Thursday 28 May 2009


It’s amazing how one’s fortunes can change in the space of 24 hours. Thursday night, I spent a sublime evening at the Royal Albert Hall watching Jackson Browne run through his repertoire playing two sets that spanned his career. Now there was a value for money gig. He brought Californian sunshine to the old place and from where we were sitting still looks about 36 rather than 60. Must be a macrobiotic diet or something. He even did his version of "Stay" which I didn't expect. Went with my mate "Susan the Finance" (Remember her from the ABC concert? She is not in banking so don't hate her). She left her old man at home with her mother in law. The Mother-in-law had to be placated when she boomed "You are going to a concert unchaparoned, with another man?!!!!!" Swift but not very accurate thinking followed: "Don't worry, he's gay"!

Now I am not remotely concerned by this. Am totally unable to see what the fuss is with a valid and alternate lifestyle although one that is not for me. I try but can't understand the anti- gay "marriage" lobby. When you get to my age and you are not married people sometimes ask the "Gordon Brown question" , if you remember Sue Lawley asking him why he wasn't married years ago on Desert Island Discs. I remember at the time my late mother remarking on this and when I said that people sometimes made this assumption she chortled and shook her head and said "'re not are you?". When I explained that one of my friends had similar questions posed by his parents she said "Well I always knew he was". This wasn't the case either. When we met for a drink one night and I told him what my old Mum had said, he told me: "Well my folks always maintained you were gay despite you having a girlfriend". Seems people will find a way to make the case fit.

So I was "out" for the evening with Susan the Finance!

Friday night and it was time for another "Nerd Night". I have written about these in the past. People from the world of broadcasting get together eat and drink too much and bore the pants off each other with industry talk and slanderous comments. Good to see some new people along for this one which was held in London as well as some of the old faces. Made a new friend in Joel Ross, one half of the ex-Radio 1 duo JK and Joel. He won me over by slurring how fab the show was before he crashed to the floor. Andy Warrell my producer made an appearance and bummed £20 off me as he had drunk the contents of his wallet before he arrived. He said he enjoyed it and was looking forward to the next London. This could be a year or more away. His diplomatic timing was perfect. Matthew Rudd, who travels so many miles in pursuit of radio work that Norman Tebbitt has a picture of him on his fridge stayed over at my place and after a rather less than successful breakfast as the local greasy spoon was shut so we had to go to a "cafe". I am sorry but you can't eat bacon, egg, beans etc off square plates. Its not...its not...British! We headed off to Heathrow where he was due to catch a flight to Manchester for one of his many radio shows and a nightclub gig. He is not scared of flying but terrified of ending up on the wrong plane. He is a big boy with a tongue in his head but is convinced that to the check in staff "Manchester" on the ticket may look the same as "Addis Ababa". On the way out on the tube deep in conversation (well he was talking about Hull City and their chances of staying in the Premiership and I was staring fixedly into the distance and trying to count the number of chimney pots on passing houses) we stopped at an above-ground station and a bloke got on with a guitar. "Hi I'm Gareth and I'm going to play a few tunes for you...unless anyone objects when in that case I won't." Now not wanting to deprive a busker of a chance to earn a living, being cooped up in a railway carriage with a bloke murdering "Knockin’ on Heaven’s door’ when you have a slightly sore head, wel,l some frightfully un-British action needed to be taken. Weighing up on balance the loud, probably off key cover versions and more football talk and suddenly "The Tigers" seemed the more attractive choice. Politely I said "I would rather we travel in silence if that is OK with you". A few people in the carriage smiled and I am sure many inwardly cheered. "Gareth" got off at the next stop.

Back in Central London I linked up with Martin Emery, yet another DJ who was left rootless and with time to kill before his flight on Saturday evening. So we met up for a sandwich and decided to take the Thames Riverbus down to the 02 Arena, formerly the Millennium Dome/White elephant/waste of taxpayers’ money etc. Those boats don't half go at a lick and we sat in the stern and let the wash flick up and drench us as tourists jabbered excitedly in a variety of tongues. Got off, had a saunter around and came back again. Squelched off in our separate directions and I headed back to the rental flat for a bath and a change into some dry clothes.

Whilst I was lying there I hatched a plan, as it was a sunny day, to walk the 4 miles from the flat to Shepherds Bush Empire for that evening’s concert. The Jubilee line on the underground was closed for maintenance so it was a faff to get there without walking a mile to the nearest working line and changing a few times, so I set off thinking. "If it takes about 90 minutes to get there, I reckon I should arrive about 8.15 so will get some of the support act, a drink and be ready for the headliner - Texas whippet-thin albino blues/rock guitar legend Johnny Winter. I should have read the ticket more carefully. When I arrived more or less to the minute of 8.15 he was already on stage. He is only 65 but has had a whole host of health problems maybe as a result of a much publicised heroin addiction in the 70's. At the risk of sounding like I am firing off a load of possibly offensive pigment related puns, the poor man was a shadow. His guitar playing was still pretty good mind. However he can no longer stand for long periods so played seated. He also scarcely acknowledged the audience, it seemingly being an effort to speak. He also wasn't helped by a thundering rhythm section that threatened to overwhelm what he was doing. The crowd was very thin too. Never seen the Empire so empty. When I visited the loo the bloke next to me remarked that he looked so ill that he may not make it to the end of the gig.The show was all over by 9.30pm and it was sad to see a man a pale imitation of his former self. I have been a big fan of his stuff for years and it was such a shame to see him obviously so unwell.

Wednesday 20 May 2009


Having failed miserably at Blubberwatch due to inertia and lack of willpower….Question: "How do you increase willpower"? Answers please on the comment section. I would really appreciate that.

Thought now the spring and early summer weather was upon us - i.e I woke up and the sun was shining - it seemed a good idea to go for a good trudge. I have reverted to walking through the park again after the show and when I come back into the office during the day.

Yes shock horror I am here for more than the three hours per day. Although a lot of the time in the office can be spent chatting with people and gossiping and also a fair amount of Machiavellian plotting but things do get done like listening to CD's, emailing people, and writing this blog. It is 3.20pm as I type these words. So it is not exactly a three hour day.

Having said that I will put my hand up and admit that it is not exactly hard work either. I am blessed. I can still remember my attempts at hard work which involved being a clerk at the D.H.S.S and working behind the bar in a pub. This is where I learned just how rude people could be and why all the fun is the other side!

Still , digressing as usual ; back to the trudge: Within a stone’s throw of my flat that I rent (I hesitate to call it a "second home" due to the negative connotations of that term just at the moment) is the Regents Canal. Down onto the towpath and head in the direction of Camden Lock and further on to East London. It is an interesting walk which takes you past London Zoo and the aviary with deafening peacocks, other exotic creatures and the smell of guano.

Peacocks are a prime example of the flawed way nature works. Why make something so beautiful and give it a voice like that with all the shrieking? A bit like Naomi Campbell I suppose. After Camden and its fabulously exotic creatures who work on the stalls on the market there, I have a theory that Camden is filled with these people who are very concerned with their "look" so much so that when I have been down the pub there on a Saturday or Friday night you get the impression that because everyone looks so different and have spectacular tattoos and a wardrobe that means they can only live and work in that environment. They would look so out of place by the time they reached Islington that people would point and stare. Seems things are drifting but a few months ago everyone was aping Lily Allen and Pete Doherty. However looks like the ball gowns and the little trilby hats are waning. Wonder what the summer will bring. Whatever it is I doubt it will be beige.

I have tried to walk all the way to Limehouse Basin in East London before but am always outsmarted by the towpath-free Islington tunnel. In order to reconnect with the Eastern portal you need to climb back up to road level and follow the signs. There are about two before all mention of the canal vanishes, or so I could see. This time I was determined and after clumping around for half an hour whilst using the rather poor quality sat nav in my mobile phon, I eventually found the other end. With renewed vigour I set off East once more. I had gone about another mile when suddenly I think I must have changed pollens from grass to tree or something. A terrible tickly cough developed along with the odd comedy sneeze. I spluttered on for another mile and it stopped as quickly as it started. Whilst I was walking I was able to admire the graffiti. Never ever understood the reason why it was necessary to write unamusing slogans or "tag" a building. I wonder if someone who has sprayed some appalling racist slogans on a wall stands back and thinks "hmmm not exactly Banksy but it’s a start" I did see one item that made me laugh which read "I've done a tummy shame". You told me that it was a catchphrase used by the "Crack Fox" on The Mighty Boosh. Only seen it once so not got far enough into it to recognise the phrases. It helped start a thread on the show about banal graffiti which lasted for several days. There is plenty out there to choose from.

After a couple of hours and about 7 or 8 miles I found myself in Limehouse Basin where the canal meets the River Thames. Judging by the size of the yachts, no recession here. A good walk. Two small blisters and no weight loss. Hmm. It was fun though.

Monday night and it was back to the Royal Albert Hall for a must see :Nick Lowe. I have liked his stuff from his early days with Brinsley Schwartz to the present. He is a very engaging performer who managed to turn a place that size into a very intimate setting. Curtis Stigers turned up to play sax and Ron Sexsmith, the support, duetted on a Louvin Brothers song that I had not heard before which was excellent. He managed 4 or was it 5 encores and didn't do "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" which I wasn't fussed about. Normally when I get to see an act I really really like, they manage to avoid doing the one tune I desperately want them to do. The main set climaxed with a wonderful low key version of "What's so Funny (About Peace Love and Understanding) which is a particular favourite. It was taken at a slower tempo than the recorded version and was all the better for it. A chills down the spine moment. I was in good company even though for some unaccountable reason the show wasn't sold out. I spotted Mark Lamarr and Jo Brand in the audience as well as veteran producer/presenter Charlie Gillett and also BBC man about music Mark Hagan.

Wednesday 13 May 2009


"Blubberwatch" is not going very well frankly. This is mainly due to a lack of willpower. Not sure what to do. Eat and drink less seems like a pretty good idea. However if you are as weak-willed as me it can be a bit of a struggle. With that in mind I have been doing more exercise and trying to eat more sensibly. However…..

Friday night and it was an evening of unashamed nostalgia as I returned to the legendary 100 Club in London’s Oxford St. I have only been there once before back in 1978 to see Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - a blues singer and saxophone player. His back up band "Rocket 88" that night included ex "Roogalator" guitarist Danny Adler (remember Cincinatti fatback? don't) who once passed himself off as bluesman Otis "Elevator" Gilmore and allegedly fooled record company execs into thinking that the tapes were from a long forgotten authentic black bluesman. Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones was on drums and I stood next to him in the gents. It was a great night and as I revealed on the show I reached under my chair for my beer to find a guide dog drinking it. I wonder if the dog managed to find its way home that night. There can be few more dangerous things that holding onto a drunken Alsation for grim death as it staggers about the West End looking for a fight or maybe a kebab to finish the night off with.

Not sure that the club has changed at all over the years. However it is a great venue for live music.

Not seen "Libido Boy" for a few weeks so it was good to link up with him again as he came to stay before going out on another lukewarm date the following day. This is where the willpower collapsed. We were hungry so decided to eat Chinese. There was a choice of places both offering "All you can eat". One was vegetarian and the one we chose that was right next door wasn't. It advertised "real meat". I have never learned that "All you can eat" is not a challenge. There then followed a horrible exhibition of gluttony as we both tried to get value for money. Having eaten the contents of the restaurant we waddled into the club and plumped ourselves heavily down on a couple of rickety chairs. Think they may even have been the same ones from my previous visit. The tables too looked like they were. Who were we there to see?

3 Bonzos and a Piano. A splinter group from the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band of "Urban Spaceman" and "The Intro and the Outro" fame. The three in question were saxophonist Rodney Slater, drummer Sam Spoons, & multi instrumentalist and man with robots Roger Ruskin Spear. Although I was too young really for the Bonzo's first time round over the years, I have become a devoted fan.

To say it was a weird night was an understatement. Due to large number of props involved, the gig was "haphazard" to put it mildly. This included missed intros and lyric amnesia. I think if I had been to see any other act who kept having to restart tunes and had robots that in some cases singularly failed to do what they were supposed to do it would be annoying. The guys have so much charm that it didn't matter at all and the audience loved them. We had to prompt them on occasion as to where they were as we were all big fans and so knew the words where they had forgotten them. It was also interesting as it gave me an insight into why certain things on the records had escaped me over the years. It is all a big audiovisual thing. The records only give you half the story. So if you get a chance to see them, do. It is haphazard but who cares, we certainly didn't. A guy called David Christie is involved in writing the "Doo Dah Diaries", the story of the Bonzo's. I was surprised that they didn't do "the hits" and tended to stick with the earlier jazz covers such as "Jollity Farm" rather than "Mr Apollo" and "The Canyons of your Mind". Seems they prefer these and former member Neil Innes prefers to be a bit more "ordered".

Not sure if it is an age thing. I have never been into gardening which I have always found a terrible bore. As children my sister and I were dragged around seemingly hundreds of stately homes in the rain and squelched round acres of neatly laid out lawns and flowerbeds in the name of "a grand day out". If it’s Thursday it must be Shugborough. Ah bugger, not Chatsworth again! However met a friend up in the Midlands for lunch and in order to "aid digestion" we visited Coton Manor. It had some fine gardens as well as a selection of exotic rare breed type chickens. There is a garden school there and all sorts of horticultural stuff. My mate is very keen on gardening and to my consternation I found it quite interesting. Is it me - am I getting old? Am I going soft? I will be trying to get a job presenting "Songs of Praise" at this rate.

There was however a rather impressive bluebell walk. So I felt quite summery and at one with nature by the time we got back to the car. It is still going to be a while yet before I feel mature enough to pick up a trowel.

Thursday 7 May 2009


Lots of terrific music over the last week or so - starting with the so laid back she was almost comatose Madeleine Peyroux at the Barbican in London. I felt a bit out of place frankly as it seemed a bit posh with a cool jazz combo as the opening act with a direct line to "Jazz club" on The Fast Show. I am a terrible sniggerer so it was hard to keep a straight face during the noodling. When the lights came up for the interval the audience to a man and a woman opened their copies of the "Guardian" and the "Independent". Madeleine was terrific and at one point the band assembled in the centre of the stage to do a couple of songs in French which she explained that she used to play in Paris at a little place called "The Street". She then had to explain to the earnest audience that it was actually a joke and she had been busking.

Saturday night is was Hammersmith and Gary Moore. Not seen him in more than 30 years. Last time he was still a teenager. (I was too). He had just left Skid Row and was supporting Curved Air. That makes me feel ancient typing those words. Looking in the mirror the evidence seems to support this - dang!

Gaz did what Gaz does. With the vocal mike to the side of the stage you know you are in for an evening of intense fretboard activity. As a non musician it was a treat to spot which guitar was going to do what tune. The way it works is I think: The red one was blistering. The bronze one was distorting. The brown one was searing and the white one was twangy. There were a load of others but it did end up being a bit of a blur. There was also the slight problem that guitar players have of not being able to end a tune. I have a suspicion they are bewitched so that once the final chord has died away there has to be another twenty or thirty seconds of extreme high end finger work before it eventually grinds to a halt.

Another hallmark of the guitar legend is the posturing. We had "crouching" note, we had "legs apart mouth open" note. There was also "striding purposefully" arpeggio and my personal favourite "Monarch of the glen 1000 yard stare straight back full height" sustain. People were shouting out song titles and at one point someone yelled "I'm exhausted". Not sure if that was a song or just that the silver strings had taken their toll.

No prisoners were taken and it was a great gig and as one of you pointed out on my show later in the week, ‘We don't need an army - any trouble in the world, send Gary and his guitar.’ They would be stunned into a total shock and awe type defeat within seconds of him launching into "Further on up the Road".

Sunday and I was invited to go to Popham airfield in Hampshire to meet some mates who had flown in from Wolverhampton's Halfpenny Green airport in their flex wing micro lights for a micro light weekend. All sorts of weird and wonderful flying machines were on show including some gyrocopters. The air was buzzing with some very strange looking machines and there were even weirder ones on the ground including a First World War German replica. The guy who was selling it was explaining that the reasons he wanted to build and fly one was so that he could call up air traffic control on his radio and say "I am the little Fokker". Stan Boardman has a lot to answer for!

After my trip in a micro light last year (see previous blogs), various people have been trying to get me to learn to fly. None more so than Steve Wilkes who runs a flying school Hadair at Halfpenny Green. Here he is with his partner Jo second right in the picture with mates John and Alan. It is not as expensive as flying the "big" type Cessna type planes it is sorely tempting but I will need to check the pennies. Everyone was terribly friendly and no one spoke in that clipped "this is your captain speaking" type Airline speak. Even better no one had that laconic RAF style about them either "zero feet Algy nearly bought it in his kite". Which would be a big turn off. Everyone seemed normal and had proper ordinary jobs like being a builder, a salesman or working for IT support. They had arrived the day before and had camped out in teeny tiny tents after spending a convivial evening in a bigger tent on the airfield that contained beer.

Monday night and it was more guitar. This time at the Royal Albert Hall - Joe Bonamassa who started out as a child prodigy and has grown into a guitar hero. This was obviously a big gig for him and near the end he did say it had been the best night of his life. It looked like it was being filmed for a DVD. When I arrived I bumped into a load of Radio 2 people who I didn't know were going. The seats were in the "choir" section which meant we were behind the stage. This gave us a rather interesting view - the back of the band and also a different sound picture. Joe had two drummers so we got a lot of cymbal splashes and percussion and unfortunately as the PA was pointing in the opposite direction we lost a lot of the lyrics in the mix. Joe as a guitar legend also has a vast collection of instruments including a Theremin which he played with his hand and also his guitar neck at one point, watching the audience reaction from our vantage point as he strode the stage giving them his version of "Crouching note". "Legs apart mouth open" note”, “Striding purposefully" arpeggio and "Monarch of the glen 1000 yard stare (with dark glasses) straight back full height" sustain. It was quite eerie as he cut quite a Messianic figure. Suddenly the place went berserk as he introduced Eric Clapton for "Further on up the Road". "That was the coolest thing I have ever done" he admitted.

Lot of music and a lot of guitar. Been a terrific week. So went home and checked out the BBC Four Blues Season. I had recorded a documentary about Bobby Bland who I nearly saw as a teenager when he toured the UK with B.B King. Come the night, only B.B turned up. Usual documentary drill: Talking heads. Black and white photos. Record labels and concert footage. Fell asleep as Bobby launched into "Further on up the road".