Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bumpers West

Phew... two days of being more or less cough-drop-free; perhaps those doses in moderation of the gargle-ghastly orange liqueur have had something to do with that?

In any event, it’s a blessed relief not walking around, bent double as yet another hacking-fit dive-bombs my chest like a WW2 Stukka; howling and whining from afar before clattering my sides until all the energy has been soundly thrashed from my very being.

Then again, I did learn that there are other things that could well have contributed to that recent bout of not being terribly well – for instance and here’s a little known fact; bread and mushrooms could well have conspired as a possible root cause.

Really… since, apparently, both contain some kind of fungoid that, unless eaten in moderation, can lead to… the shite build up internally and… you know the rest.

So… that’s one lesson learned; cut down on the mushroom omelettes.

Better that though, than lending one’s chest out to become a practice (g)round for apprentice panel-beaters – but… better still than being an apprentice Celebrity I suppose; or did I read that wrong and should it have been Celebrity apprentice?

In any event, a bit more than one could learn from celebrity apprenticeship (or whichever way round its meant to be)… I mean, what on earth is that all about or… is it simply symptomatic of the very depths that television makers are nowadays prepared to plumb? I guess it has to be; after all – sooner or later ratings will show that viewers have voted with their remote controls; if I could find it, I’d rather watch professional bull riding. At least you learn a couple of things from that.

One is, you’d have to be clinically insane to even attempt it and the second is, chances are you’re unlikely to father many children after a few encounters with a two-ton bull that’s going to demonstrate just how much it’d prefer you not to be straddling its back.

But perhaps, just perhaps there would be a way to do it… for instance – by getting as trolleyed as one can via visiting one of Amsterdam’s notorious coffee shops. You know the places, where not a lot of coffee is drunk but a great deal of high quality ganja is ingested.

Of course, I’ve only ever walked past such places… oh – ok, maybe I peeked inside a couple of times… yeah, ok… but I only did it like Monica Lewinsky was told to say… honest injun.

Anyhow… it seems that the city fathers of Holland’s second city have rather screwed up of late; they’ve declared Amsterdam a no-smoking zone… in much the same way that most of the world has become… so no real surprises there but… that edict has been fxxxxd up, big-time, by the coffee-shops.

There has been, so I’ve discovered, a bit of a revolt and the city elders have relented a bit whereby the coffee shops – alledgedly – are now subdivided or partitioned by large sheets of glass. (I wouldn’t really know, would I, ‘cos that's not the sort of place I’d ever go in… is it?)

So… on the one side you have the smokers and tokers… on the other, the coffee drinkers are to be found. Why they can’t do that in pubs in Britain and Ireland and elsewhere is beyond me but, I guess it’d do the healthy-living gestapo out of a job.

Anyway, from what I gather, while the dividing glass partitions are all in place, only one half of these emporiums is much used… and its not the caffeine intake side. Well, now… what a big surprise that is.

Almost as big a surprise to discover who was actually short-listed as being the most influential recording executive of the last fifty years and as presented at last week’s Music Week awards.

The winner – by a country mile was, of course, Chris Blackwell – according to my mole inside the judging operation, pretty much a one-vote race. However… shortlisted against the legend that is CB were the likes of Sir George Martin and others of that major-league ilk (and quite rightly) but… in amongst those true achievers was… Simon Cowell.

Can you understand that..? No, nor can I. I mean – sure, he doubtless has been frightfully (frighteningly) successful with the Factor X show and Celebrity Squares – that was him wasn’t it… I get frightfully muddled with all these Celebrity this and that things… But, anyhow, here’s the rub…

While the high-wa(i)sted one may have signed up various non-entity warbling Poodles with a career lifespan of five minutes… I don’t believe he signed and nurtured the late, great John Martyn… or Steve Winwood… nor Bob Marley… and Jess Roden… or Nick Drake… and Robert Palmer… along with the myriad of other greats that came under his extraordinary wing over the years.

Then again, I could be much mistaken.

Is it just me or are we still all living in the Theatre of the Absurd?

'cos I've also noticed... on the one hand... there are the likes of the those who’re claiming that the recession is gradually becoming a thing of the past… oh yea, really…?

And, on the other – and to compound that obscene felony – there are the people at Goldmine Sacks who’re about to snaffle colossal pay hikes?

When will someone somewhere say enough is enough for these Merchant (B)ankers and actually stand up, be properly counted and say NO… you bloody well cannot.

Its enough to make the blood boil.

However, a perfect remedy to all of that has reared its little head in the last forty-eight hours or so; one that absolutely guaranteed to reduce the Storey blood pressure – oh, hell… why oh why do I get so worked up about all of this?

Via winged e-note oodles of music has found its way through the ether; music that I’ve been without in my digital life for frankly far too long.

Lately, I’ve stumbled across a couple of what I believe to be ‘blogs’ that have been loosely centered around the musical disappearance of the Kidderminster Kid – Jess Roden; possessor of one of the finest sets of lungs this side of Orleans, new or otherwise.

And, its on one of these 'blogs' that I've encountered my newest best-friend.

I won’t claim to be a big fan of the Alan Bown! (yes the exclamation mark is deliberate as that’s how the band’s name was way back when). That was the group that Jess joined after he quit his own, first group, The Shakedown Sound.

It was only after he left – replaced by none other than former Mister Mandrake himself, Robert Palmer, did Jess cross the Storey radar. The group – Bronco.

Not by any stretch of imagination, the greatest band name – although, just maybe its reference to a well known brand of lavatory paper was neatly tongue-in-cheek. Be that as it may, they and I came into contact via the first Island double album sampler; the truly magnificent Bumpers – of which a fair bit was written about last November on this little Voltaire out on its grassy knoll in the windswept prairie.

Their four minutes, forty-odd seconds was called Love and it was bookended by a track from Traffic (Every Mother’s Son) that was, in fact, going to be one of the cuts off of the long awaited Winwood solo album before it became part of the masterpiece that was John Barley Corn Must Die and Spooky Tooth’s epic reading of I Am The Walrus; top-end grunge before Kurt Cobain had even been born. The fourth track off that side of the double set was by Quintessence and, if I’m honest, that never got played a great deal.

The first three tracks wore out more needles (than Cobain ever did) on more than enough gramophones though – sublime music; yes just a bit. Mind you, I’d no idea who this Bronco were, but… whoever they were, the sounded bloody fantastic. And, as often is the case, the job of the compilation as a marketing device worked – the very day that Country Home, Bronco’s first album hit the stores, I was there with my 32 hard earned shillings and six pence to nail it and bring it on home.

That too got more than a bashing on the embryonic stereo of the time. I would sit listening away, trying to work out just who might be who on the grainy inner sleeve – a bunch of people hanging out by a hippy camp fire. Dreams were dreamed ‘cos, to my little underdeveloped teenage mind this was what it was all about… make great music, hang out in the woods with girls in long dresses. The days when summer never became autumn.

How the next bit came about I really can’t remember – there were a bunch of us at school, a bloke called Roger Williams, myself and a chap called Mike Brown (nowadays a lay preacher in Australia) and… somehow or other, we either persuaded – it must’ve been like that – or cajoled in some way or other those in charge of us (the masters) at school to book Bronco to perform. Not a clue what the fee would have been; maybe a hundred quid or so..?

Bradfield – which I was at, boasted a proper Greek Theatre in the depths of Berkshire and so, one summer’s evening – I would have been seventeen at the time – the band and their support act, Gracious! (and yes, again, the exclamation mark is intended), bowled up in a couple of white transit vans. A proper band in amongst us acne'd teenagers... the excitement was pure and unbridled.

I don’t believe the entire school turned out but there must have been a good three to four hundred in the audience down in the Greek Theatre and we – the quasi-organisers – were roped in to help unload the gear and generally get in the way of the ‘roadies’s. God, but it was exciting… they had a road crew, they all had really long hair and it was loud, very loud – this was real (to us) rock ‘n roll right in our midsts.

And, for me, only the second band I’d ever seen play live – the first being the Fairports debut their classic Liege and Lief line-up at the South Bank; a night when Nick Drake played support but, being of the uber-cool persuasion, I never bothered to show for his set, deeming it un-cool to see the support act – oh, how very very wrong one can be.

Gracious! featured a huge mellotron and were pretty impressive – indeed, one of their members was Alan Cowderoy who later went on to work at Stiff – but that’s another story. But… Bronco were it… for me, anyway. They played most if not all of their debut album and, I think a fair smattering of what would become their next.

As over-enthusiastic teenagers, we all hung around afterwards – doubtless asking a shed load of stupid, asenine questions and generally getting in the way as gear and equipment was loaded away; one of those most magical evenings when you know, you just know that your life is changing before your very eyes.

But, this week in particular, being seventeen has all been brought back into sharp focus as someone of truly kind disposition has taken pity on my not having any of his music on my i-Pod and has been firing across email attachments containing five or six cuts at a time.

Illegal file sharing – yeah, maybe but… you know what, this exchange of music (and I’ve been firing back like for like) has been nothing other than music fans sharing great music.

As a consequence, I’ve now got both Bronco albums to play to my heart’s content together with much but not all (yet) of the solo years and, of course, there’s the Jess Roden Band material to conjure with too – first time I’ve ever had this as digital and, having not listened to it in absolutely aeons, much of it… not all by any stretch of the imagination… but a big proportion sounds just as good as it did the very first day the needle dropped down onto the Dansette.


Anonymous said...

A great read as always, Neil - was fascinated by your recent Jess Roden comments; an artist I had not come across before. Have now though and would urge anyone else reading this to do the same - what a singer!


Anonymous said...

Absolutely agreed - its about time that Jess Roden got the acknowledgement he richly deserves. I saw him and his band a number of times - always a great night out.

There is a good thread on the Word Magazine site too from which, it appears that a new compilation is about to be released. About time too.

Nigel, Manchester.