Voltarol - related music

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Blue Five at The Load of Hay

Firstly I must apologise for the long gap since my last posting. I have been working on a book-editing/design job for a customer and delivered the finished job to him yesterday…so, where was I? Ah yes, the proposed Blue Five reunion (see previous posting).

I made way up to London a few weeks ago, stayed with my daughter for a few days and then, on Sunday April 18th, got on the tube to Uxbridge, at the end of the Metropolitan line where I was met by my partner in crime, Leigh Heggarty. Although I spent the first forty two years of my life in that neck of the woods, I haven’t lived there for twenty three years, and last visited (briefly) some twelve years ago. The place had changed beyond all recognition then and it had changed yet again when I stepped out of the tube station on a rather warm and sunny April morning.

I made a quick phone call informing Leigh that he would find me outside the pub opposite the station (the Three Tuns, since you ask), then scurried thither with my guitar and back pack, ordered a pint (Marston’s Pedigree) and settled at a table outside with my book whilst I awaited his arrival. I didn’t have to wait long and was soon going through the usual rituals that you go through when you haven’t met face to face on a regular basis. I got one in for the man and we chewed the fat whilst we finished our drinks, then he led me back to his place by a somewhat circuitous route that took in the location of all my previous music shops in Uxbridge, a shopping mall that hadn’t existed when I was last there and a fine - if distant –view of the new Wembley Stadium. Eventually we arrived at his home where we were greeted by his other half - known to readers of Leigh’s blog as ‘the long-suffering Shirley’. I would just like to take the opportunity of welcoming her to these pages, and to thank her once again for her hospitality. Shirley had prepared a lunch of vegetable samosas for us so after feeding the inner man we repaired to Leigh’s music room where we got down to the interesting business of resurrecting a twenty five year old set in as short a time as possible.

The next few hours put my arthritic fingers severely to the test, as well as straining my memory to breaking point. I had found and sent to Leigh an archive recording of the two of us, made when I still lived in Uxbridge, so that acted as prompt for some of the material. Leigh had also been down to Cornwall around the time of the total eclipse, and had sat in with my then band – Into The Red – when we played the afternoon and evening sessions at Tricky Dickies ( yes – I know it should be ‘Dickey’s’) Wine Bar (now known as ‘Tricky's’) at Tolgus Mount. This fact, coupled with a quick listen to my band’s CD, was enough for his phenomenal musical memory to be note perfect in all of my compositions for that band. By the time we stopped for our pre-gig meal (an excellent vegetable pasta dish prepared - once again by Shirley) we had cobbled together a set list and I was confident that Leigh would have no problems with the tunes or the arrangements although I was by no means as certain about myself!

As we climbed into the car to be driven to the venue, it dawned on me that ‘the long-suffering Shirley’ had not come by her nom-de-blog lightly. She soon delivered us at The Load of Hay and Leigh and I stood for a moment in the car park of that hostelry, staring at the band’s name which was up in chalk (if not lights) by the back entrance.

 Shirley returned home with a promise to collect us when it was all over and we wandered in to the pub. I had not been in there for twenty three years or more but not a lot had changed. I swear that some of the same people were still sitting at the bar drinking as had been there when the Blue Five last played there on the night of the celebrated Uxbridge Ginger Group Buskathon in about 1987.

The PA was rigged and the guitars tuned and sound checked, then we did a ‘meet and greet’ with some of the audience. There were a couple of old friends of mine who I am in regular contact with who had loyally turned out to support me, but I was amazed at the number of people who came over and shook my hand and said that it was good to see me back in Uxbridge. The truth is that I couldn’t remember who half of them were but that’s the nature of shop-keeping I guess. Many of these people had been customers of mine when I ran my music shops. The customer always sees the same face behind the counter. The person behind the counter sees an endless stream of faces every day. They might be memorable at the time but they tend to fade a bit after twenty five years…Nevertheless I was very pleased to see them and flattered that they had turned out to see us.
Then two extremely memorable ‘faces from the past’ strolled through the door – Steve Simpson and his brother Bruce. Steve is professional musician of considerable note and Bruce is also an extremely fine player, although he has never made his main living from music. We would often get together and play – in the sixties it was mainly Steve and in the seventies it was mainly Bruce but we had some great musical evenings together. I found this photo in my archives recently, of Steve, Max Emmons and myself playing together circa 1970.

Eventually the moment of truth arrived and we took to the stage. The first set was pretty good, though I say it myself as shouldn’t, and it was pretty well received (with some particularly spirited heckling from the audience that told me that yet another old acquaintance had arrived – Jim Spicer, still carrying the torch for ‘prog-rock’ with his current band, ‘Release the Peach’). The set included a medley of Jobim’s ‘Waters of March’ and Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Dear Prudence’ that I had sprung on Leigh at rather short notice, as well as a Hermeto Pascoal  tune called ‘Papa Furado’ that was new to him. My faith in his memory was not misplaced and he acquitted himself splendidly on all counts. However, by the end of the first half my fingers were beginning to stiffen up a bit and I realised that, including the long rehearsal in the afternoon, I had been playing for far longer than at any time since arthritis first seriously began to affect me.

The second set was not quite so satisfying for me as the first one, as I was beginning to trip over my fingers a bit, but Leigh carried us through in fine style and we still managed to get an encore, even though the request for ‘Summertime’ was obviously from someone that hadn’t been there at the start of the evening, because that was the first number that we played. Despite this we played it again and then took our bows and headed to the bar. Leigh got there quite a bit before me as I was once again greeted by many faces from the past. By the time I made it to the counter there was just time for one last pint before they closed, and then it was back - courtesy of Shirley’s good offices – to the house, where Leigh and I sat up talking until well gone 2am, agreeing amongst other things that we must do it again soon. Twenty five years between gigs is far too long.

At this point in the proceedings I was to have included a video clip. Leigh's good friend 'East' (another 'nom de blog') videoed the second set and sent me a DVD of the results but my total inability to upload a track from this means that you are now reading this confession of incompetence instead of watching our encore of 'Summertime'. Watch this space...I may conquer the technology in the near future...

PS. I've just realised that I started this blog in May of 2008 so I've just passed my 2 nd anniversary. Happy Birthday to me!

The Admirable East has done the work for me so here is the aforementioned video of 'Summertime'.