17th September 2019
Just about everyone else was there before me but I scurried around and got everyone on the list. New faces, usual faces and faces that appear from time to time. What a lovely collection of performers. We got under way fairly promptly thanks to Simon having set up the equipment (apparently in record time earlier in the day) and Chris having organised the sound. Thank you so much. Clive bought me a drink. What a life-saver after all of the scampering about. He also manned the desk in Chris’s absence. Heather took some lovely photos too.
Playing my little electric piano, I got through my two songs without too much drama. This evening it was Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’ and Ricki Lee Jones’s ‘Danny’s All Star Joint’.
Simon played next. Second on the list is not generally popular for reasons I do not understand. Apologising for not getting in enough practice, Simon then, of course, produced two very nice, sensitive songs: ‘Louisiana 1937’ by Randy Newman about a flood. ‘The wind changed … there were six feet of water on the streets of Evangeline’. His other song was Van Morrison’s ‘Sometimes We Cry’. He gave us a little anecdote about an encounter with Bob Hoskins (who had lived locally) discussing ‘practice’. Simon was wanting to practice enough to get it right, and Bob said he practiced until he couldn’t get it wrong. ‘Oh for the luxury of such available time’ said Simon, or words to that effect.
Lance took third position and sang two self-penned songs on the subject of love. The first was a ‘love song’ about being guided towards love, called ‘Every Day I Love You More’. The second song was very sad and drew analogies with taking a journey by road and observed the behaviour of drivers encountered en route: ‘the road goes on and never ends….’
The evening was moving very nicely and Mark came to the mic to sing Steve Winwood’s ‘Can’t Find my Way Home’ … ‘come down from your throne ……….. you are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years ….’ From the 1969 Blind Faith album, the line up being Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech. I like this song and it was one of the first songs I ever performed at the Bells. His second, self-penned song ‘Hold On’ was inspired by the last words of Van Gogh quoted a few weeks ago by Chris: ‘Sadness lasts forever’. Sad it was, ‘wait until the morning,… wasting time on you, … sadness lasts forever’.
The melancholy vibe was re-stated by Chris, who performed ‘You’re Gone’ which included the experience of hiding in the crowd and drinking alone. He completed his mission to play his 100 songs this year with songs 99 and 100, having surrounded himself with cameras to record the event. ‘Fantasy’ (99) included Heather playing the part of an answering machine repeating messages and making full use of her talent for impersonation over Chris’s guitar accompaniment.
Heather took her solo place and sang a song about the ‘sparky’ relationship she had with her mother who passed only a year ago: ‘I Remember you waving goodbye’ … ‘remember the times we laughed til we cried …..’. After this emotional song, she played a sensitive instrumental version of Chris’s song ‘Reflection’ on her keyboard.
Steelyard Hobos David and Duncan had obviously ridden the freight train up from the coast to join us this evening. This was their first visit and I hope they will return. David played guitar and sang while Duncan played mandolin and joined in with extra vocals. Their first song was ‘The Carolinian’, a song about a train and travelling on a train… ‘she’s in Richmond with my heart…’ We could have been dancing to this song it rolled along so well. Moving on, everyone was encouraged to join in on every alternate line with ‘Haul away my laddie’ and we were now aboard a fishing vessel rather than a train. ‘The Final Trawl’ is an Archie Fisher song. Archie Fisher MBE is a Scottish Folk Singer who recorded his first album in 1968. ‘The Final Trawl’ is from his Windward Away album of 2008.
I asked them if they would like to sing another song because we were enjoying the music of these newcomers. Duncan changed instruments for a third song and produced a tenor guitar for their version of the Everly Brothers’ ‘B’ side ‘Let it be Me’, the one that goes ‘I bless the day I found you….. ‘ So we were in the romantic space again. Very nice.
We were fortunate to have Terry Lees join us this evening. His first song was ‘Bowling Green’, a song based on a true story about a penitentiary of that name in Kentucky, and a bank robber called Long John Dean: ‘Late last night he made his getaway…’. After a bit of re-tuning he played a song that Carol had been asking to hear. ‘The blues run the game’ is a song by Jackson C. Frank, a tragic figure who died homeless and destitute after years of mental health issues. ‘Catch a boat to England baby, maybe to Spain, wherever I have gone ….the blues are all the same’ it goes. Given his schizophrenia and depression, he would have known a lot about the blues. It’s a poignant, wistful song which was beautifully delivered. It’s no surprise that Carol would want to hear it.
Asked if he would like to sing a third song, Terry gave us ‘Me Grandfather’s Clock’ written in 1850 by Stephen Foster, considered to be the ‘Father of American Music’. The song was very entertaining and was a blend of Scott Joplin, Les Dawson and a bit of Mississippi John Hurt. So we got a bit of music history as well.
Jim followed Terry, also playing guitar and sang two of his own songs. The first was about a beautiful woman seen in Croydon with an acerbic man called ‘Her Eyes’. It spoke of her eyes being the windows of her soul as they ‘reflect the feelings inside’. ‘Alone again tonight’, his next song, kept us in a rather sad place, in spite of the more rapid tempo of the music.
Clive came to the mic next and delivered the Dire Straits song ‘The Telegraph Road’ from their 1982 album Love over Gold. Apparently this song is just over 14 minutes long on the recording, but Clive gave us the shortened version without the Mark Knopfler guitar sections.
There was a story to go with his next song about going to Azerbaijan twenty years ago with his lovely wife Kate. Its early independence from Russia (Dec 1991) was darkened by hostilities backed by Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh war where many atrocities were perpetrated, leading to a humanitarian crisis. This was the backdrop to Clive and Kate going to Azerbaijan with donations of essentials. The experience made Clive very aware of all of the comforts enjoyed in the UK when confronted by people living with so much less in refugee camps with perhaps no hope of returning to their homes. So the song was ‘Let’s help them’. Sobering Clive, very sobering and sadly there has been no end to crises due to war and political/religious hostilities in various places ever since.
There was a sad note to much that was presented here tonight, but the evening ended in a mellow way with songs from Lisa and Jason. Jason gave us his own song ‘A little Soul’ a beautiful song beautifully performed and was then joined by Lisa to sing an old song about finding love and new beginnings. The song ‘Blue Moon’ was written by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. It was first recorded by Al Bowllby. (Apparently Al Bowllby was very popular in the UK in the 1930s. He recorded over 1000 songs and for a time was in the recording studio with one band during the day and performing with another band in the evenings.)
There was another Mark Knopfler reference with their performance of ‘Tangerine’ as Jason played the accompaniment on Lisa’s guitar. The evening had gone very mellow with Lisa and Jason’s songs and they ended it singing ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’, the title song from Tom Waits’ 1974 album of the same name.
Thank you all for joining us for this evening. It was a very enjoyable mix of style and content.
See you again soon, maybe for Lisa’s evening on 1st October?
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