Searching For A Summer (Kastro Part 1)

We got off the bus & all that was missing from the too quiet scene were a couple of tumbleweeds rolling across the dusty square. It was Saturday afternoon, siesta time, the new arrivals watched only by the trio of old men sat outside the kafenion. A guy appeared & we followed him to a sparse, clean room. It was what I expected, I’d visited Greece before, but I’m a sensitive man & I could see that Sue was less than impressed by our new circumstances. “We’re in the middle of nowhere” she said. Er…I thought that was what we wanted.

 

The winter of 1978/79 had not gone too well. Politically it was “the Winter of Discontent” (Google it), a minority Labour government was at loggerheads with its supporters in the trades unions. Indecisive leadership on both sides made it easy for the sensationalist media (rubbish in the streets, corpses unburied). Personally the coldest winter in almost 15 years was a bit of a trainwreck too. England was a bitch & when, in May 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister I had the time, the money & the inclination to get the hell away for a long, hot summer of peace, quiet & a gathering of my thoughts. (The morning after that fateful election night saw the introduction of muzak on Manchester’s buses ! It’s a fuzzy memory & a too bad to be true sign of the wrong road our country had taken).

 

 

All it took for those first impressions to change was the best meal since we arrived in Greece & a day on a golden crescent beach. The tourist season had yet to hit its stride & there was no airport on the island so little development. Sifnos had a ramshackle charm (rather like ourselves…Ha !) & evenings in Apollonia, the largest town, were cool & relaxed (rather like we hoped to be). We were away for 4 months, the plan was that there was no plan. Our decision to come here had been purely random & we were inclined to trust our luck. We liked this place & the next one may not be the right place.

 

Of course there had to be a small problem. Our budget would not stretch to long-term residence in our current circumstances. Intentions & logistics of sleeping on whatever beach we stumbled upon seemed less attractive than having a roof over us & a door to close. We hadn’t brought a tent, I don’t think we ever intended to sleep under the stars however romantic it had seemed back in England. In a burst of resolve (I have them less nowadays) I hit up the office of the Tourist Police & explained my problem to an English-speaking guy who appeared to be just hanging out. He gave me directions to a nearby village & handed me a note to be shown at the taverna there. The note was, of course, all Greek to me (sorry !), didn’t understand a word but let’s see where it led us yeah.

 

 

The bus rattled along a dusty, rutted, serpentine track (there’s an asphalt road now). Our first view of Kastro was impressive, a block of white on a domed hill. We presented ourselves & our introduction at the taverna. We were led through the kitchen out to a shady alleyway, we followed to the edge of the hilltop village, blue sea, blue sky, some view. There was a stable door, a two-piece unit, inside there were 2 beds, a single electric light bulb. A curtain across a raised section concealed a hole in the ground & a bucket ! That was it…what the…! The rent asked for this shed was less than £40 ($57) for a month. We were a little turned around by how unexpected this was & how rapidly it was happening. Ah man, handshakes & money were exchanged, a deal was done. Don’t be looking for a change then walking away because things are not like you’re used to.

 

Of course we loved our new lodgings, our door, our flat roof, our view. Our stuff was safe, we had a place to chill after the day’s explorations, before the night’s adventures. 350 years earlier, to protect themselves from raiding pirates, the locals left the sea shore & built their Kastro (castle). The exterior houses formed a defensive wall, access was by 5 passageways (once gated). Inside, a narrow shaded pavement was the only way to travel. There was a little dereliction but Kastro had not changed for centuries, there was probably no need to change. This place was a step back in time & we liked it, we liked it a lot.

 

 

We had spent our first night on Sifnos with a couple from Leeds who we met on the ferry from Piraeus. They showed out at Kastro & shared our enthusiasm for the village. The following morning they knocked on our door to tell us they were now staying just down the road from us. Good one, their apartment had running water & much more electricity than ours. When, at the end of the week, they hopped across to another island a postcard arrived at the poste restante advising us to stay where we were. I think that we had come to that decision all by ourselves.

 

Our new routine in our new situation was proving to be most agreeable. Up the winding road, Apollonia, that middle of nowhere, already seemed a little too crowded. We showered at a nearby well, took a leisurely breakfast at our landlord’s cafe before investigating the surrounding area. Down at the shoreline the beach was stony but at night the one family taverna there, where you ate what had been cooked, provided an irresistible blend of informality and natural peace. It was more than Kastro’s ancient architectural ambience, the people there were cool, interested in the new arrivals happy to be living in a hovel. I don’t remember any major discussion between Sue & I, I don’t think there were any. It seemed the right thing to call at the taverna & pay another 2 months rent. News travels fast in a small village. That night at Maria’s cafe she asked us why we wanted to stay for so long & we explained that we were a little in love with Kastro. “δεν είστε τουρίστες είστε φίλοι”, you are not tourists, you are friends. Oh my, I’m not sure how things had turned out so right but this must be the place.

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I Want My Films To Get Audiences (Stephen Frears)

Stephen Frears, the British film director, served his apprenticeship in cinema at a time when London was swinging & homegrown cultural talents were finding an international audience. In 1966, when he was 25, Frears was assistant to director Karel Reisz (“Saturday Night Sunday Morning”, “Who’ll Stop the Rain”) on “Morgan:A Suitable Case for Treatment”, a brash comedy where David Warner’s Marxism switches from Karl to Harpo. He was P.A. to director/star Albert Finney for “Charlie Bubbles” (1967), a return to Manchester for the international star, Liza Minnelli’s film debut, the wonderful Billie Whitelaw & a script by Shelagh (“A Taste of Honey”) Delaney. As straight outta Salford as the Smiths. Frears was also an assistant to Lindsay Anderson for “If…” (1968), the best British film of the decade, a satire on a public school system that was anachronistic then (we all thought/hoped it would really be shot to hell) & still is now. The British Film Industry…remember that ? Blimey !

 

It was Albert Finney’s company that gave Stephen Frears his break as a director. “Gumshoe” (1971) stars Finney as Liverpudlian bingo caller Eddie Ginley whose Sam Spade/Bogart fantasies lead him up unlikely mean streets. It’s a smart spoof detective story, Ms Whitelaw & an outstanding cast of British character actors add value. The opportunities to make films were fewer & for the next decade Frears became established as a leading director of prestigious, quality one-off dramas made by both (!) TV companies which were as good as TV got in the 1970s. There were memorable collaborations with writer Alan Bennett. “Bloody Kids” (1980), a script by young gun Stephen Poliakoff, explores youth alienation, social discord, voyeurism & surveillance, the dark side of a society taking a wrong turn, it’s brilliant. In 1982 “Walter”, a moving story of a man with learning disabilities & his grim life in a psychiatric institution with a great performance by a young Gandalf, attracted much attention when it was the centrepiece of the opening night of Channel 4, a whole new TV channel.

 

 

In 1984 Frears returned to the big screen with “The Hit”. It’s an existential gangster road movie…triple whammy ! Of course I love it. Hit man Braddock (John Hurt) & his apprentice Myron (Tim Roth) are sent to Spain to sort out supergrass Parker (Terence Stamp), that’s quite a cast. Stamp, a major star in the 1960s, had a quiet 1970s (apart from being General Zod in 2 Superman movies). Here he’s not as volatile as he was in Soderbergh’s “The Limey” (1999). He’s accepting of & resigned to his fate & he’s up to something. John Hurt is vicious while Tim Roth, in his film debut as Myron, the YTS assassin (a part offered to Joe Strummer off of the Clash), is perfect as the young Brit abroad. Laura del Sol is a hostage in a very tight dress while the great Fernando Rey follows the trail of blood & bodies. The 1980s saw a revival of the British gangster film (those not featuring members of Spandau Ballet), “The Hit”, tense & tough, is one of the best.

 

There followed a run of Brit flicks. 1985’s “My Beautiful Laundrette” was a breakthrough role for Daniel Day-Lewis as a gay skinhead. Hanif Kureishi’s South London story of Johnny’s relationship with his childhood friend Omar was sensitively & effectively told & gained an international audience. “Prick Up Your Ears” (1987) is the singular story of Joe Orton, playwright, a working class hero contemporaneous with John Lennon & his tragic relationship with Kenneth Halliwell. Gary Oldman & Alfred Molina are outstanding in the lead roles, Alan Bennett’s script is faultless. It’s my favourite of this phase of Frears’ career & it’s on the Y-tube, watching it again is time well spent. “Sammy & Rosie Get Laid” (1987) is another hook-up with Kureishi, another slice of urban life in Thatcher’s Britain.

 

 

These opening credits of “The Grifters” (1990), Los Angeles in black & white, Elmer Bernstein theme, signpost that there’s a film noir ahead. There’s some heavy hitters involved, produced by Scorsese, a screenplay by Donald E Westlake from a novel by pulp great Jim Thompson. Frears had directed the film of Christopher Hampton’s play “Dangerous Liaisons”, a large-scale European production with major Hollywood stars but this was his first American movie. The triangle of confidence persons is well cast. Young Roy Dillon (John Cusack) is still learning, painfully, the small-time scams. Myra (Annette Bening) offers more than the chance to score big while his mother Lilly (Anjelica Huston) has been working the angles longer than both of them. Any unflinching attempt to transfer Thompson’s dark spirit to celluloid would inevitably alienate a mass audience. “The Grifters” is tough & violent while diluting themes of incest & violent misogyny. It’s a glossy modern noir, no-one can be trusted & it’s bound to end badly for Roy. It became Frears’ first Academy Award nomination for best director.

 

That’s 7 feature films “directed by Stephen Frears” then & it’s not easy to pin him down to any individual style. His films effectively capture the often hermetic world of his characters, a car in Spain, a Vauxhall laundrette, an Islington bed-sit. Certainly his screenplay choices are impeccable & his skill is in delivering that quality to the screen. He is more than a safe pair of hands, able to adroitly blend drama & comedy. In the 1990s he returned from Hollywood to make parts 2 & 3 of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy. They lacked the musical attraction of part 1 “The Commitments” but both “The Van” & “The Snapper” certainly retained the sweet soul. “Mary Reilly” (1996), another Hampton script starring Julia Roberts & John Malkovich with a $47 million budget was Frears’ first real stutter.

 

 

Like many European directors who make it to Hollywood Frears made his crime movie & then his western. “The Hi-Lo Country” (1998) is set in a post-World War 2 West so cannot be anything but elegiac. Woody H, Billy Crudup & Katy Jurado, a link to the great cowboy films. It’s been a while since I saw it but it has moved to near the top of the list. “High Fidelity” (2000) transposes Nick Hornby’s novel from North London to Chicago. “Fever Pitch” had dealt with the football & Hi-Fi covers those other 2 lynchpins of a boy’s life, music & women. All of us music obsessives have spent just enough time in record shops & too much time compiling Top 5 lists. No-one minded the transatlantic shift because if anyone is going to represent us then let it be John Cusack, by now a film star & he seems to be a nice guy. We don’t, perhaps, have Catherine Zeta Jones, Lisa Bonet or Iben Hjejle in our pasts but we’ve had our moments. Not sure we would contact our exes to ask about a break up, pretty sure we wouldn’t want to hear some of the answers. It’s only a movie & one that gets the tone right from Jack Black’s Monday morning tape to Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe” playing over the credits.

 

The later films of Stephen Frears have been mostly British or European productions. He has continued to work with talented writers, Steven Knight’s 1st screenplay “Dirty Pretty Things” (2002), Steve Coogan “Philomena” (2013). He has also returned to directing event TV dramas in Britain & the US. I’m not too interested in the Queen so Helen Mirren as “The Queen” (2006) passed me by. There was great interest though, Ms Mirren scored an Oscar & Frears a nomination for best director. This film & “Philomena” made serious money from relatively low budgets, the kind of numbers that will keep a now veteran director in work. His latest film “The Program”, a dramatisation about the delusional, drug cheat bike rider Lance Armstrong, does not match the comprehensive documentaries on the same subject. Any road up, there’s another movie in post-production, Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”, & a body of work, spanning 45 years, of such variety & quality that his reputation as an outstanding director is secure. Oh, I forgot to mention “Mr Jolly Lives Next Door” (1987), the funniest non-Python related thing ever shown on British TV !

 

 

 

Phasers Set On Smile (Spirit)

Spirit, a jazz-rock-blues-folk-psychedelic fusion group from Los Angeles were around in my teenage years. In 1970, when the original line up’s 4th, seemingly final LP was released I was still at school. At just 17, you know what I mean, there are so many new bright shiny things to divert you. ” 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus” was invigorating, inspiring music but would I still be affected by it 40 years later ? Don’t ask me, I was not sure what I was doing at the weekend. In 1972 there was an LP by a band which appeared to be Spirit in name only. Much more to my taste was “Kaptain Kopter & the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds” a dense, Hendrix-influenced collection by Randy California which showed him to be a fluid, inventive guitarist able to avoid the usual guitar hero cliches while still rocking out.

 

By the time there was another Spirit LP, in 1975, I was a married man… to a woman…really. I packed my lunch in the morning & went to work each day. It was a good time, we were Dinkys, (dual income, no kids yet), more money than sense. In 1975 I bought all the records I needed, plenty that I didn’t. “Spirit of 76” was definitely one that I needed.

 

Spirit Mark II were California, “Mr Skin”, drummer Ed Cassidy, with Barrie Keene on bass. The band had to scrape the money together to record, had to shop it around the labels, When Mercury did release the album it still pretty much remained a secret. “Spirit of 76” is a sprawling work, a statement double LP about the USA as it reached its bicentennial which starts with “America The Beautiful”, ends with “The Star Spangled Banner”. In between there’s a kaleidoscopic collection of tunes from perfectly judged covers, through Randy’s own mix of muscular rock & melodicism (“The Byrds & Jimi Hendrix in the same song”), to just plain craziness. It’s not a record that gives up its charms immediately, like all twin LPs the 25 songs could stand some editing  but once you get this blend of the weird & the wonderful then the Spirit is going to move you.

 

 

In the 1970s an alliance of psychedelic idealism & entrepreneurship established a network in the UK for the manufacture & distribution of high quality L.S.D. At college I had met a couple of too much too soon acid burnouts…a warning. I had tripped without running naked down the street armed with a chainsaw, without jumping out of a 5th storey window, I could still walk through a door & be pretty sure it might not be a portal to another dimension. Our small circle of friends enjoyed pleasant lysergic evenings, in comfortable surroundings with good company. Our music of choice for many of these mind-has-left-your-body experiences was Spirit.

 

This isn’t jagged edged Acid Rock, I love that 13th Floor Elevators noise but it’s sure to harsh my buzz man. In 18 months Spirit released 3 LPs of imaginative psychedelic music, each one a box of delights. The washes of acoustic guitar, flowing lead breaks & Cassidy’s great percussion were given a clean, clear, even elegant production. “Son of Spirit” & “Farther Along” (a reunion of 5 of the original 6 members) maintained the level of “…76”. Mid-1970s  Spirit had a vibe of their own, a lovely calm logic to the best songs, avoiding the bombast of Rush, Pink Floyd or all those other pretentious peddlers of Prog Rock.

 

 

In 1977 Spirit released their final LP of the Mercury years. “Future Games (A Magical Kahauna Dream)” is a polychromatic Spirit world,  a Hawaiian sci-fi phantasmagoria. Gene Roddenberry is not included in the album’s credits despite the inclusion of chunks of Star Trek dialogue. I guess that back then you took your samples where you found them &, if no-one sued, then the price was right. There are so many good tunes on this record, often too short then interrupted by Kirk, Spock or Kermit the Frog ! Randy California’s lyrics can, on first hearing, seem simplistic, a hippie primer. If you put a little work into it you grok that it’s Nature’s Way of telling you in a song. In the late 1970s I knew young punks who carried “Future Games” around with their Pistols, Clash & Ramones records. You meet someone who knows this LP then you will probably get along with them.

 

Through 1981/82 I got to see the band play 3 times. “Red” Ken Livingstone, the leader of the Greater London Council, was a Spirit fan (I’d probably get on fine with Ken) . He had them over to County Hall for lunch & asked them to play at a free concert for those who wished to avoid the marriage of the Queen’s eldest son to some blonde who got lucky (or did she ?). Spirit’s festival sets could be a little heavy on Randy’s guitar gymnastics. At Glastonbury a bemused cameraman wandering through a cloud of dry ice searching for the source of some great feedback was hilarious. At Hammersmith Odeon, playing to their own audience, a version of “Like a Rolling Stone” was a perfect realisation of respect for & understanding of the rock tradition & of the Spirit dynamic.

 

 

There was one more surprise to come out of this second burst of Spirit creativity. “The Adventures of Kaptain Kopter & Commander Cassidy in Potatoland” had been recorded by Randy & Ed in 1973/74 but it was not released until 1981. “…Potatoland” has tunes, “Open Up Your Eyes”, “Turn to the Right”, “My Friend”, which are up there with the best of Spirit. The album’s concept is a little half-assed but it’s a comic book (one was included in the package) in the stoned tradition of Gilbert Shelton & Cheech & Chong. I don’t need every evening’s listening to shake my world. There are times when good music, a simple story about Potato People & a giant chocolate eclair are just the thing.

Later recordings by Randy California & by the reunited Spirit missed the mark, lacking the assurance & subtlety of their best music. In 1997 Randy was drowned in Hawaii while rescuing his 12 year old son. He was just 45. Today Spirit are regarded because of ” 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus” & their one successful 45 “I Got a Line on You”. The 3 LPs preceding “12 Dreams…” are all fine contributions by the original group to the best West Coast music around. The best of the songs on the records made in the 1970s are a continuation of an individual, original take on Rock & Roll. I don’t really care that Spirit Mark II are neglected. Myself, Martin, who put me back on to the group, & plenty of other people I like share a passion for these records & consider Randy California to be ranked as a guitar hero of his time.

 

The Temptations:The Classic Five (1966-68)

After leaving university I took a job in a drop forge, banging the crap out of hot metal. That’s what they used to do in the Midlands industrial crucible the Black Country. The place was noisy, dirty & you counted your fingers after every shift but I’d spent my summers working in a noisier, dirtier steel works, I knew the game. The men & women I worked alongside, despite their sometimes impenetrable accent, could not have been more welcoming of an overeducated longhair (that would be me). When Keith heard that I was saving for a proper top of the range stereo system he showed up the next day with some spare gear & insisted that I took it until I was sorted. Keith had 5 years on me, he was married & held a black belt in Karate. He had been a skinhead, a top man in the Wolverhampton Wanderers crew. Before that he was a Mod, a young kid not a Face. His own “Quadrophenia” moment came when he got out of his brain on the 5.15 to Birmingham & joined his tribe to witness a performance by Tamla Motown sensations the Temptations.

 

 

For a young, blocked-on-blues Mod around 1968/69 a Temptations concert must have been the epitome of Cool. 5 very sharp dressed men moving in perfect synchronization, delivering hit after perfectly crafted hit, was a very fine musical experience. 20th century American music has a tradition of harmony vocal groups through gospel, blues, jazz, country, rhythm & blues, doo-wop & pop.  The music made by the Temptations defined the new vocal group sound, music that was made 50 years ago but can still be considered modern. The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, The Blind Boys of various Southern States, are held in high regard but every male vocal group, boys or men, since the 1960s have aspired to emulate & been compared to the Temptations.

 

“Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” is the 3rd of 4 singles in 1966 that all became #1 R&B records. Since 1964 the group had been producer/writer Smokey Robinson’s boys. “Beauty…”, their biggest hit since 1964’s “My Girl”, was preceded by “Get Ready”, falsetto lead vocal by Eddie Kendricks, the last of Smokey’s run & by “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, a David Ruffin led song produced by Norman Whitfield who was handed the keys to the studio & kept them until 1974. Ruffin had joined in 1964 to complete the “Classic 5” line-up. The other Temptations, Otis Williams, Paul Williams & Melvin Franklin all took their turn as lead on album tracks but it was the double whammy of Ruffin & Kendricks, 2 great soul voices who established the group as Motown’s & the USA’s top vocal group.

 

 

The hits just kept on coming but there was trouble ahead. As the Supremes became “Diana Ross & the…” one member of the group imagined that “David Ruffin & the Temptations” was a possibility. David’s growing separation from the others, his erratic behaviour not helped by a taste for cocaine, led to a messy & litigious departure in June 1968. His replacement Dennis Edwards was not sure of his place when Ruffin showed up at the group’s shows & joined them onstage. Eventually there were 2 solo LPs, still on Motown, in 1969 but a completed record was shelved by the label & David Ruffin never became the major star that he should have been.

 

The lyrics of “You’re My Everything” (1967) were written by Rodger Penzabene, a new, young recruit to Motown. The song honours his wife but he was heart-broken when he discovered she was having an affair. 2 great songs, “I Wish It Would Rain” & “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)” came out of this upset, both perfectly interpreted by Ruffin’s anguished vocal, both #1 R&B hits. On New Year’s Eve 1967 Penzabene shot himself & died aged just 23, a poignant footnote in Motown’s history & a tragic end when there was surely so much more to come.

 

 

Norman Whitfield began to exercise more control over the group’s material & in 1968 “Cloud Nine” was the first of his innovative “psychedelic soul” experiments to be released. The single was successful but the Temptations were not fully convinced of the move away from their blockbuster ballads to the Sly & the Family Stone-influenced soul underground. They continued to release more mainstream LPs, 2 with Diana Ross & the Supremes, live from prestigious nightclubs in New York & London, even a Christmas record. Whitfield continued to work with the Temptations until 1973 by which time only Otis & Melvin remained from the classic 5. There are some terrific songs, more big hits from this later period…another time. These Ruffin/Kendrick led classics, a greater Motown maturity after the early hits, are the ones that did it for me then & still do.

 

 

On The Road With Me, Pete And Neil Young.

We, Pete the driver & myself, hit the German/Swiss border at Basel on Wednesday lunchtime. Are those customs controls still there ? Switzerland has kept itself out of the great European upheavals & experiments for the past 200 years & more, it is not a member of the European Union so maybe they are. We had a clear run after a delivery in Aachen, an overnight stop by the Rhine in Baden-Baden, so good they named it twice. A couple of drops in Switzerland, a pickup in Brussels then back home in time for Saturday night beers & a sleep in our own beds. It was a good plan but a signature was missing from some paperwork & the Swiss were not about to welcome us as guests in their country until it was sorted. In those olden, pre-electronic times a crappy fax machine (ask your parents) back in the UK meant that it took 5 days before we got the go-ahead. Hey, this was none of my doing (phew !), I was getting paid by the day, the sun had got its hat on & we had gone on holiday by mistake !

 

We were carrying an exhibition by the artist who wraps stuff up…Christo, that’s the fellow. This gear was not cheap & neither was the duty due. The helpful customs staff were not about to front us a big bag of their Swiss francs. OK, we were in a car park, our wagon was too big for any back road exploration but we were in Germany, could see Switzerland just over there &, to the West, France was a 10 minute walk away. There was surely a good & interesting time to be had on these three frontiers. We were sleeping in a truck, probably needed more socks, certainly more hash but we had  plenty of Neil Young tapes with us.

 

 

Oh yes ! How much do I love Neil Young’s music ? Loads…ever since his 5 songs on the debut LP by Buffalo Springfield, never more than when he’s the lead guitarist with Crazy Horse.  “Ragged Glory” (1990) followed “Freedom”, regarded as a comeback though I’d been listening through the 80’s, the Rock & Roll one, the Country one, the ones that caused his label to sue him for not sounding like Neil Young ! Form is temporary, class is permanent & while these records didn’t match his truly great ones (another time) each had its moments. With Crazy Horse he kept it simple, the rhythm section of Billy Talbot (bass) & Ralph Molina (drums) providing a monolithic backbeat for the guitar interplay of Neil & Frank Sampedro. On “Ragged Glory”  the volume is turned up to 11, the tape left running to capture the distortion & feedback. Resistance was futile, it was impressive that a band was still sounding so fresh & powerful 20 years on & were still contenders for the rock and roll championship belt.

 

Meanwhile, down by the river we were exploring our patch of the mightily impressive 750 mile long Rhine. Basel is situated on its “knee”, a 90° turn from West to North. I’ve always been fascinated by Ekistics, the science of human settlement, still am. The security of an outcrop protected by a natural barrier attracted Celts & then the Romans, keen to keep an eye on those wild Germanics at the edge of their empire. The city has been a wealthy trade centre for like always. It’s a beautiful place but it’s a bourgeois town & we could have our fill of cosmopolitan back home in London. We were ready for the country.

 

The bridge had been opened in 1979 but the many shifts of the tectonic plates of European history & the strategic importance of the Rhine had kept these borderlands apart. The Romans left Alsace (that’s where we were) in the 5th century. The Franks showed up from the East, succeeding Germanic empires were around for a 1000 years. The shenanigans involved in the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, the Revolution & Napoleon, the return of the Prussians, affected the area then, in 1918, it was a French spoil of victory in a world war. That would not stand with the Germans who were back for the sequel in 1940. The market square in Village-Neuf included a plaque commemorating the arrival of Allied Forces in 1945 & liberation. The old boys at the “lac du peche” told their stories after my strangled Franglais prompts. We were out here on the perimeter but surely in France, a country Pete & I had enjoyed on earlier trips. Some good bread, fromage, a little charcuterie & a couple of decent bottles of wine were perfect for sunny days just watching the river flow.

 

 

“Ragged Glory” Neil toured with the Horse  then “Harvest Moon (1992) & “Unplugged” (1993) were LPs  that could be marketed to the audience which bought “After the Goldrush” & “Harvest”. He toured with Booker T & the MGs, a gig I missed & shouldn’t have. 1994’s double LP “Sleeps With Angels” was the most atmospheric collection since “Tonight’s the Night” from almost 20 years before. The title track is a eulogy for Kurt Cobain who had quoted Neil’s “Hey Hey My My” in his suicide note. Neil’s influence on a younger generation of musicians went beyond a shared taste for oversized Pendleton shirts.

 

On the road again by noon on Monday, people were waiting for us. We delivered Christo the wrapper’s doings & headed for Bern with a family of bears (♫it’s a family of bears♫), bright blue life-sized plaster ones for a film producer’s garden…I am not making this up ! Bern was baking hot & we were a little lost. We needed soft drinks & a street map, the Egyptian shop owner insisted on getting in his car & guiding us. Well “As-salamu alaykum, Brother”. The truck was finally emptied, we were days behind schedule & had kilometres to go before bedtime. A plan was made to push it along back into France, we would eat late & eat well. Only that didn’t happen.  This time our border crossing was uneventful , we hung a left at Strasbourg but who knew that May 8th was Victory Day, a French national holiday & that the country would be closed ?

 

 

Now we  were in Lorraine, still a crossroads of French & German geopolitical ambitions, the official language of the area decided by whoever held the upper hand. The autoroute was eerily empty, the idea of going off-road to look for somewhere that was just so but shut didn’t appeal. We kept on moving, for us this was a back-to-work day. Looking at the world through a windshield was getting old after over 350 miles, Pete was way past his allotted driving hours & we were getting white line fever. I, as the truck’s DJ, had the very tune to help us through those final extra miles.

 

“Change Your Mind” is the 15 minute blockbuster from “Sleeps With Angels”. It’s not as anthemic as “Like a Hurricane” or “Rocking in the Free World”, both songs that reached a wider audience than the dedicated Young Ones. Like other classics “Cortez the Killer” & the later “Be the Rain” it takes its time, draws you in, gets a grip & won’t let go. I love this track. As we drove in the dark through the hills & woodlands of the Ardennes, another region marked by the comings & goings of the century, we grooved on an epic tune to end an epic day.

 

From Luxembourg to Brussels went smoothly. The small industrial towns of the Ardennes reminded me of the textile mill towns of the English Pennines except that up in Todmorden there are no stalls selling frites (chips) with mayonnaise. What kind of nut first had that idea ! We reached the White Cliffs of Dover a little later & more tanned than we had planned. Pete & I had spent 10 days in close proximity, we had shared an adventure & no-one was harmed.

 

I have no contact with Pete now. We are both similarly strong-minded individuals and well…it happens. I could make a good case for him being a grumpy control freak &, if he were here, he could tell stories about me that would make it a draw. If he does ever see this then I have other memories of him that are just as good. Me & Neil Young…yeah, we’re still tight.

 

 

 

New Year In D.C. With Gigi Mac And Gogol Bordello

A welcome return for our international correspondent Gigi Mac who had quite a start to 2016…

I feel so very special… Eugene Hütz loves DC! For a good while now, every year Gogol Bordello descends upon the District and parties with us on New Year’s Day, This year, we got TWO nights! He does not leave out his current hometown however– NYC got their local boys for New Year’s Eve, then their caravan careened downward swiftly & professionally, permitting us to start 2016 off in proper Gypsy Punk stylee!  Last year I could not attend the festivities, much to my Russian partner in crime Elena’s chagrin, but this year we were both extremely giddy back in October when tickets went on sale & we quickly scooped ours up– luckily, as both nights sold out almost immediately!
gogol 4So this was the year for anniversaries & poignant moments… the club, a long time favorite venue of the DC area- ‘Club 9:30’, celebrating 35 years of existence [and 20 years at its current location]. Named for its original address at 930 F Street, NW, DC— a home away from home for me, having seen & heard multiple examples of coolness crammed up in there, such as That Petrol Emotion, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Butthole Surfers, B52s, the Orb, to name a few… even a nice intro to the DC Hardcore scene, with Minor Threat, etc — I couldn’t commit tho’, hardcore boys aren’t very fun…  anyway, enough of the 9:30 Club! Bottom line: lots of great, grimy & slightly smelly memories… maybe I’ll tell you guys more later, especially that Orb show… 😉
Also, another anniversary was being celebrated by Gogol Bordello themselves! It seems that a particular release in 2005 has done extraordinarily well, “Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike”  and this tour was in celebration of its 10 year existence — a majority of the songs were from that album, with some unexpected diversions [which differed each night]. Finally, a sad departure of Elizabeth Sun, dancer & ‘hype girl’ of the band… she was joined by Pamela Racine, her predecessor, to inject a double dose of cool bad-ass Asian chick-ness to both shows, dancing, background vocals & pretty decent percussion when needed. It’ll be sad to see her go…

gogol 2With our front row position well-established [having waited outside in the bitter cold as a huge line formed behind us, we the early few] after slinking around rhythmically to some catchy samba & forro chunes piping over the speakers, by 9:15ish we were greeted by some fetching young lads from L.A. — ‘Chicano Batman’ the opening band — nattily attired in tuxes, ruffled shirts & bowties [clearly break-away or infused with spandex, considering the stage athleticism]. Their sound?  think Prince with less ‘Revolution’ meets trippy, late 70s Mexican surfer. A  hint of jazz, but definitely able to seriously ROCK– blisteringly hot & focused bass, charming & flirty front man on keyboard and rhythm guitar with luxurious flowing curls & a killer falsetto — just wished the sound guy could have balanced out his mic better.

 

But it’s allllll good, we’re still alive… [ha !] and the quiet, underrated & brilliant lead guitarist… sadly, even though the drummer was quite good we didn’t even get to see him do his magic — that keyboard & our lovely grooving frontman dominated the stage, which was fine with us… A good 30-45 minutes or so, then they were off, the serious roadies were back– checking & strumming & banging & flashing & ‘sibilancing’ & flexing & tweaking & hydration placing & smoke machining — an efficient thing of beauty, those boys… More piped-in chunes, getting a bit more giddy every time they played some samba we recognized… and then…. and then…?

gogol 1

spot the author !

 

Illumination!  What a great way to start the set! YES! Eugene et al had finally taken the stage and we were fully in the palm of their collective hands…  I was fascinated by the different people we had seen outside waiting to go in — the adorable & seemingly reserved Israeli couple looking like they stepped out of a Burberry catalog in front of us in line earlier (who’d had a very short-lived moment of panic at first since they’d forgotten to get their tickets from will-call and was afraid we’d make them get in the back of the line, which was at that point curved around the block, aww, the poor well-dressed darlings… how cruel would we have been??) now crazed & sweaty & practically levitating during the rhythmic “heys!!” Burberry be damned!  One older lady who had never been to a Gogol Bordello show, horrified, with her dangly earrings & crisp Gogol Bordello t-shirt, clearly purchased that evening, as she was caught up in waves of bodies crashing into each other, [as, of course, along with the gypsy element, we can’t forget the PUNK element] and crashing into us, as we held our front positions fast & with purpose — every song better than the one before — Sergey’s violin, Pasha’s accordian, Eugene’s acoustic guitar, wildman Boris on lead guitar, Tommy on bass, Pedrito on percussion & vocals & ‘hype’, both drummers… sorry I forgot their names… shame on me… 😀  [btw, I believe some nice boys helped the lady get to safety eventually… bless her… we chatted with her later — and she remarked how much I looked like Natalie Cole… I do! but that’s beside the point… RIP btw, to my sorta twin]

Eugene Hütz is a fascinating man — OK, he’s not a golden throated songbird, don’t think he ever claimed to be… his lyrics are at times in severely broken English & very abstract, and the presentation of these lyrics at times don’t even make sense at first, but the man is a genius, and there’s pain & joy & storytelling in everything he produces. At one point during the night, we saw each other — he was working the crowd as he always does and the band was almost catching air, they were so on fire, and there, in the middle of this perfect storm he got in front of me, came close, looked me in the eyes, of course causing the multitude of boys behind me with their Eugene Hütz man-crushes to almost sever my torso on the barrier bar as they pushed into me to get close to him, and in those animated, dancing blue eyes I saw a man in complete…. control…. of… EVERYthing…. I studied him in that moment and got a bigger picture of Mr. Hütz, our ‘Genio’ — it was almost scary, the calmness… it was like stumbling onto a wolf in the woods and gazing into its eyes… was I matching his breathing? Was he as fascinated as I was? Certainly he won’t attack…. and then he was off again! Eugene Hütz might play the jester well, but this man is no jester…
Encore was almost like a whole new set, and when they started it off with ‘My Companjera’ I almost had a complete & sultry stroke! I’d been waiting for it the whole night! ahhh, sweet completion… so after almost 2 hours of gorgeous audible assault, and a few bruises, the lights went up, and off we went into the wintry night…

…and this was just the first night!! Second night I tried ombred blue extensions, with success, and while I was quite pleased, that wasn’t even the highlight of the evening! [she exclaimed with witty sarcasm…]

gogol 3There was a certain buzz in the air Saturday night that wasn’t there Friday… it was almost like the duende that was dancing around with us Friday night brought his tricky little pals for the real party! Those duendes can never pass up a gypsy party! I didn’t realize this was even possible, but whatever we experienced the night before was quadrupled Saturday night — the boys were on a mission. Song after song, brilliant! Each better than the one before, the encore was like a whole new show! Even with a tender moment with lovely Elizabeth, as this was her literal last show with the band… during an embrace, Eugene asked her if there was a song they hadn’t done yet that she wanted to do… she was a little flustered and couldn’t think of anything, but later regrouped, and before we knew it we were caught up in a delightfully violent & extended rendition of ‘Immigraniada’ “we comin’ ruffah, every time”.
It had to wind down at some point however.. even Eugene made mention of the incredible energy, and it pleased our Gypsy King… and once again, when the lights went up and the bouncers kicked us out, we his loyal subjects spilled out into the frosty night to stumble back to our lives…  at one point during our walk back to the METRO, Elena & I, drenched in sweat– our own & others’– looked at each other, grinned & said “what just happened??”
So I’m writing this Monday evening, having had 2 full days to decompress and load up on gallons of vitamin c-infused water, my voice has been reduced to a sexy rasp [hello boys…] but I’m feeling a bit bummed — could this be what postpartum depression is like? I don’t think I like this… it’s not me at all!  haha  In the meantime, however, in the back of my mind I’m sorting out what I’ll be wearing next year, and its inevitable turning to ‘purple’, because mark my word, we WILL be attending the after party. I better brush up on my Russian… 😉
Wow ! ..just WOW ! A night out with Ms Mac has joined my list of things to do before I am too old to Rock & Roll. Thanks to John Shore for his kind permission to use his brilliant photos of the gig. You can find more of his work at www.johnshoremusicphoto.com. If you are ever at the 9.30 club in Washington keep an eye out for Gigi. She’s the one with the sexy rasp who looks like Natalie Cole !

Guess The World Needs Its Dreamers (Prefab Sprout)

In 1984  Prefab Sprout, a group from the North East of England, released a debut LP “Swoon” on the small local label Kitchenware. “Swoon” had a lo-fi indie credibility made distinctive by its angular, sometimes discordant rhythms allied to the thoughtful, sometimes leftfield lyrics of songwriter Paddy McAloon. “Cruel” in particular, a commentary on the complicated rules of attraction in the early 80s, absolutely hit the spot. Paddy Mac was obviously a logophile, there were plenty of words, maybe too many for pop music. The group’s ambition & expansive range made them ones to listen out for. Alongside the Blue Nile’s “A Walk Across the Rooftops” & Aztec Camera’s “Knife”, “Swoon” was the pick of young intelligent British music in 1984. My friends bought these records, maybe your friends did but it was Wham! & Frankie Goes to Hollywood who were shifting the big units.

 

CBS signed up Prefab Sprout. The 2nd LP “Steve McQueen” (in the US “Two Wheels Bad”) was still on Kitchenware but it was the major label that matched them with producer Thomas Dolby & picked up the tab. The pairing did the trick. Dolby imposed a greater structure to the songs & provided spare, sympathetic synthesizers. “Steve McQueen” is a terrific collection of beautifully crafted tunes & CBS promoted the heck out of it. “When Love Breaks Down”, an obvious chartbound sound, was released as a single twice, bonus tracks, 12″ & double 7″. It barely grazed the UK Top 30 while the LP reached #21, just 1 higher than “Swoon”.

 

 

On “Steve McQueen” McAloon & Dolby aimed for the perfect pop song & got very close. It’s a list…”Desire As” (6 things on my mind, you’re no longer one of them), “Goodbye Lucille #1” (you’re still in love with Hayley Mills…boom !), “Appetite” (a great lyric, a monumental chorus). Perhaps the pop culture references were too esoteric, the wordplay too knowing, the music too restrained, even melancholic. I’m the wrong guy to ask, I think it’s an enduring achievement & it’s a mystery that it failed to find a wider audience.

 

Paddy had a big song stash & a succeeding LP “Protest Songs” was quickly recorded but shelved for 4 years. It was hot dogs, jumping frogs, cars & girls, radio-friendliness & quick-cut MTV videos which put “From Langley Park to Memphis” (1988) high in the UK charts. “The King of Rock & Roll” was in the UK Top 10 alongside Aztec Camera while Scritti Politti were close behind. The stylish Indie boys from 4 years before were having to sell some records. There were 5 singles released from an LP that was good but a little pale after “Steve McQueen”. Prefab Sprout did the rounds of UK kids TV shows & Euro-interviews (Pray-fab Sproot !) but never looked comfortable as pop stars. This was their commercial peak but there was still another great record to come.

 

 

While “Protest Songs”, a very worthwhile record, came & went Paddy was back recording with Thomas Dolby. The resulting LP “Jordan:The Comeback” (1990) is the full Sprout, the mature magnum opus that fans knew Paddy Mac always had in him. It has the range of a Broadway musical (I’ll mention Gershwin here, everybody else does when writing about his songs), the whiff of a concept album with a suite of songs about Elvis Presley, “the boy who caused a fuss” & Jenny Agutter whispering “I want to have you”. The 19 tracks encompass varied styles, all assuredly realised with no hint of pastiche. “Scarlet Nights”, a consummate pop confection, lightens the mood after a trio of tunes with religious imagery. It is followed by “Doo Wop in Harlem”, a perfect, ethereal closer to a great collection.

 

In the 25 years since it’s release “Jordan:The Comeback” has often made it to the back of the stack. Not any more, I reach for it regularly. Paddy McAloon is a member of the first rank of British songwriters of popular music. I listen to this record & appreciate the  thought, emotion & craft of his work. The live clips from this time show Paddy, brother Martin, Wendy & drummer Neil augmented by other musicians but they are either miming on children’s TV or are ragged transfers from VHS. Here are a couple of the “Elvis” songs…

 

 

It would be 7 years before another Prefab Sprout record. Paddy was still prolific, he wrote for fellow Geordie Jimmy Nail & pop poppet Kylie recorded a mean version of “If You Don’t Love Me”. He was never really suited to be a songwriter-for-hire. Health problems, failing eyesight & tinnitus limited public performance. In 2003 there was a solo project, “I Trawl the Megahertz”, subsequent records have been released from demos & as the finished article. There are songs of quality & interest on all of these releases. If you don’t know this music & you like well-crafted, thoughtful, melodic tunes then “Steve McQueen”is a perfect entry point to the Sprout. The rest of their work will reward further listening too.

 

 

 

 

They Smile In Your Face…(The O’Jays)

The O’Jays, originally a 5 man vocal group from Canton Ohio, came together as teenagers in high school in 1958. They made their first records, as the Mascots, in 1960. For the next 10 years there were regular single releases, 6 LPs, each on a different label. Their music followed the signs of the times, from Doo-Wop through Soul to Funk, always led by the strong, impassioned vocals of Eddie Levert, never finding a distinctive song or sound to capture a wider audience. Bill Isles left before the group’s biggest hit of the decade, 1967’s “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today). Subsequent releases barely troubled the Hot 100 & when Bobby Massey handed in his notice the remaining trio, Levert, Walter Williams & William Powell, were looking for yet another record label. Their next move had people all over the world joining hands & made them one of the most successful groups of the 1970s. “What they do !”

 

 

Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, an ambitious songwriting/production team based at Sigma Sound Studio in Philadelphia, were doing great things for Atlantic Records (“A Brand New Me” Dusty Springfield, “Gonna Take A Miracle” Laura Nyro/Labelle). Atlantic wouldn’t bankroll their plans for their own operation but CBS would & in 1972 Philadelphia International Records was busting out with hit singles & LPs for Billy Paul, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes & the O’Jays. The dramatic “Back Stabbers” is the title track of the O’Jays LP, written by Huff with Gene McFadden & John Whitehead, just two of a very talented team assembled in Philly. It & the uplifting “Love Train” became international hits. Gamble & Huff’s version of modern soul music, sweeping, swooping orchestral arrangements, sweet & still funky, supplanted Motown & Stax as the new Hit Factory of African-American music.

 

“Back Stabbers” is quite an achievement. Besides the 2 smashes the 6 minute long “992 Arguments”, cut to around 2.20 for radio play, & the smooth “Time To Get Down” sounded pretty good on the dancefloor & on the radio. The next time around there was no resting on their laurels, no more of the same formula from the production team. The title track of “Ship Ahoy” (1973) is almost 10 minutes long. Opening with crashing waves & cracking whips the dark & ominous theme is the transportation of slaves from Africa to America. This was 3 years before Alex Haley’s epic “Roots” became a literary sensation.

 

 

The LP is a mix of the political & the romantic. It opens with “Put Your Hands Together”, an exhortation to get on down to the dancefloor & get on up with the positivity. On “For the Love of Money” session man Anthony Jackson contributed a bassline of such definitive, irresistible funkiness that he gained a songwriting co-credit & the enduring gratitude of the listening public. The 9 minute long “Don’t Call Me Brother”, a warning against hypocritical backstabbers, is a dramatic triumph of orchestral  soul arrangement. Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff were responsible for 22 Gold albums. “Ship Ahoy” by the O’Jays is their masterpiece.

Throughout the 1970s the group continued with Philadelphia International & there were 6 more gold or platinum LPs on the spin. There were some fine single releases. “I Love Music” (1975) & “Used Ta Be My Girl” (1978) both reached the US Top 10. The 2 LPs from 1975, “Survival” & “Family Reunion”, are good records which fall short of the dynamism & imagination of their 2 great records.

 

 

The growing influence of Disco, with it’s fuck Art & Politics, let’s dance credo, meant that the message in the music became less pronounced. Kenny Gamble’s lyrics were positive social commentary but often platitudinous. An exception is the urgent “Rich Get Richer”, based on the writings of Ferdinand Lundeberg. In his books about American wealth Lundeberg repeated his theories that America was really a plutocracy managed by oligarchs. Sounds familiar ? This great song is 40 years old !

 

While you’re here please check out the Philadelphia International All-Stars (Including O’Jays Eddie & Walter) & “Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto”, a compelling classic groove.

 

The combination of the vocal strength of the O’Jays with the multi-talented production team at Sigma Sound Studios carried the soul swing in the early 1970s. In 1977 William Powell unfortunately died from cancer aged just 35. Sammy Strain joined the group & they continued to record into the 21st century. Regular reissues & compilations kept the great songs around, if you hear them on the radio they make you smile. The Philadelphia International anthology is titled “Love Train..”. The O’Jays have their place in the premier league of American vocal groups & that Eddie Levert, boy he sure could sing !

 

 

 

 

Well, This Happened (Best of 2015)

My favourite musical memory of 2015 happened 3 months ago & I intended to include it here before now. It was a gig I didn’t want to miss & it became an epic 4 day adventure (man, I needed a holiday !).  The connections I made with old & new friends were forged in music but this was more than a good night out. Any road up, it was certainly the “Best of” the year so I guess it’s about time…

On September the 10th the Derry musical family assembled at Sandino’s bar for the “Music For Free Movement” concert, part of the positive public response to the distress suffered by refugees fleeing the warring factions of the Middle East. It was not difficult for co-promoters Kevin Magee & Rion McCartney to fill the bill, many musicians in the area wanted to contribute to the evening. The hard part was stage managing the night to give as much time as possible to each act. Two stages featured over 5 hours of continuous music & it was not easy to catch all the great talent from the city showing out for a very good cause. I did my best.

 

It’s been over 25 years since I worked alongside & played out with a fine group of men from Ireland. 3 of them were in a band & I travelled around the country with Bam Bam & the Calling not only to see that they didn’t get lost but because they made great music. This new-fangled e-world put me back in touch with 2 of the guys & wonderfully the group was intact, back in Derry, still making their terrific racket. Bassist Joe Brown plays with a new crew, the Gatefolds. I was able to see their live clips, receive their CDs & help to spread the word by way of this blog. An opportunity to see both the Gatefolds & Bam Bam play on the same night was too good to miss. It was time to plan my first visit to Northern Ireland.

 

From home to Derry took almost 10 hours, a cab, a train, a bus, a plane then a bus ride from Belfast across some rather green & pleasant land. The gang at Cool Discs, an aptly-named record shop, provided a welcome & a place to put myself on solid ground. Kevin Magee took time from a very busy schedule to point me right (a shout to the Cafe del Mondo) in the Walled City. A long day was surely leading to a long night. Sightseeing could wait, it was the music that had brought me here.

 

First up at Sandino’s was Lost Avenue, the youngest band of the night. Derry’s rock tradition has the clang & clash of loud guitars & these guys fit right in. They deserved a bigger crowd & get them for their own gigs as their reputation grows. More great music followed while the venue, a classic Irish ballroom (easy access to alcohol is a clue) with a traditional rock & roll sticky floor, filled up with faces from my Facebook feed. Bernard & I had already bonded over our similar tastes in music & football. Jim Cunningham, the documentarist of Derry music, arrived with his camera. Jeanette & Ruairi are as delightful as I knew they would be. Later their band, Lady J, would absolutely rock this joint. Everybody was so welcoming (not always the case  for me !), I don’t get around as much as I used to but I know that this must be the place when I’m in the middle of good people & good music.

 

 

gatefolds2So here are the Gatefolds, right onstage in front of me. Drummer Sean & guitarist Fergal were, until tonight, e-friends, singer-guitarist Jason & I had never met before & that didn’t matter. There’s my old mucker Joe on bass & I’m watching him doing what he does for the first time in over 25 years. The Gatefolds know that increased volume isn’t the only way to have an effect. Their spiky, still melodic, riffs insinuate themselves rather than batter you. The pop-psych guitar wash builds beautifully, there are times when I could happily listen to them stretch these songs for as long as they are inclined. I had seen the clips, have the few songs the band have recorded, this was better. In the last week the Gatefolds played to their largest audience yet while supporting the Undertones & I have received a new CD single. 2016 looks like being a good year for them.

 

I took a breather, caught an acoustic set by the Wood Burning Savages, a group I’ve known about for some time & a fine one. Sandinos was packed with shiny happy folk, some of them curious about a stranger’s story. Man, I like to talk but I was 18 hours into my day & the headline act, the reason I was out of my bed so early & had travelled so far to see were about to hit the main stage.

 

 

setlistBam Bam & the Calling have played together for over 30 years now. The same line-up. Tonight a family illness had prevented guitarist John McLuskey from attending but Paul, Joe & Tom, ably assisted by Paul’s brother Rion, were still there. It’s more than longevity that has established their reputation as Derry music legends. Paul Pj Mc Cartney has some great songs & is a charismatic front man. Drummer Tom Docherty is just a machine, I think that I had forgotten just how good he is. What I had not forgotten, what had first attracted me to the band & what was still there was the unit’s commitment to playing with passion & energy because that’s why they did it in the first place. The old songs were a blast, the newer ones just as good. The set whizzed by too quickly, my central nervous system overloaded with endorphins producing the widest smile in the hall. I wanted more but I’m greedy. I had waited long enough to hear this, I could wait for the next time. My long day had been worth every minute.

 

Over £3000 was raised for people unfortunate to have been caught in a war & lucky enough to escape to the Greek island of Lesvos…good work. On my long weekend I reminisced, caught up with & spoke about Life with my 3 old friends. I made new friends too. Joe’s wife Gayle fed me, always a good thing. Fergal was already in every bar I entered. The hospitality shown by Kevin & Alison, who invited a strange man into their home, will never be forgotten (nor will Ali’s carrot cake). Good people, great old & new times. It was the music that brought us & kept us together over all this time. You have got to love that !

 

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From the L to the R : the author, Paul Bam Bam, Kevin Magee, Joe Bam Bam.