Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Heck but time flies by past!!

It was only five minutes ago that I was telling you about the tractor fancying Hillbillies of Vermont and here we are just a few days away from Christmas and not an utterance from me.

It was Billy Connolly who said that he could sum up his year in the words “May old acquaintances be forgot….happy birthday to you…we wish you a merry Christmas……where the hell did that year just go?”.

Musically 2010 has been a relatively quiet one. We have only performed 15 gigs as The Mudheads and about another three or four acoustically as the Loaders. Now not many years ago that would have been considered a good number for any group. However; only a few years ago for us as a band we were up to about fifty a year and turning down more work than we could actually take. The sign of the times I suppose.

Most of the venues that we had played in regularly have now closed their doors, either to live music or totally…..some just to us (we are rather expensive now and there is a recession on after all).

It is rather sad to drive around the city of Bristol and see so many venues boarded up or given over fully to that other evil ‘Sky Sports’….shudder!!

However; as a band and as a singer we are not over and done with just yet…….although the way we all felt after our last gig a few weeks ago might suggest if we don’t spend just a few more days in the gym we might all be physically ‘over’ permanently real soon.

We don’t know what 2011 has in store for The Mudheads but we intend to keep bashing away at it and fine tuning the old set to perfection. My main ambition is to get my old partner in crime Bassbin to attend one of our gigs and go “Blimey, that was a good choice of songs”………a rock god must have his dreams you know no matter how deluded!

We have also discovered the joys (or curse) of video.

CJ had purchased a digital video camera and we thought that we ought to try and get something up on You Tube from a live gig. I think the text speak for this is OMG.

Personally I think the other two look great, however; I look like a middle aged, over weight civil servant (any comments to the fact that this is exactly what I am will lead to unfavourable responses on my behalf…….Keith Richards may look like a walking corpse but he does not require anybody to point this out to him as he is a bonafide rock giant and above such trivialities as the ravages of time).

This instigated the immediate need to tweak my image ever so slightly…..I now am on the hunt for a Pork Pie hat…….!

Now many have pointed out that my general peer group all look pretty much as I do. One too many late night curries and beer leaving its indelible imprint around our mid rifts. What hair we have left is grey to the point of going white. Eyesight so poor that where as we used to struggle with the concept of spelling ‘eagle eyed’ now we use words like ‘Varifocal’. Bodies that could scramble into the branches of a tall oak like a primate gazelle now require helping hands to retrieve us from the insertion of a dvd into it’s player.

Basically at my age, most of mates like me looked slightly …well ..clapped out!!

However; as I like to point out…most of my mates don’t have to have this particular indignity paraded in front of several hundred revellers of a Saturday night. My own particular addiction tends to leave me rather vulnerable to this kind of humiliation and leaves me painfully aware of my physical imperfections.

So 2011 will see me once again pledging to get my backside into gear to lose several dozen pounds and working on my stage image and presence. After all Antonio Bandaris, Bono and Adam Clayton are all slightly older me at 50 years…and being honest, they all still pretty cool.

So that’s my goal….again!

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me…..a mince pie and a large glass of scotch!”

Friday, 5 November 2010

‘Driving along in my automobile’

I have a terrible confession to make, and it causes me great stress to have to admit to it.

During my three weeks of travel state side the sound track of my whole trip was laid down by a digital radio station called ‘Prime Country’.

Now before you turn off your computer in disgust never to return let me at least try to defend myself……..at least try.

Forgive me if you are reading this in the USA, as I know that Country & Western is very much the back bone of music for a large proportion of the populace, but bear with me.

Also in regards to my American friends, I know that there are a fair few of you, but I have always endeavoured to be honest with you and I have to state this as fact, American television is dreadful!! I don’t mean the programmes themselves, to be fair we get most of them over here a month or so later anyway, what I am referring to is the amazing amount of commercial breaks the programmes get.

In the UK, during an hour long episode of a programme such as ‘House’ we get four ad breaks each lasting approximately 4 minutes each.

On one occasion during a wet evening in Boston, whilst endeavouring to watch said Hugh Laurie in his medical Sherlock Holmes interpretation I counted 10 breaks. And to ad insult to injury the commercials themselves were even worse than the bilge we get over here……mainly aimed at 4 x 4 drivers and the best place to get barbequed ribs.

Having had this experience of the television I assumed that radio would also be an unbearable experience. However; this could not have been further from the truth. In fact I would go as far as to say the quality of the programmes our car’s Bose system picked up wiped the floor with UK radio programming (there you go friends over the pond, we have the TV, you have radio).

Far from loads of ads they had none and very little chat, just pure music, Chris Evans please take note. Also as you flicked through the dial you’ll discover that they have stations dedicated to pure genres, the 40’s 50’s 60’s 70’s, 80’s, rock, blues, blue grass, swing, jazz and of course….country.

Now we managed to negotiate our way through the back end of Brooklyn towards Boston listening to the 50’s rock & roll station, and believe me there is no more suitable and exhilarating song with which to start an adventure like this than Chuck Berry singing ‘Driving along in my automobile’ and that is what we got as we negotiated our first freeway.

Now in any relationship you have to have a modicum of compromise and on long journeys the choosing of the right music to travel to always involves a huge dollop of give and take.

You see whilst I can tolerate and even enjoy my wife’s choice of driving music (she is HUGE Bon Jovi fan), she dislikes my favoured tunes immensely… 11 hours of bands like ‘The Living End’, ‘Span’ and ‘Greenday’ would probably have caused marital disharmony right at the very beginning of our tour.

So with this in mind we flicked through the DAB channels until we settled upon a station that was neither offensive nor plain dull to both our senses. And as I said, I am ashamed to admit it but we settled on ‘Prime Country’ which basically played the top country music from the 90’s.

One thing you need to bear in mind before you think I have drifted to the dark side of ‘good ol boy’ straw chewing moonshine supping hillbilly is that during the 90’s country appeared to have enjoyed some what of a renaissance and become more in line with the rock of bands like said Bon Jovi and Robert Plant than singers like John Denver and Jim Reeves.

Singers like Shania Twain (great country name) turned her back on the gentler expressions of singers like Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton and gave the whole genre a bit more rock & roll (her husband/producer Mutt Lang did produce Def Leppard and Bryan Adams after all) and gave the thing a lot more ‘bottle’

You can still find the traditional stuff all over the airwaves, but for British cynics like myself who had cut there teeth on music that was the antithesis of C & W ‘Prime Country’ did help paint a positive pallet for the weary driver as he drove along the never ending Interstate.

However; lest I lulled myself into too much of a country luvin stupor as we were winding our way through the beautiful countryside that is Vermont in the fall following three gorgeous Harley Davidson motorcycles, a song arrived that reminded me not to get too complacent. “My girlfriend thinks my tractor’s sexy and it really turns her on”.

In the UK during the 70’s we had a bunch of local lads (to those of us from the West Country) called the Wurzels who sang a cider fuelled rendition of a song called “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester I’ll give you the key” . However; it was universally accepted that this song was a parody and a bit of a laugh. The guy whose girlfriend thought his tractor was a bit of an aphrodisiac sounded like he was being serious.

As the trees got thicker I thought I could hear the gentle plucking of banjos and smell the sweet sickly aroma of moonshine……..we quickened our pace.

More from our journey on the far side of the pond to follow.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Fly me to the moon!

Hi all,

I'm back from my trip to the mighty US of A, which thankfully gave me fuel for things to write you about. It was a trip rich with experience and music....sort of!

If you could bear with me as I have four CD reviews I need to write and I am also at the tail end of a Jet Lag like I have never experience before and as such I am struggling to find my own feet of a day time.

Just to keep you enticed.......I discovered the lyric "My girlfriend thinks my tractor is sexy and it really turns her on" on the prime Country channel.......not even the Wurzels could have come up with that particular line.

I will start writing shortly I promise.


Friday, 1 October 2010

" Hello Springfield, are you ready to Roooccckkk"

I am going to be off of the radar for a few weeks on my American tour. I say tour what I actually mean is that I am going to throw myself off of the Niagara Falls in the despair of having hit the ancient age of 50 years old.

To me this is a matter of depression; however as my son often points out to me, I may generally be the oldest thing on the bill normally by a good 20 to 30 years but I can normally rock all my opponents off of the stage any day of the week. So I should rejoice that I am still in the game and I am still rattling a few cages.

My plan had been to find myself a platform somewhere in the States in order to sing just one song. This would then give me the right to proclaim myself an ‘International’ singer.

I’ve sung in far flung European places such as Romania, but as yet not out of the European Union.

I did in fact sing a stupid song I had written 10 minutes previous all about ‘messing about in boats’ whilst on a cruise down the Nile in Egypt, but to be truthful, that didn’t really count.

However once again, my plans to visit the Colonial shores guitar in hand have once again been thwarted…this time purely by the hands of lady time.

I had been offered the opportunity to perform in Philadelphia but common sense and the need to get some sleep at some point on the trip dictated that the Philly connection be set adrift in favour of a dash across the border into the Canadian Territories.

However; if you hear tell of a Brit who has been arrested endeavouring to sing “I fought the Law” on the steps of the Whitehouse whilst his wife accompanied him on the rice paper and comb then there may be a very good chance that it was me.

Oh, incidentally, if any of my readers are those of the ‘scan social sites in order to find whose away in order to burgle their property’ types, then forget it…….the Loader junior clan are taking up residence in our abode and we are praying Lord that we have a house to come home to.

So be warned…all trespassers will not only be tortured by being made to listen to loud and offensive music, but made to clean and tidy.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Toilet Circuit

I was having a shufty through some old articles and having a bit of a clean out. I came across a short story that I had written a few years back when this incarnation of the band was still performing for 60 quid in the corner of the 3 Sugar Loaves. These were thankless gigs and hard work all round.
The Story made me chuckle and brought back a few memories so I thought I would share it with you again.
So pour yourself a beer, make your self a cup of coffee, sit back and share the experince of being on the road once again.

The Toilet Circuit

Sid pushed himself back into the upholstery of Bernie's car and yawned. He didn't know why, but he always had this feeling of fatigue on the way to a gig. Sid wondered if this was nerves although he had never suffered from stage fright. When other band members had been bringing up their lunch in the porcelain shrines, Sid didn't feel a flutter of fear. Perhaps he did. Perhaps this was his way of dealing with the panic that saturated many performers before they walked on to the stage. Instead of feeling as if the world was about to end and that he was going to evacuate every last meal he had ever eaten one way or another, Sid just wanted to climb under a duvet somewhere and go sound asleep.

He wound down the passenger window and sucked in a deep breath of ice cold February air and tried to focus on what was going to happen this evening. He ran through the mental check list that he always held in his head before a gig like this. PA, had all the leads been packed? He could remember when somebody had taken some out of the case once before and then forgot to put them back. A right royal bunch of plonkers they had felt on the night. All revved up and nowhere to go. Especially when they had to rush off and find replacements, leaving Reg to put the PA up on his own, a major gamble in itself as Reg preferred the company of a pint of Guinness to graft any day of the week.

Guitars, check. Stands, check, set list. Ah the set list. Sid had left that sitting on the printer tray on several occasions and had to phone home and get his wife to read it out to him. You try and find a pen that works and a dry piece of paper behind any bar in this country. Not possible.

The first game of chance of the evening now came into play. Would they be able to find anywhere to park the car? Or would they end up doing that strange perverse ballet of emptying the car in the road, whilst being shouted at by a myriad of impatient taxi drivers, then navigating the gear through a pub crowded with after work office drinkers whilst Bernie endeavoured to stow the car somewhere that wouldn’t result in him being towed away.
Tonight, Lady luck was with them. There was a single space at the rear of the pub. Sid offered a grateful prayer of thanks to the patron saint whose sole responsibility it was to guarantee parking spaces to weary travellers and musicians.
As Sid wearily uncoiled himself from the car the all so familiar perfume of the rear of a city pub hit in full in the face. This particular establishment had it’s own particular heady aroma, that of rotting fish (next to the pub was a particularly good fish and chip shop) and urine. Sid could never fully understand why the human male, having consumed several pints of the amber nectar, felt the need to piss up the side of wheelie bins, especially when they had passed perfectly good bathroom facilities only a few feet away inside the very same establishment they had just vacated. Perhaps it was all part of the ritual. Like offering a flame to a glass of Sambuca, or nosing the bouquet of a fine wine or even swilling expensive vintage Brandy around the side of a crystal glass, the experience of eight pints of lager could only be enhanced, tackle out, swaying slightly, singing 'Danny Boy' or something suitably Irish whilst splashing your shoes.

Everybody slotted into their own particular roles of responsibility at this point. Years of touring these venues had shown them that everybody had a job to do, and Sid's was to make sure that the pub hadn't double booked. More than once they had arrived to find some spotty punk rocker or slightly suicidal folkie lamenting the death of the fairies in the band's place simply because the landlord couldn’t be bothered to buy a new diary. Of course the pub couldn’t care less who turned up as long as the punters were 'entertained'.
Tonight was going well, the crew of the Fox & Turnip were expecting them, and due to a particularly depressing set the night before from a singer whose wife had dumped him for somebody slightly less morbid, were actually pleased to see them.

Sid’s other job was to clear the space where they were going to set up of drinkers. By drinkers I mean suits and skirts that knew that they really ought to go home, but had already fallen over their own safety limited, and were by now under the false illusion that their partners were not going to flay them alive when they staggered home, 'as the newt' a full four or five hours late.
Sid engaged in the usual banter with the drinkers. 'Yes he was in the band', 'no they couldn't join in as it sounded bad enough as it was', 'No they did not play any flamin Bob Dylan'. Why did these people always want to hear Bob Dylan? Sid bet that not one of them owned a Bob Dylan record, he suspected they couldn’t even name a Bob Dylan song let alone recognise one if they heard it. Yet still the call went up every time.
He thought he'd been clever one night when some drunk had yelled 'Got any Donovan'. Sid had replied 'What! Jason Donovan?' Thankfully the drunk was a lousy pitcher and the glass was empty. However; Sid had learnt a lesson, don't take the Mick out of drunks, they don't like it!

As Sid cleared the space, the acrid air full of smoky promise bit into the back of his throat. Now Sid didn't object to people who smoked in pubs, far from it. In the day he used to smoke those foul smelling French things himself, that was until his wife gave him the ultimatum. 'Smoke those things, and sleep on the sofa!' It was just every time he performed in a smoky pub his mother's voice would ring in his ear 'Remember what happened to Roy Castle'. Sid did, and yet he kidded himself that Roy had another chance, he would have done it all over again. Of course Sid didn't have the first hand experience of feeling your lungs implode as the cancer ate its own body. But hey! Sid always thought, live fast die young!!! which by now wasn’t strictly true in his case. Even so, when in doubt, delude yourself that it will never happen to you. That was Sid's philosophy and he was sticking to it.

By now, the rest of the band had appeared including Nev who was acting as roadie for the evening. They staggered under the weight of the guitars and the small PA that would hopefully give Sid and the boys at least a fighting chance of being heard over the din of the pub.
No matter how many times they had put the gear together, the boys never seemed to tune into one another and always ended up tangled in leads and straps and tripping over cases.
As Bernie was putting together a small drum kit that required neither leads, mics nor tuning he was invariably finished before anybody else and was generally first at the bar.
Signalling towards Sid, he made the universal sign of 'Do you want a beer?' this involved a mime of an individual lifting an imaginary glass to his lips.
Choosing the right beer had become quite an issue for Sid. A life time lager drinker he had been devastated to learn that his favourite brew, far from being simply ‘reassuringly expensive’ was in fact nicknamed by almost everybody as ‘wife beater’. Sid always thought himself to be a man of peace, kind to animals and children. And yet to discover that his favourite beverage was the fuel that leathered up the more Neanderthal nutter in order to give them the courage required to go home and beat seven bells out of their old lady made Sid think seriously about what he was drinking. Sid, who could never associate himself with this kind of behaviour, switched immediately to another leading brand of the yellow stuff. However, he soon began to realise that European beer makers really do like to fill their beers with chemicals. Sid had no idea what those chemicals were, only that awakening from a night of gigging and Dutch lager usually left him feeling like he had imbibe a small child's chemistry set. And to make matters worse the small child in question would be clattering around in his head trying to get the chemistry set back.
Reg and Bernie were both fanatical 'Real ale' drinkers and so saw this as the opportunity to introduce Sid to the glories and joys that is 'Black Bishops togger' and 'Bullocks old scrotum'.

Sid soon found out that drinking real ale was akin to playing Russian roulette, you never knew when the next one was going to kill you. Sid also discovered that the brewers like to 'add' things to give their beer to give it more body. Lengths of rusty chain, rats, the foreskin of the original brewer. All these added extras went to give the beer more taste and an added 'surprise'. If you were really unlucky, that 'surprise' would be delivered with full force about three o'clock the following morning. On more than one occasion, whilst clutching frantically to the sides of the toilet bowl and at the same time biting chips out of the sink, Sid had wished that he could say 'to hell with my principles' and go back to the wife beater.
Tonight Sid thought he would play it safe, 'A Guinness please Bernie', millions of Irish drinkers couldn't be that wrong. At least Sid knew that he would get through tonight with his bowels intact.

Sid then went through the most important ritual of the evening, he loving opened his guitar case, and gently, ever so gently, as if he was raising a new born baby out of it’s crib, Sid lifted the guitar from it's case and took a few moments to drink in it's beauty. He allowed his senses to float over the curves and edges, the colours and shades. The sliminess and subtlety of the neck, the fullness of the body, the depth of the shine. It wasn't an erotic experience, but damn it was close.
Sid knew that he wasn't odd, he knew that he wasn't even alone, hundreds, if not thousands of guitarists before him had had the same reverential love and respect for their guitars. Hell, Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople went all the way to Memphis to reclaim his mislaid 'instrument of fame'. Sid looked down upon his old friend a look of proud recognition in his eyes.
They say that a bad workman blames his tools. Sid, however knew, that if he loused it up on an evening, it wasn’t the fault of the guitar, not this guitar. It had been made by a craftsman, using the best materials, not hurried or rushed, but crafted until every aspect of the neck and body were perfect, and Sid loved it.
Sid wasn't materialistic, he had quite a few other guitars, some even more expensive and beautifully made than this one. Sid however, was as loyal to his guitars as he was to his friends and family, and tonight he was with his 'best girl'.
Having slipped the strap around his neck he took a few moments to tune the guitar. It didn’t take long, it generally stayed in tune pretty much all of the time. Sid smiled. He remembered in his youth guitars that he could not even get in tune let alone stay in tune. He reminded himself how fortunate he was that he now had instruments that at least went some way to helping him sound good.
The boys were ready to check the sound. Sid left all the technical details to Reg. He had never really been interested in that side of things himself and was more than happy to leave getting the sound right to somebody younger who hadn't already totally shot their hearing. Mind you, Sid didn’t think that Reg was all that far behind him in the hearing stakes.

The sound checks never really took all that long, at least not in the pubs. There was no need really, not when eighty five percent of the punters would not have known the difference if they had been playing Kylie or Kurt.
Sid then retrieved the set lists from his case and handed them around. He placed his copy on the floor before him. He stared at it for a few moments. Could this be another moment of reverence? Was Sid soaking up the subtleties and nuances of the words as if studying scripture? Was he simply composing himself for the show that was to follow? All these were possible to the casual observer. Ask Sid yourself and you will receive a different answer. 'Hardly, I can't see a flamin thing once I have taken my glasses off, which isn't vanity incidentally, if I don't take them off, they fall off. I'm just trying to memories the first few songs. After that Reg and Bernie have to feed me the order'.

Then the band is off. Ebbing and flowing as if they were the tide rising and falling upon rock pools. Sid expertly teases the crowd as a priest calling the faithful to pray. Trying with all his heart and soul to win converts from among the disinterested. Bernie totally lost in concentration, oblivious to the drinkers, the din, even those that have been captivated. Reg, at one with his guitar, always one verse ahead, always chastising himself for imperfection, always pushing to improve, better, more. He spies a group of old college friends, he had somebody to perform to, his eyes turn to greet theirs and his face ignites into a Cheshire cat grin.

Almost as if time had stood still, it was over. Sid hears over the music, through the banter across the general milieu the cry that all good things must come to an end 'time ladies and gentleman please'. The band knew that this was their cue to wind down, slow up, call it a day and bid the crowd adieu.

If, and I really do mean IF, they are really lucky, they might get an encore, but not tonight. Tonight, it was as if they were not there. As if they did not exist. Despite having given of their best, of themselves for over two hours, it was if they were mere musical wallpaper. The occasional punter would tip them a nod of approval as they left the pub, but not many.

They dismantled the equipment virtually in silence. Not for any other reason than they were exhausted. Sid had sung his heart out, but most of his throat had gone out with it. Bernie rubbed his wrists and winced, knowing that he would pay dearly for his labours in the morning. Reg was deep in thought as he coiled away the leads, his mind on another day, another concert.

Past the connoisseur of fine wines leaking his night’s entertainment into the street. Past the couple shouting and screaming their undying love for one another through an alcohol fuelled haze of obscenities and spiteful name-calling. Past the drunken, middle aged promenade lothorio undeniably convinced of his animal magnetism as he endeavours to seduce the teenage temptress by leering at her indiscreetly and making crude suggestions that his wife would never have allowed. Back to the waiting car, and then home.

'Another night, another date, another SM58'

As Sid walked up the steps into the foyer of the hotel, Nev turned to him and spoke. 'Sid, mate, I have been your tour manager for nearly twenty years, right?' Sid nodded his head, nearly too tired to respond verbally. 'Tomorrow night', said Nev 'You and the boys are playing the Millennium stadium. There isn't a single ticket left available. In fact the whole European leg of the tour sold out within twenty four hours of going on sell'. Nev was beginning to get hot under the collar. 'With this in mind', Sid had by now stopped walking and was giving his old friend and tour buddy his undivided attention. 'Why the hell do we need to play these 'toilets' like tonight? Surely it's a complete waste of time. You worked hard enough all those years ago to get out of the toilet circuit and now you are deliberately putting yourself back into them. What the heck is that all about'.

Sid smiled and gently shook his head. 'You're right Nev' he said, responding patiently and graciously to his old friend. He could see that Nev too was tired; Nev certainly had more important things to do on the night before a mammoth three month world tour than play nurse maid to these three idiots. 'You're right, tomorrow night is sold out as are the forty two nights after that. That stadium will be packed out with punters expecting to be entertained, expecting us to give of our best. They will be expecting enthusiasm, passion and not just a little sweat, blood and rock and roll. They don't want to see a bunch of ageing rock stars that have done it so many times before that they are simply going through the motions.
Because of what we did tonight, because of the hassle and the total lack of response from the punters in the pub, when I go out on that stage tomorrow night I am going out with passion, enthusiasm and not just a little gratitude. I'm free of it, I escaped. How many poor sods are still stuck every night, playing their hearts out for nothing in those places? When I take to the stage tomorrow, I will be fully reminded just how damned lucky I really am, and that keeps me sharp'.
'Besides' said Sid with just the touch of a wry smile on his lips 'whilst we were playing tonight, slogging our guts out for nothing. This joker was stood at the bar with his mates, holding court. He was explaining proudly how had had managed to snap up two last minute tickets on the Internet for our concert tomorrow night, and they had only cost him two hundred quid for the pair. Whilst he was rambling on about this, the very band he had just paid a fortune to be going to see was playing just ten feet away from him and he was ignoring them for free!! Now that's comedy!'

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The long hazy days of summer!

It certainly has been one long wet summer in terms of the lack of live music for myself and the band and certainly in respect of interesting dilemmas to enthuse ones readership with (the promised wedding went as sweetly as you like so no stories there I’m afraid)

In days past it would have been far different as I would have been involved in performing at some of the many summer festivals that were around at that time, sadly many long gone. I’ve played in fields, on race courses, in football grounds, on the back of trailers, in parks, tents, bandstands, double decker buses and even on top of portable radio stations. I’ve done it all.

My initial enthusiasm for the great outdoors began when I managed to blag myself onto the bill of a small festival on the south coast called ‘Kingston Festival’. It was based originally in the National Trust’s ‘Kingston Lacey House and had a great atmosphere about the place.

I managed to get 3pm on the main stage, however it was the Sunday grave yard slot and it was lashing it down. All in all though it wetted (no pun intended) my appetite for more and I vowed to get myself onto the coveted 9pm slot on the Friday night just as the sun was setting.

This I managed with my band Mudheads Monkey. About three thousand happy revellers rocking their socks off to our tunes. Sadly it was to be our very last gig as a band as the ties that were holding us and ‘it’ together were fast beginning to unravel by then.

We had performed at the Brixton Academy only the month before. We were getting known, this was the break we had worked towards. But there was pain and tension and that was never what we were all about and on the day we had returned from Kingston I sadly phoned each band member and pulled the plug. A sad moment indeed.

However; on the whole my memories of festivals has always been happy ones.

As a band MHM had the cheek of the Irish and we would blag, cajole and con our way onto any stage or situation.

If this meant taking up residence out side of the promoters caravan and ‘busking’ until 2am in the morning then we did it. We were cheeky yes, but on the whole the promoters and organisers appreciated our sense of unquestionable enthusiasm and 9 times out of 10 we got our break.

At every festival we then promoted our socks off. This meant handing out flyers on mass. Busking to the queue’s waiting to see other more major acts, buzzing the on site radio stations and refusing to leave until they let us play a song, we even ran onto the stage during other people’s acts (they were always friends of ours and generally joined in the lunacy and gave us a name check and plug).

The camping that always went with these events was a major pain mind you as we rarely got much sleep and we all looked and smelt like refugees from The Somme for the entire weekend.

At one festival we decided to pack up the tent before we went on stage as we were planning to leave directly after the event. A particular enthusiastic fan generously tried to help us and ended up stabbing me the face with a tent pole cutting my cheek just below the eye.

By the time we took to the stage I looked like I had been in a bar brawl…and of course after a weekend with no discernable wash facilities smelt like I had been sleeping in a cow shed. Not a great look and feel for a budding rock god I can tell you. Camping was fast becoming my least favourite thing of all time.

Our guitarist Matt didn’t fair much better in the pain department as in the same year he had managed to bang himself up on his motorbike quite badly. Although he was on crutches throughout most of the summer he had completely overlooked this fact during a particularly exciting main stage set. He completely forgot himself and in a blind moment of guitar heroship leapt from the stage into the crowd.

His silent scream was audible only to dogs and those of us in the band who were fully aware of the damage he had already inflicted upon himself as tendons and muscles ripped and tore. God bless him, he still finished the set, but with perhaps just a little less running around.

Thankfully CJ was solely a car driver and apart from rolling his mini on several occasions at speed appeared to have avoided the summer pain of that year.

By the end of our festival days we had allotted to wave our fee in return for a comfortable bed and soft pillows (apart from CJ who for a reason known only unto himself absolutely loved camping and along with the entourage of family and friends that would travel with him to these events would set up a city all of his own…….he’s the only bloke I know that could camp at these things, have a decent wash AND still keep the beer cold….a talent Aaron & I have grown to love appreciate since those days).

The kit generally didn’t fair much better as we were often unloading onto a stage or into a marquee through rain and mud and I was invariably picking straw out of my bass for weeks afterwards.

We always made great friends at all the festivals we played at, most now have slipped into the distant past but I hope they sometimes reminisce fondly about a bunch of nutters they stumbled across all dressed in military jackets and tie die shirts (it was the 90’s) while they themselves looked like they would have failed the audition for a Wurzel Gummidge audition. Fond Memories indeed.

Those days have long gone and the nearest we get to performing at a festival is the British Mountain Bike festival and as we are the only band on the menu it isn’t quite the same.

Would I play at them again? Probably, but the same rules apply. Soft comfy beds or share a tent with CJ, his portable bathroom and beer fridge.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I'm stil here

Hi all,

I trust that everybody is enjoying their summer holidays, albeit the wettest August since goodness knows when if you happen to reside in the UK.

As previously mentioned we have musically closed down for a few months and so there is very little to report, apart from an impending wedding tomorrow evening. As this is in a tiny Devonshire village and down a country lane that you would be hard pushed to ride a bike down I think I might have some interesting tales to tell come Saturday.

However; I just wanted to assure all of you who kindly read my scribblings that I have not given up, but that I was giving my brain a bit of a rest (and at my age I need that from time to time).

We will speak again VERY soon


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Is it loud enough for you?

Our guitarist, Aaron, suffers from noisy neighbours.

For years it has been the connoisseurs of Rock that have been tarred with the brush of excessive volume when in reality it is those that like the more commercial drum & bass, R&B and dare I say it ‘pop’ that tend to create the most consternation late at night.

It would appear that if your taste is of a more ‘youth’ orientated persuasion then it is not only acceptable but almost obligatory to shake the street with abnormal levels of hi fidelity bass at 3am in the morning and damn those that have to get up for work in the morning.

Now I am not one to criticise volume, after all when my girlfriend (now my wife) would arrive at my parent’s house to meet me she would have to wait until a song I was listening to ended before hammering for all she was worth on the front door to get my attention. However; it was only ever during day light hours and the thought of getting Rhianna or Beyonce rattling my fillings and frightening the cat at some ungodly hour does annoy me somewhat (mind you, it could just be that I am getting old and grumpy)

Sadly Aaron is learning an extremely valuable lesson about life……some people are just plain selfish.

That being said I have probably got to hold my hands up to being involved in permanently damaging many ear drums over the years.

I have been playing in bands since my teens and several of them have been unnaturally loud. My first professional band, Amaziah, was so loud that I would be unable to hear anything above a high pitched whistle (tinnitus) until the following morning, and we were BEHIND the PA. The sight of teenagers actually sticking their heads in the PA’s bass speakers haunts me to this day.

To be fair, I have rarely had any control on how loud we have been as this is normally always the job of the sound man and I swear that several of them in the bands employ have been totally deaf to begin with.

For sure, at several well known venues in my home town of Bristol the in-house engineers are famously as deaf as a barn door and any complaints regarding sound quality or level quite literally falls on deaf ears. The band being presented at any one time can only pray that the engineer hasn’t killed any sense of vibration with ale that night and that they might at least end up being distinguishable as a band as opposed to an airliner taking off in a hurricane through a mountain of empty coke cans.

My family accuse me of acquired deafness, something my mother states I inherited from my father (probably as a strategy for tuning out unwanted nagging I suspect); however it is probably more likely that I have blown the top end of my hearing clean away with years of excessive volume.

So a few years back inspired by my failing eye sight due to the advancement of years, I determined not to go the same way as many famous rockers who rendered themselves in need of hearing aids before their time was due as being short sighted is pain enough without adding ‘deaf as a stick’ to it for laughs.

So I went out and invested in a set of acoustic ear plugs.

The idea is that it reduces the level of the volume without actually filtering out the quality of the sound. This is of course total bunkum as the sound you are left with is that of having stuffed a pair of old socks into your ear holes.

The draw back is that I nearly always forget to put them in during the sound check and as the gig kicks off I suddenly find that my finely crafted on stage mix is being ‘sock filtered’.

The only other thing sadly is having lost the volume you also lose much of the oomph that makes up a good rock & roll set. Many is a night when our sound to me has been flat and lacking spark, when in fact it has been crisp and soundly smacking the audience around their chops like an audible slap in the face.

However; years have taught me that lying in bed on the night of a gig with that high pitched whistle keeping me awake far more affectively than any drum & bass obsessed neighbour is not something I want to continue, especially long after I have become too old to play.

Bono suffers badly for this very reason as does Pete Townsend and he states that it is threatening to finish his career .

So for now I shall continue stuffing the socks (sorry I mean the acoustic ear plugs) into my lug holes and continue to yell….”Is it loud enough?” because sadly for me, it’s not.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A gig in the life

People will often say to me “cor, I wish I could play in a rock & roll band like what you does”. Sometimes they even say it a little bit more eloquently than that. And for the most part they would be right, playing in a band can be one of the greatest honours there is and it is why so many of us are so utterly addicted to it.

However; life on the road is not always rock, roll, Guinness and groupies, far from it.

Let me relate to you a night in the life of The Mudheads, Bristol’s hardest working bunch of misfits.

The night is a Thursday and we have been invited to perform at our guitarists local.

It’s a great little venue and we always leave feeling appreciated and without fail get an invite back, for which we are both honoured and grateful.

We had originally been booked to play in June, however; the England football team were having some sort of soirée down in South Africa. I not sure what it was all about but we were assured that as the stage at the venue was slap in front of the video screen where the great event was being broadcast live our lives would most probably be put at significant risk if we attempted to continue regardless.

So we bumped the gig up to July, rather foolishly forgetting our own rule of never playing during the two hottest months of summer as nobody shows up.

The day approached and CJ our drummer groaned to discover that he had been given an all expenses paid ticket for an evening at the Savoy in London with his company, leading politicians and celebrities. This did nothing to improve his outlook of the gig that he was now obligated to perform at instead of wining and dining with the most influential suits in his companies employ.

Add to this the unfortunate consequence of missing the meal meant that he would have to be in Reading (that’s about 80 miles from where he lives in Bristol) at 7:30am the following morning and he was fast beginning to lose his normal sunny and cheery disposition.

As it was local to Aaron he said that he would meet CJ and I down there. What this actually means is that he would arrive a full half an hour later than us and after we had completely emptied the trailer into the venue on our own and put most of it into place ready for cabling up.

I have previously mentioned that July and August are Britain’s two hottest months. This of course is fanciful tosh and they are normally wetter than a rather rainy day in the Brazilian rain forest and tonight was to be no exception.

We were also delighted to find that the council had dug up the road directly outside of the pub and we had to park on the opposite side of the road and run the gauntlet of motorist skidding along the fast moving river that was beginning to take the place of the road.

It also had to be noted that expensive musical equipment does not go well with running water and so we both had the enviable task of getting approximately two tonne of kit out of the trailer, across the road (river) and into the pub before they got too wet creating the very real threat of electrocution.

This we did at considerable risk to our personal health & safety, aching backs and good humour.

Once in we then had to navigate two guys that were deep in the throws of an earnest darts tournament and were most disconcerted that their game was going to be brought to a sudden close by two dripping wet herbets lugging a mountain of speakers and amplifiers.

We then noticed a silence that was not a normal fixture of this particular venue. This was caused by it being particularly and horribly empty.

Normally we are sweet talking dozens of punters to move out of the stage area in order for us to set up and we are fielding requests from the hordes before we have barely entered the building. Tonight however; we were serenaded on our entrance to the chirp of crickets, the soft rustle of tumbleweed and the gentle swish and thud of dart leaving hand and making its merry way to the board.

CJ’s normal positive mood was finding nothing with which to elevate itself and was singer faster than the Titanic.

With all the kit in place and the trailer locked safely up, my son and heir and our esteemed guitarist bounded into the pup trailed by his girlfriend who looked as drowned as we felt and cheerily announced that it was time to “Rock & Roll”.

Ten minutes in to his time with us he announced “My we are all in bad moods this evening aren’t we”. The sound of CJ splintering heavy duty drum sticks with his teeth was generally the only response that we could muster at that point.

Anyway the kit was assembled and plugged in and it was time for a sound check. It was then that we became hideously aware of a major problem we had not had to encounter at this favourite of venues before………as it was empty the sound took one quick fling around the bar and shot straight out of the main door.

Normally our healthy volume is soaked up by the myriad of bodies standing in front of us. Tonight, whilst we sound checked, we played into a void and subsequently the band could be heard as clearly by those living in the local neighbourhood as the staff standing at the bar.

We reduced the sound down and down till in the end we might have been better off playing off acoustically for all the oomph we had left. However; we are not stubborn musos who don’t give a damn about anyone we are nice accommodating individuals who recognise that the Landlords would have to live with their neighbours long after we had offended everybody in a 20 miles radius of the pub. So we determined to give it our best and keep it as low as we possibly could as we launched into our first set

Even then, the landlord presented himself in front of the band with a hand full of cards, and doing his best Bob Dylan impersonation proceeded to spell out the phrase “Can…you….please….turn…it….down”.

It was funny and very much in keeping with the good humour that we always experience at this place and so to try and accommodate even further I almost flat lined my bass guitar volume.

Then nature or the council threw us a curve ball, all the power went out. Not for very long, but long enough to change all the digital settings on Aaron’s equipment and nearly killing his amp.

Also it left us with the extremely uneasy feeling that we were responsible for this disaster (we found out the following day that in fact the whole of south Bristol had experienced this power outage, and that despite the fact we have more equipment than sense, we weren’t responsible).

We tried not to let ourselves be distracted by this turn of events and ploughed on with Aaron taking every opportunity he could to reset everything to where it was supposed to be.

Of course, half an hour later it went and happened again didn’t it.

By half time I think all three of us were mentally calculating how fast we could pack up and get out of there to our beds on the conclusion.

Thankfully, the pub began to fill as we sipped our cokes wondering what we had done wrong. I was in a bit of a daze to be honest and at one point Aaron grabbed me and made me sit down as I looked quite lost as I wondered around the stage looking…..well, lost.

We tanked into the second set with a few more bodies to soak up the volume and joy of all joys a handful of Aaron’s mates (we like to call them the Mudheads Mob) arrived, which always guarantees an enthusiastic response.

However; I could tell by the expression on CJ’s face and also the tired lines under his eyes that this really had been a very long week for him and he needed to be in bed and soon!

This wasn’t to happen as soon as he would have liked though as come the last song, the Mudheads Mob awoke to a man, women and boy.

Bringing the rest of the now assembled pub with them they lined the space in front of us and demanded song after song after song for the encore.

I was re-invigorated and at that point could have gone through the whole set again. However; CJ now had the look of a man who would shortly be carried from his drum kit on a stretcher if we didn’t finish any time soon. We played one more mental rendition of ‘Land Down Under’ and we were off, pulling all the main plugs with us as we went.

I know that we had to decamp back into the trailer in the rain; I know it was late, and I know that poor old CJ had a VERY long day the following day, but come the end I felt that it was worthwhile. The venue enjoyed us, the punters enjoyed us, the Mudheads Mob were superb as always…and it is at the end of the day bread and water to us. And to be fair, this was a normal night out for a jobbing band on the circuit.

Maybe next time we will stick to our guns and not take a gig until September. It will probably be a whole lot dryer than a British summer that’s for sure.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The summer beckons

I am sorry that it has been a week or two since my last entry; however I felt that readers of this blog deserved my best work and not what ever comes straight into my head (I can hear the howls of derision from around the south west of England as I write this line).

It is the summer months and this year we kind of are endeavouring to fulfil a promise to ourselves as a band and that is to have a few months off.

Of course this is always a great idea, but never really pans out as planned…we have three full on gigs in that time and most bands would look at us in bemusement to enquire as to how this constitutes a ‘break’, but for The Mudheads, three performances in two months is a break believe me.

One of those gigs is a wedding, which I suspect might make a joyful (or not) entry to the blog following the event.

We normally avoid weddings like the plague as ‘requests’ for dreadful 70’s ballads are aplenty and we have visions of the bride’s mother thundering towards the stage, handbag in hand, because ‘the drummer’ is WAY too loud and he is frightening Great Aunt Matilda.

However; in this case, the groom-to-be assures me that his entire family are ‘cool’ with the idea. However; we shall see.

So, please bear with me, do not wander off, and keep on checking the site. As soon as something worthy of recording passes our way (which should be a few days knowing my world) then you good readers will be the first to know.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to keep CJ away from the mic’s at the wedding, some of his marital jokes are a little, shall we say, ‘colourful’ and I have promised the couple faithfully that we are family friendly……I can see the handbag swinging in our direction as we speak.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Good Fortune Favours....

I promise you that I am not going to turn this blog into a review site as I do enough of those for the web magazines that I write for. However; I must share with you the events of an amazing gig that I went to at London’s O2 Arena this last weekend.

Now Mrs Rock God has been a bit of a Bon Jovi fan since she bought me a ticket to see them at Wembley Stadium in 95, being supported by the outstanding Van Halen and decided to go along as well.

Things went a bit quiet on the BJ front until they made an appearance at the Bristol City Football ground a couple of years ago. With tickets in hand we made our way down to the ground and join the rest of the throng in what turned out to be a bit of a disappointing evening.

The highlight for me was getting a cup of Bovril (it’s a kind of meaty soup like substance for those that have been fortunate enough never to have heard of the stuff…however; it is said that you need to imbibe this black substance if you are attending football matches, so I did).

We had managed to get seats right at the back of the stadium, which meant that we couldn’t really see anything. This was not aided by the wind that was whipping through the stadium like a blowy whipping thing, lashing dust into the faces of the expectant crowd. It also took the sound and threw if as far away from where we were sitting as it could get it.

So as you could imagine this was not the best way to start and evening. It was also not helped by some plonker of an announcer declaring that the band would be taking to the stage in 5 minutes, JUST as BJ were launching into their first number. All in all it took about 20 minutes before the confusion subsided and anybody could figure out what the hell was going on.

It wasn’t until it began to get dark that we could see the screens and the sound began to improve as the wind died down. With that they were off!

In transpired later that the council had placed a serious time clause on the gig and the band had to get off before they got a fairly hefty fine.

We read later that not only were the audience left disappointed and feeling not a little cheated, but so had the band. I suspect we won’t be seeing the Bouffant One in the West Country any time soon.

Time moved on as it does and the band recorded a new album called ‘The Circle’ and set about organising a tour to promote it.

However; these boys aint young anymore, in fact the drummer is a clear 9 years older than me, and the prospect of spending their lives back on the road clearly did not appeal to them and so they booked themselves a residency at the O2 in London.

Twelve nights in one of Britain’s premier venues was too good an opportunity to miss and Mrs RG hit the internet with enthusiasm, only to discover that all the good seats had gone within the first 30 seconds and all that remained were the naff seats OR would cost us the equivalent of the national debt of a small European nation. So we opted for the cheap seats.

I was a little concerned as knowing my good ladies enthusiasm for all things Jovi and off of the back of the last disappointing gig being stuffed at the top of the arena, slightly behind the stage, was beginning to suggest that we wouldn’t be able to see a flamin thing.

Anyway, after months of anticipation the weekend arrived and we duly made our way to London and The O2.

The first thing you notice about the venue is that is enormous. The second is that it is extremely high….nose bleed, in need of Oxygen high. My hopes of being able to see anything were dwindling faster than the hope of an England World Cup victory.

We worked our way to the back end of the venue (and it seemed the universe) and then began to traverse the escalators up into the clouds. I began to feel like we had somehow died on route and were in fact on our way to the ‘here after’. But no, we were still climbing towards our seats.

Having reached the summit further wandering to an even more excluded entrance followed. My heart sank.

Then, we were met by an eager O2 official who asked is he could see our tickets.

He then announced that we were being up graded and asked to take the lift back to the first floor and he dispatched the Sherpa, removed our climbing equipment and led the mountain goats away.

As well as enormous excitement I felt a sick feeling of ‘what if we have just been conned’ in my stomach.

Anyway, the lift doors opened to reveal the seating where we would be spending the evening and the view was amazing. And I mean amazing. We were so close to the stage we would be able to see the boy himself flashing his white smile and even the small superman tattoo on his arm.

Just to set our minds at rest around us sat a group of people who had just suffered the same good fortune as us and we all chatted excitedly about our good luck.

That was all apart from one couple who sat silently and with a slight scowl on their faces. It was my estimation that they had actually forked out the 200 quid face value for those particular seats, only to be surrounded by a bunch of lucky nare-do-wells who were giggling in excitement and boasting of their good fortune at having been handed the musical offer of a life time.

At the end of the day the concert was a blinder. If you ever get the chance, and can afford it, go and see Bon Jovi, treat yourself, they really are as good as it says on the tin.

Right I’m off to watch the video footage that I took with my phone as I still can’t believe my luck.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

He’s behind you!

I have been watching with interest a series of programmes called ‘I’m in a rock & roll band’, and have been both amused and bemused as to what constitutes a really good rock & roll band.

What has made it interesting is the variety of rock celeb’s both past and present that were wheeled out to pontificate at length on who was the best singer, best drummer, best guitarist etc (I was totalled offended that as a bass player I got listed as ‘the other one’ and was unceremoniously lumped in with the keyboard player, saxophonist and ‘Bez’ from the Happy Mondays…however; the bass players lot is generally a lonely unappreciated one).

It did amuse me to discover what they considered to be the greatest of the great.

I was totally baffled for instance that in the final programme they rated ‘Slash’ from Guns & Roses over say, Eddie Van Halen. But there you go, it’s was only a TV programme and lives were never going to be changed or saved.

One iconic rocker that made me chuckle every time he proffered an opinion was Gene Simmonds from Kiss.

Here is a man that made a career, and a very successful one at that, by taking the absurd and making it even more ludicrous.

Bottom line is if you have had the chance to witness a Kiss concert you have been a participant in a rock & roll pantomime, which remains in your memory for ever.

Now I have been to some iconic concerts, I mean I even saw Queen before they were massive and had just got to number one with Bo Rap. I have seen some of the best that rock has got to offer, but I have NEVER again seen anything like Kiss.

Friend and partner in crime Bassbin had obtained tickets to see Kiss at the Stafford Bingley hall somewhere in the vicinity of Birmingham.

It was to be a rock & roll week for me as only a few days before I had been to the very first ‘Monsters of Rock’ gig at Castle Donnington and had seen Rainbow, Judas Priest, Saxon, the Scorpions and a load of American bands I had never heard of.

This was August 1980 and was the signal for a new resurgence of British Rock Music.
An amazing day ruined only by the leaving of car lights on and being stuck in the car park with a flat battery half the night (they didn’t have those warning buzzer things back then…and there were four large blokes crammed into a Mini Cooper).

Anyway, I was in the mood for ROCK and Bassbin and I set of for Stafford Bingley to witness the major spectacle.

We stood patiently in line with the hundreds of other punters trying to make the one packet of cigarettes we possessed between us last the distance (one every hour I think was the ration….thank goodness I gave that one up as a stupid habit to have).

Anyway, we eventually got in and hustled our way down to the front and waited for the festivities to commence.

The opening act were a great little band that I had seen several times before called ‘Girl’ who featured guitarist Phil Collen who went on to play for Def Leppard. We thoroughly enjoyed their set but were really in the mood for ‘larger than life’

And boy did we get it.

With explosions so intense it nearly burnt our eyebrows off Kiss took to the stage.

To say that they were wonderfully over the top would be an understatement and a half. You had a bass player (Simmonds) dressed as a massive demon with a huge gothic costume and with makeup something akin to a clowns face gone mad, staggering around with a pair of demonesque platform boots spitting stage blood every where. A singer again with the face paint and high heeled boots. and the guitarist and drummer being pretty much similarly attired and the stage was set for a good night of ‘Wow’.

I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what the band sounded like as all I could manage was a mouth open catching flies expression as rockets flew out of the guitars resulting in massive explosions high in the rafters. Gene Simmonds suddenly taking flight and careering high over the heads of the audience spitting blood over everybody and the drummer suddenly rolling towards us as his drum riser turned in to the kind of gun turrets that you only find on a battle ship.

By the time we stumbled from the arena our senses had been well and truly pulverised. Now that is what I call a rock & roll band.

Oh, just as aside, as if some cosmic prankster was having a joke on our behalf, we went and left the lights of the car on again, so once again we spend half the night sat in the car park. However; this time it was a Ford Capri and there were only two of us.

No matter what the hassle though, you could not remove the stupid grin off of either of our faces.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The loneliness of the rock god

Being a wandering troubadour is a lonely existence, fraught with pitfalls, heartache and disappointment.

In days past, the minstrel would pass from village to village entertaining the local populace for the price of a roof over his head and a crust, with perhaps a pitcher of ale to dampen his dry and dusty throat.

Nowadays you would be flippin lucky to get a pint of something wet condemned by the third world as unfit for human consumption and a packet of pork scratchings that were past their sell by date when Wellington gave Boney a hammering on the playing fields of Belgium.

The only thing that keeps the beleaguered performer moving forwards, albeit in the blind optimism that is the jobbing muso’s only solace, is the applause of an appreciative audience.

If that audience is made up of his (or her) proud and loving family then the satisfaction could ward off starvation for months to come.

This was the prospect that was to face my partner in crime and son and heir Aaron and I last night as part of an acoustic evening when all the acts were supposed to be related in someway.

Now bear in mind that I am not as young as once I was, my mother and father have not witnessed me perform out side of a church setting or funerals since I was 18 years old, and thus has never seen their grandson Aaron play.

I suppose that bearing in mind the level of volume that I have tended to play at over the years and also taking into account that my mother weaned me on Jim Reeves and Burl Ives, their reluctance to have the wax summarily blasted out of their ears is somewhat understandable.

However; neither of my two sisters, who are both younger than me, have also seen me perform in any capacity since I was a young man whose dreams of international stardom still remained intact.

On this occasion they could not pluck the usual argument from the ether that is normally bandied about….”I heard you play a few weeks ago, “I heard all your songs before”.

When my family last heard me play I was still listening to the original line up of the Jam and the Undertones. Put it like this, Paul Weller was still considered and angry YOUNG man as opposed to the grumpy old git he is now.

So you can imagine when the opportunity to pull my family together in order that Aaron and I could proudly demonstrate our musical prowess to adoring grandparents, Uncles and Aunts that I jumped at it.

Of course they would all come they exclaimed, they would love to see us play it would be a golden opportunity.

With the amount of promises I had both from my own kith & kin and my wife’s family we should be able to pack the place on our own, thus extending us a longer length of time to play.

Need I go on???

Of course not??

Not one single relative graced us with their presence.

Now to be fair, my mother had just had a major operation on her knee and was going nowhere, and my father was required to be hovering in her presence for any required whim that could be bestowed on him from her sick bed and was knackered.

Also, and to be totally magnanimous, it was tipping down with rain and had I not been committed to performing myself I think I might too have sought sanctuary in the warm and safety of my sofa and watched a film instead.

However; all good reasons aside, we were once again stood solitary, friendless and on this occasion orphaned to entertain an appreciative audience of office workers and bar staff.

In that this was the first family wide invite to an event in the last 20 years or so, I am going to be a very old man indeed before I pass out invitations once more.

The life of a wandering troubadour is indeed a lonely existence

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The fragility of the singer

All change

The Soap opera continues to unfold; however in a whole new positive direction.

I can reveal that the voice of dissent in the whole Amaziah project was in fact the lead singer.

I don’t mention this in order to grumble or to cast affront, but to demonstrate that I can fully understand where he was coming from and did in fact have the deepest empathy for his concerns.

Unbeknown to me he had been very unhappy with the quality of his over vocal on the record. And I’m not surprised. The musicians had been given the lion’s share of the allotted recording time and poor old Derek got given what was left at the end. He had next to no time at all to belt out as best he could nine very lyrically intensive songs, with no chance really to go back and do it again if he wasn’t happy with what he had produced!

Now if any of the Brits reading this have been following the TV series ‘I’m in a rock & roll band’ you will be able to attest to the belief that all lead singers are Narcissistic egotistical dictators whose one aim in life is to be the centre of attention.

In reality most of us are insecure and terrified of finding ourselves stood stark bullock naked (musically speaking) in front of an audience baying for a sacrificial lamb.

You see, unlike all other band members we generally have nothing to hide behind and all we are able to offer is the natural un-processed sound of our vocal chords. As Roger Daltrey of The Who stated, you could have a multi million concert watched by hundreds of thousands people, tonnes and tonnes of high tech musical equipment all standing or falling on two small muscles that reside in the back of the singers throat.

For us there is no Marshall Amplification 23 foot high and coloured by a bank of Boss talent boosting affects pedals so wide that it covers two separate time zones.

There is no drum kit so vast that it has snow on the peak, or keyboard set up that required the largest furniture removal company in the western hemisphere to transport it.

The ‘band’ has one articulated truck after another to transport their mountains of ‘security blanket’ to and from the venue, allowing then the protection of ‘kit’ to hide behind.

For us singers, all we have to protect our dignity, apart from a cricket box, is an SM58 and those two small muscles that I mentioned.

One slight English head cold and the singer can be transported from virtuoso to train wreck in just a few short moments.

Have you any wonder I always play an instrument, I aint that brave.

So you see, when the singers performance isn’t ‘all that’, we can’t blame a bad batch of strings, or the incorrect temperature retuning the drums skins, or even just throw our hands up into the air and claim that we just had ‘an off night’..

When the singer is off key, the whole band falls off of the stage with him and it isn’t a pretty sight.

So having our insecure moments pressed into vinyl for all eternity to hear is not a happy place to be. And the horror of the prospect of having said moment re-mastered and distributed world wide is something I can fully understand and that feeling deep in the pit of your gut screams “Oh know, not again”.

However; following much discussion we all came to the conclusion that no matter how imperfect ‘Straight talker’ was, that it was a snapshot of a point in time. Not one of us wouldn’t like to go back and improve on something we had done or not done (I seriously had to have played the most boring box like bass lines ever written); however at the end of the day it was what it was.

Also, strange as it may seem, people have genuinely loved that album and it has brought pleasure to many.

So, if a new copy on CD can bring pleasure to a few more, then who are we to deny them this.

So once again, the whole project is back on and God willing steaming along like a locomotive.

One small snaggeto! The tapes and contracts appear to have disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic.

Now that could slow things down a bit.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

"In this weeks exciting episode"

Just a quick update to keep you in the frame of the Soap Opera that is the proposed re-release of the Amaziah album.

Can I say right from the outset, and sadly somewhat negatively, is that it was probably easier to get Nelson Mandela released from prison than it is trying to get this record put back out.

Bottom line, it’s all come to a grinding halt.

One of the band members who played a significant role on the album (I’m not going to say who as I am not writing for the tabloids and not into using these columns for personal gripes…..well, I am obviously….that’s what makes them interesting to read. But I don’t think it would be fair to name and shame when that person doesn’t have a voice within these pages to defend themselves….besides….I don’t want to get sued, beaten or both), went and made a rather major objection.

Well, quite a few actually.

What I had originally seen as a rather pleasant limited edition re-launch of a rather rare classic album (i.e. nobody had ever heard of it) has turned into a potential wrangle over publishing rights, royalties, artistic approval and contractual obligations going as far back as the Battle of Hastings.

The former guitarist is devastated. He was intending to retire on the proceeds off of the reunion world tour….now we are all filling in application forms for Tesco in order to work out our frail dotage working behind the fish counter.

It isn’t all over yet but it does bring into question the issue of integrity. If I had kept my gob shut and just signed the contract nobody would have been any the wiser. However; doing the honourable thing has probably shot the project out of the sky.

On a positive note, I did give both my current band mates a huge hug and told them how much I appreciated them.

Sometimes it does take a disaster to help you appreciate what you already have.

Now, if this were an Eastenders moment we would be getting a ‘duff; duff, duff ending right here (apologies to all of you out side the UK, that was a really bad British Television in-joke).

Until the next episode viewers

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Just call me Poirot!

It has been a long week since my last post fraught with the deep pit holes of ‘keeping everybody happy’.

When I last wrote I had received confirmation from my two former band mates regarding the re-release of our old album Straight Talker. However; following a restless night one of them returned to me with his concerns that ALL those that had been involved in making the album should be informed and their blessing sought.

Deep joy!!

Now bear in mind that I touch the big ’five oh’ this year and the last time I had seen at least two of the original recording artistes was when I was 19 years old you can get a sense of the mountain that lay before me.

However; the little grey cells kicked into action and I attacked the internet with the enthusiasm of a starving urban fox in a restaurant’s rubbish bin.

I e-mailed old acquaintances that I still had valid addresses for just in case they might hold vital information, I Googled names and businesses acting upon last known whereabouts, I tracked through old websites and God bless em! Facebook.

By Monday evening I had managed to track down all bar one, a girl that had sung backing vocals on two tracks of the album.

As I said, bless Facebook. I stuck on a standard “does anybody remember Amaziah?” on my profile wall and waited for something to appear.

Last night I received a response from a guy who claimed that he had been to that very same recording of Straight Talker, albeit in his mother’ womb. She had of course been expecting her first child at the time.

Gottum all!!!

With the initial blessing of the whole bunch, including the drummer who I managed to track down in Doncaster, North England, I contacted the Record Company and gave them permission to go ahead and as I speak I am firing the contracts back to them, albeit before somebody has the opportunity to change their minds.

So, we wait to see what happens.

And what of a reunion gig?? Well we face several problems and major hurdles that would need to be traversed before anything as concrete as a venue is booked.

The biggy is what I like to call the Genesis Conundrum (that’s the band incidentally not Darwin’s least favourite read).

When the band Genesis split a few years ago there were calls from all the fans to reunite for a single gig. This was when the conundrum began.

Half the fans called for the original singer Peter Gabriel to take the vocal duties, the other half wanted the most prolific singer Phil Collins to take centre stage.

This is our problem. I was only singer for a short 12 months, previously to that the great Derek Elliott held vocal duties for over 7 years. He is the voice on the album.

However; many who refer to Amaziah came to knowledge of the band in its latter stage and I of course was the tonsil jockey.

Now it could be argued that I was the bass player for a year before I became the singer and shouldn’t I gracefully bow down and take a step to the back? This of course would be the right thing to do.


Like most things of significance you normally find that there is an individual at the back of it all pulling all the strings together and making it happen and I know that all eyes would probably look to me to make it happen. Will my ego, fragile as it is allow me to put all the work to get the band together, source the venue, promote significantly, then to take a stand at the back and give my lead instrument to somebody else?

Like as heck it will, I don’t think I could do it as graciously as I would like to think I would.

Perhaps my options are thus. Let somebody else organise it and do as I am told, and of course enjoy the experience. Or, be a bit of an egotist and say, “right, if I have to do all the work we play it my way or I take my ball home”.

Normally I keep these frail human thoughts and failings to myself and certainly would not voice them to anyone. However; I did promise I would keep you in the loop with all developments, so here it is.

Mind you, it was hard enough getting everybody’s blessing to get the album re-released, trying to get the band back together might just be a nightmare that somebody else might like the honour of taking on.

I don’t do stress!!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

There and back again!

I can tell by the number of responses to my last blog that you are all beside yourselves with impatience in anticipation as to what the ‘American Record contract’ is all about. Actually, to be fair, I do have a very strong visual image of tumble weed and the sound of crickets chirping that accompany the very real lack of interest that has greeted me.

Still, as they say, why change the habit of a life time. Chuckle!!

Regular followers of this blog will remember that back in the long distant past in the days of my youth I used to play in a rock band called Amaziah.

This year is actually the 30th anniversary of Amaziah’s demise and September this year will mark the moment when we all went our separate ways in disgust at having royally dropped the ball and not having achieved anywhere near what we had hoped we would. Such is life.

The memory of Amaziah began to slowly dim, rekindled only when our one and only album suddenly re-emerged as a collector’s item and began reaching sums of 1500 dollars on the open market.

Inwardly groaning at the fact that I had given several boxes of said record away as I couldn’t sell them once the band had gone I content myself that I had performed on a recording that the discerning collector would seek out. People actually wanted it and were prepared to pay good money for it.

I ignored the fact that what was on the record was immaterial; it was it’s rarity that people coveted. Whatever the reason, I was a collectible. Well, not just me, but Amaziah as a whole.

As the clouds of time thickened I moved on and I thought no more of it.

That was until my good friends Quick Sketch and Bassbin persuaded me to pick up the quill and begin to pen my memoirs in the form of this blog.

My burgeoning talent for the written word (cough) was soon recognised and I was commissioned by several websites to write columns and music reviews.

Within this I began to write for an international site called ‘Cross Rhythms’ and in a moment of unbridled sentimentality I wrote a brief history of ‘Amaziah’ from my perspective. The article was well received and it even allowed me the pleasure of catching up with several former Amaziah members that I had not had contact with since the bands demise.

Time, as always, moved on.

Until last week when Cross Rhythms asked me to contact the director of an American Record label that had stumbled across my article and desperately wanted to talk to me.

It would seem that many years ago he had managed to get his hands on the American release of the album, and rather enjoyed it. Suddenly he now had the opportunity to contact one of the band and set about realising an ambition to re-master and re-release ‘Straight Talker’ as a ‘classic album.

Suddenly, I found myself on behalf of my former band mates in a position to be signing a five year contract with a large American Record company who have a world wide distribution network 30 years after the band has ceased to be. Now that is what they call irony.

Three things excite me about the project;

Firstly, the company will re-master the whole album and my experience already from when one of the tracts was re-jigged last year, is that the album will take on a whole new life and be much fuller and have more depth.

The second is that the company are interested in putting some of the demos we later made, but never saw the light of day, onto the album as bonus tracks.

The third and perhaps the most exciting is that the company would be extremely keen for Amaziah, the band, to explore the possibility of a reunion.

That in itself would be fraught with hurdles and difficulties, but non the less if it could come off I personally would jump at the chance.

My main motivation has to be that I am a far more accomplished singer and musician than I was at 19 years old (despite the comments made by my current band mates). Listening to recordings of Amaziah and my bass playing on ‘Straight Talker’ only highlights my youthful lack of ability and confidence. I have often day dreamed on the notion ‘what if I could go back, knowing what I know now?’ Well, here is the opportunity to do just that.

Anyway readers, you will be the first to know of any new developments.

It’s just that knowing how successful several ‘re-reformed’ acts have become second time around…it could be an interesting ride. However; I wouldn’t hold my breath that it would be in the same league as ‘Take That’….but it might be just as big a larf!!

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Rock Goes goes global!

This will be the shortest blog to date.

I just thought that this piece of info is so interesting that I would fling it at you, let you chew on it for a few days and then explain what on earth it’s all about when your curiosity can stand it no more.

Yes I’m flogging it!!


Your very own rock scribe, over the next few weeks will be signing a five year deal with an American Record label with distribution throughout the world.

Has that got your attention?

Continued shortly……chuckle!!!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Green Green Grass

They do say that the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’; mind you, people who make this kind of comment often say a lot of things, especially at times when you wish they would keep their particular self important brand of philosophy to themselves just once in a while.

However; at times sayings like these do contain a modicum of truth.

When I was in my teems I dreamt of being a ‘Rock God’, and I mean a proper one, not one that borrowed this moniker in way of ironic self effacement.

Like Jimmy Rabbit from the film The Commitments I would lie on my bed of an evening day dreaming of television interviews I would have with Michael Parkinson explaining why I was not like one of the typical brand of ego inflated rock casualties and that I intended to give so much more back to society and the world (thank the Lord, Bono beat me to that one and proved how irritating that kind of self righteous attitude can be despite the extremely honourable intentions).

Sadly my dreams of interview supremacy was not to pass, at least not with Parky anyway as he has now long retired from the chat show game, and I find myself reflecting more in these pages than I would have to an adoring national TV audience.

As much as it would have been fun to have been a giant in the world of men I think that perhaps I have done okay…at least to some extent.

The more I see and hear I come to realise that no matter how far we travel as troubadours we will never be satisfied with our lot.

The sight of Jon Bon Jovi moaning about how lonely and bored he sometimes gets all alone in his hotel room after a gig makes me feel like screaming “then buy a book or a pack of cards you ungrateful Muppet”.

However; in all seriousness the serious number of rock & roll casualties in terms of drink, drugs, relationships and mental health issues seems to suggest that the good ship fame and fortune is not all that its cracked up to be.

When you hear multi million selling record artists claiming that they tire of performing to hundreds of thousands in the worlds stadiums and would prefer to be reliving the intimacy of the pub/club circuit you are left feeling that it really is that tough at the top either that or they have very short memories, or, and this just a suggestion, they’re talking crap!

I would love to be there when some 80’s poodle perm turned musical colossus decides to truly relive that artistic intimacy of his early days and cart his own kit into the Frog & Hamstring (having dumped his van 3 miles away due to the lack of parking in the vicinity), set up in a space no bigger than a picnic table, having moved a rowdy crowd of inebriated office workers first, to perform to a totally indifferent crowd of chav teenagers and aging cider heads and then pack up the van in the rain. Oh, and barely cover the petrol back home for his troubles. Then perhaps they might be grateful for what they have got and trundle off to chat to the concierge or something instead of complaining at their lot in life.

All in all though, despite the lack of a road crew, despite the serious lack of cash that gets bandied about at the end of gigs and especially despite the hit and miss size and appreciation of audiences, it is still better to be performing in a rock & roll band that still has the ability to entertain than not. This is a cause for some kind of contentment.

Hey and at least I get to go home most evenings after the show to my large glass of post gig scotch and a pot noodle. I wouldn’t say that this is exactly living the dream, but it’s my home and it’s my Pot Noodle and generally at 1:30am in the morning I have ‘Mock The Week’ for company.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A face for radio

Well we did it, we actually set foot into the bright sun light and had our photos taken.

Bottom line….I think we may have to go back out and do it again. A comment about me closely resembling American actor John Lithgow has seriously dented my rock & roll ego and has resulted in my hiding my head inside a paper bag ever since.

Aaron was so self conscious about this rock & roll photo lark that you could hear the tension creaking from every limb of his body. Every photo resulted in him standing stock still with a fixed grimace of embarrassment on his face. Mind you this was not helped by his sister the photographer biting his head off every time his hands went near his pockets, which is sad really as my hands never left my pockets.

Mind you we have learnt a couple of valuable lessons about back ground, colour and not rolling out in a t-shirt when it’s freezing cold, you tend to look it.

Out of about four hundred pics these are probably the least embarrassing and even then they have stretched my photo shop ability to its maximum.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Bruce Willis Vs The Oscars

I think I may have mused this one before, but if you compared what we do as musicians to Hollywood movie stars, who would I be?

It’s a pretty stupid thought I know, but when you are sat in a corner of a pub listening to the many fine musicians that come through Bristol as part of an acoustic showcase your mind does tend to wander into uncharted territory.

I think part of this thinking was born out of the look of sheer horror that accompanied the faces of those ‘serious’ musicians that had to follow us during one of these showcases.

It’s not a gripe, just an observation, but if you have a party, or a celebration or an event that is designed to raise money then The Mudheads or The Loaders are your boys. However; if the event is more ‘high brow’ and with the intention of impressing people then we are the last bunch that ever seems to get invited.

I think this was no more appropriately illustrated than when Aaron & I performed at a local competition (for the full story go here). My memory of the event was that we received the biggest and most enthusiastic applause of the evening and yet we weren’t even short listed. Could it be that as entertaining as we might be, we lacked that certain credibility that is required to be taken seriously by the music community. (Perhaps my Mr Blobby costume was an ill advised idea after all).

I have long compared the live music scene with the Oscars in what the general public find credible and what they do not.

You might for instance have an absolute blockbuster that everybody wants to see like Avatar or Pirates or even Harry Potter and you know full well that none of the cast are ever going to walk away with an academy award. And yet it is obvious by the box office receipts that these are the kind of films that the majority of people really want to go and watch.

The films that do win the awards and receive plenty of in-house back slapping and kudos the majority of your cinema loving public have never heard of.

I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but I wonder how many of you out there got to see Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart? because he got the best actor award this year. Sam Worthington was the lead in the most successful film of all time and he got nada, zip, diddly squat. That would be Avatar in case you were wondering and most of you did see it and perhaps more than once.

And I think this kind of attitude does tend to translate into the music world.

You have only got to listen to a room full of academics or bored musos talk about their music tastes and what you get is an apparent fondness for hard to reach indie, world or art house music that is as inaccessible as a French film noir.

They might make some reference to early Cold Play or some Leonard Cohan but apart from that it’s generally some tortured genius from 1968 who “blew his mind” in a frenzy of psychedelic self pleasuring.

I admit that we all like to be a little ‘snobbish’ when it comes to our record collections and I suspect that majority of us would rather die than let an acquaintance have a good rummage through our old vinyl, tapes and CD’s, only to rise holding aloft a hidden gem with the words “bloody hell, the Wombles” on their lips.

So perhaps we all claim a sensitive, well considered and academic leaning to our music taste when we are in company and yet air guitar to our hearts content when “Cum on Feel the Noise” by Slade comes onto the radio.

I have to confess to this artistic hypocrisy as much as the next person when somebody wanders into my office at work and are amazed at how fast my I tunes can be flicked from Hits of the 70’s to Nick Cave or Norah Jones.

However; to my original point, if what I do could translate into Hollywood, who would I be?

I suppose if I am honest I would be a bit of a Bruce Willis, and I don’t mean the lack of hair connotation either.

Old Bruce just keeps going and going and yes, going. Nobody EVER admits to liking him or rating him as an actor, but we will all sit down of a late evening with a can of something and a big bag of crisps and enjoy Die Hard for the umpteenth time. It’s just like admitting you had a bit of a soft spot for Duran Duran after all.

I suppose that if I had to be anybody though I would prefer to be Clint Eastwood, he just keeps on getting better and better and more and more popular the older he gets. And where as it used to be a bit of an embarrassment for the elite to admit that they watched Clint Eastwood films, now the guy wins Oscars.

Maybe rock & roll will once again become ‘cool’ and even Robbie Williams despite being a complete prat at times can claim his place as a good all round musical entertainer. I mean come on, 30 years ago, who would have predicted that Tom Jones would headline at a festival like Glastonbury and be seen as the coolest of the cool.