Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Christmas Bash

Here’s a problem.

I really want to write something fascinating about our much looked forward to gig at the Grapes on Saturday just gone……but although it went well, it wasn’t remarkable and I can’t think what to write.

Mind you much of this might have to do with the fact that Mrs Rock God has been extremely ill with a chest infection for the past week and the Rock God of these pages has been assigned to the sofa in the living room and having had very little sleep….I’m wrecked.

Being honest I am not as young as once I was and I am feeling the effects of not having my standard seven hours a night.

Anyway, away with such mundane things, what of the gig I hear you cry.

Well as I have written before in these columns the Grapes is like home to us and having not performed there for over a year we have been really looking forward to returning, especially as they have had a major refit.

I did my usual ‘blatting’ of our mailing lists and sending press releases to the media and newspapers etc, which is something I have to do every single gig (oh boy what I would give for a press officer who could do this one particular task for me). We really wanted the venue to be rammed to the ceiling with excited punters, celebrating Christmas and having a good time.

We practiced a special ‘Christmas set’…..which due to time constraints meant a rocked up version of ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ and an acoustic sing-a-long version of the ‘Fairy Tale of New York’.

And I ate vitamins like Smarties in an attempt to avoid my wife’s illness (all performing singers live in terror of the rogue chest infection).

We found as much festive tinsel, lights and hats as we could muster and we were ready.

And then the day arrived.

CJ & I arrived at the pub having almost flattened a Chav with the trailer (would I be right in thinking that the British Chav’s are equivalent of the American ‘Trailer Trash’ that we hear about in the movies? – either way for those not of the English Isles, Chavs were said to have originated from Chavington in Essex…however for the most part it is widely recognised as ‘Counsel House and Violent’).

However, some stiletto heeled Doris in a skirt that was more like a belt than a garment and displaying thighs that would not have been out of place on an all England Rugby Full back, decided that she could not wait until we had passed into the ally down the side of Grapes and jumped between the trailer and the car.

If she had gotten one of those dainty heels caught in the light wiring she could have ended up becoming an ornamental accessory on the back of CJ’s brand new company Vectra.

She narrowly missed becoming a tasteless joke (what do you call a Chav who has been crushed under the wheels of your trailer?........a start!). However, being a good, loving Christian boy I won’t make such tasteless observations.

We met Aaron at the pub who had come straight from work……and I did the stupid thing of entering into debate with him.

I have learnt that one should never talk to my son for about half an hour after he has got home from work. His world is full of musicians, would be musicians, and teenage boys who aspire to rock stardom. Aaron does not suffer fools gladly……and his world is full of them.

The normal protocol is to sit him quietly down, feed him cups of tea and allow him a rant on the stupidity of the average moron that are the stock and trade of his profession. Once his spleen has been vented, he is then in a more settled frame of mind to discuss his preferred passion…guitars…at this point his mother and girlfriend leave the room.

However, we were in a hurry and we all too quickly got into a heated debate about our stage positions as the stage itself was too small to take all three of us. Accusations of ego were banded about…nothing serious mind you, but enough for CJ to shake his head in that familiar way as he recognised the ‘Loaders’ were having their usual ‘domestic’.

Anyway, I showed the better part of valour and went with Aaron’s suggestion as I was just too damn tired to argue….besides which, we both knew that our argument was really being fuelled by the fact the growing worry that the pub was almost empty and a growing dread that we might be playing to an empty building once again.

It was 7pm on what was supposed to be the busiest day of the year for the pub trade and there can’t have been more than 20 people in the whole place.

It wasn’t going to happen to us again was it?

Anyway, we set about putting the whole stage set together which this time includes Fairy lights and Tinsel.

Out of the side of eye I got drawn into the conversation of two young chaps who were deep in a very emotional conversation, which included one of the more, bearded and masculine fellows balling his eyes out like a baby.

Talk about making you feel uncomfortable.

Anyway, we managed to get set up quickly and in good time and so we trotted off to find chips (for those reading this over seas, you cannot, and I repeat CANNOT beat the good British chip…for that read ‘Fries’). Our ‘chips’ are made with real potatoes and not Maize and are a meal in themselves.

“All Hail the British chip”!

The only thing that killed this whole argument was that our fettles were served to us by a couple of burley Greeks called Stavros and Spearo.

However the chips, British or otherwise hit the spot and were now ready to rock.

CJ furnished us with a pint of our traditional Guinness (real beer) and we got laden down with a couple of pints of water each.

Then Aaron and I went off to change in the cellar.

Back in the day of Mudheads Monkey, we had a fantastic Mercedes truck that had a cab big enough to change in, with curtains and everything. Nowadays, if we want to make an effort we have to change in the toilets…..but not tonight…believe me…not tonight!

The basement would have been Barney’s (from the Simpsons) dream….bottles of beer and cider, wine and other weird and wonderful concoctions lay everywhere.

However, we were here to change into our suits (yup, we were going smart again), and this time Aaron was outdoing me by wearing a waist coat under his.

Then we were ready to rock!!

As we took to the stage, we were thankful that the place had begun to fill up a bit more.

A few of Aaron’s mates had shown up. About six of CJ’s apprentices had made an appearance, and Tim our unofficial Roadie as well as Kieron, who has helped us out from time to time and his good lady wife (getting a baby sitter when you have four kids is the holy grail believe me….I’m sure that Nicky would have probably have preferred to have used such a rarity to be wined and dined in a good restaurant, maybe with a show thrown in. sadly all she could hope for tonight was having her ears pinned back by us lot and a Kebab on the way home…oh and Kieron getting pulled by the police on a random breath test…thankfully he is a sensible lad and doesn’t drink and drive…although Nicky told me that he did get involved in taking the micky out of the police officer by accusing him of making a sexist assumption that Kieron is a bloke…you meet him, there is no doubt that he is ALL bloke).

As I said the gig was good, but not exceptional.

We were greatly enjoyed by a whole pack of drunken (mainly male) revellers who cause the poor bar manager untold grief as the evening when on, and nearly took my front teeth out on several occasions when they fell into the stage and into my mic stand.

We gave it our very best and by the end the crowd had warmed up and the place was fairly full.

We got ourselves a couple of encores, something which you can no longer take for granted…and treated the punters to a screaming version of the Clashes ‘I fought the Law’ and ‘Two Princes’ by the Spin Doctors, then it was over.

We played ‘I dreaming of a White Christmas’ over the PA and got off stage.

Taking down and packing the trailer was harder than it normally is as we were all so tired.

However, we got it done and we headed off home through the crowd of drunken revellers…I caught myself thinking that cliché that proved I must be getting old “I wonder if her dad knows she’s gone out dressed like that”.

We drove passed the ‘Out door urinals’ for the men that would normally have peed into the fountains. What are we coming to eh?

As CJ drove me back to our house (Aaron had gone back out with his mates and girlfriend) we agreed that we needed to come up with a game plan next year to try and keep it exciting.

We need to draw a fresh new audience and we need to do something that will keep it exciting for us.

All suggestions gratefully received.

See, and I didn’t think I had anything to write about.

If I don’t speak to you before, have a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Followers of the blog

Does the Rock God have an Ego?, you can bet your bottom dollar he has....well, I have a little left.

One thing that will help to inflate my ego just a little is to know that people are out there reading this blog.

So why don't you encourage me...just a little, and sign on as a follower.....and in case you are wondering that isn't some kind of weird discipleship thing...I'll leave that one to others. It's just an acknowledgement that you read the Rock Gods blog.....relieving past glories...and hopefully chuckling as you do!

Anyway, The Mudheads are preparing for what we hope will be the gig of the year this coming Weekend..our mammoth Christmas bash....please Lord I don't break anything at this gig.

Anyway, as always you will be the first to know.

So go on, sign on...you know you want to.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


I have penned a short piece on one fellow band member I thought that I ought to have balance and tell you a little of the other.

For those of you who don’t know, Aaron, guitarist for The Mudheads is actually my son (yes I AM that old).

I had a very fortunate escape in that Aaron’s mother, my lovely wife, wanted her beloved son to follow in her families tradition of being mad about football (that’s soccer for anybody reading this over the pond).

Aaron was ‘encouraged’ to play in various teams as child and dragged along to local matches with one of our two football clubs, Bristol City. However, it soon became apparent that Aaron has inherited his father’s aptitude for the game (two left feet and no sense of direction) and agreed that actually ‘watching’ the game was about as pointless as….well….the most pointless thing there is to watch really (my apologies to anybody who is in fact a fan of ‘the beautiful game’ each to his own I say).

Anyway, at the tender age of 16 Aaron brought joy to his old dad’s heart and a cold chill to his mothers….he picked up a guitar.

From that point on Aaron became obsessed and he was generally caught wandering around the house strumming an old Spanish guitar that my parents had bought me when I was lad.

I tried to teach him a few chords, but I am not known for my patience and for the sake of family harmony and father and son unity Aaron took off on his own.

Aaron and his school mates had their first band and I was encouraged (for that read, ordered by my wife) to go and set up a PA for them at gigs and do the sound for them.

I had a note of nostalgia as to the cacophony Bassbin and I used to make when we were boys. Yet, we were never that loud.

Then. When Aaron was just 17, events conspired to change everything.

I had been persuaded by work mates to get back into performing again, and I managed to get myself a booking with my friend and former guitarist Matt Sims.

Sadly Matt had to pull out of the gig at the last minute due to work commitments and my wife suggested that I take Aaron along instead.

I wasn’t as negative as I had been with the thought of CJ’s audition, after all Aaron was my lad and I wanted to encourage him. However I wasn’t hopeful that he was going to make me look amazing.

We took to the ‘Robin Hood Retreat’ in Bristol armed with two acoustic guitars, a small PA and about 90 minutes of songs that I knew (that Aaron didn’t), un-rehearsed and totally unprepared.

All I can say is “fair play” to Aaron. Despite not having a clue as to what I was doing he kept up, and proved conclusively that he had what it took to be a guitarist.

It also got me back into performing after a break of about 8 years.

We got the bug almost immediately and many acoustic gigs followed and Aaron just kept on getting better and better and better.

He also managed to fight down his natural embarrassment to sing and very soon was happily singing along with me. Many have said that his voice is very similar to mind, which gives us a kind of chorus effect.

He also developed an unhealthy obsession with buying expensive guitars.

I had married young and had been pretty broke before that, so all my guitars had been copies, that was until when I reached 40 and my parents bought me an amazing acoustic guitar (I’ll tell that tale another day).

On the other hand Aaron had by the time he had reached his 20’s procured three Gibsons (including two of the legendary Les Paul electric guitars). A Fender Telecastor (top of the range I might add), a Fender bass guitar, a Takemine Acoustic guitar and a beautiful (and much envied by me) Taylor acoustic.

In order to satisfy this addiction Aaron decided that University wasn’t for him and went to work as an acoustic guitar specialist for a major music equipment retailer.

By the time we had teamed up with CJ he had also started collecting Marshall Amplifiers and has a guitar stack that is taller than he is.

However, bottom line, take away all the expensive instruments, and Aaron is still a mighty fine guitarist and we play well together.

I have often asked him why he doesn’t go off and join another band (as performing in a band with your old man isn’t the coolest thing in the world). His reply is always the same, “are you mad, I get to play regularly and I get paid…..I’m not giving that up”.

For my part it’s a privilege to play in a band with my son. So many fathers struggle to find any common ground with their sons and yet Aaron and I have a massive thing in common and are good friends.

I am not however, his mate….Aaron has loads of mates, he’s a popular guy. He only has one dad though, and I am proud to say….that’s my job.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Mudheads Monkey had hit a bit of an impasse.

Bassbin and Goodbin had decided that their days of living the rock & roll dream and the demanding needs of the groupies had become too much for them (in their dreams) and had decided that they would call it a day.

This left Matt and I in a bit of quandary. Did we continue as an acoustic duo, or did we try and find another drummer and bass player.

The bass playing bit was easy as I could return to those duties, but the drummer was bit more tricky.

Our original replacement for Goodbin, Sally (yes that’s right…a girl! a real girl...who had an aptitude for belting the hell of the skins) had gone off to college to study Social Work, so we were stuck.

Then Matt suggested this ‘kid’ called CJ.

I had known CJ for years, mainly as a child (he’s 15 years younger than me) and so I was not too keen.

The last thing I needed was another teenager with more enthusiasm and ego than actual talent. I had played with one of those many years before and to be frank he had been a pain in the backside and made the whole touring thing a nightmare. I had enough to cope with my own short comings without dragging a hormonal wannabie ‘metal head’ around with us.

However, Matt insisted and for the sake of friendship I said that I would at least audition this ‘young un’.

We planned to have a crack at a couple of songs and see how it went…I wasn’t hopeful.

CJ arrived at our rehearsal space with the largest drum kit I had ever seen. It was red Premier kit that his mother had helped him buy and it dwarfed him.

CJ had been coming to our gigs for years, since he was still in nappies I suspect, so he said that he was fairly comfortable with our material.

Then we were off.

I do not exaggerate when I say that the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

CJ was absolutely, totally and blindingly amazing…without doubt the best drummer I had ever played with.

I have never seen anybody inject so much enthusiasm, passion and personality into their drumming…and yet keep it as solid as King Kong’s first movement of the day

We had planned two songs….we went through about ¾ of the set.

My bass guitar locked into his bass drum and we played tighter than I had ever played in a band in my life.

Also as his heroes had been Tico from Bon Jovi and Tommy lee Jones from Motley Crue, he belted the life out of his kit, and this in turn made Matt and I play and sing with a far more rocky edge, which was right up my street.

I didn’t sleep that night I was buzzing so much.

CJ didn’t only join Mudheads Monkey, he transformed it, and many of the experiences that I have recalled and will recall involve CJ sat behind me laying down his solid rhythm and torturing his drum kit.

Drummers traditionally have been painted as total meat heads with a fondness for beer and drugs.

CJ in contrast is now a successful business man and family man who worships his two daughters (just don’t tell anyone, it will ruin the image).

He is generous of spirit and if you ever need anything CJ will get it for you or help you move it (I will never lose the image of CJ hacking my sofa apart with a crow bar……to get rid of it not to retrieve lost change you understand).

And nobody, I mean NOBODY can pack a van with more kit than available space like CJ…he’s a flippin genius at it.

I am honoured to perform in a band with him and to count him as a friend.

I had a CJ moment last practice night. The three of us launched into an old Mudheads Monkey song called ‘Mr Mr’. We were so tight musically you couldn’t have got a sheet of rice paper between us.

I was left with warm feeling of satisfaction……we were a band!!

Now all we have to do is stop CJ breaking wind in our air tight practice room and everything will be hunky dory.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

I played with Elvis!

Well I didn’t, but I knew somebody who did.

Our original guitarist (Matt Sims) and myself were asked to support a guy from America called George Hamilton the 4th on the West Country leg of his British tour.

I wasn’t that thrilled to begin with, firstly because he was a ‘Country & Western’ singer, and secondly because he was about the same age as my own father, if not a bit older. Not exactly cool for a rocker to play with somebody as old as your dad (note to Aaron….you may want to re-think your position son)

Anyway, even though I had never heard of him, we thought that it might be an opportunity to sell a few copies of our newly made album ‘Shout!.

Well, it transpired that in his day George Hamilton had been absolutely massive (no, not in the ‘way too many beef burgers' kind of way, the famous beyond the dreams of Averis way).

Back in the 50’s and 60’s he had played with all of the greats; in fact many of them had supported him at gigs.

When Matt and I met George, he turned out to be the nicest most gracious bloke you could wish to meet.

The point of my story is that we must have done about six or seven gigs with him and even performed a couple of numbers with him at the Christmas shows, and we grew to not only like the guy but to be in utter awe of him.

During the wait for the shows to begin, he would regale these two youngsters with tales of his early days on the road. Here was a guy that had performed with the Beatles for crying out loud.

He didn’t boast, he didn’t name drop to impress, he just told the story as it was.

His two closest friends were Chet Atkins and Patsy Cline, both giants in their own way. He had grown up with and had become Country royalty. Perhaps a difficult concept for us Brits, but for those over the pond he was something to be revered.

However, my favourite story was when he told us about the time he met Elvis.

He said that it was at a party after one of his gigs and this ‘kid’ walked in.

He was about 18 years old, had a face full of spots and gingerish hair (yes Elvis dyed those famous locks black).

George said that Elvis wasn’t exactly that good looking as fellas went, however, not one person in the room could take their eyes off of him. He was captivating in a magnetic way.

As we sat there with our mouths wide open George said that you could tell at an instant that this kid had something special….the X-Factor if you like, and that he would be a HUGE star.

History proved to bear out that belief.

And here we were sat in a room with a guy that in his day was both bigger and more successful than both Elvis and the Beatles.

And yet, you’d never know it as he was such a gracious, humble man.

I learnt a lot from that guy……never get above yourself, even when you are a Rock God.

Oh, and we sold more CD’s at that those gigs than most of our own gigs.

Ironic eh?

Monday, 1 December 2008


Well, the evening of ‘the big gig’ arrived and we were well up for an evening of rock & roll excitement……..it was going to run smoother than an Italian waiters chat up lines.

You know it wasn’t going to happen don’t you.

Can I say right from the start that the organiser of this event is a REALLY nice guy. He is well thought of by everybody, and he has been really good to us as a band.

He just has one small defect…..well two really!

He couldn’t organise a booze up in the proverbial brewery and he works on ‘Greek time’ i.e. it’ll happen when it happens.

The Mudheads and the opening support band (Mid Life Crisis) had been asked to arrive early at 6:30pm in order to set up and sound check. The organiser and his band, who had to set up first as they were the headliners, didn’t show until about 7:15pm (the doors open prompt at 8pm).

There was no sense of panic……well there was…but that was only coming from us and the Crisis.

Our guitarist, Aaron is young. He still has much passion running through his veins, and he was becoming very passionate indeed. I had to remind him frequently that it was not appropriate to use language like that in front of his aging father (i.e….me!).

His passion rose to new heights when the Mid Life Crisis told us that they had been promised the use of our equipment and hadn’t brought any of their own.

This is generally accepted practice amongst bass players and drummers, but NEVER the guitarists…and it is always good form to enquire if this is the case BEFORE arriving at the venue.

Aaron’s rage was beginning to surpass itself and I had to remind him that we were playing for an honourable cause and inserting guitar heads into places that they were not meant to go, would not generally improve upon the good humour of this auspicious occasion.

Anyway, ruffled feathers were soothed with the promise of beer, but only just.

Anyway, bottom line, we went up to sound check, and they opened the doors, and the sound engineer turned all the lights and the power to the stage…off! Plunging us into darkness.

This did not help Aaron who had suddenly discovered that his amplifier was not working.

Anyway, drummer CJ is always a clear thinker and talking softly to the passionate one, and dabbing his heated brow with a damp copy of guitarist weekly ascertained that Aaron had in his haste and passion, not plugged his pedal board in properly.

Anyway, there was nothing we could do now, and we placed ourselves into the caring hands of the God of Rock & Roll (sponsored by Guinness and available for weddings, Bar mitzvahs and funerals) and went off to find supper.

When we arrived back at the venue it was already heaving, which was an extremely good sign. The other good sign was that a good contingency of Aaron’s mates, formally known as the Mudheads Mob, had arrived and were eager for a good night of Roooccckkkk!!

A crowd of CJ’s friends from the school PTA had also shown up so we were well on a way.

I discovered however, that not a single friend of mine had shown. I really am ‘Billy no mates’….such is the lonely road of the Rock God.

We had decided that as it was such a good gig we would push the boat out and CJ and I wore suits….yup! the Mod look was back in as we donned our best bib and tucker, ties the lot, all topped off with bass ball boots.

The opening two bands had warmed the crowd and then it was our turn.

The promoter warmly introduced us and we took to the stage launching into our opening number, the crowd went wild (I’m serious, they really did, they really loved what we were doing, which was fantastic).

The suit was probably not such a great idea despite the fact it added something to the over all look.

We may have looked ‘cool’, but I sure as hell didn’t feel like it…I must have lost a good few pounds in perspiration the first few songs.

Each song flowed into the other and the audience were becoming more and more enthusiastic.

Then, disaster struck!

About two thirds of the way in, my amp much shaken by the volume of the bass fell off the speaker, bounced, and then fell off of the stage onto the quarry tiled floor, ripping leads and all asunder with it.

But there was a worse blow to come. My glasses (spectacles) were on top of the amp.

My bass guitar was still coming through the PA so I ascertained that I was still ‘coming through’ but I screamed at Tim, our Roadie to find my glasses (I am quite literally blind without them).

Whilst I tried to regain my flustered composure, Tim scrabbled around behind the stage until he appeared triumphantly with ‘half’ my spectacles.

The amp had sadly landed on them and snapped then clean in two.

I have to sadly admit that I did not enjoy the end of my concert as I was already being faced with a major problem. I had to drive home at the end of this gig….in the fog….blind!!

We eventually left the stage to enthusiastic applause and cheering and being forced back on for a much enjoyed encore………enjoyed by Aaron and CJ but not by me. All I could think about was “How the hell am I going to drive home”.

Whilst we cooled down in the dressing room and having failed to duck tape the specs back together, we came up with a solution…….I borrowed Aaron’s.

Now Aaron may be my son, and has inherited some of my physical short comings (well, not that short, he’s a good 6 inches taller than me) but I have 25 years on him so wearing his glasses was a bit like viewing the world through a goldfish bowl.

Anyway, we survived….and what a gig it was.

Considering how despondent I had been before the gig, this was a blast and we are now REALLY looking forward to our last gig of the year in three weeks time.

Maybe just a little bit of the magic of the Rock God Remains……….however, next time I am going to rope the amp to the speaker…ands leave my flippin glasses in the dressing room.

Ho Hum!