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Great British Rock & Blues Festival. Skegness.24-26.1 2014

First festival of the year, decent weather thankfully for the journey. Booked in, got the brochure and looked for the usual deletions/additions.  The main item being the absence of ex- Uriah Heep man Ken Hensley.

So, Friday night. A mention for the DJ first up. A proper DJ playing vinyl, not one of the dollybirds churning out ‘All Right Now’ etc. First on Centre Stage are Butlin’s hardy annuals Slack Alice. They start out with Frankie Miller’s ‘Down the Honky Tonk’, and Cliff Stocker is soon into his hair-stroking a la Billy Connolly. (Sorry Cliff, but at least it’s not as frequent now your hair is a bit shorter!). They never quite made it in the 70s (Her Ladyship thinks she was working at the Penthouse in Scarborough when they appeared), but Cliff and Co are still performing and making records so good on them. Much of the set from latest recording though, and do we really need a bass solo in a short set?  A good start for Her Ladyship.                   Next, a surprisingly early set from Dr Feelgood.  ‘All through the City’/’Take a Tip’/’I can Tell’/’Baby Jane’/’Who do you Love’/’Milk and Alcohol’/’Rolling and Tumbling’/’Back in the Night’/’Roxette’,  all fired out in rapid succession then we get ‘Down by the Jetty Blues’.  I am still hopeful that after a decade of this extended blues workout it may be put to bed, but sadly not. Now down to 12/13 minutes but as long as people roar their approval I am in the minority.  Followed by ‘She does it Right’/’Going Back Home’/’Down at the Doctors’/’One More Shot’  and encore of ‘Tequilla-Bony Moronie’.  Is it really 40 years since they exploded out of the tv on Channel 4?  Still bloody good.                       Changed venues for the QuireBoys.  On good form, with all the favourites in evidence, but I still ‘see’  Smokie when I hear  ‘Mona Lisa Smile’.     A great start to the event for Her Ladyship.

Saturday afternoon. The Mustangs open up. They too aren’t strangers to Skeggy, and the good sound features a powerful Tele/Strat hybrid guitar.  Meaty blues-based stuff, there is an omni-present but never overbearing harmonica. Almost all original tracks, there are only brief references to Peter Green and Jim Morrison and they are the best I have seen them.  Normally the description ‘hard-working’ is a euphemism for ‘average pub outfit’ but not here.                      They make way for the return of Stray, and straight away there is something different. The return of Pete Dyer on 2nd guitar means a return to a 4-piece line-up, he even takes some lead vocals. They start out with Del Bromham incorporating some Pete Townshend actions alongside some Who-like chords…very tongue-in-cheek no doubt!  There is a real change in the sound and set-list from the long-standing power trio line-up and it works really well.  Some stuff from Del’s solo record, with Cherry Lee Mewis joining in and there is a new slant to ‘All in your Mind’.  Bit of Led Zeppelin at the end, one of those songs that the ‘rock gods’ didn’t (allegedly, of course) steal. No not ‘Kashmir’, the other one (‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’).    Excellent contribution to the day.                         Still in  Reds bar, we await fairly nervously for the arrival of the Groundhogs. My first encounter was when they supported the Stones in March 71 at Leeds University, a brief set which is available on cd.  Saw them a few times in the 90s, which usually featured unrecognisable versions of eg ‘Cherry Red’.  Tony McPhee’s recent health problems have been well-publicised and he is seemingly on the mend.  I am not usually shy of saying what I feel, nor am I usually lost for words, but I am going to restrict my thoughts here to one word. When I saw Peter Green in 1999, the word ‘sad’ sprang to mind (as well as exploitative),  here today it is ‘heartbreaking’.                We transferred to Centre Stage to see Zoot Money and some friends.  Generic 12 bar stuff, featuring the likes of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and Alexis Korner.  Her Ladyship had a point when she said it was more suitable to the old Sunday afternoon slot here. Our decision to leave for food coincided with Mr M doing his Cleo Laine scat stuff.

Saturday evening.  One of my favourites in the 60s were the Yardbirds,  so this was going to be interesting. Chris Dreja’s health has left drummer Jim Mc Carty as ‘last man standing’, although pre-Clapton guitarist Anthony ‘Top’ Topham has been drafted in.  Set list was ‘Train kept a-rolling’/’Rolling and Tumbling’/’Heartful of Soul’/’Nazz are Blue’/’Shapes of Things’/’5 Long years’/’ Over Under Sideways Down’/’Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’/’Dazed and Confused’/’I’m a Man’.  I think I missed one when I was outside.  Thought Jim McCarty could have been a bit more detailed in the circumstances regarding ‘Dazed and Confused’…do a search on Google for that plus ‘Jake Holmes’ if you don’t know .  The performance was reckoned to be ‘brilliant’ according to one of our company, but some thought it basically just the right words and nothing else.          So, next we have Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy.   First thought is doing ELP  with no vocals…or keyboards?!   Opening announcement about Carl will be signing  stuff ‘from the tour’ but will not be shaking hands wasn’t promising and ‘Welcome Back ‘ was all very clever but Mr P definitely looked like he didn’t want to be there. (Especially with a dodgy mic).  We got ‘Knife Edge’ and ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ worked really well.  However, I was thinking would I rather have watched  30 minutes of ‘PAAE’ or 30 minutes of the 5-piece Rolling Stones playing Chuck Berry in a sweaty pub?  (Meanwhile, Ah wuz stiiiiiiill thinkin,  da-da da da) .However, Carl perked up a bit and so did I!  I will admit listening to 1. Bass Solos and 2. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ are not my favourite pastimes, but this WAS a bass solo (on BR) proper.  We got ‘America’, ‘Trilogy’ and ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ before the expected drum solo.  Again, not usually ‘for me’, but possibly the best drum solo I have seen and I’ve seen a lot since 1970!   Finished a long set with ‘Peter Gunn’ and ‘Nutrocker’ and I will gladly admit to being won over.                            We stop in Reds for the change of venue for Eddie and the Hot Rods.  Barrie Masters is very, er, ‘playful’ and they start out with one of my favourite numbers from the  pen of Dave Higgs (who sadly  died recently) ‘Get across to you’.   Rest of the set is ‘Teenage Depression’/I might be Lying’/’Quit this Town’/’Telephone Girl’/’Better without you’/’Life on the Line’/’Why should I care any more’/’You’d better run’/’Once bitten twice shy’/’Love love love’/’Woolly Bully’/’Hard drivin’ Man’/’Bad time again’/’Do anything you wanna do’/Gloria-Satisfaction’/’ Born to be wild’.  No ‘Get out of Denver’ or ‘Ignore them’ and sadly ‘Beginning of the End’ seems too long for these slots, but a cracking show.   All in all, a pretty good weekend so far.

Sunday afternoon. Big anticipation for the first of Wilko Johnson‘s two sets.  He also starts out with ‘All through the City’ and the reviewer in Blues Matters, in his Colne review, should know it is NOT called ‘Down by the Jetty’!! The place was jam-packed , so couldn’t see if the phenomenal Norman Watt-Roy’s left elbow was already dripping with sweat, but we were treated to ‘Dr Dupree’ and ‘Going back Home’. I wonder how many spotted the subtle change in GBH from ‘Johnny’ Green to ‘Micky’ Green  (RIP)? ‘Roxette’, ”Sneakin suspicion’, ‘Paradise’, an extended ‘Don’t let your daddy know’, ‘Back in the Night’ and ‘She does it Right’ closed the set. They came back on to encore with ‘Bye Bye Johnny’, and I wonder how many of those who were singing and waving goodbye knew that Wilks (as he is known in the trade) was born John Wilkinson?!  I am filling up even now thinking about it, and I can’t believe Wilko wasn’t sporting  a wry inward smile.                             Disappointing that Stan Webb is ‘indisposed’ (I have suffered his being ‘indisposed’ before), and we get Trevor Burton off the subs bench.  Starting, as he has done before, with ‘Further on up the road’, it’s pretty obvious he has always been a blueser, even during his time in the Move.  An interesting version of JJ Cale’s  ‘Crazy Mama’ works better than his slow ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, I think, and Freddie King’s ‘Going Down’ precedes ‘Hey Joe’. ‘Mystery Train’ blends into ‘Bo Diddley’ to confirm his love of rock and roll too and although I was looking forward to Chicken Shack, Mr B was not unacceptable.                                 Final act of the afternoon were Mungo Jerry. Bluesy start, including a version of ‘Going Down Slow’ which was only barely recognisable as the same song which the teenagers of Free had on their first LP. The ‘hits’ followed, ie ‘Long-legged woman dressed in Black’, ‘Lady Rose’, ‘Feels like I’m in love’ (penned for Kelly Marie) and ‘Open up’ a la Howlin’ Wolf.  Things finish with ‘In the Summertime’ and a stretched out ‘Baby Jump’ which descended into ‘clubland’ so we went to eat.                So, down to the final furlong and only the occasional disappointment so far.

Sunday evening. Auburn (Acoustic). Currently supporting Jefferson Starship, but definitely not the high spot of the weekend for us . Inoffensive but not earthshattering.                               For us, the ‘draw’ of the weekend are on next, Jefferson Starship.  I am not an expert on JS, but I realise Jack Casady is no longer involved nor , I think , is Marty Balin. Long-time guitarist Slick Aguilar is not well.  The big surprise was Paul Kantner not being there. Seemingly he is ill but sent his guitars for others to play!  So a depleted line-up(?) but straight away we are in the presence of a top class act.  David Frieberg is taking more lead vocals (No ‘Wooden Ships’), and what a great voice…for a 75 year old!!!  A few songs in before the US hit ‘Count on Me’ and Quicksilver Messenger Service’s ‘Fresh Air’.  The early Airplane song, Marty Balin’s ‘Today’, the minor UK hit ‘Miracles’ and Jorma Kaukonen’s instrumental ‘Embryonic Journey’  precede one of our favourite ever singles ‘White Rabbit’. ‘Jane’ resumes the JS favourites, we get ‘Somebody to Love’  and the excellent Cathy Richardson gives us her Joplinesque take on ‘Me and Bobby McGee’.  Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Volunteers’ finishes off a top performance from a top act.                Final spot for the weekend belongs to the ever-popular Nine Below Zero, and we get a high energy performance. ‘Tore Down’/’Homework’/’Can’t help myself’/ ‘Can I get a witness’/’Got my mojo working’/’Twenty yards behind’ (for Wilko)/’Hoochie Coochie Man’/’Down in the Dirt again’/’On the road again’/’Madison Blues’/’Riding on the L&N’/’Soft touch’/’Woolly Bully’/’Three times and that’s enough’.  Mark gets a bit of a sing in a girly song at the end, a tease of ‘Albatross’ and that’s it.

So, another Skeggy has been and gone and the days of having pub groups being given prime slots seem to have gone. There seem to be lots more customers, which has resulted in better calibre acts now back on both main stages all weekend. Have a glance at the review of 2012, there has definitely been a rethink last year and this.

The Awards go to…..

Class Act Award.  Jefferson Starship.

Stellar Moment Award. ‘White Rabbit’.

‘Umble Pie Award. The author, after the end of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy.

‘Economy with the Truth’ Award. Not sure exactly to whom, but how is it I knew days ago that the ‘Animals’ were going to be playing at the Minehead 60s weekend early Saturday then headlining  at Skeggy the same day?! It was only announced at Skeggy on Saturday at noon and not in the programme?

Phil Collins Charity Award. Remember when he did London and New York on the same day for ‘Live Aid? The award goes to the ‘Animals’ (and Friends?) for seemingly doing similar (see above).  Others more cynical might suggest the organiser had booked him and his friends (see previous articles ad nauseum), purely for the money. That really would be extracting the urine so I am obviously going for the former explanation.

‘Dazed and Confused’ Award. Her Ladyship, who after slagging off the dubious practices of Led Zeppelin all weekend , heard the DJ (and later Nine Below Zero), play ‘Madison Blues’ and had to somewhat reappraise her thoughts of Wilko’s ‘Back in the Night’.

‘Very Dazed and Confused’ Award. Man outside who was telling his mate on the phone where he was sitting…watching Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack!’

Jethro Tull/Mungo Jerry Award.  The man who was standing close to the stage waiting for Wilko Johnson. He knew ‘Dr Feelgood was poorly’, Her Ladyship explained it wasn’t the name of a man but a group. He had never heard of Wilko Johnson, bless him.

Diamond Geezer Award. David Frieberg. 75 years old, sang like someone a quarter his age, and came down and signed stuff for fans afterwards.  (Thanks too to JS’s  Cathy Richardson and Chris Smith  for doing signings ).

Paddy Power Online Betting Award. Barrie Masters. He was 50 -1 to make it for breakfast on Sunday morning but he made it, as did the rest of the Hot Rods.

Rumpole of the Bailey Award. Whoever at Butlins put up the name ‘Animals’ on the ‘change of line-up’ screen…together with a picture of Eric Burdon!!  If Mr Burdon’s lawyers get wind, it could be interesting in view of a recent judgement regarding the name ‘Animals’.

Blood Pressure Tablets Award.  Mr P. Barton, on discovering the ‘Rumpole’ bit above.

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