Sunday, July 11, 2010

Macca, Hendrix and Andy Fairweather Low

A couple of weeks back, I went to see Paul McCartney play Hyde Park. Beautiful day, fantastic concert, London and classic rock at its best. Macca played a magical selection of 'greatest hits' spanning oldie Beatles, solo stuff and Wings material. One particular piece of music immediately stood out though, probably because it wasn't a Lennon/McCartney or Harrison original; Hendrix's Foxy Lady.

Macca accompanied his short and playful rendition with a memory of Hendrix. He told us of the famed Sunday concert at the Beatles' own Saville Theatre where Jimi played the title track of St Peppers. With two Beatles sitting themselves in the audience that afternoon, and Pepper only having been out a few days, it was either audacious or arrogant. Take your pick. Macca thought it a great compliment. Whatever, it was good to hear a story we tell on our morning rock tour confirmed from Sir Paul's own lips.

In my own view, Hendrix was a supremely confident musician who knew his own worth but wasn't afraid to indulge in a stunt if he thought it might generate some publicity. Copying another band's signature didn't bother him if he could do it better. I was always struck by Brian Jones' almost alternative view of Hendrix; far from being the supreme innovator, he actually copied things he thought cool from other musicians on the scene at the time, often simply improving them (Pete Townsend might agree that this was certainly so with regard to stage antics).

I was set to deliberating on this theme last night on my way home from a gig at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge. I went along to see the musician's musician, Andy Fairweather Low, guesting as support to the Robert Gray Band. Andy was indirectly responsible for my seeing Hendrix during that all too brief golden period 40-years ago.

At the time, Andy was fronting the excellent soul/pop band, Amen Corner. My mates and I had a special affinity with them, considering them as virtually our school band since they rehearsed at the near-by Cowbridge Rugby Club in South Wales, and called on the services of our school porter as a sometime roadie. Naturally, where Amen Corner played, we followed. When they 'made it' with 'Gin House' and the 'Bend me, Shape me', they were included on the old-fashioned package tour. These were the days when half a dozen bands toured as part of a package, during which they played their chart hits, or more often, hit, or even more often 'nearly a hit'. One such package included Hendrix, and, believe it or not, Pink Floyd (still with Syd Barrett), The Nice, Roy Wood's Move and Eire Apparent (who sank without trace ...). On another package our heros played alongside Gene Pitney, The Mike Cotton Sound, Don Fardon (the one-man-band) and ... it's so long ago that I forget.

Still, I owe Andy a debt of honour. Had it not been for Amen Corner I'd not have seen arguably two of the greatest of the late 60s bands.

What a great deal this particual 'package' is. Fair Weather Low's Low Riders and Cray. It's not often the support is as strong as the headline. It's also not that often that a famed one comes to the bar at the break to sign CDs and have quick yarn with the punters. Nice touch, Andy.

I've neither the space or intention to review either band in this particular blog, but I will recommend that you catch the package on one of the remaining gigs if you read this in time. And if the name Andy Fairwether Low is new to you (which it wont be if you read liner notes to albums from Eric Clapton, the Who, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, Geroge Harrison, Roger Walters or hundreds more!) then I suggest you acquire a copy of the 'best of Amen Corner' and 'best of AFL'.

One last, entirely unconnected snippet; getting into convesation with the guy sitting next to us we learned that his uncle had lived only a few doors away from the reclusive Syd Barrett (a citizen of Cambridge, or course) and another acquaintance of his was the district nurse who'd sat beside Syd literally as he'd shuffled off this mortal coil... amazing who you meet, innit!?

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