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GIG REPORTS 2019

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.

                             



2019

 

The youth ensemble with two mini-Coopers

Monday 23rd December 2019
We visited The Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot to see Goblin Theatre present
PINOCCHIO.

Each year The Goblin Theatre Company puts on three weeks of a show, each one featuring an ensemble of children from the local Didcot amateur dramatic groups, and we have two grandchildren - numbers #1 and #3, who really love their AmDram. There are three separate groups of kids participating, so we had to select a night when both of our grandkids were appearing; such was Monday 23rd. There are five actors/musicians in the Goblin Company, who between them act, play and sing the main story with help, and a little dialogue, from an ensemble of fifteen kids. This years dramatisation was The Adventures of Pinocchio which, as presented by Goblin, owes more to the original serialised stories written in the 1880's by Italian author Carlo Collodi than they do to Walt Disneys altogether sweeter and innocent animation of 1940. The original set of adventures are altogether darker, more violent and surreal than the softer Disney characterisation. The writer of this interpretation, Matt Borgatti, has started from the original stories and aligned the scenarios to modern children's values with computer games, a seventies disco scene and an eighties aerobics scene. Like the original serialisation, the show was presented as "chapters" in between each of which the main cast sang an announced the next chapter. A series of lessons for children in learning the difference between right and wrong. The Fox was altogether more evil than the cartoon version and was not redeemed in the end, although Pinocchio did eventually learn the difference between right and wrong - and how it is sometimes difficult to decide which is which. I particularly liked the surrealism - which was probably best illustrated by the scene where Gepetto is swallowed by the whale, which turns out to be a "disco whale" full of dancing fish and marine animals (the ensemble). The participating kids loved it, they range in age from about nine to fifteen (our two are at the upper end of this range, and both are of adult height so they probably wont get away with kids shows for much longer) and all acted, sang and danced really professionally.  An excellent show and an interesting interpretation of a story which has too long been dominated by Disneys sugary interpretation.
 

 

Thursday 19th December and 26th December 2019
Two visits to the local pantomime,  ALADDIN at SouthHilll Park.

On Thursday 19th we had tickets for the "over eighteens" version of the local pantomime at SouthHill Park Theatre.  We plan to go to the Panto proper with the UK Grandchildren after Christmas, but the cast always have a couple of nights during the season when they play for adult laughs - a lot more innuendo and the cast corpse at their own humour more frequently. We had planned to go with Jacky & Colin Pattenden and Liz & Colin Earl, but Liz wasn't very well, so the Earls did the sensible thing and stayed at home.  We met the Pattendens in the bar at SouthHill Park and had a swift glass of wine before going into the theatre. This years Pantomime is Aladdin, which runs for several weeks; but each year there are a couple of "special" performances for over eighteens, where the innuendo runs absolutely unchecked.  For us the high light of Bracknell Pantomimes is our friend Trudi's nephew, Brad Clapson, who always plays the Dame. He is an excellent actor and entertainer. Brad is outrageously camp in real life, and was way over-the-top in character for this show ! You can imagine the play on words regarding his part as Widow Twanky ! The other characters were great too, the evil Abanazaar was exposed to be wearing bondage underwear in one scene, and when the lovely Princess Jasmine pulled a hankie from her handbag she accidentally dropped a packet of condoms. We plan to go to see the Panto again just after Christmas, but with the Grandkids, so it will be interesting to see how toned down the regular presentation will be.......

Thursday 26th (Boxing Day) we had more tickets - this time for the regular pantomime. We went with Rich, Liz and the four mini-Coopers, who had stayed overnight from spending Christmas Day with us. The show was just as brilliant as we had seen the previous week. A little less innuendo (but only a little less) and the cast clearly really enjoyed themselves. Grandsons #1 and #3 are both really interested in theatricals and they were impressed not only by the fun entertainment, but the organisation of the "ensemble" and of the cast of "helpers" who dangled lit stars over the audience during one of the numbers. Another enjoyable performance.
 

Aladdin @ SouthHill Park
 

 

Beatles with Wings

Friday 13th December 2019
We drove down to Blandford Forum to see BEATLES WITH WINGS who were performing at The Corn Exchange.

One of our current favourite bands is Howie Casey's presentation of Beatles With Wings. The purpose of our visit was to see this amazing band, who were appearing at The Blandford Corn Exchange that evening. We see Howie and Joe fairly frequently when they appear as KC Jones at The Bistro On The Beach in Christchurch, and we have seen this "full" band (eleven or twelve musicians) three times now. Since our last experience they have a new drummer (apparently he is the old drummer, returned from wherever he has been) and although Vicky Barents couldn't appear, they had a lady named Helen who had an amazing voice and sang a couple of solo's. I guess she was local because she seemed to have a vociferous following in the audience!  Our friend Julian who is manager of the band had reserved us seats right at the front, along with Mandy Jones, whom I had met at a previous gig and has since become a friend on Facebook. It was good to catch up with them both again. The band played two sets with a short break and were thoroughly professional throughout and the sound where we sat (right at the front) was good - but Blandford Corn Exchange has a high echoing ceiling space which make the acoustics in the main body of the hall very difficult for the sound engineers and I suspect it wasn't as good at the back. The music is primarily McCartney based (Howie was a member of Wings for ten years) although they did throw in a couple of other songs, including their version of Cliff Bennett's One Way Love (Cliff lives not far away from Blandford, and Howie was a one time member of his band, The Rebel Rousers). Bev Miller contributed a lot of saxophone playing - including some incredible solos, most especially in Listen What The Man Says; and Joe Jones is not only a exceedingly accomplished vocalist, but he also brought a huge amount of energy to the whole presentation.  After the show I briefly visited Howie backstage to catch up and wish him a Happy Christmas, and also to quickly see John Christopher (rhythm guitar), his brother Dave (bass guitar) and to congratulate their amazing lead guitarist, Dan (don't know his surname) on a couple of his solos - he is only nineteen, but has amazing control and feel for the music. A brilliant show, and well worth the long journey.
 

 

Tuesday 10th December 2019
The pupils of the joint schools of St Birinus, Didcot Girls School and Sutton Courteney CofE Primary School presented their CHRISTMAS CONCERT in the main hall at Didcot Girls School.

 A main draw for us for this annual concert is not only the phenomenally high quality of the performances, but the fact that two of our Grandchildren are deeply involved. Grandchild #1 performed in a choir; was centre front leading his band The Theatre Rejects in their own song, Plastic Coated; participated in the ukulele orchestra and did a solo reading of "Snow" by Gillian Clark. Grandson #3 acquitted himself well too, participating in a choir and in the ukulele orchestras rendition of Snow Patrols song, Chasing Cars. There were (so we were told) ninety two children aged between nine and eighteen participating, and four hundred and fifty parents and grandparents in the audience. It was an amazing show - not only were all the children very self assured in their performances, but some of the acts excelled "good" and can only be described as "outstanding".  Standing out for me were a fabulous jazz rendition of Gershwins I Got Rhythm by a teenage saxophonist named Simeon Lloyd. There were solo performances by Dotty Hunt, who sang Sway with all the gusto and innuendo of an adult! and by Olivia Smith who sang Nat King Coles Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - she has a perfect voice and a very professional and polished presentation.  The kids populated a full orchestra as well, which presented several "big numbers" throughout the evening, including You Can't Stop The Beat and Carol Of The Bells. The Theatre Rejects number went down very well too - not only in recognition of the groups prodigious songwriting and performing talent, but especially recognition of the sheer span of talent emanating from lead guitarist Lizzie (see my birthday party report below). She played an enormous array of instruments during the evening - looking prim and schoolgirly with a clarinet in the orchestra, cool playing bass guitar in the full orchestra and absolutely "wild child" when she shook her hair loose to cream some amazing guitar solos with the band. All of the children appeared to enjoy the event, many were dressed with bits of tinsel over their instruments or in their hair (and one young lady's French Horn was even festooned with flashing fairy lights !). Others wore Santa hats, Christmas bauble earrings or reindeer antlers - a very joyful occasion.
 


#1 in the ukulele orchestra

 

KC Jones (Casey and Jones) at The Bistro

Sunday 1st December 2019
KC JONES were performing at The Bistro On The Beach at Christchurch.

Howie Casey and Joe Jones are the key constituents of KC Jones. They play a lunch time series of sets at this pretty little beachfront cafe/restaurant from 1pm until 3pm on the first Sunday of most months, and whenever we can make it we book a table near the front of the restaurant and meet up with friends Clive & Pauline Saint. Sometimes Howie and Joe are joined by other performers, but today it was just the two of them - which was interesting because they gave us a lot more instrumentals and some different songs. In the absence of the girls Joe even managed to do Nutbush City Limits - he has an amazing vocal range. Because of Howie's heritage (as a member of Wings for ten years) there is a preponderance of McCartney songs - which Joe handles beautifully - as I noted above, he has a great vocal range and has a singing voice reasonably like McCartney had in his heyday. But they are not restricted to that songbook; Howie played some classic funk/jazz pieces and Joe sang some brilliant sixties songs including Somebody Help Me (The Spencer Davis classic) which really took me back to my mis-spent youth. Their performance utilises backing tracks (you just couldn't fit a whole band into The Bistro!) and these are provided by John Christopher, who did his usual good job. John also plays guitar in Howie's big band - Beatles With Wings.  We hope to be seeing them in a couple of weeks time. They played three sets, and ended the final session with their own arrangement of of a rock'n'roll version of Floyd Dixons classic blues number, Hey Bartender.  A long way to go - but a great way to spend Sunday lunchtime.
 

 

Thursday 21st November 2019
SAINTS & SINNERS were performing at The Farnham Maltings

Saints & Sinners are a combination of Fran McGillivray, Mike Burke and The Spikedrivers. Their music is essentially around the historical context of Spirituals and The Blues, with some fascinating narrative about the hidden meanings in many of the slave songs originating in the American Deep South. Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke have been friends for many years, and we go to see their performances whenever we can; but we don't know The Spikedrivers that well, having only seen them a couple of times. I saw this "Saints & Sinners" combination in December 2018 at Dusty's Blues Club in High Wycombe, and I wanted to share the experience with my Fran. We had first come across the Spikedrivers some ten or more years ago at one of Dave Peabody's Christmas House Parties. Constance Redgrave and Ben Tyzack were jamming with Dave P in his front room. The third member of the Spikes is Maurice McElroy, who plays the drums. In this fascinating (and extremely well balanced) combination Mike Burke and Ben Tyzack play a selection of guitars and sing, Ben also plays a mean harmonica. Maurice drums, percussionizes (is there such a word?) and provides backing vocals, while Fran and Constance both play bass guitar and vocals. Constance also provides some percussion while Fran provided rhythm guitar on some of the numbers. Both Ben and Mike are superbly adept guitarists, and really well suited to guitar duets with each other. The Farnham Maltings gig is run by an old acquaintance, Monica Boogaloo, and her partner Earl Jackson. It was good to run into Earl again, we had enjoyed a gig together about a year ago with Ray Phillips and Zoot Money at The 100 Club in Oxford Street. The acoustics at The Maltings Cellar Bar are strange - especially at the back and in the bar area; but we sat near the front and it sounded great. We had arrived early enough to quickly catch up with Fran & Mike before the gig started. When they did commence the band opened with joint harmonies on Keep Your Hand On The Plough Hold On and followed that with Will It Go Round In Circles which gave Fran the first solo. They followed this with Up Above My Head, Got My Mojo Working (Fran again - she has a marvellous chocolatey voice, just right for such songs), Going Over Jordan, and Put On Your Travelling ShoesFran and Constance closed the first set with three Robert Johnson numbers: Come Into My Kitchen, Red Hot and - of course - Crossroads Ben and Mike played a staggering duet in that one! After a short break the five of them came back with another close harmony number, Jesus On The Main Line.  They followed this with You Gotta Move, Got My Ticket (The People Keep A'Comin' But The Train Done Gone), Down In The River, I Fly Away (Old Glory) and almost finished with Born Under A Bad Sign - another one which really capitalises on Frans gorgeous voice.  Although they were up against Monica Boogaloo's clock and the music licence, they squeezed in an encore with Mojo Boogie.  An awesomely good nights entertainment from some brilliant musicians.
 

Saints & Sinners

 

Three little maids from school are we

Saturday 9th November 2019
Went to see THE ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA performing The Mikado at The London Coliseum

It seems ages since we saw a classical performance of any sort, so Saturday it was a welcome relief to travel into London to see the current interpretation of Gilbert & Sullivans classic comic operetta The Mikado performed by The ENO at The London Coliseum in St. Martins Lane. This realisation is set in an Edwardian hotel environment - and The Lord High Executioners song I've Got A Little List, was - as is customary - updated with current (November 2019) politicians and celebrities; but otherwise the plot, the characters, the score and the songs were totally unchanged from the 1885 original. I counted fifty performers, so it was a pretty lavish production. We had seats right at the back of the upper circle, about as far from the stage as you can get - but the sound was perfect and the orchestra was excellent. The overall story line was embellished by twelve dancers - the maids and bell-hop staff of the hotel - who cavorted and tap danced in the background when appropriate, and all the characters were brilliantly sung and acted.  A very enjoyable presentation.
 

The Mikado sings

 

Friday 1st November 2019
We visited a local gig at The Silver Birch pub in Bracknell to see THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND

We haven't seen much of The Jackie Lynton Band this year, although I have seen Jack at various funerals, weddings and other social functions. The Silver Birch pub in Bracknell is almost "local" enough for us to walk to (although we drove because it was raining). Unfortunately Bracknell does not sport many "nice" local pubs with old charm and character; most being a bit nineteen seventies "estate based" and filled with young folk who shout a lot and can't stitch a sentence together without using the F word at least twice. The Birch is no exception, but it has advantages: it is local, I do know some of the regulars there, and the beer in there is OK. Tonight the pub was presenting the evening as a Halloween Party - albeit a day late. The bar was decorated with cobwebs and spooky posters and all the barmaids and some of the punters had dressed up for the occasion. Sadly for live music the acoustics in The Birch leave a lot to be desired - not the fault of the band - but so few pubs present live music nowadays that we are grateful for what we get!  I'm not sure what had happened as a sound check, but on this occasion the band had forgotten that they always need to bypass the automatic sound limiter at this venue (illegal, but everyone does it). As a consequence the first number only lasted a few bars until the power was cut and we all had to wait while the mains supply was re-routed. The line up of Jacks band has changed this year and Colin Pattenden has moved on from the band and been replaced with a new bass guitarist named Doug Ferguson. Jack still has Mike Windus and Chris Bryant on joint lead guitars and Spud Metcalfe is still the drummer; and the music they produce is still excellent. Chris did a solo with Status Quo's Roadhouse Blues and Mike gave us his version of Sea Cruise. The new bass guitarist got a little solo at the end of If You Want To Get a Bad Together - he sounded OK. But most of all it was good to hear Jack singing again, and particularly his own songs. I particularly like Rock'n'Roll Whisky Blues, which as well as showcasing Jacks voice, gives Chris and Mike excellent opportunity to show off their exceedingly good guitar skills. Jack ended the first set with the old pub favourite Mustang Sally - extended a bit with a couple of extra verses of his own making. Fran and I left to return home at the end of the first set, but agreed that it was good to hear Jack and the band again after such a long time.
 

 

Saturday 26th October 2019
THE NASHVILLE TEENS , played at The Corn Exchange in Stamford.

A long way to go for a very short performance, just thirty minutes, in support of a sixties show which starred Dave Berry and the Cruisers. Not only that but we had to plan for atrocious weather and a devious route because there was torrential rain and the A1(M) was scheduled to be closed for the weekend near Huntingdon. As it turned out the A1 works had been postponed because of the incredibly heavy rain which had apparently caused nearby local flooding - but we didn't know that until after we had arrived at Stamford. I collected Spud Metcalfe and Ken Osborn to leave Bracknell at eleven in the morning. Because of the road works we had given ourselves plenty of extra time for this journey - four hours for a trip which is normally just over two hours. We took the devious route and we did arrive early, an hour before the scheduled sound check start of three o'clock. Simon Spratley timed it perfectly, arriving at a quarter to three, but Colin Pattenden and Ray Phillips were held up and were much later than planned. As it turned out this didn't matter at all because the band who were providing the backline equipment didn't turn up themselves until around half past four! So the sound check started very late. It was good to catch up with Tony Sherwood again - he was the stage manager for this event - we had first met when he was stage managing the two Millennium Events of The Sixties at Brighton in 1999 and 2000. While checking out logistics with the theatre management I ran into Dave Berry out in the foyer and we had a very brief reminisce about gigs at The Borderline in Soho - a club sadly now closed down. Although the management had been a little concerned that pre-sales for this gig had only about half filled the theatre, there were a lot of "walk-ups" and I reckon we had an audience of about three hundred and fifty - not bad for a little theatre with a maximum capacity of just under four hundred. The first band on were Sound Force 5, a local band led by their drummer Colin Ward, who masterminds and organises these sixties gigs at Stamford Corn Exchange. They were very professional with two lead singers performing a broad genre of sixties covers. They were followed by The Nashville Teens - who delivered a stunning performance. Restricted to only half an hour they played Rockin' On The Railroad, Hoochie Coochie Man, The Spencer Davis Medley, Slow Down, Mona, I Put A Spell On You and they wound up with Tobacco Road. Thirty-one minutes - no time for an encore. I loved that for the finale - Tobacco Road - the wings were crowded with all the other performers, who wanted to watch and hear this classic. We had used much of the other bands backlines, so it was relatively easy to get our keyboards, bits of personal drumkit and guitars off stage and out of the back door to the theatre during the interval. I stood at the "merchandise" table in the foyer during the break, but only sold one Nashville Teens CD, and a couple of copies of Dave Berrys autobiography! Because the only access from front of house to the stage was through the auditorium, I had to leg it backstage before the second half commenced with The McCoys. We got to hear their first two numbers while we were carrying out our bits of equipment - very well presented, but we didn't stay long enough to hear Hang On Sloopy. We bade Dave Berry farewell, but didn't get to hear any of his numbers - a shame because I have seen his act many times before and really enjoy it. The awful rainy weather had passed by the time we left Stamford and having discovered that the A1 was not closed after all, we sped home the quickest way and were back home in Bracknell by a quarter past eleven at night.
 

Teens at Stamford

 

"Nancy", Keith and "Tarzan"

Wednesday 23rd October 2019
KEITH PEARSON , played at The Old Chapel at St. Ives near Huntingdon.

The Chapel on the Bridge at St Ives in Cambridgeshire is a stunning - but tiny - performance space dating from the 1400's. The chapel was originally a religious toll on the bridge over the River Ouse at St Ives in Cambridgeshire. It is built midstream onto the foundations of the central support of this medieval arched bridge. It was a four storey building for the first four hundred and fifty years of its history, until the top two storeys were demolished in the nineteenth century because they were unsafe. Since then the medieval bridge has been closed to motor traffic and currently the lower storey (below the bridge level, but still well above the water) is closed for "health and safety" reasons. So this little chapel currently only has one room accessible at street level - a very small room seating a maximum of thirty people! The town of St Ives is lucky to have a very vibrant and active set of volunteers who champion the town and it's art. They had organised this gig as the final event of the "Chapel Arts Season" - a series of concerts held in this tiny space. I have known Keith Pearson since the mid sixties when we were teenage pals and he played guitar at Hitchin Folk Club. In the interim he has become one of the Countries most renown banjo players and now performs with his friends Philip Milner (aka "Tarzan") on bass guitar and Tim Jellis (aka "Nancy") on guitar. They perform almost - but not quite - exclusively their own songs. I really like Keith's music and having nothing better to do Fran and I had booked tickets and driven up from Berkshire to stay in a local hotel, which turned out to be conveniently on the south bank of the Ouse right next to the old bridge. Despite the rainy weather we did a very quick exploration of the immediate vicinity and were fascinated by the beauty of the old town - we plan to return to explore it properly when the weather is a little better. Fran had not seen the band before and loved Keith's wit and dry humour as well as his songs - which I would describe as a form of Country Blues, although sometimes they verge on being just "Country Humorous" !  I particularly liked his song Poor Bill - a very empathetic and sympathetic song about an alcoholic; and he had the audience participating in his ditty I'm Glad I Wasn't There When The Ship Went Down. The only song they performed which was not self penned was Dylan's song Down In The Easy Chair in which the band were supported by the audience singing the chorus. The evening went quickly but we did have a brief time to talk to Keith and his wife Elizabeth before they headed home - it was great to quickly catch up with my old friend and to hear his brilliant songs.
 

 

Thursday 17th October 2019
THE NASHVILLE TEENS , played at The Riverside Club in Staines.

A long overdue dose of live music, but not without some trials and tribulations. I picked up Ray Phillips in Weybridge at half past seven on Thursday evening and drove him over to the gig at Staines, Colin Pattenden, Simon Spratley, Spud Metcalfe and Ken Osborn were already there setting up. I went to the office and did my stuff with Mike ("da Management") regarding names on the door, timings, merchandising etc and then returned to watch the band setting up. Spud was looking despondent, one of the cases had not been packed properly and he was missing some vital equipment just forty five minutes before the show was due to start at nine o'clock! I leapt in the car and drove him back to Bracknell, collected the delinquent bits and we were back in the gig at Staines by a quarter past nine. All was not lost - instead of the two planned fortyfive minute sets, they were able to start twenty minutes late and just keep going for ninety minutes. While Spud was adding the missing snare stand, high hat and drum stool to his kit I surveyed the room and was pleased to find Lionel, a friend from "The Nest", and his wife Jenny in the audience; so I settled down with them to watch the act. The act commenced with Chuck Berry's Rockin' On The Railroad, but it immediately became obvious (to me anyway) that the piano keyboard was not working properly and Simon was having to carry the song on his organ keyboard. His professionalism overcame the restricted piano output and I don't think that many in the audience would have noticed the difference. However, the uncertainty of piano support meant that the band had to ditch the Who Medley and extend Red House a bit to fill the time. They finished as ever, with an exuberant delivery of Tobacco Road and an encore of Born To Be Wild, which is dominated by Ken's amazing guitar solo. Despite the technical setbacks the overall performance was good and the audience were up dancing for a lot of the time and "da Management" obviously enjoyed it because immediately afterwards Mike booked us for another gig there next February.
 

The Teens at The Riverside

 

 

Sunday 1st September 2019
The monthly appearance at The Bistro on The Beach in Southbourne of KC JONES, who are HOWIE CASEY, JO JONES - who today they were joined by
BEV MILLER.

It was the day of the Bournemouth Airshow - which always attracts loads of day visitors to the  Christchurch / Bournemouth / Poole area; so Fran and I set off earlier than usual to drive down to the coast. We had planned to take our friends Liz & Colin Earl with us, but sadly last minute problems prevented them from accompanying us. The traffic was fairly horrendous, especially though Lyndhurst in the New Forest - but we made it just about on time for lunch at half past twelve. We had booked a table (at the front, by the band, of course) where we were joined by our local friends Clive and Pauline Saint. Howie Casey, Jo Jones, John Christopher and Ju-Lian were all there, busy setting up and sound checking. We greeted them, exchanged news and then settled down to order our lunch. Then Bev Miller arrived, which was a nice surprise - she has a brilliant voice and plays a mean saxophone.  The show was great - not as many Beatles or Wings numbers as usual - although they did give us a particularly good version of JetJo also gave us Obla Di Obla Da and Get Back. These were accompanied by some very classy instrumentals including a fully instrumental version of The Average White Bands Put It Where You Want It - played as a duet between Howie and Bev. The lunch time cabaret sadly had to end at three o'clock, after which we all chatted for a bit with Clive, Pauline and the musicians while the latter ate their lunch. We wound up about four o'clock and went outside to see the final fifteen minutes of the Airshow - which was a Typhoon Fighter roaring around the bay making a tremendous noise before we had to bid our friends farewell and set off for the long journey home. 
 

 

Bluesblasters with Jackie Lynton

Sunday 25th August 2019 
THE BLUESBLASTERS and THE NASHVILLE TEENS appeared at The HareHill Club in Ottershaw.

Sunday was "Chris-The-Carpets" mini-festival at The Hare Hill Club - a celebration of his sixtieth birthday. There were three entertainments, the first of which was Chris Bryant's band, The Bluesblasters. I arrived half way through their first set, which was excellent. Spud Metcalfe was on drums, Ken Osborn was playing brilliantly on second lead guitar and Gordon Sellar was playing bass guitar. Chris Bryant was lead guitar and vocals, and for the last number he invited Jackie Lynton up to sing. The second act was an Elton John impersonator, who - frankly - I didn't like, so I spent all of his act out in the car park talking with old mates (who also seemed not to miss seeing Elton!). It was good to catch up with Gordon Sellar, and Paul King; and it was particularly nice to chat with friends Geoffrey & Victoria, who were briefly visiting the UK from their home in Paris. It was also fun to catch up with the Teens Spud Metcalfe, Ken Osborn, Simon Spratley, Colin Pattenden and, of course, Ray Phillips. Jacky Pattenden was there as were Mel and most of Ray's immediate family. The final act was The Nashville Teens. They were as polished as usual throughout the first set, and during the interval Chris-The-Carpet pulled down the big screen and treated us to a projection of a Pink Floyd concert. Then, during the second half of The Nashville Teens performance - although it was good - it gradually became apparent to the band that there was something not quite right with the drum tempo. Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far (temperatures above 30 most of the day) and Spud the drummer had been working all day, had played a full gig with The Bluesblasters, and was now playing a full gig with The Teens. All in in a crowded room with no air conditioning.  Spud is a stalwart, and wasn't going to give up even though he looked really ill. He made it all the way through to the very last note of Tobacco Road before he collapsed backwards and lay very still. Simon and I both dived behind the drums to help him - he was very pale and very hot and very sweaty - heatstroke. The gig was over without an encore. To compensate for that Chris-The-Carpet dropped the big screen and showed the audience some more of his favourite Pink Floyd concert. It is paradoxical that while we were struggling behind the screen with an unconscious drummer, The Floyd were playing Comfortably Numb !  Behind the screen we sat Spud up and gave him loads of water, and then Kelly Gores husband - who I think is a trained paramedic - took over and took Spud outside to cool off and recover. Ken and I packed his drum kit and then we got Spud - still very flaky on his legs - into Kens car, and drove in convoy back to Bracknell. Spud was a bit more alert and able to walk by himself by the time we got him home. We unloaded all his drum equipment and put him to bed; and although he seemed much better I'm sure that we will all be phoning him in the morning to confirm that he is OK. Not the best end to a gig - but Spud had soldiered through right to the end before he had let go. The Show Must Go On ! 
 

The Nashville Teens

 

above: Men Behaving Sadly
below: Colin Earl & John Coghlan

Saturday 24th August 2019 
JOHN COGHLAN'S QUO and MEN BEHAVING SADLY appeared at FOXSTOCK held at The Fox Inn at Great Barrington near Burford.

FOXSTOCK is the name of this little annual festival at The Fox Inn at Great Barrington in Gloucestershire. I have attended a couple of times before because the pub is run by Michelle ("Shelley") Earl, daughter of my friend Colin Earl, and consequently we have had some of our friends playing there at previous festivals, including The King Earl Boogie Band, The Jackie Lynton Band and Chas Hodges Band.
This time two of my friends were performing there: 
Russell Welch with his band Men Behaving Sadly and John Coghlan with his band John Coghlans Quo. It was good to see Russell's band again - although I often meet him at various parties and gatherings I haven't seen MBS play for many years. They write a lot of their own - very witty - songs which are really good, so I was a little disappointed that at Foxstock they restricted themselves to covers of other people hits - which were good, but not as outstanding as their own material.  Meanwhile, it was good to catch up with John Coghlan and his wife Gillie. Gillie has also been John's manager for many years, and as an example she has taught me a lot of what I now understand about managing bands. Because this was virtually a "local" gig for John (he lives in the nearby village just six miles away) the little audience at Foxstock was swelled by several taxi loads of "villagers" who came to see their neighbour perform. As well as being a founder member of Status Quo, John used to drum with Colin Earls band, The King Earl Boogie Band, which I managed bookings and websites for. He is one of the steadiest and most proficient drummers I have ever met - rock steady and equally at home with heavy rock or boogie and blues. We had a great time catching up news and telling war stories.  I have seen John Coghlan's Quo several times before, but the line up had changed a little since last time and the current band are tight, polished and professional - a joy to watch and listen to. John and his bass guitarist lay down a phenomenal framework for his two lead guitarists to embroider. A joy to listen to. They specialise in The Quo's early music, and - as well as loads of other goodies from the bands rock heritage - they delighted the audience with the really early songs Pictures of Matchstick Men and Paper Plane.  A small festival with a small - but highly appreciative - audience, and a brilliant and polished performance.
 

above: John Coghlan's Quo
below: John, me and Colin Earl

 

Friday 23rd August 2019 
THE TONY STONE BAND appeared at Scratchers - aka The Three Lions at Godalming.

To be honest I had never heard of this band before, but my pal Mike Windus was playing lead guitar with them, and I love live music (and his playing) so I made the twenty mile trip to see what was going on.  As well as Mike (left in picture) there was a lead vocalist/second lead guitarist centre stage - I didn't get to meet the band on this occasion but presumably this was Tony Stone? He is a very proficient guitarist and gave a decent vocal delivery. They were kept in time by a very tall bass player and a rock steady drummer.  I wasn't feeling to well, so I sat at the back and only stayed for the first set - but that was good.  Mike provided vocals on Sea Cruise and Boney Moronie, and delivered some really nice guitar breaks into the other songs. The genre was basically a sort of blend of Americana Whitemans Rock and Blues - with numbers like Steve Millers Joker and semi-standard blues like Down At The Doctors. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling too well so I didn't stay for the second set - but what I heard was good.

 

The Tony Stone Band

 

G'sons #1 and #3 at curtain call

Saturday 10th August 2019 
Grandsons #1 & #3 a
ppeared in Legally Blonde at The Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot.

Act 4 Productions put on its annual children's theatre workshop presentation at The Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot this week. Two of my grandchildren numbers #1 and #3 (un-named on the internet because they are only aged fifteen and thirteen) are avidly involved in local amateur dramatics and have taken part in this and other local productions for several years. The event is a bit like a "Summer Camp" absorbing the children's time for a whole week during the summer holidays. Having auditioned the kids earlier in the summer, the whole ensemble of forty children - aged seven to eighteen - spend just one week intensively workshopping a production - and then present it on the final day. This years production was a "junior version" of Legally Blonde; and we were severely proud because this year our grandsons had both the leading male roles, and #1's girlfriend (aged sixteen) played the key role of "Paulette" - the leading ladies best friend and confidante. Needless to say - we thought they were all brilliant. The chosen production is a musical, so the weeks intensive workshop had included choreography and singing as well as learning lines. Of course, because the ensemble is a broad mix of ages ranging from a very short seven year old to #1 at six foot three inches, the visual impact is sometimes a bit weird - but the kids all work together very professionally and supportively. I had never seen this show before, either the full adult version or this "age appropriate" version; and was surprised at how contemporary the story line was - revolving around gender stereotyping and sexual abuse of interns by a corporate magnate. Grandson #3 played "Warner Huntington III" - a good looking but snobby and selfish American student who stands up his (apparently) bimbo blonde girlfriend "Elle" to go to Harvard, where he is going to learn law ruthlessly, become a senator and perhaps even eventuially become President of the USA.  Having spent her life to date besotted by fashion and girlfriends, she decides to focus on her education so that she can follow him to Harvard and win him back. She quickly discovers that she is not stupid at all and makes it to the elite group of legal interns at Harvard tutored by the notorious and ruthless lawyer - "Professor Callaghan", who is amazingly sexist and nicknames her "legally blonde". In class she discovers that "Warner" has got himself a new - equally ruthless - lawyer girlfriend, named "Vivienne"; and she also meets gentle trainee lawyer "Emmett Forrest", played by Grandson #1.  Within the story line "Elle" befriends "Paulette" - a local hairdresser (played by #1's girlfriend). Assisted by "Emmett", she uses her legal skills to help "Paulette" regain custody of her dog - which gives "Elle" self confidence that she is not just a blonde bimbo. Meanwhile a famous TV fitness star named "Brooke Wyndham" has been accused by her step daughter of murdering her rich husband; but is unwilling to provide an alibi because it might ruin her TV career. She employs "Professor Callahan" to defend her, and he picks an elite team of students to help the defenceincluding "Warner", "Emmett", "Elle" and "Vivienne". However "Brooke" obstinately refuses to disclose her alibi to the defence team. Because of their common ground of fashion and sorority camaraderie "Brooke" privately confides her alibi to "Elle", who who now knows that she is innocent, but realises that she cannot use the alibi. Next is a scene where "Professor Callaghan" tries to kiss and fondle "Elle" - who tells him where to get off! That scene is secretly witnessed by "Vivienne", who after initially despising her, is now beginning to really respect "Elle". Because she won't respond to his inappropriate overtures, "Callaghan" fires "Elle" from his team - but when "Brooke" finds out she publicly fires "Callaghan" as her defence lawyer and appoints "Elle" and her friends directly. On the witness stand the expert knowledge of hairdressing and cosmetics from "Paulette" enable "Elle" to trick "Brookes" step daughter into admitting that she had shot her own father, mistaking him for "Brooke", her step-mother, whom she hated. No need to use the alibi. Finally "Vivienne" becomes "Elle's" friend and dumps "Warner", who then comes crawling back to "Elle"; but she can now see through him and rejects him. Meanwhile "Elle" and "Emmett" have fallen in love - and they live happily ever after. Quite a complex story line for forty kids to convey - but they did it extremely well.
 

 

Wednesday 7th August 2019 
CHARLIE AUSTEN a
ppeared at The Midnight Special Blues Club at The Old Ford pub in Ash.

This monthly session of The Midnight Special Blues Club always feature Dave Raphael and Nick Hyde, who host it - and they usually provide the first thirty minutes of entertainment. Nick is an excellent blues guitarist, and Dave handles the harmonica expertly as well as playing guitar and singing. I haven't been to this club for about five years (I went to their opening night when they had Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke playing). This time the duo executed some lovely classic blues numbers including a really nice version of the Robert Johnson classic - Walking Blues. The little auditorium was full with standing room only at the back, and after their warm-up act there was a very short break to enable us to refresh our drinks before Charlie came on stage. Charlie is the daughter of Claire Windus - a tall young woman with an amazing vocal range as well as having excellent and dextrous instrument skills and an engaging stage presence fuelled by a dry sense of humour. Charlie typically plays barefoot, and spends a lot of her act standing on tiptoe - which makes her even taller! She performs with several other bands, but most notably as vocalist with Nine Below Zero. She is also a very gifted songwriter - and during the whole evening she only performed two covers, both of which were amazing. All the rest was all original. She played two sets with another "go to the bar break" in the middle.  One of the covers she performed was Bob Dylans Make Me Feel Your Love. It is one of my favourites, and apparently also a favourite of her stepfather Mike Windus. I knew some of her songs - like Copenhagen, The Greatest Cannonball and Slave To Simple Chemistry.  She also sang some very strong new songs including Your Thing and a particularly powerful one at the end of her first set called Sugar Dynamite, which is a very angry and emotional song. I'm really looking forward to hearing that on the new CD. During her second set she played a couple of love songs, Traces of You and Why Choose Me? - which is a beautiful little song accompanied on the ukulele. Other songs which were new to me were Forbidden Love and World Of You And Me. After her final song (Slave to Simple Chemistry) she was joined on stage by Dave and Nick who accompanied Charlie singing T Bone Walkers classic Stormy Monday - while reminiscent of the style of Eva Cassidy this was absolutely fresh with Charlies powerful voice and extensive range. It was a really good evening entertainment, and the sound quality was superb - it was being managed by Mike Windus, and recorded for Charlies next CD. Mike got all the right vocal reverb and upped the bass as and when appropriate - a masterly performance on the mixing desk.  Looking forward to the CD.

Note: Charlie will also be singing on - and credited with writing - some of the new songs on Nine Below Zero's next CD, due out in the Autumn of this year.
 

Charlie Austen @ The Old Ford

 

Thursday 18th July 2019 
The drama classes of Didcot Girls School and Saint Birinus Boys School put on their end of term play,
THE BROTHERS GRIMM  at the Drama Studios of the Girls School

The end of term production was joint between the Didcot Girls School and the nearby Saint Birinus Boys School - which two of our Grandkids attend.  They both had parts in this lively and hilarious romp through a very "Pythonesque" version of the fairytales and which involved over seventy children who plainly were having loads of fun dressing up and being silly. It was funny, there was slapstick, innuendo and everybody - both cast and audience - had a fantastic time. The audience endured showers of gold coins (chocolate), spray from water pistols and general abuse from the players who occasionally kidnapped some of the front row or came and sat on our laps. Overall it was very professional - nobody fluffed lines or made late entrances. Grandsons #1 and #3 had parts and #1's girlfriend (Leah) was stage manager. She did an exceedingly impressive job as there not only were over seventy kids involved but there were an enormous number of costume changes and a bewildering number of exits and entrances - not all on stage either, some were through the auditorium. Grandson #3 appeared in the first sketch - Hansel and Gretel - as a tree which fell over a lot, yelling "timber" as it went.  Both boys had small parts in other sketches but #1 stood out (literally) in the Snow White sketch, he was one of the dwarves.... the others were all diminutive, but he is six foot three and has a very deep voice! Their principal roles were in Cinderella, where #1 played one of the ugly sisters. At six foot three and wearing four inch heels, a sparkly mini-skirt, and a huge cougar mane of coloured hair he looked (and acted) fantastic. He was complemented by #3 who played the evil step-mother, also tall for his age and equally dolled up with mini-skirt and heels, his character was married to Cinderella's father who was "Baron Trump" - complete with orange hair and too long tie ! In a later sketch - The Iron Man - #1 played his guitar and sang a blues song.  #1 also had a role as The King in this sketch, and later in the same story line he appeared in yet another costume change as Elvis Presley, wearing a glittery jump suit and a huge Elvis wig. Overall it was a brilliant evenings entertainment. We loved it and laughed about it all the way home.
 

 

Tuesday 16th July 2019 
THE KEITH PEARSON TRIO
made a rare appearance at St Neots Folk Club, held at The Priory Centre, St Neots.

Back in 1965 I used to be an avid member of the Talisman Folk Club in Hitchin - a pub long since demolished to make way for yuppie and millenial accommodation. The "resident" compere and warmup act was a guy of my age, named Keith Pearson. He played guitar and sang to us his versions of Rudyard Kipling's poem If and Bert Jansch's Needle Of Death - and we were all jolly mates and spent a lot of our teenage years growing up together. Forward fifty-four years, and Keith has developed a musical career playing guitar, banjo and harmonica; he is an avid song writer and has toured the World. He doesn't appear that often nowadays and now that I am retired and free to stay up late whenever I want, I took time out on Tuesday to drive up to St Neots in Cambridgeshire to see one of Keith's rare performances. I stopped en route at Baldock to collect Rick Hyne - who was also a key member of the nineteen sixties teenage crowd - and we arrived in good time at The Priory Centre in St Neots to meet Keith, with his trio members (Tarzan and Nancy) at the bar, together with his lovely wife Elizabeth. She had also been a folk club regular back in the sixties in the disguise of Elizabeth Harkness. It was my first visit to St Neots for over forty years - Fran and I used to live in the nearby village of Eaton Socon, and St Neots was a our local shopping centre from 1971 to 1975. The town still has lots of character and the developments (including the Priory Centre) all fit tastefully with a small market town aura. The Centre is right on the bank of the River Ouse with a balcony edging the river and absolutely stunning scenery. Unfortunately the rooms inside were not quite so wonderful, being quite small, hot, and not designed with acoustics in mind. St Neots Folk Club met in a small upstairs room, with seats for about twentyfive people - it was a sell out.  Keith is well known in the music fraternity for his bluegrass banjo style, and when I was working with Chas n Dave a couple of years ago Dave Peacock mentioned him several times. On Tuesday Keith introduced his trio: "Nancy" on guitar (I think his real name is Tim Jellis) was very good with a picking type of style; and Tarzan" (real name Phil Milner) has a very loose - almost jazz - style on bass guitar. Keith has recently developed a shake which prevents him playing the guitar properly any more, but he manages to play the banjo by frailing (sort of "hammering on"). His songs are very cleverly worded and I can understand why Dave Peacock (an exponent of Music Hall type songs) rates him so highly. As well as banjo, Keith sings his songs and plays a very mean harmonica - one of the best I have heard for ages. The trio played two full sets, all of their own material, and Keith's introductions were very entertaining - he has a very professional stage presence. It was not only a lot of fun to catch up with Keith, Rick and Elizabeth; but the evening was also genuinely very entertaining - well worth the long journey, even if I hadn't known the singer. Mental note to make space for more Keith Pearson gigs.
 

The Keith Pearson Trio
 

 

above : Bob Dylan

Friday 12th July 2019 
BOB DYLAN and NEIL YOUNG
headlined at a concert in Hyde Park, London

Fran and I started the afternoon with a coffee and croissant at a little cafe near The Royal Lancaster Hotel. It turned out that everyone sitting out drinking coffee was on their way to the concert, and we took a young lady named Lauren under our wing and together the three of us walked to the festival site. We all had "priority entry" tickets - which give access an hour before the gates formally open - giving bearers the chance to get to the front and stake out their space! In fact even that was not the front line because the very front fifty yards was fenced off for people who had paid even more for VIP tickets. We got right to the front fence and shared a space with Lauren, a Belgian guy who was following the tour (this was his seventeenth concert in as many weeks) and a couple of girls who had come all the way from Israel for the concert! - they are in the picture below "girls at our feet" - Lauren is the girl in the stripey blouse.  There were two other stages up the other end of the arena, but we didn't see (or hear) anything from those. The first act on the main stage was a guy named Sam Fender, who was amazing. He had a really tight band and his lyrics and presentation were terrific - a name to remember and watch; he deserves success. He was followed by a singer named Cat Power - She started very well, but her songs turned out to be all very samey and by the end of her set we were fairly grateful it was over.  She was followed by another girl singer named Laura MarleyLaura accompanied herself on guitar, with some backing assistance. She had a good voice and each song started as if it was going to be really interesting, but each one seemed to peter out into a repetitive refrain. Easy to be critical - the girls were both good performers, and my gripe is more about their choice of material rather than their delivery. During these acts one of our neighbours managed to sleep through the entire three sets! Given that we were only fifty yards from the stage at the front of an audience of sixtyfive thousand people, the noise level was quite high - I don't know how he did it. After the preliminary acts we were joined by Lionel Avery - a friend of mine from "The Nest" (a secretive gang of sixties music lovers).  Neil Young came onto stage around six o'clock and he was amazing. He had caused Barclaycard to pull out of sponsoring this gig because of their investment policy (which is far from "Green"). he played lots of favourites including Alabama, Rockin' Out The Free World and - my favourite - Heart of Gold. His finale was Like A Hurricane - an amazing show. Neil Young is renowned for not engaging with his audience, and although he did spend a lot of time with his back to us - playing in a huddle with his bandmates - he did acknowledge the mass of fans, joking that he had rarely played in daylight before and wasn't used to being able to see his audience!  Soon after eight Bob Dylan took to the stage. He just walked on unannounced, sat down at the piano with a huge grin, and launched into a thoroughly updated version of Ballad of A Thin Man - both his sudden arrival and the reworked melody taking the audience by surprise!  He has a reputation for being a bit inconsistent in his performances and sometimes not appearing to enjoy them - but he evidently loved doing this one and was consistently great. He played loads of old favourites - but because he now favours the piano (it is rumoured that his arthritis prevents him playing the guitar any more). He also gets criticism from some of his more conservative followers because he is progressive - and he has reworked many of the melodies and keys to many of the old songs. The lyrics still shone through as the great poetry which they are. He gave us Highway 61 and It Ain't Me Babe. Interestingly as the audience warmed to the changes, sixty five thousand of us sang along with both Like A Rolling Stone and Blowing In The Wind - singing to the old nineteen sixties tunes, which beautifully complemented Bobs new melodies. From his original repertoire he gave us Simple Twist of Fate, Girl from the North Country and (one of my favourites) To Make You Feel My Love. He closed the show with some of his more recent music including You've Gotta Serve Somebody and It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.  He wore his trademark hat through most of the performance, but toward the end he removed it, showing that he still has that amazing shock of hair. Bob evidently enjoyed the gig; and although he didn't address the audience at all, he was smiling broadly throughout the concert. A legend.
 

         

Neil Young                                               Roger and Lionel                                                        Asleep on the job                                                                  The girls at our feet                     
 

 

Sunday 7th July 2019 
LOST IN THE LIBRARY was CORNERSTONE'S YOUTH CLASSES project at The Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot.

And to round off a weekend of eclectic entertainment, on Sunday Fran and I drove over to Didcot to The Cornerstone Theatre, where our grandson #3 and Grandson #1's girlfriend (Leah) were participating in a young peoples Amateur Dramatics production called Lost In The Library. We arrived early and sat outside drinking coffee and eating cake until the doors opened. The show was put on by a youth dramatics group and involved about sixty kids ranging from five and six years old up to fifteen and sixteen and for about forty minutes they performed a play which they had constructed themselves. The story was an adventure by a group of a dozen kids who had been hanging around in a library waiting for one of their friends to find a book - although the rest of them thought this boring and wanted to get out into the sunshine. The premise was about learning how exciting stories can be if they can only be bothered to get into them - and it resolved into a series of visits to various stories populated by literary characters - played by all the other kids. There was some straight acting and a lot of group dancing as they took us through Peter Pan, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Narnia before "escaping" back to the library with the help on a dozen five year olds dressed as Oompah Lumpas from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory - who were terminally cute.  Very well constructed given the age group and both Grandson #3 and Leah performed well.
 

 

Saturday 6th July 2019 
THE ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL performed a series of ballet excerpts at Holland Park Theatre in West London.

We are more used to seeing opera at Opera Holland Park - an "open air" Theatre - which is actually a big permanent tent with tiered seating and a huge stage for which the front door and portico of Holland Park House provide a backdrop. However, it isn't all opera, and each summer The Royal Ballet School puts on this series of performances at this venue to showcase the students skills by providing the opportunity for them to perform snippets of various ballets, including some that they have choreographed themselves. I love ballet, so as a retirement treat for me we had tickets to see this years variety of enactments by The Royal Ballet School. As well as proud parents and talent scouts, there are loads of ordinary ballet lovers like ourselves who are hoping to catch a glimpse of the next Margot Fonteyn or Darcy Bussell before they get famous. We thought Xinyue Zhao and Brayden Gallucci may be names to remember! We were in good time and had booked good seats, high up and central.  This years show was spectacular, the different classes participated - from the ages of eleven up to eighteen. All the dancing was technically brilliant, although I made a mental note not to bother going to see Mats Ek's choreography to Swan Lake - a bit too avant garde for me.  One of the most impressive parts was a piece called Pulse, which involved fifty students all dressed in grey full body leotards "pulsing" together on stage in waves and breaking - like waves - into odd little pieces of personal dance which then merged back into the overall flow. Luckily the Opera Holland Park has a huge stage, which enabled these fifty students to display their coordinated gymnastic skills to the very best. An amazing piece of choreography which really demonstrated how important consistency, timing and teamwork are in this art form.  A brilliant show - I loved it.
 

Royal Ballet School

 

 

above:  Howie Casey - Beatles With Wings

right: Joe Jones, Bev, Vicky and Jeanette

 Friday 5th July 2019 
BEATLES WITH WINGS appeared at The Exchange in Sturminster Newton.

Sturminster Newton is a long way to go for a band - but this lot are special, so I set off early for the ninety five mile journey on Friday afternoon. The Exchange at Sturminster Newton is a fine little theatre, quite well appointed with a wide stage (just right for a band comprising thirteen musicians). In the bar I got into conversation with some Germans who were members of the Hannover Beatles Fan Club - and then was surprised to meet an old school friend, Mike Stilton who also enjoys live music. I hadn't seen Mike for years. This was a very professional show so the band members all stayed backstage before the performance, although I did see and chat to Julian, one of Howie's friends, pre-show.  The auditorium (I guess it holds about three hundred) was sold out, and I had a front row seat, along with my new German friends and a Polish lady named Mandy. Poor Mike had a seat right up at the back, but we contacted each other again at the interval and at the end. I'm getting to know who some of the personnel in this band are now. There was a new member named Stuart Darling on keyboards. He apparently has played with the band before - but it was sad because Myles Dowley their previous keyboard player, had died recently. Dave Christopher was back on bass guitar after a serious illness and his brother John Christopher was on second lead guitar. Of course Howie Casey was on saxophone and I think the trombonists name was Geza Molnar. The trumpet player was Dave Caswell and the drummer was Jonathan Hilton-KingJoe Jones was the principal vocalist, supported by Bev Miller, Vicky Barents and Jeanette - who also had opportunities for vocal solos.  Vicky & Bev also play flute, and Bev supports Howie with Alto Sax and Piccolo. The new lead guitar - aged only eighteen - was a young man named Dan, and he was excellent. Joe has an enviable vocal range, a great stage presence, and always looks cool and immaculate - and the whole performance was very polished and professional.  The sound system was well managed and there was a running slide show of changing images of Howie's past projected onto the back wall of the stage, which added to the overall air of showmanship.  The band played two sets with a short interval, during which Howie and Joe changed from suits into more relaxed shirts. As a finale they performed Hey Jude and invited members of the audience to join them on stage. The Germans, Mandy and myself led the rush of about thirty people, and as we were filing along the stage behind the front line of performers Vicky grabbed me to share her microphone (I cannot sing, and she is brilliant). It was only after mumbling the first lines that I realised that all the words were rolling around karaoke style on the iPads affixed to the microphone stands! That made it much easier. Of course Hey Jude was a false tab and once we were back in our seats the band finished with their usual encore of Little Richards Lucille - during which they each solo and then leave the stage, leaving just the drummer to conclude on his own. 
 

 

Friday 7th June 2019 
THE NASHVILLE TEENS appeared at Bagster House in Walton on Thames.

Bagster House is an interesting venue just to the North of Walton Bridge, over the River Thames. It is not a house at all, but comprises a conglomeration of single storey flat roofed buildings and a dirt car park. There are two main event areas, a large hall (seats 150) and a small hall (seats 50); The Nashville Teens were scheduled to play in the small area - which we worried might be too small - but which turned out to be just right for an intimate gig. The band haven't played since March so it was good to all get together again and there was a lot of catching up on news. Simon Spratley had been the first to arrive and had set up his keyboards. I arrived at the same time as Rays daughter Kelly, who had been instrumental in getting us this gig. We were soon joined by Colin Pattenden, Ken Osborne and Spud Metcalf. Ray Phillips arrived with his son Wesley and friends Matt & Nikki; and we were finally joined by Paul King who is a "local", living just a mile and a half up river at Weybridge. Paul had some harmonicas in his pocket (he always does!) and from the various keys of the songs we quickly sorted out which numbers he could usefully add backing to. The soundcheck revealed that Simons amplifier was on the way out, so Colin replaced it with the bands spare amp, so all was well... or so we thought. By nine o'clock the room was packed and the band kicked off with their take on Chuck Berry's Rockin' On The Railroad. The show went really well for just over half an hour until people started to smell smoke.... and it transpired that Kens amplifier was overheating and on the verge of catching fire! Colin waded in with his screwdriver, and fixed it while Ray and Simon entertained the audience with just vocals and keyboards (aided by a little light percussion from Spud). They did This Little Bird and I Put A Spell On You, which both sounded surprisingly different and fresh without the heavy bass and lead guitar parts. Colin found the problem in Kens amp, fixed it, and both he and Ken were back in the mix after only two songs. Very professional - and Ray later said that it was the first time in nearly sixty years of performing that his band had experienced two amplifiers dying on the same night. The net result was that we got the rare opportunity to hear Little Bird (instead of Route 66) and in the post gig analysis we all agreed that it was quite a nice touch to have a couple of "quieter" bluesy numbers in the middle of the otherwise quite loud rock'n'roll set. Paul King got up to play harmonica on a couple of numbers and the audience were up on the floor and dancing for most of the evening. The finale was, of course, Tobacco Road, and the encore was Born To Be Wild - and even after that the audience were still wanting more.  A very successful gig - thanks to Mary and John at Bagsters who organised the evening.
 

Paul King with The Teens at Bagster House.

 

Dr Christian and Doug - Electric Church

Thursday 23rd May 2019  There was a celebration entitled EXPERIENCE JIMI HENDIX: ELECTRIC CHURCH at The Everyman Theatre in London's Baker Street.

This extravaganza was part of the Everyman Music in Film Festival 2019 but Fran didn't fancy trekking into London with me on a weekday night so I offered my spare ticket to Dave McD of PDC Curry Club fame. We met in the bar at The Globe opposite Baker Street Station and after sampling a beer we made our way into Baker Street and to The Everyman Theatre where we had an appointment with Jimi Hendix. The event was entitled Experience Jimi Hendrix : Electric Church. Not the catchiest of titles - and we were under no illusions that we might meet the great guitarist in person, because he died nearly forty-nine years ago. However, another friend of mine, Doug Kaye, was scheduled to be giving a talk as a part of this extravaganza. Doug is a DJ who presents a very nice jazz programme on an internet radio station called SFOB*.  At the time in the sixties when Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his powers in London, Doug used to work as a DJ in Mr Love - his brothers restaurant - which was downstairs from Hendrix's London flat in Brook Street - just along the road from Claridges.  The evening commenced with a fascinating talk from Dr Christian Lloyd of The Handel and Hendrix Museum - which manages the joint museum in Jimi's flat and the neighbouring flat, which was inhabited by another famous musician, Handel, more than two hundred years before. Christian's presentation was followed by a ninety minute documentary film entitled Electric Church, about Jimi Hendrix's appearance at the last great pop festival of the era - the Atlanta Pop Festival of 1970. It was an excellent film and bought back lots of memories of the era - the vibrancy of the music, the sheer excitement of being eighteen years old and the hedonistic atmosphere wherever hippies gathered.  I actually saw a Hendrix performance in London in late 1967 or early 1968, at a club in Covent Garden. He wasn't that famous then and I don't remember much about the performance except being mesmerised by the opening sequence of Voodoo Child.  After the film Dr Christian resumed the stage, accompanied by Doug Kaye and they undertook a structured interview enabling Doug to relate anecdotes about Hendrix - who had frequented the restaurant - with other famous friends - and who borrowed (and sometimes returned) some of Doug's records. At the end of this session it was half past ten and the evening then progressed to some live music which was to be followed by Doug DJ'ing some of the original vinyl he played in Mr Love back in 1967. However, both Dave McD and myself had to get trains which meant not staying through until the scheduled midnight finish - so after a brief chat with Doug we set off on our respective journeys home. An excellent and fascinating evening - and nice to meet up with Doug again.
 

* Radio "SFOB" = Ship Full Of Bombs - operates from the Southend area on Internet Radio.
 

 

Sunday 19th May 2019  CHARLIE AUSTEN was playing an afternoon gig at The Three Lions, Godalming, aka Scratchers

On Sunday afternoon Fran and I drove down through Guildford to Godalming, to The Three Lions pub - aka "Scratchers".  We went to see an afternoon performance by Charlie Austen - the talented daughter of Claire Austen and step-daughter of Mike Windus, the lead guitarist with The Jackie Lynton Band. We arrived relatively early and it was good to catch up with Claire and Mike again - it was also good to be early enough to get a seat because the pub quickly filled up and was soon standing room only. Charlie is a very adept guitarist, an excellent vocalist and an accomplished songwriter. As well as performing solo, and as a duo with her cousin Em Cooper, she has toured as lead vocalist with Nine Below Zero.  She opened the first set with one of her own songs, Little Yellow Birds, quickly followed up by an excellent version of Feel Your Love (by Bob Dylan, but more recently made famous by Adele). She peppered her act with a few covers, including a ukulele version of Heard It On The Grapevine; but most of her songs were her own.  Some I had heard before like Ballad of Sputnik, Slave To Chemistry, Cold Hard Money, and Kiss Me! (the latter is brilliant - she should release it as a single!). However, there were some that were new to me including Cold WarAutumn Leaves and Livin' On The Breadline.  She has an amazingly mellifluous voice and a great stage presence which held the packed pub mesmerised for over two hours. Luckily for me she also performed two of her own songs which are among my favourites. The first of these, Copenhagen, is about memories of her grandfather and how she received the news of his passing; a very moving and surprisingly positive song. The second is called Sleep When I'm Dead, which she hasn't recorded yet - but which I really identify with. In a codicil to my Will I have specified that I would like that song played at my funeral (assuming I have one) so she had better get her finger out and record it !

picture right: Charlie Austen at Scratchers
 

 

above: The cast take a bow
right: The first published CV

Wednesday 15th May 2019  ROMEO AND JULIET was presented as part of Dorchester on Thames Festival at Dorchester-on-Thames Abbey.

Fran and I had booked good seats in the front pews at Dorchester-on-Thames Abbey for a performance of William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet. The key driver for attending was to see grandchildren #1 and #3 who both had parts in the production. They have both taken part in amateur dramatics before, but this was a first time that #1 actually had his drama CV published in the programme. Quite an accolade for a fifteen year old, when all the other key players were adults. #3 had a speaking part as Petruchio - a friend of Tybalt; while #1 had a fairly complex speaking part as Benvolio - Romeo's cousin and best friend.  The play was presented in the Abbey with a key stage area in front of the altar - but with scenes taking place around the audience as well both in the main aisle and in a side chapel. The organ console is on a first floor balcony above the main Nave and - woven with ivy leaves - provided Juliet's balcony. This was the opening night and Romeo & Juliet is a long play with a lot of dialogue to learn, but everybody was word perfect. An excellent presentation of the story and great pride in the performances of two of our Grandchildren.

 

 

Tuesday 30th April 2019  NEW ADVENTURES danced MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Matthew Bourne is not only one of our favourite choreographers, but he has reinvented his reinvention! Swan Lake was the first of his arrangements to get major publicity - because it was "controversial". Not only did he add his innovative twist to the story and add some amazing modern dance, but the swans were danced by men - a radical move in an environment which in those days was significantly less enlightened about the realities of LGBT existence.  Since then - like many of his other ballets he has embellished, modified, reinvented and generally improved each of his ballets. This is the third of his versions of Swan Lake which we have seen, and I think it is the best.  Fran and I drove over to The New Victoria Theatre at Woking, where we met up with Jacky & Colin Pattenden and Mike & Shirley Avery for a quick glass of wine before the performance. The music is still the Tchaikovsky original and the plot line is very vaguely the same as the original - which has a rejected Prince with a domineering mother (the Queen), being torn between two potential loves - one wholesome (white swan, Odette), and one evil (black swan, Odile) - and at the end the Prince goes mad, has visions and "everybody dies" ! (Actually there are several alternative endings to the classical version of the ballet).  Bourne's version starts the same as Julius Reisinger's 1877 classical version - with the Prince as a child having dreams of swans - except that they are all male, including a lead swan who appears to befriend him. The scene moves on to a time when the Prince is a young adult and Bourne introduces a "girlfriend" - a flirty young lady who gatecrashes parties and sparks the Princes interest; but who also provides the basis for a lot of humour with her "inappropriately common" behaviours in front of The Queen. The Queen and the Prince argue in the famous pas-de-deux - which for me is a high point of both versions of this ballet, after which the Prince absconds into town. This is an excuse for some amazing dance scenes in a nineteen seventies style disco bar where - misled by the Queens Private Secretary - the Prince perceives the "girlfriend" to be in the pay of the Royal Household - and he goes mad leading to a suicide attempt.  However, before he can throw himself in the lake he has a vision of the swans. In Bourne's version the swans are all male and their dance is quite aggressive - hissing and hitting out with their wings - but eventually the Prince befriends the lead swan (The Odette equivalent) in a passionate and sensual pas-de-deux.  Saved from suicide the Prince returns to a party at the palace which has been gatecrashed by "the girlfriend". The dance starts formally but gets more and more raucous, and the entry of the Queens Private Secretaries son (apparently called "young Von Rothbart") - clothed in black leather introduces the equivalent of the black swan (Odile) character. It is danced by the same man as the lead swan and the prince evidently recognises him. The Prince is infuriated by some very sensual dancing between young Von Rothbart with each of the women present, culminating in a dance with The Queen, whom he kisses passionately as it ends. The Prince is enraged and draws a pistol to threaten young Von Rothbart,  but The Queens Private Secretary also draws a gun to defend his Queen and fires at the Prince. The Girlfriend saves the Prince by throwing herself in front of him and is shot dead. This finally drives the Prince completely mad. This is followed by a hospital scene curiously reminiscent of "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest", before the Prince is put back to bed in his bedroom. Still mad this leads to another dream sequence with all the swans and their lead swan. The lead swan and The Prince dance very passionately but all the other swans disapprove and turn on them both and attack them, killing the lead swan before they vanish leaving the Prince lying prone. The Queen enters the bedroom and is mortified to find her son, the Prince, dead;  the vision on the mirror behind the bed is the classic tableau ending of Reisinger's version of the ballet - showing the Prince and the white swan embracing - reunited in death.  A breathtaking and brilliantly danced show.  
 

New Adventures - Swan Lake

 

Messrs Peabody, Cooper and Calvert

Sunday 28th April 2019   JIVE ALIVE with DAVE PEABODY as a guest appeared at The Waggon & Horses at Twyford

There has not been enough live music in our lives recently, so on Sunday evening we drove over to The Waggon and Horses at Twyford to see Jive Alive again - and especially to see their guest artists for the evening, who were our old friends Dave Peabody and George Lesley Calvert. As is the norm for this monthly gig, Jive Alive played the first set, and then were joined for the second set by their guests.  During the first set Dave and Les sat at the back chatting with Fran and myself - and it was great to catch up on news of old friends and happenings. While we were talking Dave pulled together his set list for the second half, which included some of our favourites.  I also acquired a couple more of Dave's CDs and a copy of his latest photography book - "In and Out of Mississippi". As well as being an absolute aficionado of the Blues, and three times voted the UK's Best Blues Guitarist of the year (Eric Clapton only got that vote once) Dave Peabody is an excellent professional photographer and his book contained some amazing pictures. All were of Blues Singers from Mississippi taken at venues all over the World at various stages over Dave's long career; and Dave has actually performed and recorded with many of the artists. In fact Dave told me that he has so far made 57 "LP/CD" releases and that because he can't resist inviting friends to join in he still hasn't yet managed to make one of just his solo work. Meanwhile George Lesley has had a hip replacement since we last saw him and he is not only recovering well, but he looks years younger now that he is out of pain (although he still won't smile for the camera!). In the second half Dave played and sang and George stood in for the bass guitar player. They played a great selection of blues and boogie - and Dave pleased me by remembering that Drifting Blues was one of my favourites (because he plays an amazing guitar solo on it) and dedicating it to me before he sang it. A great evening out and lots of fun catching up with old friends.
Subsequently listening to the CDs I had acquired I found that Dave has been in partnership with a German lady named Regina Murdoch, who plays an awesome violin - quite a change from Dave's previous style. Blues with a jazzy twist and a definite twenties feel.
 

 

Sunday 31st March 2019   JIVE ALIVE  appeared at The Waggon & Horses at Twyford

We haven't been to see live music at this pub for ages - in fact since 2015 - and it was great to see that it is still very popular and was crowded with lots of familiar faces. Neither had I seen Jive Alive for several years, and their line up has changed quite a lot - the only survivors this night being Gordon Vaughan and Dave Raphael. The main purpose of our visit was to see our pal Colin Pattenden who was deputising on bass guitar, but it was nice to meet up with Gordon again - whom we know from the late great King Earl Boogie Band. The band lead was still Dave Raphael, who played keyboards and harmonica and led most of the vocals;  Gordon Vaughan is an excellent guitarist and gave an exceedingly virtuoso lead guitar performance.  I didn't know the drummer, but he was good and steady - in fact the arrangements and deliveries of the main band were excellent.  They had guest singers and harmonica players up from the audience at odd times - which is a nice homely touch, and makes gigs like this far more interesting.
Fran and I watched the first set, but had to leave before the second set - which was set to feature Robin Bibi, another excellent musician, but sadly we had to miss his act.  We did learn that my old friend Dave Peabody is scheduled to guest with them at the end of April - so we will be tempted to attend that one.

Picture right:  Jive Alive at The Waggon and Horses with guest singer
 

 

 

Saturday 23rd March 2019
THE THEATRE REJECTS; HOWIE CASEY & FRIENDS; and CRAZY LITTLE DAISY  appeared at a private party in Bracknell

This was my seventieth birthday party and Fran allows me one big party every ten years. This time we decided to hold the party at home, so I had hired a hog roast and a marquee in the back garden for our guests. We had invited a hundred and twenty people, and just over a hundred actually attended. Unlike my previous "decade" parties - which have been wall-to-wall live music - this time I had planned only three live acts, interspersed with gaps of quieter piped music to enable guests to eat, talk and interact properly. We started the party at four in the afternoon, and it ran until half past eleven in the evening. I had prepared the "background" music between acts and the PA system was kindly provided by my friend Colin Pattenden.
The first live band was
The Theatre Rejects. This is my Grandson #1s own little band of very talented sixteen year olds. They comprise James Cooper on vocals and second lead guitar supporting Lizzie on lead guitar, her boyfriend Ethan on bass guitar and Felix on drums. Impressively, they write all their own material - and it is very good. Their presentation is polished and they are tight and clearly well rehearsed. Their songs are also impressive - quite loaded with "teenage angst", but that is a generational thing and is needed to appeal to the same age group. Although they performed early in the afternoon, before many of my musician friend guests had arrived - there were some around to impress, and both Colin Pattenden and Howie Casey (both of whom have had their share of chart success) said they liked what they saw and heard as well as the party guests.
After an interval and feeding time the party had got into its full swing, all the guests had arrived and it was time for more live entertainment. The "stage" area was occupied by
Howie Casey and Friends. Howie has a fantastic heritage as a session saxophone player - and among many other engagements, he spent four years touring with The Who and ten years touring and recording with Wings. He is also a lovely guy who has taught me to share his passion for rosť wine. To be honest, our passion has more to do with volume than with quality! He was accompanied by Jon Jones on vocals and by Vicky Barents on vocals and on second saxophone and flute. Their performance was brilliant - Jon and Vicky are both members of Howie's group Beatles With Wings, and are both excellent singers. They gave us quite a few McCartney songs as well as a rousing version of Nutbush City Limits - which Vicky excels at. The party loved them.
We then took another break for the party to drink and chat before the third and final live entertainment started. This was
Crazy Little Daisy - a duo performing mainly covers. The duo comprises Vanessa Humphreys (Ray Phillips' daughter) and Matt Harman. Nessa has inherited her Dads vocal abilities, and Matt is a very accomplished guitar player - between them they perform mainly covers of nineties and noughties music - and they do it very well. They gave me two surprises. The first was that Ray Phillips got up to sing a duet with Nessa, and they had chosen (and apparently had rehearsed in my bedroom!) This Little Bird - which Ray knows is one of my favourite Nashville Teens songs.  This was followed by Nessa's brother, Wes Phillips who is also an accomplished vocalist whom I really enjoy hearing. Overall a fantastic performance with a lovely surprise for me in the middle.
 

   

The Theatre Rejects                                                           Howie Casey, Vicky Barents and Jon Jones                                                         Crazy Little Daisy
 

and some video from the party:

          

The Theatre Rejects                                                                                            Howie Casey & Friends                                                                 Ray Phillips with Crazy Little Daisy
 

 

Fran, Roger & Mike at Scratchers

Saturday 16th March 2019
THE FRAN McGILLIVRAY  appeared at Scratchers in
The Three Lions, Farncombe, Godalming on Saturday evening.

The Three Lions is under temporary management until new hosts take over next week - so we are all hoping that the new landlords maintain the great reputation of The Three Lions as an ace music venue. Meanwhile the temporary managers are maintaining the currently committed gig list, and on Saturday evening Fran and I trekked down to Godalming to see Fran McGillivray, Roger Nunn and Mike Burke performing as The Fran McGillivray Band. The sound quality was very good in Scratchers and although there was only a small audience to start with, the place had filled up and become packed by the end of the first set. The band opened up the first set with Drinking From The Same Old Well, which they had put on their CD "The Road That You Believe In". This was followed by Ramblin' Man; When When When and Mess of Blue. Mike gave us two terrific guitar solos in their interpretation of Little Walters Blues With A Feeling. Four of their own compositions came next, Love and Regret; Get Back To Love; End Of The Road and Hard Working Woman. They finished the first set with their own slightly jazzy arrangement of Route 66 before taking a short break. The second half opened with Midnight Special followed by three more of their own works: Big Front Seat; Some Luck and I Gotta Know. From the end of I Gotta Know they moved seamlessly into Spoonful - the Willie Dixon classic. This is the first song I ever heard Fran & Mike play - it was in St Mary's Church, Hitchin, during the Rhythms of The World Festival some twenty years ago. The bass strap line echoing in the acoustics of a fourteenth century church were mesmerising, as was Fran's rich and expressive voice - I fell in love with their music then and have loved it ever since. Back at Scratchers in 2019, Fran followed this up with her bouncing version of another of Willie Dixons classics, Wang Dang Doodle Mike gave us The McGillivray Bands arrangement of Rufus Thomas's Walking The Dog and Fran followed on with Got My Mojo Workin'. This band presents The Blues in my favourite classic "British Blues" style. Fran, Mike and Roger then moved on to another of their own compositions - the dark lyrics of Blood On Your Hands and they wound up the evenings entertainment with the wonderful dance piece, Mister Blues. Indeed, by this time there were half a dozen dancers who had forsaken their drinks to whirl about the floor of The Three Lions. This band is a magic combination of Fran McGillivray's wonderful vocals, Mike Burke's exquisite guitar work, plus their combined songwriting and arrangement talents; combined with Roger Nunn's steady and expressive drumming.  Overall a brilliant evening, we loved every song and we didn't want the evening to end.
 

 

Thursday 7th March 2019
THE NASHVILLE TEENS appeared at The Riverside Club in Staines

The Riverside Club is true to its name - it is on the North Bank of the River Thames at Staines, right opposite Tim's Boatyard where our esteemed bass guitarist, Colin Pattenden, used to have his workshops and offices.  Ray Phillips, Colin Pattenden and Simon Spratley were all there when Fran and I arrived, but there was no sign of Ken Osborn or Spud Metcalfe.  Being relatively local to Teens home territory we knew quite a few people in the audience, so there was a lot of chatting and it wasn't until nearly eight o'clock that we started to worry about our missing drummer and lead guitarist. It turned out that they had been stuck in traffic. They rolled in just after eight and we had the stage area set up and ready soon after half past eight. The little club was sold out and the room was packed to overflowing - a great success for the organiser. The band played their regular "double forty five" set (two sets of forty five minutes each) and I managed to find a signal and stream a couple of numbers live onto Facebook, which elicited live responses from some friends of mine on the West Coast of the USA as well as a "wave" and a positive comment from John H., who used to manage Steve Marriott. (Steve and Ray were great friends back in the sixties). Half way through the first set Adam Russell arrived; which was nice, although we hadn't expected him. In the second set he got up and accompanied the band on a couple of the songs with his harmonica. The presentation of I Put A Spell On You went down really well, reinforcing my feeling that we really ought to try to get a studio recording of it together. Despite the overcrowding, a dozen ladies managed to make space on the dance floor to bop about. The band ended with their usual false tab of Tobacco Road, and then came back for an encore of Born To Be Wild.  A very successful evening - unusual for a mid-week gig, but very encouraging for the future of the Riverside Club, who have clearly got their act together again.
 

The Teens at The Riverside Club

 

Vicky and Howie on Saturday

Sunday 3rd March 2019
The monthly appearance at The Bistro on The Beach at Southbourne to see HOWIE CASEY with his friends

Travelling down the M3 and M27 to Southbourne for this regular gig on the first Sunday of each month is becoming a habit. We had reserved a table at The Bistro on the Beach where we met up with our new friends Clive and Pauline whom we had met there the previous month. The entertainers were already there, Howie Casey with Vicky Barents supported by John Christopher and Julian Spencer. I suspect that it may be my normal diet of guitar and drum based "Old School R&B" which makes this monthly interlude of a sax and flute music special to me; plus the spectrum of music is more angled toward Beatles / Wings (with whom Howie played for ten years) and to light jazz than it is to the Blues to which I am more accustomed. Of course the fact the performers are top class musicians helps enormously too! Fran and I are learning that Howie and his friends have a huge repertoire, and although they clearly have favourites, there was a good sixty percent of today's show that we had not seen them perform before - or which we had seen them perform differently. Some of this variation was because regulars John Jones and Malcolm were not present to deliver male vocals this time. Vicky's voice is powerful but remains very feminine and thus the delivery of her vocals is an interesting contrast when she sings songs that we usually hear the guys singing. In one case - the Wings song Bluebird - Howie performed without any vocal accompaniment at all, and it worked well. Throughout the show Vicky and Howie played as a duo except for one solo each. They started their first set with Vicky playing her flute - on which she is extremely adept.  She also played her saxophone for some numbers and their duets were brilliant, with a definite jazzy feel to the instrumentals they presented. The whole ambience was enhanced because there is evidently a great magic worked between them as they both clearly enjoy working together. The whole show is two hours long with sets lasting about twenty minutes and rests between sets being only about five minutes - so it must be a physically demanding schedule.  Vicky has a phenomenal voice and enormous energy - she is always smiling, bouncing up and down and looking as if she is really enjoying herself. The pair ended the show with her rendition of Nutbush City Limits - which is one of the best versions I have ever heard live; my only complaint is that it doesn't last much longer!  An amazing show and well worth the long drive to spend lunch time hearing such good live music.
 

 

Saturday 16th February 2019
We went to The Polish Club at Amersham to see GIDEA PARK providing backing for COLIN BOYD, MIKE D'ABO and for KARL GREEN.

We had not been to the Polish Club for several years - it is a well known centre for sixties music. The draw was that our friend Karl Green, founder member, bass guitarist, and - eventually, after Peter Noone had left - lead singer with Hermans Hermits; was heading the bill. We arrived in good time and found seats at a table near the back of the hall; the audience at The Polish Club numbers about two hundred, all with table seating - and with a large dance floor. The Amersham Rock'n'Roll Club puts on four or five gigs at the hall each year, mainly with a core band and two or three "guest" vocalists. All their gigs are a sell out and the dance floor is always full. We arrived and I went straight to the bar where I ran into a couple of old friends, Perry Smith and Wendy Keelan. They are "fans" whom I have got to know over the years because they are avid collectors of autographs from bands - and I smuggle them in backstage whenever I can because without fans, musicians would be nothing! Then an even bigger surprise was to find that they were sitting on the table right next to Fran and I, and to be introduced to Perry's Mum - who had come along because she likes music. The main band for the evening was Gidea Park, not a band I was very aware of, and I didn't know any of their line up - The bass player was clearly the leader - and his son was the drummer. A very good drummer too, rock steady and a lot of stamina (played from eight until midnight with only a couple of short breaks). The keyboard player and rhythm guitar were good competent players, and the rhythm guitar guy had an excellent voice for backing harmonies. Their lead guitar was a young guy who was very competent - and when he launched into some of the "heavier" pieces which Karl put into his act, he really shone like a star.
The first act was fronted by
Colin Boyd, a founder member of The Honeycombs and later a member of Honeybus. Of course he performed their main hit, I Can't Let Maggie Go; but I was pleased that he also sang a song of theirs which I really like, Do I Figure - written by his colleague Pete Dello - and later released by Joe Cocker, Dave Berry, Dave Stewart and Paul Carrack to name but a few.  As a coincidence, in the audience was Alan Ward, original lead guitarist with the Honeycombs, so when Colin inevitably got around to singing some of The Honeycombs songs he invited Alan up to play lead guitar on Have I The Right.
The next act was
Mike D'Abo - prolific songwriter and for many years the lead singer with Manfred Man. We have seen Mike several times before and he is a consummate entertainer, peppering his act with anecdotes. He sang several of the songs he had hits with as a member of the Manfred's, and also delivered us some of his other works, which had been hits for other bands. Again he was able to invite up an audience member to play guitar for a number - it was Alan Warner, who had been a member of The Foundations when they recorded Mike's song Build me Up Buttercup. Among the other songs Mike D'Abo played were Death of a Clown and Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James, and his own rendition of a song he wrote for Chris Farlowe, Handbags and Gladrags. His act was very well choreographed and Gidea Park were excellent (I later learned that they have worked with him several times recently, which helps polish any performance.)
After a short break the final act was
Gidea Park backing our pal Karl Green. I have known Karl for twenty years or more and seen him play lots of heavy metal style music and heard many of the songs he writes, which are largely contemporary rock; and although I have seen him deliver some Hermits music before, I have never before seen him deliver so much in one act. It was great - he is a good vocalist and keeps his voice higher for the Hermits numbers, Silhouettes on The Shade, I'm Into Something Good, Something Is Happening, and Dandy - all sung in the higher vocal range style of Peter Noone. Gidea Park provided not only excellent instrumental backing, but very professional sounding backing vocals as well.  After doing his duty in delivering what the audience expected in the shape of Hermits nostalgia, Karl switched to his own favoured style with a fantastic version of Joe Walsh's Rocky Mountain Way followed by Hometown Alabama. Both those songs are essentially loud and require great projection and a relatively gravelly vocalisation - which takes it's toll of the singers vocal chords. Karl has not performed a lot recently and he had the sense to recognise that, so when I expected him to give us his version of The Eagles Life In The Fast Lane, he surprised me by throttling back and going with a slightly softer ZZ Top number instead. The audience loved the "pop" of the Hermans Hermits music, but equally loved the heavier music which followed - they were on their feet dancing and going wild.  Karl ended the evening by switching back to his higher vocal range to present a great finale presentation of the Hermits hit, There's A Kind Of Hush.  I am always proud to see guys and girls who are - for ninety-nine percent of the time - just my mates, show exactly what professionals they really are - and get the acclaim of a standing ovation. Which is what Karl deservedly got at the end of the show. 
 

above: Mike D'Abo and Colin Boyd
below: Karl Green

 

Vicky Barents & Howie Casey

Sunday 3rd February 2019
HOWIE CASEY entertained us at The Bistro on The Beach at Southbourne.

On the first Sunday of each month Howie Casey brings friends along to The Bistro on The Beach near Christchurch to entertain the Sunday lunch time diners; and whenever we can do it, Fran and I go to see them. This weekend Howie was accompanied by Vicky Barents, a phenomenally talented little bundle of energy! We had seen Vicky perform before (Beatles With Wings at Yeovil, last October) and I noted in my assessment of that gig - see my IfTheDevil.com website for 2018 gigs - that she had an amazing voice, a great talent with instruments, and couldn't stop bouncing up and down! Because the performance space at the Bistro is tight, and is continually crossed by waiters and waitresses collecting meals or returning plates, it is very restricted; so Howie has to give his performance with cover from a backing track - managed by his mate John. Howie's heritage is amazing - his band Howie Casey and The Seniors were the first Liverpool band to spend time in the Hamburg club scene in the late 1950's - paving the way for others such as Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes, Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers, The Nashville Teens and Beryl Marsden, not to mention The Beatles ! He then became a very successful session musician, backing a huge number of artists. The places you are most likely to have heard his backing sax are on records by The Who - with whom he toured for four years; and Paul McCartney's Wings - which he was a member of for ten years. His current band is called Beatles With Wings, but the Sunday sessions on the beach are a more personal affair. The entertainment at The Bistro this Sunday was delivered in three sets; the first was Howie doing some solo numbers - which are excellent and really showcase his expertise with the saxophone. He was then joined by Vicky Barents for the second set. She started the set playing her saxophone, and then migrated to playing the flute, as well as contributing brilliant vocals. She has a very powerful and melodious voice - a joy to listen to. My favourites from her at the moment are Lady Madonna and Nutbush City Limits. Vicky also featured in the third set, but was helped out on vocals by Malcolm - a regular singer at the Bistro, who was joined for the final song by his brother Melvyn for a joint rendition of a rock'n'roll version of Floyd Dixons classic blues number, Hey Bartender.  Overall an excellent show -and an excellent meal with good company. I'm sure that the tourists who pack the place enjoy the live music, but I suspect that most of them do not know just what a privilege it is to have such a famous musician playing to them at no charge!
 

 

Friday 25th January 2019
CHARLIE AUSTEN and EMILY COOPER performed at The Billingshurst Centre.

Charlie Austen is the very talented daughter of our friend Clare Windus, and is one of the vocalists with the band Nine Below Zero. On Friday evening she was performing at Norma Sullivan's gig in Billingshurst with her equally talented cousin Emily Cooper - another very talented musician/singer/songwriter. Norma is the widow of Big Jim Sullivan - one of the best guitarists of the twentieth century; and she continues his tradition of putting on small gigs for talented musicians, to which the audience has to bring a picnic if they want anything to eat of drink!  I had seen Charlie and Em in October 2016 during one of Em's visits to the UK - She was at that time living and working in South Africa - but Fran had not experienced their music before. Since then Em has moved back to the UK so these cousins can perform together more regularly. They both have fantastic voices and are both multi-talented instrumentalists. Emily opened the show with some of her songs, including a very moving song titled All We Can Do Is Hold On, about her grandfather (Clare's Dad). Later in the show Charlie played us one of her songs, titled Copenhagen, which was also about the loss of the same granddad. The girls explained that they had written their songs quite independently and didn't know that the other was doing the same until after both songs were finished. He must have been a wonderful grandfather.  After a few songs Charlie joined Em on stage and they played duets using guitars and a cajon. For the rest of the show they popped on and off stage and swapped instruments so that we got a fascinating mix of them as individuals and as a duo. Both have amazing clear voices with a great range and great control. Almost all of their entire show was their own compositions, except three covers just before the break - Ami McDonalds, Where You Gonna Sleep Tonight; Janis Joplin's Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart; and The Beatles Help!.  All their other songs were their own (some written in collaboration with others, but primarily their own work) including Body & Soul, Pathway to Heaven, Slave to Chemistry, Little Yellow Birds and Cold Hard Money.  The music was all good, but three of their songs really stood out for me:  Blame and Can I Just Kiss You both stood out as really excellent songs - catchy and showcasing both girls vocal range and skills. But my absolute favourite was Charlie's latest song, and the final one of the evening, Asleep When I'm Dead - which I found appeared to reflect my whole personal outlook on life; it was very moving.  An excellent show, and now that both girls are living relatively locally (Billingshurst is forty miles away), I hope we will see more of them.
 

Emily and Charlie

 

Teens with Paul King at Sunbury - January 2019

Friday 18th January 2019
THE NASHVILLE TEENS delivered their annual entertainment at Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

This annual event is always well subscribed and 2019 was no exception.  Fran and I got there quite early and met with Colin Pattenden and Simon Spratley. We set up our base on a large table near the front (the hall was set out in restaurant style with lots of round tables) and I went to meet Paul, the chairman of the Cricket Club, to check that everything was in order. We were joined by a lovely couple named Natalie and Sarah - who were guests of Simon - and eventually joined by Paul King (Mungo Jerry) with girlfriend Pat, by Mel Phillips, Jackie Pattenden and by Julie & Gordon Sellars  (Alex Harvey Band and Beggars Opera) and a couple of their friends. Meanwhile Ken Osborne, Spud Metcalf and Ray Phillips had arrived and between us we set up the stage. This event and is effectively the annual "friends and family" gig, and the regular clientele of the Sunbury Blues Club are enhanced by an influx of family. Fran and I occasionally visit the Club, so we were pleased to see Pet & June Barnard and catch up briefly on their news. It was also good to catch up with Ray's son Wesley and his daughter Kelly.  The show started with Rockin On The Railroad, which went down really well. Paul King joined the band to play harmonica on Hoochie Coochie Man and on Red House.  After a short break the band recommenced and Ray showed that his voice is still fantastic, even at eighty years old, with his rendition of I Put A Spell On You. The band wound up with a false tab at Tobacco Road, and then progressed to an encore with Born To Be Wild. A great show and well appreciated by the audience.

Six months ago invested a lot of money in a stock of the bands current double CD/DVD release from Secret Records - called "Live At The Nags Head". At this gig sales finally crossed the break even barrier and I am now thirty quid in pocket !! From now on I shall be selling the CDs and all income will be profit. I'm hoping to raise enough to fund a studio album for the band.
 

 

Monday 14th January 2019
We said goodbye to STEVE KEMP at Woking Crematorium and celebrated his life at The British Volunteer pub in Weybridge.

This was not strictly a gig; but Steve Kemp was a regular and avid reader of this music blog. He was a lovely guy who kept me updated and corrected my reports where necessary - and his wake did involve live music played by his friends so I'm counting it as a gig for his sake. Steve was a thoughtful Disc Jockey - he always planned and tailored his shows to fit the audience, researching peoples likes and dislikes and searching out music especially for each customer.  He was an avid fan of the early sixties blues genre, loving John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds among many others. I had got to know him over the last twenty five years or so because he regularly provided music before many of the live gigs, and during the intervals, where my various bands played locally. Steve passed away on Christmas Eve 2018, reluctantly leaving his lovely wife Janis and son Gareth after a long fight with the big C. Woking Crematorium was packed. It seats one hundred and twenty people, and I lost count at over two hundred and fifty people crowded into the little room when Steve's coffin was carried in. Lots of people loved him. The coffin was painted pale blue with headphone and record motifs painted on it - highly appropriate. The entry music was All Your Love by John Mayall & Eric Clapton, and the "contemplative" music was very appropriately the full orchestral version of Music Was My First Love, by John Miles. Among the musicians who had turned out to say goodbye were Jackie Lynton, Ray Phillips, Gordon Sellars, Colin Pattenden, Paul King, Brian Adams, Chris Bryant and Mike Windus. His niece, Liz, read a very moving poem, and the reverend Helen Kempster read a eulogy. Steve knew he was dying and I am pretty sure that the music played was his choice, we left the little chapel to the strains of Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode
Many of the crowd then made our way over to The British Volunteer pub in Weybridge, which we packed out. After a while Paul King took to the little stage area, accompanied by Chris Bryant, Colin Pattenden and a chap named Rod on drums; they opened up with Paul singing You Gotta Do That Thing followed by several other jug band numbers before he started to invite some of the vocalists in the room up to sing. Jackie Lynton gave us a couple of numbers, and was joined by Brian Adams for Down The Road Apiece. Ray Phillips also sang a couple of numbers and as the music progressed there were frequent toasts to Stevie. We had a full pub singalong to Chris Bryant's arrangement of You Can't Always Get What You Want. Steve had been an avid fan of West Ham Football Club (which allegedly he had decided to support because he liked their hair styles in the seventies!) and he was a very handy footballer himself; so at one point the band had the whole pub accompany them to I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles. It was a fine send off for a really nice bloke, Rest In Peace Stevie.
 

Stevie Kemp 1949-2018

 

Nashville Teens on stage at Yeovil

Saturday 12th January 2019
THE NASHVILLE TEENS and CLIFF BENNETT performed at The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil

This was a test out gig to see whether the package of Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers and The Nashville Teens could work in a balanced way and to see whether we could attract enough of a paying audience to risk a few more theatre gigs like this. We arrived at The Octagon Theatre around three o'clock to find a couple of autograph hunters were already hanging around by the stage door.  We were able to set up really quickly because Colin Pattenden and I  knew the theatre layout having worked there in late 2017 on the final Chas & Dave tour. It was great to catch up with Cliff again - we had missed each other the last time he had been visiting Berkshire. Sadly all the original Rebel Rousers have now passed on, the last one being Chas Hodges just last summer. The (New) Rebel Rousers have been pulled together by Mark Lundquist - who also owns MLM, the promoting company. They are all very good musicians and together they sounded excellent, but had only performed with Cliff a few times so far, so we used most of the afternoon rehearsing beginnings and endings for them, and because the theatre has very good sound engineers The sound checks very quick and went very smoothly.  The Nashville Teens retreated over the road to The Manor Hotel to while away the couple of hours between sound check and the opening of the show, but we all got back to the dressing room half an hour before stage time and the band were on stage raring to go as the house lights went down at eight o'clock. The Nashers only had to perform for forty five minutes - which was in itself a small problem because their standard sets are an hour long and we had to decide which songs to omit. The band hit the ground running with Rockin' On The Railroad - and played mainly rock type numbers. There was a concession to the blues when they played I Put A Spell On You. Ray was unusually talkative between numbers, with little anecdotes about his experiences in the sixties. His style is very humble, no ego tripping, just fun anecdotes - which went down very well with the audience. Ray then made a very bold announcement on stage - and live to the planet because I was streaming it to the internet! Ramon (his real name) has always been somewhat coy about his age because he is actually much older than he looks (or acts); and in interviews throughout his career he has fairly consistently failed to tell the truth! Quite unexpectedly in the middle of this gig he announced to the World that next week he will be celebrating his eightieth birthday - which is the truth. The audience went wild with approval and Ray suddenly took the huge step from being an "aging rocker" to being a "National Treasure".  The band were extremely tight and clearly loved every moment of the performance; and the sound quality was terrific. The final number (no encores at theatre gigs) was Tobacco Road and the audience went wild ! A great gig all round, the audience were wowed and they bought a lot of our CDs during the interval. We cleared our kit from the stage during the break and then stood side stage to watch the first couple of Cliff Bennett's numbers before we crept out the back and went to find dinner and wind down the adrenalin!
 

 

 

 

These gigs were in 2018, but I couldn't report them until early 2019 - so they are included in the new year list.

 

 

Saturday 29 December 2018
DAN WEBER and ED HAYNES performed at The Artichoke Cafe in downtown Portland, Oregon, USA.

Our daughters neighbour Gary has been involved for ages with a Portland project called The Artichoke.  his is a musical charity which provides instruments and free musical tuition for kids. The premises, just to the West of the Ross Island Bridge, have a teaching space upstairs, and downstairs is a small musical instrument shop and a cafe. In the cafe they have live music gigs each week and on Saturday 29th we left the kids at home and the four of us drove into Portland and attended a gig. Gary had reserved a table for us, with his wife Sue and her sister. The table was right at the front - so we had a great view. The space is quite small - I suspect it seats only about fifty customers when set out as a cafe; but the acoustics and the sound system were both good. We were entertained by Dan Weber and Ed Haynes. Both performers operate in the modern "Americana Folk" genre, and both performed their own compositions. Dan was the warm up act and Ed Haynes was the headliner who delivered songs which mostly had a strong comedy line through the lyrics; although a couple of his songs were quite dark, suggesting he had quite a troubled mind. Afterwards we agreed that the dark songs were not particularly memorable, or even coherent, but that the comedy songs were absolutely brilliant. Ed is also a very good guitarist, and delivered some fancy middle eights. His final (encore) delivery was an instrumental played in an open G tuning, which reminded me very strongly of the guitar work of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. I bought a couple of his CDs. On the way home my son-in-law Paul surprised me by admitting that he had never been to a folk club environment before, and he had loved it. All the way home he sang one of Ed's songs about throwing the Christmas Tree in the reservoir now that Christmas was over!  

picture left: Ed Haynes at The Artichoke, Portland
 

 

Sunday 23rd December 2018
THE NUTCRACKER  was danced at The Weller Auditorium in Portland Oregon by students of The Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Our Christmas present from our daughter was tickets to The Keller Auditorium in Portland. Oregon, USA, to see Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker. The auditorium is huge, I guess it seats about two and half thousand - and it was packed. Our seats were excellent, in the orchestra just a few rows from the stage. The choreography was not the classical Pepita/Ivanov (nor the avant garde Matthew Bourne), but was by George Balanchine - and was evidently focussed on showing off skills of dancers of a variety of skill levels - having a lot of classical pointe, foue and jette work for young aspiring professionals, as well as space for very junior dancers as young as six or seven. It was an excellent performance by students of the Oregon Ballet Theatre group. 

 

picture right: The Keller Auditorium

 

 

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