Tuesday, 31 May 2011

sympathy for the devil?

Life has been quite busy lately. I Just got back from a FDPFAFDW gig in Canterbury. It was a quick dash down to Kent from Suffolk and back to where I was holed up on one of my fishing safari’s and finishing some new songs. Meanwhile big thanks to Neil and Sacha for a great evening. I loved it. More about this on my next post.

Life is not only busy but a little strange at times, to say the least. Last week I walked into my local Branch of HSBC. You know the World’s local bank ha ha! It seems that the Gaddafis stashed a few million with HSBC and the bank made no attempt to declare the fact during the early stages of fiscal sanctions against the regime. On a general note I feel this as good a time as any to move one’s banking to the Co-op. Anyway, I went upstairs to pay in some cash. It was quiet with only one person ahead of me in the queue. As I waited the in house radio played in the back ground. I could have done without the noise but I actually laughed out loud when the next tune began. It was the Rolling Stones anthem, Sympathy for The Devil.

Sympathy for the Devil? There is little sympathy for, or faith in the banks that caused the chaos resulting in massive debt and the bail outs we paid for. At the same time it seems strange that the once infants terrible are now playing on Big bank radio. 

I remember how F.W.Woolworth printed paisley pattern psychedelic carrier bags for their customers at the height of the flower power era. The writing on the wall? More recently the much maligned “graffers “or graffiti artists spray paint style has been extensively absorbed into mainstream advertising. The assimilation and exploitation of subcultural elements by corporate business is unending.

On the subject of corporate business I remember how Jagger took the entire royalties from The Verve for their Bitter Sweet Symphony song. They mishandled the process for clearing samples and used a sampled part from a Rolling Stones tune. Knowing that the Verve album was complete Jagger opted to take the entire royalties including all of the earnings from a Ford car advert which used the Verve song. Some might say he was making a point against being ripped off but he could afford to have been a little more equitable over this affair.

I remember chatting with Mick Jagger at Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells concert at The Queen Elizabeth Hall on The South Bank in London. Steve was playing drums and Stones guitarist Mick Taylor was one of the guitar players. Jagger was saying that he would like to do something really different like Tubular Bells but he hasn’t done it yet. I mentioned the Brian Jones recordings of the North African pipe players. That album used to send shivers down my spine. Jagger shrugged and I could tell that he didn’t think this was one Brian’s high points.

The last time I saw the Stones was a few years back at Wembley. I thought it was dull except for the section where Keith sang some songs on his own. For a while the show had life and passion. I remember the stage was a great silver thing provided by Mercedes Benz.

It seemed odd to see the Mercedes logo emblazoned on The Rolling Stones stage set up. By contrast it seems right that Barcelona F.C. have UNICEF emblazoned across their shirts.

Some one asked me what I thought of the Stones Wembley show. I just said that I thought Jagger was quite a good runner for his age. It’s what I remember most about the gig. A slightly out of breath Jagger running up and down the ramps of his Mercedes Benz climbing frame. Sympathy for the Devil? HSBC? At least it wasn’t Stabbed by Glasvegas playing on the in house muzak.

Next stop Burton on Trent for yours truly where I will be performing at the next FDPFAFDW gig.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

mommas reward

On occasion I have been fortunate to stay in a beautiful building, in beautiful surroundings and or with great people. Very occasionally I have been known to utter the words “ I could get used to this”. I have felt the same about recent FDPFAFDW events mostly because of the kindness and warmth shown to me by my hosts and their invited audiences.

Last Saturday I played for Tony and Helen in Sheffield and what a great night that turned out to be. I remarked to some of the assembling audience that normally I would arrive at a venue in the afternoon do a sound check with the band that could take hours depending on the sound guy and or his equipment. Some times delay would be down to us but only rarely. After sound checking the band and crew would then disassemble until the evening when we would re-appear at the venue and disappear back stage until show time. After the show we would meet the folk who came back stage to say hello. This is different. I meet every one before the show and it colours what I play and how I play. We know each other to some extent before I begin. I’m loving it.
Another difference is related to how hosts and guests want to structure things. At the first of these shows my audience was under manners ( oh yes! ) to be quiet and still until I was done. At the last show the guests took breaks to re-fill their glasses and have a mini chat during the show. It worked fine. It all works and I am delighted.

I have been recording these shows and the results are quite surprising. I am using a small digital stereo recorder that provides my PC with raw material that can be processed and mastered so that a memento of the event can be obtained by those attending.

My night in Sheffield has left me still buzzing and if I had to pick a high light it would be very difficult. There was little Sophie a vision with her face paint butterfly, glittery shoes and enough energy to power a Marshall amplifier stack. Gorgeous! A family bonded and united. Later Sophie's Mom sang The Moth for me. It was a childhood favourite of hers. There was a little lad who was wearing his own Edgar Broughton T-Shirt. His dad had it made for him and he looked great in it. Cool image eh? I am going to use one of the photos of him for a competition soon. While still counting high lights I mustn't omit the spot on bacon and egg sandwich I had for my breakfast nor any of the hospitality I received from my hosts.

After the show and when most folk had retired or gone home, I stayed up chatting with a couple of the very nice young people who, like me, were very happy to see the dawn creep up over the hills of Sheffield. I do like to chat with the young ones. Some times I get very tired of the undue criticism, aimed at our young people, by people who don't listen or expect that these bright young things could ever have much to offer. How wrong they are!

Every one was so friendly and although I was only there over night I felt a little sad to be heading south next day.
So thank you folks for a great night and I hope some of us meet up in the not too distant future.

Thirty Eight Degrees ( the petition people ) have a huge Save the NHS campaign going on right now. Check out their web site for details of how you can support this important fight to save services locally. Thirty Eight Degrees is the angle required to start an avalance and they were the group mostly responsible for the avalanche of protest that saved our forests from being sold off by the ConDems



Wednesday, 18 May 2011

a minstrel's tale

Yours truly in full cry - pic by Bev Edwards

I set off from London Euston on a fair morning aboard the Virgin version of the poor mans Japanese bullet train. It has some of the style of Concorde but only at the front end.
I was filled with thoughts about the coming days and a little buzz going on inside about the upcoming bijoux performance. The journey passed as I wrote emails and even a little poetry. The skies darkened a little before Warrington and magnificent forked lightning jumped from the green and grey sky down to the earth below. Spectacular forces playing across the heavens. The rain fell in sheets.
My hosts were waiting on the platform as the train pulled into Wigan. As we greeted each other I felt relaxed and it all felt right. At their home John and Val presented me with shirts and body warmers embroidered with the new EB livery and some clothing with the EBB 40 years logo. Karl, who I hadn't even met at this time, had mde me a beautiful silver EB logo brooch.
Later a special meal with friends of my hosts and then I was kept up half the night talking with John and Val (ha ha). Any one who knows me will know that is not true. Actually I think I contributed some what to the late hour. In fact they'll probably blame me for the nocturnal discussions that continued until dawn.
Next day I have a new friend in Inca a German Shepard and one of twins. He has a sister Aztec. I am usually not all that fond of dogs but I become strangely attached to this one and he to me. He follows me very where. When John and Val returned from taking me to the station to get my train home they found Inca had dragged an old luggage bag I had dumped, onto my bed, covered it with the duvet and he was lying next to it. Even John was baffled and if he doesn't know dogs who does? And..you know what? I miss that beast.

Later John takes me to see Clusky and Bev ( above). Clusky is a police dog handler. Clusky is a proper joker. He must collect jokes at every opportunity and they all reflect that dry northern perspective that we know so well. Clusky and Bev had promised to show me what the dog work was all about.
John and I walked through a field of foot high grasses. John dropped items along the path we walked which formed a box. The dog followed the scent we left and found all of the items. I knew he would but it was still amazing. Later John and I hid in a wood. The dog found us very quickly. Later the dog charged at John who was playing the escaping suspect. He was wearing a protective sleeve on the arm the dog went for. The dogs teeth must have gone through holes in the sleeve and John had a few bite marks which he just seemed to accept as part of the gig. I would have freaked had it have been my arm.  

Later he also demonstatrated how the dog would just bark at him if he gave up "the chase". The combo of this surreal demo and tales of dogs on the job was absolutely fascinating. Over the days we would exchange many tales about life on the road and life as a dog handler in the police. I can tell you now that if I ever thought my life has been dramatic this was a reminder of the important dramas and the men and women who put all on the line, to save us from our selves.

Later that evening John and his friend Barry took me to Liverpool to see The Drive By Truckers. Less said about that the better. Val got it right she stayed at home. For me to watch the house sound guy still struggling to get a decent mix during the last number was agonising and I wanted to get on the desk and give it a go. He disappeared to the front of the hall a couple of times and I was sorely tempted to get a mix up while he was gone. Probably quite sensible of me that I resisted the urge eh? I will say one thing though. The people of Liverpool are really very friendly. It's no myth. It was noticeable immediatley.

The set list pic by Bev Edwards

Me loafing around and playing and singing in the garden and then the living room. I decide the living room is the venue for it's acoustics. people arriving and chatting and meeting and greeting feeling warm and valued. Wanting to be good to do some thing special for this very nice group of folk. A seven year old lad says hello to me. It's his first live gig. Just before curtain up I am sitting on the floor, in the room where I sleep with my back up against the bed. I had a brandy, my guitar, a digital tuner and well... a few other totems of the pre performance. This was my dressing room moment. Soon my host introduced me and I walked out of my dressing room and began.

I was actually shocked by the wave of energy that came with the hearty applause at the end of my first offering. I ran through songs off the list with out much attention to running order. I changed tempos and stuck things together as I felt to do so. It worked for me and I am very glad to say it worked for my audience. I needed to get some thing very specific from this first show and it will colour what follows on the rest of the FDPFAFDW tour. This has to have been one of the warmest and generous audiences I have ever met. I am happy to say that I recorded this event and after a little processing, I like the resulting recording warts and all.

Playing Carlo's Italian Restaraunt in Llandudno
pics by Bev Edwards

Next day we drove west to Wales. We paused to drive up to the Great Orme which is a beautiful headland looking out towards Anglsey. It got it's name from the Viking term for Great worm, a serpent like sea monster. The Viking Sagas are filled with such references. The wind howled as we took in the beautiful vista and the golden evening sunlight flooded out across the bay. Out of the biting wind we descended back to sea level down a winding road that made me long to be on the Bianchi and trying not to touch the brakes much. Ah well! You can't have every thing. Another time perhaps.

Later we met up with some folk at Carlo's Restatraunt in Llandudno. The place had a lovely atmosphere and very high standard cuisine. After dinner a small group of us went upstairs to a private room where after a brandy or two I gave a mini performance based on the previous show.
So many good vibes from all. Great humour and warmth. I felt right at home for my entire visit. It is always good to go home but I knew I would miss these kind folk. Still, we will hook up again for more adventures. Of this I am sure. It were magic.

My hosts on The Great Orme


Saturday, 14 May 2011

edgar the police dog

     John and Val

People often speak of the North and South divide that dictates whether a person is warm and friendly or cold and distant. Traditionally it has always been the south that gets the stick and the north that gets the plaudits. I really have no idea to what extent this is fair to either group but I have just had a lovely time with some very warm and friendly northerners.
I have recently returned from the Wigan area in the North West where I played the first of the Fair Days Pay For A Fair Days Work gigs at the home of John and Val Bradshaw to an invited audience of twenty-seven.

This proved to be a very happy and satisfying experiment but I could have had no idea of just how magical the whole experience would prove to be as I left London to head north on Monday of last week.
I say a huge thank you to John and Val and the special little community, and my new friends, who made my stay one I will never forget. I just have to tell the story of this adventure so I will post it here with photos in a while.

Meanwhile here is John’s tale of Edgar the Police Dog as a preface.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin.
Once upon a time up in the cold wastes of the north of England there lived a Police Dog handler called John. Believe it or not John was also a huge fan of the Edgar Broughton Band. He had always wanted to meet the band and his
dream came true one night in Morcambe at a venue called the
Gardens. John found that Edgar was very kind and signed all John’s old
LPs. Edgar in turn could not believe that a policeman liked his music.
As the two parted, Edgar said to John, “Since you like us so much and I
have made your dream come true will you grant me a wish”? He made a

Fast forward to Sheffield in 2006. John and Edgar meet again at
the Boardwalk where the EBB had just played. John said to Edgar, “You
will not remember this but I made your wish come true. There was a
police dog called Edgar”. The boss of the police dogs did not want this to happen. He said it was a daft name. John explained to him that Edgar was to be named after J Edgar Hoover the founder of the F.B.I. and he reluctantly agreed. John eventually confessed to the real reason but by then the dog was responding to his name and it could not be changed, and Edgar caught many bad men.
John with Edgar (in training) and Luger (retiring)

John has now retired and is living happily near Wigan. Fast forward to May 2011 Edgar has just played his first FDPFAFDW gig for John, his wife Val and their friends and what a fantastic night was had by all. Edgar and John are now good mates. So you see Dreams can come true and fairy stories have a happy
ending. Make of this what you will but it is true and I just love it.

John Bradshaw

Please note: John and Val have given permission for me to publish the story and photos on this blog. Others might decline for reasons of privacy etc. I will only post material on this blog related to FDPFAFDW events that is agreed to by FDPFAFDW hosts.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

on the road

"The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

It’s almost time for me to be on the road again. I will be heading North West next week to begin the first of the Fair Days Pay For A Fair Days Work gigs. I am looking forward to playing for my patrons and meeting their people. I know they have gone to considerable lengths to make my stay a special occasion.
I have been rehearsing what I hope will be an interesting and entertaining collection of material which includes some parts of old songs and the usual suspects such as Hotel Room, Evening over rooftops, Poppy, Green lights, Side by side, Speak down wires and a medley of bits and pieces. I will also be performing new material some of which I will be performing for the first time. I will be improvising around the themes of the songs and joining sections together to make each FDPFAFDW show unique. I will be recording each show.

I have been rehearsing on a nylon strung classical guitar, a steel strung acoustic and my lovely Squire Stratocaster. Which one will I be using? The answer is that I am still not sure. I’ve been thinking I should probably use an electric guitar for my show with Luke at Glastonbury and we might be jamming with the house band. Having said that, different things happen on the acoustics. The nylon strung classical job seems to respond more dramatically to different rooms than my other instruments and well, I’ll have to make a decision soon.

Many years a go, during a warm summer Vic Unitt and myself headed west to Devon with not much more than a sleeping bag, some basic cooking utensils, clothing and a harmonica. We probably had about twenty or thirty pounds between us. We hitch hiked everywhere in those days before the fear came to kill off a great way to meet folk and get around. We didn’t mind the long waits too much though some times it was a very long wait for a driver who wasn’t put off by our garb and long hair. During these hold ups we would improvise on a blues theme. Vic would play his harmonica and I sang. I usually made up it all up as we went along though occasionally we would do a Sonny Boy Williamson plus one impersonation.

On a lovely summer evening we strolled into the Golden Fleece in Barnstaple after hours on the road. We were moving around the Barnstaple , Bideford, Westward Ho area and had discovered the Golden Fleece had a folk club. I borrowed a guitar and Vic and I performed a few improvised blues songs to a very warm and enthusiastic folk crowd. At the end of the evening a local headmaster invited us to stay with his family for the night. They looked after us very well and I think we stayed another night. Later that week we made friends with Noel Murphy the folk singer at the Lobster Pot in Appledore. He was performing there and we did a floor spot. It was great fun. Back then we would play any where and although we didn’t know it yet, the rock n roll days were just ahead.

Those were heady days and memories of our Kerouac-esque adventures are very special to me. This was the first experience I had of singing for my supper and a bed for the night. It was an exciting and valuable stage of our performing apprenticeship. I remember that we resolved to re-double our efforts to get out on the road on a full time basis.

Since those days I have pondered how I might get to re-capture some of the feelings of those early performances and I think my trip to the North West next week will be a step in the right direction. A minstrel I would be…….