Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Congreve and The Clay Beneath My Feet.

 I recently ventured out on the weekend to see some old chums currently trading as The Rock Hudsons. Not - as one might imagine - a guitar-thumping tribute to Upstairs, Downstairs buttling screen legend Gordon Jackson in a post-Downton novelty act scenario, but a tight trio utilising the best in onstage technology and human three-part harmonies to make a much bigger sound than they really have a right to. Hence the horn parts in Midnight Oil's Beds Are Burning and the Farfisa-friendly* keyboard arrangement to Split Enz's I Got You which are wheeled proudly out at pub gigs and parties alongside a goodly number of fondly-recalled beat numbers from the last century and more recent pop chart hits, some of which even I had some idea of the provenance of. If this approach sounds familiar it is probably because Andy and Kilbey of the group were once Picturehousemates of mine and indeed some of the current set I could still air-guitar along to with no little semblance of accuracy. Along with some material, the pair of them (and drummer Dave) have also retained infuriatingly good hair since our parting, which I felt the need to upbraid them about during the half time break. Well it was either that or suggest that since S Club 7 are back together maybe it was time to (re)introduce Don't Stop Movin' to the set.   

 I was with my friend Simon, who was dolefully recounting the progress of a family trip to the glittering gold-paved streets of London that very day for which his only ambitions were to return with both a meerschaum pipe (all the better with which to ruminate on matters of import in the comfort of his own home) and a scale model figurine of Antman, from The Forbidden Planet. Neither of these schemes had come to fruition and so, although philosophical regarding the outcome, he was possibly not as chipper as he could have been. I pointed out both the couple at the front, so entranced with each other and caught up in terpsichore that they radiated waves of joy which inevitably embraced us all, and the trio of willowy femmes fatales who drifted across the dance floor, tucked themselves up at a booth in the corner and played chess for an hour and a half before sashaying equally insouciantly out, in an attempt to refocus and brighten his jibcut. Reminding him of that time he attempted to qualify the worth of a hypnotherapist who'd claimed he could teach anyone to play guitar in a month by embarking on the course and then joining us for a song** onstage in Felixstowe at its culmination seemed to help lighten his mood. 

 "Looks like Andy didn't get the dress code memo" said Si, regarding the two thirds of the group clad in regulation black. Simon had spent his own interval wondering if he could get the band to play any Shakatak (Andy, typically, was game to at least give it a go). I recognised Kilbey's attire, and since we were in Ipswich's reputedly oldest and most haunted pub*** I recounted the story of the time that he had been so spooked by the apparition of ghostly faces appearing before him during the post-gig load out that he'd dropped his amplifier, only to realise that it had been the reflection of his own Kiss t-shirt in the rear window of his people carrier that had surprised him. As I recounted the detail, I felt sure I'd written about that particular occasion before, but I couldn't seem to track down the blog involved, however in passing, I found this one http://skirky.blogspot.nl/2006/08/turn-em-all-on-then-turn-em-all-down.html from a gig at the same pub. According to my Google stats, no-one has ever read it online. Here you go. 

*Possibly a Yamaha CS-80 on record.
** All I Have by Snow Patrol. There's footage somewhere.
**There are at least three others that I know of.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The 'Road Go On Forever

To The Steamboat for Suffolk Songwriters’ Night, where the great and the good (and occasionally the ghastly) of the Ipswich scene gather to show off their wares, try out some new stuff or, if you’re the informally-monikered Acorn Trio (Shev, La Mulley and Myself), get together over a couple of pints and play that fast thing one more time. Having secured non restriction-infringing parking round the corner we wend our way to the venue, guitar cases in hand like so many of the hopeful, the hapless and (on one occasion) the harpist before us. As we pass along Bath Street I note that the recently landscaped waste ground is where my father used to sit designing parts for the biggest walking dragline in the world (there’s a model of it in the Ipswich Transport Museum – I can point out the bits that he did much in the same way that Slartibartfast would recall the Magrathean fjords) and where I was catapulted headlong into children’s Christmas parties in the staff canteen. It seems so long ago, and far away. The past is a different country. They make things there.
Onstage are the mighty Buffalo Road newly re-enlivened, as so many of us are, by a one-off reunion gig which sparks the old synapses back into action and which leads to at least a partial reformation. Some twenty or so years after the release of their last album they’re back in the studio and back on stage, kicking a grit pail down that dusty ol’ back road one more time. Singer and guitarist Mike appears to have spent the intervening years cryogenically preserved in a Memphis store room. Shev searches for a wisp of a name “Tall guy, hat, skinny jeans…”. “Dwight Yoakham?” I suggest. “That’s him”. I’ve been listening to a lot of Joe Ely recently. It's that sort of ballpark. Upon the introduction of a song from their debut album Ro, my niece, whispers “I wasn’t even born then”.

Taking the stage before an audience containing a good number of his performing arts students Shev observes that “We started this night, sixteen years ago…”*  We run through our allotted three song set to a gratifying reception and remember to observe the unwritten constitution of SSW – pay attention, be polite, no talking during the turns – beforehand and afterwards. Next up is a band featuring one of the aforementioned kids from the college. He is a tall fellow who attacks his bass with the puppyish enthusiasm of a neophyte and reminds me simultaneously of my brother-in-law and of the bass player from Dawes. “He’s all over the place, he can’t wait to get around the neck” comments his mentor approvingly. “So as an exercise I made him play the full version of Papa Was a Rolling Stone. It drove him mad”. He chuckles into his beer. “We should do this again some time”.           

With thanks to Mike for the photo.

*I had to check the date this morning through the power of Google to confirm it. Sixteen years ago we didn’t even have Google.