Friday, 29 March 2013
I grew up in Guildford. We moved out of Twickenham when I was 6 years old and I left home at 22, so all of my early memories are in the comfortable, middle class, Surrey town. The Civic Hall was, by the time I was 14, the Holy Grail. It was where I saw my first live band (Peace, with Paul Rodgers, supporting Mott The Hoople, 1970.) It was where I spent so many happy, sad, fantastic, memorable and funny nights. We went to anything and everything. I saw big acts, bands I'd never heard of, bands I didn't like, bands I have now loved for over 40 years and bands, so many bands, I don't remember. Last weekend, I went to my first gig at the new venue, built on the site of The Civic. It was lovely. Great sound, intimate, much more leg-room, loads of bar staff, friendly, wonderful. I have absolutely no problem with G Live (except the name). But it ain't The Civic. The windows above the entrance, on the right of the picture below were in the upstairs bar. Famously, a couple of us created a diversion one night while a mate was let in through those windows. How he'd climbed up, I have no clue. I can't ask him as he was killed in a mugging in South Africa, a few years ago. He was the bass player in our band in the early 70's and, somehow, I stole his girlfriend. See? It was that kind of world, and The Civic was the centre of it. I threw up in The Civic. I kissed in The Civic. I cried laughing in The Civic and I fell head over heels, arse over tit in love with the best music I've ever heard in The Civic. I will probably never do any of these things in G Live. That's okay. I will probably never be 17 again. So, I raised a glass to The Guildford Civic Hall. I love you, like an old, old friend.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
40 years ago I taught myself to play drums and joined my brother's band. For 4 or 5 years we rehearsed, played some local gigs, changed a few members and had the time of our lives. Over the years we've spread to the 4 corners but have kept in touch, with a couple of reunions for a long, drunken meal and much laughter. My brother is still an incredibly talented guitarist and lives in Perth, Oz. Chris, the second guitarist, lives in California, collects guitars and has sons who are both semi-pro players. His brother, bassist Steve, was killed in a mugging in South Africa and my keyboard-playing other brother, Marty, is a professional composer and songwriter. He has had multiple number one records here and in Europe, as well as a top ten single in the U.S. Last week, Chris got in touch, saying that he and his wife would be in the U.K for a 3 day flying visit and could I organise a beer. So, at almost no notice last night, a hotel in Sussex played host to dinner for 8 of us, including wives. 7 of us had met up over the years but the 8th, the wife of our good friend Mark Bader, a fantastic pro-photographer, was a bit overwhelmed by the speed and volume of the stories and tales from the 70's. My wife marvels at how it appears that conversations from 40 years ago just get picked up where they left off. I have no voice left from laughing. I got to bed around 2 this morning. Phil couldn't make it from Perth and he was gutted that he was missing out. Likewise, guitarist Des was double-booked but was there in spirit. Greetings and goodbyes were bound together by huge hugs and genuine claims of how much we miss each other. The point of the story is that I am as guilty as most of not paying enough attention to good friendships. Hold your friends close to you. You might be surprised at how much they value your friendship. *Bollocks to the second half of the quote. Here is the evidence. It was 1.30am.
Sunday, 3 March 2013
There are days in your life that you mark as important events. Some are weddings, some are funerals. Some are first dates, some are divorces. And some come out of left field and whack you around the head. Such was a day in the Summer of 2002. We were having a weekend in London and had had a long, convivial lunch before getting into separate taxis. Mrs B, to shop, me, to mooch round HMV Oxford Street. Having done the Ground Floor I made my way down the escalator to the World, Folk & Country section. As my slightly wine-addled brain registered the music playing, I began to stalk the racks. My methodical search was constantly distracted by the music drifting trough the speakers. I couldn't place the voice, or the music, which means....I'm fucked. Finally, I give in. I do the unthinkable and approach the counter to admit my stupidity, my lack of study, my ignorance. "What's this?" The black-shirted beardy-bloke hands me a black CD cover, the none more black cover peppered with stars. The title is "Under Cold Blue Stars." The artist is Josh Rouse. I spin the memory-wheels in the music section of my brain (by far the biggest of the brain sections as you can prob...sod it, it's the ONLY section that works properly,)but, no, I've never heard of him. All 3 of the tracks I've heard so far have been wonderful. So wonderful that I hand over the £12 asking price without question. So begins a decade of discovery. I now own everything Josh Rouse has ever recorded, the 10 albums, 5 mini-albums and various downloads. I've never seen him live but, for now, that doesn't matter. The point of this, the whole point is that Josh Rouse's songs have given me so much joy and pleasure. I adore his sense of a good melody, his musicality, his various bands of musicians and his slightly mournful voice. But, most of all, I adore the fact that I didn't get in the cab with my wife but went off for 'a mooch' and discovered the musical love of the last 10 years of my life, completely by accident. He's not well known, he's not on mainstream radio so there is a good chance I might never had heard him. My life would be all the poorer. This is "My Love Has Gone."