Voltarol - related music

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…