Friday, November 30, 2012

Stones Fanatics!

When it comes to musical likes and dislikes, there are fans, there are followers and there are fanatics. I think I have just met a fanatic! And I write this in a week where London has been full of near-fanatical fans celebrating the Rolling Stones '50 Years and Counting' concerts. So what is it that makes a fanatic? Owning copies of a band's music in every format (including downloads) might be one sign. Possessing a library of books either by or about the object of their fanaticism would be another. Having a wardrobe full of branded tour shirts or jackets, to the exclusion of more normal clobber, a definite sign. But how about having seen your favourite band two hundred and four times? Yes, you read it correctly; 204 … Well in my estimation, that is what qualifies
Stones Japanese fan club organiser, Yuji Ikeda, as a true fanatic. When he told me this amazing stat while on a Stones history tour this week I didn't even bother to enquire about his wardrobe, library or music collection... you kinda know what the answer will be. We had a great tour, by the way, with a bus full of Japanese specially over for the shows. And I'd hope a highlight for Yuji might have been showing him a couple of Jagger's houses that his fanaticism must have helped Sir Mick buy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Speaking of the 'Speakeasy' ...

Information that ends up as part of the London rock tour itinerary can come from some of the unlikeliest of places! Swindon Arts Centre for example. For readers not aware of the UK's geography, the town is about 120 miles west of London; not high on the list of 'must see' towns unless you have an interest in railway history. One great attraction last week, however, was an appearance there of Andy Fairweather Low and his 'Low Riders'. Welshman Fairweather Low is one of those characters in rock whose name should be familiar to all and whose performances set in large concert venue but, inexplicably, he plays gigs like 200-seat arts centres in provincial towns. Why should his name be familar? Older rock fans will remember the great 60s pop/soul band, Amen Corner; Fairweather Low was lead singer on hits 'Bend Me Shape Me', 'If Paradise is Half as Nice' etc. He then went on to the eponymous 'Fairweather' with one hit 'Natural Born Sinner'. Then a couple of mid-70s hits as a solo performer, most memorably, 'Wide-eyed and Legless'. So far so good but there's so much more; there followed twenty-four years with Roger Waters; membership of George Harrison's band; twelve-years with Eric Clapton, including musical director on the seminal 'Clapton Unplugged'. The musician's musican. If you were not familiar with the Fairweather Low name before then you must now wonder why! One possible theory is that he's a generous and unassuming man; no 'rock star' persona, never falling for the great 'I am' role, always crediting others where due (including current band members)and understating his own amazing credentials. As this is not a 'review' blog, we'll leave the concert report to simple tweet length; 'intimate, first class night featuring an eclectic mix of blues, soul, pop and sentimentalism from a really personably man in complete command of his instrument, and showing great respect to his unaccountably small but loyal following'. But back to the reason for the blog; the discovery of new London rock tour information. Having a post-concert chat with Fairweather Low, he volunteered the fact that the photograph on Amen Corner's first album cover was taken inside the fabled Margaret Street 'Speakeasy Club'. It's so
rare to discover any photograph of a band actually playing at the 'Speak' that this fact alone will ensure that anyone taking a London rock tour will be hearing more of Fairweather Low!

Friday, November 16, 2012

London Album Photos

I love finding new albums with London featured
in the location shoot. Some are pretty obviously London sites or themes though the actual album obscure, the artist forgotten, or it perhaps simply never made it through to popular consciousness. Who know remembers Chad & Jeremy (they had a cover featuring them side by-side a couple of traditional red phone boxes)? Then there was Nancy Sinatra, 'In London', that had the thigh-booted siren sitting provocatively astride an old red Routemaster double-decker bus. With a bit of tenacity, you can find them on the 'net. Recently though I found a really obscure one; great for the pub quiz! The album was 'Sneaking Sally though the Alley', Robert Palmer's classic 1974 solo debut. What?! You don't own it! Well here's the cover art. It's a London shot, and one pretty much everyone who has ever been to the Capital City or Rock will know. Where is it? The road tunnel that brings you out of Heathrow and onto the motorway! I can just about believe that in 1974 they could either have stopped the traffic to take the shot, or taken advantage of a lull. Now, I should think there'd be splash of red, or a flashing blue light to add to the green!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Quite fitting that Screaming Lord Sutch should have a plaque unveiled to his memory at th4e Ace CafĂ© so close to Halloween night … you’d have thought London’s East End might have been more fitting given his near hit ‘Jack the Ripper’ and connections with Joe Mee’s Holloway Road Studio than this west London North Circular biker venue.
Nit-picking apart, Sutch played a big part in early rock, and in lightening up the political scene with his Monster Raving Looney Party antics. The plaque was deserved. I went along hoping that perhaps a few of his ‘Heavy Friends’ might turn out. After all people like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Bonham, Carlo Little and Noel Reading contributed to his 1969 album. ‘twas not to be. Jess Conrad was there to do the honours though. Who? I hear younger readers ask… One of Meek’s stable, Jess released a string of singles in the late 50s, early 60s. Classics, if you can count having no less than seven mentioned in the all-time worst singles list as classic! But he was one of the originals, and a sometime TV and film actor, most notably playing the part of Larry Parnes in the biopic of Joe Meek. He was also in the Sex Pistols ‘Great Rock n Roll Swindle’! Rock is made by such men! A guard of honour was formed by several Raving Loonies, including the famed ‘Toby Jug’ – I think possible ‘leader’ of the party. Lots of other old faces there too to honour the ‘Third Earl of Harrow’. Sutch never played the Ace, and almost certainly got there by bus rather than ‘ton-up’ bike, but he enjoyed hanging out there and was instrumental in its 1990s rebirth so perhaps it’s as good a place as anywhere for his plaque.