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.