Friday, 4 November 2011

Oh come on!!!!

The trouble with putting shows all about hard working bands on television or in the movies is you invariably get scenes where the band arrives with most of their gear on the back of a scooter and having literally ‘thrown’ their kit in the general location of the stage, rock into a finely produced set of songs that U2 would have been envious of.

Normally these kinds of events take place at the end of some Disney movie or other and leave the viewer truly believing that ‘a band can actually fly’.

What people fail to take into account is that it’s ‘made up’. That it has all the artistic reality of Dumbo and that it doesn’t actually happen this way.

Firstly in no way in this world or the next does anything sound as tight and as crisp and more importantly in tune as do the songs in these movies. It just doesn’t happen like that. Even if you do get to see a genuine live performance on TV it has had every bum note, guitar gaff, missed beat and mistake finally and carefully produced out of it. A great example of what happens if this hasn’t happened was the recent filming of Bon Jovi playing live at Hyde parks London Calling. This was not doctored in any way and what you saw is what the crowd in London got. Even my good lady who is an ardent Bon Jovi fan said “bilge he’s singing flat isn’t he”. This isn’t reflection on the musicianship of artistes it’s just life.

The second reality check and the most pertinent to this tale is at no point do the band turn up with all their equipment in a shopping trolley and are ready to play in four minutes flat.

The Mudheads have a horse box, which is enormous, black and has frightened the dickens out of several motorists following the band on many occasions. CJ found it hilarious to paint the insignia “Have a Nice Day” on the back of it which would be the last thing that the terrified driver would see as this wheel crazy leviathan veered wildly and ran them off the road.

This horse box is so loaded with equipment that we have snapped the axel on it several times and have had to fit a new fly wheel that could just about lift a tank.

To unload said horse box, carry approximately 2 ½ ton of electrical kit into a venue and then set it all up ready for action, even with a finely tuned work force like ours (cough) takes a minimum of two hours.

So when we are faced with the prospect of undertaking a benefit type event, in the outdoors, in what transpired was heavy rain and they want us to perform for 15 minutes as everybody is leaving I think the expression is ‘”get lost”.

Honestly where do people get their ideas from. Walt Disney’s company have a lot to answer for.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

It had to be the drummer

Now I am not going to be disparaging or needlessly rude about anyone, but it does have to be said that if there is ever anybody in a band that seems to break wind as a form of artistic expression then it has to be the drummer.

CJ is a genuine virtuoso at this.

It could be because of his fondness for spicy food. It could be that he excels at growing his own vegetables and has a healthy level of fibre in his diet.

What ever the reason, in every school class, there was a kid that sat at the back with a self satisfied grin on his face as everybody else was hanging out of the windows. I genuinely believe that CJ was our man on the ground in those situations.

This has been a long standing issue for the band, especially when we were locked in the studio together recording our first album.

When you are locked in an air tight, sound tight, generally claustrophobic space and CJ decides to ‘relieve’ himself of built up pressure you have two choices, die, or invent ever creative ways to subdue the gaseous beast that had been released.

It was on this occasion when yet another ‘take’ had been abandoned and the guitarist, Matt and I had gone a strange shade of green that our producer introduced us to the concept of the candle.

Candles were lit in the studio not in order to induce a new aged ambience but as a means to ‘eat’ the methane gas that was emanating from the drum booth.

Keep this thought in mind.

Over the years we have not been plagued by this ‘creative’ expression too badly although it is always wise to have one finger poised in readiness over the window button in the car on the way to a gig.

Performing in a myriad of pubs, clubs and bars had not been a problem as anything CJ could produce was soundly disguised by cigarette smoke. This of course changed dramatically with the introduction of the smoking ban and we suddenly realised that our erstwhile drummer was not alone with half the cliental ‘farting’ for England. To be honest the average Saturday nights public house smells more like a packet of dry roasted peanuts.

At least we have a small bank of electric fans to blow anything acrid or noxious back at the drum kit.

In our practice room we are not so fortunate and I knew we were in trouble when CJ proudly announced that he’d had a particularly fiery and spicy curry for lunch.
An hour into the practice all went south when CJ could not contain himself any longer and ‘let rip’.

As the singer I have to gulp in more air than the other two. This quickly became a distinct disadvantage as the result of CJ’s lunch time frailty caught me soundly in the back of the throat. I nearly introduced them to what I’d had for tea at the moment as I gagged violently into the microphone.

Even CJ got caught violently off guard within the full force of his own creation and nearly fell back off his kit.

Knowing that this could quite probably put a crimp on the whole evenings work he threw open the sliding doors and disappeared into the labyrinth that best describes his garage.

He returned with what could best described as a flame thrower.

As a sheet of flame shot out of the end of the metal rod and canister he held ominously in his grip into the room where Aaron and I stood, memories of those idiots you see on Youtube who seems to think that girls are thoroughly impressed by somebody who can actually light their own farts came to mind. Methane gas is highly flammable as far as I can remember.

Our little practice room has an emphasis on small and Aaron and I had no place to hide and we had visions of the opening scene of Die Hard 3 being re-enacted in Bristol.

Thankfully, nothing exploded but we were left with the gaseous stench of the fuel that had produced the flame in the first place.

It just had to be the drummer.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I am officially getting old!!

I am officially getting old!!

I don’t mean in terms of advancing years (although it would be helpful if they too could slow down a little). No I mean in terms of the things I don’t understand.

This is a musical blog entry but on a slightly different vein.

I got a call from my guitarist son Aaron asking what I would be doing on this coming Thursdays tea time. I am always suspicious of this question from either of my two offspring as it invariably results in me having to drive them somewhere.

This time it was not a transportation request but something of a more interesting nature.

His wife, my daughter-in-law, is a primary school teacher (that’s kids up the age of 11 yrs if you are reading this from outside of the UK) and they were due to hold their annual leavers disco on that Thursday.

They had sadly received a call from the grieving widow of the chap that normally did the disco for them who had reportedly and rather tragically had a heart attack and had dropped down dead whilst on holiday. I wondered why they had used the services of such an elderly gentlemen any way for entertaining young un’s when I was informed that he was exactly the same age as me….gulp!

Aaron phoned and asked if I could pull the bands PA and lights together so that a disco could still go ahead. I enquired if he would like me to do it with him. His response let the colour fall from my face when he said “no, not me, I’m working….you”.

Now, like most people I have always fancied being a radio DJ. I even signed up to be one on hospital radio in Poole, Dorset, but they closed the station the week before I was due to go on air (some would say a lucky escape from the already suffering patients).

The idea of spinning the discs whilst indulging in some witty but none the less gentle banter has always appealed to me. I have always enjoyed my stints of being interviewed and performing on radio.

However; running a school disco for about 60 ten to eleven year olds was an entirely different prospect indeed.

You have to remember that these kids were now the biggest in their school. They were way too old for this place now and they knew it. Cocky beyond reason they would strut around the place as if they owned it and in their pre-adolescent minds…they did. The only solace for the weary battled fatigued teaching staff struggling to maintain control was that these Billy and Belinda ‘know-it-alls’ in just under two months time would once again be the smallest kids in another school and would have those smug expressions whipped clean off their faces.

Anyway, it was for these little urchins that I was being asked to provide an evenings entertainment.

I’m not too proud to admit it but I panicked.

What did I do when I am in similar situations…..I called CJ that’s what I did.
Primarily I phoned him to see if he could drag our kit out for me to collect and to ask him for a few suggestions (he has school aged daughters one who is also leaving primary school so in his role on the PTA he has himself provided several discos).

I have always maintained that CJ is a diamond geezer and one of the most helpful people I know but this time my gratitude went onto a new plain of thought when he chirped up. “Tell you what, I’ll come and do it with you”.

This was going to be a new experience for me I can tell you.

Thursday arrived and CJ and I met down by the school (in case anybody out there is wondering both CJ and I are in receipt of CRB certificates in relation to our employment….we are considered ‘safe’ to work with children. Besides, there were teachers everywhere. Even so it didn’t stop a growing sense of dread building in the pit of my stomach.)

It was here that the first incidence of my aging comprehension had its first bite of the cherry.

Bearing in mind that we are talking about children here. Little un’s….kids that still perhaps wearing Barbie Doll/Action Man or High School Musical pyjamas to bed, I was floored when a whole fleet of stretch Limousines turned up and out poured a throng of giggling school girls dressed like they were at the opening night of the Oscars.

What the hell was all that about???

Now I know that the fascination for the American High School leaver’s ball has entered our shores, perhaps a couple of decades ago. And I know that this has attracted the use of Limos for the arrival.

But 11 year olds?....oh come on!!!

Shaking my head in despair we decanted the PA and lights in to the school hall and prepared to…’rock’!

Now the modern disco is really a thing of beauty as no longer does the poor struggling DJ have to load in massive speakers and case upon case of Vinyl records or CD’s (if you are that little bit younger).

Nowadays, the speakers are far more efficient and smaller in size and both of us carried in our entire record collection on a couple of Ipods and a laptop computer (God Bless the inventor of Itunes).

I was all for downloading the last three editions of ‘Now that’s what I call Music’ but CJ promised me that he had it covered.

And then THEY arrived.

I love the difference in the maturity of boys and girls (something my wife insists never changes).

The boys all bounced in, decked out in sports clothes with perhaps the initial attempts of spiking their hair up…..just a small nod towards the fact that give it two or three years and they would be thirteen and it would begin….bring it on.
The girls however; were a completely different kettle of fish.

Many of them clearly wanted to be 19 yrs and dressed as such. I didn’t know where to look……I bet their dad’s didn’t see them going out like that. Why can’t kids just be kids??

Ah well, nobody else seemed to be bothered by it and so I elected to get on with the job in hand.

This is really where I left reality.
The kids started to pour up and ask for their favourite tunes….all of which were a total mystery to me. I hadn’t heard of one of em!!

Perhaps if I listened a little less to Classic FM and Planet Rock and little more to Radio One and Heart FM I might have a little bit of inkling as to what they were asking for.

As it was I felt like I was working on the reception of a specialist Emporium for the more discerning weirdo!!

“Do you have any S&M”?

“You can’t ask for that!! You’re 10 years old!

“It’s a song by Rihanna”

“Is it?.........whose Rihanna?”

The boys kept asking for a track by a band called LMFAO. CJ had to explain to me that this in fact stood for ‘Laugh my ****** ******** off’ (you can fill in the blanks) I was stunned.

When I was 10 years old we had ‘Gimme Dat Ting” and “Bridge over troubled water” for heavens sake.

The funniest thing was being terrorised by a mini Emo in the making.

At the beginning of the evening this sullen rather rotund child stormed up to us with her arm outstretched clutching some sort of dance CD. I asked her if she wanted us to play a track off of it. She replied “No, all of it” and stalked off.

Now neither CJ and I had any idea of what any of it was on the CD and we were not about to take any chances given that the kids were already ‘getting down’ to S&M, it could have been wall to wall sex for all we knew. So we stuck it to one side in the blind hope that said child didn’t notice.

She did!

You’ve heard the expression ‘if looks could kill’….well I got one of those… withered me where I stood. 28 years of marriage and I have done some stupid things in my time, but I have NEVER had a look like that from my beloved…..eech! I’m surprised I could sleep that night.

However; taking CJ was the coup of the century. He played song after song after song that the kids loved….I hadn’t heard of one of them.

They would have eaten me alive if I had gone on my own. I’d considered playing a song from the Wombles, you know, just for a laugh, and of course I would have had to have put a bit of Status Quo in there.
Thankfully the evening was a short one, which was just as well, as by the time I got home I was in desperate need of a large glass of wine. My level of respect for my daughter-in-law and her colleagues has risen through the roof.

CJ was a proper trooper and I was once again utterly grateful that he had saved my back side.

However; in the words of the immortal Terry Wogan

“Is it me”

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bob the Builder - "Can we fix it? yes we can".

I have just developed a new and deeper appreciation of that much maligned species called the ‘Roadie’.

This was caused by the experiencing of two completely diametrically opposed events that took place within the space of the same week for myself and Mrs RG.

The first was our annual outing to see the American rock stalwarts Bon Jovi at the Bristol City Football club stadium.

True it was only five minutes ago that I was writing exuberantly about our experience at the O2 in London (it was in fact exactly 12 months ago) but if Mrs RG doesn’t get the annual fix she may cast a wander ear to other sources of musical entertainment, and as there is some unbelievable tripe out there I for one rejoice that at least the recipients of her audible interest are in fact blindingly good song smiths.

However; to the point. Bon Jovi tend to favour big (I and by that I mean HUGE) arenas in order to cast their musical net as widely as they can to as many people as possible.

With this in mind, in order that those in the ‘cheap seats’ can actually see a show the tour have remarkably large stages and even bigger video screens.

Apparently, if my information is correct, Bon Jovi travel with two complete set ups so they can move from town to town every single night. So if they are performing in say Bristol they can then play again in Manchester the following night. And believe me, that is no mean feat.

Those stages are absolutely enormous.

What you are basically getting is a team of ‘Roadies’ descending on a stadium perhaps on the night before the gig and have the whole place rigged, set up and live by about mid afternoon the following day. Then at about 10 or 11pm, the whole lot comes down, is packed up and off to another arena or stadium.

I am extremely impressed and the reason for that was brought home rather vividly at the end of that week.

To set the scene.

Once upon a time I was a Boy Scout. Mrs RG in turn used to be a Girl Guide. As part of our childhood uniformed activities we would camp in tents. This was never as cheery a ‘singing round the camp fire’ experience as you mind imagine. Myself, Quicksketch and Bassbin were once sent on a patrol leaders camp in order to make us into ‘men’ and enlightened leaders. What actually happened was myself and Bassbin nearly got sent home for fighting at the tender age of 10 or 11 over, believe it or not, a woggle (that was the plastic thing that held your neckerchief together and was the colour of your troop, or Six as they were called).

We were tired, fed up and cold and getting extremely grumpy and tetchy with each other. I have no idea what caused the fracas but BB wrenched my woggle from my throat and threw it definitely to the ground. I instantly demand that he pick it up immediately or I would rearrange his charming and boyish good looks. He of course fully aware that mobile phones were not to be invented for at least another 25 years or so knew that I had no way of contacting my lawyer told me to ‘Sod off, and to pick it up myself”.

Of course the gauntlet had been thrown (well, the woggle any way), honour had to be satisfied and with that punches were thrown.

Neither of us were or are men of violence (BB went onto be a Policeman and having left the force I was informed by one of his former colleagues that he was ‘way to nice a bloke to be old bill’ something I feel that he should be proud of) and so the air of aggression was short lived and probably more akin to a couple of squabbling girl guides.

The fight was short however not because we were not fully committed. No, the rise in temper was at least keeping us warm, unfortunately the fact was that we were caught in full ‘Fight Club’ mode my Baloo (it’s probably best not to ask but all the Cub scout leaders were named after characters from the Jungle Book). Anyway, the first rule of Fight Club is never to talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is don’t get caught fighting by Baloo.

He was not happy and we both had our ears soundly bent on how we had brought shame and ignominy to our troop and only apologising to each other and shaking hands prevented us from being sent home to our parents under a cloud of disgrace and further punishment.

The point of this little aside is that my childhood experiences have taught me that I do not under any circumstances ‘do’ camping. If it doesn’t have air conditioning, a flushable toilet and a shower I ain’t interested.

Back in the day of a more flourishing rock career I would wave the fee for festivals that I performed at as long as I was housed in a decent hotel somewhere close. I hate festival camping even more than Scout camps.

However; as you are all aware we are in the grip of a global economic down turn and times are to say the least, hard.

So now that that the sprogs have flown the nest myself and Mrs RG decided that we would dip our toes back into the ‘camping’ game. Besides ‘woggles are a thing of the past and such things as ‘electric hook ups’ exist enabling the use of such luxuries as heaters, microwaves and laptop computers.

Now this is where my new found appreciation of the remarkable skill of the Roadie comes in.

They can set up an entire stadium with stage, PA lights, screens and goodness knows what else, AND take it all back down again in just over 24 hours (that includes sleeping, eating and other necessities.).

The tent we had purchased for our big camping adventure had claimed (rather loosely I beg to proffer) that the canvass living quarters could be fully erected and habitable within 25 minutes. My response to that is ‘Horse manure’.

Two hours it took us, yes TWO hours, and that was just to get us to a point where we would be dry to unpack if it should have rained.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I long to have a crew of roadies to take care of my musical needs. I am now wondering if one them would fancy the occasional weekend job taking up and putting down our tent.

Guys (and girls) of the road crew profession. I salute you!!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Mystery Illness

“I'm a celebrity, with depression, anorexia
And a mystery illness which should make me even sexier
Celebrity, with superficial grace
Always wearing this mask, that eats the face”

From I’m a Celebrity by Martyn Joseph & Stewart Henderson

Those that read my last entry will know that I had been referred for a series of blood test because I was suffering from chronic fatigue and an overwhelming desire to eat my own body weight in chocolate.

I have now had my diagnosis and apparently I have ‘Graves’ Disease’.

Having the word ‘disease’ associated with you is never a pleasant experience, but add the word ‘Grave’ to it and I began to feel extremely uncomfortable.

This growing feeling of dread was not helped by a good friend who looked up the condition on Wikipedia and announce triumphantly that I have a condition that is normally associated with teenage girls.
This might explain my tendency to flounce and to go all duey eyed over Justin Bieber posters but it is not something that I want broadcasted abroad.
Eager to find a common link with other rock stars who may have suffered the same fate as me and find just a modicum of credibility I typed the word ‘celebrity’ with ‘Graves Disease’ into Google. I was mortified to discover that although the list was long I had hardly heard of any of them. Most had died over 150 years ago, there was an actress or two that I am sure are famous from the village they originated from, an Australian folk singer I was blissfully unaware of…and….George W Bush senior!!
Well that explains it all!!

It was suggested that in order to maintain rock & roll credibility I should lie and just say that I am suffering from the ravages of a major heroin addiction but as EVERYBODY who knows me is aware that my narcotic of choice is red and comes in a 75 cl bottle, preferably from the New World, the addiction claim probably wouldn’t wash.
I could always go down the modern celebrity approach and be extremely coy about a ‘mystery illness’. This seems to have worked well for Cheryl Cole although you can over play it like Kerry Katona and become so unemployable that you even lose your job at Iceland (if you are reading this over seas, Iceland is a frozen food retailer which specializes in selling food that is so cheap that there is probably more nutrition in the box the food is sold in than the food itself).

So I may have to take it on the chin and either keep my gob well and truly shut or admit that I have an illness that lends more to excitable teenager crushes on pubescent boy bands and prolific text messaging than it does to a man of my more distinguished years.

As long as I don’t end up looking like Keith Richard I may just get away with it.

I’m a celebrity, tousled and vivacious
I’m a celebrity, publicity voracious
I’m a celebrity, a midiocre icon
I’m adorable, especially when the mic’s onCelebrity, with a pre-nuptial arrangement
To be followed by a photo-spread estrangement
Fashionably turned out
Immaculately churned out
Rehab ripe and burned out
On a short lease destiny
Magazine confessional
Vulnerably obsessional
An emotional professional
Renowned for being me, me, me
I’m a celebrity, a surface raconteur
I’m a celebrity, RSVP’s everywhere
I’m a celebrity, attending acting classes
I’m a lap dog, a poodle for the masses
Celebrity, with injected lips that pout
I am a spiritual, with a cook-book coming out
I’m a celebrity, every word is true
I’m a celebrity, misquote me and I’ll sue
I’m a celebrity, with depression, anorexia
And a mystery illness which should make me even sexier
Celebrity, with superficial grace
Always wearing this mask, that eats the face
Fashionably turned out
Immaculately churned out
Rehab ripe and burned out
On a short lease destiny
Magazine confessional
Vulnerably obsessional
An emotional professional
Renowned for being me, me, me

Monday, 6 June 2011

Chemically enhanced!

Do not despair…..I will continue…..I must……I will be severally chastised by good friends if not.

What must I continue I hear you cry?.......performing in a band is pretty much the answer. Performing at all basically.

Its okay it’s not terminal. I have now discovered that my totally lethargy towards playing is in fact chemically based. No, I’m not popping anything that I am not supposed to, it’s just that I have a lack of a chemical called thyroxin in my system that has left me feeling like I have gone fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson and then not slept for a week.

They tell me that this particular problem is hereditary (thanks mum) but easily treatable although I will join ranks of those that have to take tablets every day for the rest of their lives.

Hopefully what I will end up is enough energy for three and a renewed passion to rock & roll. There are still many stages that need ripping up!!

You will be the first to know.

I’ll be back shortly I promise.

Laters dudes

Friday, 6 May 2011

All of our Heroes

Last Thursday was a land mark for me. Not because we were performing to a sold out and packed Bristol venue but because I got to shake hands and share the same stage as one of my childhood heroes Bruce Foxton.

I have mentioned in these pages before that I have never considered myself to be a Bass player (my band mates would site that I claim this with good reason). To me the Bass has never been the ‘rock stars’ instrument of choice and thus I had to be a guitarist.

However; I was never any good at the twiddly twiddly bits and so I was always a ‘Rhythm guitarist as opposed to being a lead guitarist.

For some strange reason that I can never fathom virtually every band I have ever played in has been unable to keep its Bass players so Monkey boy would invariably find himself back on four strings as my six stringed contributions were rarely missed.

However; this is something that I have grown to be at peace with although just once in a while it would be nice for somebody (anybody) to pat me on the back and ‘that was a nifty bit of bass playing their buddy). Until that day, probably when hell freezes over, I shall content my ego with positive comments about my singing ability.

All this being said two men really stood out as bass playing heroes for me, well three really, the third being Geddy lee from Rush but I was never really a Rush fan apart from their two big hits and so I cannot count him as an inspiration.

These two giants were Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy and Bruce Foxton from The Jam.

Both were phenomenal bass players who had very distinctive styles but who could also sing.

Phil Lynott was probably my first man crush and I even had an awful curly perm and grew a moustache at the 18 to look just like him. One down point, he was cool and black and I was dorky white. There is video footage of me performing during this period; however my wife showed this to our former guitarist who laughed so hard that it brought on a fairly severe asthma attack so I think this film is best left where it is on health & safety grounds.
Bruce Foxton was a vintage that I grew to appreciate more and more as I grew older and played bass more and more often. The guy quite literally is a genius.

His style is unique which allowed guitarist Paul Weller to go in all sorts of directions whilst Foxton held the whole structure of the song together. However; many of his riffs are so distinctive that within seconds of hearing them on the radio you know what the song is going to be and who is playing it.

So you can imagine carrying this man as one of my inspirations since I was sixteen years old made for a major jolt of excitement when we were asked to perform as support in Bristol for his band From The Jam last week.

I hadn’t felt as nervous as this since I had played to two packed houses at the Brixton academy…but it didn’t matter as I had lost my sun glasses (prescription) and I couldn’t see the large crowd any way.

By the time we had arrived at the venue From The Jam had sound checked and had disappeared off into the night to eat. I had a sinking suspicion that I would never meet the man himself.
Still never mind, at least we were on the same stage.
Anyway, we had a blinding gig marred only by the snapping of one of my strings (we had gone acoustic for ease of get on and off and I can get a little heavy handed when I am excited…..keep all comments to yourself please).

The crowd gave us a blinding round of applause and we were off and out of the building via the adjoining work shops straight into the main band that were getting changed.

I suppose the sight of witnessing your hero struggling with his flies would be a dampener on most but not on I who had quite unashamedly turned into a complete fan boy!

I stuck out my hand and said ‘we’re your supporting band tonight, it’s a great crowd’. He very graciously having ‘adjusted’ himself for modesty returned the hand shake. I then promptly blurted out “Thanks for inspiring me”.

His two band mates promptly sniggered and made some comment about Bruce being ‘really inspirational’ but he didn’t seem to mind.

It was a magic moment for me.

Just on a vanity note and something that made me feel a whole lot better. Bruce is in his mid 50’s but on stage he still looks 30 years younger/ however; up close the illusion is broken. He’s still wearing well mind so don’t get me wrong, but there is definitely no pretending on a face to face basis.

Maybe, just maybe….at a distance, with the bright lights on me, I might look like I’m still relatively young….if only I could lose a couple of dozen pounds into the bargain.

A few days later I e-mailed the venue owner and thanked him for the opportunity. I did happened to mention though, that I have always been a fan of Ian Hunter, formerly of Mott the Hoople, and that if he by chance ever happened to book Mr Hunter that he might just consider us again.

I’ve got a list you see, and I would hate to lose the opportunity to play with my heroes before like Phil Lynott they sadly move onto that rock & roll show in the sky.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The boys are back!

I do have to write in an apologetic state as I have promised you that I would endeavour to write at least once a week.

My excuse (.for that is all that it is) was that our guitarist, who also happens to be my son, got himself married.

Until you have experienced this particular delight you will have absolutely no idea the emotional and mental space it demands of the parents. I thought that having myself been married that it would be a walk in the park. No chance.

So sadly I have much neglected my blog.

I suppose that it was also synonymous with my lack of playing over the past few months as I had intimated in my last entry I had become fed up with the whole ‘performing’ thing was not in mood to be entertaining nor creative.

However; the sun has been shining and I have had a good healthy dose of vitamin D and am feeling generally at one with my inner rocker once more.

Also with the prospect of performing with my childhood hero ‘Bruce Foxton’ this week I feel the tinge of excitement that tends to inspire those of us that take to the stage for the edification of an adoring public.

All things being equal I shall return with the rockers pen and strip my soul for the delight of you lot!!

On another sadder note.

I often have a little browse through the statistics of this website just to ensure that I am not just writing this blog for my own benefit (if you left more comments I would know that you are actually reading what I am writing).

Anyway the stats show that a good deal of my readership come from Japan. You guys clearly love your rock.

In fact one of my first albums I purchased was the legendary Cheap Trick Live at Budokan…what a blinding album that was.

I have had friends who achieved nothing in this country and have had phenomenal success in the land of the rising sun. It is a land that clearly appreciates a good hard rock riff.

We in the West have been watching in awe as the news of the incredible tragedy of the earth quakes hit your shores.

It doesn’t mean much I know but please be assured that the prayers of this fellow rock lover are well and truly with you and I pray that the Phoenix will raise quickly from the rubble and you will be back rocking & rolling as soon as you are able.

We’ll speak soon.


Friday, 11 March 2011

Revenge is a dish best served explosively.

I had received two comments from our support artiste at our last gig that I really appreciated and helped make my evening.
The first was that I “didn’t have enough wrinkle to be old enough to be Aaron’s father” always good for the fragile ego that one.

The second was that we were a really friendly band and fun to perform with.

I have always prided myself as being easy to work with and I have tried my hardest, as have my band mates, not to be too precious and to make friends rather than bad reputations.

It remind me of all the bands over the years that I have been involved in supporting and even those who then in turn ended up supporting us (beware the old adage, be careful how you treat people on the way up as you never know who you are going to meet on the way back down again).

On the whole we have had a great time meeting loads of new bands and artistes and only a few stick in my mind as being a right royal bunch of jerks.

Sadly our last gig at a well known Bristol venue a few years back did end up with both Support bands giving us withering looks, that they were indeed way too special to be supporting a bunch of losers like us.

One of the bands even decided that they were soooooooo special that they went well over their allotted time and ate royally into our time slot. Believe me that hurt, especially as we had worked so hard to get an audience there in the first place.

Subsequently as the venue allowed them do this we shook the dust from our sandals and have not returned there since.

Unsurprisingly it was the same venue where we were booked to support a well known signed folk rock act that decided that they would continue to sound check until the very moment that the doors were opened. The venue then chewed our backsides off for not being ready on time.

I am also reminded of the time we were booked to support a local band in Bristol only to be told on arrival that the band had no equipment at all, and I mean nothing; the guitarist had to borrow a plectrum (pick) from Aaron.
The drummer then set about resetting CJ’s drum kit for a left handed drummer only to break it in the process. Of course we didn’t realise this until about a third of the way through our set when the whole lot began to part company with CJ and itself and literally fell apart.
The band that had inflicted the damage on our equipment and kit then held court in the next room drawing the crowd away from our set.
I have said it before and I shall say it again…why do we do this to ourselves?

What we really need is a personality like our former guitarist Matt. He was once incensed that the support band having played to our audience began to pack up and were preparing to drive home. Matt stormed outside the venue and frog marched them back into the building and having removed their van keys told them that they were going no-where until we had played. We had been good enough to support them and they were going to return the favour by boosting our audience in support. I would never have had the nerve to do that.
Mind you our tales are nothing as compared to those who have had the pleasure of being ‘Road Crew’.

I once knew a guy who went from being a sound man onto becoming a road manager for acts such as George Michael. During recording sessions he would regale us with his tales of the road.

The funniest were of his memories of being on the road with a Spanish Heavy Metal band in Europe. The funniest account gave me hope that there is indeed such a concept as ‘justice’.

This particular band did not treat their crew with much respect at all to the point that they didn’t really budget the tour with such frivolities as ‘food’.

Now they do say that an army marches on its stomach and this is even more so for a road crew.
After a couple of weeks of this the crew had lost all its good humour and patience and were hungry, tired and fed up.

Part of the band’s show consisted of large pyrotechnics which had to be constructed by the only member of the crew who held an explosive licence, Bluey.

One night, fed up to the back teeth and extremely hungry Bluey got completely wasted before the gig and decided to take his revenge on his inconsiderate task masters.

Now bear in mind that each flash bomb only needed a tea spoon of this industrial strength gun powder for spectacular results, Bluey walked up each flash pot and poured a whole tub into each one, yes a WHOLE tub.

Then Bluey, satisfied with his act of vengeance curled up behind the mixing desk and fell last asleep and was totally unarousable.

My friend and his crew were then faced with a huge dilemma. Bluey was the only one who held a licence to handle this stuff. If anyone of them had as much as looked at the gun powder let alone touch it they could have found themselves being prosecuted under health & safety.
So they decided to leave it as it was and go and warn the band.

“Listen lads, it’s the last gig of the tour so we have decided to make it a spectacular one so what ever you do stay well away from the front of the stage at the point in the show where the flash pots always go off”.

The band gave an off hand reaction to this. They were leather clad rockers, nothing would distract them from doing what they did best….rocking.

However; despite their bravado they all began to look a tad nervous as the song in the show arrived that was normally accentuated by a controlled explosion of flame.

As the drummer leaned into a roll of the drums that announced the arrival of the explosion the band’s demeanour was now one of naked fear. With that my mate hit the detonation button.
Apparently what resulted was a solid wall of sheer flame 50 ft high and about 50 ft wide.

The band literally fell backwards into their amps and speakers completely blinded and sun tanned and the drummer fell of the riser into the orchestra pit behind.

My friend said that it was the first time that he had ever seen an audience turn as one and flee.

The explosion was so fierce that one of the venues officials called the bomb squad as they though the Basque separatists had been at it again.

At the end of the show my friend went to retrieve the pots and found that they had been blown clean through the stage itself and were now firmly buried in the concrete floor below and were going nowhere.

And the band who had suffered such retribution?
Well, they were all grins and thumbs up asking if they could do that again the next time they toured.
I suppose that once a Pratt, always a Pratt.

But it was a valuable lesson to me “Be careful how you treat people on the way up as they may have a bellyful of Jack Daniels and a dynamite licence”.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

There and back again

The rock & roll life can be somewhat of a roller coaster ride at times. One minute you are riding high, heart beating fiercely, white knuckled as you race with the birds on top of the world and glad to be alive.

The next you are plummeting down towards the puddles of child produced vomit, loose change and pocket bric-a-brac that you lost the last time you screamed this way. Only to find yourself 30 seconds later hurtling back towards the stratosphere with the wind whipping through your hair and looking forward to another heady session of head butting seagulls.

I have experienced the rock & roll equivalent of this twice in one week.

The hurtling downwards experience was as we performed at the Louisiana last Sunday.

On the face of it all went well. The hard Core Punk outfit that had been supporting us had pulled out at the very last minute only to be replaced by the talented songster Julie baker who was a dream to work with and extremely friendly tuboot.

We also had a small but enthusiastic audience and they clearly enjoyed themselves.

However; for me my entire evening was back to front, upside down and yanked through a hedge backwards.

As we hit our opening chords of our first song something went horribly wrong and my bass nearly brought the back wall down. Clearly I have developed a technical fault with my guitar transmitter.

Anyway the sound engineer quickly solved the problem front of house and all was well. Sadly my onstage mix had been shot to hell. I was slowly being lifted off of my feet by a sheer wall of noise being produced mainly from Aaron’s guitar and my vocal in the monitor mix.

Being an old fart I normally wear ear plugs as I am becoming concerned at the long term damage I am doing to my hearing (it’s bad enough being as blind as a bat without adding ‘deaf as post’ to the equation). The trouble is with this level of volume the plugs were simply distorting the sound to an unusable mess and so I had to rip them out.

What I then experienced was the audible equivalent of leaping from a toasty warm bedroom window into the English Channel in January. Shocking.

My head was spinning and within almost no time at all I couldn’t pitch a note to save my life though saving my reputation at the point would have been of more value.

Now you would have thought that after 33 years I would have developed the communication skills to inform the in-house engineer of my dilemma and get him to ‘sort it out’.

Sadly this skill has always eluded me and in melt down situations like this I generally proceed like Bambi caught in the headlights of a forty tonne juggernaught on full throttle.

In the past my guitarists have wised up to my disability quickly and risking me look like a complete incompetent in front of the sound guy told him exactly what I needed on my behalf. This is a responsibility I have been more than happy to hand over to somebody else no matter how ‘retarded’ it may or may not have made me look.

Perhaps it’s time to pass this particular mantle on to the next generation and get my son and guitarist to communicate in that ancient language of ‘technical’ in that dark and mystical way to the shaman of sound and volume while I simply recite the time honoured incantations of “One, two, one, two, testing, testing”.

As it was I had to try and play, sing, pitch and remember all the words whilst my eyeballs were slowly being pushed to the back of my skull.

It was a losing battle and I began to get more and more lost in songs that I have been singing for years. This tragic outcome wasn’t helped by Aaron announcing to the crowd that ‘This is another song that the old boy wanted in the set, watch him mess this one up’. Maybe I need to have a gentle word with him at some point, preferably tooled up with a nice stout piece of two by four. You may not be allowed to smack your children any more for lack of obedience but there is nothing to say that you can’t beat them senseless at the age of 25 for humiliating their old man in front of a laughing audience.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that as soon as the last chord had been struck I was off that stage as fast as my knackered old knees could carry me. Packing up was a daze and goodness only knows how I managed to drive home at the end of the day.

As I sat crashed in front of my television set with the tinnitus in my ears threatening to explode my head I pondered the premise that I may just be getting a little too old for this lark.

That was the bottom of the roller coaster ride. However; just as surely as you career downwards you normally whip straight back up the other side.
The slope back up came the following Saturday when my mobile phone rang.
“Hi Paul, this is “Gareth Chillcott here”. I instantly snapped to attention. I mean, this guy is rugby royalty.

Now from my blog stats it shows that the large majority of my readership comes from the US and South Korea (clearly you guys like your rock & roll down there) and so you would not have a clue who Gareth Chilcott is.

In rugby terms I wouldn’t say he is the equivalent of David Beckham (Lord no) but probably more of a Wayne Rooney (you’ve heard of him as he plays for Manchester United and it doesn’t matter what part of the planet you come from you ALL know Man United). Anyway, Gareth was a famous and much respected rugby football legend who played for England and who just happens to hail from Bristol and we are all very fond and proud of him.

Anyway to keep himself in his retirement Gareth purchased himself a music venue and puts on some of the best gigs in the South West and here he was phoning me and inviting myself and Aaron to support ‘From the Jam’ (made up of two of the original members of The Jam).

I was a big fan of The Jam in my teenage years and had rushed to get tickets when they had kind of reformed with a new lead singer. Talk about made up…..I get to play with my heroes and all the frustration and negative thinking of just under a week ago melted away.

The roller coaster at this moment has reached the highest point, the view is incredible and air is clear. For now at least I am going to stay there…….roll on the end of April.

“Now that’s entertainment”

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Sid Snot Calling

I haven’t had a crack at the old promotion, well not big time anyway, since the Gutter Brothers game to Bristol. That particular exercise put me off of ever doing it again. Man but that was hard work and it consumes your every working moment.

I mean I almost have to sell my soul to Santa in order to get 93 souls though the door on that night and that was considered a really good turn out.

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that I am once again tasked with hitting the campaign trail and that I have under one week to promote the dickens out of The Mudheads latest venture.

The Louisiana is fantastic little venue right in the heart of Bristol and we have generally always enjoyed playing there. However; this is something that we have done sparingly as our ‘fan base’ (cough) have the opportunity to see the beloved band of their choice for free almost any Saturday night they care to. So why would they want to pay five quid for 45 minutes of us on a Sunday night.

To see how we handle the band that will be performing with us that’s why!!

Somebody somewhere was clearly not looking at content when they pulled this evening together.

The band we are playing with and that will be opening for us have turned out to be, and I quote, Hard Core Punk. Having listened to their music on Myspace, the term ‘Hardcore’ is perhaps a little bit of an understatement. These guys could strip the graffiti off of a brick wall at half a mile. Aaron assures me that for their genre they are extremely good. However; to be honest, they frightened the life out of me. This was not helped by their EP cover which has a picture of a guy vomitting his spleen up.

This could go either one of two ways. We could make a lot of new mates, OR, and judging my the picture of the insane puker it is more than likely going to be this, a blood bath.

I wonder once again why I do it to myself.

Ah well, at least this guarantees that you’ll all tune in next week to see what happens.

Until then, “Those who are about to die salute you”.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A Dream Realised

Regular readers of this blog will already know that one of my life long ambitions for becoming a successful rock & roll legend is that when I arrived at a venue all the equipment was set up in place and plugged in ready to go. And following the gig a band of committed roadies would crawl all over the gear like a nest of ants stripping the stage bare and returning their haul to the warmth and safety of the awaiting haulage trucks.

This would all of course give me ample time in my luxury hotel suite to prepare myself mentally, physically and spiritually to deliver my rock & roll best to an adoring audience. Following the show I would be able to quickly retire quickly to my inner sanctum in order to freshen and cleanse myself for the following day’s extravaganza.

This dream is of course all complete clap trap and I have spent the last 30 odd years lumping around a variety of musical back breakers with the rest of the band in the name of entertainment.

However; this weekend just past I did get a taster of what it could be like (without sadly the luxury accommodation to go with it)

To say that my week had been a nightmare would be somewhat of an understatement.

Having parents that are still physically active can in its own way be a challenging prospect, especially when my fit and sprightly 75 year old father decided to take off for a good stout walk between Bristol and Bath along the cycle track that ran alongside the steam railways line.

Great idea that is until you catch your boot toe at pace on a piece of frost risen tarmac and bite a piece out of the track.

One heavy tumble later and a broken hip our late Queen Mother would have been proud of dad found himself flat on his back and wondering how the heck he was going to get himself the two miles back to the car park and civilisation before he froze to death.

They do say that the Lord looks after his own and in this case the ‘looking after’ came in the form of a cyclist who was also a qualified First Aider.

The long and the short of it, having failed to get an ambulance down the track or an helicopter close enough to the scene, my father became the first man I’ve heard of to be rescued by Steam Train (we never do anything by halves in my family).

So that was crisis number one. The second was when my very own partner in crime, the delectable Mrs Rock God found herself collapsed in a state of sheer agony and unable to move. Thankfully my level headed student daughter was on hand as I threatened violence most horrid to the poor emergency services operative if she didn’t stop making excuses and get an ambulance to my home immediately. Daughter number one wrestled the phone from me and without threatening illegal and painful reprisals got us the ambulance we needed.

Crisis number three the following day came from my mother who was clearly in the mind set that she was missing out on all action and developed an infection in her recently operated upon eye. The result, yet another trip to a local eye hospital.

By the lunch time of the day of the gig I was looking down the wrong end of a very black hole of stress. The thought of a long evening lumping and assembling musical equipment, performing and then disassembling it all again did not fill me with enthusiasm.

Thankfully I play in a band with two diamond geezers and they both realised very quickly that I had hit the wall and getting me to stand in front of an audience and actually remember who I was let alone what I was supposed to be playing would be miracle enough and they ordered me to stay at home until a car came to collect me.

This was one weird experience as we now have a very set routine on gig nights that starts at approximately 7pm for me and this was going to take me well away from that routine.

Saturday night, 8:30pm and I was sat in front of the television with a glass of wine in my hand all ready togged out in my stage finest.

Actually that gives the impression that I was relaxed and awaiting my chauffeur. In reality I was pacing a bit and the driver was in fact my daughter-in-law (well she will be in just over two months time).

I also felt a HUGE sense of guilt. Whilst I rested, my comrades in musical arms were having to do all the hard work.

I needn’t have worried. Sue collected me bang on cue and delivered me to the venue with about 15 minutes to spare and it would seem that I was not missed at all. In fact, I got the distinct impression that they rather enjoyed not having me in the way for once and had set up more kit than usual in less time than they normally would.

I sound checked……..tuned my bass and we were off!!

Two hours later, I had time enough to throw my bass into its case before I was grabbed by my temporary minder by the scruff of my neck and bundled back into her car and delivered back home to the arms of my loving wife.

I would like to say that we finished off the evening in true rock & roll style with much partying and rock & roll. But bear in mind the weekend we had both had (especially Mrs RG), we actually finished the evening in a truly un-rock fashion sat watching Escape to the Country whilst sipping a large glass of vintage scotch.

And my band mates? Apparently they took half the time to pack up as we normally would and didn’t miss me one bit.

I bet they would if I suggested the same arrangement next week.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Dressed to kill

Ever since Elvis took to the stage with his low slung guitar and quiff and the Beatles shaved theirs off in favour of mop tops and collarless suits, the budding rock wannabie has struggled to find the right image that would define them as an artiste or as a band.

Some of the images have become iconic (The sex Pistols safety pins and ripped t-shirts, The Jam’s mod suits, The Beatles Sergeant Pepper look) others have been installed into the hall of fame as a downright embarrassment and remembered in terms of parody and humour (Zig Zig Sputnic, the whole of Katchagoogoo, and anything worn by Boy George).

Get it wrong and you could well find yourself being remembered less for your hit singles and more for the ridiculous hair styles that you and your friends sported on Top of the Pops back in the 80’s (ask Nic Beggs and Limahl)

The trouble is, every musician realises very early on that if you want to make a good first impression then it best not to amble onto the stage in your pyjamas (unless of course you are the keyboard player for the Boomtown Rats).

You have got to make an effort in order to visually define what kind of band, artiste or singer you are.

If a band wanders onto stage wearing ripped jeans, t-shirts, a cut off denim jacket with “Satan’s very own rock band” emblazoned on the back and hair that almost touches their knees, it is unlikely that they are going to be an experimental jazz outfit or the Bath City All Male Voice Gospel Singers.

Again if the singer saunters on to stage in a sharp suit with teeth to match and patent leather shoes, the entire ensemble dripping with smarm, then it is highly unlikely (although not impossible) that the band will then subsequently launch into a death mental onslaught of ‘Bring your daughters to the slaughter’.

Nine times out of ten what you see is normally what you get.

This has been something I have personally taken seriously, often much to the amusement of my band mates.

In Amaziah I experimented with a variety of looks in order to try and get away from the traditional ‘metal’ look and lent more towards the emerging New Wave flavour.

However; there are photos of me in a huge white sports blazer (formally belonging to my father in the 70’s) and huge aviator sun glasses. Not a great look for sure.

In the end, inspired by Sting from The Police I settled on a bright Green jump suit that I had purchased from Bony Maroneys a second hand clothes shop in Bristol frequented mainly by punks.

Nobody appeared to find this look funny and so I stuck with it.

The only draw back was that I only had one of said piece of clothing so as you can imagine by the time I had reached the end of say a two month tour of Europe the jump suit was capable of getting in to the truck on its own at the end of a night. If I had tried to fold it, it would have been in serious danger of snapping and it smelt worse than a pair of trousers after the hundred year war.

The jump suit went to a good home in the end and was eventually used as a maternity outfit for my wife who was expecting our current guitarist Aaron. She has always been slim so you can imagine that back in the day I was Rock God in physical stature as opposed to now having more in common with Buster Blood Vessel from Bad Manners.

That was probably my one and only successful stab at a dress code as since then I have tended to be at odds with my band mates when it came to a corporate band image, or at the very least I have generally got it horribly wrong.

Mind you it can be a real indication of where the band is at.

In the original incarnation of Mudheads Monkey the band took to the festival stage in our rock finest, I was wearing doc martins, tight torn jeans, baggy shirt, funky waist coat and a bandana around my throat…….a bit of a rock folk troubadour look if you like.

Bassin was decked all in denim and sporting cool shades (being inspired by Bruce Springsteen and that blue collar poet look), Matt had a bit of an early skater boy thing going on. The drummer Mark, well he wore a knitted pullover.

Nothing states “I really have had enough of this” better than a pullover purchased from Marks and Sparks.

I believe we did one more gig after this before Mark quit.

Being my brother-in-law and much loved friend I still see him regularly and I often see that look in his eyes that suggests that I really ought to grow up and stop trying to be 25 again…and get my self a decent British Homes Stores pully.

In our next version of MHM this time with CJ drumming we tore up the stage at the Greenbelt Christian Arts festival in our very best imitation of a folk grunge outfit in the school of The Levellers. All tie dye and baggy trousers

The trouble is we were much more musically inclined to the Indie pop school of rock and our look was totally incongruous with the music, and we lost the opportunity of a decent promoter on the back of this particular tailoring disaster. We went back to the t-shirts and jeans after that.

Recently we have been experimenting with the ‘school daze’ look, all white shirts and school ties. This was in the hope that people would get the irony that the 50 year old singer was dressed in a school uniform. I mean, Angus Young for AC/DC has done it for years and he is older than me. Besides nothing says New Wave better than a school tie. Nobody got it.

We are now going to have a stab at the ‘well groomed’ dude look once more and I have recovered my oldest suit from the attic and we are going to ‘make an effort’. All suit jackets, smart ties and shiny shoes.

Trouble is, have you ever tried to get changed into a three piece suit in the gents toilets of a crowed pub. Unpleasant to say the least.

Also a waistcoat, tie and full jacket does nothing to keep me physically cool. We will have to see if this works or not or if I just drop down dead from heat exhaustion.

What ever happens it won’t be anywhere as near as bad when Matt and I went all country when supporting Country & Western legend George Hamilton the 4th.

We were snapped by our local paper dressed in checked shirts and waistcoats, a right couple of ‘good ol boys’ Man is that picture embarrassing. I’m not sure what was worse, the shirts or the over enthusiastic grins which adorned both our faces as we sandwich this giant of country who we were both way too young or British to have heard of.

I think I would rather go back to the bright green jump suit.

Friday, 14 January 2011

I'm singing in the rain

Most musicians do it has to be said, prefer the luxury of performing in the dry.

We will on occasion, if the situation is right (for that read remuneration) allow our fingers to get somewhat cold for an open air event. Wind, sun even fog will not deter us especially if there is a pay cheque at the end of it. However; at no point will any band worth their salt mix an event with running water.

Now you may accuse me of being somewhat precious at this point, but even I, who was unceremoniously removed permanently from any kind of science lesson at school due to an unfortunate incident with a highly flammable chemical and a lit bunson burner, can tell you, live electrical current and water do not mix, under any circumstance.

Cast your minds back if you will to the onslaught of autumn (fall) last year and in particular to November the 5th, Guy Fawkes Night (in case you are not from the British shores, we celebrate the failed attempt of a would be assassin to blow up the government in the Houses of Parliament – it happened many hundreds of years ago but we still go for any excuse to stand out in the cold and let of fire works).

Now CJ works hard for The Mudheads and has his work cut out as our logistics man and in order to contribute to saying thank you to him for all his efforts we like to lend our services as a band to his daughters school every November the 5th for their annual firework party in order to help raise funds for the following year.

We have done this for quite a few years and although they have always been extremely cold events we have always had a great time and have helped to raise many hundred of much needed pounds for the school.

We had a break last year when a new chair to the Parent Teacher Association was appointed to replace our over worked drummer. The new man promptly decided that he would do something far more contemporary and exciting and booked a former X-Factor contestant for the princely sum of 80 quid (that may not sound a lot but I am not sure that she was even a finalist and bear in mind that The Mudheads were completely free of charge…. And they even charged us for our own hotdogs).

Anyway said plan went horribly wrong when she mimed three songs (badly) and then bogged off with the PA leaving the party in deathly silence. Subsequently The Mudheads and our sound system were immediately re-booked for the following year.

These events have been, without fail, cold affairs and normally the coldest night of the autumn leading into Christmas. This year not so cold, mainly because it was absolutely hammering down with rain.

We were set up in a band stand and CJ had butchered a gazebo to make a back drop in order to afford us some kind of protection from the driving rain that was being pushed by one hell of a gale from behind us.

This did not however stop half of the rain whipping under the tarpaulin and straight up the back of our legs.

Also, as we gingerly plugged our instruments in to the mains supply, we discovered that the roof of the band stand had not been built to withstand the onslaught of such a torrential rain fall.

As the roof began to leak like the ceiling underneath an unattended flowing bath tub CJ began to resemble a hair rock drummer in some badly made 80’s MTV video as his cymbals sent cascades of water back up into the air every time he belted them. Being back lit by the stage lights it looked spectacular but it was not doing his kit any good at all. At least he wasn’t actually physically linked to voltage, Aaron & I both were.

Thankfully our quick witted drummer boy noticed the roof finally giving up the ghost directly above my bass amp and leaving his drums mid song threw his rain coat over the top of my kit, seconds before the deluge dropped from ceiling like Niagara Falls.

As Aaron’s guitar glistened shiny wet he had a distinctly nervous appearance about him as he took the full force of the wind driven rain from his side of the stage.

We performed to a large if not utterly soaking wet audience until the fire works were due to be lit and then we set up damping down as much of our equipment as we could and wringing out the guitars and drum kit. Then back on for a second half.

I have experienced audiences turning on their heels and fleeing at my gigs before but never with quite so much passion.

As soon as the last rocket fizzled into the nights sky parents grabbed their sodden offspring and legged it to the safety of their cars and home.

We were left playing to a veritable waterfall of rain and CJ’s wife and children.

The school treasurer virtually threw a crate of beer at us in form way of a thank you and also hurriedly disappeared into the mist.

I have mentioned on several occasions that our equipment is not cheap. It is the sort of stuff that as budding teenage rock stars we would salivate over when our noses were pressed up against the music stores windows and although we are not materialistic about it we do appreciate that we are indeed fortunate to have this resource and endeavour to look after it.

Having it drenched in sky juice and then loaded through the rain back into a soaking wet trailer does not nothing to instil a firm sense of well being and as CJ finally slammed the trailer doors shut in a scene resembling something out of Morgan Freeman’s ‘Hard Rain’ we began to wonder if we would every be able to use any of it ever again or if we would simple reconstruct the evening s fire work display, indoors, the very next time we endeavoured to play.

Anyway, bottom line, most of kit is either British or American made and built to last and thus survived handsomely, which is more than be said for CJ’s drum skins and my nerves.

But hey, if we didn’t have these experiences what would I write for you??

Next, expect an entry about a gig in a blizzard and being flattened by a tornado.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Pick a song, any song

Responding to the requests of your listening audience is an art form in itself.

As I have written many times before, as a band we do not ‘do requests’. This is something that is fraught with danger and basically we are not a living breathing juke box and have no wish to be so.

We perform songs that we like and that get our systems buzzing when a song eventually clicks in rehearsal and for that I make no apology. I don’t care how popular it is I ain’t going to perform ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna.

That being said when appreciative audience members proffer a strong opinion you would be wise to listen to what they are saying, especially if they are well lagered up and within two inches of your nose. An example of this was perfectly displayed at our last gig before Christmas.

A forty something had clearly been deeply moved by our inclusion of several punk classics to which he had grooved his socks off and sent the rest of the revellers crashing in all directions. However; he was mortified that at no point in our set were we even going to attempt ‘If the kids are united’ by Sham 69.

Personally I could think of nothing better….a right royal tub thumper that one.

However; and here is the rub, my two younger colleagues, one who is fifteen years younger and the other exactly half my age have never even heard of Sham 69 let along their football terrace anthem. If they have never heard of the song they protest, then neither will the audience.

My protestations that there are loads of people in our audiences that are forty five something’s, mainly because they don’t need either a note from their mothers to be out or a baby sitter any more, that would well of heard the song falls on deaf ears especially when at the very same gig somebody, much younger than said punk rocker, but equally as loud, complained that we didn’t play any ‘Kings of Leon’.

Aaron; he’s well up for it. CJ; well he’s heard of Kings of Leon so that is a start. Trouble is I am completely flat lined on the band…nada, zip…they don’t do a thing for me….sorry about that and all, but we all have our own particular tastes.

And that is the problem and despite what many may think it is not an easy one to over come. Our band covers three generations, each with its own anthems and classics. You also have three strong personalities and endeavouring to get the three to come to one accord on song choices has been a nightmare over the years.

It’s one of the reasons that all of our songs are so short, many with sections surgically removed. It is because one member has violently disagreed with the choice and has only capitulated if a bit of is removed.

You could argue that is no way to run a band and you could well be right. However; I have played in several bands where all the players are roughly the same age and we still couldn’t agree then either.

So we have to proceed on the basis that if we keep chucking enough songs into the mix……then at least one third of the audience at any one point is going to enjoy a third of the set.

However; I still am not going to play ANYTHING that might have appeared on ‘Now that’s what I call music’ in the past 18 months.

Anyway, despite the criticisms, we still love it and that in the final analysis I suppose is what really matters at the end of the day.