Posts Tagged ‘pop’

Leo Sayer Whitley Bay Playhouse 6 October 2022

Leo Sayer is a very underrated songwriter, singer and artist. I remember seeing him in the early days at LEOTIXNewcastle City Hall during the 1970s, several times. Sometime during the 1980s I began to lose faith in him, and started to view him (quite wrongly, on reflection) as a middle-of-the-road artist. But he was always much more than that. I used to play and play his first album Silverbird which contained such classic tracks as “The Dancer” and “Drop Back”. And then, of course, he wrote a lot of songs which were taken up by Roger Daltrey on his self titled album, including “Giving It All Away”. His performance as the Pierrot for “The Show Must Go on” is etched in everyone’s mind. And I love the song “Moonlighting”. The guy was a great storyteller back in the day.

LEO3Over the years Leo has suffered financial difficulties as a result of mismanagement by the late great Adam Faith (now there’s someone I would have loved to see in concert) and now live in Australia. But he is back, here in the UK, touring middle -sized venues on his 50th anniversary tour (is it really 50 years?); back where he belongs, on stage singing those songs. And sing them he does. He looks great, particularly for his 74 years which he is proud to mention, and his voice is really strong.

LEOPROGThe Whitley Bay Playhouse website proudly advertised the show thus: “British music legend Leo Sayer will be touring the UK in 2022 celebrating his 50th anniversary in music. With this performance, Leo and his band bring boundless energy, exuberance and a hit packed show to some of his favourite venues across the country. Known the world over for his army of hits which include Thunder In My Heart, Moonlighting, One Man Band, I Can’t Stop Loving You, More Than I Can Say, Have You Ever Been in Love, The Show Must Go On and the transatlantic number ones, When I Need You and You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. This is a hit packed, high energy evening not to miss!”

LEO4The concert comprises two sets with an interval. He starts off going right back to the beginning with “The Show Must go on” followed by more classic hits: “One Man Band” and “Moonlighting”. Then he does a mix of songs; some containing great blues harmonica and other classic Leo hits. You forget how many chart hits this man had. Set 2 starts with “Thunder in My Heart” and also includes two Beatles songs from his latest album “Eleanor Rigby” and “Across the Universe”. He concludes with a small selection of songs from the Daltrey album including closing track “Giving it all Away”.

A great concert by a great artist who deserves much more recognition. Perhaps his time is returning. I hope so. I remain a fan and I am proud to say so.

LEO1Many thanks to Jackie for the photography.

Setlist: Set 1: The Show Must Go On; One Man Band; Moonlighting; Train; Dancing the Night Away; Raining in My Heart; Have You Ever Been in Love; Bedsitter Land; I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try).

Set 2: Thunder in My Heart; More Than I Can Say; Eleanor Rigby; Across the Universe; You Make Me Feel Like Dancing; When I Need You; Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance); How Much Love; It’s a Hard Life; Giving It All Away.

Sweet Dreams are Made of This: My Life in Music – An Evening with Dave Stewart Sunderland Firestation 9 September 2022

DAVE S TIXThis was a special evening to celebrate Dave Stewart’s 70th birthday. It was also a homecoming gig at a new venue, the recently constructed Sunderland Firestation, which is on the site of the old main fire station, next to Sunderland Empire Theatre. The venue proudly advertised the concert on its website: “We are delighted and excited to welcome Sunderland legend Dave Stewart to The Fire Station for this very special “Evening with” type event where Dave will tell the story of his life in music. Expect conversation, live music, film and much more in this especially curated event where Dave will share his experiences from his earliest musical influences growing up in Sunderland, through his stratospheric success with Annie Lennox and Eurythmics, fascinate us with stories about his many collaborations with among others, U2, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Daryl Hall, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, through to the release of his most recent album, the brilliant and epic Ebony McQueen and the subsequent film due to be released about his life growing up in Sunderland.”

dave s cover bookThe concert sold out almost immediately (the venue is relatively small holding only a few hundred people) and I was lucky enough to get tickets. The show was full of lots of reminiscences for me personally. First up, it was opened by old friend Malcolm Gerrie, who hails from Sunderland (Peterlee actually) and who taught at Ryhope school, where he produced school performances of The Who’s rock opera Tommy and the David Essex film Stardust. I remember many chats with Malcolm in the past. Once he told me how he went to see Led Zeppelin (possibly then called the New Yardbirds) at local venue the Peterlee Argus Butterfly, a concert that was attended by a small number of people. I was so jealous! His early experiences led to him producing the local TV show The Tube and directing many TV shows since then.

Malcolm explained how a young long-haired guy used to come into the local clothes shop, Sergeant Peppers, and sit and sing his songs. The young guy was, of course, none other than Dave Stewart. My late wife, Marie, used to manage her mother’s clothing factory which made all of the clothes for the aforementioned Sergeant Peppers. Malcolm explained how he got a phone call a few days prior to the show from Dave asking him to come over and introduce him. How could he decline such a request from an old friend? Of course, he didn’t, and was proud and pleased to be able to do so.

Dave_Stewart_(6424621779)After Malcolm’s introduction, Dave Stewart came on to further explain how he used to also shop at local fashion shop West One, where he would get custom-made leather jackets! He then reminisced about his folkrock band Longdancer, who went on to get a record deal with Rocket Records, Elton John’s label. He explained how he joined The Tourists with a lady called Annie Lennox and another Sunderland musician Pete Coombs who wrote the songs for the band. Surprisingly, Dave and Annie did not compose together until they formed the Eurythmics.

I have lots of fond memories of seeing Dave Stewart in many incarnations. First, in aforementioned folk rock band Longdancer at Sunderland Locarno in the early 1970s. Then, some years on, with Annie Lennox in the Tourists again at Sunderland Locarno, at Newcastle City Hall and at the Reading Festival. Further on in his career, I was lucky enough to see Eurythmics perform at Newcastle City Hall. I also recall seeing Dave Stewart join Fergal Sharkey on stage for an encore at Newcastle City Hall, on Fergal’s first solo tour after leaving the Undertones. I saw Dave Stewart at Sunderland Empire at another homecoming concert and with Ringo Starr at the opening of the Capital of Culture in Liverpool, which was also the opening concert at the new venue, Liverpool Arena (all reported on my blog).

dave sign pageDave has done pretty well for a lad from Sunderland. He has sold in excess of 100 million albums worldwide. He has also played with some of the biggest names in the business. It is great that he remembers his roots, and this return home concert was much anticipated by the people of Sunderland.

No photography was allowed at the show, so I have illustrated this entry with a picture of his recent autobiography, which is also the name of this concert, and which I purchased a signed copy at the aforementioned Sunderland Empire concert. The photo of Dave Stewart is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Eva Rinaldi. Dave took this through his entire career showing video footage of him composing a song over the phone with Bono, singing with Mick Jagger, and other famous collaborations. He is an amazingly accomplished guy, and has collaborated with stars including the late Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. This was intertwined with performances of some of his best-known songs by his magnificent band including a vocalist who sang the Annie Lennox parts of the Eurythmics songs perfectly. At one point a sax player appeared from the back of the audience and she walked directly beside us, then towards and up onto the stage playing the saxophone part of one of the songs. Similarly the drummer walked down from the audience to the stage clicking his drumsticks together before taking up the drum stool. Fantastic. By the end of the concert and “Sweet Dreams” everyone was up and singing and dancing along. A great evening with a local hero. You can read a full review of the show here. Review: Dave Stewart at The Fire Station – Cultured North East

Setlist: Ebony Says; Missionary Man; Ebony Mcqueen; There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart); Lily Was Here; Jack of All Trades; When Tomorrow Comes; I Saved the World Today; Here Comes the Rain Again; Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

ABBA: Voyage The ABBA arena London 1 September 2022

abba 1Apologies for the break in transmission which I felt appropriate during the time of mourning for our Queen and the transition to King Charles.

How do you explain the inexplicable? Did I really see what I thought I did a couple of weeks ago in London? This was an experience like no other and one that has to be seen to be believed.

“Blending cutting-edge technology, spectacular lighting, and some of the most beloved songs ever written, ABBA take to the stage in a whole new way. In a stunning, purpose-built arena, one of the most popular groups in history appear as digital avatars in a ‘ground-breaking’ (Metro) concert that really ‘needs to be seen to be believed” (BBC).

I saw ABBA in concert, once only, in 1979 at Stafford Bingley Hall which was an old cattle market. It smelt of cattle and sheep and I swear that I saw bits of straw on the floor. I went there twice, once to see The Who (the first concert there as I recall), and once to see ABBA. For The Who concert it was standing everywhere; for ABBA it was set out with plastic chairs across the floor. My friend Davey and I were seated quite close to the front and ABBA were, as you would expect, sensational. They were at the height of their success and sang all the hits. I have reviewed the concert on my blog elsewhere (enter ABBA in the search box).

abba 2Now going to a concert these days takes some organisation. There are quite a lot of logistics involved including booking assistance on the train to make sure that a friendly guy appears with a ramp to get me on and off the train. On this occasion three carers accompanied me, all of us excited at the experience. We travelled direct from Sunderland to London via the lovely Grand Central service. The guy with the ramp appeared like magic both there and back on the journey. Once at King’s Cross we checked in to a Premier Inn which is directly opposite the station. After a quick rest we were off to the ABBA arena via a fast train from St Pancras to Stratford International and then a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Pudding Mill Lane station. Again, this all worked well with passenger assistance helping me out with a ramp without any pre-warning on the fast train. The DLR is similar to a tube train and I can easily navigate my wheelchair straight on. All no problem. Excellent! The ABBA arena is then a short walk over the road.

abba progOnce we got inside I bought some merchandise including a couple of programmes for my friend John and I, and some badges for my daughter. We picked up our drinks and then took our seats in the arena. What happened next was a revelation. Somehow, using magical technology, the ABBA people have managed, using avatars, to recreate the four members of the group just as they were in 1979. All four are there in front of us singing the hits. You can get a feel for the show from the link contained in this review in the Guardian. Lights and mirrors appear from the ceiling, rotating, and moving screens display the group while they lead the songs from the back of the stage. An excellent band accompanies them. Each member speaks to us, their faces appearing exactly as they looked “back in the day”. Unbelievable.

The set list is everything you could wish for. After a couple of songs I didn’t recognise we are into the hits: “SOS”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Fernando” and so it goes on. One of my favourites “Eagle” is accompanied by a computer-generated video of a young boy marvelling at an eagle flying “high in the sky”. The hits just keep coming. For “Waterloo” they choose to show footage of the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest which they won and took place in the UK, in Brighton. I don’t mind admitting I had tears in my eyes at this point. Everything was perfectly recreated. They close with “Thank You for the Music” and “Dancing Queen”. By this point I am melting down; I find the whole experience highly emotional. It takes me back to a time when things were very different and when ABBA were wonderful. And tonight they are abba 3wonderful again. By now the girls are clapping and dancing, as is the entire arena. Finally we are treated to an encore of “The Winner Takes It All”. Then another piece of magic happens. The avatars become the group as they are now. They come to the front of the stage and thank us for coming along to the show.

Then we are out into the dark night and the journey back to the hotel via DLR and the fast train all work smoothly. We stop off for some supper of burgers/hot dogs and chips in Five Guys at King’s Cross. Then I am soon back in bed, the whole experience swirling round in my head, not believing what I have just experienced.

So is this the future of rock concerts? Will this technology enable us to see The Beatles in concert? It opens up all sorts of possibilities. Will my grandchildren be treated to avatars recreating the Rolling Stones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Bob Dylan; the list goes on as do the possibilities. Will arena shows based on virtual reality replace tribute bands in the future? The technology is there now and proven to work. After its very significant run of shows in London the ABBA arena will grace major cities around the world. This show could go on for ever, treating fans to a glimpse of the past and bringing history back to life.

The next morning we have some breakfast, and then we are up and back on our train to Sunderland. All works well. And “a good time was had by all”, to coin a well-known phrase! My trip back to 1979 was pure magic and if you get the chance please go and see the show. It is as good as everything you read about it. Happy days!

Setlist: The Visitors; Hole In Your Soul; SOS; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Chiquitita; Fernando; Mamma Mia; Does Your Mother Know?; Eagle; Lay All Your Love On Me; Summer Night City; Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight); Voulez-Vous; When All Is Said And Done; Don’t Shut Me Down; I Still Have Faith In You; Waterloo; Thank You For The Music; Dancing Queen.

Encore: The Winner Takes It All

Tears for Fears and Alison Moyet Newcastle Arena 7 July 2022

TEARS TIXThis was a strong 80s double bill. It has been many years since I had seen either of these acts and, to be honest, I had forgotten just how great they both are. Tears for Fears were absolutely massive and I remember seeing them at the time “Shout” was in the charts at Newcastle City Hall and they were simply tremendous. Everyone walked out of the venue that night singing “Shout” at the top of their voices. A magic moment. And Alison Moyet, I remember seeing her in both Yazoo and as a solo artist. But enough of the past.TEARS 3
The first thing I noticed was just how full the venue was. I would say more than three quarters of the seats were taken. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Two great acts on the same bill. Alison Moyet was first to take the stage and did a set of her own songs and Yazoo hits. The venue was almost full from the start; no ordinary support act this one, the bar must have been empty. Alison was dressed all in black, looked well and her voice was as strong and soulful as ever. If anything she has become a little darker in her approach, the songs taking on an almost Gothic style (that may be a slight exaggeration). The crowd gave her the great reception she deserved. A fantastic opening act, but the best was yet to come.TEARS 4
Something is different about Tears for Fears these days. In my memory (and I could be quite wrong) Curt was almost the front man and sang all the hits when I saw them “back in the day”. While Roland took more of a back seat. There seems to have been some sort of change around, at least for the newer songs. Roland looks very different with long white hair and a white beard and seems to almost have become the leader, talking a lot more than his partner. Roland jokingly said that he had been compared to Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen or a well-groomed Bill Bailey! The set was a mix of old and new. I had forgotten just how many hits they had. They drew heavily from their new album TEARS 1The Tipping Point which has been several years in the making and has returned them to the top 5 of the American album charts. This band are massive around the world. The hits just kept coming: early on we got “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and the wonderful “Sowing The Seeds of Love”. We were soon taken right back to the start and “Mad World” along with “Pale Shelter”. The encores included “Change” and the closing song was (of course) “Shout”. Everyone went home happy. A truly great 1980s double bill.

I was lucky to catch the tour. Shortly after I saw them the following announcement was made: “The remaining dates of Tears For Fears tour have been cancelled today because of Curt Smith’s rib injury. Ticket holders are advised to contact their point of purchase.”

TEARS 2In the three dates where Alison Moyet performed, she got massive praise from the press: “The Express newspaper noted “Pop chanteuse Moyet… put on an incredible last-minute headline performance”. The Blackpool Gazette welcomed “an uplifting evening of electro torch songs” and described Alison’s performance as a “triumph”. And All Music Magazine praised Alison as “a flawless performer”.”

Alison Moyet Setlist: I Germinate; Nobody’s Diary (Yazoo); Do You Ever Wonder; Beautiful Gun; All Cried Out; Wishing You Were Here; Situation (Yazoo); My Best Day; Only You (Yazoo); Love Resurrection; Don’t Go (Yazoo)

TEARS 6Tears for Fears Setlist: No Small Thing; The Tipping Point; Everybody Wants to Rule the World; Secret World; Sowing the Seeds of Love; Long, Long, Long Time; Break the Man; My Demons; Rivers of Mercy; Mad World; Suffer the Children; Woman in Chains; Badman’s Song; Pale Shelter; Break It Down Again; Head Over Heels / Broken.

Encore: End of Night; Change; Shout.

Many thanks to Jackie for the photos and Chris for helping me into my bed. A great night.

Tony Christie Whitley Bay Playhouse 4 June 2022

tony tixNow this is a guilty pleasure. After the wonderful guitar work of Jeff Beck and the excitement of seeing Johnny Depp, two days later I am in Whitley Bay Playhouse to see none other than the great Yorkshire man Tony Christie. I have harboured a secret desire to see Tony for some time and a few weeks ago I finally took the plunge and bought tickets. I was encouraged by my carer Jan who is also a fan and accompanied me to the concert. Tony Christie was on stage sharp at 7:30 PM and played two sets with an interval, finishing at 9:30 PM. An early night for once, which suits me just fine at my age. Talking about age Tony Christie is 79 years old and still looks and sings great. He was accompanied by an excellent band all of whom are great musicians in their own right.

tony1
Tony started the evening with a single written for him by Jarvis Cocker who also comes from Sheffield, Tony’s home town. I didn’t recognise the song but it sounded great. This was followed by his first hit from 1971, “Las Vegas”. He then went on to sing a mixture of ballads including covers of well-known songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra. Tony was very much the smart guy about town wearing a natty three-piece whistle complete with smart tie and top pocket hanky. His voice is strong and he clearly enjoys singing to a crowd. I had in my mind that he would be like a club singer, but he is so much more than that. Tony told us about his many successes including singing in the West End and his worldwide tours. The first set also included Tony’s great smash hit record “I Did What I Did For Maria”. Nuff said. Lots of fun!

tony2During the second set we were treated to more ballads including Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me”. This time Tony’s suit was even more impressive, glistening, nice and shiny. I would love to wear one like that! We all sang along to “Avenues and Alleyways”, the theme tune from TV show The Protectors. Of course the closing song had to be “Is This the Way to Amarillo?” and we all sang along again. Tony explained that Neil Sedaka had offered him two songs: “Amarillo”and “Solitaire”. Tony’s manager did not like the latter of those two songs and persuaded Tony not to record it. Of course Andy Williams went on to have a worldwide smash with the song. An opportunity missed. Such is life. A great evening with some great songs. Not your classic rock, but lots of fun delivered by a real professional who has entertained crowds around the world for many years and I’m sure will do for many years to come.

The Animals and Friends Whitley Bay Playhouse 12 March 2022

animals 4So my question for today is: When Is a Band No Longer a Band? In the case of The Animals and Friends, the only original member is long-standing drummer, John Steel, who at the age of 81 has assembled a band of fine musicians around him to play all The Animals hits. “Though the band has changed, the songs remain eternal… alongside covers of Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker classics, they ensure that the nostalgic element comes with an enjoyably abrasive edge”. (From the bands website).

This tour is billed as their farewell concert tour, and if so, this may be the last time that John and his friends have performed in a local “home” venue. Support was provided by another legend from the 60s, Zoot Money.

Now I have to admit to being a massive fan of Eric Burdon; I think he is one of the greatest vocalists ever and have been to see him every chance I can including a performance at Newcastle City Hall a few years ago. Eric performs with his own band, sometimes called The Animals, which has changed over the years. He remains a fine blues singer and his performances are always excellent. He does not grace these shores very often, which is a shame. So I was interested to see this performance by John Steel and his “friends”.

animals 3I was perched at the back of the hall again, as I was for Fairport Convention a week or so ago. The view is great and the venue was around ¾ full. First up, at around 7:30 PM, was Zoot Money who performed a fine set of rhythm and blues, solo on keyboards and vocals. His set was short, but warmed up the crowd well. He finished shortly after 8 PM which gave me time to have a swift pint of Guinness during the interval.

The Animals and Friends took to the stage around 8:30 PM and treated us to just over one hour of classic songs from back in the 60s.

animals 2I can’t quite recall the full set, but I seem to remember that they started with “Don’t Bring Me Down” and played a set of Animals hits and other R&B classics including “I’m Crying”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “It’s My Life” and “Club A Go Go”(written about the legendary 60s Newcastle club where all the greats played including Cream, Jimi Hendrix and, of course, The Animals). They closed the set with “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”. John Steel then came to front of stage and explained how he had been in the band since it first formed in 1957! He then introduced the encore which was, of course, “House of the Rising Sun”. Finally, he welcomed Zoot Money back on stage to join the band to play Zoot’s 1960s hit “Big Time Operator”, which reached number 25 in the UK charts in 1966.

animals1The concert finished around 9:40 PM. Quite an early finish time these days. The band played well. John has assembled a fine set of musicians around him who do full justice to The Animals classic 60s tracks. The front man, Danny Handley , is to be applauded for both playing excellent guitar and singing strong vocals on all the songs. I can’t quite bring myself to say that his vocals matched Eric Burdon but, hey, he came pretty damn close. So it was a very pleasant evening spent listening to some of my all-time favourite songs. After the show the band and Zoot Money were signing CDs in the foyer. I decided to purchase a fine pair of John Steel drumsticks which he kindly signed personally and in front of me; one dedicated to me and the other dedicated to my friend John in the USA who came to see so many shows with me in the 1970s.

animals 5So, returning to my original question: When Is a Band No Longer a Band? My answer is thus. Does it matter? As long as they play good versions of great songs and I have an enjoyable evening, then it is certainly worthwhile going to see them. John and his friends have managed to retain the gritty Newcastle soul of The Animals and in doing so present a show that lives up to the bands legend. A great night.

Interestingly, I found the following on Wikipedia: “In 2008, an adjudicator determined that original Animals drummer John Steel owned “the Animals” name in the UK because of a trademark registration that Steel had filed. Eric Burdon had objected to the trademark registration, arguing that he personally embodied any goodwill associated with “the Animals” name. Burdon’s argument was rejected, in part because he had billed himself as “Eric Burdon and the Animals” as early as 1967, thus separating the goodwill associated with his own name from that of the band. On 9 September 2013, Burdon’s appeal was allowed, and he is now permitted to use the name “the Animals.””

Many thanks to Vikki my carer and photographer for the evening and Chris for once again helping put me back to bed.

60s Gold Tour Sage Gateshead 17 November 2021

60s tixSome time ago I promised myself I would never again go to a 60s show. Too cheesy. Too embarrassing. Too many people dancing around in an unbecoming manner! However this one tempted me for several reasons. Firstly it featured my hero PJ Proby. Secondly I always fancied seeing Marmalade. I have a vague memory of seeing them at Sunderland Top Rank in the early 70s when they were out of the charts and the place was empty. But it is very vague and I can’t be certain I was actually there! And yes I realise there is no original member in the band from their heyday when they had their big hits such as “Reflections of My Life” and “Lovin’ Things” but Sandy Newman has been a member of Marmalade since the mid-70s and featured on their last big hit “Falling Apart at the Seams”. And thirdly the show featured another hero of mine, Steve Ellis. Now Steve Ellis has sadly had to pull out of the tour due to ill-health. I hope he’s soon better. Still the line-up remained strong.

60s progWhen I was a kid, around 11 or 12 years old I would go to the Saturday morning disco at Sunderland Top Rank. It was 1967 or 1968 and my heroes were Steve Marriott, Steve Ellis and Barry Ryan. I had a pair of black checky hipster trousers and a black plastic belt which was very wide and had two metal prongs as a fastener. You bought the belts at Woolworths as I recall. The hipster trousers were made of very rough material and were quite itchy to the skin. I also wore a Paisley shirt with button-down collar made by “Rave” which was the make of the day and you bought them at Binns. Of course, I also wore a vintage kipper tie. I felt I was a young mod and would parade around the walkway which circled the ballroom eating my iced drink, called a Slush. I would even dance sometimes! I often think those were some of my happiest days. One of the records I loved was “Lovin’ Things” by Marmalade. I used to gaze at young girls my own age but didn’t dare talk to any!

And so I went along to the 60s show with mixed feelings. Would I enjoy it? Or was it going to be a cheesy letdown? And I also had in my mind the question “when is a band no longer a band?” After all, some of the bands (I should call them groups, as we did in the 60s) featured only one, or in some cases no, original members.

Introduction: 7.30pm. The compere for the evening was DJ Ally Pally, whom I have seen before fulfilling a similar role in another 60s Gold concert at Newcastle Tyne Theatre a few years ago. His job was to introduce each of the acts, and he did so well. I was accompanied by carer Jackie and my sister-in-lawjerrys p 1 Elaine who was, for the evening, my guest rather than a carer. She was sitting separately from us as we bought her ticket later. However, she was able to come over and join us later on. 

Gerry’s Pacemakers: 7.33pm. First up was Gerry’s Pacemakers. This consisted of the late Gerry Marsden’s backing band, including his musical director for the last 25 years, and a new singer. They sang a number of Gerry’s hits including “How Do You Do”, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” (one of my favourite songs of all time), “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Good versions of great songs and a nice introduction to the evening.

Dave Berry: 7.45pm. Next, a white glove appeared from behind the curtain and the legend that is Dave Berry shuffled onto the stage, his hands shielding his face. He was, of course, famous for those strange spooky hand mannerisms dave ber 1which continued throughout his set. He sang a few of his hits including “Memphis Tennessee”, “Mama” and my favourite “The Crying Game” with its wonderful Wah Wah guitar. The guitarist did a reasonable version of the original guitar sounds and solos, which were performed by either Jimmy Page or Big Jim Sullivan (great session man who went on to become Tom Jones guitarist on his TV show). The truth of who played on the single seems to be lost in the depths of time. Whoever it was they did a wonderful job. Dave Berry is 80 years old and looks, and sounds, just fine. Excellent.

Mamas & Papas UK: 7.57pm. The Mamas and Papas UK are simply a cover band who did fair versions of the band’s greatest hits including “Creeque Alley”, “Monday Monday” and “California Dreaming”. Greatmamas 1 songs which still sound good today. Strangely the band also included the singer from Gerry’s Pacemakers! Then came my hero!

PJ Proby: 8.10pm. Now this is THE MAN. The uncompromising, unflinching, outspoken, politically incorrect, but great, legend that is the 83-year-old PJ Proby. Still in strong voice and looking very healthypj 1 and stylish with longish white hair and full beard, he belted out his hits including “Somewhere”, “Hold Me” and “Maria”. PJ sat down for some of the performance but also managed some dancing with his saxophone player! The man is a hero of mine and continues to astound with his vocal histrionics and his melodramatic, but wonderful, rendition of classic ballads from musicals. Proby, and all the other acts before him, were backed by Gerry’s Pacemakers. Then things moved up a gear.

Marmalade: 8.23pm.  This version of Marmalade is fronted by Sandy Newman who has taken on the lead role that was formally Dean Ford’s. Sandy has been in the band since the mid-marm 170s and featured on their last big hit record “Falling Apart at the Seams”. I first saw Sandy at the Grangemouth pop festival in 1972. He was second on the bill, after Billy Connolly, and fronting the Chris McLure Section. The stage cleared for Marmalade who are a truly professional act and moved the whole show up a notch. Great versions of classic songs followed: “Wait for Me Marianne”, “Lovin’ Things” (in my mind I was 12 again and back in the Top Rank Suite in my hipsters), “Rainbow”, “Reflections of My Life” and their cover of the Beatles song, which got them a big hit and up to number one in the charts “Ob La Di, Ob La Da”. An excellent close to the first half of the show, and a long time wish of mine fulfilled; to see Marmalade!

Interval: 8.45pm. Time for a nice cool gin and tonic. Elaine came across and had a chat, taking up an empty seat beside Jackie and me. We all agreed the show so far was just great!

Vanity Fare: 9.05pm. Vanity Fare opened the second half of the show with the hits “Hitchin’ a Ride”, vanity 1“Early in the Morning” (their biggest hit) and “I Live for the Sun”. This is an example of a band which doesn’t include any original members; however it does include some long-standing members who have been with the band for many years). They reopened the proceedings well and were good fun.

Herman’s Hermits: 9.20pm. Herman’s Hermits contain the original drummer, hermans 1Barry Whitwam, who has been in the band since its inception. The band members have gradually retired over the years and Peter Noone left in the early 70s. Now the musicians who surround Barry have been with him for many years and did great versions of wonderful pop classics including “No Milk Today”, “Sunshine Girl” and “There’s a Kind of Hush”. Barry Whitwam came to the front and explained how the band had sold 80 million records and told the tale of how they once had the great privilege of meeting Elvis Presley. I have seen this version of the Hermits before and they always put on a great performance. You can’t go wrong with hits like that.

The Tremeloes: 9.42pm. And now a big surprise. This version of the Tremeloes was to be fronted by none other than bass player and singer Chip Hawkes. However we were told by Ally Pally that Chip had been taken unwell at the start of the tour and had to drop out. I hope you are soon better, Chip. He was chesney 1replaced by none other than his son, the “One and Only” Chesney Hawkes. Fantastic! Chesney is a consummate performer and took the show up a level again. He led the band, which also features his brother on drums and Chip’s 15-year-old grandson on guitar plus a couple of other members (one of whom was from Vanity Fare!) through all those classics good time hits: “Even the Bad Times Are Good”, “Here Comes My Baby”, and “My Little Lady”. In the case of the latter song, Chesney explained how his dad met his mum on the Golden Shot TV show in the 60s (his mum was one of the lovely girl presenters on the show) and that he wrote the song about her; they have been married for 54 years! The “Tremeloes” continued with more hits closing with an a cappella version of the smash “Silence Is Golden”. Just wonderful. Was this really the Tremeloes? Or Chesney Hawkes and family singing the Tremeloes? Who cares. It was just great. We all agreed it had been a wonderful night.

 Concert finish: 10.20pm. Our taxi driver was waiting for us and we were soon on our way home, still excited about the appearance of Chesney Hawkes (who was now our hero) and we told the taxi driver all about it. A great night reliving some wonderful memories with some classic pop songs from the 60s. When is a band no longer a band? Who cares?!

An audience with Paul McCartney live stream from Southbank Centre 5 November 2021

paul4 - Copy (2)Paul McCartney has recently written a wonderful book entitled The Lyrics, which is a beautifully presented, two-volume (in a presentation box) selection of 154 of his lyrics. The book was edited by the poet, Paul Muldoon, who  helped Paul choose the lyrics to be included. This live stream was from a question-and-answer/audience with event which saw the two Pauls interviewed by Samira Ahmed in the Southbank Centre, London. I would have loved to attend the actual event in London but, given my circumstances, it was more practical to settle for the live streaming. Having said that the live stream was excellently done, and I really enjoyed it. It was actually almost “like being there”!

“More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.” – Paul McCartney, The Lyrics

“In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career – from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present.” (From Paul McCartney website)

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I have just received my own copy of the book and haven’t had time to go through it properly yet. However I can confirm that it is a beautiful artefact, well presented, and provides fascinating insights into the lyrics of one of our true musical geniuses, and one of my heroes. I look forward to going through the book in more detail in the weeks to come.

Paul McCartney’s collaborator and editor in this venture comes with an incredible pedigree and background, which makes him an excellent choice for working on The Lyrics. Apparently the two Paul’s worked together for five years, carefully selecting which songs to include, spanning Paul McCartney’s entire career: “Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet. He has published more than thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. At Princeton University he is currently both the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities and Founding Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 to 2004 and has also served as president of the Poetry Society (UK) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.” (From Wikipedia).

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Chair and chief questioner Samira also comes with impeccable credentials: “On TV I present Newswatch on BBC1 and the BBC News channel. I was named the British Broadcasting Press Guild Audio Presenter of the Year 2020. On radio I present Front Row on Radio 4 and the Intelligence Squared podcast How I Found My Voice.” (In her own words, from her website).

The event was fascinating and well presented. Samira did an excellent job, questioning the two Paul’s. It was very clear that Paul and Paul have built up a very close working relationship. Paul Muldoon clearly has a deep understanding of Paul McCartney’s lyrics and throughout the evening it became very clear the very careful and almost forensic way in which they had approached the selection of the lyrics. They felt that the final collection represents the entirety of Paul’s career and includes important lyrics each of which tell their own story. The lyrics are presented alphabetically, rather than chronologically (which is what I for some reason expected), as they explain: “Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs’ lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now.” (From Paul McCartney website).

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The first thing that came over to me very clearly was just how natural Paul McCartney sounded and behaved. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I saw was an ordinarily guy, without any big ego, chatting about his work and his life. It was a pleasure to see and hear him talk so naturally about songs which have become parts of all of our lives and which mean so much to many of us. There were many little snippets which came out and revealed aspects of the songs and their lyrics of which I was not aware. A few I remember, I will recount below.

“Ticket to Ride”. Paul revealed that there was a double meaning to this song. Apparently, he and John Lennon wrote the song during a trip to a family home on the Isle of Wight and “Ride” has a double meaning, referring to “Ryde”, the town on the Isle of Wight where they were heading.

“Eight Days a Week”. Paul was travelling in a taxi and he asked the driver what sort of week he had had. The taxidriver replied “It has been really busy. I have full on working eight days a week!” Paul rushed to see John and said “I have a great title for our next song!” The rest is history. I wonder if that taxidriver ever clicked on.

“Let It Be”. This iconic song came to Paul in a dream where his mother appeared to him and, as Paul appeared worried about something, she gave him a piece of advice. She simply said to Paul “Let It Be”. He said she seemed completely real in the dream. I think we all have such dreams which seem real to us. I often wonder if they do have a deeper meaning and represent some alternative reality.

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Paul also discussed how the fact that he is left-handed and John was right-handed helped them when writing songs together. Instead of the necks of their guitars getting in the way and hitting each other, they would point in opposite directions, enabling the two to watch each other as they played and sang. Paul said he could watch John’s guitar playing and this would help him complement it with his own guitar or bass playing. He also said it brought the two young men closer together which helped with their singing, harmonies and songwriting. A fascinating insight which, in some ways, is obvious yet reveals a lot.

The evening concluded with Samira selecting a small number of questions from the audience within the Southbank Centre and from those sent in online.

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A fascinating event, which complements a wonderful book, and gave some unique insights into the thought processes behind the lyrics and songs of one of our musical geniuses.

It is not often that we get an opportunity to gain intimate insights into the mind and thoughts of a musical genius. One thing I forgot. Paul also spoke lovingly of his education at school. He admitted that, although he did not realise it at the time, he learnt a lot from one particular teacher, who taught him English Literature. He said that he particularly enjoyed Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales (“very rude, filthy!”) He also admitted that all four Beatles gained a lot from school and that influenced their songwriting, perhaps without them realising.

Cliff Richard 80th birthday tour Sage Gateshead 15 October 2021

cliff tixNow I can’t claim to be a massive Cliff Richard fan. However, having said that, he was quite an important part of my life during the 1960s. My dad used to love going to the pictures (or the cinema, as you know it now) and would take me several times a week to local cinemas such as the Plaza at Pallion, The Picture House, the Odeon, the ABC at Sunderland and further afield to cinemas like the ABC Haymarket, Newcastle and the Stoll Theatre (now the Tyne Theatre), Newcastle. We would go to see every new (and old) Disney cartoon including the Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio and many others. We also went to see every James Bond film (Sean Connery is still the true authentic James Bond), the Beatles films, Mary Poppins, Born Free, and every Man from Uncle film. All classics and all important parts of my youth. But best of all was none other than Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday. I must’ve seen it five or six times during the 60s and my dad and I just loved that movie and the title track.

CLIFF4So it was with songs like “The Young Ones”, “Bachelor Boy” and “Summer Holiday” in my head that I went along to this show. I also remember having an old copy of “Travelling Light” and “Living Doll” on 78. All great songs and great memories. The last time I saw Cliff was 20 years or so ago at Newcastle Arena with The Shadows, which was an excellent concert. This time I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The concert was in two 45 minute segments with a short interval, around 20 minutes, in between. The audience was, how can I say it, quite mature. In fact Jackie my carer and I felt as if we were the youngest people there! That is, of course, an exaggeration but the majority of the audience was female and around 70 or 80 years old. But then I guess that was to be expected with an artist like Cliff Richard who is now 81 years old.

Cliff looks, and sounds, just great. He is unbelievably fit and young looking. Excellent! He has assembled a band of seven musicians including two vocalists who provide excellent backing throughout the evening. Cliff comes on stage dressed in a long white evening coat and starts with “Wired for Sound” which is okay, but not one of my favourite songs. The first set is a mix of songs from the 60s and later and some new tracks which I don’t recognise. A good mix of songs including some great old ones such as “Please Don’t Tease” and “Do you Wanna Dance?”; The latter two sound just great. One interesting fact. The guitarist in the band is excellent and takes on some of the Hank Marvin licks and does them full justice. Cliff explains that the Fender Stratocaster he is playing is the very same one which Hank brought over to the UK in the late 50s. Wow! I wonder how Cliff managed to gain this guitar from Hank? Anyway the new guitarist is left-handed so has to play Hank’s Fender upside CLIFF5down. They also do a pretty great version of the opening segment of “Apache” with Cliff tapping the mic to make the sound of a drum as, he explained, he did on the original version. Cliff changes jacket during the set to a great cheer from the crowd. One thing I forgot to mention. As Cliff came on stage, a large group of ladies close to the front sang “Happy Birthday” to him. It had been his 81st birthday the day before! They also threw a pile of birthday balloons onto the stage. A great start to the show. The first set closes with a song appropriately titled “Older”. During the short interval I finish my large glass of red and decide to have a gin and tonic. Big mistake.

The second set followed a similar format to the first: a mix of old 60s favourites, later hits and songs from Cliff’s new album. Apparently, the new album went into the charts at number 3, which makes Cliff the first artist to have a top 5 record in every one of 6 decades. A record unlikely to be beaten, I would suggest. The highlight for me is a medley of “The Young Ones”, “Summer Holiday” and “Congratulations”. I was surprised how emotional these songs were for me; the first two took me back to my dad and the love he had for the cinema. The latter took me back to sitting at home with my mam and dad watching Cliff come second on television, as I recall, in the Eurovision Song contest; the year after Sandie Shaw won with “Puppet on a String”. I still think Cliff was robbed! Wonderful.

cliff progThe gin and tonic went down well and I soon slithered into my taxi, away home and before I knew it Chris and Jackie were putting me back to bed, feeling a little sickly. But then if I can’t have a drink these days, when can I? An excellent evening spent with a consummate performer, a national treasure, and a legend of early rock ‘n’ roll and pop music. Some cheesy, some excellent, and some so, so emotional that they brought tears to my eyes. May you continue to entertain us for many years to come, Sir Cliff.

Set 1: Wired for Sound; Dreamin’; Move It!; Where Do We Go From Here; Hope, Faith and You; Apache (short segment); Do You Wanna Dance?; Gee Whiz It’s You; Please Don’t Tease; Ocean Deep; Older.  Interval.

Set 2: Green Light; Carrie / Devil Woman; Living Doll / Summer Holiday / The Young Ones / Congratulations; PS Please; Lost in a Lonely World; A Heart Will Break; Marmaduke; Miss You Nights; We Don’t Talk Anymore; Peace in Our Time; Golden.

The Rubettes Sunderland Locarno 1974?

 

rubettes 1Come on, we all know the song, even if we won’t admit it. And many of us secretly still like it, don’t we?

Sugar baby love, sugar baby love, I didn’t mean to make you blue, 
Sugar baby love, sugar baby love, I didn’t mean to hurt you

Bap Showaddy, Bap Showaddywaddy, Wah Wah Wah……” (The Rubettes, 1974)

And we all remember the white caps and white suits, don’t we? 

So there I am, perched in my usual spot in the upstairs bar looking down on the stage. I may be by myself (because everyone I knew thought it was so… uncool… to go and see The Rubettes) drinking a pint of lager. Anyway, the Locarno, or the Mecca as we knew it, was my usual haunt on a Friday in those days (unless there was someone good playing at Newcastle Mayfair) so I wasn’t put off by going to see incredibly cheesy band. I recall little of the evening (perhaps due to too much alcohol at the time or perhaps because my memory is going) but I do remember looking down at the band and they looked exactly the same as they did on Top of the Pops; same white caps, same white suits and exactly the same crazy, cheesy vocals, harmonies and falsetto voices. And you know what, although I can’t remember the rest of the set, when they sang “Sugar Baby Love”, for those few minutes, I have to admit that they were just great. Much much better and much more fun than I expected. In those few minutes I was a Rubettes fan. Then the song finished, I returned to the bar for another pint of lager, and I look for some friends to chat to (in the hope that someone else was there). So that’s it, that is my memory of another guilty pleasure.

The Rubettes went on to have a few more hits as I recall, but there will always be remembered for “Sugar Baby Love”. As I often do in a case like this, I purchased a copy of the Rubettes album of the time Wear It’s At (isn’t eBay a wonderful thing?) The album cover includes a large picture of the trademark cap (see image) and also includes the big hit “Sugar Baby Love”. I haven’t actually played the album but did take some images for this blog post. I have, however, listened to the aforementioned “Sugar Baby Love” via another wonderful thing, Alexa and Amazon Music. Happy days are here again.

RUB 2I checked the band out and found out that there are two versions of the Rubettes touring at the moment. One of these features three original members and holds the rights to the name (from their website):

“To ensure the safeguard of the brand name and continue to work as a group, Mick Clarke became the UK trademark owner of The Rubettes® / UK00003348207 in July 2019. For any band that has attained com­mer­cial suc­cess, Trademark law may not be very “Rock and Roll”, but it sure is important these days and is an essential part of legal protection. From a legal perspective, the issue of who owns a band name usually falls under trademark law… Today,… The Rubettes® now have three original founder members performing together for the first time since 1974. With this amazing alliance, The Rubettes® will be one of the only few 70s bands that has three of its original founder members performing to their audiences in the UK, Europe and Worldwide.”

The other version of the band features lead singer Alan Williams (from their website):

“In celebrating 45 years of continuing Rubettes line ups, 1974/2019/20, it’s significant that the common denominator Alan Williams having remained throughout has perpetuated and sustained the  authentic sound of the Rubettes well into the 21st century and continues to do so. With Alan being the Rubettes lead vocalist and frontman from the very beginning there can be no better ambassador for Rubettes music than the latest line up of the Rubettes featuring Alan Williams. “

So take your pick!