Voltarol - related music

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Music in a jugular vein 7

Me, Nobby and Max by the van in Halifax, just behind the Upper George. A minimalist pointing picture (note ubiquitous Melody Maker)

This is part seven of the Jugular Vein story. New readers start here.

It’s grim up North

One person who frequently popped up at some of our London gigs was a red-haired and moustachioed Northerner who was no mean hand in the blues department, wielded a tasty guitar and went by the name of Roger Sutcliffe aka Ginger Blues. We enjoyed each other’s performances and shared a very similar sense of humour. Roger decided that his part of the world needed to see the Jugular Vein and suggested that he might possibly be able to get us a gig or two. As a consequence we were soon winging our way up the M1 with a week’s worth of Northern gigs ahead of us. We were to do two tours - one in late 1969 and one in May 1970 - before I left the band, and I acquired a fondness for that part of the world that has remained with me to this day.

At some point between the first and second tours, in about April 1970, Richard Bartram left the band. He had been getting together with another of our friends – John Coverdale – to play guitar duets and they had decided to take their music out into the world at large. They were to be quite successful during their time together. Wizz Jones, who had helped the JV by recommending us for gigs, now did the same for Rich and John. The ‘Bartram and Coverdale’ heading was soon appearing in the Melody Maker Folk Forum as often as ‘The Jugular Vein’.

Richard’s replacement was Mike Deighan. Mike – who was himself of the Northern persuasion - joined us at short notice just before our second tour but fitted in to the band ethos and general sense of humour almost seamlessly. He was a long-standing friend of Max’s, and had sat in with us a few times. Mike was a good songwriter, played excellent guitar, banjo and ukulele and sang. He was also not averse to the odd glass or two. As well as bringing new material to the band, he brought the skills of a highly effective weaver of scatological fantasies (“I’ve invented a new cocktail. It’s called a Badger’s Nose. It’s a pint of Guinness with a saveloy in it”) – good – and a penchant for self exposure when thoroughly in his cups (turning both his trouser pockets inside out, unzipping his flies and announcing “I shall now do my celebrated impersonation of the famous Pink-Nosed Trouser Elephant…”) – bad.

The first gig of the tour was at The Upper George folk club in Halifax and during the course of the evening we met the man who was to put us up for the next few nights. His name was Derek McEwen and his day job was as a reporter on the Halifax Evening Courier, but he had built a small stable of up and coming Folk acts and was attempting to further their careers. He offered this service to us, too. With the exception of the J.V, all his acts seemed to be Irish. There was a guitar duo – Sam and Dave (Sam Bracken and Dave Shannon),a female singer/songwriter – Gillian McPherson and a male singer/songwriter – Christy Moore. We were to spend a lot of time in the company of Sam, Dave and Gillian, and jolly good company they turned out to be. (Here are links to two articles that appeared in The Halifax Evening Courier about Derek and Christy)

Derek’s flat was on the seventh or eighth floor of a council high-rise in Mixenden, near Halifax and 83, Jumples Court was a legendary address within folk circles. Many of Derek’s protégés had stayed there at one time or another and Christy Moore was a co-tenant for a while. Christy was never in residence at the same time as us but his favourite drinking vessel – one of those hospital-issue Pyrex urine bottles for bed ridden male patients – took pride of place on the sideboard.

The tours tend to blur one into another but various images remain in my mind. Not the least of which is the band – half way through a song – suddenly noticing a camera being aimed at us, stopping mid-chorus and pointing randomly. One evening, Derek had showed us a scrap book which he had assembled. It consisted entirely of photographs from local papers, in each of which dignitaries, celebrities and other people in the news were to be seen pointing at some unlikely object or other. In common with local paper photographers everywhere, the Halifax variety were much given to trying to make pictures more interesting by having the subjects point at something. The resultant wooden postures and selections of fixed grins and stern grimaces were a source of huge amusement to Derek and to his mind, well worthy of collection. We were so taken with this concept that, for the duration of that trip, whenever anybody pointed a camera anywhere near us, we would all instantly assume the face and the pointing pose, regardless of what we were doing at the time. As a result I suspect that there are some people out there who are still trying to work out exactly why their attempted study of the Jugular Vein in concert came out quite the way it did. Having recently rediscovered a box of old slides I now know that this was on the second tour.

Another strong memory is of the Mixenden folk festival, a one night event promoted by Derek at the Mixenden community centre and for which we were the headline act. This was another one of those occasions when we came on to the stage without having to go through the audience. In fact there was an actual green room and an actual stage, rather than the empty area at the back of the pub function room that was our most common performing environment. We had all tuned up in the green room before trooping on stage, where we took up our positions behind the closed curtains. We heard the compère’s voice announcing “…so without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you – The JUGULAR VEIN!” and the curtains opened to reveal us to the audience and a row of beer glasses to us. Our reputation as a ‘drinking band’ had once more preceded us and in front of each footlight stood a foaming pint.

As a consequence of this generosity we were all (with the exception of Nobby) three sheets to the wind by the end of the evening. We had managed to pack up and load the van when somebody asked us if we would like to go back to his place for a drink. After a brief consultation we agreed, and were soon being driven through the night as Nobby followed a car through the Yorkshire countryside. Eventually the van stopped and we got out in what appeared to be a car park that was dominated somewhat surreally by a huge anchor. We stumbled after our host who led us to a door and opened it. Dim light bulbs flickered in our sodden brains. Surely…no, it can’t be…bloody hell. It is! The lights were switched on and revealed that ‘his place’ was a pub. Result! Our host was in fact one Brian Highley, the landlord of the Anchor Inn just outside Sowerby Bridge.

Another memory is of recording a programme for Radio Leeds. We had returned to our Mixenden base somewhat late the previous night, and had stopped off for supper on the way. We had been in the company of Roger Sutcliffe, who had introduced us all to the wonderful ‘Pie Herbert’s’ in Bradford. This pie shop specialised in hot pies of all meat varieties – mutton beef and pork – black pudding, mushy peas and pig’s feet. Most of us had ‘pie, black and peas’ but Max had a penchant for the trotter and left the shop with a large bag of pig’s feet, which he proceeded to munch on with great relish. The following morning saw us sitting in the van outside Radio Leeds, having got up early and left base without breakfast. We had arrived a little ahead of schedule thanks to some nifty driving by Nobby, and were now bemoaning our lack of breakfast. Suddenly Max’s face lit up and he reached under his seat. “I’ve just remembered” he said, “I’ve still got some left. Anyone want a pig’s foot?” and he surfaced with his treasure – a cold and greasy bag of cooked porcine extremities. The rest of us - somewhat hung-over with the exception of Nobby – declined somewhat vehemently and suggested some novel ways in which the aforementioned feet could be disposed of. Despite all this – or possibly because of it – Nobby remembers the four tracks we played for the radio programme as being the best performances that we ever recorded. Needless to say, they have not survived.

Another Radio appearance was at Radio Sheffield, where we were interviewed by the late Tony Capstick, who had a Folk Music programme there for many years. His style was wonderfully anarchic and we felt instantly at home there. We had made friends with Tony on a previous trip to Sheffield and he knew how to get the best out of us. Once again we recorded four tracks and then played them in as if performed live during the course of the interview. When the show was over we all went out to lunch together and much ale was consumed, then Tony took us around some of the Peak District – Bakewell, Castleton and the Blue John Cavern. I don’t remember much about the rest of the afternoon but photographs indicate that both Derek and Gillian McPherson were present on this jaunt.

Inevitably, when you are spending every waking hour in each others company for a week at a stretch, little things start to irritate one. Woe betides the band member that made an unguarded remark. The ensuing teasing was merciless. We were sitting at the breakfast table one morning when Max suddenly announced “That’s a coincidence. Here we are sitting in 83 Jumples Court and my Gran lived at 83 Rectory Grove.” There was a stunned silence. Richard looked up from the pages of the Melody Maker and said “I see there’s a new chart entry at number 83”. Nobby was already on his feet and counting the repeated motif on the wallpaper. “Who’d have believed it? What a coincidence. There’s 83 flowers on this wall” Muff had spilled the contents of a box of Swan Vestas and was busy counting them back in. “…eighty one, eighty two - yup. Who’d have thought it? It’s uncanny”. And so the mickey taking continued relentlessly as the tour progressed.

Nobby took us all to one side after a few days and asked us to back off for the time being. “Why?” we said. “Trust me” he replied. So we did. And a few days later we were driving along in the van when Nobby suddenly stomped on the brake and pulled in to the side of the road. “Look at that!” he shouted. “What a coincidence!” and he pointed at the mileometer, which clearly displayed the numbers 83838.3. Max’s response was what it always was when taunted to the point at which any of the rest of us would have broken and lashed out. He chuckled gently, grinned and said ‘You rats.”

At the start of that first tour we had been beset by snow, resulting in some very perilous negotiations of the steep and icy country lanes that surrounded our Jumples Court base. On one occasion we had made several attempts to find a more manageable route back but were still no closer to warmth and conveniences than we had been fifteen minutes previously. As we had, as usual, been consuming beer for most of the evening, the ‘convenience’ part was becoming more and more important. Finally, Max, who was wearing a rather fine hat with a feather in it, succumbed to hydraulic pressure and requested that the van be stopped so that he could hop out for a pee. We coasted to a gentle halt on the icy road and Max leapt out and hastily unzipped. “Oi!” shouted an indignant Nobby. “You ain’t pissing on my wheel” and with that the van started moving again, leaving Max fully exposed as a car came round the corner in the opposite direction and illuminated him with its headlights. As the rest of us burst into fits of unkind laughter, Max cried “You rats!” snatched the trilby from his head and did his best to cover his dignity. The hat never smelt quite the same after that…

Max had also discovered to his horror that he had not packed enough socks to last him the week. To be precise he hadn’t packed any socks apart from the ones he had travelled in and so resorted to going sockless most of the time and washing the one pair whenever the opportunity presented itself. Much to his surprise he was spared the ribbing that he expected and was lulled into a false sense of security. A few weeks later The Jugular Vein performed at the 1969 Freeman Syndicate Christmas Party at the White Hart Southall. Unbeknownst to Max we had arranged for a special guest to appear with us and at the conclusion of our first set I announced the arrival of Santa.

Enter Nobby the Roadie, clad in a red PVC mac, sporting a ‘Crazy foam’ beard and crying “Ho fucking Ho”. He was accompanied by two strange and capering, bizarrely dressed figures who announced themselves as ‘Santa’s helpers but were actually Alan Bridges (see A leg end in our own lifetime) and my younger brother, known to these pages as Ganja the Dwarf. Between them they carried an array of garishly wrapped Christmas presents which ranged in size and shape from the small and square (matchbox sized) to the huge and multi-faceted (an elaborate confection created by Rich, which was based on a two foot by two foot cardboard box and had many extensions and protuberances grafted on to it with packing tape). There was also one, somewhat flagon -shaped package that made a distinct slopping sound as it was carried to the stage, and was large enough to contain at least a gallon of liquid.

Each package in turn was inspected by ‘Santa’ who then announced “Why! It’s another one for Mr Emmons!” before handing it to Max, who unwrapped each one in turn to reveal yet another single sock. At last it was time to unwrap the flagon. Surely there would be beer or cider as a recompense for this ritual teasing. The paper was scrabbled away from it to reveal a pickled sock – an effect achieved by stretching a sock on a bent coat hanger and suspending it in blue liquid (thanks to the food dye left over from the Band Box Barry prank). Max’s reaction was predictable. “You rats” he said, mildly. “Still, they’ll come in handy”. However, he had obviously acquired a taste for the sockless mode, because all the pictures from the second tour show him either barefoot or wearing flip-flops.

Derek McEwen and Brian Highley had been hatching an idea for a Festival to be staged near Halifax, and by the time of the second JV tour they were well under way. We were booked to appear at it as were the rest of Derek’s acts, as well as a number of luminaries from the folk and blues world. When we finally headed back down the Motorway at the end of the trip, it was in the expectation of returning in August that year for a nice little folk festival in the lovely Yorkshire countryside. However, things were not to work out quite as planned for any of us – but that, like the first JV LP, is another story.

Friday, 20 March 2009


Richard and I discuss the finer points of an arrangement. Richard is playing his Epiphone Texan. I am playing my 1930's Kalamazoo

The Jugular Vein story so far – some corrections and clarifications. (New readers start here)

I have found it very difficult to assemble the next part of the story because, all though I have a whole succession of very clear memories of events during our tours of the North of England, I have found it almost impossible to sort them out chronologically. The importance of doing this is compounded by the fact that between the first and second tour there was a personnel change. Richard Bartram left and Mike Deighan joined. As a consequence I have been pestering the life out of the former band members, as well as contacting many people that I haven’t spoken to for forty years. So – before I proceed with the next part of the tale, here are some contributions from the others.

Max confirmed the basic details of our original meeting but with one caveat – “I did sit Phil on my lap that day but he didn’t pee on me. It was a little more substantial than that” he said. We’ll swiftly draw a veil over the subject of my – then – one year old son’s incontinence and move on to the matter of the jug. Again, Muff confirms the main details but reminds me that there were in fact a number of old jugs in the outbuilding. He says – “I picked up the biggest one, turned it upside down and shook it. A couple of dead mice fell out”. A certain amount of sterilisation had to be indulged in before it was fit for use. Indeed, it was common practice for Muff to spend some time at the sink with the jug on a fairly regular basis. The ensuing vigorous rinsing process was known somewhat charmlessly as ‘de-grollying’ or ‘getting the oysters out’.

Muff also had a collection of jugs of various sizes that he had lashed together with adhesive tape for 'multi-jugging' purposes. Richard reminds me that I would frequently announce Muff as 'The Reverend B. Sprules Murfet, Spinster of this parish and Roland Kirk of the jug world. My own washboard set up would be announced item by item. The cymbal on its stand was known as the 'Junior Bus Driver's kit. The cowbell was 'a present from my mother-in-law' and the red-painted skol or woodblock (see photo at top of Washboard Blues) was christened 'The Fat-lipped Parrot' by Richard. "Simply take an ordinary household parrot and punch it in the beak..."

Both Richard and Nobby reminded me of a famous occasion when we were travelling back from a gig on the Uxbridge Road. We had – as usual – partaken of a number of pints during the evening and Muff suddenly announced a very urgent and desperate need to empty his bladder. We were passing Queensway Underground Station at the time, where there was a public toilet. Unfortunately there was nowhere convenient to park. “Just let me off here. I’ve got to go! I’ll get the Greenline bus back or something!” Nobby stopped the van just long enough for Muff to leap out on to the pavement. As we drove off we saw him dashing into the station in search of the Gent’s. About ten or fifteen minutes later we were waiting in traffic near Ealing Broadway Station when there was a banging on the side of the van. We looked out to see a much relieved but somewhat out of breath Muff. He had used the facilities then dashed down the escalator and caught a train, on the off-chance that he could catch up with us at Ealing. On this occasion the Gods were smiling.

Richard has reminded me that the very first assistant in the ‘Letterphone’ routine was in fact Ron Bartholomew (later to be a Labour Councillor in Hounslow for seventeen years), who was also partly responsible for the idea. Nobby shed further light on how he came to meet Ron. “I was round at my girlfriend’s house one afternoon when there was a knock at the door. I opened it and this big bloke was standing there. He said ‘Is that your van outside?’ When I said it was, he asked me if I wanted to go to Brighton and said there was a fiver in it for me. Apparently he was due to take the band to a gig but his vehicle had broken down. So we got in to the van and he directed me to your house. The next thing I knew I was a full time roadie”. I asked Nobby if he had any regrets about his time with the band. “Not really” he replied. “On the whole I enjoyed the driving, I enjoyed the music and I enjoyed the company. The only thing I didn’t like was the smell. What with all the bitter that you lot drank, you could fart for England. If you remember, the van was known as ‘The House of Blue Lights on Four Wheels’". I’ll leave that charming image to fester in your minds for a few days whilst I sort out the remaining details of the next episode…

Monday, 9 March 2009

Music in a jugular vein 6

This is part six of the Jugular Vein story. New readers start here.

A Star is (not quite) born

I had totally immersed myself in the band by now as an escape from my increasing unhappiness at home. I saw the Jugular Vein as my potential saviour. If you were to have asked me how I thought this would work I would not have been able to answer you very adequately, although I did suspect that song writing might have something to do with it - that and the anaesthetic effects of large quantities of beer. The beer meant that not only did I begin to put on weight at an alarming rate, but some of my song writing efforts veered sharply between the maudlin and the pretentious. One particular lyric that was to come back and haunt me was ‘The Song of the Wastelands’ – a rant about our rubbish laden environment. Fortunately, the other members of the band were quick to deflate any hint of pomposity, so most of the worst material got filtered out at rehearsals.

As our reputation spread we began to get bookings from further afield as well as from the more prestigious London clubs. We played colleges and universities in addition to the usual folk venues, and these were generally fairly well paid. The quality of the heckling was frequently quite good too. Whenever I used a capo on my guitar I would refer to it as a ‘Bessarabian jock strap’. At a college in Lewes, this quip was greeted with a rather pained voice from the audience saying “I happen to be Bessarabian and I can tell you it isn’t”.

We became regulars at the Troubadour in Earls Court, and played to packed houses at the Saturday night sessions under the auspices of the late Redd Sullivan and (the equally late) Martin Winsor. The club was in the cellar beneath a coffee house in The Old Brompton Road in Earl’s Court, and those Saturday night gigs were the folk world’s equivalent of ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’, but without the glamour and the television cameras, and in considerably less salubrious surroundings. The stage was tiny and was located directly underneath the pavement. It was also the location of the air conditioning unit, which made so much noise that it had to be switched off when anyone was performing. The walls frequently ran with condensation – most of which. I’m sure, started out as perspiration - but as we never used a P.A. system we were not at risk from electric shock. It was here that Bill Leader first saw us and suggested that he might be interested in recording us at some point. He was then in the throws of setting up his own record labels – Leader and Trailer - and suggested that we might be suitable candidates for the Trailer label. We were eventually to record an album with him over a period of about a year, but in the meantime we continued to establish ourselves outside of London.

Our first breakthrough in the north of England was a booking in Sheffield at the legendary Highcliffe Folk Club. By this time our reputation had expanded to include the fact that we were a bit of a ‘drinking band’ and people came to our gigs expecting fun and games. They were not disappointed that night. I had already become unsteady enough on my feet to sit on my own pint during the course of the first set. Most of the audience seemed to be under the impression that it was all part of the act that I was performing in a pair of beer-reeking, sopping wet jeans.

At this time my oldest brother, Alcohol (by no means as booze-inclined as his nick-name implies) was a Liberal Studies lecturer at nearby Mexborough Tech. He and his Head of Department, together with a fellow Liberal Studies lecturer from Doncaster Tech, had been attending a lecture given by the historian A.J.P. Taylor at Sheffield University. My brother felt the need to see exactly what it was that his younger sibling had got himself into and so had unwisely persuaded his fellow academics to come to see our performance after the lecture. They had arrived shortly before the beer incident and had seated themselves at a table near the back, where they observed our antics with a certain degree of bemusement. The Department Head, who was somewhat older than his companions and had in fact served as a bomb disposal specialist during the SecondWorld War, was still wearing his overcoat. At the end of the first set I went over to their table, where my brother was just offering to take his coat and hang it up. The Head, who stammered somewhat, replied “N-n-n-n no thank you dear b-b-b-boy. It gives me a c-c-c-comforting sense of imp-p-permanence”.

I have chastening memories of a gig that we did somewhere on the south coast. The performance had gone extremely well and we were about to head for home but, as was often the case, the need for post-gig food kicked in and we looked around for somewhere to eat. Eventually we found an open fish and chip shop and were soon sitting in the van and munching our way through cod, chips, saveloys and ‘wallys’ (large pickled cucumbers) out of newspaper-wrapped greaseproof bags that were soggy with vinegar. I finished eating, wiped my fingers as best I could on the newspaper, slid the door open and – without a thought –deposited the greasy rubbish in the road. Muff glanced up from his food, raised one eyebrow and murmured “’The Song of the Wasteland’, was it?”

In September 1969 we finally got booked for a festival – the first ‘Buxton Blues and Progressive Music Festival’ as it was billed – which was an all night event at the Buxton Pavilions. I don’t remember how we got the gig but I for one had high hopes for us. The event took place on two stages - we were booked to play on the small one – and featured all the big names of the day: Fleetwood Mac, Family, The Spirit of John Morgan, The Edgar Broughton Band, The Third Ear Band and East of Eden. It was compèred by John Peel I didn’t think much of the music and found it incredibly loud, but it was an extraordinarily cold night even though it was only September, so we stayed inside and put up with it. We finally got to go on at the same time that Fleetwood Mac – who had had major chart success earlier that year with ‘Albatross’ - took to the main stage. The net result was that we performed to a rather sparse audience and I can’t say that we made much of an impression on them. In fact John Peel wrote a four page article about the festival in ‘Disc and Music Echo’ ( a now defunct music paper) the following week, in which he commented on every band that had performed there. Of us he wrote “The Jugular Vein also played”.

We celebrated our third birthday that year, with a benefit gig at the Angel, Hayes End, for the Middlesex Housing Association, and the poster for that event (see above) shows me at my fattest. However, it was not me but the slender Mr Murfet who won the pie eating contest! It could be that my eating form was affected by toothache. Thanks to a bad dental experience in childhood that had ended with me being carried home in a blood-soaked towel, I had a deep fear of dentists and would tolerate incredibly high levels of discomfort rather than have my teeth seen to. This state of affairs was to last until my early forties, when I finally overcame the phobia and began visiting a dental surgery on a regular basis, but at that time my first resort was aspirin and my second resort was whisky. I was often in considerable discomfort and on one occasion when returning from a gig in the small hours of the morning, became so desperate that when we were passing a pharmacy, I insisted that Nobby stopped the van, then jumped out and went and hammered on the door of the shop. Given that it was about three in the morning I suppose I should not have been surprised at the – extremely Welsh – pharmacist’s reaction when he finally answered the door in his dressing gown. “TOOTHACHE? TOOTHACHE? You get me out of bed at this time of night for bloody TOOTHACHE?” But to his credit, he did give me some painkillers.

One other gig that was memorable for the wrong reasons was a Communist Party social that we were booked for, that took place in a function room above a pub, somewhere in the depths of Southall. We were not required to put on an actual show. They merely required us to provide music in the background. This meant that we had to stretch our usual set with a selection of traditional jazz tunes. Fortunately, Max had a large repertoire of these and we spent most of the evening playing in ‘cornet – guitar – washboards – jug’ format. All was going reasonably well when, towards the end of the evening, a couple arrived at the ticket table just as we were between numbers. A heated argument rapidly developed and it became apparent that the female half of the couple’s very recent ex-partner was already at the function and took great exception to his replacement being there.

In no time at all, the heated argument had escalated to an attempt by the ex-partner to throw the new partner out of the window. The next thing we knew, we were playing in the middle of a full-on bar-room brawl. Women were screaming, men were shouting, fists and feet were flying and the band was desperately peering around for an escape route. It soon became apparent that the only route other than the stairway was through the window and we did not consider this to be a reasonable option. There was only one thing for it. The great American film cliché is that the band starts to play the National Anthem and the conditioned reflexes of the crowd make them stand to attention and salute, thus affording a chance for the mob to calm down and the band to escape. But this was England not America and furthermore this was a Communist Party event. Max turned to us and said “Quick lads, ‘Maryland, my Maryland!”. It was an inspired choice. For those of you not familiar with the tune, it shares the second part of its melody with ‘The Red Flag’. The mêlée ground to a halt and we were able to escape unscathed. We never did get paid for that gig…

Monday, 2 March 2009

Music in a jugular vein 5

The usually placid Mr Murfet in pipe and concertina mode

This is part five of the Jugular Vein story. New readers start here.

Bandbox Barry - Super Fan

Despite the antics described in the previous posting we were in fact very serious about making good music, and all the nonsense would have been to no avail unless we had the content to back it up. It was the combination of the two elements that got us increasing amounts of work, but it was the shenanigans that drew our first major fan to us, as sure as eggs is eggs. I say ‘fan’, but with hindsight I suspect that ‘stalker’ might have been nearer the mark.

He answered to the name of ‘Band Box Barry’ – we never did find out his real name – and he began to show up at every gig we played. We very quickly moved from delight in having an enthusiastic follower to a feeling of dread on hearing the cry of ‘A la Musica!’ with which he would announce his presence in the audience. He invariably wore a blazer and a bow tie and, sometimes, spats and correspondent shoes. He had a beard, a fruity voice and a false tooth which he would frequently remove and drop into ones beer. He habitually addressed one by such anachronisms as ‘Old Fruit’, ‘Old Thing’, ‘Old Horse’ and ‘Old Chap’ and generally carried on as if we were living in the nineteen-twenties rather than the nineteen-sixties, despite the fact that he was probably no older than we were.

One of his many annoying characteristics was a positively pathological addiction to practical jokes. Woe betides the person foolish enough to accept a cigarette from him. Both Max and I were roll-up smokers at this time, and would frequently smoke on stage (if not called upon to blow something, that is). Band Box Barry would catch ones eye from the audience and mime rolling a cigarette and bringing it to the stage. We both got caught by exploding fags at least twice over a period of six months or so.

Barry would come and sit with us during intermissions, and was so thick skinned that no amount of ‘go forth and multiply’ instructions had any effect on him. He would just shrug, draw his shoulders back in a mime of being affronted and bray “I say you fellows! Have a beastly heart!” (or words to that effect) and then make himself comfortable at our table. The truth was that – for all the dash that he cut – he was a somewhat pathetic figure and we all felt rather sorry for him, although that pity was frequently stretched to near breaking point by some of his antics.

As well as the exploding cigarettes he also had a fondness for food dye, and it was not at all unusual to find oneself drinking a green pint. We finally put a stop to this by dying his gin and tonic blue one night, having first forewarned the people around us whilst he was visiting the gents. When he returned to the table and picked up his drink, he shouted in annoyance and drew attention to his blue drink. Everyone present managed to keep a straight face whilst denying that the gin was anything other than gin-coloured. If it had been just us denying it he would have seen through the ruse straight away, but the fact that apparent strangers were giving him the same reaction actually shook him and he was very subdued for the rest of the evening. Again, with hindsight, I suspect that his grip on his own sanity was more than a little fragile, but at the time we just chalked it up as a small victory.

On another occasion he turned up at a gig we were doing somewhere on the other side of London. We were somewhat surprised to see him as one of the few things we did know about him was that he lived near Heston – our side of the river. (The other two things that we knew were (1) that he had switched his allegiance to The Jugular Vein after falling out with his previous band of choice – Spencer’s Washboard Kings (still active today as Spencer's Nighthawks) and (2) that he described himself as a ‘Transparent Wall Maintenance Engineer’ – it transpired that he was in fact a self employed window cleaner.)

During the course of this particular evening he was on especially irritating form and back to all his old habits. Cigarettes exploded, beer turned green or acquired false teeth and we were ‘A la musica’d and ‘Old Bean’ed to near breaking point. The last straw came at the end of the gig when he announced that he was in need of a lift home as he had missed his transport connection. Now, Muff was (and remains) one of the most gentle and affable fellows that you could wish to meet but he had reached near-breaking point. Through gritted teeth he informed Band Box Barry that we would give him a lift but that if he (Band Box) so much as opened his mouth then he (Muff) would not be answerable for his actions.

We stocked up with a few cans of beer for the journey, climbed into the back of the van and set off for home. We had barely travelled a hundred yards or more when Band Box Barry piped up. “The thing is, old bean…” Muff paused with a freshly opened can half way to his lips. “If you call me ‘Old Bean’ one more time, I swear I’ll brain you with this bloody can!” he spat. “I say! Steady on old bean!” said Band Box, but he got no further because a furious Mr Murfet reached across and, with great vigour, carried out his threat. “Nobby! Stop the bloody van! He’s out. Now!” he shouted, as he grabbed our unfortunate fan and attempted to drag him to the back door of the vehicle.

Eventually we managed to calm Muff down and made Band Box Barry go and sit in the front of the van, with the warning that if he so much as uttered a single syllable before we reached his home, we would abandon him in the middle of the road regardless of where we were. The result was that our unwanted passenger managed to complete the journey in silence, and we did not see him again at a gig for quite a long time.

When he finally materialised again he was a much-subdued figure, looked quite haggard and had lost a considerable amount of weight. At first we felt quite guilty to have wrought quite such a change on him but we eventually discovered that he had just spent the last six months in an open prison, where his antics had been received considerably less warmly by the prison inmates than they had been by the band. Apparently, whilst on his window-cleaning round one day, he had spotted some 78 r.p.m. gramophone records through an open upstairs window. Unable to resist the temptation to have a closer look he had climbed off his ladder and in through the window. Unfortunately he was spotted and the police were called and he ended up inside.

Whatever it was that drew him to the band had obviously evaporated during his time away from us, and we did not see him again after that until, many years later I was watching The Last Night of the Proms on TV when I spotted a familiar face amongst the promenaders. The camera had zoomed in on a group of people hanging a garland of some sort around a statue. “…and as the young fans, led by Barry ------- (something I didn’t quite catch), a trainee dress designer from West London, decorate the bust of Sir Henry Wood with the traditional wreath we see…” I thought, at one point during the proceedings, that I heard a voice crying “A la Musica!”, but I might have imagined it.