Saturday, 31 December 2016

bye bye 2016

  photo by Dave Randell

Thankfully Christmas is over. 2016 is nearly over and I can't say I am sorry to see it go. The year has brought focus to bear on the real issues of our time in a way that I cannot remember in previous times. We live in a country where almost all government claims to address the issues that matter are total lies and misinformation. Poverty is rapidly increasing, working people have to use food banks to supplement their needs, housing for most young people is unaffordable, some of our most capable young people are shunning a university education to avoid more debt, the government are threatening to ban strikes, the great institution that is the NHS is on it's knees through lack of funding and genuine endorsement. Racism, sexism and homophobia are insidiously on the rise in UK culture and a clear move to the right is evident throughout the land. I see the evidence every where I go and I have been around a bit this past year. Whole communities in the UK are struggling to survive and government austerity policy is responsible for most of this deprivation. 

All of this seems small compared to the troubles across the world, the plight of the dispossessed of Syria and the exodus by refugees to Europe.

For many folk it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the worry and uncertainty in their lives and in the world. The strain is showing. The cost of this is probably most evident in the emergency services where highly trained and capable professionals are leaving their jobs for some thing with less stress. Are they up to the job? Well they were before cuts to services bit hard and resources were diminished. As more people become clinically depressed and anxiety levels go through the roof, the care for people with mental health issues is under resourced if it is available at all. The Police increasingly say they spend valuable time looking after people with mental distress in cells. This is because they have no where to send them for proper support and care.

The world will spend around $79 billion on ice cream in 2017. Non governmental and governments total spending on world wide aid is less than one third of this. In the UK we spend £6 billion on pet food. In 2014 it was suggested, by top fiscal experts, that the Christmas spend in the high street and on line is now an essential component of a successful UK economy. I find that very scary.

It has been a tough year for many folk I know. Many of us have lost people and of course this has been a very sad year for most of us as we saw the passing of so many great musicians, luminaries of our time and poor Jo Cox.

As we look forward to 2017 it is impossible to forget the surreal state that prevails in the world. I am thinking of Trumpworld and how is it possible that some one like Farage can achieve so much division and negativity along with his closet Little Britainers and Europhobes? I have still not met a single person who voted remain who has changed their mind. It is easy for many Brexiters to say to Remainers that they should get over it because a lot of Brexiters I meet don't seem to know what they have done or why they did it.

I suspect a lot of folk will be shocked and dismayed when we see the real cost and the resistance from the rest of the European Community to UK conditions around leaving. But I guess this debate will continue until May and co have cobbled together a route to a place they never wanted to go in the first place.

I am wondering what Putins pal Donald Trump's "State of the nation speech" might be all about. Every president makes one. Bill Clinton's was wonderful and Obama's was pretty amazing also, just to name two. Basically, for those who don't stay up half the night to listen to them, the president outlines all of the things he would like to implement and all of the ways he would do it if he was allowed. US presidents are never allowed to actualise most of their policies and the whole thing gets very watered down in Congress and in the Senate. I can only hope this applies to Trump and curbs the worst of his ignorant excesses.

In the past couple of years or so we have seen many u turns and back tracking from government caused by the will of the people. Think what might happen if we all participated in signing petitions on 38 degrees at least, never mind marching for our rights and those of our children and grand children. Are we going to let the government ban strikes, human rights and any thing else that gets in their way? Are we going to bother?

I think it was one of the first 38 degrees petitions that prevented the Tories from selling the forests to private ownership. It took a quarter of million signatures but it worked. Imagine what we could tell government if we all got involved. There are many ways we can let them know that they work for us actually and not the other way around. Join the debate here and now.

Personally I have had a great year work wise. I have had the best time playing fair days pay gigs and lots of different kinds of public shows. It would be difficult to pick the best though I especially liked the Swedish Fair days pay shows, the Norway shows with Luke, The HRH Prog fest in Wales and the gigs with Family in London and Leicester that have just finished. I loved the London shows but it was special to play the old EBB songs with Luke at Leicester. I have had a good time mostly with a few minor glitches that had little or no significant negative effect. I have made many new friends and re acquainted with some old ones too. As always I think of the people who have supported me through the year in so many clever and caring ways. You know who you are and I love you all.

I heard a radio report on BBC 5 a few days before Christmas about a little boy who had told his Mum that he didn't want Christmas presents for himself. He said he didn't want people to die over Christmas. He wanted to buy presents for "the poor children" and "get food for the homeless". With help he made parcels and distributed them. I hope that next Christmas might look and feel more like his vision of it.

Happy 2017


Thursday, 13 October 2016

the message clear

View from a room - British Airways i360 in Brighton

I thought I would take a small break from writing here to take some time out. 
How ever, I have been writing new songs and that is going well. I still have a mountain of technology to assimilate and prepare before I can present my 2017 show. It is time to expand the sounds so I have been preparing and recording some components. Time flies by these days and I have to knuckle down over the next couple of months on a slightly new course. 

Luke and I are off to Japan in January for two gigs at The ShinJuku Marz in Tokyo. This will be some thing special. I have wanted to see some thing of Japan for ages. Luke says he will go with out food for a week before we leave so he can fully explore the cuisine. We both enjoy Japanese food.
We get a day sightseeing before the first show and the hotel is just around the corner from the venue so, we will have time to take in some thing of the place and have a wander around. I might even get some street fishing in ha ha! After all Japan is where the whole LRF /urban fishing style originated.

Luke and I  will be working together on a show case of vintage material as well as new songs.
Our gigs together in Norway, earlier this year, showed how easy it is for us to play together as well as in a solo mode. Luke knows what I do and has an instinct for what I might decide to do and… he can correct my odd departures from long established chord sequences ha ha! 

In November I will be staying with my good friends John and Val in Cornwall. I am playing the Ilfracombe Blues festival on the 12th November and playing with Curved Air at the Cheese and Grain in Frome , Somerset on the 26th of November. It has been a long time since I met up with Sonia Kristina so it will be nice to meet up again.
I reckon I will get some good fishing in between those dates while in North Cornwall as well as some rehearsal and pre production time for the shows with Roger Chapman's band Family in London, in December.

Gigs have become very interesting and diverse lately. The latest example of this came by way of a request from my friend Walter Kohl who is a writer in Austria. Walter has completed a "faction" called  Out Demons Out which tells how the music of the EBB became a part of his youth and how our parallel stories continued to the present time. This is to be published in the German language in April and I will be playing at some performances at promotional events in Austria and Germany in April. While I contributed interviews for this book and some prose, Walter has written the work as part fiction and part fact. While working on the book in London the idea for a gallery style video installation around the interviews came about.  Octavia Schreiner, an artist friend of Walters, made some video of us during the interview and so now we wait to see what might come together in the not too distant future. I love the way one creative possibility can lead to another and more when the chemistry is right.

So life is good and very interesting for me at this time but I am constantly reminded that life for others is not. For example, today the BBC reported “Racist or religious abuse incidents recorded by police in England and Wales jumped 41% in the month after the UK voted to quit the EU, figures show. There were 3,886 such crimes logged in July 2015, rising to 5,468 in July this year, according to the Home Office. It said the sharp increase declined in August but has "remained at a higher level than prior to the EU referendum".

A few weeks ago I was in Brighton for a weekend. Outside of the hotel, on a green, a dilapidated tent was slowly falling apart in the wind and rain. Its inhabitants were no where to be seen and for some time it seemed the tent was abandoned. Later a couple of guys in their twenties arrived at the tent and began looking around. It seemed some tent pegs were missing which explained the tents lopsided appearance. The lads were wet and looked cold. Eventually they disappeared inside the tent. Some time later a couple of men around thirty years old appeared outside the hotel and threw stones and a pint glass at the tent. Then they ran back inside the hotel laughing. I was furious. The lads from the tent appeared and I told them the offenders had gone back inside the hotel. I raced down stairs to report the incident to the receptionist who called her boss, who told her to call the police. They never arrived. The rain poured down outside as the lads from the tent told the receptionist what had happened. She was very nice to them and determined to do something about it. The lads went back to their tent in tears.

Later I watched as the head waiter from the hotel restaurant walked over the green towards the tent. He called to the lads who emerged from their very wobbly tent. The waiter was carrying a tent and a box of food. It was so nice of the hotel staff to do this. An antidote to hate. I was very impressed. The lads were delighted and shook hands with the waiter in the rain as though they didn’t want to let go of his hand.

On the morning of departure I ran into the friends of the bullies and had a discussion with some of them in the lobby. I had my say and questioned their motives. I told them this was a hate crime and asked why would any one want to hurt two homeless people living in a tent? I was wasting my time and as one of them giggled at my assertion that this was a disgusting thing to do I was once again reminded where the nazis came from. The bullies were well dressed and looked just like any other young men any where, but they were not. There is some thing monstrous about their idea that this kind of abuse is legitimate and amusing.

If you are thinking - Here we go again, more gloom and doom then think again. There is an opposite to every thing rotten. The hotel managers demonstrated this perfectly with their gift of a tent and food and to further demonstrate the  power of positivity, I must tell you some thing about Oscar who is eight years old. Oscar’s mum Alex is a friend of mine and she sent me a link to a newspaper article about Oscar. 

Oscar and his brother Arthur

KIND little Oscar Moulding is on a mission to send a special gift to  help his disabled friend Sophija in Bosnia become more mobile.
The eight-year-old Robert Le Kyng Primary School pupil, who has muscular dystrophy like Sophija, wants to raise more than £800 so he can ship the £9,500 motorised wheelchair he has outgrown to his international pal, hopefully in time for Christmas.
He has been friends with Sophija for many years and understands her difficulty of having a manual wheelchair, which is why he is so determined to help his friend be more independent and able to play with her younger brother.

“I think Sophija will be happy when she gets it,” said Oscar.

Read the complete article here 

What a lovely little boy! Wonderful! The message clear.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

far og sønn

Luke arrived on the Monday before our flight to Kristiansand on the Tuesday. We had both been looking forward to this adventure for months. It was a fairly civilised departure time though we took off from Heathrow three quarters of an hour behind schedule. We missed the connecting flight at Gardermon Oslo, an airport under massive reconstruction and some how a bit depressing. It was hot and muggy. SAS gave us one hundred Norwegian kroner each as compensation for missing our connecting flight and had booked us on the next flight. One hundred kroner is about £10-00. Luke approached a bar and was told you have to have food with these vouchers so we ended up with a lager for Luke a sparkling water for me and some peanuts. Down the way you could buy a cheese burger for 130 kroner, about £13-00 so the SAS complimentary vouchers seemed just a tiny bit mean given the high cost of snacks and drinks in Norway. 

Finally we arrived in Kristiansand and we were met by my good friend Karen and Johan who drove us to town. Kristiansand is a lovely town by the sea and surrounded by a host of small islands and inlets. It was nice for me to be back and for Luke to see new sights.

Next day Karen had arranged a fishing trip and our friend Birger was very clear that we should have an early start. He had decreed there should be no sitting up all night talking. Don't where he got that idea from. Any way Karen prevailed, as usual, and we set off at a reasonable hour. After a short drive we stopped to meet Karen’s mom who is a very charming, spritely lady in her eighties. Later we met up with Roar and Per Gunnar Birkeland, our skipper, and loaded our picnic and other goodies onto the boat. Per used to be an F16 fighter pilot and now he flies civil aircraft for SAS. It was very generous of Per to take us out on the sea in his boat. We chatted briefly about his days flying fighter planes but I would like to have had more time to hear his tales. I shall remember the day forever. 

We set off through the harbour towards the open sea through a maze of very small islands and narrow channels bordered by tall rocks and cliffs. The area is called Ny-Hellesund. 

The weather was warm and we were glad of the breeze as we sped through the blue waters towards a pole in the sea with a cormorant sitting on it. Per and I dropped a line over the side of the boat and soon we had a nice collection of mackerel. Job done we headed back to the lagoons and rocky out crops on the shore line. We parked the boat and Birger produced cutlets and wonderful garlic sausage. Others had brought salad and other goodies. 
Soon a barbecue was happening on one of many steel grills provided by the local commune / council. Birger expertly coaxed the fire and soon we were all dining in the fresh air on a beautiful Norwegian summer day. Per produced some fine coffee at the end and I was beginning to wish we could live out there at our mooring for a few days. I was becoming deeply relaxed.

from left to right Karen, Birger, Roar, Per and Luke

Finally a trip to a little theatre in what used to be an old school house brought a close to our wanderings. Karen has been closely involved with the affairs of the Undervannsskjær theatre and worked with the previous resident actor. His successor Olav Grenstad carries on the work. The theatre houses a performance area for around 45 people swell as Olav’s living space, a kitchen and small cafe area. Olav’s daughter makes delicious cakes and others goodies for visitors to the theatre. Patrons arrive by boat, as we had done, and as tradition requires they are met by the resident actor and seen off by him from the jetty nearby. The theatre is a joy and one of the many special things to be found in this area of islands. Wonderful!

Luke wearing the hat that belonged to 
Karen's dad Peter. A special gift.

Luke commented that he would like to play a gig there. It would be perfect.
A short trip back through the rocks and inlets took us back to the mooring and soon we were driving back to Kristiansand. The evening was spent chatting and as is often the case when I stay with Karen the talking went on long into the early morning punctuated by a few glasses of cognac.
Next day was rehearsal day. Luke was staying just around the corner with Kiki a friend of Karen’s. He rolled up ready to go and after breakfast we set off up the road to Vaktbua where we had a run through the songs we were going to play together. They were Aerial, Hotel Room, Almost Dancing and of course, Evening Over Rooftops.

It was hot and sunny as we worked. Luke played his new song and we got through every thing we need to after Luke had reminded me of some of my own lyrics. He also put me right on a wrong chord I had adopted for Hotel Room when I changed the key from Cm to Dm. Oops! Thanks Luke.

Later Karen made what we called her Hunters stew. Luke had asked her what would be a typical Norwegian meal and this was the result. The stew was mostly reindeer meat in a brown sauce with boiled rice and salad. It was delicious and it was very kind of Karen to go to so much trouble for us. We shared the meal with Kiki and Joachim, a friend of Karen’s whom I had met the previous year. 
The meal was fine as was the company and another late night loomed large.
Next day was show time. 

On my first solo visit to Kristainsand I had visited HAPPY DAYS a project for people with disabilities and where Karen works. I had a great time there and so Luke and I decided we would visit and play a couple of songs. There is a very strong musical theme to the project. They present a festival every year where musicians work with disabled musicians and singers for a public performance. So cool!

@ Happy Days

@Happy days

After coffee and delicious brownies Luke played drums while the group performed their stuff. It was great and Luke made a better job of things on the electric kit than I had done a couple of years previously. Luke sang a couple of his songs as did I and we left the group who had a meeting scheduled. I know Luke had a ball and it resurrected my idea of making a YOIK CHOIR for the festival at some time. I have it all worked out in my head ha ha!  

Later Luke and I had a good sound check well in advance of doors open. last time the weather had forced me inside the gig after we had originally set up outside. It poured non stop. Any way this time around we were blessed with lovely weather and the gig was to be outside, in the garden at Vaktbua.
After the soundcheck Karen had made the most wonderful crab dinner with fresh crab from the nearby fish market. It was stunning and again also enjoyed by Kiki, the very amusing Joachim and a documentary film maker called Stefan. A very interesting man.

The gig went very well. Luke kicked it off with a great set. He soon had the audience listening and I was so proud to see how they took to him instantly. He rocked. So it was my turn and the audience was very warm and in good humour. I still marvel at the level of understanding shown by the Norwegians and how they laugh in the right places. I was thrilled to see some of the young people I had met at the previous years show. I noticed that they were very taken with Luke's show. It was great to see him making new fans and friends.
I enjoyed my set immensely and it moved up a notch when Luke joined me for the last songs. What a lovely audience and what a lovely crew. Special thanks to Harald Hempel for a great onstage and out front sound and Kristin Evensen who took time and care to light the stage for us.

We had previously met up with Jarle and Ingve our friends from Stavanger. They had come for the Vaktbua show and to take us to Stavanger for the show they had arranged. We agreed to meet up at 11.30 next morning for the four hour drive to Stavanger. 

It was so nice to hook up with Elisabeth again who runs Vaktbua. It is always a great pleasure to play at her venue and a privilege to be asked to play for this diverse community. As usual the after gig party at Vaktbua was a lively affair with Elisabeth firing up the DJ cd decks with a set of rootsy grooves. Vaktbua is a special place run with the help of the public and the community of artists, musicians who use it. It is interesting to see how it all works and how it's aims and objectives always incorporate different and innovative ideas and a healthy, inclusive ethos.

And so to Stavanger along a road that that takes you through some of the most dramatic scenery imaginable. Water is every where in the form of great salmon rivers and fjords. Through tunnels carved through the mountains by waterfalls cascading into the great waters we sped on towards Stavanger and the next gig.
Ingve drove. Luke sat in the front passenger seat so he could take in the sights. I slept a little as we travelled. I can sleep almost any where and frequently do. It is some thing I learned to do on the road in the early days.

Stavanger quayside

On our way we met some of Jarle's and Ingve's friends at a roadside cafe. They were a very nice bunch of people. I have been invited to play for them at a sixtieth birthday party in June. So I shall look forward to that.

We arrived at Jarles house where Kirsten had made a curried chicken soup with nan bread. It was delicious and I commented that food wise Luke and I had been spoiled to bits. Soon after Luke and I left for Ingves house where we met his wife Mette and their son Kristoffer. Luke and I got ready for the gig. I had a shave and Luke put on his usual make up of blue green stripes. So off to the sound check. The sound check went well, quick and easy. Perfect. The sound guy Arne Kolstad is the local blues and music guru and he did a great job at the soundcheck and later during the gig. The sound was perfect.

Luke began his set and again it didn't take long for the good folk of Stavanger to tune in to his music. It went very well and I was so happy for him. He has worked so hard to get his set together and it has been a joy to watch him develop his thing. I am biased but the fact is he touches people in a lovely way. I have only just reached the stage where I can bear to stay in the room and listen to his song The Letter but I still shed a tear when he sings it.
One guy asked me, in a good natured way, how did I intended to follow that? He meant Luke's set. I smiled and said that I thought I could manage that and I did. The audience was so nice and listened to every thing including my stories which have become quite a feature in Norway.

The onstage sound was so good and it always lifts a performance. I gave it every thing. When Luke came back on stage to join me we had already improved our way of performing together over just a couple of days and it all worked out very nicely. I would like to have played an encore but the way we ended with Evening Over Rooftops was so emphatic we left it there.

Back to Ingves for refreshments and we fell into bed. I slept like a log and awoke to find Luke already up. We both tucked into an english breakfast that was a treat. Later we went out on the water with Ingve in his boat. I dropped a line or two but there wasn't lots of time for fishing. How ever the trip was special and Luke I got to see a side of Stavanger not seen from land. In the distance and high above the shore line, great mountains rose up in a cloudless blue sky. It was magic.

When we returned Ingve prepared a Russian crab. The thing was massive and delicious. It was as good a crab as I have tasted and the amount of meat on it was astonishing. It was a lovely afternoon and a very pleasant way to end our visit as we sat together in the sunshine, chatting and getting to know each other.

Soon it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes to Hette and kristoffer and Ingve drove us to the airport. I soon realised I had left my wallet in the car. Ingve found it , raced back to the airport and managed to get a woman, who worked for security, to get it to me on the plane, just three minutes before take off.

The joyless experience that is Oslo airport followed and eventually we were on the plane to Gatwick. The rain that fell as we landed couldn't diminish the fact that this had been a great trip and that it is always good to be home.

Special thanks to Karen Valeur for looking after us so well. Karen is one of those people who some how connects every one together and makes the best things happen.

Thanks to Kiki and Jarle, Kirsten, Igve and Hette for their splendid hospitality and every one else who made it happen. Thank you Elisabeth and Jarle and Ingve for putting the shows together.

We will never forget the trip to Norway when we played together acoustically for the first time. Thank you all for being our friends.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

back in the north

the view from my room

After my happy days in Sweden I had high expectations of the coming Norway gigs. I had previously played in Inderoy, a small community near Trondheim in the north. So I knew I would be meeting up with old friends and that is always some thing to look forward to.
I was met by my host Erik at Trondheim airport. My guitar and luggage had arrived so that was good. I always have a little concern about that. The hour and half drive to Inderoy was interesting. Erik and I had plenty to chat about and I think we always would have. We have much in common by way of interests in History, politics and technology. Erik has an amazing command of the english language and the time passed by in absorbing conversation. The night sky was laden with blue and black clouds but the northern sun shone through the gaps in the expansive sky providing an atmospheric pale light. I thought of Viking ships setting out down the fjord on a moody night, on an ebb tide towards the open sea.
The landscape is covered in huge stretches of water where ever you go and it is easy to see why and how the ancient norse men, and shield maidens became so adept at building ships and sailing them to the new worlds.

Erik dropped me off at Husfrua an exquisite country farm hotel high on a hill over looking the Trondheim fjord. The hotel is entirely furnished and decorated in the style of the 1860s. We arranged to meet on the following day for a fishing trip and I began to settle in.

  my room

I slept very well and late so I was very refreshed and ready to fish when Erik picked me up from the hotel. We headed out along the edge of the fjord towards Eriks home which nestles a little way back from the shore line where he has a very cool boat moored to a jetty on the fjord. The water is a two minute walk from Erik and Venil's home. After a late breakfast and a cup of tea that tasted divine we were ready to fish. As I stepped down onto the boat I noticed the rods that Erik had set up were designed for big fish with strong multiplier reels and heavy braided line. I was very interested by the plastic lures attached to the traces and the weight required to get it all down to the bottom of the fjord. I ended up with a 500 gram weight.

Erik preparing the boat

We fished for a while a short way from the shore and then decided to head to a huge suspension bridge that crosses the fjord. It was here that we had our success.We fished in between 70 and 120 metres of water and the fish were there. We could see them on the boats fish finder. Soon we were hauling fish up from the dark depths and we caught four nice fish each. Erik had the largest fish but not by much. I was thrilled by the catch and we were only fishing for an hour and a half or so. Marvellous. I could very easily get used to that.

two of the best

After a little exploratory cruise around the shore we headed back with our catch. I was very satisfied and very grateful to Erik who had promised to take me fishing when I was last in Inderoy. It was especially pleasing to know that our catch would feed quite a few people.
It was time to get ready for the gig in Steinkjer. Stig Leinan picked me up from the hotel and after a very nice pause in his garden with family and old friends we all set off for the gig, a short drive away.

Steinkjer is a small town that is built almost entirely in the style of the fifties. This is one of many Norwegian towns destroyed in the second world war. It is quite strange to see a whole town with few old buildings and to see how a complete rebuild affects the ambience of the place.

The gig was in a pub. The Kulturpuben Vårt hjem is a very well appointed place, smart and very comfortable. I was warmly greeted by staff and introduced to my sound man for the evening. His name is Robert and he is as good as it gets. I noticed a chair was already on stage. A box was placed to the right of the chair for my drinks and towel. The microphone was already in the correct position and two very pro looking stage monitors were place exactly where I would want them. I noted that when I took out the lead I always use for my guitar Robert removed the lead he had put out for me. Impressive. But it was when I stroked the strings of my guitar and sang a line or two into the microphone that I realised Robert had set the whole thing up perfectly before I had even arrived. The little church reverb I like on my vocal sound was spot on.Top man! 

After a splendid meal I was ready to play and my welcome to the stage was all it took to shake off any pre gig nerves. I was so happy and as I ran through the set Robert made enhancing changes that were subtle and creative. I was in my element.

My audience was a delight. I played some old songs but the new ones worked best and they liked my stories. This was to be one of the gigs I have most enjoyed this year. I played almost every thing I have. The show lasted about one hour and three quarters. I played Ice on Fire as an encore for Stig. I know he likes it and so do I.

I had time before leaving to chat with fans and friends. A few folk told me it was the best gig they had ever been to. High praise indeed coming from young and old alike. I am now certain that my self re invention has worked and that I have an opportunity, for as long as I may, to reach a new audience and update my old friends in a current, relevant way. It is a very interesting and happy journey.
When catching fish and playing to my lovely Norwegian brothers and sisters is all contained in one sweet day I am a very happy boy. So it was.

a view from Erik and Venil's garden

Erik picked me up from the hotel and we arrived at his home in bright sunshine. This boded well for the coming outdoor mini festival that Erik had arranged. A cup of english tea and some grilled fish with salad and a local sour cream was a treat indeed. I had again skipped breakfast in favour of sleep so this was very welcome. Erik had grilled the fillets of pollack with a north African spice. The fish was delicious and fresh from the previous days catch.

The sound guys were preparing for the show so I headed off to Stig's home for a while. We chatted about all sorts including Brexit and the state of things.
We arrived back at the garden gig to find problems with the PA system. Eventually the crew agreed a monitor amp had failed and they set off to get a replacement. I have to say that things were never properly resolved and to some extent the out front and onstage sound suffered. Having said that I don't suppose this affected the audience very much at all. The folks who had accompanied me to the previous nights show were clear the sound was better there. I spoke with the guitarist from the blues band about the sound in Steinkjer and he asked me if the sound guy was called Robert. Enough said.

a wonderful venue

The large triangular covering over what was the area used as the stage is actually a sail. It looked so right under lighting and offered good protection should the weather change. The sail partly covered a swimming pool and the overflow runs down the front blue granite wall making a calming and relaxing water feature. The whole house is full of innovation and Erik likes his toys. I had a demo of the robot lawn mower that mows the garden when the family is else where, re charging itself as and when needed. 

As the hours passed three generations of friends and their children congregated in this wonderful space. The atmosphere was delightful. The garden had lots of tables and chairs and benches in front of the house. Small braziers were ready, filled with wood for burning when the evening grew cooler.
The food on offer to the guests and we musicians was excellent and as the audience grew I began to look forward to getting on stage.

A choir of six men opened proceedings with some very nice singing. We were still waiting for the replacement amplifier so they sang with out amplification. It was lovely. One of the guys sang a song about football. It was obviously hilarious though I hardly understood a word. I found myself laughing at the gestures and acting out of the song. The singer had obviously got this down to a fine art over time.

With amplification The Bjørn Alterhaug Quintet took to the stage. A very fine jazz quartet with some humour and they swing.
Next was me. What can I say? The audience was so warm and attentive. They travelled with me through the songs and attached stories. It felt special for me and I was pleased for Erik that it was going well after all his work to make this a special day for every one.

Next we were treated to a short performance by two Norwegian opera singers and their pianist. It was very interesting to watch and as one would expect it was a very professional and stylish performance.
Last onstage was the Jolly Jumper & Big Moe with The Jimbo Jambo Band. A local rock blues band that plays blues through the genre. Dirty old blues with that nice shambling feel that tells you they have really studied this and they love it. Young Daniel, the pianist is exceptional. The real deal with attack and the coolest feel.

What a fantastic day this had been. Tired now I set off with my friends to my drop off at the hotel. I slept like a log and woke refreshed and ready for the trip home. Eric picked me up and I spent some more time at the house staring out across the garden to the fjord beyond. Eric had planned that we might have some play time with an underwater drone. It is a project in prototype stage he is involved with. Prototype software problems meant we couldn't do this so it was about loafing around in the garden chatting and drinking hot tea until it was time to head to the airport. 

my lovely hosts Erik and Venil

I think by now, most of you know I have very real affinity with Norway and the Norwegians and so, it will be no surprise when I tell you this was a very special time for me. I just feel so at home there and grateful for their friendship. You know who you are. Thank you all.


Friday, 29 July 2016


The first thing you might notice when arriving in Sweden is the absence of litter. Every where is clean and fresh. I arrived at Stockholm airport in the late evening and was met by Johan Ahlen and Alf Thelin. My baggage and guitar arrived safely so now I could relax and get to know my hosts. i asked how long the journey was and was told 20 miles. But they were Swedish miles ( mil ), and 1 swedish mile is the equivalent of about 10 kilometres. Many miles later a young deer crossed the forest road and we ran over it killing it instantly. There was no way to avoid it. Johan who drove us said it was the first time he had hit a deer though it happened frequently in this part of the world. We were all very glad that it was not a moose. They are very much bigger. The law in Sweden stipulates that when a deer is killed the police have to be called and the place, where the deer has been moved off the road, must be marked with a paper bag or similar. The police have a list of local hunters and one is sent to collect the deer.

After a short pit stop in a Burger King, where I had a delicious blue berry shake, we set off and eventually arrived in Smedjebacken, our destination. The conversation flowed over a wide range of topics as we began to get to know each other. I am still astonished at the level of english spoken by the Scandinavian peoples.
I was soon settled in The Barkens Konferens Hotel situated beside a lake in the forest. 

the view from my hotel room

Once again a fishing rod and tackle was missing from my luggage but there is a good reason for that. In a land filled with water I would be the rudest guest with a rod in hand. No one would ever see me except for when it was time to play. Any one driving me would soon get irritated by my constant calls to stop by water, large or small, to cast a lure one more time.

The next day, Thursday, was a day with out a gig so Johan and Alf took me to see the Hagstrom museum in Dalarnas. It houses a wonderful, vintage collection of the world famous hagstrom guitars. 

Hagstrom guitars

Alf and your's truly

Like Charlie Watkins of WEM fame they used to make accordians, hence the marbled or glitter plastic finishes on the very early models. When they begin making guitars in the fifties they utilised stocks of the accordion finishing materials to cover the guitars. I saw a tape echo that resembled Charlie Watkins copycat. Charlie gave me several of his units and I loved them. The tapes became unstable after a while but back in the day before digital delay units they seemed wonderful.

tape echo unit

We left the museum and I now had a desire to own one of the accordion finished guitars. So elegant and splendidly innovative though I fear the modern price would be prohibitive. Looking at many of the splendid early models it occurred to me that some of them were forerunners of later famous makes and not derivative.

Johan drove us out into the forest with a few stops and places of interest that included an ancient grave yard and a sapphire blue pool in an old mining site. Eventually we arrived at Johan's summer house. isolated, in the wood, peaceful and perfect. The sun was shining and the silence was magnificent in it's completeness. The summer house has no electricity but some how I don't think it would be an issue when immersing yourself in nature and good clean air for a while. An idyllic place away from the bustle of modern life where one can gather thoughts and simply - stop. It was wonderful to sit in the forest garden,  in the sun with a cold drink and good company.

Johan and your's truly at his forest retreat

On the way back we stopped off at Alf's home where I met Linn, Alf's partner and their two boys described by Alf as Vilde(the Big one) and Malte(the one that isnt that Big. Lovely kids. I also met Alf's dad Råghe. ( below )

The next day was Alf's birthday. Later when Johan and I arrived at the gig, a splendid old grain store house full of character and the good vibes of many generations I was sure the sound would be good . The building had two floors. On the ground floor tables were laid and food supplied by Alf's step dad looked utterly amazing. A fine potato salad laced with a little chilli, two kinds of smoked meats and a salmon he had smoked himself. A fine salad topped it off. What a splendid feast we all enjoyed. Alf opened his presents and we all moved upstairs to the floor where Johan had set up a small pa and guitar amp for me. We had sound checked the gear earlier in the evening and the sound in this lovely old wooden building was superb.

I ran through my songs, told my stories and was very warmly received. I love playing for the people of Scandinavia. They listen. They want to understand and so they do. They laugh in the right places and they get the sentiments and message. Also, it is not surprising to me that we have more or less the same political views.

Most of the people at the party knew the music of the EBB and I am always a little concerned that the new songs might be too far off what they know and like.  I needn't have worried many people told me they had enjoyed seeing and hearing where the old stuff had lead to and that it was a good progression. I love it when it seems that I have touched people with my songs. Then I am just a little proud. It is always exciting for me to get good critique, especially when it comes from the young. So, when I get good feedback, all doubt fades and it is at these times that I don't have to wonder about the validity of doing what I am doing right here, right now. I thoroughly enjoyed playing for Alf's birthday and meeting his family and friends. 

Next day we assembled at Johan's house and headed out for a meal at a beautiful old waterside restaurant. The entire building was like a museum, filled with all kinds of old, interesting art and every day utility items from the past. The garden was bathed in hot sunshine and very cold drinks were the order of the day. The food was delicious. 
We headed back to Johan's house where the sound equipment was ready and waiting. Soon after guests began to arrive. During this time I rehearsed in the house, going over songs I had not played for some time. It was nice sitting by myself in the cool house and I got through a lot of work. The time flew by, as it appears to do these days, and soon it was time to perform. I was looking forward to it all and felt rested and prepared.

Photo- Mats Weilander

Ariane Ahlen, Ronny Larson and me
Photo- Mats Weilander

I soon discovered it was a special audience that turned up for the gig in the garden, as it was for the previous evening. I some how felt it would be good and for me it was as good as it gets. My rehearsal had worked wonders and I was very relaxed when I began. I played half of the songs before taking a break then I returned to my seat for a few more and really enjoyed the second set. Afterwards people commented on the journey from EBB to EB and how it had worked. Again I knew I had reached them by the comments I got by way of feedback. The sound in the garden was special. Even better than the wonderful old wooden building where I had already played. The reverb on my voice rang around the trees , bouncing back full of the world. I enjoyed myself so much. I only played a few old songs and actually with the exception of Evening over Rooftops, I think most of the new songs were better received. So satisfying for me to know that like back in the day, when the band did represent a section of people still now I carry that forward for people by singing and talking about the issues of today.

Later a jam session developed and I guess I just had to have a play with the man with the five string bass. So cool!.

Hans "hasse" Olasson and me
Photo- Mats Weilander

Johan and Hans giving it MAX
Photo- Mats Weilander

I'd had a special time. I must thank every one for their warm hospitality and consideration. Special thanks must go to Johan and Alf for inviting me over but every one I met was so kind and welcoming and I am sorry that I could not possibly list them all. 

Johan and Alf

I will always remember my very happy days in Sweden. I hope I might return one day to hook up again with my new friends.

Next week I am off to Norway to play a public gig and a FDPFAFDW gig then a week later I go back for two more shows with Luke. Life is good and summer is here at last.


Monday, 18 July 2016


A Ferrari for the insane despoilers and arms dealing war pigs

The past few weeks and days have been astonishing and for too many good folk, devastating. Between Brexit and exit it looks like the way will be marked with momentous events. I wish I could say that I think that most or many of them will be good for the world but I cannot. There is a growing stink of division and confusion here and abroad. As I write this a man has attacked people on a German train with an axe. So have I lost hope? No!

I despair at the Turkish leader who has the opportunity to progress an agenda for a secular society, human rights and democracy but no, the first thing he thinks of is restoring the death penalty in a judicial system where, he has removed most of the judiciary.
But I rejoice in the story told by a USA dad about his teenage son and the school prom. His son decided to go to the prom in an off the shoulder black lace dress in the cause of gender equality and ......because he knew two of his female fellow students were concerned about their appearance. 

Then there is the story of the 6- 8 year olds at their school sports day. One of their friends had a disability and he had never won a race. With out any coaching they decided to let him win the running race. He set off and his classmates ran behind him holding hands. He won. Later they told him they had planned it and he was very happy. You would be wouldn't you? They made his day and mine too.

We can make a difference to each other and some times we forget to try. I get reminders all the time though. For example, a friend recently sent me a video of a birthday greeting his young daughter had made for her mum. She is a very bright girl and has all of those - lets make a video in no time at all, skills that the kids have today. Media savvy and able to lip sync to a pop tune, edit it and hit send. The point is it is a lovely thing she did and it touched me deeply. We should all make that kind of effort to be positive in our expression to our own and to others.
So, there is goodness and love all around but in the melee and madness of thousands of negative media messages and dreadful news, goodness and love can be lost from sight. I admit I have been looking for it a lot lately, through the fog, I see it.

But you know all this already. Just saying lest we forget :) 

I am off to Sweden for a few days now to play a couple of shows so I will share my Swedish adventures on here, when I return and on Twitter from time to time.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

RIP Arne Skiftesvik

 Arne Skiftesvik

19th January 1949  to  2nd July 2016

The Edgar Broughton band met Arne on our first Norway tour and we became friends. Steve and Arne were very close. Arne, older but fundamentally unchanged, was at our last Bergen gig many years later,.

Arne was a very skilled photo/graphic artist and was well known for his fine work. When the EBB was working on Bandages, recorded in Oslo and later re worked and re mixed at Mike Oldfield's studio, Arne was commissioned to design the album sleeve. The tall ship on the rear of the sleeve is still docked in Bergen where the sleeve photo was taken. In the sleeve design the earth is bandaged. The band was going through some challenging times and the bandaging seemed very appropriate to me then and still does.

The album, recorded in Oslo, included contributions from Norwegian musicians and it seems right that the sleeve was also the work of a Norwegian photo/artist. 

Arne was a generous, kind, gentle man who was a constant and loyal friend of the EBB and one of the exceptional Norwegians who made our times in Norway very special.

I will always remember the happy, wild times we spent together as well as the calm, reflective Arne who supported and encouraged us.