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.



Tuesday 22nd November
SAVE TIN PAN ALLEY - POP UP CONVERT  at The Artists Bar at the Phoenix Theatre,

One of my current favourite charities is the project to create a film record of the history of Denmark Street in London - the original "Tin Pan Alley". This is the last surviving area of eighteenth century commercial buildings in London. Commercial buildings being buildings specifically built with shops on the ground floor and accommodation above - these examples date from about 1780. The road is of course synonymous with popular music; originally the haunt of music writers and publishers - it then became a studio area where bands like The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and The Kinks cut their first commercial records. Until recently it has been filled with clubs such as The Twelve Bar and was a focus area for musical instrument shops. The area is going to be largely demolished to make way for a third of a square mile development associated with the Crossrail project. The film project is run by my friend Henry Scott-Irvine, who has managed to get some of the buildings grade II listed - which means the developers will need to incorporate them into the development somehow. Tonight's gig was at the nearby Artists Bar in the basement of the Phoenix Theatre, just fifty yards down Charing Cross Road. The concept is a monthly "pop-up" gig to raise money for making the film - with guest artists. I managed to park really conveniently in Denmark Street itself and was soon settled at the gig. The proceedings were opened by Mitch Horner, an East end lad singing sixties songs; he was followed by Tom Moriarty - a folk/poet with a nice guitar style. Then came Graeme Douglas, who has played with both the Kursaals and Eddie and The Hot Rods, he gave us a couple of songs including "She Knows that I know that she knows." The highlight of the evening for me was Dave Mason - who is a real live songwriter who worked in Tin Pan Alley in the sixties. He sang two of his own songs, Delilah and The Last Waltz. The first half finished at about a quarter to eleven and I decided to exit so that I could be home by midnight. A great little concert, thank you Henry.

Dave Mason singing Delilah


Sunday 20th November

We went with June & Peter and shared a box with some of their friends to attend this annual Raymond Gubbay favourite at The Royal Albert Hall. It featured The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Military Band, both conducted by John Rigby and supported by The Royal Choral Society's London Philharmonic Choir; with the muskets and cannon of the Moscow Militia; Grant Doyle (Baritone) and Alexander Edwards (Tenor).  The "classic pops" started with the Choir singing the main movement from Orff's Carmina Burana, swiftly followed by a rousing rendition of Sousa's Liberty Bell. We also heard Wagner's prelude from Lohengrin and many other classical favourites. I get quite emotional for some classical music and the very environment of The Royal Albert Hall evokes memories for me. The finale from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, reminded me of the amazing Bolshoi performance which Fran and I had seen at The Royal Opera House earlier this year. Handels Hallelujah Chorus brought back memories of us taking Richard for his first ever visit to The Royal Albert Hall (also accompanied by my Grannie - another nice memory); The 1812 Overture reminded me of my first ever visit to RAH in 1957 as an eight year old with my Dad.  Dad was also brought to mind when the orchestra played Pomp and Circumstance March (Land of Hope and Glory) - which reminded me that Dad had told me that when he was a Prisoner of War in the Burmese jungle, the camp band were not permitted to play "God Save The King", but instead played this - which their Japanese enslavers didn't understand was far more uplifting.  We were also treated to a rare "chorale" version of Sibelius's Finlandia among a wealth of other music.  The opera singers gave us great renditions of Au Fond Du Temple Saint - the Duet from Bizet's opera The Pearl Fishers - and the audience called for an encore of the climax of the ever popular Nessun DormaJohn Rigby's conducting platform elevated about ten feet high exposing union flag drapes when he turned to conduct the flag waving audience during the jingoistic renditions of Land of Hope & Glory, Jerusalem and Rule Britannia.  The box next to us was full of Japanese people who didn't know the words or have flags, and they looked very bemused when we all sang Land of Hope and Glory at the end of the first set. During the interval they managed to acquire Union Flags to wave, but they still looked a little self conscious and bemused in the second half when the rest of the audience broke into "And did those feet...." and "Britons never never never shall be slaves!".  The second set started with Strauss's Radetzky March - during which the Moscow Militia slow marched through the audience. The whole show climaxed with lasers and fireworks during Tchaikovsky's masterpiece; The 1812 Overture; celebrating the victory over Napoleon at The Battle of Borodino in that year. The music was accompanied by the Moscow Militia shrouded in smoke up in the gallery as they fired volleys of rifles and set off a couple of huge cannons during the appropriate parts of the battle.  The encore was another brilliant show of lasers and fireworks as the Orchestra played Offenbach's music for The Can Can, accompanied - as in previous years - by a troupe of twelve agile dancers in the aisles very energetically performing this acrobatic dance, with lots of legs in the air and flashing knickers!  Much more interesting than fireworks! A great evenings entertainment.


Saturday 19th November
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND at Pyrford Sports & Social Club

There was a gale blowing outside and torrential rain causing localised flooding, but it couldn't stop the entertainment at Pyrford Social Club on Saturday night! I gave Spud Metcalf and his drumkit a lift over to Pyrford and sat chatting with Jackie Lynton, Mike Windus and Chris Bryant while Colin Pattenden and Spud completed the stage set up.  Jack and I were a bit concerned about the prospects for the evening because the club was curiously empty; it is no fun playing to an empty room. Then, just before nine o'clock, there was a sudden influx; lots of people arrived and the place actually became crowded! Among the crowd were Sarah-Jane, Stef, Jacky, Trish, Fran and a surprise visit from Ray Styles, whom we haven't seen for ages. Jack started as he meant to go on - with a blue joke - the audience roared with laughter and the scene was set for a brilliant and occasionally bawdy evening. Jack has a very broad and eclectic collection of songs, and this evening - he told the audience that he had decided to include material which hadn't been rehearsed for ages, just to try to catch the Band out!  The Band did really well and didn't miss a note even though they had never before publicly performed their current arrangements of C'Est La Vie (Goes to show you never can tell) or on You Ain't Going Nowhere - the old Dylan song - which Chris Bryant sang.  Jack also threw in a totally new song he had written - which Mike Windus knew, but which the rest of the Band had to busk to. They did so well that I don't think the audience realised it wasn't rehearsed! It is coming on for Christmas so Mike gave us his rendition of Run Run Rudolph. Overall it was a polished performance, the sound quality was good and the audience really appreciative.


Monday 7th November
A PRINCESS UNDONE a play by  at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.

The play was A Princess Undone by Richard Stirling and starring Stephanie Beacham as Princess Margaret. It was a complicated story involving Margaret, "Backstairs Billy" (The Queen Mothers personal butler) and John Bindon (an actor/criminal who is reputed to have been one of the Princesses lovers). All were real characters and all now deceased so there is no way the weak plot of the play could be corroborated.  The story seemed to be about the Princess trying to destroy incriminating letters which she had somehow stolen from the Queens office while the Royal Family were away at Balmoral. Although there was no real clarity about what the letters were or why they might be incriminating, there were many hints at Princess Margaret's own dalliances, alleged boyfriends of Princess Diana and of course Charles' affair with Camilla (which was not widely public when Margaret was still alive.  Nor indeed was there any narrative outcome of this "plot" which seemed to be just a medium for delivering some very powerful character acting from each of the players.  It was an interesting situation, and I'm glad I saw the character acting - but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who expects some sort of story line. 

Stephanie Beacham as Princess Margaret


Fran, Roger and Mike at The Red Lion

Sunday 30th October
FRAN McGILLIVRAY BAND  at The Red Lion, Stevenage Old Town

A long way to trek for a gig, but we really like Fran, Mike and Roger, and they were well worth a one hundred and forty five mile round trip on a foggy October night to see them. The Red Lion in the High Street of Stevenage Old Town is one of the haunts of my youth and under the guidance of a guy named Trevor is now one of the premier Blues venues in Hertfordshire. We arrived and found Roger Nunn and his partner Maria were already there, but that Fran and Mike were held up by traffic somewhere on their journey from South London. Eventually Mike Burke came in carrying an amplifier - so I joined him and Fran McGillivray to help carry their equipment into the Blues Room. They had not had a good twenty four hours; not only was there traffic congestion slowing them that evening, but they had broken down at four o'clock that morning en route home from a gig in Norwich and seemed to have spent most of the day trying to find a car hire company which operated on a Sunday. They were soon up and running, and evidently enjoying themselves, proving that singing the blues is in itself a remedy for the blues!  They opened with Blues With A Feeling and their first half set list included Big Mama Thorntons hits Unlucky Girl and Hound Dog (much better than Elvis's version) as well as Teardrops Will Fall, Hard Working Woman, Mercury Blues, Spoonful, Route 66, and Not Fade Away; as well as their own compositions Love and Regret, Get Back To Love and The End Of The Road. After a very brief break the second half featured their own songs Memories, Some Luck, and Blood On Your Hands, as well as standards Big Front Seat, Walking The Dog, Wang Dang Doodle and Little Red Hen Their encore was another of their own songs, Mr Blues. Overall a brilliant evening, well worth all that driving through the fog.


Saturday 29th October
BERKSHIRE ROCK CHOIR  at Sandhurst Memorial Park, Sandhurst

A month or so ago Fran decided to join the local "Rock Choir" - and she attends rehearsals every Wednesday morning over in Wokingham. Saturday evening was her stage debut with this awesome group. I dropped her off at Wokingham to join many other ladies for the coach, and then later took myself over to Sandhurst Memorial Park to see the show.  It was a Council run fireworks extravaganza and when I arrived the stage was full with the junior cadets military band. Fran was already there with her choir of about one hundred and fifty other ladies; (mostly ladies - I am told that there were three men among them somewhere, but I didn't see them). The cadets were interesting - in addition to a few adults and a horde of acne ridden teenagers, there were some very little people - aged probably about 5 through to 8, trying hard to stay standing at attention in their smart little uniforms, with hats which were just too big. very cute. The guy on the big bass drum couldn't keep time, which was a bit off putting, and some of the xylophone arrangements had some very flat notes in them. Hard to tell whether they were designed in (all the players hit the same bum notes together), or whether the players were all equally mistaken! Then there was a brief show by a couple of very bright teenagers called Max and Harvey. They sang with a guitar and a backing tape, and both had great stage presence, good voices and were very entertaining - especially for the smaller kids in the audience who clearly hero worshipped them. They performed the countdown to the beginning of the firework display, which was pretty good considering that the whole event was free of charge. While the fireworks were lighting up the sky to some blaring quasi orchestral pop music (poor taste I'm afraid) the one hundred and fifty strong Rock Choir assembled on stage.   I occasionally caught glimpses of Fran at the back of the Lower Sopranos. After the fireworks they worked their way through seven songs including With a Little Help From My Friends, Livin' On A Prayer, Higher Love, and even Don't Stop Me Now (Freddie was probably rolling in his grave, but the ladies all enjoyed it thoroughly).  The show was excellent and the ladies should all be very proud of their hard work.

some of the 150 strong Rock Choir



above: Em & Charlie
below: Gordon, Colin, Malcolm, Jack and Mike


Friday 28th October
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND supported by CHARLIE AUSTEN & EMILY COOPER at Billingshurst Village Hall, Billingshurst, Sussex.

On Friday evening I drove down to Billinghurst in Sussex to the late Big Jim Sullivan's gig which is being managed now by his wife Norma. I arrived early enough to help set up the stage in the village hall and have a chat with Malcolm Mortimer, who was deputising for Spud Metcalf on drums. Malcolm has an excellent heritage having performed with Gentle Giant and The Blockheads among others. I also had a brief catchup with Gordon Sellar, who was deputising for Chris Bryant on lead guitar. Jack and Mike Windus were there and in good spirits, just Colin Pattenden was missing! He arrived eventually (the traffic in Southeast UK was awful at the end of half term) just in time to set up the PA system and undertake a very brief microphone check before the audience were let in (on time).  I failed to notice Keith-The-Stalker and his posse among them until right at the end of the evening. Sorry lads. Norma's club is a fairly serious musical event - there are tables set out and the audience bring their own food and drink, but it is essentially a "concert" atmosphere.  The proceedings were opened by two amazingly talented young ladies with acoustic guitars, their own harmonies and their own songs.  They were Charlotte ("Charlie") Austen, daughter of Mike Windus' wife Claire, and her cousin Emily Cooper. Charlie has a beautiful voice and a very mature guitar style. I have seen her before with her own band, and her current musical role is as lead vocalist with the blues band Nine Below Zero. Cousin Em's voice was good as well and both girls played acoustic guitars - both using quite intricate picking styles - and with one exception performed all their own songs. Their harmonies were beautiful, and their songs were mesmerising. They opened with a song with the unlikely title of The Greatest Human Cannonball and took us on through titles like Copenhagen, Some Days, Blame, Arms of The Night and Yellow Bird. I was looking after the "Merch" table at this gig and bought a copy of Emily's CD immediately and when I played it in the car on the long drive home I was pleased to find that there were lots more lovely songs on it as well as a few of those they had played on stage!  When Jack had introduced the girls he had described being blown away at when he had seen Charlie playing Bob Dylan's song Make You Feel My Love (recently made famous by Adele) at another venue; so Charlie closed their act with her solo version of this magnificent song. Her control of the microphone - singing a "whisper" but projecting to the mike so that it reproduced as a whisper over the PA - was textbook, what an amazing entertainer!
After a short break the modified version of The Jackie Lynton Band took to the stage. Jackie Lynton was on top form, and it was one of those evenings where a well as singing, he regaled the audience with jokes, and turned all the events on stage into entertainment. This included Adam doing too short a solo section at the end of If You Want To Get A Band Together, and Mike telling Malcolm what the format was for drumming the next number!  The first section included the "Keep A Knockin" medley and Tulsa Time. Adam Russell joined them on stage for If You Want To Get A Band Together and What Am I Living For?  Then Jack (always a generous bandleader) invited Adam to sing the Chuck Berry classic, Don't Lie To Me (Which Adam performs on their latest CD).  Jack did a couple of solos accompanied just by Mike Windus - which included Georgia - a favourite of the late Big Jim Sullivan.  Mike also provided vocals for Sea Cruise and Run Run Rudolph - with Jack & Colin almost wetting themselves with laughter as they sung the doowop backing sounds. The finale was a shorter version of the "Sweet Little Sixteen" medley - mainly because the regular version relies on Spud's drumming, and Malcolm - great though he was - didn't know that bit. Overall it was an excellent evenings entertainment - fascinating not only because Charlie and Em were a hard act to follow - but Jacks sound and feel is quite different with different musicians. 

Saturday 21st October
HAFLA at St Thomas's Church Hall, Letchworth

This weekend we attended a Hafla at St Thomas's Church Hall in Letchworth.  Hafla is an Arabic word meaning a party or social gathering where the guests all bring food to share to the common group. This event was a gathering by the local "Tribal Dance" movement in North Hertfordshire, which displays variations on Belly Dancing - in this case in order to raise funds for a local theatre group called Imagica - which performs for local schools. We went to support our surrogate niece, Emma-Victoria, who is both an avid tribal dancer, and a member of the Imagica theatre troupe. We went  Frans sister Jennifer, her husband Sujhat, their friend Gillian, their neighbours Brent and Pat and our friends Keith and Chrissy.  Another little link is that although it is more than fifty years since I lived in Letchworth, I have fond memories of St Thomas's Hall hall because it was where, in nineteen sixtyfour, I first met our friend Linda Gould. It was at a Guide/Scout dance when we were about fourteen and fifteen respectively. That friendship was the beginning of a trail of friendships which included another lifetime friend, Stephanie Allison and which led to me meeting my Fran four of so years after that. The show was a lot of fun - the ladies dancing are all shapes, sizes and exhibited varying degrees of expertise - but clearly performing is a very liberating experience - and they all got marks for being committed and trying hard.  Emma-Victorias' troupe were excellent - they have been dancing for over three years now. They performed several dances including the sensuous (and potentially dangerous) sword dance. Not a Scottish reel, but a slow arabesque with very heavy real (sharp) scimitars.  A very brash girl acted as Emcee - and some of the eight or nine acts were verging on cringe worthy - but there were equally some excellent parts of the show. As well as the professionalism shown by Emma-Victorias group, there was a brilliant ballerina cavorting beautifully and two absolutely wonderful belly dancers who's control of abdominal muscles would have had Mr Pilates himself applauding.  I was a little embarrassed because I had bought three raffle tickets and all three of them won! I chose a box of chocolates with the first, but when it became obvious that I was on a run, I gave the other two tickets to Scarlett - Emma-Vs daughter - who happily went and collected prizes which she liked.  I'm not sure what Keith, Chris, Brent and Pat made of the evening - it probably wasn't their scene, but they said they had enjoyed it so that was all right.

Emma-Victoria sword dancing


Listening outside The White Swan

Saturday 8th October
THREE DOG SHIRT at The White Swan, Swanage

This weekend was the Swanage Blues Festival - and we decided at the last minute to drive down and see George Leslie Calvert's band playing in the band Three Dog Shirt at The White Swan pub there.  During the course of the weekend festival there were thirty plus bands playing in about twenty different locations around Swanage, Studland and Corfe Castle and although the weather was overcast, it was dry, warm and the town was buzzing with festival goers. We found friend Stephanie (George Leslies girlfriend) as we wandered around town and had a cream tea with her in a local cake shop - as a result of which we were late to the gig and during the first set we couldn't actually get into the pub, it was so ram packed. However the performance was loud and we joined a fairly large audience standing on the street outside listening to the excellent music. Although I have seen both Les and Jason in several different bands, I had not seen Three Dog Shirt before. They were very good. As well as Jason on lead guitar and vocals and Les on bass guitar, there was a tidy drummer named "Deano", a very dextrous piano / organ player, a second lead guitar and a guy with a harmonica. As well as having an excellent vocal range, Jason is a masterful guitarist - it wasn't just blues coming out of his guitar and mouth; he played an array of music which ranged from Caribbean rhythms to some real heavy old skool R&B.  My favourite of his is Voodoo Chile. I saw Hendix do this at The Rock Garden in either 1967 or early 1968 ; and Jason's guitar work on this number is the best replication of that amazing sound I have heard since. We listened to four or five numbers from the street before the band took a break; at which point the pub emptied and we managed to get in and catch up with George. We were better placed for the second set, although the pub is so small that virtually everywhere except the front five people of the audience was a "restricted view". The band were tremendous, I need to go see them again soon in the Reading area, where - hopefully - I will be able to see them all as well as hearing them. For the second set the pub was rammed full again, but luckily we were inside it this time. The atmosphere was terrific - loads of people of all ages, shapes and sizes, all digging good live music. This festival happens each March and October - I can see that we shall want to come again.


Saturday 1st October
THE NASHVILLE TEENS at Pyrford Sports & Social Club

For a second time this year The Nashville Teens have appeared at this local Surrey venue.  I delivered Spud Metcalfe and his drums to Pyrford about a quarter to eight. The rest of the band were already setting up. Once we were all assembled we had a quick band meeting to confirm gigs for the forthcoming season, and generally catch up with each others news. Ray Phillips, Simon Spratley, Ken Osborne and Adam Russell were in good shape; and Colin Pattenden - fresh back from a holiday in Turkey - surprised us all by sporting stubble for another attempt at a beard (which was his trademark when he was with Manfred Mann in the seventies). Being a local gig there were lots of friends and family present, so we all spent quite a lot of time catching up on news and holiday photos. The band started to play at about half past nine and ran through until midnight with one short break. It was a fun gig, not only because the audience were friendly and extremely participative - with dancers on the floor for most numbers - but because there were a couple of silly mistakes which made the band members giggle. These included an unexpected failure by at least three of the band to end the Rock'n'Roll Medley on time - but Ray sang on for an extra delivery of the last verse and the rest of the band recovered almost instantaneously so I don't expect many in the audience actually noticed. Despite these few little issues, the performance was generally at The Nashville Teens normal high standard, and the drumming on The Who Medley was the best I have seen for years. Spud is probably the best steady Rock'n'Roll drummer that I have ever heard - and tonight he really excelled himself, we might have been watching a reincarnation of Keith Moon! The audience had a great evening and the dance floor was ram packed for Tobacco Road and the encore number, Born To Be Wild. By the time we had struck the stage and transported Spuds drumkit to his garage, I didn't get home until half past one.

The Teens at Pyrford


Fran, Dave, Hugh and Mike on Sunday night

Sunday 18th September

This event at the Half Moon, Putney, was a CD launch for Shortstuff, a duo comprising Dave Thomas and Hugh Gregory. This duo were resident at The Half Moon back in the seventies, and although they are nowadays based out of the Midlands and Norfolk, the venue seemed appropriate for this particular CD launch because most of it had been recorded in 1975!  As they do, the tapes went missing - but were recently "re-discovered",  digitalised and augmented by a few old, but relatively recent, tracks recorded in 1992. The result is a CD entitled Big Blue. Of course I bought a copy - and I can confirm that it is excellent. To be frank, Fran and I had never heard of Shortstuff, but we were there because our friends (and old friends of Shortstuff), Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke were opening the evening.  It was a very intimate evening with the Half Moons auditorium furnished with tables and chairs. Tea lights on the tables completed the "Jazz Cafe" feeling.  Unfortunately the intimacy was more a function of a very small audience rather than just the comfortable proximity of the audience to the stage - but it was an excellent show. Fran and Mike played only half a dozen numbers, but we haven't seen them for months so we lapped it up - they were very good. They included a really nice new number which will apparently feature on their imminent new CD - entitled Love and Regret. 
My Fran and I were very impressed with Shortstuff - especially Dave Thomas's guitar work and singing voice. His guitar style was very dextrous and often reminiscent of the musical style of the late Tim Buckley. At the end of their couple of sets Dave and Hugh invited Fran and Mike onto the stage to hare a couple of songs, including an interesting variation on Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell (aka Teenage Wedding / C'est La Vie).
It was a great overall performance, and a shame that so few people turned out to see it, but those of us who were there were privileged to share a great musical experience.

Saturday 17th  September
DOOBIES & CHEESECAKE at The Bagster House,  Shepperton

Doobies & Cheesecake



Doobies & Cheesecake is Nathaniel Gore's band. Nathaniel is the grandson of Ray Phillips of The Nashville Teens. and it is fairly evident that singing ability in that family is an inherited gift, because Nathaniel is brilliant.  He has a good vocal range, projects his voice very professionally, and can hold long notes steady for an impressive length of time. I was reminded of Justin Haywood's voice (Moody Blues). Bagster House is a small club situated just North of Walton-on-Thames bridge, I had visited once before in 2011 when I drove John Hawken there so that he and Brian Willoughby (both from The Strawbs) could perform at an "Open Mike" night. The club is in a not very well signposted turnoff from a long one-way system - and even though I had visited once before I missed it first time of passing. It was almost a mile to go round until I found it the on the next circuit ! When we arrived Nathaniel was on stage with a guitarist friend singing a few numbers. He was followed by a couple of other acts - sadly neither of whom were particularly memorable. Then Nathaniel was back with his band, Doobies & Cheesecake. It was an "interesting" gig. Nathaniel's voice is big and powerful as well as tuneful - and he knows how to use the microphone, which is fortunate because he is able to carry his backing musicians, who all appear to be beginners at their trade. The percussionist kept reasonably good time on his drumbox and even played a few trills which were almost paradiddles, but the rhythm and bass guitarists were almost inaudible. The lead guitarist was OK with a simple picking style, but didn't adventure into bending notes or providing anything other than a very basic melody line. The lead guitar also tried to sing some harmonies, but unfortunately he doesn't have a brilliant singing voice and mostly gave the impression of competing with Nathaniel instead of supporting him. I don't want to appear too critical of these guys - they are all beginners and they are trying hard; but juxtaposed against the professional bands I usually work with, it was basically Nathaniel carrying the show. He sang a cracking good selection of songs, all covers, very well presented. In between D&Cs two sets a couple of young girls - Georgia and Lucy - got up and sang a couple of songs. A nice lazy guitar backing from Georgia and a sweet voice from Lucy. With singing lessons she could be good.  Overall an interesting night and I wish loads of luck to all the young musicians striving to keep music live - and I hope that if any of them read this they take my comments as constructive criticism! Loads more practice needed, but I really enjoyed an excellent evenings entertainment - thank you.

Georgia & Lucy


Motown - the musical

Thursday 8th September
MOTOWN - THE MUSICAL at The Shaftesbury Theatre,  London

Six of us attended a matinee performance of Motown - The Musical at The Shaftesbury Theatre. We had a little bit of reminscing first because four of us present, when we were teenagers, used to regularly gatecrash the finale of Hair when it was showing at The Shaftesbury in 1968. The show is about the life of Berry Gordy - The Detroit entrepreneur who started his own recording business which grew to be one of the most successful record labels in the Western World - Tamla Motown. A story of rags to riches with near bankruptcy in the middle. The story of the role of Motown music in helping to break down the racist barriers in the USA - emancipating black kids and encouraging the unification of youth regardless of colour. The story also tells how Gordy irritated and eventually lost all his major recording artists through his constant personal criticism and micromanagement - bringing him close to bankruptcy. These included the writing team Holland-Dozier-Holland as well as stars like The Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Commodores, Jackie Wilson, Steve Wonder, The Temptations, The Four Tops and eventually even his own girlfriend, Diana Ross. As Gordy himself had commissioned the musical it was surprisingly candid with open acknowledgement that he had badly managed the business and even the personal (and unnecessary) confession that when in bed with Diana Ross he had suffered erectile dysfunction! The main thrust of the musical was performances of many of the memorable songs which sprang from the Tamla-Motown label of which there were so many that  there was no time to perform all of them all the way through - so there were a lot of medleys and song snatches.  Lucy St  Louis, the girl who played Diana Ross, was particularly good in the second half as the mature Diana, but strangely had not stood out as special during the first act as the young Diana with her "no hit Supremes". Lucy has a great voice; we have seen her before - she played Little Eva in the musical Beautiful. In retrospect, the story line of Motown was a bit thin and sketchy - tacked around Smokey Robinson - Gordy's best friend - reminiscing to try to talk Gordy into attending a show marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Motown Records. However, the sheer volume of memorable songs, all brilliantly performed, more than compensated for the thin story line and most of the second half was more like a cabaret act than a narration of a story. We really enjoyed the show.


Saturday 27th August
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND at Scratchers,  The Three Lions, Godalming

It is a long haul from Bracknell to get to Farncombe, on the outskirts of Godalming, but a good gig and worth it to see The Jackie Lynton Band.  Also possibly the end of an era for this music venue because the landlord and Landlady of the pub are moving on in a few weeks, and there is no guarantee that the next managers will be music lovers. We arrived to find Jackie Lynton and Chris Bryant sitting outside the pub talking. Inside were Spud Metcalfe and Colin Pattenden fiddling about on stage, and Jacky, Sarah-Jane and Julie were in the audience.  It was a delight to also see Gordon Sellar in the pub - haven't seen him since he depped for Colin P on bass guitar with The Nashville Teens a couple of years ago.  We had a good chat about health and families - and he even bought me a large glass of wine - top man! Tonight he was deputising for Mike Windus as second lead guitar. Gordon is a very versatile guitarist, covering both bass and lead lines. Also in the pub was Adam Russell who plays harmonica on some of the bands numbers.  Eventually all the musicians were vaguely in the area of the stage, so Jackie started the show.   His voice was in excellent form and the audience loved him.  He invited Adam to sing a Chuck Berry number and got Chris to sing his arrangement of You Can't Always get What you Want.  It was a very hot evening but the place was packed and the show was great. During the second half Mike Windus came in - having finished whatever had occupied him. It was good to see him, but Jack inevitably picked on him as the butt of jokes about him leaving the band (which he isn't!).
I was also introduced to a guy named John who actually uses this website!  Thank you John - just knowing that someone finds it useful is so satisfying.


Gordon Sellar playing with The Jackie Lynton Band


Nashville Teens - Pyrford.

Saturday 20th August
THE NASHVILLE TEENS at Pyrford Sports & Social Club

Usually reticent of doing "pub gigs" - the Pyrford Sports & Social Club is one of those exceptional occasions where The Nashville Teens are happy to play a local small hall for something other than a private party. This is because not only does the club hold nostalgia for Ray because it is one of the first places where the original Nashville Teens were paid for performing back in 1962; but because it is "local", the audience tends to be mainly friends and relations, plus the core club members (many of whom are also friends). We took Sarah Williams and her friend Maz along - they had driven all the way from Broadstairs because they had been unable to get to see The Teens at their local A New Day Festival at Faversham a couple of weeks before! Sarah's link is that her late husband, Alan, was Ray Phillips best mate in the army when they did National Service back in the fifties. When we arrived Spud Metcalfe, Simon Spratley and Ken Osborn were standing outside in the cool evening air (it was very hot indoors) while Colin Pattenden was inside tuning the PA equipment and Ray Phillips was in the bands dressing room. Among the friends there were Rays partner Mel, with her daughter Chloe and granddaughter Kyra (aged twelve, and who had come with us to see her granddad in The Teens at the Faversham festival a few weeks before). Eventually we managed to herd all the band members onto the stage area and they kicked off the evenings proceedings with Rockin' On The Railroad.  Adam Russell was nowhere to be seen, but during the second number, Hoochie Coochie Man he rushed in late. He had been playing harmonica with another band at an earlier gig somewhere in Weybridge, and had raced across town to support the Teens. By the time they started the small club was packed and was even hotter than it had been when we arrived. The show was great and the dance floor was full as the band worked through their two main sets. The only diversion from the rehearsed set list was when Colin Pattenden managed to break a string (a rarity on his Alembic five string bass) and had to use his substitute guitar for his big solo bit in My Generation (part of the bands Who Medley). The sound quality was really good for a small hall and overall it was a great evening out.

Friday 19th August
PAUL'S JAM SESSION at Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club

Paul Watts was an A&R man with EMI records before he retired to become chairman of Sunbury Cricket Club and mastermind of the Sunbury Music Club. So he has good contacts!  This event was a celebration of Paul's seventieth birthday - which he celebrated by fronting a host of musician friends in four sets of sixties music to a packed hall. It really as packed, standing room only with friends and family overflowing back into the club bar because there just wasn't room to get into the hall!  Paul has a reasonably good singing voice and tonight he was backed by an amazing array of talent.  There were fifteen or sixteen musicians playing in all, and at one time I counted ten musicians on stage at the same time!  His entourage included ex members of Hermans Hermits, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and Love Affair, The massed jam session comprised four sets with only a ten or fifteen minute break between each and showcased music ranging from Buddy Holly and The Beatles through to The Eagles and Robert Johnson. Apart from Paul himself, I had several old musician friends to catch up with including Adam Russell, Colin Pattenden, Kevin Welling and Karl Green.  I had a good long conversation with Karl, who has spent much of the last six months playing with The Karl Green Band out in Chicago. He has been writing lots more music and reckons he already has enough to make a second CD with the band. He issued the first at the end of last year - which included a rare 1976 personal recording by himself and Lek Leckenby when they were still part of Hermans Hermits. In the audience we caught up with friends Pete and June and generally had a wonderful evening celebrating Mr Watts' birthday.

Paul Watts enjoying his birthday


The Teens on stage at A New Day Festival


Friday 5th August
THE NASHVILLE TEENS at A New Day Festival,  Faversham, Kent.

Dave Rees runs the recording company "A New Day Records" and was instrumental in setting up the Weyfest festival. This is a new venture and the venue was at Mount Ephraim Gardens, at Faversham in Kent. It was a three day event and The Nashville Teens were appearing on Friday afternoon. All our band members had different agendas, indeed, both Colin and Spud were appearing in another band later that evening; so unusually we all had diverse and separate travel arrangements. The venue- Mount Ephraim Gardens - is an Edwardian terraced gardens located at Hernhill, near Faversham. There were two stages; confusingly called the Four Candles Stage and the Fork Handles Stage. A wizard wheeze for the organisers, but damned confusing for the operators who were trying to put on a show! There was a band called Longwave playing on the Fork Handles stage as we got into the auditorium area - they were the first band of the festival on a Friday afternoon, so there was a minimal audience present. We headed for the sound stage to greet Barry, Clive & Murdoch, the sound guys (old buddies) and be introduced to Derek, the stage manager. Then we re-aligned our priorities and went to to the beer tent.  Unorfadox started playing on the other stage - I wandered around there and found Dave Rees - the owner of A New Day Records, which was sponsoring the event. He looked fairly grumpy so I just said hi, shook his hand and bought a T-shirt! The show was timed so that there was always a band playing - on alternate stages - which is fine in theory, but breaks down if one stage gets out of kilter and runs late!  Back in the Fork Handles arena (see- it IS confusing, you are lost already!) a Progressive Rock / punky band called The Room started to play. Punk flavoured Progressive Rock wasn't my favourite genre until then but these were more musical than most, performing their own songs and I watched with Jackie Lynton and Ray Phillips, who both agreed that The Room were a good band and that their singer had a good voice and a mature stage presence.  By now Simon Spratley had arrived, as had Cola & Ken Osborne and Trish & Spud Metcalf.  Give the disparate travel arrangements it was a bit of a relief to confirm that the whole band had actually got there. I was quite surprised at how many people I knew in the audience - either by sight, or having met at other gigs. As I noted above, Jackie Lynton had arrived early, as had Vanessa Lynton - whom I haven't seen for ages ; and Claire & Mike Windus had also arrived early with Sarah-Jane & Chris Bryant. Over on the Four Candles stage we could hear The Undivided start to play their set - so I herded the Teens members backstage at Fork Handles and we set up ready for their 15:45 slot.  The band only played a forty five minute set - and it was mid-afternoon on the first Friday of the festival, so we were a bit surprised (and pleased) that within a few minutes of Ken hitting the first chords of Rockin' On The Railroad, the arena was packed. The atmosphere was fantastic - the band had their adrenalin up and gave a stunning performance.  Simon was particularly brilliant on keyboards. The audience were jumping and dancing and the whole festival atmosphere took off. The band ended with Tobacco Road and to huge applause; no time for an encore because The Heavy Metal Kids struck up on the neighbouring Four Candles stage!  Ray and I spent a little time watching this band - it's a genre we both like and although he wasn't present that day, the bands resident sound engineer is a mutual good friend, Karl Green. We didn't plan to stay late, but because the M25 was likely to be a bad experience on a Friday rush hour, we found some food and coffee and watched some of Limehouse Lizzie - a Thin Lizzie tribute band. I'm not a big Thin Lizzie fan, but these guys were very good. Eventually we found Mel & Kaira - bade farewell to our buddies - a quick backstage hello to The Blockheads who were carting their equipment to the Four Candles stage - and onto the road for an uneventful trek home.

Monday 1st August
SWAN LAKE danced by The Bolshoi Ballet at The Royal Opera House

Without a doubt La Créme de la Crème.  The Worlds most famous ballet, danced by the Worlds most famous ballet dancers in the Worlds most famous auditorium.
They are renovating the entrances to the ROH, so we had to access through the old main entrance on Bow Street - which is much grander and more glamorous than the other access points. Inside we found our seats near the centre of the Donald Gordon Grand Tier - some of the best seats in the house.  The performance was awesome. The ROH always stages things BIG, and the corps de ballet was thirty strong - twenty four white swans and six black ones - and all were absolutely top class ballerinas.
The whole ballet is essentially a showcase for the ballet dancers skills - and there was much well earned applause. The male dancers playing The Jester and The Prince were particularly brilliant - loads of leaps many of which seemed almost gravity defying!  The ballerina dancing the part of Odette was amazing too - phenomenal poise and balance and such graceful movements.  Surprisingly the staging props were rather dull and sparse - although this probably helped emphasise the grace of the dancers. My only complaint is that I have seen much better stage effects of the scene where Odette appears "in a dream" (lit behind a gauze) while her alter-ego Odile is seducing The Prince. The clutter of grey hangings at the rear of the stage contrived that we could only just make out Odette - and the audience who were not seated centrally facing the stage probably couldn't see her at all. Never mind - that didn't detract from the absolute brilliance of the performers from the Bolshoi. There were lots of ovations and we felt exhausted on behalf of the performers when we eventually emerged in the damp drizzle of a typical London Summer evening.

The best ballet danced by the best dancers in the best venue in the whole World!


Frans ticket from 1966

Saturday 30th July

Fifty years ago this day Fran and her best friend Sally were working as chambermaids at Homestead Court Hotel in Welwyn Garden City. Both were aged just fifteen and they gallantly fought off the unwelcome attentions of the Argentinian and French national football teams who were staying at the hotel for the World Cup series. They were not, however. sexually harassed by the German team who were also staying at the hotel, but who were much more serious about their game. Herr Beckenbauer's crew trained diligently instead of chasing fifteen year old chambermaids. The hotel was within twenty miles of London and conveniently situated next to a large playing field - ideal for training in those days when security was not even a minor consideration. One by one the teams were knocked out of the competition and went home, leaving just the German team.  Then on the day of the Cup Final the managers of the hotel called all the staff into the dining room - they were all given tickets to attend the World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium that day as guests of the German Team.  There were no mobile phones, and most people didn't even have a phone at home anyway - so Frans parents had no idea where she had gone until she returned that evening.  The staff were bundled into coaches to convoy down the A1 to London in a police escorted convoy with the German Team bus. Which is how Sally and Fran came to have prime seats right behind the German goal for the 1966 World Cup Final.  Fifty years on Sally and Fran were relived their youth when they took Jono and I along to Wembley Arena to attend the BBCs programme re-living the highlights of the day - both in terms of football and music. The show was introduced by Jeremy Vine and Louise Minchin which an orchestra, and some actors (including Martin Freeman - Bilbo Baggins and Dr Watson). Although I have virtually zero interest in football, I was looking forward to the event because there was going to be live music from the time, including performances by various bands, some of whom I know reasonably well - The Troggs (sadly now without the late Reg Presley) and Chris Farlowe. There were also performances by the cast of Sunny Afternoon; Lamar,  Sophie Ellis-Baxter, Reef and Squeeze - plus some others I have never heard of - but all of whom were quite good. The only disappointment was Squeeze - who were nowhere near as musical as when they had Jools Holland in command. An exceptionally good turn was The Shires performing a Dusty Springfield number.  The programme was carefully timed (I guess it has to be for live radio) and well constructed - although some of the anecdotal "what was I doing on Cup Final day" stories were a bit tenuous and weak; I wish we had known - we could have volunteered Fran & Sally's story. As well as being broadcast live on Radio 2 and Radio Five Live - the programme was also streamed live to cinemas around the country and to TVs "on the red button"; and was recorded for later transmission on iPlayer. Only the front half of Wembley Arena was used - about a five thousand strong audience, but plenty big enough to get the proper "live audience" reaction for broadcasting. The event was quite moving - not only because it captured the essence of the excitement of the game, but because there were cameo appearances of Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst as well as readings by the daughters of both the late Alan Ball and the late Bobby Moore. Overall it was an exciting and fascinating entertainment, very well structured.


Saturday 16th July
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND at The Pyrford Sports & Social Club

I left home at seven to pick up Spud Metcalfe and his drumkit, and took them over to Pyrford Sports & Social Club to. Fran left about an hour later, collecting Trisha Metcalfe en route (girls don't like hanging around while we set up stage). The gig this evening was The Jackie Lynton Band - but only Jackie and Mike Windus were there when we arrived.  Colin Pattenden and Chris Bryant had clearly been there early because all their equipment was set up, but they were nowhere to be seen. They soon appeared, along with Adam Russell, Sarah-Jane, Jacky P and a lady named Stef (Adam's landlady) - they had all been out for Fish'n'chips and Prosecco to celebrate Adams birthday - which wasn't until Sunday, but it's never to early to practice. Good to catch up with Graham Pereira and Jo again - and part way through the first set we were joined by Melanie and Ray Philips.  The first set opened with a new number from the new CD, Rockin' At The Show Tonight.  This was followed up with Mess of The Blues; What Am I Living For; another new one called One more Beer and the classic Carl Perkins song, MatchboxAdam gave us a rare vocal solo with Don't You Lie To Me and the first set ended with Let it Rock. After the break Jack opened the set with one of his own numbers, Ready Willing and Able, after which he invited Ray onto the stage to try a couple. Ray gave us Hoochie Coochie Man and RedhouseJack is a generous band leader, next he invited Mike to sing Sea Cruise and Chris to deliver his own arrangement of You Can't Always Get What you Want. Jack came back and delivered It Hurts Me Too;  Ain't That A Shame; and Rip it Up.  The band finished with their finale rock medley based around Keep On Knockin' - but with lots of other snippets in it - and ending with Spuds climactic drum thrash.  An excellent gig. Much to everybody's surprise Adams guest Stef had managed to sleep through much of the performance despite the volume!  She blamed the Prosecco.  On the way home Spud played me the first six tracks of the new CD - to be released in about three weeks time -it really does sound good.

Jackie Lynton at Pyrford


above: The Pretty Things
below: The Zombies

Friday 15th July

The Hampton Pools Concerts are a local legend, but this was the first time Fran and I had actually visited one. The swimming pool has a large green area which is converted into a festival site for two or three weekends each year. This was the first concert of 2016 and the clientele queuing to get in were - on average - noticeably "a better class" than we are used to seeing at music festivals! We set up our chairs near the front and procured a litre of wine which was delivered in a plastic milk bottle (no glass allowed near the pool). There was a DJ playing sixties records just a little too loudly while a crowd of about three thousand talked and ate our picnics.

About eight o'clock The Pretty Things took to the stage.  Phil May and Dick Taylor are founder members and are the backbone of the band. I had not expected much from their performance, having been disappointed when I last saw them, which was an acoustic session at Carlo Little's benefit gig in 2006; but I was pleased that they were significantly better as an electronic ensemble. Phil was wearing a suit, tie and dark glasses looked like a fugitive from The Blues Brothers, while Dick has not aged quite so well, having lost his hair and looking a little wizened - but his guitar playing is still amazingly hot.  The rest of the current line up are Frank Holland on second lead guitar and harmonica, George Woosey on bass guitar and Jack Greenwood on drums. Jack is particularly energetic - which luckily is a requirement for the best (IMHO) Pretty Things music!  They played some early Pretties stuff and then moved into their "psychedelia" era, with a couple of numbers from their concept album SF Sorrow.  With about twenty minutes still to go Frank and George left the stage and Jack quietened his drumming while Dick and Phil relived their uttermost youth when Dick Taylor had been lead guitar with The Blues Boys (with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones - pre-Stones). They gave the most amazing acoustic raw blues performance - I almost couldn't believe that this was the same duo whom had disappointed me in 2006 - they were hot,  Dicks guitar playing was exemplary and Phils voice is a good fit for the old Mississippi blues styles of Robert Johnson and Bo Diddley.  The rest of the band returned to the stage for the finale and they wound up with what is perhaps my favourite Pretties number - Midnight To Six Man. Overall this was a great set, not least because my expectations had been quite low and the performance had been first class.

After a short break The Zombies took to the stage. They were QUALITYRod Argent and Colin Blunstone carry the show - Rods amazingly eloquent keyboard playing and Colin's fantastically musical vocal range are the hallmark of the band. Bass guitar was Jim Rodford, whom I have met several times in a variety of groups - The Animals, The Swinging Blue Jeans and The Kast Off Kinks;  He also spent eighteen years playing in The Kinks (replacing Pete Quaife, who's charity I support). Apparently way back in 1964 Jim was asked to join the original line-up of The Zombies, but turned then down because he had a better offer from another local band!  His son Steve Rodford was playing the drums and Tom Toomey was on lead guitar. The band started with some old Zombies hits - Tell Her No, Time of the Season, This Will Be Our Year and Care of Cell 44 among others before moving onto examples of Colin Blunstones solo hits, including What Becomes of The Broken Hearted and I Don't Believe In Miracles. The band also played three songs from their current work catalogue (CDs Breathe In, Breathe Out and Still Got That Hunger). Rod Argents turn came with some of the hits of the band Argent; including Hold Your Head Up which had an amazing organ solo; and a finale of God Gave Rock and Roll To You - which has one of the most iconic guitar riffs ever.  A very memorable evening and an excellent performance.

Friday 8th July
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND at Sunbury Blues Club at The Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

I drove alone to Sunbury because Fran was preparing for a dinner the next day - she wanted me out of the way! When I arrived DJ Steve Kemp was playing some marvellous blues and the hall was filling up. I found a seat at the front with Sarah-Jane, Trisha and Janis. We were soon joined by Colin Pattendens cousin Laurence and his wife Jane. I also caught up with Music Club regulars Peter & June and had a quick chat with Keith-The-Stalker and his posse.  I haven't seen Jackie Lynton for months, so I spent ten minutes outside before the gig catching up with his news, and with Mike Windus and Chris Bryant.  I was also able to compare notes with Colin Pattenden and Spud Metcalf about their impressions of the previous weeks Nashville Teens gig in Devon. Another pleasure was to catch up with Adam Russell, who stands in as a guest to play the harmonica on several numbers. The band have just finished recording a new CD and so were able to present a few new songs as well as the favourites. Eventually we were all called into the hall and the band played two sets through until gone half past eleven. As well as some of the new numbers from the new CD, Chris gave his personal arrangements of The Stones You Cant Always get What You Want and Status Quo's Roadhouse Mike also got a solo, and sang Sea Cruise. Jack was on form telling blue jokes and winding up Adam by calling him back and forth from the audience to guest on harmonica. The back end of the second half was a little tense because a very drunk woman (Julie) kept interrupting the performance and staggering into the stage equipment, and at one stage Adam Russell and I leapt forward to restrain her after she knocked Jacks music stand hard enough to spill his water all over his music. The band played on!

Jackie Lynton Band, Friday evening


The Pigs Nose gig
top: Ray Phillips - I Put A Spell On You
bottom: John Hawken - he put a spell on us.

Saturday 2nd July
THE NASHVILLE TEENS at The Pigs Nose Inn,  East Prawle, Devon

About as far South as you can possibly get in Devon lies the village of East Prawle, about half an hour of country roads beyond Salcombe. It is the home of the Pigs Nose Inn, which for many years has been the home of Peter and Lesley Webber.  Back in the sixties Pete was the "Roadie" for The Nashville Teens, after which he went on to be personal roadie for the late Dave Dee (of Dozy, Beaky, Lick & Tich fame), to own his own recording studio ("I'm too sexy for my shirt" was recorded by him and his son), and later to own and run a wonderful pub at the edge of beyond with an adjoining hall in which he could showcase his old mates from the the world of musical entertainment. That is what was happening on Saturday.  There was also a case of bad luck / good luck. Very sadly The Teens regular pianist, Simon Spratley, was unable to be there due to a prior engagement, but as luck would have it The Teens original founder pianist, John Hawken was in the UK on a brief visit from his home in the USA - and he came down to Devon with us to catch up with old friends.  He couldn't totally replace Simon because the keys and arrangements have all changed a bit over the last fifty years, but he had studied the keys and arrangements, Lesley had found a keyboard, and he was good to go. It is a long trip and I had the privilege of chauffeuring Ray and John which was almost ten hours of banter, memories, anecdotes and jokes. An entertaining road trip.
We all arrived at The Pigs Nose Inn at about five o'clock in the afternoon - Ken & Cola were there just before us and we only just beat Colin & Spud because we overtook them half a mile before we arrived at the village! Once in the hall we did a very through soundcheck, and a little bit of rehearsal to make sure John had picked up the trickier bits of the sets. Peter & Lesley Webber were evidently very please to see us and we met their son Joss, who is taking over management of the pub. Peter Webber is a great rock'n'roll character, originally The Nashville Teens' roadie, we went on to become Dave Dee's personal roadie, to own his own recording studio, and eventually to buy and run this freehold pub on very Southern edge of Devon - miles from anywhere.  The pub is a very buzzy place which serves pub grub as well as beer. It is the social focus of the village and in the fifteen years that I have known the place it has a well earned reputation for being staffed by extremely good looking young ladies whom the villagers refer to as "The Piglets". Being a good thirty five minutes drive away from the nearest police presence the place has always demonstrated a relatively relaxed compliance with licensing laws. In fact they used to have a huge chest full of fancy dress hats which everybody had to put on at closing time so that they could lock the doors and turn the evening into a private party! After we had sound checked I drove out of the village to find The Welle House, which was where my B&B was arranged. It was about a quarter of a mile from the village centre - close enough for a sobering walk back after the gig. There was another band opening the evening, very proficient but not to my taste - after they had finished I rounded up our band members and herded them onto the stage. The gig was amazing.  John has a very different sound from Simon and held it together really well. The band were extra tight, I guess working harder because they knew they had to support an unfamiliar keyboard player. The place was packed - I counted 160 at the peak, and there were others listening from outside (a lovely warm dry summer evening) and in the main pub. A very lively audience, most of them dancing and all thoroughly enjoying themselves. The gig was tremendous - and the performances of I Put A Spell On You and Tobacco Road were both exemplary and refreshing, perhaps because of the unfamiliar and very different piano style. The band finished with their encore, Born To be Wild and retired happy and smiling to the Green Room. John Hawken looked really happy - he was evidently reliving his youth with Ray and Peter.  A fantastic evening.



Saturday 25th June
PAUL KINGS SKELETON CREW at a private party in Pyrford.

"Pyrfest" is a private party for about fifty people in Graham and Sue Pereira's back garden at Pyrford. The neighbours get to share because it is a tad loud - but nobody seemed to mind. Graham's small back garden was crowded with gazebos and a bar. When we arrived we were pleased to see (and hear) Steve Kemp DJ'ing some nice blues music out across the surrounding housing estate. Although I didn't know most of the other guests, I recognised most of them from The Pyrford Social Club (which is just up the road from Grahams home).  "Pyrfest" is a very  small festival, only one band - and it is Paul Kings Skeleton Crew. It was good to catch up with Paul King, whom I haven't seen for ages and ages - and to chat with Colin Pattenden and Chris Bryant. None of the bands wives/girlfriends were there, but Janis Kemp and her sister Jayne soon arrived to keep Steve in order. Jayne had just that afternoon arrived back from a holiday in Italy, so she was quite tired. It was an interesting DJ set - Steve is very professional and provides music to meet the demands of each specific audience - but without any specific instruction today he played what he thought we would like - and it was a pretty eclectic and interesting selection. Ray Phillips and Wesley turned up just before the band started.  Skeleton Crew played two sets and during the break Colin Pattenden, Ray Phillips and myself managed to sort out the basic logistics for next weekends Nashville Teens gig (a trek to South Devon next Saturday).  During the second set Paul called Ray up to join him on stage for a few numbers, which were great. By now it was getting dark and knowing that the acoustics of outdoor Public Address Systems are often much louder away from the stage, I wondered if the neighbours in that part of Pyrford knew that they were being serenaded by a magic combination of founder musicians from Mungo Jerry, Manfred Mann's Earth Band and The Nashville Teens? Ray improvised the "Guinness Blues" and sang three or four other songs before he left the stage to let Skeleton Crew do their finale. After the show the party goers started to depart and Fran and I gave Ray & Wesley a lift back to their home in Addlestone. As we walked to the car - parked about a hundred yards away on another part of the housing estate - Steve's DJ'd music drifted through the night - much clearer and apparently louder than it was immediately in front of the stage!  As far as I know there were no complaints - it was very good music !


Paul King, Colin Pattenden, Ray Phillips and Chris Bryant

Saturday 25th June
BHARATANATYAM DANCE  at Watermans Arts Centre,  Brentford

Fran and I joined our friend  Monisha Patil Bharadwaj at The Watermans Centre in Brentwood. It was an annual dance in support of a Cancer Charity which ran from three in the afternoon until five. As well as being a "celebrity chef", and all round great cultural ambassador for all things Indian, Monisha is a classical Indian dancer - and runs regular classes for both Bharatanatyam (classical dance) and for Bollywood dancing (very modern dance). This annual event at Brentwood showcases her dance students and displays their skill as well as the absolute beauty of the dance form. As well as the dance display Monisha gave a short but absolutely fascinating talk about the traditional costume of the Bharatanatyam dancers - the dresses, the headgear, the jewellery and the ankle bells - relating them to Indian mythology and religious culture. The first half of the show was classical dancing - which was breathtakingly beautiful. After a break the second half focussed on a brief Bollywood film story with associated dances; more vigorous and with audience (vocal) participation. The little theatre at The Watermans Centre was packed.

picture right:  Monisha leading a display of Bharatanatyam Dancing.


Saturday 18th June
GENO WASHINGTON at The Half Moon,  Putney

I first saw the phenomenon which is Geno Washington at Bowes Lyon Youth Club at Stevenage in 1966. Not only was he unusual in that he was delivering "current" black music, when all the other black performers of the day were either real bluesmen (Like John Lee Hooker) or were Motown big hitters touring expensive venues like The Mecca Ballrooms. Geno was rare in that he was delivering black funk music to white folk at a local level. Sure he also appeared at big venues like the Mecca, but he also appeared at local youth clubs and ballrooms. He had a whole band - not just a "group" ! As well as guitars and drums there were dominant saxophones which made the sound extra special for the mid nineteen sixties, and then there was Geno himself. A bundle of endless energy with a huge white grin and an infectious laugh - he didn't just perform, he involved the audience to the extent that they were not only part of the act - they were in a frenzy of lovin' every moment. I have since learned that he is a member of the guild of Hypnotists - and he can clearly influence crowds very proficiently!  As his band started up their introduction the audience would stamp the floor and shout GENO! until he bounded onto stage and whipped them into even more of a frenzy with his apparently limitless energy. Back in sixty six he was twenty two years old and an unmissable act.  Since then I have come across him several times over the last few years and been impressed that he still retains his infectious energy; so I was please when my friend Penny P, who is a friend of Geno's wife, "Frenchie", invited Fran and I to join her at The Half Moon at Putney to see Saturday nights act.

The support band were also worthy of a mention, they are called The Serious Chord Squad, four guys, probably in their forties, who played nineteen sixties numbers. They were extremely good musicians and were tight (well rehearsed anyway); the bass player had a nice loose jazz style and the vocalist had a good range and a nice singing voice.  The drummer was steady and the lead guitarist was proficient.  They were singing sixties covers, but doing so with their own little twists, so it wasnt an attempt to be a tribute act of any sort. A good band, I would travel to see them again.

After an interval Fran, Penny, Karen (Penny's friend) and I were in what used to be called the "shag line", up at the very front of the crowd, and ready for The Ram Jam Band to start.  The band wound up the audience and Geno bounded onto stage - now aged 72 he was good - no, he was brilliant - but he stumbled a bit. The act was phenomenal, his exuberance filled the room and the audience boogied avidly, shouting back responses to his calls. However, after a while it became clear that while he was very alive and vibrant, he was having difficulty with his balance; staggering into he drums on a couple of occasions, and at one point staggering so badly that he dropped the microphone and three of the band members leaped forward to catch and steady him (very professionally - without breaking a note!). Along with most of the audience I suspect that Geno had either drunk a bit too much, or had overdone some other stimulant - but he still controlled the audience with his never ending banter and continual involvement. A natural professional. The audience were wound up and loving the pumping funky soul music - even I was dancing! Toward the end of the act Frenchie appeared side stage and beckoned Penny and myself to go backstage with her; she is a lovely lady but badly afflicted with a debilitating illness - she needs crutches to walk very far, and she was very worried that Geno was even more out of control than usual and might fall as he came off stage. So I was deputed to wait at the foot of the stage steps to help him offstage.  Geno sang two encores - which the audience loved, but Frenchie didn't - and when he did eventually finish his act, his lead guitarist steadied him from above while I held him up and guided him down the steps and into the Green Room. While he was clearly flaky on his feet he still wore an enormous grin and thanked us all profusely.  Frenchie was obviously quite unhappy with him and as I left to rejoin the audience Geno was starting to get a lecture from his lovely wife! Despite the concerns about this awesome entertainers health - this was easily the most exciting show I have seen for years - an absolutely brilliant display from a master of his trade.  Long Live Geno Washington!

pictures right: Geno and his frenzied audience




Friday 17th June
THE ACOUSTIC STRAWBS at Sunbury Blues Club at The Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

We arrived early to secure seats because this gig promised to be heavily sold out. Unfortunately the summer weather diminished the audience potential and there were only about a hundred people who actually paid to come in. This might have disappointed Paul the music club chairman a bit, but those of us who made the effort to attend were not disappointed. I didn't get the opportunity to chat to any of the band tonight, but I have met them all at various times because John Hawken, who plays in the "electric" version of the band was a founder member of The Nashville Teens and I have been for drinks with him and Chas Cronk, as well as being introduced to the rest of the band at other gigs.  This was the "acoustic" line up - just Chas Cronk (bass guitar, lead guitar and synthesiser);  Dave Cousins, lead guitar and lead vocals; and Dave Lambert (lead guitar and second vocals). Just to flag another connection - Dave Lambert had previously been a member of The King Earl Boogie Band!  A small world this music business. It was a joy to see Colin Pattenden was managing the PA at this gig, he had been drafted in at the last minute because the clubs usual PA provider was off sick. I first saw The Strawbs back in the sixties when they were predominantly a "folk/rock band", very much in the same class as The Incredible String band, Al Stewart and Paul Simon; all regular performers at Les Cousins, my favourite London Club in those days.  I have also seen them several times in the last decade or so as an "electric band" (I guess with a genre label of "Prog Rock" ) - very loud and melodic with keyboards, synthesizers and drums. Tonight, however, they were appearing as an "acoustic band". They were due to appear at the club last summer, but their tour had to be cancelled because Dave Cousins had been taken ill. He is better now and was on top form on Friday night; his very distinctive voice a little lower and a little more gravelly than it once was - but still distinctly his voice - a real trademark of the band. The evening was presented as a "Magical History Tour", with a lot of Dave Cousins deadpan humour interwoven with some genuine reminiscing, starting with some of the bands very early stuff, like The Man Who Called Himself Jesus and Oh How She Changed. (I can recall them performing the former at a folk club in North London sometime toward the end of the sixties). Throughout the performance they worked their way forward in time, through the line ups with Sandy Denny and later with Rick Wakeman, and the penultimate song played was Autumn - a classic and one of my favourites - which had been created with John Hawken in the band. They finished with Shine On Silver Sun. In the cold light of day I have to concede that The Strawbs deliver quite a gloomy type of Prog Rock - but the combined harmonisation of their voices and the accompanying harmonisation of their guitar work, all set against the bed provided by Chas Cronk's synthesiser backgrounds is amazing.  It really takes me back to the late sixties. A good show.

Sunday 22nd May

A long trek for us but worth it because the Hitchin Folk Club had been my first real exposure to live music.  The trek was worth it not only because we had an afternoon meeting with old friends Dave & Pauline for a late Sunday lunch at a village pub near Hitchin; but also because our musical friends Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke were playing there on this night. When we arrived at The Sun Hotel we re-introduced ourselves to Kieron - the guy who runs the folk club. Dave and I hadn't been here for many many years, but we had been founder members of the original Hitchin Folk Club back in 1965 (then at the now long defunct Talisman Hotel near Hitchin Station) - and Kieron and his good lady Maureen have been running the club ever since. Fran & Mike were already there and we had a nice little chat, delivered a pot of my Frans home made marmalade to Fran McG and did a bit of planning for an adventure at the Royal Academy of Art in a couple of weeks time.  The duo were not the "main attraction" - they were opening for a guy named Brooks Williams.  They started playing and were on tip top form, with Mikes guitar ringing out and Frans rich voice (deep honey with just a hint of gravel) at its very best. I was grateful that they performed Spoonful and dedicated to me - it was the first number I ever experienced them playing in that church a few hundred yards down the road. The booming bass line of Spoonful resonating in the church and Frans mellifluous voice echoing around the Nave immediately seduced me way back then, and still does today. They also performed a couple of their new numbers, including one called (I think) Memories To Hold which was very good. Their sound is even richer now that Mike is performing more harmonies - he has a very good voice. Among the other numbers they gave us were Little Red Hen and Sitting On Top Of The World.  As "openers" their whole set was only forty minutes and they wound up with their own take on Route 66 - an excellent version with a clear jazzy edge. A great show and on its own was well worth the seventy mile drive, but the other performer made it even more worthwhile.  I have to confess that I'd never heard of the guy they were opening for - probably because of my focus on old sixties bands to the exclusion of all other live music except my friends - and I was pleasantly surprised.  Brooks Williams is a tall, American singer/songwriter who has lived in the UK for the last twenty four years. He opened with an interesting version of Statesboro Blues and closed with a slightly different version of Sitting on Top Of The World; but apart from Hesitation Blues I don't recall any other standards - most of his repertoire was stuff he had written himself. I very much liked his song writing style; he encompasses a breadth of musical styles and displays a wry sense of wording ("The places I used to haunt don't haunt me anymore") which made me smile. Add to this his really amazing singing voice, with great vocal range and an ability to sustain notes for improbably long periods. His exemplary guitar work - brilliant and dextrous; and his choice (and mastery) of interesting instruments - he sported a regular six string with pickup; a "National" (resonator) and a "cigar box". The latter was literally a cigar box mounted on a long neck with three strings and a pickup - and it sounded fabulous. To cap all this he is tall, good looking and oozes charisma! An amazingly entertaining and memorable show.  Fran and Mike joined Brooks on stage for a jammed finale and the audience loved every minute. Kieron is obviously doing a good job with that club.





left:  Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke

right: Brooks Williams



Tuesday 17th May
LAWRENCE AFTER ARABIA  at  The Hampstead Theatre, London

A complex manoeuvre to attend - Fran, Jacky & Colin were coming from Chertsey and I was travelling down from a day in Stevenage. I mistimed my approach and got there more than two hours early! But found a newspaper and a restaurant to while away the time. Eventually we rendezvoused in the bar at The Hampstead Theatre and made our way to our seats.  We had not been to this theatre before and it is very well appointed with great acoustics and lighting - and uninterrupted views of the stage throughout the house - very impressive.  The play was by a local Hampstead author named Howard Brenton, and it told the (invented) story of how Charlotte Payne-Townshend and her husband George Bernard Shaw, edited the drafts of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom for their friend Thomas Lawrence - better known as TE Lawrence - or Lawrence of Arabia.  The gist of the play was that TEL had been beating himself up about his treachery in letting down King Feisal and the Arab cause, and in his draft of The Seven Pillars he allegedly hinted at an episode where he had been badly buggered and flagellated by one of the Sherifs as a punishment for letting down the Arab cause. Of course that episode never happened although in the play TEL hallucinated it because "it should have happened".  In this story TEL was found out as a liar by his friends and the text was edited out.  As it happens The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of my favourite books - I carry a copy around on my iPad for "dipping into" when I need to sample amazing prose. The play was well composed, had a good balance to it, portrayed the characters fairly sympathetically and the scenario surrounding the plot was historically correct - as far as is recorded (TEL was a weird bloke - so you never know.) and the subject of the plot - the dubious events of the week before the fall of Aqaba - was neatly wrapped up so as not to appear in the final book (which it didn't). A fascinating play - loved it!

Sunday 15th May
TERRY REID & FRIENDS  at  The Lexington, London N1

Notable because Terry Reid didn't turn up!  He was apparently indisposed with a serious lung infection. Despite this it was an amazing gig last night. I got there just after seven and immediately found Dave Quaife standing outside talking with Mick Bolton (ex Mott The Hoople) and John Hellier - it was great to catch up with them again. Then Penny Pound and Shen Brandt came tootling down the street - Penny tottering on impractically high heels and looking seventeen rather than her real age, and Shen looking thirty years younger than she really is (which is even older than me). We had a fine time chatting and catching up before we went upstairs to see the music, and were greeted by the news of Terry Reid's lung infection. It didn't matter, most of us had come for the buzz of meeting up and seeing each other again. It was also good to catch up again with Dee Webb, the mad matron from Scotland69am.com who had three other "matrons" in tow - all four young ladies were dressed in black and sporting improbable looking long ash blonde hair. Although Terry wasn't there, the support acts were interesting. Like a lot of Quaife/Hellier productions, they were young people (in their thirties and forties) with a fascination for nineteen sixties music. The first band on were called The St Johns Wood Affair and they played twee psychedelic music, mainly their own, but tasting very much of 1967. They were dressed in the mid sixties mock Edwardian style, with stripey blazers and had a "nice" feel to them. I have to confess that this isn't my favourite style of music, but it's Ok for a while and their performance was well choreographed and overall excellent. Next up were The Most - a Who/High Numbers style band - but with a definite punk streak running through their presentation. Although they played mainly Who standards, they found room for some Small faces, Yardbirds and even Beatles classics. As a band they were impressively tight, and impressively loud; but just a little too punk for my taste - a bit too much thrash rhythm guitar. Can't fault their passion though and they were exceedingly popular with the audience; my only real complaint was their handling of Slow Down - which was delivered far too fast to be classed as Old School R&B. Nevertheless - an exciting and interesting evening.  All too soon it was half past ten and the gig finished.  After bidding everyone farewell I set off home and after a clear run out of London was able to be in bed before midnight!

Pictures right:  Top: The St Johns Wood Affair;  Bottom: The Most


Lynton at The Maltings

Thursday 28th April
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND  at  Farnham Maltings

Thursday night Fran and I drove to Farnham to see The Jackie Lynton Band playing at The Farnham Maltings. We were reasonably early and got ourselves a table quite near the front which we shared with Clare Windus and her son James. Colin Pattenden, Spud Metcalfe and Mike Windus were setting up their instruments, Chris Bryant and Sarah-Jane were holding court with a lot of locals from Northchapel who had come to see Chris perform while Jackie Lynton and Adam Russell were chatting at the back of the room. Poor old Colin wasn't at all well, but was soldiering on playing anyway. The show must go on! After getting some drinks and establishing our table places I went to join them.  It was good to catch up with Neil Hill, and to see Keith-The-Stalker and his posse again. The acoustics in The Maltings are not good, but Jack managed to sound great. He played a very eclectic mix of songs - especially considering that this was notionally a blues night. There was quite a big audience for the confined space, perhaps eighty people and another twenty in the bar area. Jack was on form for joking as well as singing; he quickly cottoned that a lot of this audience had not seen him before, so he rolled out loads of old jokes and was at his entertaining best - it was good to see him sparkling on form.  He sang many of his own songs, including Rock'nRoll Whisky Blues and If You Want To Get A Band Together; as well as many standards such as George Harrisons Isn't it A Pity; Ray Charles' Unchain My Heart; and Chuck Berry's Let It Rock. Overall it was a very good evening, the only downside being that it was a weekday so we couldn't stay late afterwards.  On the way out I had a quick chat with Monica Boogaloo - the organiser - and reminded her that I had other bands who might be useful for her blues nights.


Saturday 23rd April
UP AND RUNNING  at The Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club - again!

Fran and I attended Sunbury Cricket Club for the second evening in a row - this time to support our friends Peter & June Barnard who had organised a dinner with music to raise funds for a couple of local Spelthorne Dementia Charities. In contrast to the previous nights audience in this same hall, there were only about eighty people sitting down to dinner, followed by a performance by a local band called Up And Running.  The band were reasonably good, singing sixties covers which were  generally very well presented. The drummer delivered most of the vocals, and the lead guitarist was evidently a Hank Marvin worshipper, because he played several - very difficult - Shadows instrumental numbers absolutely note perfect.  I was very impressed.   The audience was quite small, but most of them were up dancing for much of the evening and the band kept delivering encores until way past their planned finishing time. One of Junes friends had performed a sponsored parachute jump that morning, sponsored for the same charities - and between her efforts plummeting over Sussex and our efforts eating and dancing, we raised about five hundred pounds for local dementia support.

Up and Running


Mike D'Abo at the piano on Friday

Friday 22nd April
AN EVENING WITH MIKE D'ABO at Sunbury Blues Club at The Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

Fran and I made the effort to drive up to Sunbury Cricket Club early to make sure we had a seat for this evenings Sunbury Music Clubs presentation of The Mike D'Abo Trio. The band comprised Mike himself on the Roland Keyboard, and a couple of excellent musicians named Steve (Lead guitar) and Dick (Bass Guitar).  The club was laid out in theatre style rather than the usual array of tables, and we managed to get seats just five rows from the front. We had arrived about an hour early, but this was a good thing because by the time the show started the club was rammed! I have never seen it so full, there must have been three hundred people including those who couldn't get in and were listening from the bar outside. About two hundred and fifty were packed into a venue usually occupied by between eighty and a hundred of us. Paul Watts, the club chairman, was well pleased with the turnout - he had originally seen the booking as a bit of a risk, but it turned out well. I've briefly met Mike a couple of times when The Nashville Teens have been playing the same gigs as The Manfreds.  He is quite tall, friendly and - like Paul Jones, his partner in The Manfreds, a little bit religious in his attitudes and vocabulary - but an excellent song writer and performer. After introducing his fellow musicians, Mike started by talking about his childhood, his upbringing and his musical influences. His first band, The Band Of Angels, was made up of fellow ex-pupils of Harrow School.  not very successful, but it did get him to meet The Beatles and be talent spotted by Manfred Lubowitz as a potential replacement for Paul Jones. As the evening proceeded the trio played examples of the sort of music which had influenced him, and some which he had written - ending the first half of the evenings entertainment with his classic Handbags and Glad Rags (made a hit on two occasions by Chris Farlowe and Rod Stewart.)  In the second half the format of raconteur and musician continued, but with less talking and more music - which the audience were encouraged to sing along with. During his career Mike has been a prolific song writer, but is the first to admint that ninetynine percent of his output isnt well known! Among the other examples of his own music which he played were Build Me Up Buttercup (a hit for The Foundations), Ha Ha Said The Clown (a hit for himself with Manfred Mann) and he even sang his famous TV jingle "A finger of fudge is just enough....." which probably earned him more than any of his hit songs! Towards the end he sanga much more personal song called Tiny Miracles. A very moving song which he wrote about his twin children when they were born eight years ago - a bit of a miracle because fifteen years before their birth, when he married his third wife, he had an operation to reverse his vasectomy - which didn't appear to have worked for years until these "miracles" came along. Overall a stunning evening and a fascinating personal insight into the life of this great songwriter; thoroughly enjoyed.


Saturday 19th March:
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND at The Pyrford Sports & Social Club

Fran and I spent Saturday evening at the Pyrford Social Club with The Jackie Lynton BandSpud Metcalfe was working somewhere in Wales so we had his brother John deputising on drums - John is a very accomplished drummer and has played with Jackie a couple of times before.  Before the gig we had a quick catch up with Mike Windus, Chris Bryant, Colin Pattenden and Jack himself.  Adam Russell was there too, and had brought me a present!  Some weeks ago we had a lively discussion about a weird film called "The Lobster", and in a souvenir shop somewhere on the South coast Adam had found a small salmon pink jug in the shape of a lobster - which he had bought for me.  Nice birthday present. I think.  Fran and I sat with Sarah-Jane and with Chris Bryant's sound man, Tom and his girlfriend Tash - both lovely people. The acoustics were good on Friday, the sound system crisp and clean and the band that little bit extra tight to support John on drums - an excellent show.  Jack was also in joke telling mood, which makes for great entertainment.  The following day was my sixty-seventh birthday and as well as singing Happy Birthday to me, the band did two dedications, both of which sounded fantastic. The first was Let It Rock - their heavy metallish interpretation of the famous Chuck Berry song; and the second was Mess of Blues; a wonderful collision between Elvis Presley and Status Quo !  The new sound system also gave Mike Windus a much better airing than he normally gets and his version of Sea Cruise was terrific. A really good evening with the good folk of Pyrford.

Jackie at Pyrford


Jack at The Badgers Wood

Saturday 12th March:
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND at The Badgers Wood pub, Baughurst

None of has the faintest clue where Baughurst was until Saturday night. In fact it is a tiny village just a few hundred yards from the perimeter of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston - so some of us had marched their fifty plus years ago in earlier incarnations of ourselves!  The Badgers Wood is an old pub with low ceilings and a nice cosy atmosphere. There was a great turnout of fans, including our lovely ex-next-door neighbour, Anne-Marie, and her new man, Neil, who were the first that I spotted when I entered. Then I saw Neil Hill - and it was a huge pleasure to see Keith-The-Stalker and his posse again.  I cant recall when I last saw them, must be at least a couple of years ago. Trish and Sarah-Jane were there representing the WAGs; and so were Mo & Kate - who were  amazed that Jack should be playing at what turns out to be their local pub! We agreed that it was rare to see Jack travel so far from Woking without having a nose bleed!  The rest of the band were  all present and correct.  Jackie was chirpy and bright - I was able to wish him a Happy New Year cos I haven't seen him for so long. Colin Pattenden was happily adjusting microphones when I arrived - we had already connected that day because he and I had been trying to sort out the logistics for a Nashville Teens gig scheduled for early July down in Devon. It was good to catch up with Mike Windus who was quietly tuning his guitar in a corner - we compared notes on The T-Birds whom i had seen last week. It seems that we share a taste for Rockabilly music, and a huge admiration for "stand-up drummers".  It turned out that Mo & Kate also know the T-Birds - but being professional rock'n'roll dancers they weren't so excited because Rockabilly is too fast for their brand of dance. Chris Bryant arrived a little late with Adam Russell, but not as late as Spud Metcalf who rolled in just twenty minutes before the gig was due to start and started setting up his drumkit. Anne-Marie, Neil and I retired to the back of the pub before the music started (we had been sitting right under one of Colin's very efficient PA speakers) and the show started.  The band were - as expected - very good, despite a relatively high alcohol content! Although I haven't seen Jackie for about three months, the act hasn't changed any (Jack writes a lot of songs and it isn't unusual to hear a new one every now and again.) During the second half Neil Hill and I dragged two tables back to give Mo & Kate a chance to display their talents. The audience was captivated as the couple jived, performed quite a few "drops" (Kate drops backward and Mo catches her under the neck just before she hits the ground!) and one throw (Mo literally swings Kate over his head) in this case Kate's shoes left two long scuff marks on the low ceiling of the pub - so they didn't repeat that manoeuvre - although they did terminate with Mo swinging Kate upside down and holding her in that pose for the last few beats. An excellent show.

Friday 11th March:
KINKS NIGHT at The Clissold Arms pub, London

On Friday night I drove round to Fortis Green in North London to meet up with old mate Dave Quaife at The Clissold Arms. Dave is brother of the late Pete Quaife, founder member and bass guitarist with The Kinks.  The pub is directly opposite the house in which Ray & Dave Davies grew up, and is where the Kinks first played before they were famous. The band clearly still command a dedicated following (of fashion?) and the front room of the gastro-pub is dedicated as the "Kinks Room" with loads of memorabilia around the walls and a small stage for live music.  Dave Davies has been known to drop in for a drink every now and again. The journey there wasn't bad, a bit of a holdup at Twickenham because the evening rugby was just finishing, but I arrived at Fortis Green before the music had started and had a nice chat with Dave. He introduced me to a DJ named Dee Webb, who seemed like a lot of fun - I must catch one of her programmes on Scotland69am.com one day soon. There were three acts this evening but I only stayed for the first two because I had promised myself I would leave at ten o'clock to get home at a reasonable hour. The acts were young men (mid twenties) with acoustic guitars playing mainly Kinks songs.  Very good interpretations by young folk who must be the grandchildren of the original fan base. However, like many talented musicians, these guys were at their most impressive when they delivered some of the songs they had written themselves. I missed the last act because of the long journey home - but overall it was a good night.

Two of the Friday night acts


Sunday 6th March:
THE T-BIRDS at Foresters Southend

I have taken Ray Phillips to a couple of "Tales From The Woods" shows - where the impresario Keith Woods provides a house band and "names" from the fifties and sixties appear to reprise some of their music. At these gigs I have become acquainted with some of the "house band" - all brilliant session musicians who can perform almost any genre at the drop of a hat (and sometimes even faster when they are working with Chas Hodges!). Their keyboard player is a young lady named Claire Hamlin who did an amazing job at The Borderline gig in January; and on Sunday night I wanted to see - and hear - what sort of music she liked when she was left to her own devices. She has a band called The T-Birds, three ladies who like to entertain. The gig was in a pub right on the seafront at Southend - a mere 98 mile drive from Bracknell - but I do LOVE live music.  I didn't know what to expect, but The Foresters was wonderfully seedy, dirty venue and evidently operated as a strip club during the week (lots of signs saying "no touching").  An old Victorian building standing alone amid a desolate parking lot which looked more like a bomb site. Out front were a dozen old cars, setting an expectation that the clientele inside were not on upper quartile incomes. Standing a little away from these vehicles was a very new looking polished and clean black Bentley with darkened windows and the number plate J08NNY.  This was potentially the HQ of the Essex Mafia.  Inside I was not disappointed by the very shady looking clientele. A couple of shaved heads atop very dark glasses in one corner, the rest - about forty souls in all - were "Rockabilly" - some quite young, but dressed up as fifties teddy boys and girls - and most in their late sixties or seventies, some with long grey hair, others with improbably black hair swept back in quiffs.  Men in painted leather jackets, or drapes; ladies in their sixties wearing short flared skirts with loads of petticoats and sporting faded tattoos! The "disco" was perfect - it could well have been based on 78rpm records - genuine 1950's rock'n'roll. The inside of the club was dim with notices around the wall advising us not to touch the dancers who apparently cavort naked there on other nights of the week. The bar was long and cold and the beer prices suggested a subsidised club rather than a public bar (money laundering? who knows.) In fact the only thing missing was a thick fog of smoke - but modern rules prevail and all the smokers were doing so outside.  I spotted my pal Claire Hamlin and we had a quick chat before her band - The T-Birds - went on stage. I didn't get to meet the other two band members, but they did have a consistent "look" - being all in red tops emblazoned with the words "The T-Birds". There was a tall girl in black trousers and a red blouse top playing double bass and supplying most of the vocals; and a lady drummer with her hair in bunches and tattoos all over her arms - she was wearing fishnet stockings, hot pants and a red crop top blouse tied provocatively at the front.  Claire wore trousers and a red shirt, and wears her hair in a rather fetching flat topped crop.  The drummer was amazing - she played standing up (real Rockabilly style) and was both fast and precise - and she impressively kept her timing.  Claire is an awesome pianist and it fast became clear that she loves rock'n'roll and prefers the Jerry Lee Lewis style of "hitting" the piano, rather than playing it peacefully. I was well impressed by these girls, they sang a couple of original songs plus a string of real nineteen forties and fifties songs. The audience were clearly enraptured by the whole event, and the skirts flew as some of them danced genuine jive moves. The first set ended with one of my favourite piano pieces - Nutrocker.  Originally by B. Bumble and the Stingers - Claire blew us away with her playing - and the drummer girl got the staccato rock drumming just perfect.  I was joined at the gig by a pal, Doug, who lives in nearby Leigh-on-Sea. The girls took a break half way through their act and Claire came over to join us for a chat - I apologised that I wouldn't be staying till the very end because of the long journey and thanked her for the amazing show so far. So as well as fine entertainment and an exciting environment, I got a long chat and a beer with Doug - an excellent evening, and well worth the 196 mile round trip!

above: The publicity shot
below: real life in a striptease club.


Saturday 5th March:
THE NASHVILLE TEENS at Pyrford Social Club

Fran was busy so I set off on my own to collect Trisha and Spud Metcalf and his drumkit on Saturday evening. We arrived at Pyrford just before eight o'clock and found the rest of the band already there. Simon Spratley was soundchecking his keyboards, while Ken Osborne was tuning his new guitar (which he didn't actually use, but I'm told you can never have too many guitars). Ray Phillips was chatting with his partner Melanie and her friend Olga, and Colin Pattenden was at the club bar talking to Graham, the club chairman. Adam Russell was there with his case of harmonicas, and he had also bought Spud a present - a Union Flag jacket for the Who Medley!  The band started playing soon after nine o'clock, and while they were good, there were quite a few mistakes - and most of which the audience probably didn't notice. At the intermission break we had a quick band meeting and agreed that everyone had been far too comfortable and what they needed was an adrenalin burn to get them back to that customary tightness; so when they went into the second half they were all feeling a bit chastised and wanted to make sure it wasn't them personally who let the others down. Result! They were amazingly tight and produced an exemplary brilliant second half of the show.   Another brilliant night from The Nashville Teens.



Ray & Colin enjoying singing on Saturday night                                            The Nashville Teens at Pyrford                                   Spud in his new "Who" jacket


Monday 8th February:
YOUNG VOICES at O2 Arena in London
with The Beatbox Collective, Tom Billington, Laura Wright, Katie Melua, Lemar and Ben Haenow

Fran and I made the long pilgrimage to Greenwich peninsula to the O2 Arena on Monday afternoon to see our Grandson #4 performing, with 7,804 other Primary School children in the annual Young Voices Concert. Special this year because it was in support of one of my favourite charities, The Nordoff-Robbins Foundation. We did connect up with daughter-in-law Liz, but none of us actually saw #4 because it is a vast arena, and even though we knew which block of kids was his school, we couldn't make out faces, even with binoculars.  That must have felt really strange for Liz and the other twenty thousand parents who had come along - to see their children off to school in the morning, to know that they are in the same room for the performance, but not to actually talk to them until they all got home around midnight!  There were in the order of one hundred school choirs assembled - all dressed in white "YV" T-shirts. Each school had been rehearsing in isolation for months, and had spent most of the day rehearsing together in the O2 to prepare for their evening as The Young Voices Choir.  The format of the event was essentially a medley sung by the Young Voices Choir, followed by a guest artist singing one of their own songs, followed by another song by the guest artist with participation from the choir, and then another medley by the YV Choir before the next guest artist came on.  A great format which showcased the guests without leaving the children hanging around with nothing to do for too long. It certainly showed the children (allegedly 7805 of them) a broad spectrum of music ranging from the heavy beat of The Beatbox Collective, to the classical soprano of Laura Wright. She was one of the more impressive artists in that she started the Agnus Dei very much as JS Bach had intended it, but half way through the music surreptitiously collected a driving a heavy beat and Laura was joined on stage by a street dance troupe called Urban Strides demonstrating how classical music can be cool too.  The highlight of the night for me was Katie Melua  who sang her hit Nine Million Bicycles before leading the Young Voices Choir in Wonderful LifeLemar sang The Letter (his recent hit) and joined the YV Choir for Crazy Love.  The highlight for the kids was doubtless Ben Haenow, who was greeted with screams from the children which was very reminiscent of the way our generation greeted The Beatles.  He has an amazing voice and sang his hit Every Tear You Cry before leading The YC Choir in singing Freedom.  The finale was all the guests and the YV Choir singing River Deep Mountain High.  An absolutely brilliant show - I hope it raised loads of money for Nordoff-Robbins, and inspired most of those 7,805 kids to better appreciate the power of music.

Nearly 8000 Young Voices at the O2


Saturday 7th February:
THE LION KING at The Lyceum in London

Fran and I too our American grandchildren - Jake and Gemma - into London to "expose" them to theatre!  After a lunch at Bella Italia in Covent Garden we moved on to The Lyceum Theatre and took our seats for the Sunday matinee performance.  Fran and I are old hands - we took the eldest two of our English Grandchildren to see this a couple of years ago, and Jake & Gemma knew the story because they had seen the Disney film. The show was just as vibrant as I remember - and after all these years is clearly still a sell out. The theatre has introduced a service whereby stewards wander the aisles before the show taking orders for drinks and ice creams both then and at the interval. The order is placed via an app on their mobiles phones and presumably somebody in the bar is immediately making up the order, because the drinks are delivered within minutes. The prices are at a slight premium, but the service is friendly and efficient. The interval drinks were being delivered to us almost as soon as the curtain had gone down!  The kids really enjoyed the show and talked about it all the way home, even telling the taxi driver all about the best bits!  That's four grandchildren down - two more to take to the show - if the run gets extended again.

Thursday 4th February:
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY by Matthew Bourne was presented at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking.

Fran and I have seen this ballet before - but Matthew Bourne has a reputation for "bigger and better the second time around" - so we were looking forward to seeing this performance. We were not disappointed - the show was fantastic. The set and the costumes were terrific; ranging from the musty dusty gothic look if the 1890's faeries, via the 1911 jolly tennis match setting where the Princess gets her finger pricked;  through to the 2011 wakening scene with the evil wolves being dressed in hoodies with skull masks. There are two conveyors running across the stage to make the choreography weirder and the technology of the costumes was amazing - they looked gothic and dusty -but flowed and swirled fantastically! There was also some pretty amazing marionette technology to bring the baby princess to life. The athletic dancers displayed Bourne's amazing marriage of modern dance with classical ballet movements at its best.   This ballet has one of the most erotic dance scenes I have seen, between the Princess and her secret lover - the palace gardener. The production has a twisted version of the classic Sleeping Beauty plot. Bourne has made the faeries into vampires - but apparently good ones! and in order to accommodate the plot twists ate the end, the wicked witch dies before he Princess gets to prick her finger, but the witches son takes her place to deliver her vengeance. Instead of a simple kiss, wakeup and live happily ever after ending, after tricking the gardener into kissing the Princess and then rapidly abducting him, the wicked witch/son is about to make a human sacrifice of the now revived and totally confused Princess. At the very last minute she is saved by her lover (himself now a vampire) and the faerie King. A weird plot - but beautifully presented.

Vampire faeires at Princess Auroras birth


Ray singing at The Borderline

Sunday 31st January :
TALES FROM THE WOODS BAND performed at The Borderline Club in Manette Street Soho
with guest artists
Wee Willie Harris, Dave Berry, Ray Phillips, Cliff Bennett and P.P. Arnold

The event started for me at lunch time, I drove over to Addlestone to collect Ray Phillips and his son Wesley, then on to Chertsey to collect Cliff Bennett - after which we all trekked into London to get to The Borderline Club about two o'clock in the afternoon. Tales from the Woods productions are organised by impresario Keith Woods, and are renowned for attracting "fans" - and I mean "fanatics". Lovely people, but with bulging carrier bags full of records, books and photos which they want signed. Dave Berry had driven down from Sheffield and arrived at the same time as us, and we were all soon joined by Wee Willie Harris and P.P. Arnold with her lady backing singer.  The Tales From The Woods Band were already on stage doing a soundcheck and included a couple of old acquaintances, the lovely and talented Claire Hamlin on keyboards and "Too Tall" Tony Hall on Saxophone (Tony used to play with Cliff Bennett's band, The Rebel Rousers.)
The afternoon was spent sound checking and popping out for sandwiches and burgers every now and then.  The Borderline gig was scheduled to run from five thirty until eleven - the place then re-opens as a disco from midnight until four o'clock in the morning - but we were all too old for that!  P.P. did the first sound check - not a brilliant rapport with the band, and then locked herself away until her time on stage, which didn't seem to be too friendly of her. Perhaps she wasn't well?  The rest of us had fun goading Wee Willie Harris who was desperate to "rehearse" (rather than sound check), but the other three singers managed to get on stage first.  Harris is a great Rock'n'Roll singer, but has a reputation for hogging the stage and impacting everybody else's soundchecks!  We had a great time chatting in the Green Room and meeting with the fans - some of whom we know quite well - Perry, Wendy and Lucky for instance are regulars at such gigs (We reminisced how I had smuggled Perry backstage at The Star Club fiftieth anniversary gig in Hamburg a few years ago.)  The talk of the day was - of course - the recent demise of so many elder statesman musicians including Sid Phillips . late saxophonist with Cliff's band. 
The doors opened an the place quickly became packed. Wee Willie Harris was first on when the doors opened. He was excellent - a cantankerous Scotsman off stage, but a fine entertainer with a great voice when he is performing.  Ray was next up - he too was excellent.  The band taxed him a bit with the speed and key of the first number - Rockin' On The Railroad - but he sang it well and then drove the band for the rest of the set. The performers all loved the session, as did the audience.  I only saw a part of Dave Berry's act because Ray and I were backstage recording an interview for a Liverpool based radio station - but I had watched all of his sound check - Dave is one of my favourite performers from the sixties scene.  Then it was Cliff's turn on stage - another fine rocker, totally in control and revelling in the blare of the brass section of the TFTW Band.  We then packed our bags, intent on watching the first couple of PP Arnolds numbers before taking ourselves home - none of us had seen her since she locked herself away at three o'clock that afternoon and when she appeared she looked fantastic - loads more braided hair on top than she had when we first saw her and looking like a real star. I had been looking forward to hearing P.P. Arnold - I had seen her live in 1967 and I recall she had a powerful and passionate voice. I was right, she still has that voice and passionate delivery, but unfortunately she spend the first twelve minutes of her act talking - sadly mainly name-dropping which made us all cringe!  Ray, Cliff, Wes and I decided to leave anyway and were rewarded by hearing her starting to sing her best known hit, The First Cut Is The Deepest as we climbed the stairs back to Charing Cross Road and our journey home.
The journey home was uneventful, I dropped the guys off in the Chertsey area around eleven o'clock and was home myself before midnight.  An excellent afternoon and evening in great company.


PP Arnold at soundcheck                                "Too Tall Tony Ball" and Cliff Bennett with some of the house band                             Dave Berry at soundcheck

Monday 18th January :
was performed at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

This was Fran and my Christmas present to each other - a night at the Opera to see (and hear) Tosca.  We had an early start because we had booked tickets to attend a "Pre-performance talk" in the Clore Studio, which is one of the many smaller venues within the RoH.  This was a fascinating three quarters of an hour talk by a very animated and passionate young person (a conductor by trade, but evidently an expert on Puccini.)  He stalked about gesticulating and occasionally played us riffs on a grand piano - and at one point actually sang part of an aria! He filled us in on the personal background of Mr Puccini at the time of writing (1789-1800), just why it took so long to write, and what the critics said about it at the time. He filled us in on the historic background to the play - A brief gap in Napoleon's rule over the city of Rome - and what the political and business situation in Rome was in 1701 - when the play is set.  He then described the parallels with the political position in Rome in 1800, when the Opera had its debut performance in Rome.  He outlines the story of the complex plot and described the four main characters - aligning each character with the political background. He described (and played) for us the general themes which underlay the music for each character, and waxed lyrical about the economy of notes and the emotive values of each song.  By the end we all felt as if we were absolute experts on the opera.  We then went to find our seats, which were brilliantly sited in the "Grand Tier" with a brilliant view of the stage. There are three acts in Tosca, and consequently two intervals, which contributes to making the whole event just over three hours long.  It was brilliant, not only beautifully presented and wonderfully sung - but we actually understood most of what was going on. Unusual for us at an Opera! We poured ourselves out of the RoH onto Bow Street at about a quarter to eleven and with uncanny luck we managed almost immediately to hail a taxi which was just coming out of the junction with Floral Street - we were back at Euston by eleven o'clock and home by midnight. An excellent Christmas Present evening out.

TOSCA - Royal Opera House


Fran Roger & Mike on Saturday night (the flash didn't work)

Saturday 9th January :
played at Scratchers, at The Three Lions , Farncombe, near Godalming.

Fran and I arrived half an hour early so we could have a chat with Fran McGillivray & Mike Burke. We caught up on each others news - they have just returned from a short holiday in Spain. Then I had a conducted tour of Roger Nunn's new Odery drumkit, which was making it's debut public appearance this evening.  Odery is not a brand which I am familiar - the kit is beautifully finished in a shiny wooden look (honey coloured maple/walnut) which I'm more used to seeing on guitars than on drum kits. Not only was it clean and well laid out, but it also sported pristine drumheads.  Unsurprisingly (Roger is a professional) it was beautifully tuned - the sound was clear and concise.  I very much enjoy Fran & Mikes performances - they play what they feel like, so their set list evolves every time I see them; a great mixture of classical blues, their own songs and new takes on Rock and R&B classics.  Fran is an aficionado of "Women in the Blues" (of which she is quite a significant contributor herself).  On Saturday evening they opened with their version of BB Kings Hard Workin' Woman,  and later in the evening Fran (IMHO) excelled even herself with an amazing rendition of Big Mama Thornton's hit, Hound Dog (later made even more famous by Elvis). I've heard her do it many times before - but tonight was awesome. I was also carried away by Mikes guitar solo on their version of Spoonful - always one of my favourites from Fran - her deep honey voice is just right for it. They offered a lot of their own work from previous records - including a great version of Big Front Seat; as well as sharing some of the new songs they are working on for their next CD. Including:  Mr Blues, Blood On My Hands, and Get Back To Love, all of which seem even better than when we first heard when we saw them playing at Stevenage several months ago. The current evolution of the bands music is to engage more harmonies from Roger & Mike, and Mike even sings his own solo - Mercury 49 Blues - which is a rollicking little boogie blues.   Roger played the drums brilliantly - he is a very versatile musician and can deliver a wide range of drumming styles - always in time. I really enjoy his performance on the Djembe - not the easiest percussion instrument to play properly, but he does, and with a huge smile while he's doing it.  Among the more standard numbers they shared with us, which they have improved with their personalised orchestrations, were Route 66 and Heard It Through The Grapevine.  Finally Mike and I discovered that we share a heritage in that we both haunted Les Cousins Club in the mid sixties, and had both been at The Marquee to see The Yardbirds in 1964!  What a small World!


Friday 8th January :
played Sunbury Blues Club at The Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

This was the first outing for The Teens for several months (The December gigs at Greenham Common having been cancelled because the ballroom was unexpectedly suddenly closed down) and also the first since the drummer, Spud Metcalfe's,  wrist damage has been repaired. The Sunbury Blues Club January gig has become established as a "regular" opening gig for the new year - both for the band and for the club members - and is always well attended.  January2016 was no exception, with a sell out crowd packing the hall.  Spud and Colin Pattenden were setting up equipment on stage when we arrived, and I found Ray Phillips, Ken Osborn, Simon Spratley and guest harmonica player Adam Russell in the changing room behind the stage.  Paul Watts, the club manager, joined us and after a load of banter we realised that the band should have been on stage five minutes earlier!  The band rocked! They had been concerned backstage that they might be rusty after several months not playing, but - perhaps because of that worry - they were exceptionally tight on stage. The audience loved them and (unusually) nobody complained about the volume!
Just before the end of the first set a shadowy grey figure appeared at the back of the auditorium - our old friend Karl Green (ex Hermans Hermits) had come along to see a bit of the band and catch up news with everyone! He has been in the States for the last three months and had arrived back in the UK that very morning - and was clearly still jet-lagged. He sensibly disappeared again to get home to bed as soon as the second set started.
The second half was as tight and good as the first, ending with the usual false tab of Tobacco Road followed by an encore of Born To Be Wild.  However the audience kept clapping and shouting for more - so the band returned for the very rare event of a double encore.  They played The Who Medley (which on this occasion had been dropped from the first set in favour of Red House). The audience were up dancing and afterwards we all agreed that The Who Medley might be a better tab number than "Wild" - It seems to sound better later in their show when they are all properly warmed up.  Paul Watts was impressed - he invited us to put next years date in our diaries!

The Teens in action at Sunbury