18th September 2018
Arriving at about eight I found Terry Lees in the bar, eating a shepherd’s pie, which meant that he had first spot. This was doubly just, as he’d had to leave early last time without getting to play. Before he went on I did the obligatory host opening, reading a short poem How Bad is It? The poems, I discovered can potentially fill in dead air during technical hitches or frantic artistic policy discussions between jammers - better than telling jokes. However, this was not needed as subsequent performers always seemed to get on track by the time the poetry book was fully opened.
Terry’s first song was about an escape from the Bowling Green Kentucky State Penitentiary. “Long John – he’s long gone”, with a bloodhound after him it seems. Terry’s high –class twiddles on his Martin were as accomplished as ever. I often wondered who played those many-tailed tadpole notes (hemidemisemiquavers, I think) in the music-teaching books of our youth. Now I realise they were meant for Terry. His second piece was an instrumental by the blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan, recorded by Planxty amongst many others. In the interests of even more justice Terry did a third song. He chose Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run the Game, bringing back memories of the old sixties folk club days when this was a standard.
George and Mary were up next. George gave a shout out for the annual Sixties re-creation charity event, normally held at the Underground Theatre but this year moved to Deanlands on Saturday 22nd. The duo did sixties songs by way of practice for the event: Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations and Cabaret (that’s George with G not Jeorge with a J).
Helen did an excellent unaccompanied version of Fields of gold and her second song Walk Away Renee (1966), was accompanied by George’s able strumming.
Manus Heard it Through the Grapevine and he heard it good, his ear tuned to jazz. He played his E string so as to recapture the bass playing of James Jamerson on the Marvin Gaye Record. He got some funky and jazzy sounds. Continuing with his intricate and original guitar backings, “We are Stardust, We are Golden” he sang, and we all agreed. He revealed later that said “E” string is actually at some unearthly pitch in his open tuning of E Flat Minor.
Chris Martin left the sound desk in the stewardship of Clive to do two of his own songs Time – “the most precious thing is time/you wasted mine/ but I don’t mind/after all it’s only my time” and Xeroxed Armies, both from his album Standing Room Only. Chris is firm in his resolution to do only his own songs – more power to him.
Simon came on next with two country numbers. “I don’t do humour” he said wryly when I told him people enjoyed his gentle humour. He did Ootischenia by the Be Good Tanyas with impeccable thumpy in-time country picking. He announced Sin City by Gram Parsons. “What’s it about” came a shout from the audience. “About a minute and forty five seconds” replied the humour-denier. Again, it was a joy to hear perfect picking accompanying Simon’s rich voice.
“Happy song or sad song?” Clive asked when he got to the microphone. “Happy!” came the audience response. So Clive did the traditional song John Barleycorn. “Fa la la la it’s a lovely day” we all joined in. Then he did his own song The Adventure of Life (which it is).
Lisa’s original song Strange Enchanted Boy was based on the Song of Nature - the voice and music were enchanting to match. Jason joined her and announced that they are taking part in a benefit gig for a Maternity Rehab Centre in East Dean on 3rd November. The second song was by Sam Cooke, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert: “Don’t know much about history….” Don’t you just want to start singing along at the mere sight of the words? Lisa’s tuneful jangles on the high frets beautifully complemented the deep sounds of Jason’s Ovation. The third song was by “Sir Michael and Keith” – Ruby Tuesday. Then Jason finished with his favourite song by his favourite musicians, Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Ella Moonbridge was once often seen bearing a Bouzouki but now concentrates on her ever more competent piano playing. The honky-tonk bar room sounds went well with Dylan’s Thunder on the Mountain from his Modern Times album after she had sung a quieter, slower song The Long Stairs by Patty Griffin.
Dave and Pam are becoming regulars with their guitar and Melodeon duo. The opening reel segued into Mexicana rhythms and all sorts of variations with great guitar work and a bright Melodeon sound. There was lots of semiquaver unison work with the two instruments in spot-on synchronisation. They were obviously enjoying themselves. I didn’t catch the names of the reels but hey – wow!
It was half past ten and after I’d read a couple more poems The Double Bass Seeks Love and Them and Us, we voted on an early night and that was that.
I’ve put up Martin Taylor as the first video this month. When I first saw him at the Pizza Express in Soho, years back I couldn’t believe I was sitting ten feet away from a genius. To paraphrase a line from Flann ‘o Brian’s The Third Policeman: “what he was doing was no longer beautiful, but terrifying”. Here on Georgia he does slow bluesy soul rather than his trademark impossible polyrhythms and walking bass. Noel Dumbrell is an authentic folk singer on the Sussex scene, with genuine links to the old ways and is simply a joy to listen to and a great entertainer. Etta James belts it out in the third video. The sound is not so good on this, but the rules of this blog state that we have to have live videos, where, as we know, anything can happen. I just love Etta’s total emotional involvement in everything she does. My favourite album of hers is Deep in the Night.
So thanks for coming and playing and listening and reading this blog, and hope to see many of you at my next night in January and, of course, before.
It was publicised as a Comedy themed evening and at times it really was funny. Some eager performers had taken up their seats well in advance of my arrival and the evening became ten increasing to sixteen, then diminishing to twelve and a half. Thirteen was a non-available number by demand this evening. Many people even sang ‘comedy’ songs, some of which would more aptly be described as sarcastic, cynical or scathing. We were all smiling quite a lot though, so it can be assessed as successful from that point of view.
I began the evening on bouzouki singing Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ’I feel Lucky’, followed by more irony from Iris De Ment’s ‘God may forgive you but I won’t’. To wind up the evening I later sang one of my all time favourite cynical songs made famous by Deana Carter: ‘Did I Shave my Legs for This?’ The country and western ladies have a very strong presence with social, as well as religious criticism, wrapping it up in humour.
Jayne, on her lap slide guitar followed with some shocking lyrics, but assured me she had not written them herself, singing Tom Waits’ song: ‘Chocolate Jesus’ which he describes as ‘an immaculate confection …. Something for the kids on Easter’. This piece of blasphemy was followed by a variation on the Moody Blues classic, Knights in White satin: ‘Tights in White Satin’ by Fred Wedlock. This had lurid lyrics including ‘a bikini so tiny she could use it to floss her teeth’ and something about a virgin, a vibrator and fillings falling out.
George and Mary took the stage after Jayne and sang ‘Little Old Wine Drinker Me’, made famous by Dean Martin, picking up the religious theme with prayers for rain in California, for the grapes. Prayers to Bacchus/Dionysus no doubt. ‘Obladi Oblada’ is a song I don’t think I’ve heard for so long, it must have been in the previous century, but it is remains an unmistakeable Beatles song from 1968. It calypso-ed along very nicely.
Woodstock, a Joni Mitchell classic, was Helen’s first song, sung beautifully acapella. George joined her to accompany the following song, another classic: ‘Out of Time’, but this time one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, made famous in 1966 by Chris Farlowe.
Humour was back on the agenda with both of Clive’s songs. The first ‘Lovely Watermelon’ was apparently written by Justine Clarke and Youtube has a recording from the 60s which is about a watermelon farmer. However, the version Clive gave us was a different version that was performed by Pamela Ward and Paul Charrington at the Bells last year (so Clive tells me). These watermelons were in the plural and more about female assets. His next song ‘Ma Crepe Suzette’ attracted a genuine laugh out loud response. He had written a variation of the song penned by Kenneth Williams and Gordon Jackson and brought it up to date. The song links French words and phrases and the nonsense is very funny : ‘ John Paul Gaultier …. Eau de toilette … Gauloise cigarettes …. Hors d’oeuvres …. Jeaux sans frontiers … grand prix … Ma Crepe Suzette’, to mention just a few. Haha, very funny.
Mike Kerry, from Seaford came to the mic next with his harmonica to sing two more traditional style songs with humour in them: ‘Are you all right Michael?’ with an Irish association, involving some drama around a steam train, and ‘Dog Walker’s Lament’. ‘Here we go, my doggy lad, ploughing through the muddy field in the pouring rain again’, Mike’s own song, inspired by the experience of walking through the muddy field with his dog, in the pouring rain again, including the vivid description of the slobbery tennis ball being chewed up and spat out. Dogs, eh? No, I love them, best buddies going, like cats, and like many pets, they have got the hang of unconditional love. (Well, most of them) Nothing like it.
Manus was due to perform next, but just at that very moment, he was called away. Unfortunately we missed his contribution this time around. Chris Martin hastened to the mic to sing his very cheerful song ‘I like to be sad’. This is one of Chris’s more up-tempo tunes. His second song ‘What’s in a Life’ runs through an account of the number of times statistically we may carry out certain actions or activities in our lives, and how much of our life that that actually absorbs. Much food for thought that may be funny or less so.
Heather followed with a poem from ‘Albert, ‘Arold and Others’ by Marriot Edgar, called ‘T’ Magna Carter’, not the usual version of history. Her father had read this to her as a child, in a strong Mancunian accent, so did she. He had joined the family when she was four and Heather has very happy memories which formed the basis of her song about him: ‘He took on the business of Daddy and gave it his best shot’.
There were two things you could not avoid, death and taxes, but now there are three: death, taxes and Brexit. Thus spake Simon. These subjects are perfect for Simon’s very dry sense of humour. ‘When Brexit comes, we’ll sing the blues, run out of food and have to boil our shoes ….. or it may be OK’. It may not be laugh out loud stuff, but certainly funny and desperately pertinent. I wonder if there will be an update for a year’s time. His other joyful ditty was about Ebola: ‘My Baby’s got Ebola’ and ‘I’m waiting to see if she passes it to me…. I’ve got the quarantine blues’.
John Stephens was due next, but decided to leave it this time. I had to hasten Jason to take the stage and so he did, without a single ruffled feather. He started with a song by Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake called ‘Diddy Wa Diddy’. A euphemism for something, I can’t imagine what. Jason said it always makes him smile. Blind Blake became well-known through recordings made between 1926 and 1932 and has doubtless raised many smiles since that time.
By way of a joke, Jason introduced his second song as being a Chris Martin song, but it wasn’t, and it also wasn’t remotely funny, however beautifully it was crafted and sung. Neil Young’s ‘Needle and the Damage Done’ is a brutal reminder of the tragedy of drug addiction: ‘I watched the needle take another man….’, and so to Frank….
Very lurid lyrics featured in Frank’s first song about ‘a dancing girl with fruit on her head … way down in Havana…. Where the drinks were laced with lust ‘. You can probably get the gist of it. (Sorry, I missed the title). His second song a twelve bar that the audience was encouraged to join in for the chorus: ‘The Boogey Man’ll get you’, ‘if you keep on doing this stuff’: drink, smoke, drugs, pimp… etc. There was a bit of a sing-a-long going on here and I guess it sort of picked up on the subject matter of the Neil Young song, but in a completely different style. Apart from accompanying themselves on guitar, I believe that Jason and Frank could not very much more different as performers, but that is also the beauty (if you can call it that) of this evenings, because the performers and material are so very varied. It struck me, that the extremes of variety, were very pronounced on this evening.
Sylvie brought a totally different tone with her poem about ‘My cleaning lady’, who ‘leaves what is dirty … and cleans what is clean… she was a ballerina….’. I should have anticipated Sylvie only offering one item to the evening, and then discovered that our next performer had decided not to continue, which had me hastily calling on Keith to take the stage.
He has had some inner ear problems, so was not playing an instrument this evening but still gave us a version of a sailor’s jig: ‘There’s no point in learning to swim, boys’ …. It will only prolong the agony if you fall overboard and drown. Is this a comedy subject? Well, not everyone follows the theme ….. developing along ideas including ‘There’s no point in saving the world’ because the only ones in our uneven society, who would be saved are the usual ones who are best placed to save themselves ie the rich and privileged. Very political and cynical, Keith. He didn’t stop there, no, he continued with a poem by Simon Armitage called ‘Thanks’, as in ‘Thank you for waiting’. The poem takes us through the different layers of privilege and status in society as if waiting to board an aircraft. There were many different strata beginning with the most precious metals and greatest levels of automatic privilege going all the way down to the level of chalk and loam, ‘Thank you for waiting’…..’Welfare … Thank you for waiting’ … and eventually ‘Remnant, ash, pus etc …. Thank you for waiting’. It did attract some laughter, probably because the poem highlights again, the theme of who matters, or not and how much, or not. As a Yorkshire man, Mr Armitage was going to be to the point, wasn’t he?
Excellent contributions all round in this rather odd but very engaging evening. I did sing that last song ‘Did I shave my legs for this?’ and although it sounds rather lightweight on the heels of Simon Armitage, it is an equally eloquent statement about human nature and experience. Well, I think so, but then it’s written by and sung by a woman so may be more pertinent to half of the population, rather than all of it.
Hold on a minute, this evening was wearing the label ‘Comedy’ ….. and it has expressed humour by exposing the underbelly of human experience, bringing attention to what is ‘less acceptable or desirable’ as well as funny stuff that just happens and is worthy of recognition.
I’m very pleased to have a British sense of humour.
Haha, see you soon, Ella
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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