Tuesday, 23 January 2018

on the road again

bridge fly by

It seems a long time ago when my friend and road manager John picked me up for a mini tour of the north. He drove from Cornwall on Wednesday morning last week and we drove to a Travel Lodge near York where we holed up until Thursday. It was a couple of hours drive to Newcastle for the next date of The Roger Chapman family and friends tour. I had already played Leicester and London the week before. Two thoroughly enjoyable shows for me. I've decided the Shepards Bush 02 gig is my favourite UK venue. I love the sound in there and the Edwardian interior that still looks fabulous.

The weather forecast for our journeying for the next few days looked a bit rough with snow and ice predicted on all sides. As it turned out, for the entire journey, we some how avoided driving in snow. It threatened to fall in Newcastle but didn't. We'd booked a late leave time so it was around 2pm as we headed for Newcastle on Thursday. We had a great gig there and set out for Kinross in Scotland immediatly after my set. We arrived at around midnight. By now a good few inches of snow had fallen but the roads were clear. The Green Hotel in kinross is home to The Backstage venue. It is a cosy 120 seater with a unique, museum like collection of rock memorabilia put together by promoter Dave Mundell. Dave is one of those guys who brings some thing special to the music scene because it's obvious that he really cares.

After a decent sleep John and I hung out in the rather plush if tired hotel. It is huge and rambling with nearby golf greens and a trout lake. Next time at the gig I shall get some fishing in. We sound checked at around 6 0clock after a splendid lunch. John had fish and chips and I had Scottish mussels in a chilli sauce with chips and delicious bread. They served a very nice pint of bitter so I was very happy. So nice to be able to eat and sleep so close to the venue. In this case the door of my room opened onto a staircase that lead down one flight to the entrance to the venue. This was perfect on a harsh wintery day when the venue would usually be a distance from the hotel. So, my very large bedroom was a very luxurious dressing room.

We were wondering if any one would make it on such a wintery night but we need not have worried. The lovely enthusiastic audience were a delight and it was very different and enjoyable for me to play a full set of material as distinct from a short support set for Chappo. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoy playing a support role. I like the lack of pressure and I enjoy playing a short set also.

The show went very well and I think I moved it it all forward during this one performance. Like having an extra gear. I played the sequel to Evening Over Rooftops for the first time and that was well received. The song is called A Bowl of Flowers. I also played In The Half Light which I hadn't played for a long time. I've decided to include it more often. I was determined to utilise freshly discovered possibilities at the next gig at the British Rock and Blues Fest in Skegness. We had a day between the Back Stage gig and Skeggy so that was good. We would be staying in Skegness at the Butlins Holiday venue the night before my afternoon performance next day.

in the half light

The weather forecasts were still a bit grim but still our road was clear as we drove out of Kinross. The miles flew by and after flat acres of grim, desert like agricultural Lincolnshire country side we arrived at Butlins. After struggling to find the block our apartment was in on the Butlins site, we eventually found it. The apartment was a pleasant surprise once we were installed. 

An early night was order of the day with a 9 am alarm to get to an 11 am sound check. It is not my idea of fun but it is different and I like different. The night before John had scouted the venue and returned with news that it was a cavernous room that would need 800 folk to make any kind of atmosphere. That was a bit daunting but I don't let things like that worry me these days.We arrived at the gig in perfect time and within ten minutes i was doing my sound check with a top pro crew. It took minutes for a big grin to grow on my face as the lush sound of the big rig filled the stage. 
In this cavernous cold place the heating was only just coming on but the dressing room was cosy. The time flew by and soon the very nice young woman who was stage manager called me with five minutes to go. As for the previous, recent shows I had no nerves, just the desire to sing and play.
I peeped through the side curtain and there they were. An audience of about 1800. Now I really wanted to play. I walked out onto the stage and into my second home where I think I gave the best solo performance so far. I feel sure the audience got it and they got me. Enough said.

It was 1.45pm and the rain outside the venue was turning to sleet. Should we stay to spend our artiste food allowances or hit the road. A combination of leaving for every where as soon as possible and a semi intelligent SAT navigation system had served us well so we decided in favour of covering miles as soon a possible. The sleet turned to snow as we drove but didn't settle on the road. It calmed down as we approached Boston and cleared for a while. Driving rain seemed acceptable given all the snow we had managed to avoid. By the time we were in London the rain was gone and that boded well for John's trip home to Cornwall. I guess the total mileage for this trip was around 1500.

Thanks to every one who came and made it a buzzing time. I really had the best time. There were no problems worth a mention. All good. Now a few days off with a little first fishing of 20018 and then I will be recording through February and much of March. 


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Toys or tools for guitar

the vox MV50 AC and a typically sized effects pedal to show scale.

a pencil on top of the speaker cabinet 
to show the miniature scale of the whole set

I am not going to go on and on about the above. I just want to say this is one of the most extra ordinary pieces of work gear I have bought for many a year.
The MV50 comes in three flavours, Clean which is an American styled sound and it is very clean. Then there is the Rock version which is self explanatory with a good modelling of the British rock amps like Marshall. The one I chose is the AC which is a version of the famous Vox AC line. probably the most famous of these amps is the AC30 made famous by the Shadows and the Beatles. Brian May of Queen uses eight Vox AC30s.

The MV50 AC has a lovely sustained chime and a very useful overdrive with lovely over tones. The amp has a 50 watts rating with two speakers and 25 watts with one. It has a headphone / line out which is great for recording and a new kind of valve set up. Portable and well built this is a great tool.

Enough to say working with this amp is addictive. I think it offers high value for a low price and provides a solution to what to do about an on stage spare amp, what to take to the pro studio that doesn't need a transit van and two roadies or what to use in your bedroom studio.  I am teased with getting the extra cabinet for work on my new album.

By the way the pedal in the photo is the JOYO JF-02 Ultimate Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal. At the price of £39.43 it is probably the best value overdrive pedal going, It is alleged to be a clone of a very expensive US pedal. With the MV50 and my 71 Fender stratocaster it gives great results.


in the bleak midwinter

The UK Christmas spend has been estimated to be more than £78.69 billion in 2017.

A new NHS hospital in the UK with 210 beds cost £75 million plus another £15 million for roads, equipment and infrastructure. That's £90 million.

UNITED KINGDOM achieves a Happy Planet Index Score of 31.9  and ranks 34th of all the countries analysed.

Latest official figures show an estimated 5,174 people were forced to sleep outside in UK in 2016.

The lives and futures of millions of children are in jeopardy. We have a choice: Invest in the most excluded children now or risk a more divided and unfair world.

1 in 10 young women in UK cannot afford to buy sanitary products.

It is estimated that 20% of all Christmas presents are unwanted and unused.

Why don't we protest more? Why don't we care enough to stop austerity?

Leaked report on mental health crisis in UK indicates a rise in suicides and that 75% of people needing help / treatment are not receiving it.

The Trussell Trust is the largest food bank network in the UK, and it handed out around 41,000 food packs in 2009/10 compared to 1.2 million in 2016/17.

Every year we are warned that if the High Street Christmas spend is not enough our economy and therefore our quality of life will suffer. How mad is that?

"I am not dreaming of a white Christmas" - Homeless young woman aged 19.

Why are thing such a mess? Could it be that it is because we want the wrong things.

Why does the UK government increasing appear to be a reactive body that can only see a problem when it is critical to their re-election. Then they act too late with too little? Perhaps it is because they don't know what to do. When questioned in the House of Commons by the opposition leader about the recent UN declaration that austerity had seriously harmed the well being of disabled people, May replied - "There are more employed disabled people than ever before".

While so many are with out essentials, Christmas is a mostly indulgent, bloated festival of self interested greed that doesn't extend to the poor and dispossessed though, it is claimed to be a time of love and good will to all.

Will things have improved by next Christmas? It partly depends on what you want. Time for real change?


Tuesday, 21 November 2017


photos by SD photography

A week ago i was packing and checking my guitars in preparation for the HRH Prog Fest in North Wales. Next day my friend and some time roadie John, set off from North Cornwall to pick me up in London and drive me to the gig. We set off at about 2.30pm and arrived at around 7.30pm. With one brief stop we made good time.

Our chalet on the Holiday camp site was quite large and well appointed. It didn't take long to get the place warm and get ensconced. John had intended to catch the last act of the Thursday night show but never got around to it. By 1.30am we were both in our rooms and ready for bed. I knew John would sleep after his mammoth drive from Cornwall but I was surprised when I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for action at around 9.30am. Well, ready for action, might be a slight exaggeration. It takes me an hour to wake up ideally.

I was due to play at 2pm so it was the breakfast shift as far as I was concerned. After getting ourselves organised for the day we made our way to the venue and after a smooth and quick line check, I was ready to go. Last time at this gig I went on after a couple of bands so I was a little concerned about how many folk might be in the venue as i was starting the proceedings. I needn't have worried. There was a large crowd when I began and they were so nice. They listened and responded positively to every thing I did and said. It was lovely. Always determined to finish on time, I keep an eye on the passing time but I found myself unusually, with two minutes left at the end of the song The sound don't come. The stage manager thought it hilarious as I proclaimed " Shit, I'd better leave it there then. The audience laughed, I said my farewell and left the stage. It had flown by as is always the case when it's going very well.I have to say technical support at the HRH gigs is excellent. Quick and effective technicians providing great sound and lighting.

After the show I bumped into Mick Box and Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heap. We keep meeting at gigs recently. It's always nice to say hello. I think back to the days we first met on a German tour. None of us could have guessed we would still be playing at the age of 70. Mick reached 70 in June.

John and I left the gig at around 4.30 and drove back to London with just a short break. John dropped me off and set off for Cornwall arriving at around 4.30am. He has amazing stamina. I am very fortunate to have the best people looking after me. I am spoilt. My very good friend Rambling will be taking me to the next and last gig of 2017. I'm playing Southampton Uni with Carl Palmers ELP Legacy so that could be interesting. 

I have some more gigs on the Gigs page in 2018. I'll be playing with Roger Chapman in Leicester, London and Newcastle. After that I will be playing the Kinross Green Hotel and Golf Club and then Skegness British Blues and Rock Fest. I'm taking all of February and most of March off to record. I plan some bass fishing in the Spring with the Bradshaws in Cornwall and a trip to the West Coast of Ireland for some bass fishing with guide Henry Gilbey who I have always admired. I can't think much past the Spring right now and Winter is far from done with. Thanks to all for your kind birthday wishes and greetings. I have had the best year so far and I shall milk it to the end ha!

I have a few days off now until the Southampton show so I will be writing and recording the album. I began to think about possible titles a few days ago so that is always a good sign that things are finally, properly under way.

Christmas looms and in my next post here I will be having my seasonal rant with a few seasonal statistics that I think will give pause for thought. Meanwhile I have to declare that I will be spendng some of Christmas with my brother and other family members this year. A family gathering is some thing Steve really wants so it would be churlish to be missing. I have a caveat or three though. I won't be playing any party games and there will probably be a few other rituals I may have forgotten and am not willing to re visit. That said i will play my part and try not to be the grumpy old man ha! Only joking!

Look out for my next post - In the bleak mid winter.


Sunday, 29 October 2017

70 still buzzing

the wreck of the Brighton pier

The photo above was taken by Alan Obee in the evening before the show at the Real Music Club some weeks ago. I really like the photo very much. Thanks Alan. It was lovely to see you and Jude.

Quite a lot has happened since I last posted here. I went up to Leicester for a couple of days to hang out with Luke. Oxfam put on a series of pop up gigs across the UK and Luke had elected to play the Beeston gig not far from Leicester. After a short rail journey we arrived at the pub in time to see a young woman already playing her set. She was quite good but hardly any one was listening or paying her any attention at all. She battled on in a way that showed she is used to this. I am always slightly shocked by the volume of the loudest noise makers at these times. The people who, four pints into the evening, are speaking loudly enough for people to hear across a room. When the song is a little louder , sure enough the noise maker ups the volume to maintain the annoyance felt by any one trying to listen.

Luke followed a singing uke player who was not good but who had a weird factor that was interesting if just one small, unintentional step from being comedy. I stood watching Luke with a group of guys who had been at the Focus gig I had just played in Nottingham. To our right a group of people sat chatting very loudly as Luke went through his first couple of songs. I leaned across at one point and asked "why don't you make some noise". They calmed down a little and some left. Three remaining women sat still chatting but then Luke played his heart rending version of the Kate Bush song Running Up That Hill. The whole pub was silenced and from then they listened in near silence to the rest of his set and the applause grew with each song. A very satisfying evening and well worth the time spent.

Next day was Luke's gig he'd organised for the landlord of the Western Pub in Leicester. This was a great success on so many levels. Along with some very polished singer, song writer friends of Luke, I was the guest artist. I played just before Luke and had a great time. The pub was full and there were people in the beer garden that couldn't get in the room. I think Luke was at his best and played a longer set than usual, to a crowd that know his material and get where it's coming from. Some of us sat at the back singing along. That made me proud. All good.

Next was the Focus gig at the 100 Club. Sound check was a joy and they gave me longer than I'd had in Nottingham so that was cool. I had a chance to say hello to the Focus guys who seem to be a very friendly bunch. I got the chance to hear a bit of their set. Very clever but a bit lacking in emotion for me. I love the flute playing keyboard wizardry of Thijs van Leer and the other guys are very good but it's not for me.

I had a very nice time with a very European audience. Most listened and others chatted. Some how it didn't seemed to matter. Its always like that at the 100 Club even when you are the headline act. It's cultural. Ha!
There were quite a lot of Dutch people come to see their heroes and that gave things a nice flavour. It was my first solo performance at the 100 Club and it was nice to see a few friendly faces such as Shoreham Steve and Oxford Pete and co.

Next a trip to see Blade Runner 2 at the Waterloo Imax cinema. 
Grim, bleak, cold, cruel and raining. Gone is the exotica of the street markets with noodles to die for and creatures made in Labs. It snows or rains forever. It's so desperately sad when every one is a victim and essentially slavery, unfettered greed and it's wider philosophy are the causes. 

Visually stunning and dripping with class. A sound track that is almost minimalist but with massive dynamics and full of emotion. I have some criticisms of the sound track but I'll keep them to myself. You judge. Go and see what must be one of the great films of our time. 

Back in the room......I am working hard on my new album and enjoying having uninterrupted time to do it. I am really enjoying fitting together the pieces I have been working on for the last few years, since By Myself. 

I am also working on two online projects where the musical parts, vocals will be performed by several contributors remotely. The parts are individually recorded, at home for example, and then posted online from where the separate parts can be downloaded and combined into a finished piece. It is something I have wanted to do for some time now and to be invited onto some one else's project is very exciting and challenging. 

This year is nearly over already as the clocks go back and winter settles. I've had and survived my 70th birthday so now I look forward to the next adventure. 

Look after yourselves and each other.


Friday, 13 October 2017

fish and trips

on the road again
It has been some time since I last posted here. The reason is very simple in that I have been relaxing on a mega level and of course getting a lot of fishing in. I have also been writing new material for next year's album release and I am happy and some what relieved to say that work on the new recordings is going well.

I took my usual September break with a gig in the middle at THE BRICK OUT HOUSE FESTIVAL at The Admiral Rodney Inn Cricket Ground in Hartshome near Swadlincote. I didn't realise until I arrived there that the gig was a benefit for Heart Foundation. It was a successful endeavour which made a nice profit. All good. There was a section of the audience who thought I was too preachy but thats me. It is what I do and the level of messaging is dependent on the audience and my perception of their response. I did go on about Brexit a bit and suggested the serious problems we all face are simply because we want the wrong things.

in a cause after my own heart

Since the early days I have been used to people coming up to me, saying things like “ I didn't come here to be lectured but to be entertained”. I understand but if a person is offended by my position and does not feel entertained they probably shouldn't come to another gig. In terms of entertainment I think I qualify and people seem to enjoy my political observations and song related stories so I don't worry about it much. On the other hand I met a lot of people pleased to see I am still flying the same colours and people who tell me that I represent them to some degree. That is what I really care about.

a little day boat perfect for getting in smaller places

Prior to the the trip to Derbyshire I had been totally engaged in the pursuit of pike and perch on the Norfolk Broads. After my second cast on Wroxham Broad I hooked decent pike but with a furious shake of it tooth filled jaws it threw the hooks and escaped. On the next cast I hooked another and this time it was landed on the back seat of the boat. It was a feisty fish and went back in the water easily, racing off like a torpedo. I thought this was a great start and boded well for the coming days. As it turned out this was the last landed fish for some days and I suspect changing weather with regular rain in the evenings, messed with the catch rate. I had a couple of other pike and lots of nice perch on worm bait but I prefer to catch a clever fish with the way I work a hard or soft plastic lure in the water. I say if they are there then I will catch them but it is not the absolute truth.

a nice pike

Strike pro baby buster jerk bait - 10 cms - 25 grams
minus 2 x treble hooks, 
the lure that took the pike above

It was getting chilly as I finished my set in Swadlincote and I was thankful this would be the last open air festival of the year. Autumn was making it's presence felt and the leaves were falling in abundance. There is some thing special about singing in the open air, with a good sound and the sound was great. I had really enjoyed myself and now it was time to get back to the wonderful waters of Norfolk.

With no boat for the next days the plan was to find a variety of good fishing marks in the areas that could be accessed by road. I don't drive so I am always reliant on another fishing companion with a driving licence as well as a fishing licence. The fishing was slow and almost at the end of it, on a river I had not previously visited, I caught a quite small but furious little male ( jack ) pike. Pound for pound it was a monster with aggression in spades. When I put him back in the water I wondered if he might make a 30 pounder one day or be eaten by his mum. Where there is predation the cannibalistic violence under the surface of any water is extreme and regular. In the Spring time even fish that don't normally eat other fish will take a small lure that imitates a small fish, indicating they will take a small live fish at this time. This is especially true if their space is invaded during spawning. I have caught roach and even a carp on ultra light, small bait fish styled, plastic lures at this time.

I know you are in there some where

I am always sad to leave the water but always looking forward to the next adventure. Next on the list was the gig with Focus at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham. Strangely Luke and some friends were going to see Gary Numan at a venue which is literally the next door building to The Rescue Rooms so we all hooked up and they came to see my set before heading off to see Gary. I must admit I have few memories of playing with Focus back in the old days but I remembered the keyboard and flute player Thijs van Leer. From what I heard at the soundcheck I don't really get the band but Thijs is a great musician. His vocoded keyboards are really special and at the end of their sound check he sound checked his flute playing a virtuoso piece perfectly. Really lovely! That woke me up and focused me for my sound check.

I had been a little apprehensive about this gig. I wondered if Focus fans would get me at all. Quite a few folks had come to see me so that was encouraging. I needn't have worried. After Red Star the audience was on side and I had a ball. My song The sound don't come for Mick farren is going down well along with On the news and others. As the set went along I really settled into things and had a great time. I'm getting used to playing 45 minutes before various prog rock gigs. It is very interesting and I love the lack of pressure on me. I had to leave the gig before Focus played in order to get a train back home but I shall check them out when we meet up again for a show at the 100 Club next Wednesday.

Next I am travelling to see Luke play in Beeston tomorrow evening and then I will be playing a guest spot at his gig in Leicester on Sunday. 

It will soon be Winter and my 70th birthday looms large. I don't have any plans as yet but I suppose I should celebrate it. Not sure I care much though. Last gig of the year will be at the HRH Festival in North Wales on November 17th. It has been a special year for many reasons and I have had a great time touring around meeting people from all over. I will be taking bookings for A fair days pay for a fair days work gigs for 2018 from now forward so email me if you are interested.

I will report back on the upcoming events soon.