I arrived to a very quiet Swan Inn, some would say too quiet….. The back room where we host our bi-monthly lollapaloozas was completely devoid of life. For a moment I thought I may have been away from the musical fold too long, buried by my academic landslide. Perhaps the night had changed and no-one had thought to tell me. All fears were alleviated soon after with the arrival of Andy “They call me Mr Misery” (sorry I didn’t get your surname Andy). I didn’t recognise Andy as he’d debuted on a night when I was in absentia, but he was carrying a guitar case and that was good enough for me. There would be music!
In no time at all the back room was heaving with a whole seven musicians and one harp roadie. Compact and bijou would be the theme for the night with a sprinkling of intimate thrown in. We formed something that I believe you could loosely called a circle and took turns at blowing each other’s musical minds. We were all really that amazing – you really should have been there!
It was decided that I would take the role of Mr Wylie for the night so I had to go first. Despite Chris Patrick’s assertion, I look nothing like Mr Wylie as the man is quite clearly left handed! I kicked off the proceedings with an old favourite (of mine) “Crooked Jack” which was followed by Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in The Streets”.
Mr Graeme Morel l was next in our revolutionary circle. He eschewed the shiny new music stand and propped his shiny electronic lyric box on the table. Graeme started with one of my favourite Nick Drake songs “Which Will” and did a very nice job of it too. The song sparked a discussion as to the method of the melancholy Mr Drake’s demise. I firmly asserted that he committed suicide by jumping from the window of his parent’s house. After checking with the great wiki in the clouds I can happily report that I was absolutely and totally incorrect. What actually happened was that (and I wiki-paraphrase here) on 25 November 1974, Drake died from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant; he was 26 years old. Whether his death was an accident or suicide has never been resolved. I stand corrected, although Townes Van Zandt definitely almost killed himself by falling from a window while intoxicated…..I think. Anyway, back to Graeme who continued in fine style with Al Stewart’s “Nostradamus”, which is more like a history lesson than a song – I was waiting for the quiz at the end!
Next was Andy who asserted that there would be no cheap crowd pleasers before giving us a very nice rendition of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger” which pleased this very small crowd of sulky Lancastrian. Next Andy dedicated a song to the CIA agents listening in the unmarked van across the street (you had to be there), a well-crafted, self-penned song entitled “ I know I shouldn’t”. Andy has a resonant singing voice as well as a very dry wit, and I’m glad I caught him this time around.
Next up was Chris Patrick. The small group size meant that the players didn’t feel the pressures of time so much which meant that everyone was able to chat a little more. Chris talked us through a little of his song writing process which was really interesting. He set the scene of the foggy Liverpool docks frequented by ladies of the night for us before launching into the tale of “Amanda Bell”. The introduction really brought the song to life for me – thanks for sharing Chris. This was followed by another Patrick original “You and Me Wander”. Chris did apologise for singing a love song but I think you’re on safe ground here Chris; historically they’ve been quite popular.
Next in line, or in circle, was James ‘Jukebox’ Porter. Never one to shy away from taking on a tune with a difficult arrangement, James started with Paul Simon’s Latin flavoured ‘Late in the Evening’. James’ version was without the Tijuana Brass (I believe they have a regular Tuesday gig in Cleckheaton) but was great nonetheless. Perhaps we could all use kazoos next time? James gave us an old favourite next, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’. The tune worked its hippy trippy magic on the audience and on Jame’s too as he discovered a new chord in the middle somewhere (I think it was one of those obscure jazz chords like H sus disbelief).
Frances White (the hardest busking harpist in Ilkley) was up net and started with the foot fetishist’s favourite ‘The Spanish Lady’ (listen to the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean) which was very nicely done. Frances followed this with a traditional selection called ‘The Handsome Ploughboy’ (were all ploughboy’s handsome or jolly back in the day? I’ve never heard a tune called ‘the plain but dependable ploughboy’ or ‘the butt ugly ploughboy’). Don’t know why but my notes from this part of Frances’ performance contains the phrase ‘unexpected or unexplained swelling’ and I’ve no idea why? (answers on a postcard please). Great stuff as always from Frances.
Finishing off our first half was late but welcome arrival, Chris Thompson. He had also arrived without his guitar so had to do the gig in his underwear. Sorry, no this isn’t school cross country running is it? Chris borrowed my guitar, lined up the tuning pegs and launched into Van the Man’s ‘Warm Love’. Ironically this tune contains the lyrics “ You can bring your guitar along”. Irony and melody, very nice Chris. John Martyn was next in Chris’s repertoire and a very polished rendition of the classic ‘May you Never’. Chris is an accomplished played and actually managed to venture into the virgin territory of my guitar’s fingerboard by playing above the tenth fret. I never knew there were notes up there!
So, that was the end of our wonderful first half and this was followed by a wonderful second half. So wonderful was it, in fact, that it took me several week to recover and complete the blog!
There are good reasons why we don’t give monkey’s fireworks and children typewriters (or is it the other way around?) and there is a reason why I end up being trusted with the blog so infrequently. I am easily distracted by bright shiny objects and have trouble completing tasks unless a deadline is looming, hence the two week wait for a blog.
In order that this is posted before tonight’s SAS I’m going to paraphrase, abridge, and condense my second half report until it is short, sweet and sticky.
The second half was characterised by a warm camaraderie and much singing from the collective choir. Particular highlights included Graeme’s version of the big O’s “You Got It” which involved improvised percussion and clapping; Chris P’s emotional “Fall into my Hands” with improvised and eerily accurate backing vocals and Chris T’s self-penned “Retirement Song” which received spontaneous admiration. Everyone else was brill too!
All in all a great evening which managed intimacy, warmth and rousing sing-a-longs at the same time. If you want more of the same, get yerself down to SAS tonight, there’ll be a chair waiting. MAC