Monthly Archives: December 2011

Festival of the 60s, Butlins (Skegness), 9-11 Dec 2011

So, after coming home from Skeggy totally folked up from last weekend, it was an early return for our first visit to the 60s festival. Having been really irritated by the saddofolkysingalong experience, I found myself being prepared to totally accept the crowd participation this time. Maybe it is because the songs are almost in the public domain.

So, who ? The groups were almost interchangeable. Similar shows, ie play their ‘hits’, Beatles/60s medley. bit of rock n roll, 45 minutes then off. I reckon they can almost be ‘categorised’ namely

1. 60s groups featuring all and only original members? I don’t know of any, and indeed there weren’t! (Maybe ZZ Top and Crosby, Stills and Nash?)

2. 60s acts featuring at least one original. We had The Merseybeats, Herman’s Hermits, Marty Wilde (with Wildcats), Dave Berry (with Cruisers) and arguably Brian Poole (Tremelo-less) plus Mike Pender’s Searchers (he broke away from The Searchers to form his own version). I don’t have much of  a problem with these groups. One of the members has maintained the ‘brand’ over some 50 years and good luck to him. (After all, if it hadn’t have been for the Beatles boom, they would have probably been tyre-fitters at Kwik-Fit.)  Rock fans, see eg Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Eddie and the Hot Rods.

3. 60s acts with no original members BUT have carried on with members who joined when there WAS an original member. (Sorry if it is getting complicated!!). The Dreamers, The Fortunes and Union Gap (?. Not sure, I have a feelin they may come into category 7.).  Again, no real problem but don’t say a hit WE had in 1965.They at least have a connection with the originals. Rock fans, see eg Dr Feelgood

4. We now get to the artists who are ‘economical with the truth’. The (supposed) rock ‘n’ roll legend Ray Lewis. He has ‘had 9 Top Ten hits with The Drifters’. A lie. He replaced lead singer Johnny Moore (who was to return) in 1978, long after their run of hits. And the hyped up intro about his chest cold? The internet reveals he manfully struggled through the same chest cold in May 2009…it must be a belter! OK , so Butlins probably only print what publicists tell them, and Ray Lewis has , in fact, done a lot for children’s charity but it is still ‘sharp practice’

5. Copy groups. The Temple Brothers (Everly Bros) and The Stones (no clues!). Some bloke next to us told us how great these ‘Stones’ are  and he’s seen them many times. Hmm! They were basically just like watching a Christmas panto. We had ‘Mick Jagger’, who had obviously spent ages perfecting his ‘Ya-Yas’ era patter (a la  ‘You wouldn’t want mah trahsers to fall dahn..) , but he made a critical mistake by thinking that Jagger actually SINGS with his London accent. Listen to eg ‘Love in Vain’ or ‘You can’t always get what you want’ , old son, he has a cod-American singing voice. So ‘Mick’s’ on-stage banter at Skeggy, which at times fell somewhere between Michael Crawford and Kenneth Williams, meant that ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ sounded like Frank Spencer!  Still, having seen The Stones (sorry, The ROLLING Stones), in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the plus point was to actually listen to a 5-piece version rather than the expanded line-up but it was very cheesy.

6. 70s groups! Edison Lighthouse, who were only put together to tour after ‘Love Grows’. Not even going to waste my breath. Never bothered to see if they turned up.

7. Final, and loathsome, category features groups who feature a complete line-up who never played in the original line-up and  are perpetrators of identity fraud. The lowest of the low. Step forward, The Easybeats.(And if it applies to Union Gap too, step up too!). I spent my early teens listening to all the afore-mentioned, and was intrigued to learn of the Easybeats billing. We were presented with 3 journeymen club performers plus some blonde bird who slaughtered Tina Turner (and by the way it isn’t called ‘Simply the Best’).  What if some old fans had flown in from Oz or Holland?! An absolute disgrace to the legacy of arguably Australia’s first rock n roll band, who featured AC/DC’s Young brothers’ elder sibling George).  Come on, Angus, use just one of your £millions to hire a lawyer and sue them . You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Easybeats!  Better still, hire a private jet, tell this lot of burglars they are going to a sun-soaked holiday destination and when they en route say they can chose which resort…Syria or Zimbabwe, and show them where their parachutes are.*

I know the big majority of people there didn’t know, or care, who was who. Our friends didn’t!  And the ‘lapses of memory’ from Brian Poole (yes, he had A no.1 but the other supposed no.1s ?. And does Cat Stevens know Poole’s alleged mate Chip Hawkes wrote ‘Here comes my baby’? Were you on ‘Silence is Golden’ , Bri, or had you left for a dismal solo career, leaving The Tremeloes to go onto greater success?. And sorry Mr Berry, the excellent Mickey Jupp didn’t write ‘I knew the bride’, it was Nick Lowe.

But, for all what some may term ‘being pedantic’  ( to me, just lies!), it was a good weekend. Queues not quite as bad as last week, silly fancy dresses, drunken women who drank more in a weekend than they probably do all year! But, in general, fair play to the artists. They have gone from the ‘chicken in a basket’ nightclub circuit to the 60s package tours, hope it bolsters their pension funds.

* FAO ‘Easybeats’. If you have actually played in the original line-up, please accept my humble apologies. Meanwhile me, my wife and the little girl’s hamster from next door are going out as The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Even better, as the originals are all dead and can’t complain.

Great British Folk Festival, Butlins (Skegness), 2-4.12.11.

This year was the 2nd folk festival at Skeggy. For many years they have had eg 60s, 70s, 80s, Soul, Rock ‘n’ Blues weekends and last year launched the latest in their ‘themed’ weekends.  For those who haven’t been, there are basically 2 indoor venues, featuring (mostly) simultaneous live music.

So, Friday night is the first session, with a choice of 3  Daft Monkeys or Emily Smith. Now, before I start, can I please apologise for any inaccuracies. As with all my reviews, I do not go and take notes…I want to enjoy the event! So it is all from memory.

We chose the former. I SEEM to remember having seen them before, but that was exactly it! They weren’t  all that memorable really. Quite lively 4-piece (!), plenty of their fans and T-shirts in evidence but we thought we’d give Emily Smith a look. She was pleasant enough but nothing that stopped either Lady A or me in our tracks. Then it was Ralph McTell or Chumbawamba? No contest (I still have my copy of ‘Streets of London’ sheet music). Still a class act at 67, he also included ‘Angie’ in his set.  But barely an hour, for the first true folk legend of the weekend? Final choice was Quill v Peatbog Faeries. Quill seem to pop up all over on the fest circuit, so we chose the latter. Plenty of jumpy-up-and-downy stuff but they’ve been going for 20 years!? All much of a muchness for me, although Leila Slater from the Moonbeams Fest says they are her favourite group.

So, on to Saturday afternoon. Only one venue, starting with Richard Digance.  He really is a great turn, in the mould of the 70s folk/comic raconteur people like Harding and Connolly. If you haven’t seen him, you are instructed to do so at your earliest convenience! Next up was Joe O’Donnell. Yet more fiddle-based jiggy stuff, but this time with mostly Gaelic words. Went back to watch the telly, thereby also missing The Wurzels.  Have already had the misfortune of witnessing them once this year. Digance is a genuine example of music integrating with humour. this lot are just tripe.

Saturday evening set up Steve Gibbons (solo) vs Merry Hell. Have seen Mr G many times and liked him, but we both, without prompting, expressed our disappointment this time. Why? Dunno, but we went after about 20 minutes to give Merry Hell a try. Nothing too daring, but pretty decent. We would both go to see them again.  We then had Matthews Southern Comfort or Cara Dillon. Sorry Miss D, but I reckon Ian Matthews has one of the best voices going and it is still holding up well. Nothing like the original MSC line-up, but a mixture of new stuff and older songs re-worked, including ‘Woodstock’ of course.   Final choice was The Outcast Band or Kanda Bongo Man. What a dismal challenge!  The former, featuring miserable minor chord stuff with tuneless semi-spoken lyrics who seem to appear at every other festival or…some ‘legend’ who has been championed by both John Peel AND Andy Kershaw! No intention of watching the former, I suffered about 20 minutes of some shell-suited reject from Tiswas  and went to the chalet (amidst a stampede of like-minded punters).

Last day, Sunday afternoon. Again, only one venue, featuring the debut of Fairport Connections, an ad hoc group of Fairport-connected people.Dave Pegg and P J Wright up first (fine),  followed by multi-instrumentalist Anna Ryder. Sorry Anna, great versatility but piano/vocal segment was too long. Bob Fox was his usual North Eastern folky self, Anthony John Clarke provided some Northern Irish alternative and Steve Tilston finished proceedings with a shortened set (no doubt Peggy will do some fine-tuning to the schedule). Gerry Conway helped out and all on and off stage seemed to have enjoyed it. Well, not quite all!  It was like being in a folk club for 3 hours, which you might say that is what it should be! But every song had a chorus you were asked to sing along to, usually taught at the beginning. And there is always some fat, ‘homely’, bespectacled , bearded woman who closes her eyes, smiles soporifically, sways and sings along…loudly. She also sings the rest of the song…loudly. Why don’t you shut up and let us listen to the people ON stage, who we’ve paid to see sing?! And, of course, she is a  personal friend of Peggy, Swarb etc!  Phew! The Churchfitters came on, a bit different, but I was totally folked up by then , so left.

Sunday night, Jane Taylor vs Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle. The latter are a bit too jazzy for me nowadays, but we gave them a go. Lovely version of ‘She moves through the fair’, but we went off after 30 minutes to get ready for Seth Lakeman. (I wouldn’t have stopped to watch Seth’s competition Martyn Joseph anyway. I’d had enough of him at Cropredy). We booked this year’s fest last year, on the strength of Seth Lakeman coming, but we both found ourselves thinking how disappointing he was. By all means ‘promote’ your new cd, but the opening songs were almost ponderous, and he himself admitted his new stuff was a bit ‘different’ . It seemed to take forever for him to get wound up to his familiar fiddle/singing/stomping self, and the word ‘pacing’ sprang to mind. Hit the ground running, to use a football cliche!!  So , a bit saddened but full of beer and lager, we went off to see a (hopefully) rejuvenated Steve Gibbons in The Dylan Project rather than risk Mr Toledo and his Tombolinos. It was a good choice. Dylan songs played by fans for fans. And it was all over..

Plus side? Good organisation. Mostly strictly-timetabled. Great value, and despite some reservations, we’ll probably come next time (but will await line-up details). MOST of acts booked were appropriate.

Minus side?  Queues everywhere and for everything. Many hundreds waiting for hours outside venues to rush in and put 12 coats on chairs for absent people. Silly perpendicular queues at bars. Look, the bar is about 60 feet long!! Why stand behind someone else!? Even a queue outside dining areas! There are hundreds of places! Queue to buy Digance CDs and another queue to have him sign stuff! Actually, quite sensible but people spent 10 minutes in the wrong queue! Wonderful! See a queue and join it , don’t ask what it’s for.  Best queue was to get OUT of Kanda Bongo Man! And finally, the line-up fell short of last year.  Nothing to compare to Kate Rusby or Oysterband.

Deep Purple, M.E.N. Arena, 29.11.11

Deep Purple 2011A few minutes to 9.00 pm,  and the 38 piece orchestra troop on, take their places and give us a brief Purple medley instrumental tease. Then the boys come on and straight into ‘Highway Star’. Now I will admit to not being the world’s No.1 Deep Purple fan (that may well be Lady A!), but I do reckon ‘Highway Star’ is one of the best ever openings to an LP, namely ‘Machine Head’.

Talking of which, any fans of said LP won’t have been disappointed, with much of it in evidence tonight..even one-time B-side ‘When A Blind Man Cries’. There were a couple of songs from the mid-80s reformed Mk2 era, but seemingly not much from the current millennium.

I have to say, though, by 10 o’ clock I was getting a bit fidgetty. Yet another Don Airey keyboard solo was coupled with an orchestral section which, to me, would have sounded like a Mantovani LP if I’d been in the toilets. And talking of solos, we had a couple from Steve Morse, the obligatory drum solo  (is it still 1970!?), and just when I was going to congratulate Roger Glover, a bass solo.I was wondering when the Samosa seller from downstairs was going to do one.

To be fair to the ‘new’ boys, Morse has a similar jazzy feel to Blackmore , and Airey has a Lord-esque style (but without the wonderful Hammond organ). Gillan has protected his pipes pretty well, but it was quite telling that when the encore ‘Black Night’ came up, I realised there had been nothing from ‘In Rock’. I think Gillan has sensibly come to realise that eg ‘Child in Time’ and ‘Into The Fire’ require a 20 year old larynx, not a 60 year old one!

The orchestra? I have to say, it was only a sax solo in ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ after 20 minutes that they made me aware of them. (Other than putting about £20 on the ticket price). I reckon if you gave the DP fans the option of no orchestra but a free T-shirt when you came in?

Good professional show though. Like Cheap Trick, they don’t sell shed loads of records nowadays, so this is their main source of income. And full marks to them for still treading the boards.

Cheap Trick, M.E.N. Arena, 29.11.11.

Rick NielsenI cannot bring myself to relegate such a fantastic outfit as Cheap Trick to a few words as ‘support act’ in the Deep Purple review. So here they are, as co-headliners! 7.30 pm, and as scheduled, on they come and straight into ‘Ain’t that a Shame’, with Neilsen Jnr proving to be an able deputy for Bun E Carlos. No pause for breath as they smash our ears with   ‘Hello there’ and an early blast of ‘California Man’.

It was a good 20 minutes into a high-octane (and disgracefully short) slot before things slowed down with ‘The Flame’. Like Ian Gillan, Robin Zander has taken decent care of his voice, even hitting THAT note in a song which they admit is not a favourite of theirs.

The ‘Dream Police’ and ‘At Budokan’ LPs made up the majority of the set, with ‘Sick Man of Europe’ sounding as brash as it does on their last release.  And after about 45 minutes, that was just about it! The short set was made even shorter when they blew the whole sound during ‘Gonna Raise Hell’. I mischievously suggested to Lady A that Deep Purple had pulled the plug on them for being too good! (And, no, Rick N didn’t bring on one of his 5-neck guitars for ‘Surrender’. Looks great but sounds rubbish!)

I have always loved this lot. I have managed to catch them a few times when they come here and they never fail or disappoint. And why come as a ‘support’ to the likes of Deep Purple? They even ‘supported’ Def Leppard!!  Obviously their accountant must reckon it is worthwhile, but they definitely surprised a few metal fans here, many of whom had probably only heard of ‘I want you to want me’.

More, please! And can you actually find out where Yorkshire is next time gentlemen?