20th August 2019
John Villiers had come all the way from Islington - an old acquaintance renewed. We played at Bunjies and various other gigs in the 70s and 80s. Seeing the Bells Facebook Page he’d come down from Islington to see what was what and played three of his own instrumentals: the topical-sounding An Approaching Storm and Please Don’t Leave Me Your Banjo When You Go in his first spot. There was some complex playing going on there on a vintage f-holed guitar - a Melodija made in Menges in Slovenia. In his second spot he played Are We There Yet? He also left a copy of one of his CDs and promised to come back to the Christmas Party. Yes Please.
Lance came up with his usual standard of thought-provoking self-pennery: No Going Back on Love and The War to End All Wars.
Chris Martin continued with his mission this year - to sing all of his 100 songs registered with the Performing Rights Society. He repeated Hanging On from a previous time and an instrumental Playing With Myself (fnar fnar), which included snatches of many famous tunes of which I picked out Angie, Auld Lang Syne and the choral theme from Beethoven’s Ninth among others. Later he did Another Journey from his album The Journey – the one with Panyan the Panda on the front.
Heather set her poem Alexander Beetle to music, inspired by the need to entertain grandchildren. Then covered a song from the Hazel O Conner Film Breaking Glass and, in her second round, did School not his Sympathy by Phil Coulter a song about a child with special needs.
Simon Watt was once an old friend whom I met at the Bells as long ago in 2002 and is now even older. He writes many a comedy song laced with gentle and dry humour, but tonight he decided to do two nice songs and let humour lay in my humiliation by asking me up to shake tiny bells in Too Much Snow. Then he sang I Don’t Look Good Naked any More, which could be true.
Clive sang a Maddy Prior Song Deep in the Darkest Night, from Memento, and one of his own songs The Adventure of Life.
Paul had come all the way from Seaford and played two Don Williams songs: Gypsy Woman and You‘re my Best Friend. Very tunefully sung and played.
Jason performed a his own song There Was a Young Man, and then a mellifluous version of Georgia, from the great American Songbook.
Helga came up with her unaccompanied flute and kept us guessing as to her tune, which was The Godfather theme. Nobody knew who wrote it and, as there is poor phone reception hereabouts, pub quiz cheats don’t prosper. Second she picked up her guitar and sang Joni Mitchell’s Carrie.
Ella came up with a nice bit of romantic realism Did I Shave my Legs for This? Accompanying herself on the Bouzouki.
After everybody had had a go, I finished the first cycle with Baby Steps, with Helga tastefully supporting on flute.
So we started the second round with one song each, as detailed above. Clive and Paul passed and we soon got to finish off the evening with a jam on my irregularly-timed blues Brighton Rock. Everyone joined in notably John on Guitar, Helga on Flute, Ella on Piano and others strumming and shaking all sorts of objects.
Thanks to all the musicians that played and sang, set up the PA, ran it, watched, laughed, heckled and generally made for a chirpy evening. Thanks also to the eight or so people who turned up to listen.
2nd August 2019
This was headed as one of Chris’s Singer/Songwriter evenings and hosted by Chris, who was on the sound desk doing an excellent job, as usual. So, I took over the list, photos and blog!
It was one of the busiest evenings I had seen in a long time with 6 newcomers and some people being a real, live audience! I did try to spend a little time with each of the new people because I remember how friendly and welcoming people were the first time I turned up with my guitar. It can be quite daunting.
The list was pretty daunting too, with several people being shuffled around because of other commitments, or preference. And time ran short. A very big thank you to Clive who chose not to sing so that we could finish on time. Double helpings next time Clive.
At 20.10, 5 of our performers were still lined up at the bar, so we had the almost inevitable late start.
Chris kicked off with a welcome to everyone and songs number 86 and 87 on his mission to give all of his songs at least one airing this year. His first was ‘The Future’s so Vague’ from his band years in 1995. I do know how much trouble he takes to try to present a one-man acoustic version of a song originally performed with a full band and a female vocalist, and he did well. There were lovely oriental style semi tonal chord changes in the introduction and breaks that were very pretty. Then he played one of my favourites- because he wrote it for me! - ‘Out of the Blue’. I have to have a soft spot for that. He does describe my music as ‘diddly’ music so he especially wrote and performed a little break of jig music near the beginning. Thank you, Chris.
Jane followed. I had commented on shirts at the last Singer/Songwriter night. There were a couple of very noticeable ones. Jane did want me to mention hers. It was a lovely hand-painted white cotton, with beautiful many-coloured and silver brush strokes on one side of the front and the middle of the back. See. I noticed. 😊
Her first song was the really amusing ‘Hysterectomy Blues’. I have heard this before, and she handles a rather delicate topic with a lovely wry sense of humour, accompanied by her lap slide guitar,
‘My Mojo it’s stopped working, and my hoochy coochy is too sore’
Her second song was a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’. It’s a beautiful song, and worked well with the melancholy slide guitar. It’s well worth looking up the words. They are so beautiful.
‘There’s a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in’.
Next was another of our prolific song-writers, Lance. If there was a theme this evening, it did seem to be the passing of time. Perhaps it’s our ages. I know I become more aware of it every day.
Lance’s first song described ‘Dementia’ so well. There were some lovely lyrics, and although it’s such a sad topic, I would like to hear it again
‘When the fog blocks the sun….I’m drifting away’.
His second song, ‘Time’, was about dreams and memories of a lost love. I’m sure we can all identify with that: Time…is the enemy.
Time will not wait for me’.
A newcomer, Mike, got up next. His first song was ‘Something in the way she moves’, a James Taylor classic. I really enjoyed his performance; a strong picked rhythm and a similar tone to his voice as my hero JT. The second song was his own, I think. ‘Two Minutes to twelve’. In keeping with our ‘theme’, this was also about time…how we are racing against the clock leading to the end of the world and have’ got to break free from the culture of greed’. Another very enjoyable performance.
Manus performed two of his own compositions. The first was inspired by his Granddaughter and entitled ‘Ukulalliah’ and featured Manus’s distinctive jazz chords and a strong steady rhythm. He dropped the E to a D for his second song ‘Estella’s Varsity Project’ and once again echoed the theme of losing time spending our lives away.
‘You’ve got those stars in your eyes again.
Spend, spend, spending your life away
Spending it trying to be someone else
Estella won’t you please come down’.
I do hope I’ve quoted that correctly. It was a lovely well-crafted song in the Manus style.
Sylvie popped up next and sang her version of ‘Westering Home’ unaccompanied, apart from those of us who joined us on the chorus. It was written in the 1920’s by someone called Hugh S Roberton and may be derived from an Irish Gaelic song. Westering does mean heading west, and Ireland is very west!
Next came another newcomer, Jim Murray, also with two of his own songs. These were more of a traditional folk feel. Jim moved down to London from the North East many years ago, but still has that lovely lilt to his accent. His first song was entitled ‘Tell Me’.
‘Oh dear me. It could really get you down.
‘Cus there’s no real work for the working man down in London Town.
His voice really grew into his second song ‘Now I need no God or King’. I wish I could remember more because I know I did really like this song and Jim’s delivery. It doesn’t matter if there is baby-sitting duty Jim! Come when you can please.
I’m afraid I had to cheat a bit. I lopped off the end of my left-hand index finger slicing a melon. So, I read a couple of my poems, which are very often the first step to a song. They were both about family. The first was Tabby’s Easter Holiday. My 5-year-old granddaughter is old enough to come and stay now, and we have such a lovely time, I made her a little book and poem about it. The second was ‘A Mother’s Christmas Dream’. I really did used to dream about when the children could help out at Christmas. It was such an exhausting time as a single parent. Poor me! And now they really do!
Jo and Ed or The Joe Robinson’s Band were up next. Again, these were newcomers to The Six Bells and I think Manus had encouraged them to come. They were still on the theme of time with their first song, ‘Every Second Counts’. I really enjoyed watching them play together. Guitar arrangements and vocals were well rehearsed and very tight. Joe mainly played the rhythm with Ed playing a lead over the top and adding harmonies.
Their second song, ‘Fake News’ was played in a similar style, the two guitars bouncing off and then entwining each other. (But I had to go to the loo and missed a lot of the lyrics. Very sorry (☹)
Helga and Keith came up next with three of Keith’s creations.
‘The Slow One’ was just that. A slow blues played and sung by Keith with Helga’s flute hauntingly slipping up and down beside the main melody.
I had heard the second song before and it is a beautifully sad tale entitled ‘The Acorn Song’. Legend had it that the two strong oak trees standing side by side were there because a young child had been buried with an acorn in each hand. I’m not saying more. Keith says it far better. Listen out for it in the future.
Their last song was ‘Home and Dry’, to give Helga the chance to take more of a lead on the flute. I do love the sound of Helga’s flute. It’s a good reminder of how lovely it can sound.
Bernard is one of Chris’s cycling colleagues and hasn’t been to The Six Bells for many years. I didn’t know what to expect at all, but he did have one of the more remarkable shirts!!
His first song was a combination of a Scottish song to an Irish tune which transformed into an Irish song with a Scottish tune….and a very nifty capo change to go with it. What a lovely voice, and what excellent dynamics. Is there a bit of classical training there? Bernard’s second song was a join in one sang with great gusto. Rawhide! Judging by the audience participation, many of us really enjoyed letting our hair (what we have left of it) down to that.
Our lovely Simon was up next. Simon does present us with a charming mix of covers and of his own songs. Tonight, was two of his own. I think the first one is called ‘There’s a Black Hole in my Garden’, and that’s what it’s about. Dry, amusing, and I do wish I could quote from it because it’s really very clever.
Simon’s second song was entitled ‘That Genius Trump’ and written to get Trump on our side once we press the Brexit button. Simon does take on some difficult topical subjects, but manages to do so in such a way as to get us to think, perhaps make us laugh, but never to make anyone’s hackles rise. That’s a real art.
Trump: ‘He’s as great as George Washington you’ll hear him say
And as wise as old Abe Lincoln with the looks of JFK’.
Nice one Simon.
Time was indeed passing and it was now Mark’s turn. He chose to only do one song. I hope it wasn’t because he felt he had too little time. He played his own instrumental composition entitled ‘The Appalachian Trail’. I actually walked a lot of the trail when I was 19 and teaching swimming in America. Anyway, it was a very effective and invocative tune and took me right back.
Another newcomer, Peter, was next. Although English by birth, he has spent many years in America and brought us a flavour of their type of open mics. He invited everyone to sing and harmonise with his two songs. He hadn’t known it was a singer/songwriter’s night, and lead us all in two covers; ‘All of Me’ and ‘Wagon Wheel’. It was really good fun to have a bit of a sing, and I heard all sorts of lovely harmonies coming through. Great fun.
We finished off with our lovely Jason. As always, beautifully gentle and melodic. The first song was his own, ‘To the End of the Waves’ and his picking did indeed trickle over the strings like small waves.
Jason’s last song was Richard Thompson’s ‘The Dimming of the Day’. Such a beautiful song, and a lovely finish to the evening. Well worth a listen if you don’t know it.
I’m so sorry this is such a long blog, but it was a very long evening with some fabulous performances and I didn’t want to miss anyone out.
A big thank you to everyone who came, and especially to Chris for managing to run the evening with his usual enthusiasm, whilst still managing to produce excellent sound.
HC Aug 2019
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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