The thoughts of Chairman Moo...
" There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer
The Rockfield Incident
Little is known about the Rockfield Incident of 1979 when three crackpots disappeared into thin air. After years of unsurpassed disinterest, here is the truth:
Patrick O'Williams was born in a Welsh mining village in Belgium, and grew up into something of an oddball who refused to touch cloves and read MFI instruction manuals. He often slept in a shoe repairer's apron and once swore at a dehumidifier. By the age of twelve he claimed to have read only one book - The Kraken Wakes - more than eleven thousand times. When he was sixteen he married a local milkmaid called Glumbirth, and they moved to Rockfield in Monmouthshire to breed narwhals. After a few days, Glumbirth began to show signs of deep psychological problems, and moved into a miniaturized kiln at the bottom of the garden, only venturing outdoors when Radio Luxemburg had closed down for the night.
Patrick responded by studying the behavioural patterns of victims of Stockholm Syndrome before breaking the legs off an occasional table. Fortunately, such idiosyncrasies had little effect on their ability to coat sand flies in icing sugar. Every Thursday afternoon they mentored 'Little Bobby' Jenkins, a child glass-blower from Rhyl, in the realization of nonsense. 'Little Bobby' was also a prodigious talent who could hypnotise piglets, advise curlews on tax breaks and count to two in Romansch. He also had an unhealthy obsession towards a game he played with a Pinocchio puppet and a partially-clothed Action Man. When the headmaster at St. Darren's School was required to give him a character reference he described him as "pointless."
One rainy Monday evening they were abducted by Disraelians, a race of extra-terrestrials who, along with the Gladstonites, based their entire raison d'etre on the policies of former Victorian Prime Ministers.
I recently worked with a vertically challenged guitarist who was very superstitious. He always avoided walking under a black cat. Also, he was very careful with his money and had an annoying habit of giving a tramp 20 pence then asking for a receipt.
Although I don't subscribe to Facebook, I have no real issues with the service. In fact, I do indulge in the occasional vicarious peek myself! However, I'm quite concerned with this obsession for selfies and, in some cases, preoccupation with their own mugs. Is it because nobody else wants to take a picture of them? Or is it because they think they might be the only people in the world who've had a glass of wine or some food?
I know somebody who is so large he has to tie broom handles together to make the selfie stick long enough to get the shot. He still can't get his arse in though!
Recently, en route to London, I made a late night stop at the Watford Gap service station on the M1 motorway. How times have changed! Years ago, when bands were traversing the country doing 'one nighters', the place to stop on the way home after a gig was the Blue Boar (as it was then known) at Watford Gap, near Rugby, about 75 miles north of London.
You would meet fellow musicians who you'd never see back home in London yet could bump into on a regular basis in this oasis of welcome refreshment. The only other place I can think of where you could have a good natter with your own kind was the Speakeasy Club in London's West End. At the Blue Boar it would have been no surprise to see Steve Winwood chatting to one of Pink Floyd, or a couple of The Hollies enjoying a fry up with members of The Who.
I only stopped to use the loo the other night, but I just had to take a peek inside the almost deserted restaurant. I didn't hang about. There were too many ghosts.
Teddy Driscoll had one passion in life: vintage cars, especially German models from the 1930's. So it was indeed a special thrill when he learned that a 1937 Mercedes Benz 540K was to be exhibited at a nearby museum. When the big day arrived he was first in line to sit in the driving seat of such a wonderful feat of engineering.
He sank into the plush leather, held the wheel, and was smiling contentedly when some strange impulse prevailed upon him to press the horn. But there was no sound, just a weird grinding noise and a peculiar coloured mist which surrounded him. Suddenly, he found himself alone in a Mexican style restaurant holding a newspaper, of which the text appeared to be in German. He looked at the date: 1937. Just then, a large man dressed in a black suit appeared at his side.
' I am ze manager Erich von Tabasco. Are you Muslim, Hindu or Hebrew?' he asked.
' No, I'm a Christian,' Teddy answered.
'Prove it,' he demanded.
Teddy reached into his chest and pulled out his soul.
'Look,' he remonstrated. ' It bears the original sin.'
' There's nothing original about sin. It's been around for years,' retorted von Tabasco. 'Say three chapters of Mein Kampf and eat a jar of Jalepenos.'
Before Teddy could react, the sound of the car horn heralded the face of the museum manager.
' Please don't press that, it alarms the pigeons on the roof,' he said.
A peculiar coloured mist faded into the distance along with the faint whiff of Burritos.
There's one good thing about retiring - you get to strike 'To Do's' off your bucket list. Ivor Miles had been determined to trace his family tree for years but there was always something that had to be done. Now there were no excuses, and over a pint in his local he decided that as far as the past was concerned, there was no time like the present.
The following day, Ivor visited the municipal museum to study local street maps from the 1880's, a line of enquiry based on his grandfather's boyhood recollections. As he approached the Department of Ancestral Records, he heard murmers of excitement coming from a nearby room, inspiring him to investigate. A small crowd was gathered around a vintage German car whilst an officious man was trying to get them to form an orderly queue: 'Please, we will allow you to sit in the car, but DO NOT sound the horn as this disturbs the pigeons on the roof.' Ivor stared at the jobsworth with a resentment born out of a lifetime of distain for authority. He'd once tipped a tin of blue gloss paint over his neighbour's driveway after a dispute over land rights. Don't mess with Ivor! Before the official could say "It's more than my job's worth", Ivor had opened the drivers side door, slid into the leather seat, and with a two-fingered salute sounded the horn. All of a sudden there was a grinding sound, followed by a kaleidoscopic miasma of blue and violet hues and he found himself on an industrial estate in a run-down Berlin neighbourhood.
He was confused…from a museum to a music room full of long haired American session musicians. A large sign on the wall spelled out 'Willkommen Malcolm 'Midtown' Witherspoon and his band'. Ivor's taste in music ran more to Frank Sinatra than Frank Zappa, so when the band struck up with a distorted guitar intro, he was momentarily taken aback.
To the right of 'Midtown' stood a guitar player who’s greying bouffant was reminiscent of the Elephant Man's head. One look at his jackal-eyed expression told Ivor that he was a moron.
'Really? I thought you session guys would pork anything with a pulse,' a German monitor engineer mumbled under his breath.
Before Ivor could comment, the face of the museum manager appeared through the windscreen of the car.
'That's the second time in two days I've had to tell some idiot not to press the horn. It frightens the bloody pigeons on the roof.'
Ivor was nonplussed, but at the same time was relieved to be back. The last thing he needed was an encounter with a dodgy wolf-eyed pervert from the deep south of America who probably had crabs.
Lycra-clad cyclists! Whingeing brats!
Please leave the planet, or turn into cats!
A Christmas Story
Back in the late eighties, I played a late afternoon gig with Willy Finlayson's band in the West End of London. Afterwards we had a couple of pints before returning home together. It was mid-December and as we dropped off the bass player, the Rotary Club's Christmas sleigh was making it's annual door to door collection, blasting out pop music to ensure that the whole neighbourhood was aware of their presence. Suddenly the strains of 'Rocking Around The Christmas Tree' by Mel Smith and Kim Wilde (Mel and Kim) came blaring from the sleigh's speaker.
I mentioned to drummer Chris Hunt that I had played guitar on this particular track. Obviously quite impressed by this piece of information, he decided to leap out of the car and share it with Father Christmas while his little helpers went from door to door collecting donations.
'Hey! My mate in the car there played guitar on this record!'.
Father Christmas, unimpressed by the rantings of an obvious drunkard, remained silent.
'Oi! I'm talking to you! My mate played on this record and he's sitting in that car there!'
'Fuck off', said Father Christmas.
Somewhat hurt by this response, Chris returned to the car.
'Father Christmas told me to fuck off!'
And that, children, ends our lesson for today. Merry Christmas!
Brown Noser - Latest News!
Brown Noser, the well-known musical collective, have finally announced plans to release the follow-up to their debut album,'He Who Smelt It Dealt It', with the mildly anticipated 'Come And Flog It'. The album cover artwork features a dead horse and finely air-brushed images of the band members, making them look at least twenty years younger than they actually were twenty years ago. As singer Barry Loser says: "If it's good enough for Beyonce and Judith Chalmers, it's good enough for us." With one hand poised delicately on his feminine hip, you can tell he's been feeling the burn in the gym. Band leader Craig Tyredan-Jaided adds that "Looking good is an important counter-balance for throwing shapes and rock riffs, and can compensate for the cliches that inevitably befall one."
Barry Loser, as well as churning out the vocals, is also the band's hairdresser, agent, tour manager and accountant. He stresses that live performances are pivotal to success; "There's always a few shreiks of ecstasy when guitarist Twanging Flea strips down to his string vest. And even some of the girls raise their eyebrows!" According to their manager, the stand-out tracks are: Looks Like A Prat; Quest For A Vest Out West; Denial In Space and Shame I've Got The Runs.
A former band member obviously disagrees with the democratic views expressed by the members of Brown Noser, and when approached said simply, "Fuck all that Marxist crap."
Give Granddads A Chance
It's a wonderful thing to honour one's kin, but I think that too many lyricists give far too much creedence to their grandmothers. Just listen to the chorus of 'Kiss Him Goodbye' to experience a typical example of asinine progeny pulp:
Nana Nana Nana Nana, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye.
Other matriarchal homages include 'Land Of A Thousand Dancers', with the ultimate choral accolade to our foremothers:
Na, nana na na, nana na na nana na nana na, nana nana.
There are, of course, many more, including 'Getting Jiggy With Me', 'Hey Jude' and 'S&M' but do I need to spell it out? Na nana, I don't think so.
So come on writers, how about giving granddads a pat on the back for a change. Let's face it, you wouldn't be here without them.
*Lyrics reproduced by kind permission of the Mindless Numbnuts Society
Remembering Nick Newall
Nick Newall - Kind, modest, understated, receptive to all manner of humour, and of course super talented musician.
I was auditioning for the guitar slot with Lucas and the Mike Cotton Sound back in January 1969, a rather nervous eighteen year old who'd travelled from the industrial wastelands of Middlesbrough via Kings Cross to the hustle and bustle of north London. As I sat in the cold hall awaiting my fate, a man sporting a Zapata moustache approached me and offered his hand: 'Hello, I'm Nick Newall, the saxophone player. Aren't you the lad from up north?' He had such a relaxed and charming manner, that he immediately put me at ease. We spoke for a while about the gigs 'up north' where I'd watched him play with Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band, and he wished me luck. Well, his wishes came true because I managed to stave of the competition and bag myself a job with one of the top soul bands in Europe.
We shared many magic moments and some hilarious times, and he even managed to laugh at the time when, as backing band to Gene Pitney on one of his tours, we stopped at Leicester Forest East service station on the M1 for a tea and a pee. Whoever's job it was to do a headcount failed miserably and the rest of us didn't help, because we'd reached Carlisle before Nick's absence was noted! There were no mobile phones in those days, so we could only wish and hope that he'd somehow make it to Glasgow for that night's gig. Miraculously he did, though his taxi bill was astronomical.
We worked together for a year or so before Mike Cotton directed his band of adventurers into the realms of Prog Rock with Satisfaction, while I travelled the land with Nick's old boss, Zoot Money. Although our paths rarely passed over the next few decades, I was knocked out to perform with him again at the Bulls Head in Barnes a few years ago where, coincidentally, Ali Maas was a regular guest on his nights with the Flamingo band. We invited Nick to play on a couple of tracks on our album Black And Chrome.
When I was asked to write a short evocation for Jon Lord's Memorial concert, I described him as being not just a great musician, but also the nicest man I'd met in the music business. Well, move over Jon, you've got company now.