ray also runs a music agency, so all the acts were nominally booked through him.  I know Karl from various gigs which The Teens have played and had discussed this with him when we last met at Whitby last September. He had been understandably worried that tickets may not all sell. So although The Teens weren't scheduled to play until Sunday night, I wanted to be there on the Friday night to show solidarity and to wish him luck. I also wanted to catch up with friends Libby, Neil & Judith, who had decided to spend the weekend at Mill Rythe because they wanted to see Chris Farlowe and The Nashville Teens (Chris was scheduled on Saturday night); this despite living only twenty miles along the coast near Bognor. I phoned Karl in the week to wish him luck and tell him that I planned to visit on Friday - and he allocated me a backstage pass for Friday as well as the Sunday session; but I had no idea who else was lined up to play until I arrived at half past eight on Friday night.  When I walked in I was faintly surprised to see Karl leading the band on stage - I didn't know he performed as well as being an ace compere! His band, The Sixties All Stars were excellent and the dance floor was heaving. The venue was small enough to have an intimate aura, and with four hundred committed fans of sixties music the dance floor was permanently full! A great atmosphere. After a bit of wandering I found Neil, Libby and Judith - and another Facebook friend whom I'd not met before, Mary. They had a programme and I was delighted to discover that the next band up was going to be The Swinging Blue Jeans.  I wandered round to the dressing rooms and found my old mate Roger Weddup, their roadie. After a bit of a chat I returned to Neil & Libbs and ran into Alan Lovell, the SBJs lead singer - we've not seen each other for ages so we had a bit of a reminisce and passed news of mutual friends.  I also had one of those epiphany moments when I suddenly realised that the SBJs bass guitarist, Peter Oakman (right in the picture - used to play with Joe Browns Bruvvers, and is the writer of songs like "A Picture of You"), is the father of  Steve Oakman of Vanity Fair VF have backed Ray Phillips and Steve is an excellent musician (keyboards and guitar). So for years I've been acquainted with these two musos in different bands and never before put two and two together to realise that they are father and son!  In fact Vanity Fair were scheduled to play at Mill Rythe on the following (Saturday) night, but I wasn't going to be able to attend that gig. The SBJs were on form and gave an excellent performance.  Next up were Union Gap. I don't know any of these band members and I confess that I was a little bit prejudiced against them simply because they wear cabaret stage gear (modelled on American Civil War Union uniforms) - I had intended to watch maybe one or two numbers and then set off for home. They were brilliant - excellent musicians, all four of them had good voices and could actually sing, and they performed some great harmonies. I stayed through till the end, which meant that I wasn't home in bed until almost two o'clock on Saturday morning.  I think Karl's sixties weekend looks set to become a great success - I hope he makes enough profit to tempt him to repeat the exercise; and I went to sleep really looking forward to Sunday nights visit with The Teens.

Swinging Blue Jeans - Friday night


Nashville Teens play Sunbury Blues Club

Friday 9th January We started the New Year with The Nashville Teens, who were appearing at The Sunbury Cricket Club to open their season of blues evenings. I had two guests there, who were Dave Quaife and John Hellier, who are directors of the Peter Quaife Foundation. The late PQ was founder member and bass guitarist with The Kinks, who sadly died in 2010 of kidney failure. The foundation raises money in his name to provide activities and entertainment to children who, while on dialysis, have to sit still for hours on end.  To raise money the PQF is releasing a charity record called "Legends" with seventy six tracks from different artists. The idea is the have tracks from legendary musicians interleaved with tracks from musicians who are "locally legendary" in their own towns. The Nashville Teens donated a track - Sun Dog - and Dave and John were there to meet the band and assess how they might be able to use them to promote the CD and the charity.  The Cricket Club hall was sold out and people who couldn't get in were crowded into the bar to listen; we played this gig same time last year and it was equally packed - evidently a great way for the Sunbury Blues Club to kick off its season each year because we were invited back to open the 2016 season! In deference to the club the band organised their sets to include more real blues numbers than usual, and Ray treated us to amazingly emotive performances of Red House,  Hoochie Coochie Man, and I Put A Spell On YouColin Pattenden had been already there setting up when I arrived just after seven o'clock, and we were quickly joined by Simon Spratley, Ray Phillips and Adam Russell. Ken Osborn and Spud Metcalfe  arrived soon after and by eight o'clock the room was already full of audience, even though the gig wasn't scheduled to start until nine! Regular friends Peter & June were early arrivals in the audience, and they were soon joined by "the WAGS"; Mel, Fran and Jacky. The band were very tight and the sound quality was good - and (for a change) not too loud. They opened with their usual driving interpretation of Chuck Berry's Rockin' On The Railroad/Let It Rock, followed by their Spencer Davis and Rolling Stones medleys - all interspersed with little anecdotes from Ray about working with these bands in the sixties. The first set ended with a stunning rendition of Route 66.  After the interval the band kicked off the second set with another Chuck Berry composition Nadine. As well as some of the blues numbers noted above, the band gave us their own arrangements of Slow Down and Mona. The climax was - predictably - Tobacco Road, and Ken delivered a stunning guitar solo on the encore number, which was Born To Be Wild.  A great gig and a brilliant way to start the year.

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