Monday, 30 June 2014

Brid

A big thank you to David Swann, Phil Friend, Martin Heaton, Robin Bunton, Martin & Penny Robertson and all the other great musicians who helped to make yesterday's Bridlington Old Town Festival such a great success. We had a fabulous little sound stage and PA and were made to feel really welcome by the organisers, town folk and visitors alike.

Please be assured I don't normally play wearing sunglasses, but yesterday was the time and the place.

A special thank you to Paula Ryan for her kind words.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Confessional

A Brush 4 and a Deltic, if I'm not mistaken
I was in London for a meeting yesterday. I went down on the train. Looking out of the window as we approached the various stations along the way, stopping at some and flying through others, I was reminded of a time in my life that I still look back on fondly.

I used to be a trainspotter. There, I've said it.

Let me explain. Between 1971 and 1973 I was a young (very young) version of those sad and lonely individuals you see standing at the end of deserted platforms armed with nothing more than a note pad and pen. But I was neither sad nor lonely. There was a group of us who, no matter the weather, would meet up at Grantham station, pay the princely sum of 2p for a platform ticket and loiter around the premises all day. Long before digital arrival and departure boards we knew the times of every arrival and departure, every express, every freight train and every milk train stopping at or passing through the station - day or night. And if it got too cold outside we would seek sanctuary in the waiting room complete with a real open fire and the company of fellow spotters. I was still a pre-teen but there was always older lads around who ensured I didn't get up to mischief or stand too close to the platform edge; when the Deltics rattled through the station at speeds touching 100 mph the danger of being sucked under was very real.

But I haven't told you the best bit yet. When I cycled home, often late and often without lights, the transferring of the raw data from my notepad to the Bible would begin: Ian Allen's Book of Diesel locomotives was a pocket sized tome which had the numbers of every diesel train in the land and the only way to do the copying over was with a pen that didn't smudge, invariably my dad's Parker, and a ruler. The numbers we'd seen that day would then be underlined and a permanent record of all the trains we'd spotted would emerge. Some I'd see every day, others remained permanently elusive. This is where, I guess, for some people it turns hardcore and they just keep doing it. Trying to fill the gaps. I stopped probably six months shy of my thirteenth birthday. At about the same time I discovered rock and roll. And girls.

Judging by those I saw standing on deserted platforms yesterday they'd not had that fork in the road moment which lead them to wine, women and song. I think I got out just in time.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Well starred and signed

PP Woodlands is one of Leeds' finest exports. His songs combine a turn of phrase rooted in West Yorkshire with tunes that get under your skin and stay there. His recorded output, however, was limited to a debut platter from 1971 that should have kept him in hookers and gin without ever picking up a guitar again (Sugarman, anybody?) and a cassette only live album made three years later: Live at The Catweazle caught Woodlands at the peak of his powers. Recorded in front of no more than 100 people, you can hear the effect his songs had on a crowd who knew they were in the presence of a legend. Unfortunately I can no longer play the recording on my trusty Teac tape deck - the ferrous oxide has practically disintegrated.

Instead, I've paid homage to the great man and recorded a lo-fi version of the third track on the album. It's called Love Will and is obviously written about somebody very special in his life.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Pillar talk

Late Saturday morning and after a hearty breakfast we went walking; a circular route of no more than four miles. Our rudimentary map and route guide informed us that we'd encounter three ladder stiles approximately seven feet high. Disappointingly, we never found one. But we did find this rather nice folly.

Some friends of friends belong to The Folly Fellowship; which all sounds very English and very middle class.

I think I'm ready to sign up.

Friday, 20 June 2014

England F



I'm just glad Bobby Moore wasn't around to witness last night's abject performance from the latest incumbents wearing three lions on their breast.

Having spent a lot of my adult life watching mainly third and fourth tier football, the performance by our hapless yellow boot wearing no hopers was akin to that of the many lower league journeymen I've seen over the years whose best years are clearly behind them. It's hard to comprehend, but the manager and his squad have had four years to prepare for this tournament. Four years. You'd think in that time the keeper would have learned how to defend corner kicks and that the strikers would have been coached how to hit a barn door with their banjos. But as my mother always tells me: 'You know what thought did.'

Monday, 16 June 2014

Bostin

York Fibbers may only be a tiny northern club on the indie circuit, but on Friday night, opening for Dodgy, it was my Wembley, o2 Arena and Hammersmith Apollo all rolled up into one. My previous five gigs (and the five before that and the five before that) have all been in various pubs and folk clubs playing open mic and singers nights. I usually play sitting down and there's invariably somebody on a nearby stool singing a 62 verse sea shanty with his finger in his ear. And there'll be a raffle in the interval. Sometimes I'm spoiled and a plate of sandwiches comes out; you'd be surprised at 10 o'clock, after four pints of Leeds Best, how well egg and mayo between two slices of bread goes down.


Fibbers, on the other hand, don't do raffles. Or sea shanties. But they do have a rather good sound man and a PA that meant I could probably be heard in Leeds. And though I didn't have a rider I think they're more used to M&Ms than egg and mayo; that said, I doubt Dodgy typed up their requests, strange or otherwise, on 53 typed sheets of A4.

Anyway, armed with nothing more than my guitar I walked on the stage, adjusted my microphone and plugged the guitar in. I was out of the traps. With the spots trained on me like a gun turret searchlight I had no idea where anybody was and could just about make out the bar at the back of the room.

I played a greatest hits set - opening with Camberwick Green and finishing with Leeds1972. It went well. Even though I say so myself. Straight to the bar and a catch up with my glee club before three proper musicians took to the stage: I've been hanging on to Dodgy's coat tails for over 20 years and they just get better and better. I must thank Nigel, Matthew and Andy, again, for having me on the bill. Three nicer fellas you couldn't wish to meet.

A one word summation of the night? Bostin.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

They call them The Belfast Boys

'Two of Us'
Ray and Jack went to see a production of Let it Be at the Grand Opera House this week. Holding a Doctorate in The Fab Four (Mark Lewisohn has my cousin's number on speed dial), Ray would have been making copious notes throughout the evening: was Macca holding his thumbs aloft at the right angle? Was George doing that little shimmy he used to do just before he played a solo? That sort of thing.

Jack on the other hand would have been considering the pros and cons of crowd surfing. And whether or not they were selling tubs in the foyer at half time.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Thomas Medd

Tom (1994-2014)

It's been a sad day today. Tom went to sleep for the last time. I said goodbye to him early this morning before leaving to catch the London train. Not that he could hear me. Or see me. His recent diabetes had left him virtually blind and deaf. But when I picked him up and held him like a baby he knew it was me.

I told him last night (ahead of the vet coming this morning) how much we all loved him and that never a day will go by when we won't think about him. 'See you on the other side, little man.' He blinked twice. That's a date then.